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Each June, LGBTQ Pride Month serves as a dedicated time to recognize and celebrate the LGBTQ community. Whether you're a member of that community or an ally, you can attend tons of fun events, from parades to Drag bingo nights. But if you need a night off from all the public festivities or prefer a more chill way to show your pride or support, a movie marathon may be just the ticket.
Not sure what to watch first? These 50 best LGBTQ films will fit your every mood, from dramatic period pieces like Carol and Portrait Of A Lady On to educational and even eye-opening documentaries like Disclosure and Paris Is Burning.
Not only are these movies entertaining, but many of them represent important steps in LGBTQ representation in media. "Movies are one of the key places that LGBTQ people, particularly youth, often find affirmation, identification, and even community,"says Julia Himberg, PhD, associate professor and director of film and media studies at Arizona State University.
For those in the LGBTQ community, exposure to stories similar to their own can be an essential part of self-discovery and -development, especially when the viewer has just begun the process. "Seeing yourself represented on the screen can be tremendously validating," Himberg explains. "Because most LGBTQ people grow up in heteronormative families, the first images we see of ourselves are often in media."
She likens it to an "aha moment" that might spark the process of coming out to yourself. Many of the movies in this list served as such in Himberg's own life coming of age in the '90s.
Check out these must-watch LGBTQ movies to see some of her expert-approved favorites—and discover your new ones:
A Secret Love (2020)
This Netflix documentary chronicles the 65-year-long love story between Pat Henschel and former All American Girl Professional Baseball League player, Terry Donahue. They hid their relationship from their family for most of their lives.
A story about adolescence, masculinity, queerness, and Blackness, this film follows protagonist Chiron through three stages of life as he searches for love and acceptance. It won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2017, thanks to its moving performances and spellbinding storytelling.
How To Survive A Plague (2012)
This powerful documentary covers the early years of the AIDS epidemic, featuring the work of the activist groups ACT UP and TAG.
My Beautiful Laundrette (1985)
Set in London during the eighties, Omar, played by Gordon Warnecke, and Johnny, played by Daniel Day-Lewis, become caretakers and business managers of a launderette.
One of Himberg's favorite documentaries, Disclosure examines the evolving depiction of transgender people in Hollywood and the effect these stories have on the lives of other transgender people and American culture at large.
All About My Mother (1999)
This Spanish-language dramedy, directed by Pedro Almadóvar, is sad yet uplifting as it deals with both biological and chosen family. After a mother loses her teenage son in a car accident, she goes to Barcelona to find the child’s father who never knew they had a son. Her former partner, a trans woman, is now dying of AIDS.
Paris Is Burning (1990)
This documentary gives a snapshot into New York City’s ballroom culture and the Black, Latino, gay, and transgender communities involved in it, exploring race, gender, class, and sexuality.
The Death And Life Of Marsha P. Johnson (2017)
Victoria Cruz investigates the suspicious death of her friend, Marsha P. Johnson, a Black transgender woman who played a major role in the Stonewall uprising and was a major figure in the LGBTQ rights movement.
Portrait Of A Lady On Fire
A lesbian period piece, this movie is about creation—of both art and self. A painter is hired to paint the portrait of an aristocrat, and their relationship evolves into a tender and passionate love.
The Celluloid Closet (1995)
Another one of Himberg's favorites, this documentary covers how Hollywood has historically portrayed LGBT characters up until the '90s.
The Half Of It (2020)
This Netflix coming-of-age comedy features Ellie, a smart high school student, who frequently does other classmates’ homework. A football player hires her for the not-so-common job of writing love letters to his crush, Aster, who also happens to be Ellie’s crush. It'll have you shouting, "Just kiss her!" the whole time.
The Times Of Harvey Milk (1984)
This documentary chronicles the political career of Harvey Milk, San Francisco’s first openly gay supervisor and civil rights icon, from his rise as an activist and politician to his eventual assassination.
One of Himberg's recent favorites, Booksmart stars Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein as high school BFFs in this 2019 coming of age comedy directed by Olivia Wilde. After spending most of their time studying and applying to college, they try to fit all the wild fun of a "typical" high school experience into the night before graduation.
Shot entirely on the iPhone 5, this film is about Sin-Dee Rella, a transgender sex worker whose boyfriend cheats on her while she was in jail. She and her best friend, Alexandra, another trans sex worker, seek to teach him a lesson.
Pain and Glory (2019)
In this semi-autobiographical film, the main character, played by Antonio Banderas, is a gay film director visiting his past work, life, and loves, all while dealing with both physical and emotional pain.
The Handmaiden (2016)
In this South Korean erotic psychological thriller, a Korean woman is hired as the handmaiden of a Japanese lady living on an isolated estate. Secretly, the handmaiden has a plot to defraud her new boss.
A recent favorite of Himberg's, this coming of age movie is explicitly about Black queerness. Teenager Pariah navigates pressure and rejection from friends and family as she embraces her sexuality.
A Fantastic Woman (2017)
This Spanish-language drama tells the story of a young transgender woman, Daniela Vega, living in Chile who is suddenly faced with the tragic death of her boyfriend.
Based on the lesbian pulp fiction, "The Price of Salt," popular in the 1950s and 1960s, this period piece is about a young woman (Rooney Mara) electrified by meeting Carol (Cate Blanchett), a woman established in her queer identity. Both women resist acting within the norms of the time and long for freedom and independence.
The Normal Heart (2014)
Mark Ruffalo stars as an openly gay writer from New York who seeks to spread awareness of the prominence of HIV/AIDS in the early 1980s.
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)
Starring Terence Stamp, Hugo Weaving, and Guy Pearce, this movie follows two drag queens and a transgender woman as they take a tour bus named Priscilla on a road trip across the Australian outback.
Call Me By Your Name (2017)
Elio (Timothée Chalamet) and Oliver (Armie Hammer) find romance and desire during a picturesque summer in rural Northern Italy.
Starring Sean Penn, this biopic details the harrowing life of Harvey Milk and his lasting impact on the LGBTQ rights movement.
The Favourite (2018)
In 18th-century England, two cousins (Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone) seek to be the court "favorite" of Queen Anne, played by Olivia Colman, who won an Oscar for her leading actress performance.
Hedwig And The Angry Inch (2001)
In the mood for an edgy rock musical? This movie adaptation of the hit Broadway show is about Hedwig Robinson, a genderqueer rock singer.
Love, Simon (2018)
High schooler Simon develops a romantic connection with an anonymous classmate online, but their burgeoning relationship becomes threatened when someone threatens to "out" him to the whole school. Simon learns how to share his sexuality with his family and friends on his terms.
Desert Hearts (1985)
Another adaptation of a lesbian pulp novel, this is one of the first wide-release movies depicting female queerness in a positive light. A woman seeking divorce has to establish residency in Nevada. Luckily, there is a ranch exclusively for this type of situation, where the recent divorcée finds unexpected love—and herself.
The Watermelon Woman (1996)
An independent film written, directed, and starring Cheryl Dunye, this was the first movie released by a Black lesbian woman in America. Almost autobiographical in nature, it tells the story of a woman working in a video store who discovers a Black woman is uncredited in movies. She decides to refer to her as the Watermelon Woman, which leads her to investigate Black women’s and lesbians' identity in film as a whole.
Made by the team behind The Matrix, this crime thriller is filled with sex, the Mafia, and a growing lesbian romance between a handywoman and her client. Their passionate love affair makes this already fast-paced movie incredibly sexy and fun.
Blue is the Warmest Color (2013)
In this French film, a teen discovers her own desire after seeing a mysterious woman with blue hair.
Boys Don't Cry (1999)
Based on the true story of Brandon Teena, Boys Don’t Cry stars Hilary Swank as the young transgender man. The film chronicles a fictionalized version of his experiences with incredible intolerance and violence in Nebraska.
Parting Glances (1986)
As one of the first American films to address the AIDS epidemic, this film takes a looks into the urban gay life of the '80s over a 24-hour period.
Fire is one of the first mainstream Bollywood films to explicitly show homosexual relations and the first to feature a lesbian couple. One of Himberg's '90s favorites, this romantic drama is about two women who find love in each other after their husbands leave them.
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger play gay cowboys in this film that questions the meaning of masculinity. Amidst beautiful imagery that represents isolation, these men find peace with each other for blips of time alone in the wilderness. But, they always have to part ways and go on with their separate, heteronormative-seeming lives.
Hugh Grant and James Willby fall in love against the backdrop of a lovely English countryside setting. Written by James Ivory, who also wrote Call Me By Your Name, this film is another period piece about longing and desire for intimacy in a repressive and restrictive society.
Thelma And Louise (1991)
Best friends Thelma (Geena Davis) and Louise (Susan Sarandon) escape their men and dull lives in Arkansas by going on a road trip that turns into fleeing from the law. Besties committed to each other over everything else—this movie was ahead of its time.
Mulholland Dr. (2001)
In this dreamlike and twisty thriller, Naomi Watts plays a new LA resident who meets a woman unsure of her identity, due to a recent car accident. Together, they try to find out who she really is in this David Lynch film that some call the best of the 21st century.
Battle of the Sexes (2017)
Starring Emma Stone and Steve Carell, this movie is about the 1972 tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs. While on tour playing tennis, King begins an affair with her hairdresser, Marilyn Barnett, and begins to come to terms with her own sexuality.
Based on Virginia Woolf’s novel of the same name, this movie addresses gender fluidity and identity. Tilda Swinton plays Orlando, a young nobleman commanded by Queen Elizabeth to not grow old. Orlando magically lives for 400 years in this unexplainable and imaginative film.
Happy Together (1997)
Directed by Wong Kar-wai, this movie recounts the relationship of two men over many years as they are continually drawn together and pulled into each other’s orbit.
The Color Purple (1985)
Based on Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, this coming of age period drama features Danny Glover, Whoopi Goldberg, and Oprah Winfrey. The story spans 40 years of a Black woman's life finding her identity after experiencing abuse.
Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington star in one of the first mainstream Hollywood movies to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic, homosexuality, and homophobia. Lawyer Andrew Beckett tries to hide his homosexuality and his HIV status at work, but is eventually fired when someone finds out. He joins forces with Joe Miller, another lawyer, to sue his place of work for discrimination.
High Art (1998)
A woman falls into a professional relationship with her upstairs neighbor who is a photographer, but their connection soon turns sexual.
Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)
Evelyn, a housewife played by Kathy Bates, becomes friends with an elderly woman in a nursing home in 1940s Alabama. The older woman tells stories of a Depression-era friendship between two women she used to know that, watched with the right eyes, can be seen as filled with romance and longing.
Go Fish (1994)
Another '90s favorite of Himberg's, this is what film buffs call "a slice of life" movie. Go Fish really doesn’t have a plot, but instead celebrates lesbian culture in all its everyday-ness, stacked with a full cast of gay characters.
Julianne Moore and Elliot Page star in this movie about two women, taking place in the early 2000s. Julianne's character is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and wants to leave her pension benefits to her partner, but their marriage isn't recognized.
Fans of Agent Cody Banks will enjoy this campy movie that isn’t necessarily "good," but is somehow still iconic. The gist? There's a secret test hidden in the SATs that subliminally tracks your ability to lie. If you pass, you're accepted into a secret spy school. Featuring a lesbian romance between a student and a thief, funny spy gadgets, and surprisingly kinda big-name stars, this film will have you LOL-ing.
But I'm A Cheerleader (1999)
This is a sweet, campy lesbian classic about falling in love at a gay conversion therapy camp starring Clea DuVall and Natasha Lyonne. The movie plays with gender roles and ideals while expressing the ideas of queer acceptance and finding your place. It features not just a few gay characters, but an entire queer community.
To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar (1995)
In this American response to The Adventures of Priscilla, three NYC drag queens go on a road trip.
Imagine Me and You (2005)
In the mood for something like My Best Friend's Wedding? Imagine yourself watching Imagine Me and You. On her wedding day, a woman meets an alluring florist, and the chance interaction makes her question if she’s ever been in love with her husband-to-be.
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