With so many movies focusing on cisgender straight people and their relationships, some might find it difficult to find some films with well-written or even stereotype-defying characters who are LGBT. Here is a list in no particular order of films and documentaries that are a great way to celebrate PRIDE.
I’ve already written a review for this so I won’t spend too much time talking about this, but if you want a funny movie with great acting that also has a gay main character, this is worth a watch.
‘Love, Simon’ was released in cinemas in Australia in March. Screenings are now more limited, but the film should be out on DVD soon.
But I’m a Cheerleader
This sharp satire is about a girl who everyone knows is a lesbian – except her. After all, she is a cheerleader so she’s convinced herself that she couldn’t possibly be gay. Her parents send her to a gay conversion camp where gay teenage boys and girls are made to fulfil gender roles and work to ‘cure’ their homosexuality. How can a group of gay people being so close to each other resist the ‘sinful temptation’ of kissing each other? Well, they don’t, so chaos ensues.
This film is both exaggerated and realistic, using real tactics utilised by gay conversion therapists. It is as believable as it is absurd, making it work perfectly as a satire. It breaks down stereotypes and highlights how ridiculous they are while also succeeding as a sweet romance.
‘But I’m a Cheerleader’ is available on DVD.
This heartfelt romance between an openly gay party boy and a Mormon missionary who the party boy tries to woo has a surprising amount of depth. The ideas of clashing cultures and the divide between homosexuality and religion are not new, but ‘Latter Days’ doesn’t demonize religion and instead presents it in a nuanced way, with it giving as much comfort to the characters as it does pain, and inspiring as much charity as it does bigotry.
The main characters are complex and have enough in common that their romance is credible, unlike so many rushed romances in films that make no sense. I must warn you that the film gets darker later on, but if you can survive the characters’ struggles with them you will likely be pleased with the heartwarming ending.
‘Latter Days’ is available on DVD.
This film about a relatively unknown part of British history (or at least unknown to us Australians) is the kind of story that will fill people with, what else, pride. It is a celebration of the work that LGBT people have put into not only their own rights but also the rights of other groups like miners. It is a joy watching two groups that at first seem like a mismatch, given the LGBT people’s reservations about the miners’ homophobia, work together towards a common goal. The result is a fascinating look into the minds of people trying to balance their public image with their true self.
‘Pride’ is available on DVD and is easy to find.
I feel like this is going to become a classic. Based on the 1952 pulp novel by famed thriller author Patricia Highsmith, this film still has her sense of tension and intrigue despite being a romance rather than a thriller. It tells the story of a young woman who falls for an older woman who comes to the store she works at. The more she finds out about this woman, who is currently going through a divorce, the more danger she puts herself in.
Featuring chillingly believable performances by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, excellent attention to historical detail and hypnotising visuals, ‘Carol’ is a film that even people who aren’t interested in lesbian romance can enjoy.
‘Carol’ is available on DVD and is easy to find.
Speaking of modern classics, this is mandatory viewing for anyone interested in same-gender romance or romance period. The tale of an affair between two ranchers is as adeptly made as it is culturally important. There is a reason this is one of the more well-known LGBT films, and that is how grand and cinematic it is compared to many other LGBT movies of the time, which were and still are frequently stuck in the indie circuit and have a minimal budget. This grandness perfectly fits the story as it takes place over many years and features wonderfully complex characters. If you want to start entering the wild world of LGBT-themed cinema, this is an excellent place to start.
‘Brokeback Mountain’ is available on DVD and is easy to find.
This film may be a controversial inclusion due to the stereotypical nature of the characters. However, there is an important message to this film that would not be as poignant if it were not for these stereotypical portrayals. It criticises the idea of forcing flamboyant gay men to suppress their femininity in order to fit in with straight society, which is what the son of the main character tries to do to his father to appear normal in front of his fiancé’s homophobic parents. With feminine gay men receiving particular hatred in society, even from other gay men, this message is vital. The film is also hilarious and quotable, so even if you don’t care about the moral of the film you will still likely find something to enjoy.
‘The Birdcage’ is available on Stan and DVD.
Action? Check. Mystery? Check. Characters that will melt your heart? Triple check. This anime dramedy is about the families homeless people form with each other and the quest of one such family to return an abandoned baby to her mother. One of the homeless people is transgender and she is a well-rounded character with as much range as the other characters. I recommend this more if you know Japanese, as the subtitled DVD in Australia is not accurate to how the original writers portray this transgender character, using he/him pronouns and mistranslating a transphobic slur a villainous character says as an insult separate from gender, despite that slur being part of her backstory. I hope a more accurate translation gets sold in the future as the fun soundtrack, developed characters and smooth animation deserve better.
‘Tokyo Godfathers’ is readily available on DVD and iTunes.
Here is an unusual film- a lesbian friendship story rather than a romance. The film is about what happens when a straight girl finds out that her roommate is gay and is outraged that she didn’t trust her enough to come out to her. There is a good mixture of drama and comedy here, with the comedy being especially charming. There are clever lines everywhere in this film as well as a level of awkwardness that most people, gay or otherwise, can relate to.
‘Almost Adults’ is available on Netflix.
This is at the end of the list because it should be watched at night, or at least shouldn’t be watched with your family or out in public. This erotic psychological thriller has cleverly-shot twists and turns that will send you on a journey from confusion to the strong assertion that this film is genius. This masterpiece is about a thief hired by a man to accompany him as a maid on his mission to marry a rich woman for her money, only for the rich woman to fall for the ‘maid’. A lot more happens that I refuse to spoil because it must be seen. The lesbian relationship’s complicated nature will send you on a rollercoaster. If you can stomach graphic depictions of violence and sex, I cannot recommend this film enough.
‘The Handmaiden’ is available on Netflix.
The Hidden History of Homosexual Australia
This is an informative SBS documentary about an often overlooked topic. What else is there to say when your reason to see it is in the title?
‘The Hidden History of Homosexual Australia’ is available on DVD.
The Celluloid Closet
If you think homosexuality in Hollywood is a recent phenomenon, this well-researched and visually engaging documentary will quickly destroy that thought. ‘The Celluloid Closet’ is especially recommended for people who are interested in the golden age of cinema.
‘The Celluloid Closet’ is available on DVD.
Paris is Burning
If you want to understand the slang that’s thrown around in the show ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ or just want to learn about the history of drag queens, watching this should be at the top of your to-do list. This documentary presents the lives of disenfranchised gay and transgender people in Harlem who live the fantasy of more privileged groups in intense drag balls. ‘Paris is Burning’ is one of the most fascinating documentaries I have ever seen.
‘Paris is Burning’ is available on Netflix.
Do I Sound Gay?
A documentary about a guy trying to find a speech therapist to help his voice sound less stereotypically gay becomes a thought-provoking conversation starter about the reasons why some gay men are feminine and whether that’s even something a gay man should change about himself.
‘Do I Sound Gay?’ is available on DVD and is easy to find.
A Jihad for Love
This is an eye-opener that uncovers the ‘non-existent’ world of gay Muslims. If you want to learn about the surprising range of opinions on homosexuality in Islamic cultures and history, this is a must-watch.
‘A Jihad for Love’ is available on DVD.