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 60s
10. THEOREM (1968)
Before Pier Paolo Pasolini embarked on his later barrage of movies about the extremes of sexuality, he made this, his only film to really depict a normalised version of homosexuality. A god-like angelic man, played by Terence Stamp, appears in a middle-class home in Milan, where he subsequently seduces the mother, daughter, son, maid and, eventually, father. But just as abruptly as he arrived, so he also disappears, leaving them all to try and cope with losing this messiah-figure from their lives. A peculiarly religious film, it makes a connection between spirituality and sexuality in a very bold way considering its vintage.
9. THE KILLING OF SISTER GEORGE (1968)
Beryl Reid stars in this classic, albeit uncomfortable, drama about a lesbian soap actress whose character is axed from the show due to her increasingly erratic behaviour. Set against the volatile backdrop of her relationship with a much younger woman, this British movie is hugely melodramatic and its campery makes for good entertainment, though its casting Of Sister George as almost monstrous complies entirely with the typical ‘LGBT as the dangerous other’ trend within cinema at the time.
8. VICTIM (1961)
The very first English-language film to use the word "homosexual", this British thriller starring Dirk Bogarde depicts the widespread blackmail of gay people in the 50s and 60s. A tense thriller, it explores the historic priority of remaining hidden over justice. A daring film at the time, it remains a striking and bold film for its relatively neutral stance on gay people considering its vintage.
7. MY HUSTLER (1965)
In the controversial film by Andy Warhol, the affections of hustler Paul America are competed for by several of the Warhol superstars. Sitting somewhere between a documentary, reality TV and performance art, it gives a fascinating portrait of pre-Stonewall Fire Island and worships the statuesque physique of its subject and its continuing commentary almost becomes background noise as Warhol’s film worships the male form, even if he is profoundly stupid.
6. THE CHILDREN'S HOUR (1961)
Starring Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine, this melodrama is an early film about the social stigma directed toward lesbians. When a troublemaking students at an all-girls’ school accuses two of her teachers of being lesbians, the women are left to pick up the pieces whilst also trying to understand their feelings for each other. Though it does still demonise somewhat, it goes at least some way in depicting the ramifications of the witch-hunts directed toward LGBT people. Outdated maybe, but still a riveting watch.
5. PERSONA (1966)
In arguably his greatest film, Ingmar Bergman explores identity and what a sense of self actually means. Following an actress who he has suddenly become mute, the film takes place mostly on an isolated Swedish island where she is looked after by a personal nurse. But as her silence continues, the boundary between the two's identities begin to blur, with the nurse becoming obsessed by her continuing refusal to speak. A strikingly beautiful yet simple psychological horror, this is also surprisingly accessible for a film by Bergman, blistering with sexual tension and frantic suspense.
4. MIDNIGHT COWBOY (1969)
In the year of the Stonewall Riots, the winner of the Best Picture Oscar was this, the story of a Texan hustler in New York. Starring Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight in a pair of astonishing performances, the film shows the dark side of the city, depicting crime, disease and prostitution as the two try to find their way in a city designed for the rich. While not the progressive depiction of homosexuality (Voight shows palpable distaste at engaging with male clients), this is a brilliant character study and was the gayest film to win the top Oscar until 2017.
3. UN CHANT D'AMOUR (1950)
The only film made by French writer Jean Genet, this risqué silent movie was banned for decades due to its depiction of gay sexual activity. Made long before the decriminalisation of homosexuality, its depiction of a prison guard who abuses his power for sexual favours is both graphic and hypersexualised. As a curio of archaic erotica this is a fascinating and bold piece of cinema.
2. REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE (1955)
As early LGBT films go, this film is almost without comparison. With a (albeit closeted) LGBT director and LGBT actors, the film ended up seeped in gay undertones and somehow managed to stay just on the right side of the Hays Code to get a worldwide cinema release and become one of the most iconic films of the 50s... and it has an openly gay character in it, who is portrayed in a positive light! Though his sexuality is only hinted at, the hints are many and blatant, making it possibly the very first LGBT Hollywood Movie of all time.
1. SOME LIKE IT HOT (1955)
With Marilyn Monroe's most iconic (and best) performance, this film about two men who go undercover as women after they witness a mob hit is often cited as the Greatest Comedy Of All Time by critics and audiences alike. Starring Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon, the men's cover is threatened upon meeting Monroe, but as the two compete for her affections, others compete for theirs, who are seemingly oblivious or unbothered by their true identities.