RuPaul’s Drag Race: best seasons, where to start, where to stream

Knowing where to begin with RuPaul's Drag Race franchise can be daunting – let us help, with our handy guide for beginners and returning fans.

Long-running reality TV franchises can reach a kind of critical mass after a while, where the sheer volume of seasons available to you becomes too overwhelming to even start. Do I need to watch 472 seasons of Survivor to understand the most recent series? Just how real are these housewives, and why are they in every city in the world?

But no reality franchise is as sprawling and forbidding as RuPaul’s Drag Race, a massive and long-running series that makes no pretence at being as much a successful marketing enterprise as it is a celebration of drag as an artform.

As of 2024, the original series RuPaul’s Drag Race has produced 16 seasons and inspired the spin-off shows RuPaul’s Drag U, RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, and RuPaul’s Secret Celebrity Drag Race, as well as the companion series RuPaul’s Drag Race: Untucked.

Along with this, there are a spree of international adaptations including RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under, featuring Australian and New Zealand queens, and Drag Race UK, which are both hosted by RuPaul. There’s also Chilean, Thai, Canadian, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, French, Filipino, Belgian, Swedish, Mexican, Brazilian, and German editions and international vs. the World competitions hosted in The United Kingdom and Canada, including the second season of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK Versus The World, currently streaming on Stan.

A truly overwhelming smorgasbord of options. Here are five places to start in the RuPaul’s Drag Race world, that will introduce you to the joy of the show, and probably leave you hooked enough to continue with the thousands of other episodes.

RuPaul’s Drag Race – Season 5 (2013)

This is a great place to start your Drag Race journey – it’s an early enough season that there’s still a delightful messiness to the queens competing that is somewhat lost in later seasons, but doesn’t look dogshit like the earlier versions. 

In many ways you could consider this season as a blueprint for what ‘works’ about the show: we have iconic lipsyncs including one which had the first ever ‘wig reveal‘; we have contestant drama between Alyssa Edwards and Coco Montrese that leads to some of the most repeated lines in the show; and we have an underdog battle between delightful weirdo Jinkx Monsoon and the drag equivalent of evil stepsisters, ‘Rolaskatox’.

Currently streaming on Stan, Prime Video and Paramount+.

RuPaul’s Drag Race – Season 6 (2014)

Go straight from Season 5 to Season 6, usually considered by most fans to be the best series in the entire main show. Because it is.

The standard of queens involved is just top notch, from BenDeLaCreme to Adore Delano to Australia’s Courtney Act and the incredibly witty Bianca Del Rio, every challenge and runway is elevated due to their talent. There are some looks on the runway – Courtney Act’s beautiful wings for example – that set the standard for fashion in the show for seasons to come. And there’s a very iconic Snatch Game too. This is also a great season to watch with Untucked too, as much of the best drama comes from the companion show.

Currently streaming on Stan, Prime Video and Paramount+.

Drag Race UK – Season 2 (2021)

By now you’ve gotten your head around the game, some of the early references, the style of humour – so let’s get away from the yanks! One of the best things about the international franchises is seeing how drag manifests in different countries – even Down Under, which hasn’t had a great run yet, does show some amazing examples of Australian drag. Drag Race UK Season 2 is a joyous example of this, highlighting how camp and silly and rude British drag can be. The highlight of the season has to be the group song, UK, Hun? 

The season is almost perfect, if you can ignore the Covid break in the middle and a rather shocking choice of winner …

Currently streaming on Stan and Prime Video.

All Stars – Season 7 (2022)

A new format to breathe some life into a flagging franchise, All Stars Season 7 is an ‘all winners’ season, meaning every contestant has won another season of the show. As a result, the standard is out of this world. There are some other rule tweaks too, which honestly revitalised the format, and made this the most enjoyable season for years. 

The Snatch Game has to be the best in history, and would be worth watching for alone.

Currently streaming on Stan and Prime Video.

All Stars – Season 2 (2016)

The GOAT for a reason. By the time you’ve gotten through the other recommendations, you are ready for this flawless season. All Stars Season 2 takes a lot of the drama and success of Seasons 5 and 6 and gives the queens another chance. Narratively, it feels like a punctuation point after those seasons. 

There’s just some magic in this season, perhaps exemplified by one of the greatest lip syncs of all time – Alyssa Edwards vs Tatianna, who coincidentally mirror each other’s looks and create magic. A brilliant snatch game. There are also several fan-favourite queens, such as Katya. It’s also one of the most deserved wins in the franchise’s history. Run, don’t walk, because All Stars Season 2 is beloved for a reason: it’s life-changing.

Currently streaming on Stan and Prime Video.

RuPaul’s Drag Race UK Versus The World – Season 2 is currently streaming on Stan.