More than 40 years before RuPaul's Drag Race, this ground-breaking documentary about the 1967 Miss All-American Camp Beauty Pageant introduced audiences to the world of competitive drag. The film takes us backstage to kiki with the contestants as they rehearse, throw shade, and transform into their drag personas in the lead-up to the big event. Organized by LGBTQ icon and activist Flawless Sabrina, the competition boasted a star-studded panel of judges including Andy Warhol, Larry Rivers, and Terry Southern.. But perhaps most memorable is an epic diatribe calling out the pageant's bias delivered by Crystal LaBeija, who would go on to form the influential House of LaBeija, heavily featured in Paris Is Burning (1990). A vibrant piece of queer history, The Queen can now be seen in full resplendence thanks to a new restoration from the original camera negative.
“A gutsy, funny... really very moving documentary.”
– Roger Ebert, The Chicago Sun-Times
“The mother of all drag documentaries.”
– Mekado Murphy, The New York Times
“Extraordinary. In making his documentary, Simon is filming the participants committing and confessing what at that time were criminal acts; they display their confidence in him, and also their defiant sense of shared purpose, in their poignant confessions and indelible testimonies about the lives of gay men in the time before Stonewall.”
– Richard Brody, The New Yorker
“A riveting chronicle of a 1967 drag competition.”
– Melissa Anderson, The Village Voice
"Before Pose, RuPaul's Drag Race, and Paris is Burning introduced the art of ballroom eleganza and drag excellence to audiences around the world, Frank Simon's 1968 documentary The Queen cast a glistening spotlight on the cutthroat world of drag pageantry."
– Joey Nolfi, Entertainment Weekly
"A beautiful film; its subject matter is treated with such sensibility, taste and compassion that what might have been a grindhouse movie emerges as an impressive human document."
– Judith Crist, New York Magazine
– Renata Adler, The New York Times
"Simon’s movie is...extraordinary because it captures so much, doubling as a time capsule of a generation’s innocence and fashion-forward sophistication. You can tell why it functioned as a template for many future gender nonconforming people looking for some sort of pre-internet guide through the confusing maze of sexuality and gender."
– Jerry Portwood, Rolling Stone
"A truly special documentary that feels as vital and vibrant in 2019 as it did during those first premiere screenings [in 1968]. An immensely important queer cinema text. Never once are these performers seen as anything less than self-aware artists, and this first-hand account of their experience in pre-Stonewall NYC is an essential and urgent piece of anthropology, even 50+ years later. "
– Joshua Brunsting, Criterion Cast
"This brisk, exuberant film is a remarkable time capsule of 1960s LGBTQ glamour and, in the words of its narrator Flawless Sabrina, “hip New York.” Some may have bought a ticket to The Queen in 1968 to gawk at “freaks,” but the joke would have been on them. This isn't an exploitation film, it is a celebration."
– Jordan Hoffman, amNY
"The pageant is riveting, but what is most memorable is the dignity of the participants: their frank conversations about the new possibilities of gender reassignment surgery, their tales of small-town life, and their various misadventures at the draft board."
– Lynn Yeager, Vogue
"An absolute must see."
– Mikelle Street, Out
"Long live The Queen. Frank Simon’s 1968 groundbreaking documentary is a cult classic."
– Karu F. Daniels, The New York Daily News
– Carla Hay, NewNowNext
"Paris’s spiritual older sister."
– Kyle Turner, GQ
"A shockingly vibrant document of the often forgotten early days of a scene that has grown in cultural visibility in recent years."
– David Bax, Battleship Pretension