The 50 Best LGBTQ Films Ever Made

The bright side: this year you have time for some films.

Under normal situations, June busts out all over with Pride Month celebrations and parades. The gay neighborhood thumps with house music. Your bank, cable business and sandwich store rush to remind you of their assistance for the LGBTQ community. And if you can bear the crowds, you leave a Pride celebration with a draft-beer buzz, an application for a rainbow-flag credit card, and a paper fan with Chelsea Handler’s face on it. It’s a lot, but it’s ours.

This year, the public events of LGBTQ Pride Month– similar to sports, school, and life itself– are cancelled. We’re stuck within unless we’re marching for cops reform. The few bars that have actually resumed are for the negligent and silly, and let’s be truthful: there’s only so much dancing a person can do on Zoom. The conditions are optimum for you to catch up on your queer cinema.

We have actually come a methods fifty years, from the self-loathing middle-aged males of The Boys In The Band to the alert teenagers of Love, Simon The variety ranges from the shoestring brilliance of The Watermelon Woman to the big-budget glitter-bomb that is Rocketman 1982’s tentative Having Sex derailed the careers of its 2 lead actors; 2017’s Call Me By Your Name cemented its set as motion picture stars. While gay characters tended until much too recently to be one-dimensional, white, and doomed, in 2018 Barry Jenkins won a Best Picture Oscar telling the layered and enthusiastic story of a gay Black male in Moonlight

There’s a great deal of history to explore, and there’s never been a better time to do it. Obtain a streaming service password from family– however you define it!– and dive in.


Love, Simon

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If it feels a bit like a CW version of an Afterschool Special, that’s no error: teen-tv super-producer Greg Berlanti makes his function film directorial launching here. It’s as chaste a love story as you’re likely to see in the 21 st century– the hunky gardener who makes the title teenager concern his sexuality is wearing a long-sleeved t-shirt, for God’s sake– however you know what? The queer kids of the future require their wholesome home entertainment too.


The Children’s Hour (1961)

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Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine play headmistresses at a school for ladies who are accused by a trainee of being in a lesbian relationship. While the accusation is incorrect, it almost ruins the females’s standing in their community and threatens their relationship– and forces one of them to review her own identity.



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A gay fantasia on Elton themes.


Handsome Devil

Along the way, a rousing efficiency from Andrew Scott as an inspiring instructor with a trick of his own, and a rugby video game set to a Rufus Wainwright tune.


Viva (2015)

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The life of Cuba’s “transformistas” is caught perfectly in this father-son story about a kid who wishes to perform drag and his dad, freshly launched from jail and unable to accept who his child is. Shot magnificently, with great music and a close take a look at Havana in all its run-down and colorful glory.


Desert Hearts (1985)

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The essential ’80 s lesbian romantic drama, Desert Hearts follows an English professor and a young carver as they fall in love at a Nevada ranch in the 1950 s. Distinct for its time, it sets its love in a warm, affirming environment and lets its leads enjoy their relationship without angst or worry of death.


Keep the Lights On (2012)

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Individual retirement account Sachs’s autobiographical drama loads a difficult punch as it follows a filmmaker, Erick, throughout his relationship with a young attorney, Paul, which starts as a random sexual encounter and implodes following Paul’s drug and sex addiction.


Happy Together (1997)

Wong Kar-wai won Best Director at the 1997 Cannes Movie Festival for this movie about two Hong Kong males who emigrate to Buenos Aires, after the handover of Hong Kong to China put LGBT lives in jeopardy.


Other People


Previous SNL head-writer and The Other 2 co-creator Chris Kelly makes his directorial debut in a semi-autobiographical account of his mother’s death from cancer.


The Watermelon Female (1996)


Cheryl Dunye directs and stars in this microbudget indie about an African-American lesbian searching for an uncredited black actress from a 1930 s film. Along the method, she falls in and out of love, and meets the real Camille Paglia.


The Kids Are All Right (2010)

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Julianne Moore and Annette Bening play lesbian mothers to two teens whose joyous modern family is rocked when their kids seek out their sperm-doner dad played by Mark Ruffalo. The family falls under crisis when his unexpected look into their lives triggers a rift in between the two ladies along with their kids


Personal Best (1982)

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Starring Mariel Hemingway and a raft of real-life track and field stars, Personal Best follows a young bisexual pentathlete vying for an area on the U.S. Olympic Team and checking out a relationship with her lesbian coach– played by Olympic hurdler Patrice Donnelly.


Beach Rats (2017)

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Eliza Hittman’s dark and moody film plays out a bit like a thriller, one in which a Brooklyn teenager named Frankie (a superb Harris Dickinson, in a nearly wordless efficiency), who spends his idle hours hanging with his overdue good friends, messing around with his sweetheart, or talking to males he meets online. Beach Rats is an intriguing look at the personal and secret urges we frequently fear will come out into the light.


My Own Private Idaho (1991)

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Gus Van Sant’s loose Shakespearean adjustment brought the New Queer Cinema movement into the mainstream, with River Phoenix as a young, narcoleptic hustler and Keanu Reeves as his best friend and unrequited love interest.


Maurice (1987)

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” Don’t you understand I would have gone through life half-awake if you ‘d had the decency to leave me alone?” All the lushness of a Merchant Ivory production, with gay guys at its center. Even if this weren’t a lovely, affecting movie, Hugh Grant’s hair alone would make it an area on this list.


Heavenly Animals (1994)

Peter Jackson was travelling through dream worlds long before Lord of the Rings— albeit one conjured up by 2 really real New Zealand school girls (played by then-newcomers Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey) who escape their own truths through their imaginations. Their connection turns intense and unsafe when they conspire to commit murder in one of the most infamous true criminal offense stories of all time.


Having Sex (1982)

The very first wide-release studio movie with a homosexual relationship at its center (and for years, the last).


The Wedding Banquet (1993)

Long before his groundbreaking Brokeback Mountain, Ang Lee directed this sweet, comic tale about a Taiwanese immigrant living in New york city with his partner. When he provides to wed a Chinese woman so she can get a green card, the marital relationship of benefit spirals out of control when his parents find out and throw a lavish wedding celebration.


Newbies (2010)

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Mike Mills’s sweet 2010 film concerns a Los Angeles artist, played by Ewan MacGregor, developing a relationship with his newly-out father (Christopher Plummer) in the last year of the older male’s life.


However I’m a Cheerleader (1999)

When Megan (Natasha Lyonne) shows more interest in being a vegetarian and female-fronted country rock, her moms and dads send her away to have her assumed homosexuality treated. Conversion therapy is no joke, but Jamie Babbit’s satire perfectly skewers puritanical homophobia on its head– and it has a joyful, pleased ending. (Plus, RuPaul!)


Pariah (2011)

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Dee Rees’s gorgeous directorial debut stars Adepero Oduye as Alike, a Brooklyn teenager who concerns terms with her own sexuality and puts the conveniences of loved ones at threat as she discovers how to reveal her identity.


Canine Day Afternoon (1975)

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On a scorching August day, Al Pacino’s Sonny tries to rob a bank in Brooklyn, and … things do not work out. The instant, extreme media popularity Sonny makes feels more pertinent than ever, and things turn remarkably tender when we learn he prepares to use the stolen money for his fan’s gender confirmation surgery.


My Gorgeous Laundrette (1985)


A Pakistani Brit and his previous enthusiast, who has become a fascist street punk, reunite and run a family laundromat. The characters deal with the materialism and anti-immigrant furor of Thatcher’s England– aspects that feel just a bit too relevant at the moment.


Prior To Night Falls (2000)

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Based upon the autobiography of gay Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas, Julian Schnabel’s film brought Javier Bardem to the world’s attention and highlighted the ruthlessness and homophobia of Castro’s Cuba and Reagan’s America


Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)

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John Cameron Mitchell brings his cult musical about “globally overlooked” transgender rock star Hedwig to the screen. In this variation, Mitchell reveals us the backstory he was only able to tell on stage, and presents us to Michael Pitt’s Tommy Gnosis. The unusual rock musical that really rocks.


A Single Male (2009)

Tom Ford’s directorial debut adjusts Christopher Isherwood’s novel about an English professor in returning to life a year after the death of his fan. As you would get out of Ford, it is a non-stop trendy affair, with indelible efficiencies by Colin Firth and Julianne Moore.


Jeffrey (1995)

Some may discover this adaptation of Paul Rudnick’s off-Broadway play to be a little dated with its treatment of the dating scene in early to mid-’90 s New york city City. Jeffrey‘s strength is discovered in its comic and playful look at a search for love amidst the AIDS crisis, providing the kind of unabashed delight most of its contemporaries were not able to match.


Classicism (1998)

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Lisa Cholodenko’s elegant directorial debut features a revelatory performance from Ally Sheedy as a too soon retired professional photographer, and Radha Mitchell as the girl who can renew her career.


Everything About My Mother (1999)

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Pedro Almodóvar’s comic melodramas are filled to the brim with delightfully ridiculous characters, and his Oscar-winning All About My Mother provides some of the best.


Pride (2014)

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A group of London LGBT activists form a union with striking Welsh miners in Thatcher’s U.K. Stephen Beresford’s Golden Globe-nominated movie script underscores the need, as immediate as ever, for oppressed groups to join forces. There is power in a union!


Long Time Companion (1989)

Norman Rene’s movie follows a group of gay guys through the early years of the AIDS crisis, one day per year, beginning on the day the New York City Times initially covered the story of the “gay cancer.” A deep meditation on grief, gallows humor, and the families we make with our good friends.


Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971)


What do a just recently divorced woman and a middle-aged gay man have in common?


A Wonderful Female (2017)

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When her older enthusiast, Orlando, drops dead, Marina needs to put her grief on pause as Orlando’s ex-wife and household immediately avoid her since she is transgender. The winner of this year’s Oscar for Finest Foreign Language film, Sebastián Lelio’s drama includes a stirring lead performance from starlet Daniela Vega.


God’s Own Nation

Amazon Netflix

A closeted Northern Englishman prepares to take control of his family farm, with some assistance from a Romanian farmhand whom his father has employed. A heartbreaking representation of British repression, with a supporting performance from a newborn lamb that will make you vegan for a minimum of an hour. It’s as delicate and gorgeous as it is– let’s be sincere here– exceptionally hot.


The Color Purple (1985)

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Spielberg followed up Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom with this adjustment of Alice Walker’s book. In her movie launching, Whoopi Goldberg plays Celie, an African-American woman in the early 20 th century, who combats her way through injustice and abuse and finds an unforeseen love along the way.


Parting Glances (1986)

This slice of gay life in mid-’80 s Manhattan provided Steve Buscemi his first major movie role, and tackled the AIDS crisis in a frank, non-sensational, even funny manner. Along the method, looks of a long-forgotten bohemian New york city, Reagan-era Fire Island, and a pre- Drew Carey Show Kathy Kinney


Tangerine (2015)

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Shot on iPhones along Santa Monica Boulevard’s unofficial traffic signal district, Tangerine follows 2 transgender sex workers and one lovesick taxi driver through an especially eventful Christmas Eve. Director Sean Baker found his leads– 2 newbie movie stars– at the actual donut shop where much of the motion picture’s action occurs.


The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)

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Two drag queens (Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce) and a transgender woman (Terence Stamp) travel across the barren Australian Outback in a giant pink bus named Priscilla en route to a cabaret gig in Alice Springs. Hilarity occurs as their travels include misadventure after misadventure, but the trio come together as a family unit as they find out more about each other and their personal lives


Blue Is the Hottest Color (2013)

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This film kept its NC-17 rating for some explicit, enthusiastic sex scenes between leads Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos, however it is at its heart a motion picture about youth, art, heartbreak, and the adventure of checking out one’s identity.


Portrait of a Lady on Fire


Who amongst us hasn’t been hanging out in the late 1700 s, waiting on our customary proposition picture to be finished so that we can discover a correct partner, only to fall for our portrait artist of the very same sex?


Brokeback Mountain (2005)

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The very first mainstream queer movie of the new centuries, Brokeback Mountain ushered its themes into the mainstream. Heath Ledger’s shy Ennis del Mar falls in what he can not articulate as love with Jake Gyllenhaal’s Jack Twist over a long, lonely winter, and their lives bounce off each other’s for several years afterward. Ang Lee and film writer Larry McMurtry broaden Annie Proulx’s short story into a movie without one incorrect minute.


Can You Ever Forgive Me?

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Melissa McCarthy got an Oscar election for her portrayal of Lee Israel, a caustic star biographer who turns to literary forgery when her career stalls. Richard E. Grant is fantastic as her co-conspirator, however it’s McCarthy’s effort at romance with Dolly Wells’ shy book shop owner that provides the movie its heart.


Call Me By Your Name (2017)

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The greatest, most achingly lovely gay male love film.


Boys Do Not Cry (1999)

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If any film can be credited with beginning our cultural discussion on gender, this is it. Hilary Swank’s development performance anchors Kimberly Peirce’s movie about the murder of Nesbraskan trans guy Brandon Teena. Boys Don’t Cry was originally provided an NC-17 for even attending to trans issues, however was later on devalued to an R.


The Birdcage (1996)

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Mike Nichols’s American remake of La Cage aux Folles includes Robin Williams as a gay nightclub owner whose child reveals his engagement to the daughter of an ultra-conservative political leader. In typical farce design, his partner (Nathan Lane)– the star of his club’s drag program– poses as his dowdy better half in order to convince his child’s future in-laws that they’re a wholesome American household.


BPM (Beats Per Minute) (2017)

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Set in the early ’90 s, this energetic and emotional drama follows a group of activists in Paris combating the federal government and its slow-moving efforts to battle the HIV/AIDS epidemic. While highlighting the dramatic and powerful work from ACT UP, the film likewise depicts the personal stories of those defending their lives, delivering a human and immediate remembrance of the plague that affected millions across the globe– and continues on today.


Carol (2015)

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Todd Haynes brings Patricia Highsmith’s cult book to the big screen in this lavish and sexy film following a young shopgirl named Therese (Rooney Mara) who finds herself charmed by an alluring older female called Carol (Cate Blanchett). The two set out on a trip on which they practiced an unmentioned passion for each other– one that eventually brings destroy to Carol’s marital relationship and awakens dark desires within Therese.



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Tom Hanks won his very first Oscar for his performance as Andrew Beckett, a successful lawyer who is fired from his firm once the senior partners discover he has AIDS. Jonathan Demme’s searing drama was the very first mainstream movie to take on the AIDS crisis, and it offered a familiar face and voice to a marginalized community frequently neglected by their next-door neighbors and delegated suffer since of an intolerant society.


The Boys in the Band (1970)

Based on the play by Mart Crawley, and released less than a year after the Stonewall riots, The Boys in the Band perfectly portrays the complicated experience of being a gay male at the time– at times cheerful, often times confusing, uncomfortable, and notified by self-loathing. This funny still handles to balance the bite and the tenderness for its collection of characters, with its group of young gay guys in New york city City falling in and out of love (and relationship), and unknowingly on the edge of a cultural transformation.


Moonlight (2016)

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The only film on this list to earn an Oscar for Finest Photo– and deservedly so. Barry Jenkins explores masculinity and repression in his study of Chiron, a boy coming of age in Miami (and played by three various actors at different phases of his life) who grapples with his sexual identity in the middle of his troubled relationship with his crack-addicted mom. Chiron longs to break devoid of the established path set out for himself by his environment, a journey set into movement by encounter with among his male peers

Senior Culture Editor
Tyler Coates is the Senior Culture Editor at

Dave Holmes is Esquire’s L.A.-based editor-at-large.

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