LGBTQ+ Cinema: 50 Outstanding LGBTQ+ Films
*MAJOR UPDATE IN PROGRESS* I’m revising this entire website, including LGBTQ+ Literature and Film. Thank you for understanding.
Here are 50 Outstanding LGBTQ-Themed Films (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, plus), released between 1919 and the present, including several international works. These pictures represent a wide range of genres, from drama to comedy to documentary, even a science fiction musical comedy. By “outstanding” I mean both that dramatic structure, visual/sound design and performance come together in exceptional ways (detailed in Film Guide), and that there is also an insightful exploration of GLBT experience.
Most, but not all, of these pictures were made by LGBTQ+ directors. Several great filmmakers not represented here – including Murnau, Cocteau, Eisenstein, Cukor, Carné, Olivier, and Vincente Minnelli – were bisexual or gay, but because of censorship they could not directly explore GLBT experience in their work. On another page, I list notable GLBT-themed films made by prominent directors who are not GLBTQ-identified; some of those films are included below.
For more information, titles are linked to the Internet Movie Database (IMDb); several also link to my reviews. For each film, I’ve indicated its director, release year, country of origin, genre(s), and whether it has substantial gay (G), lesbian (L), bisexual (B), and/or transgender (T) content. A gold star indicates my “Top 10” picks; my #1 choice is the ever-controversial Fellini Satyricon. Also see the other LGBTQ+ Film resources at this site. LATEST!
This 50 Outstanding LGBTQ+ Films list, of course, continues to evolve.
It is agonizing to replace any films here, but between 2011 and 2013, I added Lisa Cholodenko’s wise comedy/drama The Kids Are All Right, the riveting science-fiction thriller Torchwood: Children of Earth (directed by Euros Lyn; Torchwood series by Russell T Davies, who also created Queer As Folk), and the so-far two connected films (get out your handkechiefs, but not always for sadness) from Israeli director Eytan Fox, Yossi & Jagger and its recent continuation Yossi. Besides the pictures below, also take a look at Fassbinder‘s poignant Fox and His Friends (1975 — three other Fassbinder pictures remain on this list), Hettie MacDonald’s Beautiful Thing (1996), Urbania (2000 — directed by Jon Matthews as “Jon Shear”), lesbian novelist and filmmaker Shamim Sarif’s romantic drama I Can’t Think Straight (2008), and the tender coming out story of two rural Germans in Benjamin Cantu’s Harvest (original title Stadt Land Fluss / 2011).
September 2020: UPDATED LIST COMING SOON — FILMS TO BE ADDED will include: Beach Rats, Call Me By Your Name, Captain America: The Winter Soldier [courting controversy], Carol, Green Book, Midnight, Pariah, Tangerine, Weekend (Haigh) — I still need/want to see: Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Céline Sciamma) and some additional films that have been highly recommended. To compensate for pictures removed from the 50 list, below I’m adding Additional Outstanding LGBTQ+ Films.
50 Outstanding LGBTQ+ Films
- All About My Mother (Pedro Almodóvar / 1999 / Spain – drama) – GLBT
- Being John Malkovich (Spike Jonze / 1999 / US – comedy / fantasy) – LBT
- Beware of a Holy Whore [the tongue-in-cheek title refers to cinema] (Rainer Werner Fassbinder / 1971 / Germany – comedy / drama) – GLBT [my review and Fassbinder Website]
- The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (Rainer Werner Fassbinder / 1972 / Germany – drama) – LB [my review and Fassbinder Website]
- Bound (The Wachowskis / 1996 / US – suspense) – LB
- * Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee / 2005 / US – drama) – GB [my review]
- Cabaret (Bob Fosse / 1972 / US – musical drama) – GBT
- The Celluloid Closet (Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman / 1995 / US – documentary) – GLBT
- The Conformist (Bernardo Bertolucci / 1970 / Italy – drama) – GB
- The Consequence (Wolfgang Petersen / 1977 / Germany – drama) – GB [my review]
- The Crying Game (Neil Jordan / 1992 / Ireland – romantic drama) – GBT
- Desert Hearts (Donna Deitch / 1985 / US – romantic drama) – LB [my review]
- Different From the Others (Anders als die Andern: Paragraph 175) (Richard Oswald / 1919 / Germany – drama) – G [my review]
- Doña Herlinda and Her Son (Jaime Humberto Hermosillo / 1985 / Mexico – comedy) – GB [my review]
- Edward II (Derek Jarman / 1991 / UK – historical drama / experimental) – GB [my review and Jarman Website]
- ** Fellini Satyricon (Federico Fellini / 1969 / Italy – historical fantasy-drama) – GLBT [my mini-review]
- Happy Together (Wong Kar-wai / 1997 / Hong Kong – romantic drama / experimental) – GB
- The Haunting (Robert Wise / 1963 / US – horror) – LB [my mini-review]
- * Heavenly Creatures (Peter Jackson / 1994 / New Zealand – historical romantic drama) – L [my mini-review]
- In a Year With 13 Moons (Rainer Werner Fassbinder / 1978 / Germany – comedy / drama / experimental) – TGB [my review and Fassbinder Website]
- I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing (Patricia Rozema / 1987 / Canada – comedy / drama) – LB
- The Kids Are All Right (Lisa Cholodenko / 2010 / US – comedy / drama) – LB
- Kiss of the Spider Woman (Hecto Babenço / 1985 – drama) – GB
- * Maurice (James Ivory – Merchant/Ivory / 1987 / UK – romantic drama) – GB [my review]
- Mikaël (Carl Th. Dreyer / 1924 Denmark – drama) – GB [my review]
- Mulholland Dr. (David Lynch / 2001 / US – suspense / experimental) – LB
- The Music Lovers (Ken Russell / 1971 / UK – historical drama) – GB
- My Beautiful Laundrette (Stephen Frears / 1986 / UK – drama) – GB
- * My Own Private Idaho (Gus Van Sant / 1991 / US – drama) – GB [my review]
- The Opposite of Sex (Don Roos / 1998 / US – comedy) – GB [my mini-review]
- Paris is Burning (Jennie Livingston / 1991 / US – documentary) – TLGB
- Paris Was A Woman (Greta Schiller / 1995 / US – documentary) – GLBT [my review]
- Parting Glances (Bill Sherwood / 1986 / US – comedy / drama) – G
- Picnic at Hanging Rock (Peter Weir / 1975 / Australia – suspense) – LB
- Poison (Todd Haynes / 1991 / US – experimental drama) – GB
- The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Jim Sharman / 1975 / UK – science fiction / musical comedy) – GLBT
- Salò (Pier Paolo Pasolini / 1975 / Italy – horrific drama) – GBT [my review and my Pasolini Website]
- Sebastiane (Derek Jarman & Paul Humfress / 1976 / UK – historical drama) – GB [my review and Jarman Website]
- Shelter (Jonah Markowitz / 2007 / US – drama) – GB
- Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder / 1959 / US – comedy) – TGB
- Stories from the War on Homosexuality: Coming Out Under Fire (1994), Licensed to Kill (1997) & Family Fundamentals (2002) (Arthur Dong / US – documentary) – GLBT [my reviews]
- Strangers on a Train (Alfred Hitchcock / 1951 / US – suspense) – GB [my mini-review and in-depth analysis of a scene]
- Sunday Bloody Sunday (John Schlesinger / 1971 / UK – drama) – GB [my review]
- Swoon (Tom Kalin / 1992 / US – suspense / biographical / experimental) – GB
- Torchwood: Children of Earth (Euros Lyn; Torchwood series created by Russell T Davies / 2009 / UK – science fiction) – GBL
- Un Chant d’Amour (Jean Genet / 1950 / France – drama / experimental) – GB [my review]
- Victim (Basil Dearden / 1961 / UK – suspense) – GB [my review]
- The Watermelon Woman (Cheryl Dunye / 1996 – drama) – LGB
- The Wedding Banquet (Ang Lee / 1993 / Hong Kong & US – comedy / drama) – G
- Yossi & Jagger and Yossi (Eytan Fox / 2002 and 2012 / Israel – drama) – GB
Additional Outstanding LGBTQ+ Films
- list coming soon — it will include all of the films I’ve pruned from the above 50 list, plus more pictures.
Begun 1997 / Revised September 4, 2020