As a result of the not-so-straightforward history of the representation of the LGBT Community on film, I set myself certain guidelines in compiling this list of the Greatest LGBT Films of all time:
- These films had to include a positive representation of the LGBT Community. This does not mean the characters have to be positive, just that it's message is not homophobic (subsequently ruling out films such as Rebecca and Cruising).
- The films had to include explicit representations of homosexuality, instead of implicit references that could be read as LGBT retrospectively (subsequently ruling out films such as All About Eve, Strangers On A Train and Rebel Without A Cause).
- Films adopted by the LGBT Community as iconic, but still lacking LGBT characters could not be included (ruling out The Wizard Of Oz).
- Films that use homosexuality as a shock tactic could also not be included (ruling out Sebastiane and Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom).
- Films did not have to receive a cinema release to be included.
Obviously, there are many more than 50 truly great LGBT films. I've tried to be as objective as possible, including what I believe critics would cite as the Greatest LGBT Films Of All Time, but their positioning within the list is pretty subjective, however. If you think I've missed something important however, let me know! I want to know what your favourite LGBT films are too!
50. Rent (2005)
Starring: Adam Rapp, Adam Pascal, Rosario Dawson, Jesse L. Martin, Wilson Jermaine Heredia, Idina Menzel, Tracie Thoms, Taye Diggs
Diretor: Chris Columbus
Based on the Broadway musical, the film of Rent reassembled most of its original cast to tell the story of a group of Bohemian friends as they struggle with the AIDS crisis in 1980s New York. Though a sanitised account of the period, the story presents a palatable version of the pandemic to a mass audience, with plenty of room for tear-jerking ballads and sassy belters. Menzel is obviously the stand-out, though Heredia's Angel is the film's endearing heart.
49. To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar (1995)
Starring: Patrick Swayze, Wesley Snipes, John Leguizamo, Stockard Channing
Director: Beebon Kidron
The joy of To Wong Foo is its pure unabashed campery. In a time before drag was refined down to the sum of its artistic parts, the film follows three pageant queens on a road-trip across America en route to a competition in LA. But when their car breaks down in sleepy hisckville, the trio have to decide whether to blend in or stand up loud and proud. All three of the queens turn in remarkable performances in this delightfully playful romp, but even beneath the comedy it rubs its padded shoulders against the stark transphobia of Middle America. Camp, fun and a light companion piece to a certain other film on this list...
48. I Love You Phillip Morris (2009)
Starring: Jim Carrey, Ewan McGregor, Lesley Mann, Rodrigo Santoro
Directors: Glenn Ficara & John Requa
After coming out of the closet, a policeman turns con man and winds up in jail, where he meets the love of his life. From thereon out, his mission becomes to find a way they can both be free together. Apparently based on a true story, this farce is packed with gags and laughs, but at its centre is a wholly believable relationship. Carrey and McGregor are delectably convincing as their love compounds the film's heart, allowing a comedy film to accept sexuality as incidental for the very first time. And the film fizzes as a result.
47. The Imitation Game (2014)
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Mark Strong, Charles Dance
Director: Morten Tyldum
The story of the breaking of the Enigma Code at Bletchley Park, which eventually ended WW2, would always make a compelling story for a film. But alongside it, the heartbreaking story of Alan Turing's sexuality makes for a heartbreaking epilogue. In Oscar nominated performances, Cumberbatch and Knightley crackle with intellectual brilliance, but the film's real power comes from the story's tragedy. That a man could stop a war and save millions of lives, only to be destroyed by his own country because of who he loved is nothing short of malicious bigotry.
46. We Were Here (2011)
Directors: David Weissman, Bill Weber
The AIDS pandemic is probably the worst crisis to hit the world since the end of WW2. But at its height, because of its association with gay people it was seen by many in the USA as little more than retribution for immorality. We Were Here is a documentary record of the community who fought back. With heart-breaking accounts from survivors and medical staff living and working in San Francisco from the 1980s to date, this is a beautiful record of the pandemic's scale, its tragedy and exists as a reminder of how any community can support the afflicted, no matter how disparate and different its people. An absolute must-watch.
45. Pink Flamingos (1972)
Starring: Divine, David Lochary, Mink Stole
Director: John Waters
There's no denying that Pink Flamingos is a disgusting film. Its purpose was to shock and appal and to play on the grim fascination of revulsion-junkies to gain as wide an audience as possible. And it completely succeeded. As the resplendently vile Divine competes with a sleazy couple for the title of "The Filthiest Person Alive", the film's nauseating climax has gone down in film legend. But the significance of the Divine/Waters long-term collaboration cannot be understated in terms of Queer Cinema. In equal measure fascinated and appalled by their work, audiences came from far and wide to see bawdy celebrations of Queer Culture. And despite its lurid nature in Pink Flamingos, this was a massive step.
44. Behind The Candelabra (2013)
Starring: Michael Douglas, Matt Damon, Rob Lowe
Director: Steven Soderbergh
You mean to tell me people didn't KNOW Liberace was gay?? How??? In this remarkable biopic however, Michael Douglas stars as the epically flamboyant performer Liberace and documents his relationship with his much younger lover, Scott. Douglas and Damon are remarkable here, as the film explores the dark recess of fame, especially when trying to conceal your sexual preference. But as time goes on, the pressure of juggling his public and private lives begins to severely affect Liberace's mental health. And the story of a wild eccentric becomes something much darker.
43. The Crying Game (1992)
Starring: Stephen Rea, Jaye Davidson, Forest Whitaker, Miranda Richardson
Director: Neil Jordan
The twist at the end of The Crying Game is what includes this film on the list, so SPOILER ALERT, stop reading now. After being captured, a British soldier forms an unlikely friendship with a member of the IRA, but after his escape he tracks down his friend's lover in London, a hairdresser called Dil with a massive secret. Earning Oscar nominations aplenty, the film played on the tagline "The movie everyone is talking about... But no one is giving away its secrets." And even though they were sensationalising the shock discovery of a character's transgenderism, at its centre, Rea and Davidson give sensitive and subtle performances creating real and relatable people, when audiences came out of morbid curiosity.
42. G.B.F. (2013)
Starring: Michael J. Willett, Paul Iacono, Sasha Pieterse, Andrea Bowen, Xosha Roquemore
Director: Darren Stein
Frothy and light this may be, but the quality of G.B.F. cannot be understated. This is as good a teen comedy as Clueless or Mean Girls and the way it effortlessly deals with LGBT teen issues is remarkable. On the one hand it plays for laughs, but on the other it brings surprising depth to a pair of likeable gay protagonists, whose issues and experiences are notably recognisable to most LGBT people. It ticks every box for a good teen comedy, but it's a teen comedy made ABOUT gays, FOR gays. It's brilliant.
41. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
Starring: Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick, Richard O'Brien, Patricia Quinn, Meat Loaf
Director: Jim Sharman
No list of LGBT films would be complete without The Rocky Horror Picture Show, despite my personal dislike for it. Its cult status and cultural significance continues to this day, as audiences go wild for the bizarre tale of a couple whose car breaks down, leading them to visit the zany and dangerous home of the transvestite Dr Frank-N-Furter. Playing on transvestism as an element of horror, its lingering popularity is unsettling, but its high-camp and zesty vigour makes this a refreshingly energetic pastiche, with songs that even I accept are pretty damn catchy.
40. Cabaret (1972)
Starring: Liza Minnelli, Michael York, Joel Grey
Director: Bob Fosse
Is there a film much gayer than Cabaret? With Liza Minnelli in her Oscar-winning role as the iconic Sally Bowles, songs that have become the staple gay man's diva standard AND a storyline that includes its lead male's bisexuality, it's like the Gay Fairy sneezed and accidentally made a film. But above all of this, Cabaret has a phenomenal story with one of the darkest plots ever to appear in a musical. Set in 1930s Weimar Berlin, Sally finds herself in the middle of a sexually confused love triangle while the Nazi Party is rising to power. Using its cabaret performances at 'The Kit Kat Club' (where Sally performs) to reflect the film's context like a Greek Chorus, the depiction of the sleazy Berlin lowlife makes its narration as unsettling as its action. A real masterpiece. And tremendously gay.
39. The Normal Heart (2014)
Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bomer, Julia Roberts, Jim Parsons, Taylor Kitsch, Jonathan Groff
Director: Ryan Murphy
Well if this doesn't make you cry, I don't know what will. Based on Larry Kramer's landmark play, The Normal Heart follows a group of gay activists in the early 1980s who fight to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS. Ruffalo is remarkable as the passionate Ned Weeks, who suffers bereavement after bereavement as his friends and lovers die of AIDS. The film positions the audience from the impassioned perspective of Ned, who simply cannot believe that nothing is being done to help the victims. And as we watch the beautiful Matt Bomer deteriorate from the disease, our frustration is as great as Ned's that people aren't rioting in the streets. Biased propaganda though the play may have been, its film is a more balanced rendering of what remains the greatest travesty of the American government since Civil Rights.
38. La Cage Au Folles (1978)
Starring: Ugo Tognazzi, Michel Serrault, Claire Maurier
Director: Edouard Molinaro
An early LGBT film with widespread appeal, La Cage follows a gay couple who try to conceal their sexuality and ownership of a drag club from their son. A French farce that makes no attempt to conceal its celebration of campery, the film was an outstanding succces, leading to the Broadway musical and its eventual Hollywood remake, The Birdcage. With its older protagonists delightfully uncensored, La Cage portrays a strong and clearly loving relationship between two men within the context of prima donnas and showmanship. After its release, this film was the highest grossing foreign-language film of all time.
37. Gay Sex In The 70s (2005)
Director: Joseph F. Lovett
Anyone watching We Were Here should watch Gay Sex In The 70s beforehand. Where the former is an impassioned memorial to the generation who dies of AIDS, the latter is a record of their lives beforehand. Though focusing solely on the gay scene in New York, this fascinating documentary shows an era long overshadowed by the plight of the Gay Community in the 1980s. On the one hand giving explanation to the rapid spread of HIV, on the other it celebrates a liberated community who were finally free to live the lives they always craved. Racy, dirty and exciting, the almost forgotten memory of a brief flash of sexual liberty is told by a handful of nostalgic survivors, who live as rare reminders of what life could have been like if the pandemic had never occurred.
36. My Beautiful Laundrette (1985)
Starring: Daniel Day Lewis, Saeed Jaffrey, Roshan Seth
Director: Stephen Frears
Set in Thatcherite Britain in the 80s, My Beautiful Laundrette follows a young Asian man who takes over his uncle's laundrette and tries to turn it into a money-making venture. Employing the help of an old school-friend, who has since become a neo-Nazi, it forces his father to come to terms with relying on people he hates, while a burgeoning sexual relationship begins to develop between the two. With the characters' sexualities dealt with as the least contentious issue in the pile, this refreshingly indifferent take on homosexuality was a landmark moment in Queer cinema, where who someone loves is irrelevant in the face of cultural injustice.
35. Philadelphia (1993)
Starring: Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, Antonio Banderas
Director: Jonathan Demme
When Jonathan Demme came under fire from the LGBT Community for his portrayal of a transvestite in The Silence Of The Lambs, his response was Philadelphia. The story of one man's quest for justice in the face of HIV/AIDS, this landmark tearjerker won Hanks his second Oscar and saw the AIDS pandemic tackled by Hollywood for the first time. Though a sanitised and safe account, shown through the eyes of heterosexual society, there can be no argument that Philadelphia showed the western world finally coming to terms with admitting their passivity during the crisis. An important but flawed film.
34. Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
Starring: Matthew McConnaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner
Director: Jean-Marc Vallee
While we're on the topic of AIDS, Dallas Buyers Club is a completely different entity of a movie. Though still focusing on the pandemic from a heterosexual point of view, McConnaughey stars as a straight con man who contracts a disease he believed he couldn't. Floundering amongst a group of victims he struggles to identify with, he discovers the only way to get the drugs they all need is to smuggle them into the country himself. So entering into an unlikely partnership with a drag queen, they set up a vast smuggling ring to help them all survive. The remarkable performances from McConnaughey and Leto earned them both Oscars, but the film's real strength lies in the unity of its disparate characters in the face of an unstoppable adversity.
33. Bent (1997)
Starring: Clive Owen, Lothaire Blutheau, Brian Webber, Ian McKellan, Mick Jagger
Director: Sean Mathias
Based on the play by Martin Sherman, Bent is the story of a young gay man sent to the Dachau concentration camp under the Nazi regime. With Berlin a liberal and sexually diverse bohemia before the rise of the Nazis, their rapid turnaround toward complete intolerance led gay people to be treated with as much disdain as the Jews. In this heartbreaking story, in which the characters are as ostracised by the people inside the camps as the people who arrested them, the film explores how love could exist even within as hostile a place as this. Moving, horrifying and completely captivating, this is a love story in the worst place in the world.
32. The Birdcage (1996)
Starring: Robin Williams, Nathan Lane, Gene Hackman, Dianne Wiest, Calista Flockhart, Hank Azaria
Director: Mike Nichols
The Hollywood remake of the aforementioned La Cage Au Folles, The Birdcage is a camp and catty battle of wits between drama queens, bitches and bigots, cannon-balling through witty dialogue and larger-than-life explosive scenes. With Williams at the height of his fame, this madcap comedy is a hilarious and riotous comedy that accepts Gay Culture at its most exaggerated, with its campery played for laughs, but not the butt of its jokes. And Nathan Lane is absolutely divine here.
31. Shortbus (2006)
Starring: Sook-Yin Lee, Paul Dawson, Lindsay Beamish, PJ Deboy, Justin Vivian Bond, Jay Brannan
Director: John Cameron Mitchell
The detractors of Shortbus say it contains too much sex... but in a film solely ABOUT sex, could it really exist without it? Exploring the lives of several interconnected characters, the film focuses on a sex-therapist who has never had an orgasm. On a quest to discover her sexual identity, she comes across a host of Queer characters, all of whom are seeking sexual fulfilment in different ways, coming together at the Shortbus nightclub in New York, run by the scintillating Justin Bond. With its actors engaging in real sex on screen, the film explores the quirks and excitement of sexuality without venturing into titillation or the pornographic. In celebrating sexuality itself, it normalises sex to the point of it appearing as explicit as having a cup of tea. As a result, it's a remarkable piece of film-making.
30. Far From Heaven (2002)
Starring: Julianne Moore, Dennis Quaid, Dennis Haysbert, Patricia Clarkson, Viola Davis
Director: Todd Haynes
In what is probably her finest performance to date, Julianne Moore was Oscar nominated for this film, which explores racial tensions in 1950s Connecticut as she comes to terms with her husband's sexuality. Falling in love with her African-American gardener, she and her husband struggle to keep their marriage afloat while he tries to conceal his homosexuality. A subtle and brooding tour-de-force, this is a film that will live with you for a long time afterwards, as Moore cracks the veneer of all-American domesticity.
29. The Hours (2002)
Starring: Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, Ed Harries, Toni Collette, Clare Danes, Jeff Daniels, Alison Janney
Director: Stephen Daldry
In an experimental film about the life and work of Virginia Woolf, The Hours contrasts three storylines: the life of Woolf, a parody of Mrs Dalloway set in 1950s suburbia and a woman reading the book in the present day. While Kidman and Moore are mesmerising in their storylines, Streep's projects the story against the lives of a lesbian couple who are struggling with the deterioration of their friend with AIDS. A fascinating and compelling story, the film won Oscar nominations aplenty (including winning Kidman the Best Actress award), whilst playing with a truly original narrative structure.
28. Transamerica (2005)
Starring: Felicity Huffman, Kevin Zegers
Director: Duncan Tucker
An unusual take on the standard roadtrip genre, Transamerica earned Huffman an Oscar nomination for her role as Bree, a transsexual woman who discovers that she fathered a son when she was younger. Her son is now a teenage hustler in New York, so Bree bails him out of jail and takes him by road across America on his quest to track down his biological father, without telling him who she really is. Huffman and Zegers are remarkable in their roles as questions of parenthood bubble through to create a tense but heart-warming film.
27. Bad Education (2004)
Starring: Gael Garcia Bernal, Fele Martinez, Javier Camara
Director: Pedro Almodovar
Bad Education is a blisteringly erotic but markedly dark film, exploring the relationship of two friends who survived sexual abuse throughout their religious schooling during the Franco regime. One part a coming-of-age drama, the rest of its composite fragments deal with the psychological impact of surviving abuse at the hands of their priest. Bernal is outstanding in the central roles (I'll not spoil the plot by explaining this plurality), while Almodovar explores sexuality in the most blatantly gay film in his heavily Queer cannon.
26. Gods And Monsters (1998)
Starring: Ian McKellan, Brendan Fraser, Lynn Redgrave
Director: Bill Condon
Exploring the life of Frankenstein director James Whale, Gods And Monsters focuses on his latter years, during his complex relationship with a young male gardener. Having literally created monsters in his films, Whale struggled all his life with his own monstrosity - his sexuality. In one of McKellan's finest performances, the film is set in 1950s Hollywood where Whale has been ostracised and forced into a hermetic life because he refuses to die alone. Finding companionship with his gardener, this nuanced character study explores the need for happiness in the present over looking back on the glories of the past.
25. The Boys In The Band (1971)
Starring: Kenneth Nelson, Peter White, Leonard Frey
Director: William Friedkin
Though definitely outdated in its stereotypes, The Boys In The Band is a landmark film that put a group of gay men onto the big screen for the very first time. Taking place over the course of an evening, the story focuses around a dinner party where a straight man is unwittingly invited to a Birthday party with several gay men. With a rentboy gifted as a present, bitchy queens and gay men revelling in self-loathing, this early piece of Queer cinema is a fascinating time capsule and definitely worth revisiting from a postmodern perspective.
24. But I'm A Cheerleader (1999)
Starring: Natasha Lyonne, Clea DuVall, Michelle Williams, Mink Stole, RuPaul Charles, Cathy Moriarty, Eddie Cibrian
Director: Jamie Babbit
In this camp but heartfelt comedy, a teenage girl is sent to Gay Camp when her parents suspect she might be a lesbian. Though the trip is meant to "cure" her of any burgeoning homosexual feelings, her experiences with her fellow homosexuals leads to a solidarity intent on defying the system, rather than conforming. A pacy, funny and daft romp, But I'm A Cheerleader is a hilariously irreverent take on a serious problem in America, but the result is incredibly entertaining. And Lyonne and DuVall were born to play these roles.
23. Maurice (1987)
Starring: James Wilby, Hugh Grant, Rupert Graves
Director: James Ivory
Based on the real-life story of novelist E.M. Forster, Merchant Ivory's exploration of homosexuality in the Edwardian era is a difficult but luscious watch. After his lover and school-friend decides to give into societal pressure and marry, Maurice continues to struggle with living as a gay man in secret. Falling in love with a gamekeeper, the oppressiveness of their society leads to a truly heartbreaking ending. Grant is smoulderingly cocky, while Graves outlines perfectly why he was my teenage posh-boy crush.
22. Monster (2003)
Starring: Charlize Theron, Christina Ricci, Bruce Dern
Director: Patty Jenkins
Despite becoming the poster-girl for the cause of Oscar bids based on uglification, Charlize Theron's performance as notorious American serial killer Aileen Wuornos is a striking and disturbing film, whose real power comes from its in-depth exploration of the psychology of a murderer, helping to explain and even sometimes justify her actions. Though Wuornos remains a disquieting character, the depiction of her relationship with her female partner humanises her, allowing us to see the person behind the monster. A fascinating and sinister film.
21. Bound (1996)
Starring: Jennifer Tilly, Gina Gershon,
Directors: The Wachowskis
In the feature debut of The Wachowskis, Bound is a neo-noir crime thriller packed with sex and violence. Following a girl who tries to escape her mafioso boyfriend, she begins a relationship with a female ex-con and together they hatch a plan to steal $2 million from the mafia. Though some people critiqued the plot's superficiality, the film's realistic depiction of a lesbian relationship on screen was a significant landmark, especially after the heteronormative sexualisation of lesbians Basic Instinct, a similar neo-noir film, just a few years before.
20. All About My Mother (1999)
Starring: Cecilia Roth, Marisa Paredes, Candela Pena, Penelope Cruz
Director: Pedro Almodovar
All About My Mother is a fabulous film. A young man wants to uncover the identity of his father, but his mother is intent on keeping this secret. With Spain portrayed in colourful vibrancy, the film explores the relationship between a mother and son, with inter-textual references to every film about strong women you can think of and Roth is resplendent in the central role. Add to that a fabulous transsexual and a truly endearing nun with HIV, played by Penelope Cruz, and this is a film that will take you on a rollercoaster of emotions. Just like any Almodovar film, this is a celebration of how colourful life can be, but this is his very best film of all.
19. Boys Don't Cry (1999)
Starring: Hilary Swank, Chloe Sevigny, Peter Sarsgaard
Director: Kimberley Peirce
In 1999, the relatively unknown Hilary Swank won the Best Actress Academy Award for Boys Don't Cry. Swank plays Brandon, a transgender boy who was born a girl, who starts a new life in Nebraska. But his new life as "one of the lads" is torn apart when his secret is outed in the community. In this tender and balanced portrayal of transgenderism, Swank brought a beautifully subtle character to life that had rarely been seen on the big screen before. Though the story is bleak and the circumstances extraordinary, it is the ordinariness of Swank's character that made her so compelling. And the story is a heartbreaking tale.
18. Mysterious Skin (2004)
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Brady Corbett, Elisabeth Shue
Director: Gregg Araki
Two school-friends share a horrifying history together, although only one of them can remember. Brian wants to remember what happened to him during a blackout when he was eight years old. Believing his friend to be the key to his memory, he tracks him down to New York, where he's working as a hustler on the streets. This film is a dark and horrifying tale of abuse, where the adult boys live against the backdrop of the AIDS pandemic, where hustling is even more dangerous. Gordon-Levitt and Corbett are outstanding in their roles and the climax will live with you long after the credits role.
17. My Summer Of Love (2004)
Starring: Emily Blunt, Natalie Press, Paddy Considine
Director: Pawel Pawlikowski
In Emily Blunt's impressive debut, this coming of age story of obsession and deception is an angst-ridden boiling pot of lust and rich subtext. When two teenage girls meet at the start of a long hot summer, the next six weeks are spent amusing one another, before their relationship develops into something deeper and darker. As we learn to trust Blunt less and less, her girlfriend falls further and further in love with her, piling tension into this sun-drenched and atmospheric film. Smouldering, patient and paced, this superb movie is still probably Blunt's best. And yes, that includes The Devil Wears Prada.
16. My Own Private Idaho (1991)
Starring: River Phoenix, Keanu Reeves, James Russo,
Director: Gus Van Sant
Van Sant makes two types of films; the accessible and the arty. My Own Private Idaho is definitely the latter, but this juxtaposition of Shakespearean themes, plot and dialogue (lifted unpretentiously from Henry IV Part I, Part 2 and Henry V) and the gay hustling scene of the early 90s somehow just works. This dreamlike and sad tale of two boys hunting for somewhere they can call their home is a tragic and haunting indie with pretentions of epic grandeur. Though not easily accessible, its concept is so high that its poetic ramblings are soothing and shocking in equal part. And moments of brilliance flash from Phoenix, showing the actor that maybe he could have become.
15. Blue Is The Warmest Colour (2013)
Starring: Lea Seydoux, Adele Exarchopoulos
Director: Abdellatif Kechiche
One of the more controversial films of the list, Blue Is The Warmest Colour won the Palme d'Or at Cannes to much critical outcry. A three hour film exploring the passionate neuroses of young first love, this slow-paced story of a girl's sexual maturity includes a long segment of explicit sex between the two girls, but its beauty is that this unflinching observation of their love for each other doesn't pan away or hide behind the pretence of being a passive observer. This intense French film shows us everything, and is all the better for it.
14. Paris Is Burning (1990)
Director: Jennie Livingston
The impact this remarkable documentary has made cannot be understated. Charting New York's drag scene in the 1980s, the film focuses on the malleability of Queer Culture, where everyone expresses who they want to be, but obviously being fierce at the same time. Observing the balls, chronicling the voguing and meeting with people from the city's leading drag families, it peels back the layers of these warm but damaged people, who have created the world where they can feel accepted. A funny film, laden with sass, Paris Is Burning spread the New York drag model around the world and shaped a whole generation of queens. And now it lives as a remarkable document of a bygone age.
13. Free Fall (2013)
Starring: Hanno Koffler, Max Reimelt, Katharina Schuttler
Director: Stephen Lacant
Very few LGBT films manage to get the balance right between drama and sexual tension. Too often straying into graphic eroticism, Queer cinema has grown a reputation for showing far too much. But Free Fall finds the balance perfectly. Following Marc, a married policeman whose wife is heavily pregnant, this smouldering tale of lust begins as Marc meets Kay, to whom he is inexplicably attracted. Even before he knows of either his or Kay's sexuality, the tension between the pair is palpable, but as they embark on a dangerously intense affair, Marc cannot reconcile his newfound sexual liberation with his impending duty as a new father. A heart-breaking story of ill-timed sexual awakening, Free Fall is one of the very best of the modern gay indies.
12. Stranger By The Lake (2013)
Starring: Pierre Deladonhamps, Christophe Paou, Patrick d'Assumcao
Director: Alain Guiraudie
Franck witnesses a murder in a cruising spot on the shore of a lake. He knows the killer, who he had sex with the previous day. But enamoured of the handsome Michel, he keeps his knowledge of the murder a secret, hoping that his collaboration will prove his newfound love to the dangerous man. A tense and brooding thriller, the film never strays from the shores of the lake, where nudity and promiscuity make up part of the landscape. Set in a world never seen on film, this shocking story of misplaced loyalty is a phenomenally absorbing anthropological cat-and-mouse thriller.
11. A Single Man (2009)
Starring: Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Nicholas Hoult, Matthew Goode
Director: Tom Ford
In fashion-designer Ford's directorial debut, Firth is captivating in his Oscar nominated role as the bereaved George, who is unable to cope with the loss of his boyfriend a year earlier. Set in 1960s Los Angeles, the film covers just a single day; the day on which George intends to kill himself. Setting his affairs in order, George heads out into the world to experience life for the very last time. Despite its potentially bleak subject matter, A Single Man is a life-affirming story about the latter stages of grief, all stylishly captured in slick and chic detail by a director with an eye for its aesthetic. Subsequently, this is a visually stunning and emotionally gut-wrenching film, which features Firth's finest performance to date.
10. Eastern Boys (2013)
Starring: Olivier Rabourdin, Kirill Emelyanov, Daniil Vorobyov, Edea Darcque
Director: Robin Campillo
This is a truly remarkable film. Set in Paris, Eastern Boys is about a man who invites a Ukrainian rentboy back to his apartment, only to be besieged by his pimp and gang, who empty his flat while he is helpless to stop them. But, wracked with guilt, the rentboy returns to apologise and the pair strike up a unlikely friendship that can only lead them to blows with the gang once again. With a scene of a home invasion that would give Funny Games a run for its money, this is a an edge-of-your-seat thriller and the most balanced and thought-provoking discussion about immigration you are ever likely to see.
9. The Kids Are All Right (2010)
Starring: Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasikowska, Josh Hutcherson
Director: Lisa Cholodenko
The Kids Are All Right is an adoption movie with a twist. After two teenagers go on a quest to track down their biological father, their two mothers struggle with the introduction of this male figure to their lives. Embarking on a journey of sexual and personal discovery that they felt they had already been on, this post-modern take on the family drama shows a non-traditional family coming to terms with its own non-conformity. With Oscar nominations aplenty, including acting nods for Bening and Ruffalo, this heart-warming story creates a very human portrait of a thoroughly twenty-first century family.
8. Milk (2008)
Starring: Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, James Franco, Emile Hirsch, Diego Luna
Director: Gus Van Sant
The story of San Francisco politician Harvey Milk is Van Sant's tour-de-force. Charting the rise of the first openly gay politician to take office in the US, this remarkable story of uncompromising personal strength is respectfully and reverently painted against the newly liberated Gay Community in the Castro. But as his flame burns brighter, so too does his homophobic opposition that would eventually lead to his assassination. Winning Penn his second Oscar, this incredible story of courage in the face of tremendous adversity is the gay To Kill A Mockingbird, and its origins from real life make it all the more tragic.
7. The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert (1994)
Starring: Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce, Terence Stamp, Bill Hunter
Director: Stephan Elliott
Despite its appallingly tacky incarnation on the stage, this bitchy and fabulous road movie remains one of the finest (and most original) of its genre. Travelling across the Australian outback to perform cabaret at Alice Springs, two drag queens and a transsexual inhabit a pink second-hand bus that takes them across the literal wilderness, as well as taking them on a journey through the wildernesses of their own lives. Despite their brazen flamboyance, none of them have come to terms with who they really are and while tempers, egos and wigs fray, so each one comes closer to discovering their true selves. This is a story about everyone's self-acceptance, but it's dragged up in heels and corsets and some of the boldest drag you will ever see on film. Stamp is the stand-out, but they are all on point. Particularly their lip-syncs to an amazing soundtrack.
6. Beautiful Thing (1996)
Starring: Glen Berry, Scott Neal, Linda Henry, Ben Daniels, Tameka Empson
Director: Hettie MacDonald
Two teenage neighbours find themselves sharing a bed one night, only to discover new feelings that they don't understand. Coming to understand their sexuality and their feelings for each other, this compelling story of sexual awakening is a life affirming ode to teenage love and a mirror held up to society's inherent homophobia in equal measure. Based on the play by Jonathan Harvey, this landmark film showed the innocence of same-sex love without any associated adult corruption that many still believe comes with homosexuality. Beautiful Thing shows that all love really is a beautiful thing and set against the soaring soundtrack of Mama Cass, the film is a beautiful thing in itself.
5. Hedwig And The Angry Inch (2001)
Starring: John Cameron Mitchell, Michael Pitt, Miriam Shor, Andrea Martin
Director: John Cameron Mitchell
Hedwig saw the arrival of one the Gay Community's strongest voices, and by God did he arrive in force. Writing, directing and starring in this film adaptation of the off-Broadway musical, John Cameron Mitchell created a rock masterpiece in the shape of a transsexual "internationally ignored song-stylist" from Communist East Berlin. Now revived on Broadway in a hugely successful stage show, Hedwig explores one woman's journey through sexualities and gender identities, as she wrestles to come to terms with who she really is. Set against a punk interpretation of Plato's Symposium, this indie masterpiece is equal parts a trumpet for progressive liberalism and a nostalgic ode to the era of glam rock. I could watch this film again and again. And I have. I once watched it three times in a day.
4. Angels In America (2003)
Starring: Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson, Jeffrey Wright, Mary-Louise Parker, Patrick Wilson, Justin Kirk, Ben Shenkman, James Cromwell
Director: Mike Nichols
Though not strictly a movie, this six-hour two part miniseries based on the plays by Tony Kushner are more cinematic than most films on this list. Set against the backdrop of New York during the AIDS pandemic, Prior and his boyfriend Louis struggle to come to terms with his newly diagnosed status. Louis leaves him, but is unable to forgive himself for deserting the man he loves, while Prior begins to see visions of an angel, who tells him he is a prophet. With interlocking stories from all different perspectives from the Gay Community in the period, Angels In America is the most complete and most challenging piece of literature to have emerged from the crisis. And with astonishing performances from Parker, Pacino, Wright and Streep (which earned all four an Emmy each), this is a landmark film of a landmark play, whose universal cultural significance cannot be denied.
3. Pride (2014)
Starring: Ben Schnetzer, Dominic West, Andrew Scott, George MacKay, Imelda Staunton, Bill Nighy, Paddy Considine, Jessica Gunning
Director: Matthew Warchus
Words cannot describe the pure unbridled joy of watching Pride for the very first time. Based on the unlikely union between an LGBT group and a miners' union in Wales, this fizzing feel-good ensemble film intricately weaves countless strands of meaningful story together, exploring sexuality, prejudice, social inequality, family rejection and so much more, creating a perfectly balanced tapestry of comedy and drama that leaves you smiling from ear to ear. A history lesson as well as entertainment, it turns the spotlight on a truly remarkable story that reminds you that your greatest support can come from the most unlikely places. A tale of complete altruistic support, I defy you to find a film that can restore your faith in humanity more than Pride.
2. Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Starring: Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Williams, Anne Hathaway
Director: Ang Lee
It is still the greatest injustice in the history of the Oscars that Brokeback Mountain missed out on the Best Picture prize to the now dated Crash. A heart-wrenching story of forbidden love, this masterpiece of epic cinema places two insignificant cowboys against the backdrop of harsh social oppression, set in the sweeping landscapes of Wyoming. Both married and starting their own families, Ennis and Jack fall in love on their trips to the mountain together. But as time passes and they can't bear to be apart, the unfeasibility of their creating a life together becomes impossible for either to bear. Peppered with astonishing performances from all of its leads, Brokeback Mountain isn't just one of the finest LGBT films ever made, it's one of the greatest films of any kind. Period. Its calamitously heartbreaking story is one that will live on as one the greatest stories of star-crossed lovers in the history of modern cinema.
1. Weekend (2011)
Director: Andrew Haigh
This choice for the Greatest LGBT Film Of All Time will probably prove controversial, but this tiny film about two people falling in love is one of the most moving and heartfelt things I have ever seen on film. Set over the course of a single weekend, the film follows Russell, who meets Glen on a night out. Expecting that their tryst to be just a one-night stand, both men are surprised when they find themselves connecting in the morning, but with Glen set to leave for America for good the very next day, how can they allow themselves to fall in love so fast? And while Glen battles against his feelings, refusing to allow himself fall in love, he can't help himself. But the pair are so different and their lives and ideologies are so incompatible; so is there a way they can find around all these obstacles before Glen has to leave for America? I couldn't forgive myself for spoiling the end of this film for anyone, but I have NEVER cried as much as I did in those last three minutes. And I continue to cry each time I see it.
A beautifully subtle and sensitive movie, Weekend is the first time I have seen myself up on the screen. Beyond the rich characters of all other films on this list, Weekend depicts ordinary British men falling in love, set against insurmountable odds. The stark realism of its cinematography makes it all the more believable, while its sparse use of soundtrack is perfectly judged. To anyone who has not seen Weekend, I urge you to fall in love all over again with this eminently recognisable couple.
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