My friend Anthony Levitt came to me and suggested that we did a Top 5 on LGBTQ+ films, and given that we are currently in the middle of Pride month I thought this was an excellent opportunity to celebrate some of that representation on the silver screen. Now I have to confess that I’ve actually seen very few films with LGBTQ+ themes and characters at their heart, and this virtually exhausted my list, but I shall endeavour to see more. With that in mind let’s get into our picks for the Top 5 LGBTQ+ Films.
- Shuggie: Blue Is The Warmest Colour – At its heart Blue is the Warmest Colour is a Coming of Age film revolving around a lesbian relationship between Adèle Exarchopoulos’ Adèle and Léa Seydoux’s Emma. Where Blue is the Warmest Colour absolutely succeeds is in showing the relationship between the two. It doesn’t treat their relationship as a statement, and instead just shows a very honest and real portrayal of young, deep love and how it brings a character like Adèle out of her shell. Led by two superb performances, Blue is the Warmest Colour is a great exploration of a young lesbian couple coming from very different backgrounds.
- Anthony: Kill Your Darlings – Set in the early 1940s, this biographical film follows Allen Ginsberg, an English major at Columbia University, only to find himself drawn to revolutionary colleagues like Lucien Carr, William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac. Together, this gang would explore bold new literary ideas that would challenge the sensibilities of their time as the future Beat Generation. The underground nature of their counterculture blends effortlessly with the open yet hidden world of homosexuality in this period. The darker themes slowly enter and draw you deeper into the story, and its sometimes difficult to remember this is biographical rather than a true drama (albeit from Ginsberg’s perspective).
- Shuggie: Brokeback Mountain – Brokeback Mountain is one of the poster films for LGBTQ representation in mainstream cinema. Ang Lee’s film about two America cowboys, and the romance they shared throughout their lives, achieved huge commercial success, as well as scooping up 3 Oscars, and ridiculously loosing out on the Best Picture prize to Crash. Brokeback Mountain is such a powerful and emotional story, and explores these two lives through their relationship. This is easily the most emotionally devastating film on this list, and Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal give brilliant and heart wrenching performances.
- Anthony: The Way He Looks (Hoje Eu Quero Voltar Sozinho) – is a 2014 Brazilian coming-of-age romantic drama shot entirely in São Paulo. The story centres on Leonardo, a blind high school student struggling with independence. Whilst there are also elements of love triangles, and coming of age themes, it also touches on the idea that those with disabilities fear they won’t ever find love, especially in the unfortunately shallow world of gay dating. This is an incredibly moving film, entirely in Portuguese, and opened my mind to many parts of the LGBTQ+ community I hadn’t even considered previously.
- Shuggie: Carol – Carol is a very different exploration of a lesbian relationship to Blue is the Warmest Colour. Focusing on an older woman, Carol Aird, who is going through a difficult divorce in the 1950s when such relationships weren’t allowed. Led by brilliant performances from the always wonderful Cate Blanchett alongside Rooney Mara, Carol is a beautiful and truly emotional adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Price of Salt. Everything in Todd Haynes’ film is so well executed that it really brought these characters and their relationship to life.
- Anthony: Boy Meets Girl – Not to be confused with the 2015 BBC TV series of the same name and transgender themes, Boy Meets Girl is a 2014 American Romance film starring Michelle Hendley, a transgender actress, as Ricky, a transgender woman living in a small town in Kentucky, looking for love. It covers many topics, such as small town politics, the separation of sexuality and gender, and the implications of knowing someone by their deadname. It also looks at how society, and even those involved, view relationships with transgender women. An example of this is when a straight man and transgender woman are in a heterosexual relationship; does it qualify as queer? This movie explores deep questions, whilst having it wrapped up in a sweet southern package, making it easier to digest.
- Shuggie: Moonlight – Another very new film, Moonlight was a beautiful and incredibly moving portrait of the life of a young gay, black, man living in a poor Miami community. The main character, Chiron, is incredibly played by three different actors; Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes. All three manage to capture the internal struggle within Chiron, and whether to hide who he truly is to be more accepted by his community. Everything about Moonlight is absolutely triumphant in its execution, Barry Jenkins script and direction is incredible, the cinematography from James Laxton is stunning, and every acting performance is note perfect. Moonlight is a brilliant portrayal not just of a gay man, but a gay person of colour, a group that far too often gets overlooked and not considered.
- Anthony: Bridegroom – This documentary chronicles the story of Shane Bitney Crone and his same-sex partner Thomas Lee “Tom” Bridegroom, who died in a tragic accident. After Bridegroom’s death, Crone found himself cut off and deprived of any legal protection. The film tells the story of their 6-year-long relationship, and the struggles Crone faced after Bridegroom’s death, including the family not allowing Crone to attend the funeral of his life partner. This emotional film is hard viewing, but really shows how legal ramifications can still separate LGBTQ+ people from mainstream society, making us 2nd class citizens.
- Shuggie: Pride – Oh boy how can I convey just how much I love Pride? Way back at the end of 2014 I labeled it one of my absolute favourite films of that year, and looking back now, it probably sits right at the top of that list. Telling the story of a small LGBTQ+ group (Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners) who decide to support the miners during their strike in Thatcher’s Britain in the 1980s. The best way they can do this is by joining with one small mining village in Northern Wales, Onllwyn. Packed with some genuinely incredible acting talent, Pride boasts the likes of Joe Gilgun, Dominic West, Andrew Scott, Imelda Staunton, Paddy Considine, Bill Nighy, and a brilliant turn from Ben Schnetzer as LGSM founder Mark Ashton. Pride is so funny and moving all at once, and come the end will leave you with a great, warm, joyous and hopefully feeling.
- Anthony: Paris Is Burning – This is the quintessential almanac of the lingo, culture, and minorities within the LGBTQ+ community itself. Filmed in the mid-to-late 1980s, it chronicles the ball culture of New York City and the African-American, Latino, gay, and transgender communities involved in it. It is widely considered an invaluable documentary of the end of the “Golden Age” of New York City drag balls, and a thoughtful exploration of race, class, gender, and sexuality in America. The current white gentrification of queer minority culture in modern society is appalling, and doesn’t pay homage to the incredibly difficult lives lead by those who came before us and paved the way for us modern gays. Any self-respecting gay man should watch this, if not to expand their horizons, then to at least learn the difference between reading someone for filth, and just straight up hurling insults. Because Henny, Reading is FUNDERMENTAL!
So those are our favourite LGBTQ+ films. Let me know what you think of our choices, and which films you would choose in the comments.