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The 9 Most Fabulous TV Shows and Movies About Drag Queens

You'll hail these queens of screens big and small

RuPaul stars in the Netflix series AJ and the Queen and John Leguizamo, Wesley Snipes and Patrick Swayze star in the film To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar

Beth Dubber/Netflix; Universal Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

(Left to right) RuPaul in "AJ and the Queen"; John Leguizamo, Wesley Snipes and Patrick Swayze in "To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar."

En español | If you're searching for a glittery bit of escapism this fall, look no further than the new movie Everybody's Talking About Jamie, the cinematic adaptation of a hit West End musical that opened in London in 2017. Based on a TV documentary, the coming-of-age musical follows a 16-year-old who dreams of becoming a drag queen. Available to stream for free on Amazon Prime Video on Sept. 17, the film stars Max Harwood as Jamie and Oscar nominee Richard E. Grant, 64, as Jamie's drag mentor Hugo/Loco Chanelle.

After the film inevitably puts a big smile on your face, keep the party going with our brand-new list of nine more drag-themed TV shows and movies to watch. Note that these aren't just movies and shows that use cross-dressing as a plot device (like Tootsie, Some Like It Hot or Mrs. Doubtfire) — these works truly celebrate the art of drag in all its gender-subverting, over-the-top, glamorous glory.

Kinky Boots (2005)

The Plot: When his family's shoe factory in Northampton, England, faces financial ruin, Charlie Price (Joel Edgerton) hatches an unexpected plan to save the business: He partners with local drag queen Lola (Oscar nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor) to make high-heeled boots for other drag performers. Inspired by a true story, the film spawned a mega-popular Broadway musical by Cyndi Lauper (now 68) and Harvey Fierstein (now 67), which went on to win six Tonys and can be viewed online at BroadwayHD.com ($8.99/month).

The Most Fabulous Part: Lola saves the day by performing “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’ ” at a runway showcase in Milan.

Watch It: Kinky Boots, on Amazon Prime Video

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)

The Plot: In this Australian camp classic, two drag queens — Hugo Weaving, now 61; Guy Pearce, now 53; and a transgender woman played Terence Stamp, now 83 — hit the road in a tour bus named Priscilla and trek across the Outback. Along the way, from Sydney to Alice Springs, they perform for a group of welcoming Aboriginal residents, face homophobia in the remote opal-mining town of Coober Pedy and later climb to the top of King's Canyon in full drag regalia. You'll love the soundtrack, which includes such hits as “I Will Survive” and “Mamma Mia.”

The Most Fabulous Part: The dazzling outfits won an Oscar for best costume design, making Priscilla one of only three films set in contemporary times (as opposed to period, fantasy or sci-fi films) to ever receive such an honor.

Watch It: The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, on Pluto TV

DON'T MISS THIS: New Shows Coming to Broadway This Fall That Are Worth a Trip

The Birdcage (1996)

The Plot: Director Mike Nichols set his beloved English-language remake of the 1978 Franco-Italian film at a South Beach, Miami, drag club owned by Armand (Robin Williams) and Albert Goldman (Nathan Lane, now 65). They live in sun-drenched bliss with their housekeeper Agador (Hank Azaria, now 57), until Armand's son Val (Dan Futterman, now 54) announces that he's engaged to a woman named Barbara (Calista Flockhart, now 56) — and he has invited her ultraconservative parents (Gene Hackman, now 91, and Dianne Wiest, now 73) to meet the family.

The Most Fabulous Part: It's hard to beat Hackman's Sen. Keeley, donning a wig and lip-syncing “We Are Family,” to escape from the paparazzi. Williams reportedly called him “Betty White on steroids."

Watch It: The Birdcage, on HBO Max


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RuPaul's Drag Race (2009- )

The Plot: The undisputed, most iconic drag queen in the world, now 60, hosts this search for “America's next drag superstar,” alongside a rotating slate of judges that in its 13th season included radio DJ and former Seduction girl-group member Michelle Visage (52), Queer Eye for the Straight Guy's Carson Kressley (51), and TV host and panelist Ross Matthews. The reality-TV juggernaut has launched more than a dozen spin-offs and international versions and racked up 19 Primetime Emmys, including five for RuPaul for best host and three for best competition program.

The Most Fabulous Part: Each episode ends with a battle called Lip Sync for Your Life, in which contestants pull out all the stops (wigs! splits! acrobatics! costumes!) to impress the judges and stay in the competition.

Watch It: RuPaul's Drag Race, on Paramount+, Hulu

AJ and the Queen (2020)

The Plot: In this heartwarming comedy series by Sex and the City writer-director Michael Patrick King, 68, RuPaul plays Ruby Red, a drag performer who's been scammed by his boyfriend and must mount a cross-country comeback tour. He sets out in an RV and soon finds a stowaway hiding among his gowns: 10-year-old troublemaker AJ (Izzy G.). The show is so unabashedly campy that one of the antagonists is an eye-patch-wearing, illegal-silicone-dealing con artist played by Wayne's World's Tia Carrere, 54.

The Most Fabulous Part: Need proof of what a tight-knit community RuPaul's Drag Race has become? Twenty-two former contestants make a cameo or guest-star in the series!

Watch It: AJ and the Queen, on Netflix

DON'T MISS THIS: 12 Great LGBTQ Movies to Stream Now

Dancing Queen (2018)

The Plot: If you've ever seen the show Dance Moms, you'll get the gist of this Netflix documentary series, which follows RuPaul's Drag Race contestant and dance-school owner Alyssa Edwards. When not wearing oversized platinum-blonde wigs and performing as Alyssa, Justin Johnson coaches a crew of young competition dancers at Beyond Belief Dance Company in his hometown of Mesquite, Texas — all while juggling a host of helicopter moms and his own drag career.

The Most Fabulous Part: It's sweet how accepted and beloved Johnson/Edwards appears to be around town in the “Rodeo Capital of Texas.”

Watch It: Dancing Queen, on Netflix

To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar (1995)

The Plot: In this road-trip comedy, a trio of New York City drag queens — played by Patrick Swayze, Wesley Snipes (now 59) and John Leguizamo (now 57) — drive across the country in their yellow 1967 Cadillac DeVille to appear in a pageant in Hollywood. So where does that mouthful of a title come from? It refers to an autographed picture of Catwoman actress Julie Newmar (now 88) that Vida (Swayze) had stolen off the wall of a Chinese restaurant. (Newmar, of course, makes a cameo!)

The Most Fabulous Part: When their car breaks down in the country, the trio gives the women in town an extreme makeover.

Watch It: To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar, on Apple TV, Google Play, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube

Hairspray (1988)

The Plot: Drag legend and countercultural icon Divine starred as Edna Turnblad, the kindhearted and agoraphobic mother of teen Tracy (Ricki Lake, now 52) in this cult John Waters (now 75) musical about race relations and pop music in 1960s Baltimore. In future iterations, Edna was played by Harvey Fierstein in the 2002 Broadway musical and by John Travolta (now 67) in the 2007 film remake.

The Most Fabulous Part: Divine did double duty in this film, also playing the racist TV station manager Arvin Hodgepile, out of drag.

Watch It: Hairspray, on Apple TV, Google Play, Amazon Prime Video; YouTube ($2.99)

Paris Is Burning (1990)

The Plot: This groundbreaking documentary offers an inside view of the drag ball culture of 1980s New York City, in which queer Black and Latinx people competed in elaborate runway competitions that involved dancing, costumes and voguing. While the energy in those Harlem clubs was euphoric, director Jennie Livingston (now 59) isn't afraid to dive deep on such hot-button issues as AIDS, homophobia, transgender identity and racism. You can still see the influence of Paris Is Burning today in shows like FX's just-ended Pose, a revolutionary drama that centered the voices of trans actresses and creators of color.

The Most Fabulous Part: The costumes may be chic, but you'll be most inspired by the support systems of the various “houses,” drag ball slang for surrogate chosen families.

Watch It: Paris Is Burning, on Apple TV

Nicholas DeRenzo is a contributing writer who covers entertainment and travel. Previously he was executive editor of United Airlines' Hemispheres magazine, and his work has appeared in The New York Times, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel & Leisure, Sunset and New York magazine.

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