The new season of RuPaul’s Drag Race February 28, and even though we just finished the latest All-Stars in all its dramatic glory, we can’t wait for more lipsync battles, fashion innovations and–we admit–dressing room dramatics.
In order to tide ourselves over for the next few days, join us in checking out these drag classics.
Watching whilst sipping a cocktail while wearing heels is encouraged but strictly optional.
La Cage Au Folles Trilogy
The original French farce that inspired The Birdcage and the Broadway musical of the same name, La Cage Au Folles scored three Oscar nominations and won rave reviews for its original story and comic inventiveness. Like The Birdcage, La Cage follows a gay couple—one of whom works as a professional drag queen—as they meet their son’s fiance’s conservative family. Unlike The Birdcage, however, the original La Cage inspired two sequels following up on the adventures of the happy couple, Albin & Renato as they get involved in a spy scandal, and one of them has to marry a woman to save their nightclub.
Torch Song Trilogy
This overlooked classic stars Harvey Fierstein—who also penned the script—in his best performance ever on the big screen. Fierstein plays Bertha, a professional drag performer, who tries to navigate life as a gay man in the 70s and 80s. Matthew Broderick co-stars as Bertha’s boyfriend, and Anne Bancroft gives one of her most hilarious turns as Bertha’s very Jewish mother. By turns hysterical and devastating, Torch Song Trilogy deserves a place alongside other queer cinema classics like Brokeback Mountain and Angels in America.
To Wong Foo
America let out a collective gasp back in 1995 when three of Hollywood’s hunkiest action stars—Patrick Swayze, Wesley Snipes and John Leguizamo—headlined this road comedy about three drag queens who end up stranded in a small Nebraska town. Loaded with howl-inducing zingers, To Wong Foo plays it safe (don’t drag queens ever have sex?), but also sincere. The three leads each create memorable characters; some of the best drag queens to ever hit the big screen.
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
Hitting at the same time as To Wong Foo, this Aussie comedy has a similar premise and its own share of hilarious one-liners. Unlike that movie, however, Priscilla offers much more human characters, not to mention one of the best soundtracks ever assembled. Hugo Weaving and Guy Pierce both snagged Hollywood careers for their great performances, while Terrance Stamp had something of a career renaissance for his moving portrayal of a transgender drag performer suffering from a mid-life crisis. The Oscar-winning costumes still impress today, as do the characters. More than 20 years later, we’re still waiting for The Further Adventures of Priscilla.
Julie Andrews earned an Oscar nomination for one of her most underrated performances as a woman posing as a man posing as a drag queen in this musical comedy. It probably helped that her husband, comedy legend Blake Edwards, wrote and directed, and that musical impresario Henry Mancini composed the music, too. In any case, the movie follows a down-on-her-luck singer named Victoria who teams up with a gay cabaret performer (played by Robert Preston) to launch a new act. The catch: Victoria has to pose as a drag queen, which means she must actually live as a man most of the time. That creates a problem when she falls for a nightclub owner named King (James Garner), and comedy ensues. One of the most queer-affirming movies to ever come out of Hollywood, Victor/Victoria still plays as classy and relevant today…with some very big actual LOLs.