The art of drag has run the gamut from sheer buffoonery to sublime brilliance. Sure, “Some Like It Hot” is a fantastic film, but at the end of the day, Lemmon and Curtis are just two men in dresses. Mama Klump and Mrs. Doubtfire may induce chuckles but, their campiness overshadows any feminine nuances.
Let’s take a look at 10 men who nailed the swish and the sass:
10. DUSTIN HOFFMAN – TOOTSIE (1982)
In any other actor’s wig, this performance could have been one Lee Press-On away from a travesty. Yet, Hoffman brings heart and humor and truly “nails” it.
09. DIVINE – PINK FLAMINGOS (1972)
The one that started it all. Over the top drag, high camp, and a gay sensibility. Divine was a master. Realistic femininity? Hell no! But he told all prior drag performances to eat shit…and then he did.
08. TIM CURRY – THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975)
40 years later, and this performance still appeals to transients and outcasts of all ages.
07. CHARLES BUSCH – DIE MOMMIE DIE! (2003)
A living legend of the NYC drag cabaret scene, Mr. Busch followed his first starring film role in Psycho Beach Party with this gem parody of film-noir. La Grande Dame Busch makes you think he just might have one.
06. JOHN CAMERON MITCHELL – HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH (2001)
Forget the “wink and a smile” bravado of Neil Patrick Harris’ recent Broadway foray. JCM brought to film the heartbreaking tale of this transgendered German rocker after a hugely successful off-Broadway run.
05. THE LADY CHABLIS – MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL (1997)
Such a great performance playing herself, a legend of the Savannah drag scene. Should have received a Best Supporting Actor nod. I mean Actress. Oh hell, either way would have been fine. Too bad she cancelled herself out of either category.
04. FELICITY HUFFMAN – TRANSAMERICA (2005)
Ok, I know, I know…she really is a she. But witnessing a woman unlearn everything she knows about being a woman to then putting it back on again was revolutionary. She was robbed of an Oscar.
03. TERENCE STAMP – PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT (1994)
Great writing, music, and cinematography all came together to make this a brilliant film. But it was Stamp’s transcendent role as Bernadette that made this movie speak to the showgirl in all of us.
02. JOHN LEGUIZAMO – TO WONG FOO THANKS FOR EVERYTHING, JULIE NEWMAR (1995)
Sure Patrick Swayze was class personified in this Priscilla remake. But it was Leguizamo’s role as Chi-Chi that made this film equally hilarious and heartfelt.
01. JAYE DAVIDSON – THE CRYING GAME (1992)
The most important and convincing drag performance of all time. He’s a she? Yes, he is. Better than anyone. A performance that, to-date, has never been matched.