In honour of National Coming Out Day on October 11, we’ve been thinking about a lot of our favourite LGBT movies. From the modern-day rom-coms like “Love, Simon” all the way back to hard-hitting dramas like “Midnight Cowboy” – and everything in between – we’ve been debating which movies are our all-time favourites.
In light of this, I’ve put together my own personal list of my favourite LGBT films – ‘my’ and ‘personal’ are the operative words here. This list is entirely my own opinion and personal preferences, this is not a definitive ranking of what are ‘the best’ LGBT films. Merely, this is a list of which films resonated with me the most.
But please, join in the debate in the comment section and tell us about your favourite LGBT films and why – and whether or not you agree with my own list. You may think I’m right, you may think I’m an idiot. Who knows? Who cares? Either way, join in this discussion and celebration of LGBT cinema!
10. “Maurice” (1987)
Director: James Ivory
Starring: Hugh Grant, James Wilby
After his lover rejects him, a young man trapped by the oppressiveness of Edwardian society tries to come to terms with and accept his sexuality.
Typical to open with a Merchant-Ivory picture on this list, but Hugh Grant is irresistible in this underrated film that deserved more awards notice than it got – only one Oscar, for Best Costume Design. Grant should have been considered for Best Actor for his against-type performance here. Grant has recently played a gay man again in the BBC mini-series “A Very English Scandal,” in which he plays closeted politician Jeremy Thorpe. Expect him to be in the Emmy mix for that next year.
9. “The Pass” (2016)
Director: Ben A. Williams
Starring: Russell Tovey, Arinze Kene
Director: Matthew Warchus
Starring: Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Dominic West, Andrew Scott
U.K. gay activists work to help miners during their lengthy strike of the National Union of Mineworkers in the summer of 1984.
This British-underdog story (we’re good at making those, aren’t we?) features the cream of the British acting crop and demands to be attributed a better adjective than ‘feel-good,’ despite it being entirely so. It’s a joyous film to watch, not shying away from the hard issues but always reminding that there is light at the end of the homophobic tunnel, which a lot of gay films fail to do. Dominic West is a particular delight, playing the ‘flamboyant’ Jonathan (“by ‘flamboyant,’ you mean gay,” he quips in the film) – this one is on Netflix so it’s worth a watch.
7. “Boys” (2014)
Director: Mischa Kamp
Starring: Gijs Blom, Jonas Smulders
A sexually awakening gay teen athlete finds himself in a budding relationship with his mutually attracted relay race teammate.
Okay, okay. So, firstly, this will be, by far, the least known title on this list. It’s a Dutch film that I stumbled across one late night Netflix and chilling (on my own, might I add…), so it’s not very well known at all. Secondly, this is actually a TV-movie so technically I am cheating by adding this onto the list. However, it is such a simple, well-made, touching and relatable film that I just had to. It’s a coming-of-age story where a boy realises he loves another boy. And it’s that simplicity that makes it so good. It’s an easy watch, but one you will want to revisit.
6. “Call Me By Your Name” (2017)
Director: Luca Guadagnino
Starring: Timothee Chalamet, Armie Hammer, Michael Stuhlbarg
In 1980s Italy, a romance blossoms between a seventeen-year-old student and the older man hired as his father’s research assistant.
I will probably be slated for having this movie this low down the list, but oh well. It is a great film, truly. Timothee Chalamet‘s performance was deserving of the Best Actor Oscar – I’d argue he deserved to win above Gary Oldman last year. It’s a natural, charismatic, affecting performance full of raw emotion. The last scene alone, where Chalamet’s Elio stares into the fire and cries, is affecting enough. And boy, does it make you want to holiday in Italy, right? It’s a beautiful film, but there are others I prefer and a few flaws in the film preventing it from being ranked higher. Armie Hammer never fully convinces as the older, intellectual character described in the book, nor does he performance feel as nuanced or accomplished or natural as Chalamet’s.
5. “A Single Man” (2009)
Director: Tom Ford
Starring: Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Matthew Goode
An English professor, one year after the sudden death of his boyfriend, is unable to cope with his typical days in 1960s Los Angeles.
Tom Ford made his directorial debut with this film, which is really quite annoying. His film is as effortless and stylish as any and it was his debut – so many directors would fail to create such style and tone in a career full of films, and Ford did it in one. And Colin Firth, the master of playing restrained, stiff-upper-lip, emotionally-muted characters, knocks it out of the park. Emotion creeps in, when necessary, and it is heart-breaking, but Firth proves again what he is so good at – and earned his first Oscar-nomination for it. Watch this one for Firth and Ford, with the added bonus of an always-great Julianne Moore.
4. “The Kids Are All Right” (2010)
Director: Lisa Cholodenko
Starring: Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo
Two children conceived by artificial insemination bring their biological father into their non-traditional family life.
As good as Natalie Portman was in her Best Actress performance in “Black Swan,” Annette Bening was utterly robbed of that Academy Award. Portman beat her to it, but Bening should have climbed those steps to the Oscar podium instead. Bening, at her most emotionally-devastating (that dinner scene where she sings through tears – oh lord) is nothing short of phenomenal in this film – and her easy chemistry with Julianne Moore, who is also great, is one of the many reasons this is such a great piece of LGBT cinema. Mark Ruffalo, who earned the first of his trio of Best Supporting Actor nods for this film, also shines. Cholodenko’s is an acting, and writing, masterclass.
3. “Brokeback Mountain” (2005)
Director: Ang Lee
Starring: Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, Michelle Williams.
The story of a forbidden and secretive relationship between two cowboys, and their lives over the years.
Talking of masterclasses – Ang Lee‘s mercurial masterpiece is a masterclass in every area of filmmaking possible. Led by the beautiful Heath Ledger, this is a gut-wrenching film to watch no matter how many times you’ve seen it. Heath Ledger lost the Best Actor Oscar to Philip Seymour-Hoffman in “Capote,” but would have won any other year, while Jake Gyllenhaal and Michelle Williams can count themselves unlucky to have lost their Supporting Actor/Actress bids, respectively. Gyllenhaal lost to George Clooney (“Syriana”), while Williams lost to Rachel Weisz (“The Constant Gardener”). The biggest and most infamous loss, however, is the Best Picture bid it was widely expected to win but ended up losing to “Crash.” There’s nothing more to say about it. This film is not just landmark LGBT cinema, it’s landmark cinema. Simple.
2. “Carol” (2015)
Director: Todd Haynes
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson, Kyle Chandler
An aspiring photographer develops an intimate relationship with an older woman in 1950s New York.
This is kind of like the female version of “Brokeback Mountain,” right? Two people of the same sex fall in love in a forbidden relationship with devastating consequences in a period setting. But it’s the style, gloss, and class of Hayne’s film that it is just so great. Every single frame is sumptuous and as gorgeous to look at as Blanchett and Mara are in this movie. They are utterly convincing as two women in love and their performances are so easy to watch, even if tragedy looms around every corner. Rooney Mara lost her Best Supporting Actress bid to Alicia Vikander in “The Danish Girl” (2015 – another solid LGBT movie which just missed out on this list) in one of the most competitive Supporting Actress categories in recent years. Cate Blanchett, meanwhile, lost to Brie Larson in “Room.” Larson was great, but I’d personally have given Blanchett the Best Actress Oscar.
1. “Love, Simon”
Director: Greg Berlanti
Starring: Nick Robinson, Jennifer Garner, Josh Duhamel.
Ah, I can almost hear the outraged rants being furiously hammered out in the comments section. Let me get one thing clear: yes, this film is not as good as a piece of cinema as, say, “Carol,” “Brokeback Mountain” or “Call Me By Your Name.” It’s not as academic, it’s not as expertly crafted or nuanced, Nick Robinson‘s performance isn’t nearly as good as Chalamet’s in “Call Me By Your Name.” All of that is true. But this is my favourite LGBT film ever for a completely different set of reasons.
So many LGBT films utilise the same old mantra: the gay people in their stories have to suffer throughout in some sort of 50’s mindset of gay people having to suffer in order to atone for their sins of, well, being gay. That’s why so many LGBT films, plays, books, etc, are so heavy and tragic and sad. This film, while the gay character in it does struggle, of course (as every gay person struggles for/due to being gay at some point in their lives), does not adhere to that.
Instead, this mainstream, romantic comedy represents a new era of LGBT cinema – one we haven’t previously. The mainstream, mass-appealing, fun, film where the gay person gets their happy ending and not some brooding, melancholy one. Like the film’s tagline says: everybody deserves a love story. And this film will do more for LGBT awareness in society and our culture than most other LGBT films, precisely because it’s an easier watch and one that more people will see because it is a mainstream movie and not a cult piece of cinema. Some have called this film fluff in comparison to other LGBT pictures but I have never seen a movie more directly relatable, more emotionally-affecting (I cried five times, both happy and sad tears) movie than this. So bring on even more mainstream fluff!