FROM INDIE QUEER CINEMA TO THE HOLLYWOOD MAINSTREAM, THE PINK LENS PUTS THE DEPICTION OF LGBT+ PEOPLE IN CINEMA IN THE UK UNDER THE MICROSCOPE.
BEST OF THE 10s
50. ROOM IN ROME (2000)
Starring: Elena Anaya, Natasha Yarovenko
Director: Julio Medem
In this erotic Spanish drama, we follow two women over the course of a single night during their vacations in Rome. With one insisting that she’s straight, the night initially depicts the slow breakdown of her boundaries after they meet in a club. Practically a 90 minute duologue in a bedroom, the sexual tension from the opening scene is palpable and sustained throughout the film, creating a genuinely engaging piece about lust, sexuality and sexual awakenings. Where most erotic films fail, this succeeds entirely in giving a compelling narrative as well as not holding back in depicting sex on screen. Between two very attractive women.
48. THEO & HUGO (2016)
Starring: Geoffrey Couët, François Nambot
Director: Olivier Ducastel, Jacques Martineau
After two men meet in a sauna, they embark on a night wandering Paris together after they realised they shared a connection that neither have felt before. But when one reveals that he is HIV+ and they engaged in unprotected sex together, this initial deception seems poised to undermine the likelihood of their relationship ever finding its way to reality.
46. THE WOUND (2018)
Starring: Nakane Thouré, Niza Jay Ncoyini, Bongile Mantsai
Director: John Trengove
Xolani is a part of the Xhosa community in rural South Africa. Each year, a cohort of male teenagers participate in the Ukwaluka period, which is a rite of passage during which their elders initiate them into manhood as they recover from their group circumcision. Xolani is a caregiver, who looks after the initiates each year, but his motives for returning annually are less about his respect for tradition and more for the love of his childhood friend Vija, who participates in the ritual too. Though the two have been engaged in a sexual relationship for some time, Vija does not share the same feelings as his friend. This year, Kwanda has been left in Xolani’s charge, a sophisticated young man from the city who has been sent back to the community to make him “less soft” by his father. Kwanda alienates everyone around him with his questions and, before long, begins to understand the nature of his caregiver’s relationship with his friend.
44. THE DEATH AND LIFE OF MARSHA P. JOHNSON (2017)
Director: David France
Despite its title, this documentary is not just about iconic New York trans activist, Marsha P. Johnson. As her friend Victoria Cruz tries to uncover the truth behind her mysterious death in 1992 (she was pulled from the Hudson River with a head injury, but the inquest ruled her demise as suicide), she also seeks to highlight the plight of trans people today, who are still a discriminated minority and whose struggle is ongoing. With archive footage edited alongside interviews and footage of the present day, this is a fantastic documentary about a subject that is much larger than its 115 minute run-time allows. A fascinating portrait of a legendary figure, this is a strong film that gets beneath the skin of trans issues and the significance of trans people in the struggle for LGBT equality.
42. RAFIKI (2018)
Starring: Samantha Mugatsia, Sheila Munyiva, Neville Misati, Nice Githinji
Director: Wanuri Kahui
Kena runs a small convenience store with her father in Nairobi. When he campaigns for a local election she meets the daughter of her father’s political rival, Ziki, a free-spirited and colourfully exuberant girl with whom she has an instant connection. Their quick and intense friendship raises eyebrows within the community, especially as Kena rebukes her male suitors for no apparent reason. As they fall in love, the girls’ families begin to figure out the nature of their relationship and their reaction is one of censure and reproach. Compelling though their story is, this is a daring piece of cinema that manages not to sensationalise what is clearly a burning issue and keeps it small-scale, human and nuanced. We spend enough time with the couple to be invested in their chemistry – which is palpable – but the presence of the neighbourhood gossips, male suitors and their politicised families provides enough threat to underpin their bittersweet romance with a tense foreboding.
49. IN BETWEEN (2017)
Starring: Mouna Houwa, Shaden Kanboura, Sana Jammalieh, Mahmud Shalaby, Henry Andrawes, Ashlam Canaan
Director: Maysaloun Hamoud
Leila and Salma are flatmates. They live a liberal life together in Tel Aviv, surrounded by a group of sexually and politically diverse friends. When student Nour comes to live in their spare room, they initially struggle to connect with her due to her more devout and reserved lifestyle. But when her lecherous fiancé tries to make her live somewhere he considers more suitable, the girls begin to rally round her, especially as his behaviour becomes more and more dangerous. Leila dates the liberal Ziad who has just returned from New York, but when she realises that he seems ashamed for her to meet his family, she begins to question just how open-minded he actually is. Elsewhere, Salma’s family are trying to arrange a marriage for her, but she continues to date Dounia, a woman she met whilst working in a bar. As each struggles to live authentically in what appears as a repressive culture, the bond between them gets stronger, but how long will they be able to maintain their open lives for?
47. BEACH RATS (2017)
Starring: Harris Dickinson, Madeline Weinstein, Kate Hodge
Director: Eliza Hittman
A Brooklyn teenager spends his day hanging out with his friends and experimenting with drugs, but when night falls and he is alone, he looks for ways to explore his burgeoning homosexuality too. Meeting men online for sex, these two identities seem completely at odds with each other, but when the two worlds collide, fireworks can only ensue.
Starring: Robin Weigert, Maggie Siff, Johnathan Tchaikovsky, Julie Fain Lawrence
Director: Stacie Passon
A woman takes to the sex trade in an attempt to spice up her marriage... and finds she really likes it. Moody, atmospheric and intense, this story is striking for its ability to find a balance between the extremes of her life: escorting and being a mother. In a series of compelling vignettes, we see the world through the eyes of a sex worker whose late career choice means she has a unique standpoint on the industry.
43. THE WAY HE LOOKS (2014)
Starring: Guilherme Lobo, Fabio Audi, Tess Amorim. Director: Daniel Ribeiro
This wonderfully tender Brazilian film follows Leonardo, a young gay blind teenager. Searching for his independence, he finds it in his best friend Giovanna, but the way he experiences the world changes entirely upon the arrival of Gabriel. A beautiful depiction of young love, I defy anyone not to have their heart-strings well and truly plucked by the time the credits roll.
41. THE DANISH GIRL (2015)
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Mathias Schoenaerts, Ben Whishaw
Director: Tom Hooper
This is period drama at its most lush. Set in the quaint streets of Copenhagen and the opulent galleries of Paris, The Danish Girl stars Eddie Redmayne as Lili Elbe, the first person to undergo full gender reassignment surgery. Born Einar Wegener, he becomes Lili gradually after his wife Gerda has him model as a woman for her paintings. What follows is a tremendous struggle, with everything stacked against Lili, especially society's misunderstanding of her identity and Gerda's desperation to understand. The film earned Vikander an Oscar and Redmayne a nomination for this, one of the most sensitive depictions of transgenderism on film.
40. CLOSET MONSTER (2015)
Starring: Connor Jessup, Sofia Banzhaf, Aliocha Schneider, Isabella Rossellini
Director: Stephen Dunn
A painfully indie but beautifully composed Canadian gem, this coming-of-age story follows a teenager discovering his sexuality as he grows up alongside his talking hamster, voiced by Isabella Rossellini. Reclusive and shy, he realises that he needs to grow out of having an imaginary friend, but cannot bring himself to do so. A sweet and poignant portrait of growing up, this is a beautiful Peter Pan story for the hipster generation.
38. APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOUR (2014)
Starring: Desiree Akhavan, Rebecca Henderson, Halley Feiffer
Director: Desiree Akhavan
A rare beast! A film actually about bisexuality! Witty, pithy and slick, this story about a 20-something stumbling through the dating pitfalls of life in 21st century Brooklyn is a film for all the socially awkward folks who don't succeed in passing off their quirks as being hipster. An indie gem for the Girls-generation.
36. OTHER PEOPLE (2016)
Starring: Jesse Plemons, Molly Shannon, Bradley Whitford, June Squibb
Director: Chris Kelly
Jesse Plemons stars as a young gay man who has a strained relationship with his father. He has spent his whole life dealing solely with his mother, but shen she is diagnosed with terminal cancer, he is forced to attempt to reforge a relationship with his Dad. A painful story about terminal illness and the people left behind, both Plemons and Shannon give career-best performances in this touching Drama about the love between parents and their son.
34. LAURENCE ANYWAYS (2012)
Starring: Melvil Poupaud, Suzanne Clement
Director: Xavier Dolan
In the third feature from Canadian wunderkind Xavier Dolan, this French-language film follows Laurence over ten years as he begins to live as a woman, focusing on his relationship with his girlfriend Fred throughout the process. Notable for its very fluid depiction of gender, its two leads are remarkable, refusing to accept binaries either toward their sexuality or, for Laurence, gender identity. Funny and intense, this is a three hour emotional epic that will make you rage as much as Fred that people feel such entitlement to pass judgement on others.
32. A FANTASTIC WOMAN (2018)
Starring: Daniela Vega, Francisco Reyes, Luis Gnecco, Aline Küppenheim, Nicolás Saavedra
Director: Sebastián Lelio
Marina is a waitress and part-time singer. Having just moved in with her older lover Olando, her happiness is short-lived when she is awoken in the middle of the night with him feeling inexplicably ill. Despite getting him quickly to the hospital, Orlando dies, leaving Marina to deal with the complexities of his messy family. His ex-wife wants her to have nothing to do with the funeral. His son wants her out of his apartment as quickly as possible. Her only support comes from his timid brother, but this is not enough to prevent her from being treated badly by everyone around her. Add to that the police’s degrading behaviour as they try to investigate his cause of death and Marina is fighting a permanently uphill battle.
39. CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? (2019)
Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Richard E. Grant, Dolly Wells
Director: Marielle Heller
In New York in 1991, Lee Israel is a biographer who writes about celebrities whose star has faded. With little market for her work and no celebrity attached to her name, her agent advises that it might be time to find a new career. But while researching Fanny Brice for a new book, Lee comes across an original letter from the star tucked into a book, which she steals and sells to a local book dealer, Anna. Amazed by the price the letter has fetched, she begins embellishing and then forging whole new letters from a host literary figures. As she gets bolder, the literary world wise up to her actions, so she enlists the assistance of her friend Jack to sell on her behalf.
37. LILTING (2014)
Starring: Ben Whishaw, Cheng Pei-pei, Andrew Leung
Director: Hong Kaou
Ben Whishaw stars in this British drama about the death of a Chinese-Cambodian man, who leaves behind a male partner and his mother who doesn't speak a word of English. Having lived entirely separately from one another, their grief brings them together as they realise that while they loved him different ways, they both still loved the same person. A beautifully tender film, this is a moving film about multiculturalism and the universality of grief.
35. TANGERINE (2015)
Starring: Katana Kiki Rodriguez, Mya Taylor, James Ransome, Mickey O’Hagan
Director: Sean S. Baker
In this street-smart comic drama shot entirely on an iPhone, we follow trans street-walker Sin-Dee as she decides to get revenge on her cheating boyfriend. Told across a single un-festive Christmas evening in Los Angeles, we meet the colourful characters that inhabit her life as she hunts the man who betrayed her. A fun but gritty piece that shows Queer street life at its most vibrant, this is wholly entertaining and a great piece of indie cinema.
33. DISOBEDIENCE (2018)
Starring: Rachel Weisz, Rachel McAdams, Alessandro Nivola
Director: Sebastián Lelio
Ronit is living in New York and working as a photographer. When her father dies, she returns to London for his funeral, where she is forced to confront the community that she left behind. Estranged from her family for many years, her former friends and relatives are disapproving of her liberal life in America and are still sore about her sudden disappearance years before. Her father was a Rav (a spiritual teacher) and considered highly by his peers and followers, of which her childhood friend Dovid had become a disciple. In her absence, he has married Esti, a mutual friend with whom Ronit has a tense relationship. But the longer Ronit stays in their house, the more the complicated relationship between the two women leads to the uncovering of old wounds and questions about the future.
31. TOM AT THE FARM (2013)
Starring: Xavier Dolan, Piere-Yves Cardinal, Lise Roy, Evelyne Brochu
Director: Xavier Dolan
In what is probably Xavier Dolan's most accessible film to date, the director also stars as Tom, who travels the the funeral of his lover in the countryside. Upon learning that his family were unaware of his sexuality, Tom maintains his charade that he had a girlfriend. But as the lie starts to get out of hand, he finds himself drawn all the more into the family's archaic lifestyle and wanting to become part of it. What starts as a character piece transforms into a tightly wound thriller that sees Dolan playing with his unique hipster stylings and applying them to a genre movie.
30. BEHIND THE CANDELABRA (2013)
Starring: Michael Douglas, Matt Damon, Rob Lowe
Director: Steven Soderbergh
You mean to tell me people didn't KNOW Liberace was gay?? How??? In this remarkable biopic however, Michael Douglas stars as the epically flamboyant performer Liberace and documents his relationship with his much younger lover, Scott. Douglas and Damon are remarkable here, as the film explores the dark recess of fame, especially when trying to conceal your sexual preference. But as time goes on, the pressure of juggling his public and private lives begins to severely affect Liberace's mental health. And the story of a wild eccentric becomes something much darker.
28. BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY (2018)
Starring: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Joseph Mazzello, Ben Hardy, Gwilym Lee, Allen Leech, Aiden Gillen, Tom Hollander, Mike Myers
Director: Bryan Singer
We meet Freddie Mercury as a flamboyant teenager named Farrokh Bulsara, living with his parents. Determined that he is not designed for the conventional life his father wants for him, he convinces a local band that he should be their lead singer. Together, Brian May, Roger Taylor, John Deacon and him form Queen, who are quickly signed by EMI. Their manager and lawyer quickly learn how the group work together, but the label executive is completely baffled when presented with the song ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, a six minute operatic rock ballad with no real chorus. Meanwhile, despite becoming engaged to his long-term girlfriend Mary, Freddie finds himself more drawn to men and his personal manager Paul takes advantage of that, arranging that his social life revolves around sex, drugs and boys. Seemingly heading in an opposite direction from the rest of his band, Freddie’s life soon begins to unravel around him.
26. BOY ERASED (2019)
Starring: Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, Joel Edgerton, Xavier Dolan, Troye Sivan
Director: Joel Edgerton
Garrard is gay and the son of a Evangelist. Known in the community for being upstanding citizens, the family is held up by their community as paradigms of Christian virtue and values. But when outed by a malicious classmate, his father is mortified when he discovers that his son might be gay. Under the advice of his pastor and community, he decides to send his son to Love In Action, a facility designed to “pray the gay away”, with its leader Victor masquerading as a psychologist. Staying in a hotel with his mother while undergoing treatment, Garrard must discover why he is really there and whether he wants to be converted in the first place.
24. CONSEQUENCES (2019)
Starring: Matej Zemljic, Timon Sturbej, Gasper Markun
Director: Darko Stante
Andrej is an angry young man. Sent to a young offenders’ institution for assaulting a girl because he was unable to have sex with her, he has to stand up for himself from the moment he arrives. The domineering Zele is a presence to be reckoned with. Strong, forceful and overbearing, Andrej finds himself drawn to this dangerous figure, who at first he wants to be like and then just wants to be with. Zele immediately recognises that Andrej’s admiration goes beyond just respect and lures him into a manipulative relationship where his loyalty is rewarded with sex. But Andrej’s sexuality is a well-guarded secret, which Zele uses to keep absolute control over him.
22. SAUVAGE (2019)
Starring: Félix Maritaud, Eric Bernard, Nicolas Dibla, Philippe Ohrel
Director: Camille Vidal-Naquet
Léo is 22 years old and homeless, living on the streets of Strasbourg. To feed his drug addiction, he sells his body for cash, waiting for customers with the other hustlers amongst whom there is a certain camaraderie. There are agreed prices for their services and they warn each other of dangerous clients. When he meets Ahd, another hustler with whom he assists with a disabled client, he immediately falls for him, even though Ahd is straight. But as his health deteriorates and he clings onto any human kindness he can, he struggles to find the balance between his need for love and his need for freedom.
29. G.B.F. (2013)
Starring: Michael J. Willett, Paul Iacono, Sasha Pieterse, Andrea Bowen
Director: Darren Stein
Frothy and light this may be, but the quality of G.B.F. cannot be understated. This is as good a teen comedy as Clueless or Mean Girls and the way it effortlessly deals with LGBT teen issues is remarkable. On the one hand it plays for laughs, but on the other it brings surprising depth to a pair of likeable gay protagonists, whose issues and experiences are notably recognisable to most LGBT people. It ticks every box for a good teen comedy, but it's a teen comedy made ABOUT gays, FOR gays. It's brilliant.
27. THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST (2018)
Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, John Gallagher Jnr., Sasha Luck, Forrest Goodluck, Jennifer Ehle, Owen Campbell, Emily Skeggs
Director: Desiree Akhavan
Cameron is discovered kissing a girl by her supposed boyfriend. Before she can understand what’s happening to her, she is packed off to God’s Promise, a camp for young LGBT people whose mission is to set her back on the “right path”. There she meets “ex-gay” Reverend Rick and the uncomfortably stoic Dr Lydia, who together run an oppressive regime of obsessive worship and insistence of self-hatred. They refuse to accept that homosexuality even exists, simply labelling it a “sin”. “You don’t see drug addicts marching in a parade, do you?” asks the doctor in one of their many cruel “therapy” sessions together, in which all “disciples” must identify the supposed reasons for their dysfunctional gender identity and add them to a diagram of an iceberg, representing SSA (same-sex attraction) above the surface of the water, with everything else below. Most other “disciples” buy into the camp’s intention of “helping them”, including Cameron’s room-mate Erin, who is ready to snitch on her as soon as she strays from “virtue” and Mark, who will do what’s required to be sent home. Luckily, Cameron meets Adam and Jane Fonda – that’s her actual name… or is it? – two similar inmates, who resist the programme in quiet acts of rebellion away from the eyes of their superiors. Together, they support each other as it becomes increasingly clear that those in charge don’t have a clue what they’re doing.
25. BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOUR (2013)
Starring: Lea Seydoux, Adele Exarchopoulos
Director: Abdellatif Kechiche
Blue Is The Warmest Colour won the Palme d'Or at Cannes to much critical outcry. A three hour film exploring the passionate neuroses of young first love, this slow-paced story of a girl's sexual maturity includes a long segment of explicit sex between the two girls, but its beauty is that this unflinching observation of their love for each other doesn't pan away or hide behind the pretence of being a passive observer. This intense French film shows us everything, and is all the better for it.
23. THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (2011)
Starring: Rooney Mara, Daniel Craig, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgaard
Director: David Fincher
In David Fincher's adaptation of the best-selling Swedish novel, Rooney Mara stars opposite Daniel Craig as the iconic pierced and tattooed bisexual goth hacker, Lisbeth Salander, as they try to solve the mysterious disappearance of a young girl some thirty years before. Working in an isolated community in the depths of winter, Lisbeth's unlikely pairing with a renowned journalist makes for magnetic viewing in one of the absolute best stories of the century so far. With the original Swedish incarnation of the film also a full five stars, this is unique enough to stand on its own two legs without detracting from its earlier adaptation. Craig is fantastic, but Mara is utterly compelling as the legendary heroine of Nordic noir.
21. DALLAS BUYERS CLUB (2013)
Starring: Matthew McConnaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner
Director: Jean-Marc Vallee
Though still focusing on the pandemic from a heterosexual point of view, McConnaughey stars as a straight con man who contracts a disease he believed he couldn't. Floundering amongst a group of victims he struggles to identify with, he discovers the only way to get the drugs they all need is to smuggle them into the country himself. So entering into an unlikely partnership with a drag queen, they set up a vast smuggling ring to help them all survive. The remarkable performances from McConnaughey and Leto earned them both Oscars, but the film's real strength lies in the unity of its disparate characters in the face of an unstoppable adversity.
20. TOMBOY (2011)
Starring: Zoe Heran, Jeanne Disson
Director: Céline Sciamma
A perfect piece of moviemaking about a child who wants to grow up in a different body than the one he was born with. Told very simply, this masterpiece explores gender identity through the eyes of a child and is powerful, poignant and moving, answering just about every question you could ask about gender, without ever feeling like it has clambered atop a soapbox. All this AND it has a 'U' rating!!
18. THE IMITATION GAME (2014)
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Mark Strong
Director: Morten Tyldum
The story of the breaking of the Enigma Code at Bletchley Park, which eventually ended WW2, would always make a compelling story for a film. But alongside it, the heartbreaking story of Alan Turing's sexuality makes for a heartbreaking epilogue. In Oscar nominated performances, Cumberbatch and Knightley crackle with intellectual brilliance, but the film's real power comes from the story's tragedy. That a man could stop a war and save millions of lives, only to be destroyed by his own country because of who he loved is nothing short of malicious bigotry.
16. GOD'S OWN COUNTRY (2017)
Starring: Josh O'Connor, Alec Secareanu, Gemma Jones, Ian Hart
Director: Francis Lee
In this tender depiction of sexual awakening, this British indie film follows Johnny, a young man taking over his father’s farm and falling in love with the handsome Romanian labourer hired to help with the manual farm work. Johnny slowly comes to terms with his sexuality as he leaves the alcohol and promiscuity with which he had been numbing his feelings previously behind, but damaged from his years of repression, his newfound contentment is threatened by his inability to leave old habits behind. An honest depiction of a person’s internalised homophobia and the pressures of a hyper-masculinised society, this is also a film that explores xenophobia in the age of Brexit Britain.
14. STRANGER BY THE LAKE (2013)
Starring: Pierre Delandonhamps, Christophe Paou, Patrick D’Assumcao
Director: Alain Guiraudie
Franck witnesses a murder in a cruising spot on the shore of a lake. He knows the killer, who he had sex with the previous day. But enamoured of the handsome Michel, he keeps his knowledge of the murder a secret, hoping that his collaboration will prove his newfound love to the dangerous man. A tense and brooding thriller, the film never strays from the shores of the lake, where nudity and promiscuity make up part of the landscape. Set in a world never seen on film, this shocking story of misplaced loyalty is a phenomenally absorbing anthropological cat-and-mouse thriller.
12. EASTERN BOYS (2013)
Starring: Olivier Rabourdin, Kirill Emelyanov, Daniil Vorobyov, Edea Darcque
Director: Robin Campillo
This is a truly remarkable film. Set in Paris, Eastern Boys is about a man who invites a Ukrainian rentboy back to his apartment, only to be besieged by his pimp and gang, who empty his flat while he is helpless to stop them. But, wracked with guilt, the rentboy returns to apologise and the pair strike up a unlikely friendship that can only lead them to blows with the gang once again. With a scene of a home invasion that would give Funny Games a run for its money, this is a an edge-of-your-seat thriller and the most balanced and thought-provoking discussion about immigration you are ever likely to see.
19. FLOATING SKYSCRAPERS (2013)
Starring: Mateusz Banasiuk, Marta Nieradkiewicz, Bartosz Geiner, Katarzyna Herman
Director: Tomas Wasilewski
A seriously intense depiction of forbidden love, told through a Polish heterosexual competitive swimmer who finds himself falling in love with a man, much to the chagrin of both his girlfriend and mother. Moody, dark and honest, this is European indie cinema at its best.
17. THE NORMAL HEART (2014)
Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Julia Roberts, Matt Bomer, Jim Parsons
Director: Ryan Murphy
Well if this doesn't make you cry, I don't know what will. Based on Larry Kramer's landmark play, The Normal Heart follows a group of gay activists in the early 1980s who fight to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS. Ruffalo is remarkable as the passionate Ned Weeks, who suffers bereavement after bereavement as his friends and lovers die of AIDS. The film positions the audience from the impassioned perspective of Ned, who simply cannot believe that nothing is being done to help the victims. And as we watch the beautiful Matt Bomer deteriorate from the disease, our frustration is as great as Ned's that people aren't rioting in the streets. Biased propaganda though the play may have been, its film is a more balanced rendering of what remains the greatest travesty of the American government since Civil Rights.
15. ROCKETMAN (2019)
Starring: Katana Kiki Rodriguez, Mya Taylor, James Ransome, Mickey O’Hagan
Director: Sean S. Baker
We meet Elton John at an AA meeting in New York where he has arrived in full stage costume (orange angel wings, catsuit, Maleficent horns) to admit to all his addictions. There, he reflects on his life, recounting the relationship with his overbearing mother and emotionally distant father, from whom his only escape was music, for which he had a prodigy-like talent. As a young man and working for a record company, he’s given the lyrics of songwriter Bernie Taupin and what he creates is seen quickly by his employers to be something quite special. They rush out his music and send him on a promo tour of America, where he meets record mogul John Reid who becomes both his boyfriend and his manager. Except Reid is not as charming as he appears. And so begins Elton’s decline into alcohol, drugs and profound depression.
13. A SINGLE MAN (2010)
Starring: Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Matthew Goode, Nicholas Hoult
Director: Tom Ford
In fashion-designer Ford's directorial debut, Firth is captivating in his Oscar nominated role as the bereaved George, who is unable to cope with the loss of his boyfriend a year earlier. Set in 1960s Los Angeles, the film covers just a single day; the day on which George intends to kill himself. Setting his affairs in order, George heads out into the world to experience life for the very last time. Despite its potentially bleak subject matter, A Single Man is a life-affirming story about the latter stages of grief, all stylishly captured in slick and chic detail by a director with an eye for its aesthetic. Subsequently, this is a visually stunning and emotionally gut-wrenching film, which features Firth's finest performance to date.
11. THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT (2011)
Starring: Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasikowska, Josh Hutcherson
Director: Lisa Cholodenko
The Kids Are All Right is an adoption movie with a twist. After two teenagers go on a quest to track down their biological father, their two mothers struggle with the introduction of this male figure to their lives. Embarking on a journey of sexual and personal discovery that they felt they had already been on, this post-modern take on the family drama shows a non-traditional family coming to terms with its own non-conformity. With Oscar nominations aplenty, including acting nods for Bening and Ruffalo, this heart-warming story creates a very human portrait of a thoroughly twenty-first century family.
10. THE HANDMAIDEN (2016)
Starring: Min-hee Kim, Jung-woo Ha, Jin-Woong Cho, So-Ri Moon, Tae-ri Kim
Director: Chan-wool Park
From legendary Korean director Park Chan-Wook, this period revenge saga is based on British novel Fingersmith, transferred from Victorian Britain to 19th Century Korea. Following a young pick-pocket who is recruited by a con-man to swindle an heiress out of her fortune, it becomes a complicated quadruple-cross as she falls in love with the woman she is supposed to be deceiving. Hyper-violent but beautifully shot, this has the aesthetic of Crouching Tiger but the violence of Oldboy and a plot that is positively Shakespearean.
8. FREE FALL (2013)
Starring: Hanno Koffler, Max Reimelt, Katharina Schuttler
Director: Stephen Lacant
Very few LGBT films manage to get the balance right between drama and sexual tension. Too often straying into graphic eroticism, Queer cinema has grown a reputation for showing far too much. But Free Fall finds the balance perfectly. Following Marc, a married policeman whose wife is heavily pregnant, this smouldering tale of lust begins as Marc meets Kay, to whom he is inexplicably attracted. Even before he knows of either his or Kay's sexuality, the tension between the pair is palpable, but as they embark on a dangerously intense affair, Marc cannot reconcile his newfound sexual liberation with his impending duty as a new father. A heart-breaking story of ill-timed sexual awakening, Free Fall is one of the very best of the modern gay indies.
6. 120 BPM (BEATS PER MINUTE) (2018)
Starring: Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, Arnaud Valois, Adéle Haenel, Antoine Reinartz, Félix Meritaud, Ariel Borenstein, Aloïse Sauvage, Saadia Bentaïeb
Director: Robin Campillo
In what is probably the most uplifting movie about AIDS ever made, we follow the Parisian arm of ACT UP in the 1980s as they try to draw media attention to the plight of AIDS sufferers through acts of civil disobedience. With the characters engaging in a whole variety of publicity stunts, we feel both the exhilaration of their antics together and the desperation of their situations. And though we know the time left for these characters is limited, we can’t help but celebrate the vitality with which they are living the last years of their lives.
4. PRIDE (2014)
Starring: Ben Schnetzer, Dominic Westm, Andrew Scott, Goerge MacKay, Imelda Staunton, Bill Nighy. Director: Matthew Warchus
Words cannot describe the pure unbridled joy of watching Pride for the very first time. Based on the unlikely union between an LGBT group and a miners' union in Wales, this fizzing feel-good ensemble film intricately weaves countless strands of meaningful story together, exploring sexuality, prejudice, social inequality, family rejection and so much more, creating a perfectly balanced tapestry of comedy and drama that leaves you smiling from ear to ear. A history lesson as well as entertainment, it turns the spotlight on a truly remarkable story that reminds you that your greatest support can come from the most unlikely places. A tale of complete altruistic support, I defy you to find a film that can restore your faith in humanity more than Pride.
2. WEEKEND (2011)
Starring: Tom Cullen, Chris New
Director: Andrew Haigh
Set over the course of a single weekend, Weekend follows Russell, who meets Glen on a night out. Expecting that their tryst is just a one-night stand, both men are surprised when they find themselves connecting in the morning, but with Glen set to leave for America for good the very next day, how can they allow themselves to fall in love so fast? And while Glen battles against his feelings, refusing to allow himself to fall in love, he can't help himself. But the pair are so different and their lives and ideologies are so incompatible; so is there a way they can find around all these obstacles before Glen has to leave for America? A beautifully subtle and sensitive movie, Weekend is the first time I have seen myself up on the screen. Beyond the rich characters of all other films on this list, Weekend depicts ordinary British men falling in love, set against insurmountable odds. The stark realism of its cinematography makes it all the more believable, while its sparse use of soundtrack is perfectly judged.
9. THE FAVOURITE (2019)
Starring: Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz, Nicholas Hoult, Mark Gatiss, Joe Alwyn
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
It is late in the reign of Queen Anne (Colman). She has lost seventeen children (all of whom she has replaced with a caged rabbit) and remains without an heir. Her favourite, Lady Sarah of Marlborough (Weisz), is essentially in control of the country, acting on her behalf in affairs of state as the Queen languishes in a permanent state of grief and misery. Abigail (Stone) is ex-aristocracy whose family has fallen from grace. When she arrives at court to ask for a job from her cousin Lady Sarah, she witnesses a sexual encounter between the Queen and her favourite and begins to hatch for her own social ascendency. Beginning to flatter and flirt with the Queen, she attempts to usurp and replace her cousin, all the while allying herself with powerful political allies (Hoult) and finding a titled young man (Alwyn) to marry and cement her status.
7. LOVE, SIMON (2018)
Starring: Nick Robinson, Jennifer Garner, Josh Duhamel, Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp, Jorge Lendebord Jr., Logan Miller
Director: Greg Berlanti
In the first ever mainstream LGBT teen comedy, we follow Simon as he tries to identify the boy at his school who he has been speaking to online. As he comes out to his family and friends, suffers at the hands of a blackmailer and deals with the trauma of teenage gossip, we yearn for him to meet his Prince Charming and live happily ever after. A glossy Hollywood idealised version of teenagehood, this is a joyful feel-good John Hughes-esque comedy that fizzes with humour, diversity and teenage romance. This is exactly the kind of film that young LGBT people should be growing up watching.
5. CALL ME BY YOUR NAME (2017)
Starring: Armie Hammer, Timothée Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar
Director: Luca Guadagnino
In this Oscar nominated film, Timothee Chalamet stars as Elio, a seventeen year-old boy who falls desperately in love with his father’s student who has come to stay at their Italian villa for the summer. Armie Hammer is infuriatingly charismatic and abrasive in equal measure, and as the pair slowly fall for each other, their burning desire is as beautiful as the sun-drenched countryside that surrounds them. A depiction of intellectual compatibility and blazing first love, Luca Guadagnino’s film received numerous accolades, while a late scene with Elio’s father, played by a brilliant Michael Stuhlbarg, gives a brilliant monologue about living life to the fullest. I defy anyone not to fall in love with this couple.
3. CAROL (2015)
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Kyle Chandler, Sarah Paulson
Director: Todd Haynes
Carol is the lesbian Brokeback Mountain. Set in 1950s New York, the film tells the story of a forbidden romance between two women. Blanchett is astonishing as Carol, a woman going through a messy divorce and is forced to choose between being herself and being a mother. Mara's understated performance opposite is just as accomplished and it is hardly surprising that both earned Oscar nominations for these roles. The film is restrained, resisting the urge to descend into melodrama at times when it could easily have done, subsequently showing the power of the unspoken pressure that is ladeled on both characters to conform. Though Carol is unusually frank and outspoken for the period, it is heartbreaking that even she is unable to overcome the oppressive status quo. Expect tears on a first viewing of this love story that will endure as one of the greatest ever told on screen.
1. MOONLIGHT (2016)
Starring: Trevante Rhodes, André Holland, Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Janelle Monae, Ashton Sanders
Director: Barry Jenkins
Moonlight was undoubtedly a landmark moment for LGBT cinema. Winning Best Picture at the Oscars, not only does it follow a gay protagonist, but also a black one. Even LGBT films have the tendency to depict the stories of rich white people, so this story about a strong black man as he grows up gay in a hostile neighbourhood is refreshingly different both as LGBT film and Oscar-winner. Over three episodes of his growing up, we see the parameters that shape Chiron, a man whose sexuality is kept behind closed doors but not repressed. We see him as a child, dealing with a crack-addicted mother, as a bullied teenager and as a young adult who is a member of a gang and a pillar of muscle. A delicately nuanced film about the expectations of masculinity, it is beautifully acted and lusciously shot in a way that similar films about urban culture rarely are.