For the last few years, RuPaul’s Drag Race has not only grown in the way the show is performed, but in terms of audience size as well. Each year, the series seems to be breaking new records, bringing more and more people into the Werk Room for the very first time. And with the new cast announcement and release date out for All Stars 4, that means a lot of fresh eyes will be flocking to VH1.
But as the show expands, a flock of new viewers arrive who might get lost in the world of Drag Race, asking questions like “What’s tucking? What’s a Manila? What is the tea?” Becoming a Drag Race fan is a commitment; you have to learn the terminology, understand the different challenge categories and know what’s happened in past seasons to fully understand some jokes and references.
One of the most commonly asked questions from new fans of the show is “What season is the best to watch?” After careful consideration, Billboard Pride answers that question by ranking each of the 13 seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race and RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars below:
13. All Stars, Season 1
The fact that we got more seasons of All Stars after the absolute catastrophe that was All Stars season 1 is a miracle. The queens on the show were great, with favorites like Latrice Royale, Tammie Brown, Raven, Jujubee and Chad Michaels gracing the stage. Just about everything else was a mess — the rules of the competition were confusing, the “teams” did no justice for anyone, and the only major standout moment from the show was Tammie Brown’s famous “teleport us to Mars” rant. If you’re going to skip a season, you won’t miss this one.
12. Season 7
There were a lot of great queens the world got to meet in season 7, like Katya, Trixie Mattel, Violet Chachki and others. But the chemistry of the show was simply not there. The season was overstuffed with acting challenges, there were only a few memorable lip syncs, and most of the season was spent dealing with seemingly inconsequential drama. In the words of Jasmine Masters, no tea, no shade, no pink lemonade.
11. Season 1
Every show has to start somewhere, and Drag Race‘s first season is exactly that — a starting point. The show had a smaller budget, fewer innovative opportunities and a formula to follow. Aside from the strange pre-Instagram filter put over every shot of the show, season 1 isn’t that bad, it’s just so much more boring than the seasons that followed.
10. All Stars, Season 3
The third season of All Stars offered up a few fan favorites like Shangela, Trixie Mattel, Aja and BenDeLaCreme to entice viewers, but the season’s progress became strange to watch. Many of the challenges fell flat compared to the high-fashion and hilarity of seasons past, the lipstick-elimination method became hard to watch, and a major mid-season twist threw a wrench in the show’s narrative, making it harder for fans to swallow the final few episodes.
9. Season 9
With its move from Logo to VH1, Drag Race season nine had a lot of expectations put upon it. In some areas it delivered — the fashion was excellent, the challenges seemed fun and the competition was steep. But with a lack of serious behind-the-scenes drama and a staggering record of boring lip syncs, the season fell short of the high expectations set for it by fans and by the show itself. Still, though, the final “Lip Sync for the Crown” twist made for endlessly watchable television.
8. Season 2
With a bigger budget and more queens than before, season two is where Drag Race began to grow into its own. With the addition of the now-classic Snatch Game challenge, some iconic shady moments and a few of the best competitors to appear on the show, season two set up the promise of future seasons of the show, without necessarily fulfilling it.
7. Season 8
After the polished-but-boring feel of season seve , fans were looking for more drama and more fun in the next season of Drag Race. Season eight delivered; with a bevy of extremely charismatic and interesting queens, what this season lacked in dazzle it made up for in humor, interesting storylines, and lots and lots of iconic moments.
6. Season 10
The show’s most recent season also had its fair share of hype to live up to, with the tenth season marking a decade of the show’s presence on television. But unlike season nine, season 10 delivered on its promise with one of the most competitive groups yet, keeping fans constantly guessing about where each of the contestants would place. That, accompanied by more than the show’s fair share of drama and deep discussion behind the scenes, made season 10 a winner, baby.
5. Season 3
If season two set up future seasons for success, then season three was the first time the show found that success. The challenges on this season were technically difficult and extremely fun to watch, the contestants were fierce and shady, and the addition of Michelle Visage as a regular presence on the judges’ panel made for one of the most entertaining seasons of Drag Race to date.
4. Season 6
Three words: Bianca Del Rio. The drag superstar dominated every moment of season six, inserting her smart brand of humor whenever she could, making this one of the funniest and most fascinating-to-watch seasons of Drag Race yet. Her presence, combined with a cast of now-iconic stars, multiple storylines of drama and feuds, and some stunning fashion moments, cements season six’s place among the best seasons of Drag Race.
3. All Stars, Season 2
It’s no wonder that All Stars 2 was a huge success. The cast was stacked with major fan favorites like Alaska, Katya, Detox and Adore Delano, and delivered on making these queens work harder than ever for their title. It contains some of the best lip syncs and the best runway moments of the show to date, and it will be remembered for it.
2. Season 5
Even when accounting for All Stars seasons, Drag Race season five has hands-down the best cast of queens out of any season. From the always-hilarious Alyssa Edwards to the talented bad girl Roxxxy Andrews, the queens of season five made every single episode fascinating to watch. Bitter rivalries, extremely famous moments and stunning twists are simply the icing on top of this perfectly-cast season.
1. Season 4
If you’re new to Drag Race, season four is the place to start. This season is representative of everything Drag Race is, has been and continues to be. Not only did season four launch the show into mainstream recognition, but it showed fans that with pitch-perfect challenges, a cast of strong personalities, stunning fashion moments and more, pure television gold can be made. There are too many amazing moments from this season to count on one list, so it’s just better if you go watch and enjoy it for yourself.