We now live in a world where LGBT themed movies are finally becoming much more visible, however it is important to not forget those that had originally paved the way.
LGBT characters have always been a part of the film world in some form or another yet they would often be banished to the closet ready to pay for their sins, or worst of all death. All too often did the movie industry struggle to provide a correct and faithful representation of a community that is so in need of representing, pandering to the old school stereotypes creating a bitter taste in the LGBT world.
However, there have been the select few that have made it and delivered a positive and encouraging story for those who want to see their stories up on the silver screen. Just like sexual preference, everybody has their own choice with their must-see LGBT movies being no different. Some are extremely campy, filled with laughter whilst exploiting stereotypes, others are incredibly dark showcasing truthful depictions of the ongoing struggles within a repressed society. Yet at the end of the day each one has a purpose in that to give a solid and truthful account of a community so often ignored. Movies have that sole influence to move us and to make one think, they are powerful and able to make people re-evaluate their assumptions even as far as to change their values and beliefs. Without these films, a lot of these stories would never be told let alone exist.
Therefore as important as it is to highlight the mistakes, it is just as important to celebrate the ones that got it right.
20. Dog Day Afternoon, (1975)
Robbing a bank to pay for his lover’s sex change operation, Al Pacino breaks boundaries with not a camp Hollywood stereotype in sight. Being one of the first movies to explore a relationship between a gay male and a trans female, Dog Day Afternoon makes a point in noting the importance of not boxing all relationships together under one label. The main character is a homosexual male with his partner clearly stating she isn’t. Again the movie allows its audience to relate to something they have probably not had the pleasure in doing so before.
“They keep saying’ *two* homosexuals. I am not a homosexual. I want you to stop them saying that. Stop.”
19. Boys Don’t Cry, (1999)
Based on the true story of Trans male Brandon Teena, it can be extremely difficult to watch, yet it is something that should be seen not only for the amazing performance by Hilary Swank but for the memory of the young man that inspired it. Truly touching yet exceptionally tragic it could have easily been a disaster yet director and co writer Kimberly Peirce produced a fine film worthy of its subject.
Lana’s Mom: “I invite you into my home and you expose my daughter to your sickness. Did you ever think about Lana in all this?”
Brandon: ‘That’s all I’ve been thinking about’.
18. Brokeback Mountain, (2005)
Forbidden love has never been so exhausting in this backbreaking hot-blooded weepie where the main characters just happen to be two men. Set against the sweeping backdrop of the Wyoming desert, Brokeback Mountain is so much more than just the ‘gay cowboy movie’ that it is cruelly perceived as. The chemistry between the two male leads is both delicate yet intense, portraying an intimate representation of two men who are callously confined by the culture in which they live in.
“Tell you what… the truth is… sometimes I miss you so much I can hardly stand it.”
17. Shortbus, (2006)
Everybody is at it in John Cameron Mitchell’s sexually explicit erotic romp as a sex therapist searches for the perfect orgasm. Often slandered as adult entertainment by Bush types everywhere, Shortbus is anything but and in fact an artistic representation of sex and how wonderful it can be. With graphic sex scenes and plenty of orgies, it’s so ahead of its time nobody else actually bats an eyelid. Voyeurism at its best.
16. Transamerica, (2005)
One of the first Hollywood pictures to deal with the topic of transgender, Transamerica offers a sympathetic and compassionate insight into the parent/child relationship that has rarely been explored. Unfortunately it wasn’t well received by the trans community due to the main actress being played by a woman and not an actual trans female. The movie does indeed have some flaws. However, the fact that the movie focuses on something else (such as family values) rather than the sole purpose of being trans it can be seen as a step in the right direction. Now that Hollywood is finally starting to become more comfortable with Trans people, hopefully the next step will be to let them act.
“My body may be a work-in-progress, but there is nothing wrong with my soul.”
15. Beautiful Thing, (1996)
Dubbed an ‘urban fairytale,’ South East London has never been so beautiful as two adolescents fall in love during one long hot summer on a council estate. Unknown to many, this teenage romance is a hidden gem in which the supporting characters are just as spectacular as the main ones. It is rare that young love, especially within gay men, is depicted on screen in such a positive and joyous manner.
Sandra: “You’re pissed! From a bloody gay bar!”
Jamie: “How do you know it’s a gay bar?”
Sandra: “Cos it’s got a bloody great pink neon arse outside of it!”
14. The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, (1994)
Two drag queens and a transgender female travel across outback Australia to put on the show of a life time in this glorious glistening glamour fest. With a stellar cast that includes Terence Stamp and Hugo Weaving, it is camp as Christmas fiery Felicia (played by Guy Pearce) who really steals the show providing the most gags and giggles throughout. Named after the bus they travel in Priscilla leaves you with a smile on your face and a sprinkle in your step. A couple of penises, lots of frocks and plenty of Abba-what more do you want?
‘I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: ‘No more f*cking ABBA!’
13. The Children’s Hour, (1961)
Sssssssh Lesbians! In a time when all things homosexual were banished to the celluloid closet they would sometimes pop up concealed as a straight person with evil impure thoughts. Becoming one of the first films to depict lesbianism, The Children’s Hour is ahead of its time tackling a sensitive subject under a veil of secrecy. Punished for her ‘unnatural relationship’ Shirley MacLaine excels as a woman in love, or was she?
‘There has always been something wrong. Always, just as long as I can remember. But I never knew what it was until all this happened’.
12. Paris is Burning, (1990)
Every drag queen’s rite of passage – this fascinating documentary explores the New York drag scene with a touching sense of community. Shining a light in particular on the African-American and Latino LGBT community, it provided a huge number of people with an identity that had never really been seen before on the silver screen. Extremely moving with plenty of shade, this Vogue inspired hit serves some hard-core realness as the forefront to the extremely popular RuPaul’s drag race.
‘When they’re undetectable and they can walk out of that ballroom into the sunlight and onto the subway and get home, and still have all their clothes and no blood running off their bodies- those are the femme realness queens’.
11. Bound, (1996)
Smart, sultry and sophisticated, this neo-noir thriller will leave you weak at the knees. From the makers of The Matrix and long before Lana Wachowski was an out trans female , Bound sizzles so hard mainly due to the two lead actresses. With thanks to a resident ‘lesbian sexpert’ the chemistry between Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon is unstoppable and a fan favorite for hundreds of lesbians all over the world. The film was denied by producers everywhere suggesting they change the main characters to a man and a woman. The Wachowski’s response? ‘That movie’s been made a million times’.
‘” there’s one thing I can’t stand about sleeping with women, it’s all the f***ing mind-reading.”
10. All About My Mother, (1999)
Pedro Almodovar does it again by taking a sensitive subject and inviting us to laugh. With gender and sexuality such a reoccurring theme in his work, this one is by far no different mixing heartbreak and humor ever so charmingly. Mourning the loss of her teenage son, a distraught mother goes on the search for the boy’s father, entering into a world of drag, fun and resilient women. An ode to classical Hollywood with a modern turn.
“I’m not a wh*re. I’ve been f****d around a lot, but I’m not a wh*re.”
9. Tipping the Velvet, (2002)
Whoever said that the Victorians were a bunch of old prudes were obviously hanging around with the wrong crowd as this BBC adaptation of Sarah Waters’ bestselling novel proves otherwise. With antique leather dildos and dapper dancing drag kings, Victorian London has never looked so lively. Emotionally entertaining, this lesbian coming out story will leave you wanting to don your nearest gentleman’s attire all whilst trying to snag yourself a young lady or two.
‘But I don’t want to be her sister….I wanted to be her sweetheart!’
8. Milk, (2008)
Sean Penn is flawless as Harvey Milk is finally brought to the mainstream in this truthful biopic for an individual who tried to carry a community on his shoulders. As the first openly gay man to be elected to public office, Milk fought for equality as well as basic human rights. Some may not have agreed with his methods but ‘you’ve got to give them hope’ right?
“All men are created equal. No matter how hard you try, you can never erase those words.”
7. D.E.B.S., (2004)
Campy, over the top and absolutely ridiculous, this small budget crime caper cavorts, frolics and jaunts around so much it morphs into a lesbian version of Charlie’s Angels. Extremely funny with an excellent cast, DEBS is wonderfully witty, focusing on four female spies and their quest to fight evil. With a killer soundtrack and adorable love story to boot I promise you will never see anything quite like it again.
‘This is not the Girl Scouts, this is espionage!’
6. Carol, (2015)
Unlike the Children’s Hour, lesbians are out and proud (kind of) in this 1950’s tale of an illicit affair between two women leading very different lives. Making no apologies for its forbidden romance, Carol celebrates lesbianism avoiding the usual mistakes of past attempts. With remarkable performances all round and a beautiful soundtrack, it genuinely feels as if you are watching love develop from the beginning right until the very end. Plus, cigarettes have never looked so sexy.
“Just when it can’t get any worse, you run out of cigarettes.”
5. Saving Face, (2005)
A romantic comedy with a twist, Saving Face explores traditional values between a lesbian surgeon and her conventional Chinese family. With generations of one family under the microscope, the film covers all bases – from unmarried pregnancy, lesbian love affairs to immigration and racism. The mother-daughter relationship in particular is refreshing with some unexpected kinks and curves along the way also providing plenty of comic relief. Above all, the film offers a heartwarming resolution which can be extremely uplifting in a genre that has seen its fair share of tragedy.
“Chinese people cannot wear yellow!”
4. Orlando, (1992)
Based on the Virginia Woolf classic, Orlando breaks the mold in this captivating time travelling yarn in which the central character Orlando hops from one gender to the next each time defying the idea of what we believe to be ‘normal’. Extremely clever, Orlando breaks free of not only the shackle and chains of one’s sexuality but also of the limitations of class. Starring queen of androgyny herself Tilda Swinton, the concept of sexuality has never been so fluid.
“She’s lived for 400 years and hardly aged a day; but, because this is England, everyone pretends not to notice.”
3. Hedwig and the Angry Inch, (2001)
Rock punk neo glam pop musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch is utter perfection creating a whole musical genre in itself. Written and directed by John Cameron Mitchell, this Bowie inspired musical madcap explores the life and struggles of a failed musician who suffers a botched sex change operation and a busted heart. Dazzling, desirable and theatrically thrilling this will have you entertained from the first note.
“My sex change operation got botched; my guardian angel fell asleep on the watch; now all I got is a Barbie doll crotch; I’ve got an angry inch!”
2. Pride, (2014)
Set during the mid-80s in the midst of Thatcherite Britain, Pride tells the story of two extremely different communities brought together to fight the power that oppresses them. Poignant and moving, it is just as inspiring to see that in the extremity of our circumstances we are all much more similar than we had originally thought.
“And why should gay people like me support the miners?”
‘Because miners dig for coal, which produces power, which allows gay people like you to dance to Bananarama till 3 o’clock in the morning.”
1. But I’m a Cheerleader, (1999)
Satire at its best as this super spoof delves into the ‘pray-away-the-gay’ detention camp in which homo-induced teenagers are sent to wash away their sins. It may seem amusing but these things actually exist and doesn’t the film know it, thoroughly enjoying itself with campy stereotypes and a ‘butch’ RuPaul. With a smashing soundtrack and a marvelous cast, this hysterical parody is a laugh a minute from start to finish.
“She’s just upset because the fish on her plate is the only kind she can eat.”