Stripper, peeler, exotic dancer... whatever you call them, Hollywood loves them. Having a stripper -- male or female -- as a central character allows for all sorts of formulaic conventions Hollywood adores. There's the stripper with the heart of gold, the stripper doing it for the art, the stripper as rebel, the stripper just stripping for the money... well, you get the idea. And while actor Channing Tatum
may be the only former stripper (he stripped briefly when he was 18) to produce a movie based on his own experiences (Magic Mike
), there's no shortage of revealing films about stripping. Here are our choices for the top 10.
1. 'Showgirls' (1995)
At the top of any list of stripper films has to be Paul Verhoeven's Showgirls
starring Elizabeth Berkley as a young woman stripping her way to fame in Vegas. The NC-17 film won a record number of RAZZIE awards (the anti-Oscar) and has gone down in infamy as one of the guiltiest of bad movie pleasures. Berkley reveals all and so often that the explicit nudity becomes almost boring as the film offers the cheesiest, most sensational behind the scenes look at stripping ever. There are a plethora of stripteases, erotic dances, lap dances, cat fights
, drama queens, and sleazy clichés. You may want to shower after watching, it's that kind of bad.
2. 'Full Monty' (1997)
© Fox Searchlight
Male stripping gets a warm and fuzzy makeover in this box office sleeper. Six unemployed steel workers from Sheffield, England are inspired by Chippendale's to strip for money and self-esteem. The film serves up a very different tone and style from Showgirls as it treats its characters with genuine compassion and actually tries to address some real social concerns of the English working class. The title is British slang for "the whole thing" or in this case going completely naked. The actors reportedly did a full frontal striptease for the 400 mostly female extras but in the film, the audience only see their naked bums.
3. 'Gypsy' (1962)
© Warner Bros
Hollywood turns to the life of a real burlesque dancer and stripper Gypsy Rose Lee for a musical biopic. Gypsy Rose Lee's 1957 memoir inspired the successful Broadway play that fuels the film. It charts the rise of Louise Hovick (Natalie Wood) from an awkward teenager to the sexy legend Gypsy Rose Lee. Rosalind Russell plays the pushy stage mom. H. L. Mencken coined the term "ecdysiast" to describe the real Gypsy's style of high class stripping with its emphasis on wit and the "tease." The real Gypsy also authored a mystery called The G-String Murders, which was made into the 1943 film Lady of Burlesque with Barbara Stanwyck. She also inspired the song "Zip" in the film and stage musical Pal Joey.
4. 'Blaze' (1989)
© Walt Disney Video
Another real life stripper is at the center of Blaze
, a film about the latter years of flamboyant Louisiana governor Earl Long (played by Paul Newman
), and his affair with the fiery young stripper Blaze Starr. Despite being a politician looking to stay in office, Long moves in with the stripper much to the delight of his political opponents. Lolita Davidovitch plays Blaze whose claim to fame was the clever use of props. The film was based on Starr's memoirs.
© Sony Pictures
No real life strippers are to be found in Zombie Strippers
, in which a chemo-virus turns the live strippers into the undead
hungry for their clients' flesh. Set in Ian Essko's Rhino Club (get it? Like Ionesco's Rhinoceros?), a stripper named Kat (porn star Jenna Jameson
) becomes a super energized zombie stripper who wows the audience and then picks one lucky customer to eat in the back room. Kat, who's been reading Nietzsche, quotes the famous philosopher's comment about "what doesn't kill us makes us stronger." After she turns undead, she looks at Nietzsche's book again and declares, "This makes so much more sense now." Nietzsche may be turning in his grave right now.
6. 'The Stripper' (1963)Oscar winner Joanne Woodward brings dramatic intensity to this tale of Lila Green, a failed actress and magician's assistant eventually forced into stripping. This is a case where Hollywood did its own kind of striptease or at least tease by promising a sexy tale about a stripper and instead delivering a portrait of a woman whose dreams get repeatedly crushed. It's based on William Inge's play A Loss of Roses.
© Columbia Pictures
is not really about strippers but it has an extended scene in a strip club between Natalie Portman
, as a dancer, and Clive Owen
, as her customer. The scene is wickedly funny as writer Patrick Marber proves that removing one's clothes is nothing compared to laying bare truths about one's self and being emotionally naked. Portman's character, when asked to tell the truth, notes: "Lying's the most fun a girl can have without taking her clothes off - but it's better if you do."
© Fox Searchlight
gives a very real performance as an aging stripper having an awkward relationship with Mickey Rourke's
beat up wrestler. Not a flattering look at the world of stripping but far more realistic than most Hollywood films are willing to show.
9. 'Striptease' (1996)
© Warner Bros Pictures
tackles her role as a single mom who turns to stripping to survive with a Robert De Niro-like method seriousness that kind of robs the film of any sexiness. But Striptease
gained notoriety since Moore was a big star (her $12 million fee was the highest received by any Hollywood actress at the time) and it was considered one of Burt Reynolds' comeback roles. Not as "bad" as Showgirls
but then not as much fun either, and ultimately far less watchable. It's an odd novelty.
10. 'From Dusk Till Dawn' (1996) and 'Dogma' (1999)
© Dimension Films
And finally, a tribute to the incredibly sexy Salma Hayek
who has given us two of the most alluring and memorable movie strippers in two wildly different films. She was an evil vampire
-- but also an incredibly hot dancer putting a boa constrictor to good use -- in Robert Rodriguez's From Dusk Till Dawn
; and then she was sweet, sexy, smart, and funny in Kevin Smith's near end-of-creation film Dogma
.Honorable mention strippers:
Rose McGowen in Planet Terror
, Jessica Alba in Sin City
, Mia Kirshner in Exotica
, and Ken Olandt as the unexpected male stripper in Summer School