The Best Campy Movies to Celebrate Pride Month

Camp, like Pride, we have thanks to the trans women of color who put themselves on the line to fight for equality and acceptance. As they say, Pride was a riot, and these campy films are sure to put you into riots of laughter. With more glitter, sequins, and heart than any other genre, you’re bound to be surprised by the history, creators, costumes, and stories of these cult classics created by and for people who are looking for a space to be ostentatiously and extravagantly themselves. Here are some of the best campy movies to watch as you celebrate Pride.

Related:‘House of Gucci’ & 9 More Misunderstood Camp Classics


To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything (1995)

To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything boasts a surprising cast of Wesley Snipes, Patrick Swayze, and John Leguizamo in a film that answers the age-old question of why is that little boy in drag crying? The Dirty Dancing and Blade actors star as two accomplished drag queens, Vida Boheme and Noxeema Jackson, who take an aspiring “drag princess”, Chi-Chi Rodriguez, under their wing and the three embark on a cross-country trip to compete in the Drag Queen of America contest. All the while a small-town Sheriff is hunting them down, attempting to run them out of his town and expose them as “freaks”.

Full of glittering gowns, metallic lashes, and wigs (with bangs, as lace fronts had yet to be invented), To Wong Foo’s leads are distinctive characters with their own style and personalities. Those in the drag industry appreciate that the actors are not just playing drag queens, they are playing real people. In the words of Noxeema Jackson herself, this is not a masquerade, this is real life. The film deals with heavy, real-life themes of domestic abuse and bigotry, and tackles them in ways that leave you smiling. Picture Patrick Swayze in a silk pink pajama set kicking down a door to put an abusive husband in his place, and Wesley Snipes teaching some small-minded hooligans a lesson in manners. Along with the surprising big-name actors in such effeminate roles, the film boasts fantastic cameo appearances by Lady Bunny, Miss Coco Peru, RuPaul, and Robin Williams, who was considered for the role of Vida Boheme, along with Robert Downey Jr., Gary Oldman, Matthew Broderick, and John Cusack. Swayze was offered the role after escorting director Beeban Kidron on a walk around the city while in drag to prove that he could pass as a woman.

The togetherness and support of the small-town community that gets behind these queens, along with Chi-Chi getting her crowning moment as not only a drag queen, but the winner of the Drag Queen of America contest, gives this bold and hilarious film, along with its audience, the victory of heart and joy that they deserve. That said, this film has more legs than a bucket of chicken.

Robin Williams stars as Armand Goldman, the eccentric owner of a drag club in South Beach, where his partner Albert (Nathan Lane) is the star attraction, known as Starina. One night, while Starina is on the stage, Armand’s son Val comes to visit and informs his father that he has met a young woman, Barbara, who he intends to marry. Armand begrudgingly supports his son’s decision, but when Val and Barbara wish for their parents to meet, they run into a snag, as Barbara’s father is the ultra-conservative Republican Senator Kevin Keeley, who is already in hot water following a political scandal. Fearing the Senator’s disapproval, the Goldmans turn their colorful home into a stage for a new kind of drag in which they pretend to be a straight, conservative family themselves. Albert first attempts to learn to be a real man’s man and takes lessons from Armand on how to talk about football and correctly smear his mustard.

After failing to keep his pinky in, Albert decides to instead attend the family dinner in full drag, taking on the role of a well-to-do middle-aged woman, who gets along surprisingly well with the Senator and his family. The Goldmans do their best to keep things together during the eventful evening, but when the Senator’s assistant betrays him, the Keeleys must decide between disguising themselves in Albert’s colorful costumes or letting the media do what they do best with photos of politicians in questionable circumstances.

Seeing Robin Williams run the drag show, teach dancers to “Madonna, Madonna, Madonna”, and sip wine in a leisure suit are all the reasons you need to watch this wildly fun, and adorable comedy, but the real laughs come from Lane’s Albert, who puts his entire broken heart into being part of his unconventional family.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)

An adaptation of the critically acclaimed 1998 off-Broadway musical, the comedy-drama Hedwig and the Angry Inch is a cult classic with lyrics that resonate and an explosive, glittering, and sometimes less-than-glamorous story that you can’t take your eyes off of. Only grossing roughly half of the $6 million invested into its creation, the film garnered a cult following over time. Hedwig was written, directed by, and stars John Cameron Mitchell, who co-wrote the original musical alongside Steven Trask.

Hedwig has a “whether you like it or not, here I am” personality, inviting onlookers to try and tear her down. In the 80s Hedwig was known as Hansel, a young gay man living in East Germany. After falling for an American soldier Hansel accepted the Seagent’s proposal of marriage and agrees to undergo bottom surgery to become a woman in the eyes of the law, disguise herself as her mother Hedwig, and leave the country as the infantryman’s wife. Unfortunately, the surgery is botched, leaving Hedwig with an angry one-inch mound of flesh in place of her genitals.

Still, she perseveres and moves away from the war-stricken country to the United States with her betrothed to start a new life. Upon their first anniversary though, Sergeant Robinson leaves Hedwig for a man, and the Berlin Wall falls with Easterners freely entering the West. For Hedwig, this means that her sacrifice was all for nothing. Living in a trailer in Kansas, Hedwig turns back to what she loves most, music.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch deals with themes of finding your other half, with the lead character often referencing Aristophanes’ speech in Plato’s Symposium, in which an angry God split the two-faced, four-armed humans in half, leaving us all to wander the Earth yearning and searching for one another. This shows the pain that the bedazzled punk star is going through, not knowing who her other half will be, but knowing full well who she is. The cult classic is referenced in pop culture to this day, with characters Otis and Eric of the Netflix series Sex Education dressing up to see the play in the show’s first season, as well as Riverdale referencing the film/play in its fourth season. Neil Patrick Harris has also notably taken on the role of Hedwig, performing at the Tony Awards as well as the annual drag extravaganza Wigstock.

The late 90s teen romance comedy But I’m a Cheerleader takes the themes of sexuality, gender roles, and social conformity, and turns it into a brightly colored, deliberately satirical take on the subject. In But I’m a Cheerleader, seventeen-year-old Megan Bloomfield is your average popular high school senior; happy, dating a dreamy football player, and dancing her heart out on the cheerleading squad. It is true, though, that Megan doesn’t really like kissing Jared, and prefers to daydream about her fellow cheerleaders while listening to Melissa Ethridge.

When her friends and parents begin to wonder if she’s a lesbian, Megan is sent to the True Directions conversion camp, an in-patient program designed to convert its campers into the heterosexuals that their families want them to be. Megan learns a lot at the camp, such as the fact that she really is homosexual, and that as long as she doesn’t get caught, she can be with whomever she wants. As it turns out there is a girl at the camp, Graham, who catches Megan’s eye during her stay. The young queer folk attend strange, stereotypically sexist classes on how to be straight, including hunting and football for the men, and housework and sewing for the women. While Megan and Graham learn about vacuuming and nail painting, romance blooms between them. After one fateful night away from the camp, the two girls must make a decision: repent and return to the camp, or defy their families to be who they really are, together.

The wonderfully silly movie has become a cult classic with a large following, with many audience members praising the hilarious performance by RuPaul Charles who portrays an “ex-gay” named Mike who is in charge of teaching the young men. The film originally received negative reviews because critics did not realize that it was a satirical piece. It has since been critically re-reviewed.

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

In The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, three hardworking, lip-syncing queens from Sydney hit the road in a colorful tour bus for an opportunity to perform at the Lasseters Casino, 1600 miles away. On their 30-hour-long journey, their bus, named Priscilla, breaks down, and the three friends face violence and homophobia from the rural townsfolk. Tick, Bernadette, and Adam try to make the best of their situation, practicing their routines and performing for the friendly indigenous people who live in the area. Through all the trials and tribulations that the journey brings them, the three queens learn things about each other, and themselves. The film teaches audiences, with its kitschy catchphrases, that when you’re with your friends, life’s never a drag, and yes, you can make a fine living in a pair of heels.

Hugo Weaving stars as Anthony “Tick” Belrose, also known by the stage name Mitzi Del Bra. Trans character Bernadette Bassenger is portrayed by award-winning actor Terence Stamp, who took on the role of the dancing performer at the age of 56. Adam Whitely, whose drag name is Felicia Jollygood, was the breakout role for Memento actor Guy Pearce, who received international recognition for the role.

The Imperial Hotel, in which the opening and closing sequences were filmed, has hosted drag shows since the early 80s and is an icon of the Sydney LGBTQ+ community to this day. Fans of the film can enjoy a meal at the hotel’s aptly named Pricilla’s restaurant in honor of the hilarious comedy. Boasting an approval rate of 94% on Rotten Tomatoes, Pricilla has been called a gaudy, dazzling vision of comic pizzaz, while also resonating with audiences who feel the character Bernadette’s need for change from a life in which she feels stuck.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show cannot be described as simply wild, dizzying, sexy fun. The musical whirlwind of gothic costumes, strange sci-fi experiments, and colorfully cartoonish cast are just some of the reasons this cult classic film has such a devoted following. Since the film was released in midnight screenings in select theaters across the UK and US, the sequin and lace-filled film has brought in droves of dedicated audiences who sing and dance along to the songs in tighty-whitey underwear, and you’re sure to want to join them.

In the film, newly engaged sweethearts Brad and Janet find themselves stranded with a flat tire on a cold and rainy night. Looking to borrow a phone to call for help, the young couple walks to an eerie castle in the distance where they meet a butler and french maid, Riff Raff and Magenta. After trying the phone, they are brought to the owner of the mansion, Dr. Frank-N-Furter, clad in black lingerie and throwing a wild and colorful party. After a choreographed dance (that you are definitely going to join in on), the doctor and his guests retreat to the lab where Frank reveals his latest creation. Rocky, a muscular, handsome man emerges from the tank of rainbow liquid, and his creator, Frank, brags and dotes over him. As the strange night goes on, the two innocent sweethearts have their limits tested when a murder takes place and things get steamy. No one, especially the audience, sees the betrayal coming, or the aliens.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is praised for its colorful costumes and original styling while being beloved for its sexual openness. Writer Richard O’Brien decided to combine his love of science fiction and B-horror when conceptualizing the script, adding seemingly unintentional humor and low-budget gothic themes. Along with the drag of Tim Curry in his role as the experimental doctor, the musical is full of glam-era fashion and ostentatious theatrics, making it a wild ride from start to finish.

Pink Flamingos (1972)

It has been said that there is no movie more disgusting than Pink Flamingos. In a competition of filth, the beautiful and bizarre criminal Babs and her misfit family face off with her jealous rivals for the title of the filthiest person alive. Director John Waters (Hairspray), a homosexual man, found refuge as a child in strange and shocking films, usually horror, taking special interest in special effects, creative freedoms, and audacity. When he began his film career, Waters made a point of standing out from the Hollywood norm, experimenting with revolting sequences, unusually beautiful bad taste, and creating extravagant characters with endearing personalities. The star actor, known as Divine, isn’t a drag queen, but a man named Glenn Milstead who portrayed the women as a sort of acting alter ego. Divine was Waters’ muse, and Divine was always willing to go along with the writer/director’s ideas, no matter how absurd. This led to issues with censorship due to the duo’s commitment to the absurd and sometimes revolting.

In Pink Flamingos, Divine takes on the role of Babs Johnson, the matriarch of a grotesque and decadent family living out of a small trailer. The shocking and sometimes horrific film was a labor of love, with all actors and crew spending their weekends on set and having to work their regular jobs during the week. The widely beloved cult classic was made with a budget of only $10,000 that was given to the director by his parents. As a result of the small budget, the director and star ended up stealing items to be used as props with Divine even getting arrested. Divine, a method actor, simply told the police that he was researching his role as a criminal.

Divine’s extreme makeup look was created by artist Van Smith, who turned the actor into a mix of Jane Mansfield and Clarabell the Clown from Howdy Doody. To pull off the look, Divine had to shave the front half of his head to make way for the character’s enormous eyebrows. Controversial and truly obscene, Pink Flamingos premiered in 1972. Called a feast of decadence and crime, the gaudy picture brought in droves of open-minded audiences who truly loved the weird project. Waters, known for getting in trouble with the law for his audacious films, went on to direct big-name feature films such as Hairspray and Cry Baby. Divine, who passed away in his sleep in 1988, lives on in many ways, as a sexual diversity icon and the inspiration for the design of Ursula the Seawitch in Disney’s The Little Mermaid.

Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same (2011)

From a planet far away, the lesbians are coming! Codependent Space Alien Seeks Same has been called an ode to urban love and shoestring sci-fi. Shot in black and white, the hilarious romantic comedy follows Jane, a young woman who works at a greeting card store and is romanced by Zoinx, a lesbian space alien looking for love. Jane, unaware that Zoinx isn’t of this world, is soon monitored by the men in black, who are trying to keep an eye on the actions of the extra-terrestrial. Zoinx, the sexiest alien on planet Earth, tries to pass as human as she woos the sweet, bespectacled Jane, though her robotic, monotone voice and domed bald head are a bit of a giveaway. The sweet and witty comedy puts sexual politics aside while focussing on the characters’ search for affection and connection.

Earning the affection of audiences and critics, the clever comedy holds a 93% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with many noting how hysterical and truly sweet the story is. A lighthearted, silly, and purposefully cheesy take on lesbian relationships mixed with 1950s sci-fi cinematography, Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same will win over your heart with spaceships made of pie tins, robotic laughs, cute conversations between concerned friends, and cheesy pickup lines from the perspective of an awkward extraterrestrial.

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