Paris Is Burning


Paris Is Burning

Critics Consensus

Paris Is Burning dives into '80s transgender subculture, with the understated camera allowing this world to flourish and the people to speak (and dance) for themselves.



Total Count: 21


Audience Score

User Ratings: 3,987
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Movie Info

Jennie Livingston's documentary offers a behind-the-scene glimpse at the golden age of New York "Drag Balls" where rival fashion houses come together to celebrate, vogue and compete for bragging rights. Shot between 1985 and 1989, the narrative inter-cuts between individual stories that chronicle the experiences of the African-American and Latino, gay and transgender subculture in a time when the city was consumed by the ideals of wealth and glamour.

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Critic Reviews for Paris Is Burning

All Critics (21) | Top Critics (4)

  • One emerges from this film not only with a new vocabulary and a fresh way of viewing the straight world but with a bracing object lesson in understanding what society "role models" are all about.

    Mar 31, 2016 | Full Review…
  • Even better for last year's book release, if you did not get a chance to see this movie thirty years ago, do not miss it now.

    Jul 19, 2019 | Rating: 8/10 | Full Review…
  • All these years later, 'Pose' fans will enjoy tracing its characters (not to mention plots) back to their inspirations...

    Jul 18, 2019 | Rating: A- | Full Review…
  • More than anything, Paris is Burning is a thoroughly entertaining performance film. Beneath the theatrical trappings, though, sits layer after layer of poverty and abuse. Livingston manages to navigate those dueling moods of celebration and depression.

    Jul 5, 2019 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • Paris Is Burning is a masterpiece that works as well as it does because its point of view is not that of someone instructing the audience like a tenured professor.

    Jul 3, 2019 | Full Review…
  • At times intimate and raw, Paris is Burning tries to capture the powerful essence of walking the floor to thunderous cheers and sometimes boos.

    Jun 26, 2019 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Paris Is Burning

  • Aug 08, 2014
    This documentary is a beautiful time capsule of the "ball" culture of late eighties drag culture. Not only does it show the performance aspect of these intricate and flawless drag shows, but also the AIDS fueled hysteria of the time, discrimination against gay people, and the fears and doubts of these one of a kind people. Since the film was released, many of the performers have died of AIDS related illnesses, and many of their trade secrets and views on life are only evident on the celluloid that this film was printed on. The subjects of this two year documentary are fascinating because of their candor and reverence for their craft. The film is both insightful in its depiction of ball culture and thoroughly entertaining for its depth and scope.
    Spencer S Super Reviewer
  • Jun 05, 2014
    As a revealing (and sad) portrait of this subculture of the 1980s, the film documents the balls, the "houses," "voguing" and a "realness" competition that raises some fascinating questions about what real means (gay men even appear teaching women to behave like "real" women).
    Carlos M Super Reviewer
  • May 21, 2013
    A timeless, classic LBGT film. Quite bold for its time...which I guess means it isn't exactly "timeless"....still....
    Christian C Super Reviewer
  • Jul 30, 2012
    This documentary focuses on the aspirations and culture of African American homosexuals and transsexuals. What is interesting about this subject is the depth of the culture. Filled with nuances and its own patois, gay and transsexual culture is remarkably complex, and the film exposes all. I can't say that I enjoyed the film because I've never been sitting in my apartment and thought, "Gee, I wonder what gay culture was like in the 80s." But that's not the film's fault. Overall, if you've ever been sitting in your apartment thinking, "Gee, I wonder what gay culture was like in the 80s," then this is the film for you.
    Jim H Super Reviewer

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