The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

Critics Consensus

While its premise is ripe for comedy -- and it certainly delivers its fair share of laughs -- Priscilla is also a surprisingly tender and thoughtful road movie with some outstanding performances.

95%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 44

88%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 44,415
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Movie Info

The usually menacing British actor Terence Stamp does a complete turnaround as Bernadette, an aging transsexual who tours the backwaters of Australia with her stage partners, Mitzi (Hugo Weaving) and Adam/Felicia (Guy Pearce). Their act, well-known in Sydney, involves wearing lots of makeup and gowns and lip-synching to records, but Bernadette is getting a bit tired of it all and is also haunted by the bizarre death of an old loved one. Nevertheless, when Mitzi and Felicia get an offer to perform in the remote town of Alice Springs at a casino, Bernadette decides to tag along. The threesome ventures into the outback with Priscilla, a lavender-colored school bus that doubles as dressing room and home on the road. Along the way, the act encounters any number of strange characters, as well as incidents of homophobia, while Bernadette becomes increasingly concerned about the path her life has taken. ~ Don Kaye, Rovi

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Critic Reviews for The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

All Critics (44) | Top Critics (15)

  • It's a tremendous film that was ahead of its time on LGBT issues and, in some ways, is ahead of ours.

    Jun 7, 2019 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…
  • On the whole, though, it is funny and compassionate, silly and sweet.

    Aug 21, 2018 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • To its credit, whenever things get too treacly, Priscilla knows enough to break out those frocks and get the show in gear. That is entertainment for sure.

    Aug 21, 2018 | Full Review…
  • Not everything works equally well in this road movie, but writer-director Stephan Elliott keeps things watchable.

    Aug 21, 2018 | Full Review…
  • I wasn't prepared for the generosity and gorgeousness with which Aussie writer-director Stephan Elliott turn this most unlikely road picture into something arresting -- if a tad sentimental -- in its naive vision of a perfectly tolerant world.

    Sep 7, 2011 | Rating: B+ | Full Review…
  • The plot of Priscilla isn't as important as the outlandish, wicked dialogue , the wild costumes and makeup, and the general high spirits of the entire enterprise.

    Jul 6, 2010 | Full Review…

    David Stratton

    Variety
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

  • Aug 20, 2013
    A bit Lord o' the Ringsy around the middle with all the traveling, but on the whole, a warm story about a lavender bus full o' drag queens and their journey of self-discovery and revival. Terence Stamp possesses amazing gravitas, Guy Pearce is louder than I've ever seen him but I can't really decide whether his performance is caricature or not, and Hugo Weaving's blue-lidded peepers are quite expressive.
    Alice S Super Reviewer
  • Mar 14, 2013
    Yes I'm thinking the exact same thing as you, how in dingo doo doo did they get Terence Stamp to do this?!. Two drag queens and a transsexual embark on a road trip across the Aussie outback to Alice Springs in order to put on a show. Little do they know that the hotel they are headed for is managed by a woman still married to one of the trio. Well the drag queen still married to the woman knows, he just hasn't told his friends yet. The road trip idea isn't an original one that's for sure but turn it into a naughty drag act in the deserts of Australia and now you've got something. Sure enough the whole notion of doing something like this in the one country where homophobia and racism is not unusual and where men are men no question, is a brave move. This film relies heavily on stereotypes, almost every character is a sly, but some might say perceptive, stereotype on the real world. The three main characters played by Weaving, Pearce and Stamp are very likeable, mouthy, bitchy queens that put each other down like no ones business, yet they clearly do care about each other greatly. These three are played up for the camera naturally, made to look loud brash and extremely catty, nails at high noon, but its harmless fun. As for other characters or generalisations its obvious. All the men portrayed in the outback are checkered shirt, cowboy hat, jean wearing butch types that look a bit grubby. You have the typical manly gruff Aussie female called Sheila and a gold digging, trashy strip teasing Filipino woman. The only character you would expect to be bigoted is Bob Hunter's character who looks it but turns out not to be. There aren't really any surprises in the film, most characters are exactly as you would expect them. As its set in the outback you do get the obligatory ideas before its even started, can't be helped, we have 'Crocodile Dundee' to thank for that folks. Despite the screaming stereotypes and scene similarities to other Aussie films of the time the film is a great comedy. Just the thought of a po-faced Stamp in drag complete with a flowing blonde wig and earrings bitch slapping Guy Pearce and continuously coming out with sarky derogatory remarks is enough to peak my interest. At the same time the film is very touching and sweet. On one hand you have Stamp's character trying to get over the recent death of her partner whilst also hoping to find herself again, middle aged, tired with her job and needing a new spark in her life. On the other hand you have Weaving's character who is trying to balance his life between what he is on the inside, his friends and of course hoping/worrying if his son will accept him. Plus if his friends will accept him for having a semi straight secret life. This film along with another in the same year put Aussie film making on the map and has since created a huge cult following much like 'Rocky Horror'. Completely enjoyable ride no matter what your sexual orientation. A great soundtrack which doesn't go overkill with ABBA, superb performances from the main trio and with some truly gorgeous scenery/location work that I'm sure boosted tourism. Everybody wins with this one.
    Phil H Super Reviewer
  • Jan 14, 2013
    If you see one "Australian drag queen road trip movie", make it this one. As funny as it is, I like that Elliott is determined to take the characters seriously (as well as the homophobia they encounter) instead of just making them goofy caricatures. Stamp, Weaving, and Pearce are all just terrific.
    Alec B Super Reviewer
  • Dec 22, 2012
    Bittersweet and very funny. This Aussie flick proves that Australia can produce great films. The film was a positive representation of the drag queen which was very rare at it's time. All the talks about the sexism and racism was ridiculous, I do not understand why the critics focused only the whory Cynthia. The film was great, the leading characters all wowed me with their abilities to push boundaries. It may not have been done very tastefully, but it's great fun.
    Sylvester K Super Reviewer

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