The 15 Greatest Cross-Gender Performances in Movie History

8. Breakfast on Pluto ( 2005, Neil Jordan)

Breakfast on Pluto

In the turbulent years of 1970s, a transsexual woman going by the name Patrick “Kitten” Braden travels from Ireland to London in search of her mother as well as a more acceptable environment for his diversity.

Patrick “Kitten” Braden is bathed with pixie dust, it’s a sweet, touching, smart character that even through the gutter and the most reckless situations with optimism as a weapon, achieves to pull through. This is a movie about a boy trapped in a world that he desperately wants to escape, using his imagination to reinvent himself and escape it. It’s all about the expression of individualism and the unending race to gain the respect about who you want to be.

Cillian Murphy brings chills to the audience, his performance is that good. Whether it has to do with the many dimensions this character takes or the acting genius of Murphy is not settled but the movie is unmistakably a huge success thanks to that one performance.


9. Yentl (1983, Barbara Streisand)

yentl movie

Yentl is a young Jewish girl that aspires to enter religious training. Not being able to do so due to the strict regulations of the school that prevents females from studying religion, Yentl disguises as a boy to follow her dream. When she falls for a scholar, things get more complicated.

Yentl’s dream is to study religion so she dresses up as a boy to be able to make her dream come true. Her cross-dressing isn’t related with sexuality at all but her feelings will bring her troubles and a series of unending events that put some thought in viewers’ minds.

The film is an adaptation of Isaac Bashevis Singer’s story and a lifetime’s dream film of Barbara Streisand, who not only produced and directed the film but also starred in it, giving away a masterpiece of a performance. Yentl’s portrayal was serene, timid and followed a male kind of logic but was at the same time tender and moving. A series of complicated relations and hidden secrets were really able to build up the suspense of the movie and keep the audience waiting for more.


10. Mrs. Doubtfire ( 1993, Chris Columbus)

Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)

Daniel Hillard, a freshly divorced man and talented voice actor, after losing the custody to his children, comes up with a faux persona, Mrs. Doubtfire and becomes the nanny of his own children to keep a closer eye on them.

This is a cozy kind of sitcom-ish movie that makes the audience crack some great laughs also permitting some sympathy for the characters.

Beloved Robin Williams gives a memorable performance here, making us cry and smile with him throughout the film.


11. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975, Jim Sharman)

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

A newly engaged couple, Brad and Janet encounter a problem when their car halts in the rain. They look for help, only to find themselves at the castle of Dr. Frank-N-Furter, a transvestite. A place to stay is offered, but will Brad and Janet want to stay? Especially when a large group of Transylvanians dance to the ‘Time Warp’, Dr. Frank-N-Furter builds his own man and some other weird events take place?

This film is peculiar, hilarious, surreal and absolutely worthy, promising to create some smiles on the faces of its viewers. Dealing with sexuality, gothic vibes and a parody logic, this film is the hot stuff someone needs to watch to let off steam.

Part of the success of the movie is its protagonist’s performance of course, Tim Curry is mysterious, likable, gothic and seems to have a tremendous amount of fun himself (what’s not to like there?).


12. Some Like It Hot (1959, Billy Wilder)


Joe and Jerry are out of work musicians who witness the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Fleeing for their lives, they disguise themselves as female musicians in order to get to Florida and away from the mob. This is where the fun begins. Joe falls for the ukulele player Sugar and also pretends to be a rich guy. While, Jerry is having a fling with rich Osgood Fielding. All that while they try to keep up with their fake identities as Daphne and Josephine.

Some Like It Hot is undoubtedly a classic comedy and displays many genuinely intriguing stories about taking risks, running away and above all love. Its foremost merit is the killer lines and the good acting.

Monroe is the star here. But both Curtis and Lemmon make the movie experience enjoyable as well. They are both quite plausible as females, too. Curtis takes a Cary Grant-like way to make Sugar fall for him and achieves it nonetheless. However, it’s Lemmon that really steals the show here. He invests Daphne with such enthusiasm that we can discern why he’s falling for Osgood.


13. The Birdcage (1996, Mike Nichols)

The Birdcage (1996)

Armand owns a cabaret, where his longtime better half Albert stars as a drag queen going by the name Starina. When Armand’s son gets engaged and wants to bring his in-laws to meet his father, he asks them to behave as normal so his highly moralistic future family isn’t shocked. That leads to jestingly situations that pay off with huge amounts of joyful tears.

The movie is a remake of the French comedy “La Cage aux Folles” (1978), and although many of us have watched the original, it’s still seemingly fresh and special.

It’s an exhilarating movie and that owes a lot to the right casting. Robin Williams is not as flamboyant as he was in Mrs. Doubtfire, but gives a more confident and low-profile vibe.

The star though is Nathan Lane as both Starina and impersonating Val’s mother. Lane is a drag but has some serious moments in the film that are truly worthy as well. This is a character based movie and the plot is kept to a minimum, with the right dialogue touches, the movie went flying and the audience were high on laughter.


14. The Crying Game (1992, Neil Jordan)

the crying game

In Northern Ireland, a British soldier, Jody is kidnapped by the IRA. In a secluded forest hideout, he is guarded by a team including Fergus, who has become a committed terrorist and yet is still a kind person. The soldier may be executed if the British government doesn’t release IRA prisoners. Jody shows Fergus a snapshot of his girlfriend Dil, back in London, and asks him to look her up someday – if he dies soon.

This is a mystery-horror film that both keeps the viewers engaged with the whole weird and riddle-like premise and introduces twist after twist, having you guessing what’s next. Nothing is like it seems here and that’s the beauty of it all for the matter. The transgender angle is actually just one element of an engagingly intertwined plot that surprises many people.

Forest Whitaker gives an outstanding performance and impresses the crowds. Trying to avoid further spoilers, I suggest you watch the film yourself, it’s well worth it, and it’s thrilling indeed.


15. The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994, Stephan Elliott)

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

Bernadette is a middle-aged transsexual in Australia and with a drag duo, Mitzi and Felicia they create a quite unique cabaret show. When they receive an invitation for a gig in Alice Springs, they take on a road trip with their old bus which goes by the name Priscilla. Along the way they meet various obstacles as well as decent surprises.

This is a road-trip movie that mostly describes the middle-age crisis, when nothing seems good enough for a person that grows tiresome in his own skin.

Terence Stamp is genuinely portraying the cross-gender role here, bathing the character with heartbreaking humanity and showing the real dimension of a middle-aged person’s life, transsexual or not. Although, it’s pretty odd to see an actor that formerly portrayed villainous macho characters made up like this, with all the flamboyance, it’s definitely an eminent surprise.

It’s not really about the homosexuality as it is a character based movie with its ups and downs, melancholic and funny at the same time.

Author Bio: Ilona speaks five languages, and she is studying Film. She specializes in the theory and history of cinema . She also writes film reviews as well as screenplays. And she is currently working on her first fiction book.