15 years on, we take a look at why Drop Dead Gorgeous is still the best of the cult classics…


It has been 15 years since this low budget black teen comedy was released, albeit to a limited audience and scathing reviews, but in the years since it has become an iconic and cult film; a mockumentary about the all American competitiveness of teen beauty pageants.

Here are 7 of the film’s stars and why this film should have been a much bigger success than it was, and why it is so deserving of its cult movie status.


Stalwart of teen movies in the late 90’s, early 00’s Dunst plays amber Atkinson, the tap dancing mortician who has big dreams of being the next Diane Saywer (famous American news reporter). Despite her humble background, aka the trailer park she lives in with her mum, she has big dreams and despite wanting to drop out of the competition after a few near misses, her mum and Loretta convince her otherwise, and in the end (thanks in no small part to Gladys Leeman) she come out on top.

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This was future five times Oscar nominee and all American girl Amy Adams feature film debut, in which she plays the ditzy, overly sexed cheerleader Leslie Miller. Despite the film essentially bombing, Adams decided to stick it out in Hollywood after her time on set, and for that we will be forever grateful for ‘Drop Dead Gorgeous’.




Despite being best known today as Charlie Sheens’ ex-wife, and one time Bond girl Denise Richards is perfect in the role of Becky Leeman, the gun toting Christian, whose mother Gladys runs the pageants. Her most memorable on screen moments are all too frequent, whilst at the gun range ‘Jesus loves winners’, her ‘talent’ dancing with a crucifix and a Jesus dummy, and of course when she gets her comeuppance aboard a giant swan float.

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Ellen plays Ambers mum Annette, the mobile hairdresser who gets a bit more than she bargained for one evening when she lights her cigarette. Ending up witha mechanical claw for a hand after a beer can gets impaled to her hand, she is determined to be there for her daughter, and couldn’t be prouder when Amber ends up winning state. The pairing of Annette and Loretta creates the best on screen relationship, and the most laughs.

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Despite reports of being a complete diva on set, not unlike the character she plays Gladys Leeman, Kirstie alley really nailed the ultimate stage mother persona, and was as judgmental of others as she was of pushing her daughter into the spotlight. After ending up in prison after admitting to killing Tammy, her finest moment came when the cigarette she lit ending up killing her beloved daughter and we were giving this iconic quuote: ‘THE SWAN ATE MY BABY’

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Back before she lost her puppy fat, dated Ashton Kutcher and dyed her hair blond, Brittany Murphy appeared in iconic 90s movies such as ‘Clueless’ and ‘Girlinterrupted’, as well as ‘Drop Dead Gorgeous’ as giggly teen Lisa, who forfeits her place in the competition for her friend Amber. Forever living in the shadow of her older brother, a New York drag queen, her finest moment comes after the pageant when she outs her brother to her dad, much to his confusion. That and of course her laugh; her laugh is phenomenal.

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Alison Janney is one of the best things about this film. She plays Loretta, best friend to Ambers mum Annette, and is often on hand to give Amber a pep talk and act the surrogate mum when Annette is indisposed at the hospital following the trailer park fire. She’s the straight talking, beer guzzling chain smoking star of this film. Janney has since claimed that more people approach her about her role in this cult classic, than any other work she’s done in the 15 years since.

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Words: Siobhan Frew


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