Edna Turnblad – Hairspray (2007)
Whether you prefer the bright colours and big ole smiles of the 2007 remake, or John Waters’s slightly darker original, there’s no denying that Hairspray is carried by the part of ‘larger-than-life’ teen star Tracy Turnblad’s mother, traditionally played by a man in full drag regalia.
Divine originated the role, but John Travolta definitely put his smooth dance moves to good use when he shimmied his way through the remake, and now everyone from Harvey Fierstein to our own Phill Jupitus have squeezed into the Turnblad fat suit.
Ed Wood – Ed Wood (1994)
“Get me transvestites, I need transvestites!” He may have been a terrible film director, but he had great taste in angora sweaters and pencil skirts.
Johnny Depp is on fine form as the cross-dressing film-maker.
Ned Kynaston – Stage Beauty (2004)
Richard Eyre’s romantic period drama is has been likened to ‘a fancy-dress version of A Star Is Born ’ (A.O. Scott, The New York Times), but Billy Crudup’s turn as Ned Kynaston, a confused actor famed for his portrayal of female characters, is full of subtle moments of brilliance.
Dr. Alex Hesse – Junior (1994)
If it wasn’t weird enough to have a movie where man-Hulk Arnie Schwarzenegger goes all Virgin Mary and ends up with child, things crank up a notch when he goes undercover in lady clothes to protect his identity.
His is possibly our favourite outfit choice of all our cross-dressers – never has a former bodybuilder looked so regal in a floor-length pastel pink smock dress. Lets be honest, there’s no way he could ever pass as a lady – he looks exactly like Arnie in a trashy wig, but we love it anyway.
Albert – The Birdcage (1996)
It’s Meet The Parents gone fabulous in this American remake of the equally camp La Cage aux Folles . Albert and Armand (Nathan Lane & Robin Williams respectively) are a happily settled couple who run a gay nightclub, but find themselves in a pickle when their son brings his fiancée’s ultra-conservative family over for dinner.
Albert finds it impossible to play it straight, so drags up to the best of his ability and becomes the matronly ‘Mrs Coleman’. The movie was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award, and was praised for ‘going beyond the stereotypes to see the character’s depth and humanity’, thanks to Lane and Williams’ undeniable chemistry.
Yentl Mendel – Yentl (1983)
Apologies if at any point during this we break into a rousing rendition of ‘Papa, Can You Hear Me?’ Barbra Streisand chops her hair, digs out some men’s threads and heads to find a yeshiva where she can study Jewish scripture and live secretly as a male named Anshel.
This adaption seemed to veer dramatically away from the original ending of the short story, giving Babs a Hollywood ending and love interest, instead of focusing on the gender identity problems Yentl faces in the book.
ngel – Bad Educaction (2004)
Almodóvar’s multi-layered masterpiece saw young heartthrob Gael Garcia Bernal star as a femme fatale type, using his cold cunning to manipulate a former schoolmate of his late brother. He puts in a captivating performance, but we can’t quite shake off the startling resemblance between his blonde-wigged ‘Angel’ and Juliette Lewis.
Dave, Adam & Doofer – Sorority Boys (2002)
What are three strapping young frat boys supposed to do when they’re falsely accused of stealing money from their bros and booted out? Grab mini-dresses and make-up and infiltrate the group as ladies of course!
We think someone was trying to prove a point about that whole objectifying women thing, but it was lost somewhere underneath the barrage of fart jokes and, oh yeah, objectifying women. Good legs on ‘em though.
Divine – Pink Flamingos (1972)
Ah, John Waters. It was this notoriously disgusting film that made a bonafide star out of drag queen Divine.
We’re not even going to go into the various perverse things that occur as we follow the filthiest people in the world fight to retain their title, but we have to agree that Divine earned it thanks to the now legendary, stomach-turning ending.
Albert – Albert Nobbs (2011)
Lead by a powerhouse performance from Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs first appeared onstage back in 1982, with none other than Close as the titular character. The part was undeniably one she felt strongly about, as she campaigned for years to turn it into a film, and it’s evident in her truly moving turn as the dedicated hotel waiter, disguising his true female identity to ensure his continued employment.
Focusing more on the shame and guilt that comes with spending a lifetime living a lie than any comical japes and hijinks, Albert’s story pulls you in from the opening.