Miss America


Bottom 40% of all time (see others with this rank)

Festival Year

2002 (click here to see all competition films from this year)


Documentary Competition

Non-Cast Credits

Lisa Ades, Lola Van Wagenen, Jeanne Houck, Margaret Drain, Lisa Ades, Lesli Klainberg, Buddy Squires, Peter Nelson, Toby Shimin, Michelle Ferrari, Douglas J. Cuomo, Cherry Jones


Right alongside historic symbols of American price -- the Statute of Liberty, the American flag, and Uncle Sam -- there stands, in all her gowned glory, Miss America. Lisa Ades's Miss America is a remarkably smart, stylish, and fun-to-watch documentary brimming with celebrity interviews, amazing archival footage, and, of course, a bevy of swimsuit beauties.

Originally conceived in 1921 as a ploy to keep buisnessmen in Atlantic City after Labor Day, the Miss America Pageant has since stood at the center of American popular culture, embodying our country's changing view on beauty, sex, race, and the roles of women in our society. Ades follows the evolution of the pateant as it was transformed from a beachfront cakewalk to a "respectable" contest that included a scholarship program and a talent competition (ventriloquism and trampolines included). The pateant became a premiere televised event and was the site of the first feminist demonstration. Winds of change brought crowned beauties who spoke on behalf of abortion and AIDS and paved the way for the first black woman to wear the crown (who was then caught photographed wearing nothing else). While marching through the pageant's colorful history, we watch as each new crop of beauties stroll the catwalk wearing the latest couture of the times and as swimsuit hemlines rise higher and higher.

Interpreting the history are a host of scholars and celebrities, including Gloria Steinem, Margaret Cho, Tricia Rose, and Isaac Mizrahi, not to mention a number of former pageant winners. All together, Miss America paints a much more complex portrait of The Pageant than you would ever expect.


Shari Frilot (see other films reviewed by the same reviewer)

Film Takes Pace.