An LGBTQ+ Film a Day (and then some!) for LGBT History Month
If you looked back maybe 10 years ago, LGBTQ+ films and movies were a rarity. You may have had a token “gay best friend” for entertainment value or a few heat-wrenching stories about the AIDS Pandemic. But, certainly in the entertainment industry, it would be very difficult to find a film where Queer characters were celebrated , positive stories were highlighted, and Lesbians didn’t end up dead.
Over time, with thanks to places like Netflix – who have sections dedicated purely to LGBT Film – and LGBTQ directors coming to the forefront of film, they’re now become more accessible and more “mainstream”. Plus, with TV shows such as Orange is The New Black, Sex Education, and Schitts Creek, our community are being “normalised” and, dare I say it, people want to know more about our community.
This LGBT History Month I decided to create a list of 28 films (Yes, one a day!). Ranging from historic biopics to comedies (I know, it’s not always doom and gloom!), you’ll be sure to find something that tickles your fancy.
This list comes from our personal collection and others that have been recommended to us, however I need to take some time to acknowledge that very few of these films actually feature LGBTQ actors.
This is not intentional, it is simply because we’re not at a point in time where LGBTQ actors are prioritised when it comes to telling LGBTQ stories. It is a shame, and I have some big opinions about casting heterosexual and cis-gender actors to play LGBTQ roles, but unfortunately we have to take what we’re given. That being said, these stories are worth watching, and the actors featured are brilliant and deserve their recognition.
I hope you enjoy.
Some plot information, imagery and quotes sourced from Wikipedia
This is a political biopic telling the story of California’s first openly gay elected public official, Harvey Milk. Milk became known as a gay rights activist after moving to San Francisco in the early 1970s.
After two failed attempts to become elected to San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, Milk finally made it onto the board in 1977 – but only served for a matter of months before he and the city’s mayor George Moscone were shot to death by right-wing rival Dan White.
The Happiest Season
A fun and romantic comedy, providing some much needed LGBTQ+ representation to a heterosexual and heteronormative dominated genre.
Based around the message of “unconditional acceptance” Abby and Harper are a young couple in love, but when Harper takes Abby home to her folks at Christmas everything isn’t as it seems and a variety of events unfold.
The Boys in The Band
The Boys in the Band is an American drama based on the 1968 Broadway play with the same name.
Following a group of men in New York City – when being gay was still preferred to be kept secret – a group of friends gather for a raucous birthday party hosted by Michael (Jim Parsons) and each man is challenged to confront long-buried truths after Michael’s straight-laced college roommate, shows up unexpectedly.
The Ideal Home
Erasmus (Steve Coogan) and Paul (Paul Rudd), are a bickering gay couple whose lives are turned upside down when a ten-year old boy shows up at their door claiming to be Erasmus’ grandson.
Neither Paul, nor Erasmus, are ready to give up their extravagant lifestyles to be parents, but maybe this little kid has a thing or two to teach them about the value of family.
I am Michael
Based on the true-life story of Michael Glatze, a gay activist who becomes a Christian pastor after identifying as a heterosexual. This fascinating story follows a high profile gay youth activist who created national controversy when he claimed to no longer be gay and became a straight Christian pastor.
The film follows Michael from his life in San Francisco with his boyfriend Bennett, where he pursues political activism, a journalist career at XY Magazine, social awareness, and sexual exploration.
God’s Own Country
Spring in Yorkshire. Saxby, an Isolated young sheep farmer, soothes his daily frustrations with binge drinking and sex, until the arrival of a Romanian migrant worker Gheorghe. Employed for the lambing season, they ignite an intense relationship that sets Johnny on a new path.
With limited dialogue, this film takes you on a journey through emotion and mesmerising cinamatography.
Blue is the Warmest Colour
“Adèle’s life is changed when she meets Emma, a young woman with blue hair, who will allow her to discover desire and to assert herself as a woman and as an adult.
In front of others, Adèle grows, seeks herself, loses herself, and ultimately finds herself through love and loss.”
Spanning across three time periods – young adolescence (Little), mid-teen (Chiron) and young adult (Black) – Moonlight follows the life of black-American man Chiron, who struggles with his identity and sexuality while experiencing the everyday struggles of childhood, adolescence, and burgeoning adulthood.
Based on Tarell Alvin McCraney’s unpublished semi-autobiographical play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, Blackness, masculinity, and vulnerability are major focuses of this film.
Tangerine is a story that follows a transgender sex worker who discovers her boyfriend and pimp has been cheating on her.
The film was shot using three smartphones and is not an “easy” watch, but it’s stylish cinematography and story-telling awarded the film “universal acclaim”.
Paris is Burning
Paris is Burning is an “invaluable” 90’s documentary-film about the New York City ball culture, as well as the African-American, Latino, gay, and transgender communities involved within. If you enjoyed Pose, watch this.
Filmed in the 1980’s, it was later preserved in the National Film Registry due to it being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
Based around the novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, Love, Simon is a romantic comedy drama centered around Simon Spier, a “closeted gay high school boy who is forced to balance his friends, his family, and the blackmailer threatening to out him to the entire school, while simultaneously attempting to discover the identity of the anonymous classmate with whom he has fallen in love online.”
This is one of the first American films to focus on gay teen romance and revolutionary “normalcy”.
The Strong Ones (Los Fuertes)
Based on the original short film San Cristóbal, Los fuertes follows Lucas and Antonio, who befriend and later fall in love with one another.
The original name in Spanish, is a pun using the plural of fuerte, which can mean “strong” and “fortress” which coincides with Antonio; a fisherman and part-time actor for historical reenactments of the capture of Valdivia’s fortresses.
A biographical film about the life of Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of rock band Queen.
Whilst the portrayal of Mercury’s sexuality throughout the film was problematic and heavily criticised, the film captures prominent highlights throughout Mercury’s life and career.
A fun and worthy watch!
A remake of the 1978 Franco-Italian film La Cage aux Folles, The Birdcage follows Armand Goldman, an openly-gay owner of a drag club in South Beach called “The Birdcage” and his partner Albert, who plays Starina; the star attraction of the club.
The story follows the couple when they agree to put up a false straight front so that their son can introduce them to his fiancée’s right-wing moralistic parents.
A Canadian-American film about Stella and Dotty, a lesbian couple from Maine who embark on a Thelma and Louise-style road trip to Nova Scotia to get married after Dotty is moved into a nursing home by her granddaughter.
Along the way they pick up Prentice, a hitchhiker travelling home to Nova Scotia to visit his dying mother, and the three bond deeply as they travel.
Lilting tells the story of a mother’s attempt at understanding who her son was after his untimely death.
Her world, however, is soon disrupted by the sudden presence of his lover. Together, they attempt to overcome their grief whilst struggling against not having a shared language.
A Single Man
Based on the novel, A Single Man follows George Falconer, a depressed, gay British university professor living in Southern California in 1962.
After discovering the body of his longtime partner, Jim, at the scene of a car accident, George delivers a voiceover discussing the pain and depression he has endured since Jim’s death and his intention to commit suicide, however events unfold leading him to find new relationships.
Better Than Chocolate
Maggie has moved out on her own and has started a relationship with Kim. Maggie’s mother Lila and brother are forced to move into her loft sublet with her, but unaware that she is a lesbian. The “clandestine romance” introduces Maggie’s family to a host of new experiences, many of which are “better than chocolate”.
The story also features Judy, a friend of Maggie’s who is a transgender woman. Judy develops a friendship with Maggie’s Mum and helps her to repair her relationship with her daughter.
The Imitation Game
The Imitation Game follows the tragic story of Alan Turing and his role during the Second World War and “The Enigma” machine.
Whilst this particular film down plays Turing’s sexuality; a key element of Turing’s original struggles, the film plays a vital role in documenting not only the way in which Turing saved millions of lives, but what happened to him after the war, when he is convicted of gross-indecency.
“a broad but effectively intimate portrait” Wilde is the story of Poet and Playwright Oscar Wilde, played by Stephen Fry. This film was made for him.
Throughout the film, portions of the well-loved Wilde story The Selfish Giant are woven into the story. First by Wilde, telling the story to his children, then as narrator, finishing the story as the film ends.
But I’m a Cheerleader!
A “satirical romantic comedy” about a high school cheerleader whose parents send her to a residential conversion therapy camp to “cure” her lesbianism.
This often hilarious story, that now has it’s own cult following, follows Natasha Lyonne (Orange is the New Black) and Clea DuVal, as well as a cast of queer icons such as RuPaul, as they challenge Gender Stereotypes and heteronormativity.
Call Me By Your Name
Call Me By Your Name is a “coming of age” romantic drama based on the book by André Aciman.
This is the final installment in a thematic trilogy that director Luca Guadagnino called his “Desire” trilogy, and follows the story of two people “in the moment”, rather than focus on an antagonist or a tragedy, or making it a “gay film”.
The film follows Elio, a 17-year-old Jewish Italian, and Oliver, who is also Jewish, who comes to live with Elio’s family over the summer to help with his academic paperwork.
Set in the summer of 1984 – Margaret Thatcher is in power and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) is on strike.
At the Gay Pride March in London, a group of gay and lesbian activists decide to raise money to support the families of the striking miners. But there is a problem. The Union seems embarrassed to receive their support. But the activists are not deterred. They decide to ignore the Union and go direct to the miners.
Carol tells the story of a forbidden affair between an aspiring female photographer and an older woman going through a difficult divorce during the 1950’s.
Based on the semi-autobiographical romantic novel The Price of Salt, the film was named “the best-reviewed romance film of 2015” in Rotten Tomatoes’ annual Golden Tomato Awards and still holds high ratings elsewhere in the industry.
A legal drama based in the early 1990’s and was one of the first mainstream Hollywood films to acknowledge HIV/AIDS, homosexuality, and homophobia.
Andrew Beckett is a senior associate at the largest corporate law firm in Philadelphia. For years he hides his homosexuality and his status as an AIDS patient until, one day, a partner notices what appears to be an AIDS-defining condition – leading to Beckett being dismissed by the firm’s partners after an incident at work that is incorrectly blamed on Beckett.
Beckett takes the discrimination case to court, but with difficulty after asking ten attorneys to take on his case, including African-American personal injury lawyer Joe Miller. The story follows their journey.
Priscilla Queen of The Desert
An “on the road” comedy about two drag queens and a Transgender woman who travel across the Australian Outback from Sydney to Alice Springs in a tour bus named “Priscilla”.
An absolute LGBT classic, with plenty of drama, laughs and heart-warming moments along the way. This film will dazzle you and entertain you.
The Danish Girl
The story follows Elbe, one of the first known recipients of gender reassignment surgery, although the film was heavily criticised for not only casting a cis-male actor to play the role of Elbe, but “obscuring the actual story of a historical trans person”.
This film is still worth a watch as it “poignantly explores thought-provoking themes” and is accompanied by stunning cinematography.
A biographic musical film following the life and career of Elton John between the eras of 1950 and 1980. It features several musical classics, from Pinball Wizard and Rocketman, to I’m Still Stranding, whilst being accompanied by costumes of epic proportion and a personal view on Elton John’s life.
In my opinion, this is ten times better than Bohemian Rhapsody (if a comparison were to ever be made) due to it’s raw honesty about John’s hardships with his family, his sexuality and battles with addiction.
What would you add to this list?
So there we have it. A film a day for LGBT History Month, and there’s plenty more simply by searching for “LGBT Films” into Google. I cannot stress enough the importance of watching films that feature LGBTQ characters, not to mention films that have been directed and/or produced by LGBTQ artists. Not only does it promote equality within the entertainment industry, but it offers a diverse viewpoint on a number of topics – and not just the tragic ones!
I look forward to the day where LGBT characters aren’t the punchline of a joke, actors aren’t a token offering to the casting, and stories are integrated as equal viewing options alongside cis-gender and heterosexual actors, and heteronormative stories. Whilst it wasn’t my favourite film for 2020, The Happiest Season broke boundaries and showed audiences the fun that LGBT film can offer.
If you enjoyed reading this, let me know in the comments. If you have any recommendations for LGBT Films, or if you think I’ve missed out some absolutely vital LGBT Films off the list, let me know!
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