I must admit that I’m a fan (I guess in a morbid way?!) of true crime, so I often go down true crime rabbit holes on YouTube. I recently discovered a South African crime channel called MakeUp. Mayhem. Mystery. that talks specifically about crimes in South Africa. For June 2022, the host, Bella, has dedicated her channel to covering the stories of the victims of LGBTQ+ hate crimes in South Africa.
One story is that of Kirvan Fortuin, a prominent dancer and LGBTQ+ activist who was committed to providing a place of safety and support to the queer community. The other story belongs to Zoliswa Nkonyana, a lesbian living in a township in Cape Town. Both Kirvan and Zoliswa were killed in hate crimes, and their cases highlight how much the LGBTQ+ community is still targeted for simply trying to live their lives as their authentic selves. In African culture, which is largely patriarchal, being homosexual is seen as “Unafrican,” and often, lesbians are targeted and threatened with “corrective rape.” In fact, South Africa is the only African country that legally recognizes same-sex marriage, and being homosexual is even punishable by death in certain African countries.
To start today’s list of things to watch, I recommend Bella’s Poisonous Patriarchy: The Heartbreaking Case of Zoliswa Nkonyana. I know it’s a heavy watch, but Bella raises and discusses some very important talking points about being an LGBTQ+ person, especially in townships, in South Africa. I’ve opened this post with a heavier topic because when watching LGBTQ+ movies, even the more inspirational, light-hearted ones, it’s important to remember what the LGBTQ+ community has faced throughout history and what they are still fighting for today.
With that being said, let’s take a look at some LGBTQ+ movies. Some of them I’ve watched (and I can, therefore, give a more personal review), and others I’ve added to my watch list. Of course, I can’t list every LGBTQ+ movie, so my list is a combination of research and personal recommendations.
The Best Show in Town: The Best (Award-Winning) LGBTQ Movies
OK, we can’t really say “best” LGBTQ+ movies because “best” is a subjective term. Instead, I list some of the most critically acclaimed and award-winning LGBTQ+ movies in chronological order.
|Starring||Jake Gyllenhaal, Heath Ledger|
How could I not include this famous film on this list? Released in 2005, Brokeback Mountain was the subject of much controversy, especially from (no surprises here) conservatives, because the film follows the complicated romantic relationship between two American cowboys (and having two cowboys engaged in a romantic relationship for conservatives … well, you can fill in the rest).
But despite the conservative media backlash and even censorship, Brokeback Mountain is credited with putting queer cinema on the mainstream map. The film deals with all the complexities of navigating an intimate relationship between two men in 1960s America, dismantling, to an extent, the patriarchal idea of what cowboys “should be” (although the film also brilliantly looks at how the protagonists revert back to “manly” ways of handling their sexual encounter).
Find out what becomes of the protagonists, Jack and Ennis, and whether they’re able to pursue their relationship further …
PS You can watch Brokeback Mountain on Netflix.
‘It was only time before a film about two men in love would get the treatment it gets in Ang Lee’s BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, since up to now, films had either skirted the subject, reduced it to a peripheral, sanitized version of itself or given it the eye-candy treatment only meant at making a quick impression in the “Gay-Lesbian” category. The simple yet deceptive story of two people who meet, fall in love, but are unable to fulfill their love has been done over and over again from the male-female perspective (i. e. IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE, THE AGE OF INNOCENCE, BRIEF ENCOUNTER), but never involving two men, and never this brutally honest.’ – Reviewer on IMDb
|Starring||Sean Penn, Emile Hirsch|
We wrote about Harvey Milk in our post, Celebrating LGBTQ Celebrities. Milk became the first openly gay person elected into public office in California, and the film, Milk, is dedicated to telling his story. Milk was also written by Dustin Lance Black, a member of the LGBTQ+ community and an activist.
The film explores the strong anti-gay sentiment of the times (the 1960s/1970s America) and details Milk’s journey to public office and fight for equality (particularly his tireless effort to end Proposition 6), focusing on The Castro, a working-class neighborhood transitioning into a more accepting place for people on the fringes of society.
Milk was tragically assassinated (you can find out why in the film), and his legacy and activism continue to this day.
Dallas Buyers Club
|Starring||Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner|
So, fun fact: I’ve been wanting to watch Dallas Buyer’s Club for a while, and it finally came out on Amazon Prime here in Germany. So I paid my money, lent the film, and then discovered afterward that it’s only available in German – and I’m sorry, but I’m not watching McConaughey and Leto speak in a voice I’m not familiar with 😄. So I only got a third of the way in before I had to give up.
Anyways, it’s a brilliant movie based on a riveting true story: Ron Woodroof (played by McConaughey), an electrician living in Texas, surprisingly discovers that he has been living with AIDS and doesn’t have much time left to live. This happens in the 1980s when HIV/AIDS wasn’t well understood and was primarily associated with the gay community (it was even initially called Gay-Related Immune Deficiency).
Woodroof soon becomes ostracised from his community because people wrongly assume he contracted AIDS from having homosexual relations. Forming an alliance with a transgender woman (played by Thirty Seconds to Mars’ Jared Leto), Woodroof begins taking and selling unapproved medication to treat the symptoms of HIV/AIDS. The film takes a good look at the stigma surrounding AIDS and LGBTQ+ people and how treatment for HIV/AIDS began (with a focus on the FDA and its shady tactics).
The Imitation Game
|Starring||Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Charles Dance|
We also mentioned Alan Turing in our LGBTQ+ Celebrities post, and The Imitation Game is based on his remarkable journey as a codebreaker during World War II. Turing was a certified genius, but apart from his numerous incredible achievements, Turing was also tragically known for undergoing chemical castration for his homosexuality (he chose this instead of going to prison). Some film critics criticized the film for downplaying Turing’s homosexuality, which was, of course, a huge part of his life story and the reason he suffered so much.
Discover how Turing and his colleagues manage to decipher codes from the Germans during the war in this truly inspiring but ultimately tragic film.
The Danish Girl
|Starring||Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander|
|IMDb Rating||7.1/10 (deserves higher tbh!)|
In this raw, visceral, and powerful biographical drama, Eddie Redmayne brilliantly plays Einar Wegener (and later, Lili Elbe), a closeted trans woman desperately struggling to come to terms with his identity. This all plays out in Europe in the 1920s, when very little was known (and accepted) about homosexuality, queerness, and transgender people.
Einar tries to become Lili (the film depicts the sheer turmoil and torment Einar faces as he tries to become more like Lili and less like Einar), but as his life and marriage begin to fall apart, he tries to seek help from books and doctors alike — all of whom label him as mentally ill and sexually and morally deviant. That is until a doctor finally believes her — and proposes sex reassignment surgery.
Does Lili manage to become her true, authentic self? Is she able to live her life as a transgender woman in an unforgiving society? And what becomes of her wife, who offers her unwavering support from the start? You’ll have to find out in this award-winning and truly breathtaking film that looks at the intricacies and challenges of being transgender.
The film is loosely based on the true story of Lili Elbe, one of the first people to undergo sex reassignment surgery. The film also came under fire for not using a trans woman to play the role of Lili, but in all honesty, Redmayne does an outstanding job. A remarkable movie that we should all be watching right now regarding transgender rights!
|Starring||Mahershala Ali, Trevante Rhodes|
A brilliant movie at the intersection of race, identity, and sexuality, Moonlight is a coming-of-age film that details the life of Chiron as he navigates his childhood, adolescence, and young adult years. Struggling with his identity and sexuality, Chiron faces many hardships, including bullying, a mom addicted to drugs, and crime.
Moonlight is the first LGBTQ film with an all-Black cast, and some critics have claimed it is one of the best films of this century. So, with some really heavy praise, you should watch this! It’s definitely on my watch list now (it’s on Netflix!).
|Starring||Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Mike Meyers|
I only watched Bohemian Rhapsody for the first time this year, and I’ve rewatched it twice now. The film follows the life of Freddie Mercury and the band Queen, from the band’s inception to their iconic Live Aid performance in 1985 (you HAVE to watch the YouTube video below). Bohemian Rhapsody, named after one of Queen’s most popular and memorable songs, gives audiences a deep, personal view into Mercury’s life as he navigates his career, sexuality, and AIDS diagnosis. Simultaneously heartwarming, inspiring, and tragic, the film is an absolute must-watch! And Malek is nothing short of brilliant at playing Freddie!
Let’s Get Streaming: LGBTQ Movies on Netflix
OK, there are TONS of fantastic movies and series on Netflix dedicated to LGBTQ+ themes, so I could be here all year listing them. If you go onto Netflix and type in LGBTQ, Netflix will give you a whole lot of things to watch! So I recommend you do that because you can pick what appeals most to you. But for now, here are some quick recommendations:
Alex Strangelove is a delightful coming-out story. I watched it over the weekend, and the ending had me in tears (you MUST watch until the end!). The humor is a bit absurd in places, but the movie offers a good message about what it means to be a true LGBTQ+ ally. Discover how Alex comes to terms with his sexual orientation and whether he gets his happy-ever-after. A similar movie to this is Love, Simon.
Single All The Way
This is another sweet, feel-good romantic comedy. It’s a Christmas Holiday movie, but heck, you can watch it anytime! The story follows Peter’s quest to find his soulmate … but has his soulmate been right in front of him this whole time? As I said, this is a really light-hearted movie to get you laughing and loving.
This documentary deals with some very heavy themes. Ex-leaders and survivors of conversion-therapy camps (a program called Exodus) reveal the damage and trauma they suffered as a result of these camps and Christianity’s stance on homosexuality. It’s tragic but incredibly eye-opening, and I can highly recommend that you watch it to learn more about this harmful practice and how religious doctrine can really damage a human being.
Other LGBTQ+ documentaries you can watch on Netflix include The Life and Death of Martha P. Johnson and Disclosure.
Call Me By Your Name
Starring the oh-so-popular Timothée Chalamet, the critically acclaimed and award-winning Call Me By Your Name, based on a novel of the same name, explores the romance (and first love) between Elio (17) and Oliver (24). Their romance, albeit brief, is complicated, and it will change the course of their lives forever …
‘Everything about this film draws you in. If I could dream up memories of a hot Italian summer in a rural hamlet, this would be it, I swear I could almost smell and taste this film. Luca Guadagnino made a masterpiece here and I highly doubt it will ever be surpassed in its category.’ – Review on IMDb
Amazing LGBTQ Movies on Amazon Prime
From what I can see on my Amazon Prime, they don’t have a specific category for LGBTQ movies like Netflix does, so you’ll have to manually search for things. And Netflix definitely seems to have more on offer regarding LGBTQ+ series and films. Nevertheless, here are some awesome movies to check out:
So this is definitely on my watchlist! Rocketman is a biographical musical drama based on the life of the legend himself, Sir Elton John. And cool fact: The film was co-produced by John’s husband, David Furnish. Discover more about John’s difficult childhood and earlier years as a musical prodigy, as well as his difficult coming out journey (especially to his parents) and addiction to sex and various substances.
The film won numerous awards and was praised as the first film by a major studio to include a gay male sex scene.
For another LGBTQ+ musical drama, you can watch Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – the true story of the life of Jamie Campbell, a 16-year-old British schoolboy who overcomes bullying to become a drag queen.
Well, with a name like Pride, I should hope this film is about LGBTQ+ 😄! In our other Pride Month posts, we wrote about the history of gay rights and Pride, so if you want to explore a more forgotten or lesser-known side of gay and lesbian history, then Pride is for you.
In this historical-comedy drama based on a true story, a group of lesbian and gay activists band together to raise money for families affected by the British Miners’ Strike in 1984. Learn more about the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners campaign – and how some mining community members didn’t want to associate with the LGSM because of who they were!
If you’re a fan of Imagine Dragons, then this documentary is for you. Dan Reynolds (who himself grew up Mormon) explores a very unique intersection: That of LGBTQ+ people and The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints, a (notoriously) religious community with its own (interesting and sometimes damaging) beliefs. And apart from documenting his experiences with LGBTQ+ people in the Latter-Day Saints community, Reynolds takes his activism a step further by organizing the LOVELOUD Festival in Utah (home of the Latter-Day Saints) to support the Utah LGBTQ+ youth. Definitely on my watchlist now! Oh, and check out the lyrics of Imagine Dragons’ song, “Believer,” too!
Starring Keira Knightley, this 2018 biographical film, set in the nineteenth century, is all about affairs, affairs, and more affairs! Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, a young woman and writer, starts an affair with a man named Willy, who cheats on Colette. Therefore not known for his honesty; it’s unsurprising when he uses a novel Colette has written and publishes it in his name. Willy then uses Colette’s talents, forcing her to write more novels. She then has an affair with a woman named Georgie … and jealousy and scandal ensue.
What becomes of Colette and her work? And what does she do that leads to public moral outrage? Guess you’ll have to watch to find out!
The Magic of LGBTQ Movies on Disney+
OK, what comes to mind when you think of Disney (apart from Micky and Minnie)? Probably princes and princesses and happily ever after, right? When I reflect on my childhood, most Disney movies back then (the 1990s) featured white, heterosexual characters living in a very heteronormative world.
But times are thankfully a-changin’, so let’s see what LGBTQ+ movies you can find on Disney+. I don’t have the app myself but apparently, it does have a curated collection of movies for Pride Month.
This animated short film will hit you right in the feels! It’s a sweet story about Greg and his nervousness about coming out to his parents. With the help of his sweet little pup and some Disney magic, Greg discovers that he never needed to hide his true self from his mom and dad.
Ever heard of Howard Ashman? If not, that’s OK, but he was pretty significant in the world of Disney! As a lyricist, Howard worked on songs for The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin!
The documentary, Howard, is the story of Ashman and the magic he brought to Disney with his talent. Sadly, Ashman, who was gay, died of an AIDS-related illness in 1991 (the same year Freddie Mercury died due to AIDS-related complications, too).
And if you’re a Harry Styles fan (and superhero films), here we go! Eternals is the 26th film (wow) in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and stars some of my favorites (Kit Harrington and Richard Madden from Game of Thrones).
To be honest, I’m not a fan of superhero films, but this one’s for you if you’re keen on immortal alien beings saving the world. BUT best of all, Eternals is the film that suggests Disney (and Marvel) is finally stepping into the twenty-first century with its LGBTQ+ representation and portrayal of Phastos and his husband, Ben.
Phastos and Ben love each other deeply, and they also have a son, smashing the heteronormative belief so present in society that a queer couple can’t (or shouldn’t) have or raise children. Then there’s also a potential asexual/aromantic relationship between Thena and Gilgamesh, finally adding some representation to the often-forgotten A in LGBTQIA. And there’s also Sprite, who dresses androgynously and isn’t comfortable in her own body, which can be read from a trans/queer perspective.
So, there’s hope yet with Disney and Marvel! Let’s hope they eventually eradicate their queerbaiting tactics entirely and continue to make movies like Eternals.
Beauty and the Beast (2017)
I’m just briefly including this one because I thoroughly enjoyed the film (and also, I like the idea of “othering” with the beast being a total outcast and judged for his appearance, which, let’s face it, happens all too often in the LGBTQ+ community). And yes, while Beauty and the Beast is not an LGBTQ+ love story, Gaston’s sidekick, LeFou, became Disney’s first openly gay character, showing that slowly but surely, Disney was starting to acknowledge its lack of LGBTQ+ representation.
Apple TV LGBTQ Movies: What’s Cook-ing?
I don’t have anything Apple (team Android always 😏), so I don’t know what can and can’t be found on Apple TV. But from my research, it looks like Apple TV doesn’t offer very much in terms of LGBTQ+ representation (weird considering its CEO is gay, but OK).
So, this is not actually a film but a series, but I wanted to include it.
With original music from Sara Bareilles, this inspirational series sits comfortably in the romantic dramedy genre. I watched the trailer, and I think the plot is probably quite predictable – it’s a singer on a journey to find her authentic voice while trying to navigate the complexities of life in her early twenties.
The LGBTQ+ representation comes in when one of the characters announces she is lesbian, which was difficult for her given her traditional values. The series was canceled, but it could be worth a watch if you’re looking for something a little more inspirational and heartfelt.
Once again, this isn’t a film but a series, but I wanted to include it because of its niche topic. The series looks at the stories (often forgotten or untold) of immigrants in America, with the season finale focusing on a gay Syrian refugee seeking asylum in the US so that he can live openly as a gay man. Being gay, Syrian, and a refugee, I think we can only begin to imagine how ostracised (and fearful) he feels. In Syria, homosexuality is a punishable offense, and in territories controlled by the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, LGBTQ+ people are even executed.
Docu-series like Little America are important in helping us understand the lives of those marginalized by society. If I can find this series elsewhere, I’ll definitely give it a watch.
A Single Man
A Single Man (also available on Amazon Prime), starring Colin Firth, tells the story of George Falconer, a depressed, gay university professor living in California in the 1960s (a few years before the Stonewall Riots).
Having lost his partner in a car accident a few months earlier, George is suicidal and contemplates ending his life. As he goes about his day preparing to end his life, he meets a few people who begin to change his mind. Does George go through his suicide in the end? Find out in this award-winning film.
This 2004-film (also available on Amazon Prime) starring a much younger Joseph Gordon-Levitt deals with some pretty heavy themes. There’s a gay teenage prostitute who went through trauma as a child and another teen who believes he may have been abducted by aliens when he was younger. How do these two teens connect to each other? And why can one remember and the other can’t?
I’m definitely going to give this a watch!
Hey, Hulu, What LGBTQ Movies Have You Got for Us?
Man, I wish I had Hulu. So many great shows on there. In fact, Hulu has an article dedicated to the best LGBTQ+ movies and shows you can watch, so I guess you can read that?! But just in case you want to stay with me here, here are some movies that stood out for me:
- The Bisexual. This Hulu original follows two roommates: Leila, a bisexual woman interested in dating men, and Gabe, a straight man interested in exploring London’s queer scene.
- Pride. Once again, not a movie but a series, but if you want a visual way to learn your LGBTQ+ history (instead of reading our posts on it 😉), including what’s happening today in the fight for equality and transgender rights, then this is a must-watch.
- Crush. A Hulu original produced by Maya Rudolph and Natasha Lyonne (who starred in Orange Is The New Black), this film tells the story of a young artist who falls in love with someone very unexpected …
- Supernova. So apparently, this film will get the tears flowing! Starring Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci (my favorite), this film is about a gay couple trying to handle a serious diagnosis.
- The Thing About Harry. A film with pansexual representation and an interesting plot: Discover how Sam and his bully, Harry, form a relationship.
- The Obituary of Tunde Johnson. This film lies at the intersection of racism, police brutality, LGBTQ+ acceptance, and mental health. The story begins with a Nigerian-American teenager who is the victim of police brutality and becomes stuck in a horrifying time loop. Sounds intense!
- The World to Come. And last but certainly not least, this film about forbidden love in the nineteenth century explores the love between two women and their jealous husbands.
Cute LGBTQ Movies, Romantic LGBTQ Movies …
… Whatever genre you enjoy, I encourage you to watch LGBTQ+ movies and support LGBTQ+ actors, artists, producers, and directors. Historically, representation of LGBTQ+ on the screen has been lacking and extremely problematic (for example, queer characters have often been relegated to minor roles or shown as stereotypes), so we must engage with LGBTQ+ films meaningfully, no matter what the genre. For example, Alex Strangelove might be a comedy and even ridiculous in some places, but the film touches on important issues and has a wonderfully powerful message at the end.
To indeed be an LGBTQ+ ally, you should do your best to learn more about LGBTQ+ issues through various media. Art, film, and literature all have the power to change our viewpoints and make us more knowledgeable, understanding, and empathetic. And heck, we need a lot more acceptance and empathy right now! I absolutely loved watching The Danish Girl because it gave me more insight into transgender people and what it means to live a truly authentic life.
I genuinely hope our Pride Month posts have been meaningful and educational. Keep being an ally, and let us all do our bit to keep fighting the good fight for equality for all. Before I go, I’ll leave one last image with you:
Back in London in 2012, I unknowingly found myself at the tail-end of what could have been a Pride march. And I’ll never forget this old man walking all alone holding up a small sign saying, “Proud to be gay.” He looked quite old, so I can only just imagine what he’s had to experience growing up. I hope that you always choose kindness.
If you’re struggling, here’s a list of resources in the US to offer you the support you deserve.