Paris Is Burning (1991) - Rotten Tomatoes

Paris Is Burning (1991)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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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.
R (adult situations/language, nudity)
Documentary , Special Interest , Gay & Lesbian
Directed By:
In Theaters:
Academy Entertainment

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Critic Reviews for Paris Is Burning

All Critics (12) | 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.

Full Review… | March 31, 2016
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

The directness and honesty of moment after moment strike back at peppily 'cheerful' white America's model-world. Blazes forth the importance, for a marginalized community, of adopting a fervid, fiery attitude all its own.

Full Review… | September 30, 2016
Vue Weekly (Edmonton, Canada)

Livingston is smart enough to realize that her subjects are best equipped to explain themselves.

Full Review… | July 10, 2009

This landmark docu celebrates the resourcefulness of a group that's subcultural but not truly countercultural--its denizens long to become members of the society they imitate, operating at its periphery.

Full Review… | October 6, 2006

The beauty of the film is Livingston's nonjudgmental, accommodating camera.

Full Review… | September 10, 2005
Slant Magazine

Audience Reviews for Paris Is Burning


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.
Spencer S.

Super Reviewer

A revealing (and sad) portrait of this subculture of the 1980s, it documents the balls, "houses" (or "families"), "voguing" and a "realness" competition that raises fascinating questions about what it is to be real (gay men even appear teaching women to behave like "real" women).

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

A timeless, classic LBGT film. Quite bold for its time...which I guess means it isn't exactly "timeless"....still....

Christian C
Christian C

Super Reviewer

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