THE PINK 100

LGBT people have appeared on film as long as movies have been made, but it's only in the last few decades that they have really become visible. Between 1930 and 1968, filmmakers were crippled by the Hays Code, a set of industry guidelines intended to shape and guide the moral content of films. Within this code, the depiction of homosexuality was strictly forbidden, but some characters still appeared with a wink and a nudge to the audience; sissy boys, butch women, sexually ambiguous leads. But it wasn't until the ban was lifted and homosexuality decriminalised that gay people began to find themselves represented positively on screen.

As a result of the not-so-straightforward history of the representation of the LGBT Community on film, I set myself certain guidelines in compiling this list of the Greatest LGBT Films of all time:

• These films had to include a positive representation of the LGBT Community. This does not mean the characters have to be positive, just that it's message is not homophobic (subsequently ruling out films such as Rebecca and Cruising).
• The films had to include explicit representations of homosexuality, instead of implicit references that could be read as LGBT retrospectively (subsequently ruling out films such as All About Eve and Strangers On A Train).
• Films adopted by the LGBT Community as iconic, but still lacking LGBT characters could not be included (ruling out The Wizard Of Oz).
• Films that use homosexuality as a shock tactic could also not be included (ruling out Sebastiane and Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom).
• Films did not have to receive a cinema release to be included.

Obviously, there are many more than 100 truly great LGBT films. I've tried to be as objective as possible, including what I believe critics would cite as the Greatest LGBT Films Of All Time, but their positioning within the list is pretty subjective, however. If you think I've missed something important however, let me know! I want to know what your favourite LGBT films are too!

100. HOLDING THE MAN (2015)

STARRING: RYAN CORR, CRAIG STOTT. DIRECTOR: NEIL ARMFIELD.

 

In putting a human face on the AIDS Crisis, this love story serves as a reminder that the virus touched people from all demographics and though sometimes easy to pass moral judgement on moments of indiscretion, their ramifications so clearly outweigh their cause.

99. ROOM IN ROME (2010)

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. 

98. KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN (1985)

STARRING: WILLIAM HURT, RAU; JULIA, SONIA BRAGA. DIRECTOR: HECTOR BABENCO. William Hurt won an Oscar for his depiction of a gay man in a Brazilian prison, recruited by intelligence officers to inform on his political prisoner cellmate. Winning his trust through elaborate stories about Nazi Germany and mysterious Spider Woman on a desert island, he soon realises that he is falling in love with the man he will be forced to betray. With tightly woven narratives between his fictions and reality, this is an exciting thriller underpinned by a fantastic performance by Hurt. 

97. THEO & HUGO (2016)

STARRING: GEOFFREY COUET, FRANCOIS NAMBOT. DIRECTORS: 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.

96. BEACH RATS (2017)

STARRING: HARRIS DICKINSON, MADELINE WEISTEIN, 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.

95. BATTLE OF THE SEXES (2017)

STARRING: EMMA STONE, STEVE CARELL, ANDREA RISEBOROUGH, SARAH SILVERMAN, BILL PULLMAN, ALAN CUMMING. DIRECTORS: JONATHAN DAYTON, VALERIE FARIS.

 

The true story of the tennis match between World Number One tennis player Billie Jean King and ex-World Champion, Bobby Riggs, this film shows how a woman took on the overriding chauvinist attitudes in a sport that assumed that men were both more interesting and better players than their female counterparts. Both Stone and Carell are magnetic in their performances that combine to create this battle of wits.

94. I KILLED MY MOTHER (2009)

STARRING: ANNE DORVAL, XAVIER DOLAN, FRANCOIS ARNAUD, SUZANNE CELEMENT. DIRECTOR: XAVIER DOLAN.

 

Director Dolan exploded into the film arena with this semi-autobiographical movie, in which he also stars as a boy whose disastrous relationship with his mother is fuelled both by her ambivalence and his volatile hormones. Pretending that his mother is dead at school, her fury is relentless when she finds out his deception. Dolan and Anne Dorval are electric as the leads, while the script is suitably and welcomely angst-filled, written as it was by Dolan aged 16. Released when he was just 20, this is a great debut that heralded the start of one of LGBT Cinema's strongest voices. 

93. CONCUSSION (2013)

STARRING: ROBIN WEIGERT, MAGGIE SIFF, JONATHAN TCHAIKOVSKY. 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. 

92. THE DEATH AND LIFE OF MARSHA P. JOHNSON (2017)

DIRECTOR: DAVID FRANCE.

 

This documentary tells the story of legendary black transgender activist Marsha P. Johnson, who is one of the figures attributed with starting the Stonewall Riots. While exploring the highs and lows of her life, it also delves into the mystery of her murder, which remains unsolved to this day.

91. HEARTBEATS (2010)

STARRING: MONIA CHOKRI, NIELS SCHNEIDER, XAVIER DOLAN. DIRECTOR: XAVIER DOLAN.

 

Québécois auteur Xavier Dolan also starred in this, his second film as director (aged just 21). Following a boy/girl best friendship, it examines what happens when both fall in love with the same man, competing for his affection when neither know whom he favours. Indie in the extreme, the three leads are aspirationally quirky and the epitome of millennials. Brow-beating and earnest, this is a movie for a rainy day, but not Dolan's best. 

90. C.R.A.Z.Y. (2005)

STARRING: MICHEL COTE, MARC-ANDRE GRONDIN, DANIELLE PROULX. DIRECTOR: JEAN-MARC VALLEE. 

 

In an early movie from director Jean-Marc Vallée, this Canadian film follows the true story of the early life of writer François Boulay, who co-wrote the screenplay. Following the young Boulay through the 60s and 70s, we see his struggle with his sexuality surrounded by brothers in a hyper-masculine Catholic household. A snappily edited film complimented by its wonderfully period soundtrack, this is a fantastic indie piece that is definitely worth exploring. 

89. BREAKFAST ON PLUTO (2005)

STARRING: CILLIAN MURPHY, LIAM NEESON, BRENDAN GLEESON, STEPHEN REA. DIRECTOR: NEIL JORDAN.

 

Cillian Murphy stars in this dramatisation of the landmark memoir by Patrick Kitten McCabe, a trans woman who escaped her small Irish town in the 1970s to London, under to find herself under suspicion as a member of the IRA. A black comedy underpinned by a zingy performance by Murphy, it is let down by its refusal to show Kitten as the highly sexualised character from the book. 

88. TANGERINE (2015)

STARRING: KITANA KIKI RODRIGUEZ, MYA TAYLOR, KARREN KARAGULIAN. DIRECTOR: SEAN 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.

87. THE TIMES OF HARVEY MILK (1984)

DIRECTOR: ROB EPSTEIN.

 

Released in the early days of the AIDS Crisis, this bold documentary earned Oscar attention for its depiction of the first openly gay US politician, Harvey Milk. Charting the rise and assassination of this now iconic figure, we see a very early reflection on gay San Francisco in the 60s and 70s. A powerful and potent film, this is a useful companion piece to Milk and When We Rise, the Gus Van Sant/Dustin Lance Black collaborations on the same topic. 

86. VELVET GOLDMINE (1998)

STARRING: EWAN MCGREGOR, JONATHAN RHYS MEYERS, TONI COLLETTE, CHRISTIAN BALE. DIRECTOR: TODD HAYNES.

 

Some of the late 90s’ biggest actors star in this glam-rock fictional biopic about the life of fictional rockstar Brian Slade. Told in flashback through interviews with a closeted journalist, the film charts the life of the bisexual star, looking at his affairs with men and women before his spectacular on-stage death. A vibrant explosion of glitter, music and 80s fashion, this is a wonderfully vivid movie that perfectly encapsulates the glam-rock era, brought to life by a handful of sensationally off-piste performances. 

85. THE WAY HE LOOKS (2014)

STARRING: GHILHERME 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.

84. ALMOST ADULTS (2016)

STARRING: NATASHA NEGOVANLIS, ELISE BAUMAN, JUSTIN GERHARD. DIRECTOR: SARAH ROTELLA.

 

A girls' buddy movie that for light and frothy escapism, ticks all the right boxes. Reflective of contemporary Queer culture, it capably depicts the development of sexual identity in the digital age. Yes, it wanders into the realm of stereotypes at times, but this also detaches us enough to root for them even if we don’t necessarily like them.

83. BOY MEETS GIRL (2014)

STARRING: MICHELLE HENDLEY, MICHAEL WELCH, ALEXANDRA TURSHEN. DIRECTOR: ERIC SCHAEFFER.

 

A beautifully tender film about a trans girl exploring her sexuality, made all the more watchable by its extremely compelling lead. Exploring both gender and sexual identities, this is a frank and honest piece that will make you fall in love multiple times; alongside her and with her.

82. CLOSET MONSTER (2015)

STARRING: AARON ABRAMS, JACK FULTON, JOANNE KELLY. 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. 

81. APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOUR (2014)

STARRING: DESIREE AKHAVAN, REBECCA HENDERSON, HALLEY FEIFFER, RYAN FITZSIMMONS. 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. 

80. Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN (2002)

STARRING: GABRIEL GARCIA BERNAL, DIEGO LUNA, MARIBEL VERDU. DIRECOTR: ALFONSO CUARON.

 

Gabríel Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna star in this Mexican indie Drama by Alfonso Cuarón opposite Maribel Verdú as two teenage boys who go on a road trip across the country with an older woman. Discovering themselves along the way, they also discover the complexity of their friendship and sexualities. One of the very best Spanish-language films of the 00s, this is a joyous coming of age movie, depicting adeptly the nexus of teenage boyhood and sexual maturity. 

79. EDWARD II (1991)

STARRING: STEVEN WADDINGTON, KEVIN COLLINS, NIGEL TERRY, TILDA SWINTON. DIRECTOR: DEREK JARMAN.

 

Derek Jarman's adaptation of Christopher Marlowe's play looks at the relationship of the Plantagenet King with his "favourite" Galveston. Played in modern dress, Tilda Swinton looks like she has fallen out of the pages of Vogue as his beleaguered Queen who is insistent that he give up his lover. A punk biopic in Jacobean verse, this is Jarman at his best and Swinton at her most fabulous. 

78. THE BITTER TEARS OF PETRA VAN KANT (1972)

STARRING: MARGIT CARSTENSEN, HANNA SCHYGULLA, KATRIN SCHAAKE. DIRECTOR: RAINER WERNER FASSBINDER.

 

A deftly layered character study of a woman teetering on the verge of self-destruction, Fassbinder’s most strikingly LGBT film follows Petra, an arrogant fashion designer who falls in love with an icy beauty who wants to be a model. This is a theatrical slow-burner that allows its characters to be unflinchingly detestable, unabashed and gives Petra some seriously great wigs.

77. LONGTIME COMPANION (1989)

STARRING: CAMPBELL SCOTT, PATRICK CASSIDY, JOHN DOSSETT, MARY-LOUISE PARKER, STEPHEN CAFFREY, BRUCE DAVISON, DERMOT MULRONEY.

 

The first depiction of the AIDS crisis in a mainstream movie, this is Philadelphia but without its "safe" straight angle. Depicting the emergence of the disease and its subsequent devastation of the gay community, it follows a number of gay man in the 1980s. Earning Davison an Oscar-nomination, this is the first time Hollywood put a human face on the disease, which is arguably better than its more famous successor, four years later.

76. LILTING (2014)

STARRING: BEN WHISHAW, CHENG PEI-PEI, ANDREW LEUNG. DIRECTOR: HONG KHAOU.

 

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. 

75. THE NAKED CIVIL SERVANT (1975)

STARRING: JOHN HURT, LIZ GEBHARDT, PATRICIA HODGE. DIRECTOR: JACK GOLD.

 

In his BAFTA-winning tour-de-force, John Hurt stars as the flamboyant icon Quentin Crisp in this adaptation of his seminal autobiography. Uncompromising in his determination to express himself, the film shows Crisp's refusal to conform, even against the threat of prison. Funny and thoroughly uplifting, Hurt's performance is almost as iconic as the person he's playing. 

74. HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE (2012)

DIRECTOR: DAVID FRANCE.

 

During the AIDS Crisis, activist group ACT UP was hugely outspoken in its resistance to the government's apathy toward the disease. But where it began with fervent focus on pushing for a cure for the disease, this documentary shot by one of its members shows how the organisation descended into political squabbles that distracted from the initial goal and distracted from the cause they had been fighting so desperately for. This film masterfully portrays how even the best of intentions can be soiled by politics, even when lives are at stake. A brilliant film. 

73. THE TALENTED MR RIPLEY (2000)

STARRING: MATT DAMON, JUDE LAW, GWYNETH PALTROW, CATE BLANCHETT, PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN. DIRECTOR: ANTHONY MINGHELLA.

 

Minghella's follow-up to his Oscar triumph goes far beyond the quality of The English Patient. This slick and stylish thriller set in 1920s Italy follows Tom Ripley (in a masterful performance from Matt Damon) a fledgling conman who convinces an American industrialist of his friendship with his son. Employed by the father to track him down, he cajoles his way into his home, he double-crosses his way through friendships, murders and an exceptionally tense game of cat and mouse with those who suspect the truth about him. With Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Cate Blanchett and Philip Seymour Hoffman in support, this is a gripping and stunning film, with a gay lead character whose repressed sexuality further adds to the tension. 

72. IF THESE WALLS COULD TALK 2 (2000)

STARRING: VANESSA REDGRAVE, MICHELLE WILLIAMS, CHLOE SEVIGNY, ELLEN DEGENERES, SHARON STONE. DIRECTORS: JANE ANDERSON, MARTHA COOLIDGE, ANNE HECHE.

 

Following its first incarnation as an ensemble Drama about abortion, the series' second instalment sees three episodic stories about lesbian issues. The first, starring Vanessa Redgrave, is set in 1961 and explores LGBT inheritance rights. The second, starring Michelle Williams and Chloë Sevigny, depicts prejudice amongst their own toward butch lesbians and is set in 1971. The last, set in 2000, stars Ellen DeGeneres and Sharon Stone as a couple who are trying to become pregnant. Starting dark and ending on a light story, this is a very strong collection that adeptly shows how society has changed for the better. Released at the height of the ensemble drama craze, this HBO movie is definitely worth your time. 

71. PRAYERS FOR BOBBY (2009)

STARRING: SIGOURNEY WEAVER, HENRY CZERNY, RYAN KELLEY. DIRECTOR: RUSSELL MULCAHY.

 

Sigourney Weaver stars in this Emmy-winning TV Movie of a true story, which depicts the crusade of a woman's crusade for Gay Rights after her son committed suicide due to her own religious intolerance of his sexuality. A real weepy, Weaver is phenomenal in this moving drama that explores how attitudes and deep-set prejudices can be subject to change if effectively challenged. 

70. OTHER PEOPLE (2016)

STARRING: JESSE PLEMONS, MOLLY SHANNON, BRADLEY WHITFORD. 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.

69. HAPPY TOGETHER (1997)

STARRING: TONY CHIU-WAI LEUNG, CHEN CHANG, LESLIE CHEUNG. DIRECTOR: KAR-WAI WONG.

 

This LGBT classic from Hong Kong auteur Kar-Wai Wong depicts a couple who take a trip to Argentina but find their lives drifting apart in opposite directions. An intense no-holds-barred depiction of a destructive relationship between two men who cannot live with or without each other. A seething depiction of happily never after. The gay Blue Valentine. 

68. DOG DAY AFTERNOON (1975)

STARRING: AL PACINO, JOHN CAZALE, PENELOPE ALLAN. DIRECTOR: SIDNEY LUMET.

 

Based on the true story of a bank robbery that goes wrong and turns into a hostage situation in New York, Al Pacino stars as Sonny, the somewhat dim ringleader, whose sexuality becomes a major plot-point in the later stages of the film. Married to a man who is just beginning his transition to become a woman, the robbery began as his attempt to obtain money to fund the surgery. As such, this Hollywood crime thriller thrust both sexuality and gender centre-stage at a time when this was relatively unheard of. With Oscar nominations aplenty, this is 70s cinema (and Pacino) at their very best. 

67. REAL BOY (2017)

DIRECTOR: SHALEECE HAAS.

 

This intimate documentary about a transgender teenager is a tender portrayal of a person trying to find their voice having already made their transition. Bennett is a musician who is now trying to find himself as a musician now that he has found himself as a person. A fascinating exploration of how being trans extends far beyond just gender identity, this is a must-watch for understanding the new generation of LGBT+ youth.

66. REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE (1955)

STARRING: JAMES DEAN, NATALIE WOOD, SAL MINEO. DIRECTOR: NICHOLAS RAY.

 

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. 

65. RENT (2005)

STARRING: ADAM RAPP, ADAM PASCAL, ROSARIO DAWSON, JESSE L. MARTIN, WILSON JERMAINE HEREDIA, IDINA MENZEL, TRACIE THOMS, TAYE DIGGS. DIRECTOR: CHRIS COLUMBUS.

 

Based on the Broadway musical, the film of Rent reassembled most of its original cast to tell the story of a group of Bohemian friends as they struggle with the AIDS crisis in 1980s New York. Though a sanitised account of the period, the story presents a palatable version of the pandemic to a mass audience, with plenty of room for tear-jerking ballads and sassy belters. Menzel is obviously the stand-out, though Heredia's Angel is the film's endearing heart.

64. I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS (2009)

STARRING: JIM CARREY, EWAN MCGREGOR, LESLEY MANN, RODRIGO SANTORO. DIRECTORS: GLENN FICARA & JOHN REQUA.

 

After coming out of the closet, a policeman turns con man and winds up in jail, where he meets the love of his life. From thereon out, his mission becomes to find a way they can both be free together. Apparently based on a true story, this farce is packed with gags and laughs, but at its centre is a wholly believable relationship. Carrey and McGregor are delectably convincing as their love compounds the film's heart, allowing a comedy film to accept sexuality as incidental for the very first time. And the film fizzes as a result.

63. LAURENCE ANYWAYS (2012)

STARRING: MELVIL POUPAUD, SUZANNE CLEMENT, NATHALIE BAYE, MONIA CHOKRI. 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. 

62. WE WERE HERE (2011)

DIRECTORS: DAVID WEISSMAN, BILL WEBER.

 

The AIDS pandemic is probably the worst crisis to hit the world since the end of WW2. But at its height, because of its association with gay people it was seen by many in the USA as little more than retribution for immorality. We Were Here is a documentary record of the community who fought back. With heart-breaking accounts from survivors and medical staff living and working in San Francisco from the 1980s to date, this is a beautiful record of the pandemic's scale, its tragedy and exists as a reminder of how any community can support the afflicted, no matter how disparate and different its people. An absolute must-watch.

61. PINK FLAMINGOS (1972)

STARRING: DIVINE, DAVID LOCHARY, MINK STOLE. DIRECTOR: JOHN WATERS.

 

There's no denying that Pink Flamingos is a disgusting film. Its purpose was to shock and appal and to play on the grim fascination of revulsion-junkies to gain as wide an audience as possible. And it completely succeeded. As the resplendently vile Divine competes with a sleazy couple for the title of "The Filthiest Person Alive", the film's nauseating climax has gone down in film legend. But the significance of the Divine/Waters long-term collaboration cannot be understated in terms of Queer Cinema. In equal measure fascinated and appalled by their work, audiences came from far and wide to see bawdy celebrations of Queer Culture. And despite its lurid nature in Pink Flamingos, this was a massive step.

60. TOM AT THE FARM (2013)

STARRING: XAVIER DOLAN, PIERRE-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. 

59. 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.

58. G.B.F. (2013)

STARRING: MICHAEL J. WILLETT, PAUL IACONO, SASHA PIETERSE, ANDREA BOWEN, XOSHA ROQUEMORE. 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.

57. THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975)

STARRING: TIM CURRY, SUSAN SARANDON, BARRY BOSTWICK, RICHARD O'BRIEN, PATRICIA QUINN, MEAT LOAF. DIRECTOR: JIM SHARMAN.

 

No list of LGBT films would be complete without The Rocky Horror Picture Show, despite my personal dislike for it. Its cult status and cultural significance continues to this day, as audiences go wild for the bizarre tale of a couple whose car breaks down, leading them to visit the zany and dangerous home of the transvestite Dr Frank-N-Furter. Playing on transvestism as an element of horror, its lingering popularity is unsettling, but its high-camp and zesty vigour makes this a refreshingly energetic pastiche, with songs that even I accept are pretty damn catchy.

56. GOD'S OWN COUNTRY (2017)

STARRING: JOSH O’CONNOR, ALEC SECAREANU, GEMMA JONES. 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.

55. CABARET (1972)

STARRING: LIZA MINNELLI, MICHAEL YORK, JOEL GREY. DIRECTOR: BOB FOSSE.

 

Is there a film much gayer than Cabaret? With Liza Minnelli in her Oscar-winning role as the iconic Sally Bowles, songs that have become the staple gay man's diva standard AND a storyline that includes its lead male's bisexuality, it's like the Gay Fairy sneezed and accidentally made a film. But above all of this, Cabaret has a phenomenal story with one of the darkest plots ever to appear in a musical. Set in 1930s Weimar Berlin, Sally finds herself in the middle of a sexually confused love triangle while the Nazi Party is rising to power. Using its cabaret performances at 'The Kit Kat Club' (where Sally performs) to reflect the film's context like a Greek Chorus, the depiction of the sleazy Berlin lowlife makes its narration as unsettling as its action. A real masterpiece. And tremendously gay.

54. THE MILLENNIUM SERIES (2009, 2010, 2012)

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (2011) STARRING: ROONEY MARA, DANIEL CRAIG, CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER, STELLAN SKARSGARD, ROBIN WRIGHT. 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. 

THE GIRL… WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (2009); WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE (2009), WHO KICKED THE HORNET’S NEST (2010) STARRING: NOOMI RAPACE, MIKAEL NYQVIST, LENA ENDRE. DIRECTORS: NIELS ARDEN OPLEV, DANIEL ALFREDSON.

Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy has become one of the biggest literary forces of the twenty first century, but for many, the Swedish cinema adaptations are the definitive film version of both the story and it's now iconic protagonist, Lisbeth Salander. A bisexual goth computer-hacker, she is hardly the most conventional movie heroine, but Noomi Rapace plays her with such integrity that it's hard to dislike her, even if she does lash out at everyone around her. Initially just instrumental to catching a murderer, the series soon shifts its focus wholly onto her as we learn of all the injustices she has suffered at the hands of her family, social services and the government. One of the greatest pieces of Scandinavian cinema ever and the archetypal piece of Nordic Noir, this has understandably gone on to become one of its biggest worldwide exports. And all with a bisexual heroine! 

53. GAY SEX IN THE 70S (2005)

DIRECTOR: JOSEPH F. LOVETT.

 

Anyone watching We Were Here should watch Gay Sex In The 70s beforehand. Where the former is an impassioned memorial to the generation who dies of AIDS, the latter is a record of their lives beforehand. Though focusing solely on the gay scene in New York, this fascinating documentary shows an era long overshadowed by the plight of the Gay Community in the 1980s. On the one hand giving explanation to the rapid spread of HIV, on the other it celebrates a liberated community who were finally free to live the lives they always craved. Racy, dirty and exciting, the almost forgotten memory of a brief flash of sexual liberty is told by a handful of nostalgic survivors, who live as rare reminders of what life could have been like if the pandemic had never occurred.

52. SHORTBUS (2006)

STARRING: SOOK-YIN LEE, PAUL DAWSON, LINDSAY BEAMISH, PJ DEBOY, JUSTIN VIVIAN BOND, JAY BRANNAN. DIRECTOR: JOHN CAMERON MITCHELL.

 

The detractors of Shortbus say it contains too much sex... but in a film solely ABOUT sex, could it really exist without it? Exploring the lives of several interconnected characters, the film focuses on a sex-therapist who has never had an orgasm. On a quest to discover her sexual identity, she comes across a host of Queer characters, all of whom are seeking sexual fulfilment in different ways, coming together at the Shortbus nightclub in New York, run by the scintillating Justin Bond. With its actors engaging in real sex on screen, the film explores the quirks and excitement of sexuality without venturing into titillation or the pornographic. In celebrating sexuality itself, it normalises sex to the point of it appearing as explicit as having a cup of tea. As a result, it's a remarkable piece of film-making.

51. FAR FROM HEAVEN (2002)

STARRING: JULIANNE MOORE, DENNIS QUAID, DENNIS HAYSBERT, PATRICIA CLARKSON, VIOLA DAVIS. DIRECTOR: TODD HAYNES.

 

In what is probably her finest performance to date, Julianne Moore was Oscar nominated for this film, which explores racial tensions in 1950s Connecticut as she comes to terms with her husband's sexuality. Falling in love with her African-American gardener, she and her husband struggle to keep their marriage afloat while he tries to conceal his homosexuality. A subtle and brooding tour-de-force, this is a film that will live with you for a long time afterwards, as Moore cracks the veneer of all-American domesticity.

50. MAURICE (1987)

STARRING: JAMES WILBY, HUGH GRANT, RUPERT GRAVES. DIRECTOR: JAMES IVORY.

 

Based on the real-life story of novelist E.M. Forster, Merchant Ivory's exploration of homosexuality in the Edwardian era is a difficult but luscious watch. After his lover and school-friend decides to give into societal pressure and marry, Maurice continues to struggle with living as a gay man in secret. Falling in love with a gamekeeper, the oppressiveness of their society leads to a truly heartbreaking ending. Grant is smoulderingly cocky, while Graves outlines perfectly why he was my teenage posh-boy crush.

49. GODS AND MONSTERS (1998)

STARRING: IAN MCKELLAN, BRENDAN FRASER, LYNN REDGRAVE DIRECTOR: BILL CONDON.

 

Exploring the life of Frankenstein director James Whale, Gods And Monsters focuses on his latter years, during his complex relationship with a young male gardener. Having literally created monsters in his films, Whale struggled all his life with his own monstrosity - his sexuality. In one of McKellan's finest performances, the film is set in 1950s Hollywood where Whale has been ostracised and forced into a hermetic life because he refuses to die alone. Finding companionship with his gardener, this nuanced character study explores the need for happiness in the present over looking back on the glories of the past.

48. PARTY MONSTER (2003)

STARRING: MACAULAY CULKIN, SETH GREEN, CHLOE SEVIGNY, WILSON CRUZ, MARILYN MANSON, DYLAN MCDERMOTT, WILSON CRUZ. DIRECTORS: RENTON BAILEY, RANDY BARBATO. 

 

In the true story of the New York club kids, Macaulay Culkin stars as the iconic Michael Alig, a party promoter whose riotous drug-fuelled life propelled him to infamy. Told through the eyes of James St. James, played by Seth Green, this is a technicolor vibrant homage to an artistic party movement whose antics are now legendary, especially with Alig's cataclysmic fall from grace. Culkin and Green are both fantastic and the film brought New York club style to a worldwide audience. 

47. BEFORE NIGHT FALLS (2000)

STARRING: JAVIER BARDEM, JOHNNY DEPP, OLIVIER MARTINEZ, DIEGO LUNA. DIRECTOR: JULIAN SCHNABEL.

 

Javier Bardem was Oscar nominated for his performance as gay Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas in this biopic by director Julian Schnabel. Following his life from childhood, through living openly as a gay man, into oppression under Castro's Communist regime and his eventual flight to the US, this is a fascinating portrait of a colourful literary figure and a vivid insight into what life was like as a gay person both in Cuba and under Communism. Bardem is magnetic, while two cameos from Johnny Depp add theatrical spice to this masterpiece of a film. 

46. THE CRYING GAME (1992)

STARRING: STEPHEN REA, JAYE DAVIDSON, FOREST WHITAKER, MIRANDA RICHARDSON. DIRECTOR: NEIL JORDAN.

 

The twist at the end of The Crying Game is what includes this film on the list, so SPOILER ALERT, stop reading now. After being captured, a British soldier forms an unlikely friendship with a member of the IRA, but after his escape he tracks down his friend's lover in London, a hairdresser called Dil with a massive secret. Earning Oscar nominations aplenty, the film played on the tagline "The movie everyone is talking about... But no one is giving away its secrets." And even though they were sensationalising the shock discovery of a character's transgenderism, at its centre, Rea and Davidson give sensitive and subtle performances creating real and relatable people, when audiences came out of morbid curiosity.

45. BENT (1997)

STARRING: CLIVE OWEN, LOTHAIRE BLUTHEAU, BRIAN WEBBER, IAN MCKELLAN, MICK JAGGER. DIRECTOR: SEAN MATHIAS.

 

Based on the play by Martin Sherman, Bent is the story of a young gay man sent to the Dachau concentration camp under the Nazi regime. With Berlin a liberal and sexually diverse bohemia before the rise of the Nazis, their rapid turnaround toward complete intolerance led gay people to be treated with as much disdain as the Jews. In this heartbreaking story, in which the characters are as ostracised by the people inside the camps as the people who arrested them, the film explores how love could exist even within as hostile a place as this. Moving, horrifying and completely captivating, this is a love story in the worst place in the world.

44. BAD EDUCATION (2004)

STARRING: GAEL GARCIA BERNAL, FELE MARTINEZ, JAVIER CAMARA. DIRECTOR: PEDRO ALMODOVAR.

 

Bad Education is a blisteringly erotic but markedly dark film, exploring the relationship of two friends who survived sexual abuse throughout their religious schooling during the Franco regime. One part a coming-of-age drama, the rest of its composite fragments deal with the psychological impact of surviving abuse at the hands of their priest. Bernal is outstanding in the central roles (I'll not spoil the plot by explaining this plurality), while Almodovar explores sexuality in the most blatantly gay film in his heavily Queer cannon.

43. THE BOYS IN THE BAND (1971)

STARRING: KENNETH NELSON, PETER WHITE, LEONARD FREY. DIRECTOR: WILLIAM FRIEDKIN.

 

Though definitely outdated in its stereotypes, The Boys In The Band is a landmark film that put a group of gay men onto the big screen for the very first time. Taking place over the course of an evening, the story focuses around a dinner party where a straight man is unwittingly invited to a Birthday party with several gay men. With a rentboy gifted as a present, bitchy queens and gay men revelling in self-loathing, this early piece of Queer cinema is a fascinating time capsule and definitely worth revisiting from a postmodern perspective.

42. BOUND (1996)

STARRING: JENNIFER TILLY, GINA GERSHON. DIRECTORS: THE WACHOWSKIS.

 

In the feature debut of The Wachowskis, Bound is a neo-noir crime thriller packed with sex and violence. Following a girl who tries to escape her mafioso boyfriend, she begins a relationship with a female ex-con and together they hatch a plan to steal $2 million from the mafia. Though some people critiqued the plot's superficiality, the film's realistic depiction of a lesbian relationship on screen was a significant landmark, especially after the heteronormative sexualisation of lesbians Basic Instinct, a similar neo-noir film, just a few years before.

41. THE DANISH GIRL (2014)

STARRING: EDDIE REDMAYNE, ALICIA VIKANDER, MATHIAS SCHOENAERTS, BEN WHISHAW, AMBER HEARD. 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. CAPOTE (2005)

STARRING: PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN, CATHERINE KEENER, CLIFTON COLLINS JR., MARK PELLEDRINO. DIRECTOR: BENNETT MILLER.

 

Philip Seymour Hoffman won his Oscar for this depiction of legendary gay author and socialite Truman Capote as he found himself obsessed with a murder case in Middle America , his account of which would become his magnum opus, ‘In Cold Blood’. As he interviews the people of the community and forges a relationship with one of the killers, he becomes consumed with both his quest for the truth and his empathy for the criminals.

39. TOMBOY (2011)

STARRING: ZOE HERAN, MALONN LEVANA, JEANNE DISSON. DIRECTOR: CELINE SCIAMMA.

 

A perfect piece of moviemaking that very simply explores gender identity through the eyes of a child. Powerful, poignant and moving, it answers 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!!

38. SHOW ME LOVE (FUCKING AMAL) (1998)

STARRING: ALEXANDRA DAHLSTROM, REBECKA LILJEBERG, ERICA CARLSON, MATHIAS RUST. DIRECTOR: LUKAS MOODYSSON.

 

Lukas Moodysson's masterpiece was released under the cleaner title in the UK, but its original Swedish title actually refers to a town rather than a person... But the film follows a young bullied girl who is outed at school as a lesbian due to her crush on the enigmatic Elin. But when Elin kisses her for a date, she realises there might be more behind the kiss than she realises. A sweet story of sexual awakening, this a well-written teen drama with very strong performances from its teenage cast. A classic of Swedish cinema, this is a must-watch. 

37. PHILADELPHIA (1993)

STARRING: TOM HANKS, DENZEL WASHINGTON, ANTONIO BANDERAS. DIRECTOR: JONATHAN DEMME.

 

When Jonathan Demme came under fire from the LGBT Community for his portrayal of a transvestite in The Silence Of The Lambs, his response was Philadelphia. The story of one man's quest for justice in the face of HIV/AIDS, this landmark tearjerker won Hanks his second Oscar and saw the AIDS pandemic tackled by Hollywood for the first time. Though a sanitised and safe account, shown through the eyes of heterosexual society, there can be no argument that Philadelphia showed the western world finally coming to terms with admitting their passivity during the crisis. An important but flawed film.

36. DALLAS BUYERS CLUB (2013)

STARRING: MATTHEW MCCONNAUGHEY, JARED LETO, JENNIFER GARNER DIRECTOR: JEAN-MARC VALLEE

 

While we're on the topic of AIDS, Dallas Buyers Club is a completely different entity of a movie. 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.

35. BOYS DON'T CRY (1999)

STARRING: HILARY SWANK, CHLOE SEVIGNY, PETER SARSGAARD. DIRECTOR: KIMBERLEY PEIRCE.

 

In 1999, the relatively unknown Hilary Swank won the Best Actress Academy Award for Boys Don't Cry. Swank plays Brandon, a transgender boy who was born a girl, who starts a new life in Nebraska. But his new life as "one of the lads" is torn apart when his secret is outed in the community. In this tender and balanced portrayal of transgenderism, Swank brought a beautifully subtle character to life that had rarely been seen on the big screen before. Though the story is bleak and the circumstances extraordinary, it is the ordinariness of Swank's character that made her so compelling. And the story is a heartbreaking tale.

34. MYSTERIOUS SKIN (2004)

STARRING: JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT, BRADY CORBETT, ELISABETH SHUE. DIRECTOR: GREGG ARAKI.

 

Two school-friends share a horrifying history together, although only one of them can remember. Brian wants to remember what happened to him during a blackout when he was eight years old. Believing his friend to be the key to his memory, he tracks him down to New York, where he's working as a hustler on the streets. This film is a dark and horrifying tale of abuse, where the adult boys live against the backdrop of the AIDS pandemic, where hustling is even more dangerous. Gordon-Levitt and Corbett are outstanding in their roles and the climax will live with you long after the credits role.

33. FLOATING SKYSCRAPERS (2013)

STARRING: MATEUSZ BANASIUK, MARTA NIERADKIEWICZ, BARTOSZ GELNER. DIRECTOR: TOMASZ 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. 

32. TRANSAMERICA (2005)

STARRING: FELICITY HUFFMAN, KEVIN ZEGERS. DIRECTOR: DUNCAN TUCKER.

 

An unusual take on the standard roadtrip genre, Transamerica earned Huffman an Oscar nomination for her role as Bree, a transsexual woman who discovers that she fathered a son when she was younger. Her son is now a teenage hustler in New York, so Bree bails him out of jail and takes him by road across America on his quest to track down his biological father, without telling him who she really is. Huffman and Zegers are remarkable in their roles as questions of parenthood bubble through to create a tense but heart-warming film.

31. BUT I'M A CHEERLEADER (1999)

STARRING: NATASHA LYONNE, CLEA DUVALL, MICHELLE WILLIAMS, MINK STOLE, RUPAUL CHARLES, CATHY MORIARTY, EDDIE CIBRIAN. DIRECTOR: JAMIE BABBIT.

 

In this camp but heartfelt comedy, a teenage girl is sent to Gay Camp when her parents suspect she might be a lesbian. Though the trip is meant to "cure" her of any burgeoning homosexual feelings, her experiences with her fellow homosexuals leads to a solidarity intent on defying the system, rather than conforming. A pacy, funny and daft romp, But I'm A Cheerleader is a hilariously irreverent take on a serious problem in America, but the result is incredibly entertaining. And Lyonne and DuVall were born to play these roles.

30. THE IMITATION GAME (2014)

STARRING: BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH, KEIRA KNIGHTLEY, MATTHEW GOODE, MARK STRONG, CHARLES DANCE. 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.

29. THE NORMAL HEART (2014)

STARRING: MARK RUFFALO, MATT BOMER, JULIA ROBERTS, JIM PARSONS, TAYLOR KITSCH, JONATHAN GROFF. 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.

28. MY BEAUTIFUL LAUNDRETTE (1985)

STARRING: DANIEL DAY LEWIS, SAEED JAFFREY, ROSHAN SETH. DIRECTOR: STEPHEN FREARS.

 

Set in Thatcherite Britain in the 80s, My Beautiful Laundrette follows a young Asian man who takes over his uncle's laundrette and tries to turn it into a money-making venture. Employing the help of an old school-friend, who has since become a neo-Nazi, it forces his father to come to terms with relying on people he hates, while a burgeoning sexual relationship begins to develop between the two. With the characters' sexualities dealt with as the least contentious issue in the pile, this refreshingly indifferent take on homosexuality was a landmark moment in Queer cinema, where who someone loves is irrelevant in the face of cultural injustice.

27. THE BIRDCAGE (1996)

STARRING: ROBIN WILLIAMS, NATHAN LANE, GENE HACKMAN, DIANNE WIEST, CALISTA FLOCKHART, HANK AZARIA. DIRECTOR: MIKE NICHOLS.

 

The Hollywood remake of the aforementioned La Cage Au Folles, The Birdcage is a camp and catty battle of wits between drama queens, bitches and bigots, cannon-balling through witty dialogue and larger-than-life explosive scenes. With Williams at the height of his fame, this madcap comedy is a hilarious and riotous comedy that accepts Gay Culture at its most exaggerated, with its campery played for laughs, but not the butt of its jokes. And Nathan Lane is absolutely divine here.

26. ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER (1999)

STARRING: CECILIA ROTH, MARISA PAREDES, CANDELA PENA, PENELOPE CRUZ. DIRECTOR: PEDRO ALMODOVAR.

 

All About My Mother is a fabulous film. A young man wants to uncover the identity of his father, but his mother is intent on keeping this secret. With Spain portrayed in colourful vibrancy, the film explores the relationship between a mother and son, with inter-textual references to every film about strong women you can think of and Roth is resplendent in the central role. Add to that a fabulous transsexual and a truly endearing nun with HIV, played by Penelope Cruz, and this is a film that will take you on a rollercoaster of emotions. Just like any Almodovar film, this is a celebration of how colourful life can be, but this is his very best film of all.

25. MY SUMMER OF LOVE (2004)

STARRING: EMILY BLUNT, NATALIE PRESS, PADDY CONSIDINE. DIRECTOR: PAWEL PAWLIKOWSKI.

 

In Emily Blunt's impressive debut, this coming of age story of obsession and deception is an angst-ridden boiling pot of lust and rich subtext. When two teenage girls meet at the start of a long hot summer, the next six weeks are spent amusing one another, before their relationship develops into something deeper and darker. As we learn to trust Blunt less and less, her girlfriend falls further and further in love with her, piling tension into this sun-drenched and atmospheric film. Smouldering, patient and paced, this superb movie is still probably Blunt's best. And yes, that includes The Devil Wears Prada.

24. THE HOURS (2002)

STARRING: MERYL STREEP, NICOLE KIDMAN, JULIANNE MOORE, ED HARRIES, TONI COLLETTE, CLARE DANES, JEFF DANIELS, ALISON JANNEY. DIRECTOR: STEPHEN DALDRY.

 

In an experimental film about the life and work of Virginia Woolf, The Hours contrasts three storylines: the life of Woolf, a parody of Mrs Dalloway set in 1950s suburbia and a woman reading the book in the present day. While Kidman and Moore are mesmerising in their storylines, Streep's projects the story against the lives of a lesbian couple who are struggling with the deterioration of their friend with AIDS. A fascinating and compelling story, the film won Oscar nominations aplenty (including winning Kidman the Best Actress award), whilst playing with a truly original narrative structure.

23. THE HANDMAIDEN (2017)

STARRING: MIN-HEE KIM, TAE-RI KIM, JUNG-WOO HA, JIN-WOONG JO, HAE-SOOK KIM. DIRECTOR: PARK CHAN-WOOK.

 

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.

22. MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO (1991)

STARRING: RIVER PHOENIX, KEANU REEVES, JAMES RUSSO, DIRECTOR: GUS VAN SANT. Van Sant makes two types of films; the accessible and the arty. My Own Private Idaho is definitely the latter, but this juxtaposition of Shakespearean themes, plot and dialogue (lifted unpretentiously from Henry IV Part I, Part 2 and Henry V) and the gay hustling scene of the early 90s somehow just works. This dreamlike and sad tale of two boys hunting for somewhere they can call their home is a tragic and haunting indie with pretentions of epic grandeur. Though not easily accessible, its concept is so high that its poetic ramblings are soothing and shocking in equal part. And moments of brilliance flash from Phoenix, showing the actor that maybe he could have become.

21. MONSTER (2003)

STARRING: CHARLIZE THERON, CHRISTINA RICCI, BRUCE DERN. DIRECTOR: PATTY JENKINS.

 

Despite becoming the poster-girl for the cause of Oscar bids based on uglification, Charlize Theron's performance as notorious American serial killer Aileen Wuornos is a striking and disturbing film, whose real power comes from its in-depth exploration of the psychology of a murderer, helping to explain and even sometimes justify her actions. Though Wuornos remains a disquieting character, the depiction of her relationship with her female partner humanises her, allowing us to see the person behind the monster. A fascinating and sinister film.

20. BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOUR (2013)

STARRING: LEA SEYDOUX, ADELE EXARCHOPOULOS DIRECTOR: ABDELLATIF KECHICH.​

 

One of the more controversial films of the list, 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.

19. MULHOLLAND DRIVE (2001)

STARRING: NAOMI WATTS, LAURA HERRING, JUSTIN THEROUX. DIRECTOR: DAVID LYNCH.

 

In David Lynch's trippy masterpiece, Naomi Watts stars opposite Laura Herring, who survives a car crash on the titular LA street. Left with amnesia, she teams up with Watts' doe-eyed Hollywood starlet in a journey across the city, where lines between dreams and reality are crossed, blurred and called wholly into question. Chasing a dangerous director, a mysterious blue box and a club named Silencio, whilst exploring their feelings for each other, this richly complex visual miasma of styles and genres has been named by some critics as the greatest movie of the century so far. Don't expect to understand it, but do expect to be greatly rewarded for your time. 

18. LA CAGE AUX FOLLES (1978)

STARRING: UGO TOGNAZZI, MICHEL SERRAULT, CLAIRE MAURIER. DIRECTOR: EDOUARD MOLINARO.

 

An early LGBT film with widespread appeal, La Cage follows a gay couple who try to conceal their sexuality and ownership of a drag club from their son. A French farce that makes no attempt to conceal its celebration of campery, the film was an outstanding succces, leading to the Broadway musical and its eventual Hollywood remake, The Birdcage. With its older protagonists delightfully uncensored, La Cageportrays a strong and clearly loving relationship between two men within the context of prima donnas and showmanship. After its release, this film was the highest grossing foreign-language film of all time.

17. PARIS IS BURNING (1990)

DIRECTOR: JENNIE LIVINGSTON.

 

The impact this remarkable documentary has made cannot be understated. Charting New York's drag scene in the 1980s, the film focuses on the malleability of Queer Culture, where everyone expresses who they want to be, but obviously being fierce at the same time. Observing the balls, chronicling the voguing and meeting with people from the city's leading drag families, it peels back the layers of these warm but damaged people, who have created the world where they can feel accepted. A funny film, laden with sass, Paris Is Burning spread the New York drag model around the world and shaped a whole generation of queens. And now it lives as a remarkable document of a bygone age.

16. 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.

15. ORLANDO (1992)

STARRING: TILDA SWINTON, BILLY ZANE, QUENTIN CRISP. DIRECTOR: SALLY POTTER.

 

A gender-bending time travelling disbelief-suspended masterpiece, stars Swinton as the young nobleman Orlando. Commanded by Queen Elizabeth I (played with glorious campery by Quentin Crisp) to stay forever young, he does exactly that. Over the resulting centuries, he experiences British history from multiple angles, lives, relationships, even changing gender midway through. Running right until the 1990s, the character grows wiser but never loses the wide-eyed fervour of the young bewitched man. Swinton is resplendent in this Queer punk film that defies societal conventions and tips its hat to Derek Jarman at every opportunity.

14. STRANGER BY THE LAKE (2013)

STARRING: PIERRE DELADONHAMPS, 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.

13. A SINGLE MAN (2009)

STARRING: COLIN FIRTH, JULIANNE MOORE, NICHOLAS HOULT, MATTHEW GOODE. 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.

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.

11. THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT (2010)

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. CALL ME BY YOUR NAME (2017)

STARRING: TIMOTHEE CHALAMET, ARMIE HAMMER, MICHAEL STUHLBARG. 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.

9. MILK (2008)

STARRING: SEAN PENN, JOSH BROLIN, JAMES FRANCO, EMILE HIRSCH, DIEGO LUNA DIRECTOR: GUS VAN SANT.

 

The story of San Francisco politician Harvey Milk is Van Sant's tour-de-force. Charting the rise of the first openly gay politician to take office in the US, this remarkable story of uncompromising personal strength is respectfully and reverently painted against the newly liberated Gay Community in the Castro. But as his flame burns brighter, so too does his homophobic opposition that would eventually lead to his assassination. Winning Penn his second Oscar, this incredible story of courage in the face of tremendous adversity is the gay To Kill A Mockingbird, and its origins from real life make it all the more tragic.

8. THE ADVENTURES OF PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT (1994)

STARRING: HUGO WEAVING, GUY PEARCE, TERENCE STAMP, BILL HUNTER DIRECTOR: STEPHAN ELLIOTT.

 

Despite its appallingly tacky incarnation on the stage, this bitchy and fabulous road movie remains one of the finest (and most original) of its genre. Travelling across the Australian outback to perform cabaret at Alice Springs, two drag queens and a transsexual inhabit a pink second-hand bus that takes them across the literal wilderness, as well as taking them on a journey through the wildernesses of their own lives. Despite their brazen flamboyance, none of them have come to terms with who they really are and while tempers, egos and wigs fray, so each one comes closer to discovering their true selves. This is a story about everyone's self-acceptance, but it's dragged up in heels and corsets and some of the boldest drag you will ever see on film. Stamp is the stand-out, but they are all on point. Particularly their lip-syncs to an amazing soundtrack.

7. BEAUTIFUL THING (1996)

STARRING: GLEN BERRY, SCOTT NEAL, LINDA HENRY, BEN DANIELS, TAMEKA EMPSON DIRECTOR: HETTIE MACDONALD.

 

Two teenage neighbours find themselves sharing a bed one night, only to discover new feelings that they don't understand. Coming to understand their sexuality and their feelings for each other, this compelling story of sexual awakening is a life affirming ode to teenage love and a mirror held up to society's inherent homophobia in equal measure. Based on the play by Jonathan Harvey, this landmark film showed the innocence of same-sex love without any associated adult corruption that many still believe comes with homosexuality. Beautiful Thing shows that all love really is a beautiful thing and set against the soaring soundtrack of Mama Cass, the film is a beautiful thing in itself.

6. HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH (2001)

STARRING: JOHN CAMERON MITCHELL, MICHAEL PITT, MIRIAM SHOR, ANDREA MARTIN DIRECTOR: JOHN CAMERON MITCHELL.

 

Hedwig saw the arrival of one the Gay Community's strongest voices, and by God did he arrive in force. Writing, directing and starring in this film adaptation of the off-Broadway musical, John Cameron Mitchell created a rock masterpiece in the shape of a transsexual "internationally ignored song-stylist" from Communist East Berlin. Now revived on Broadway in a hugely successful stage show, Hedwigexplores one woman's journey through sexualities and gender identities, as she wrestles to come to terms with who she really is. Set against a punk interpretation of Plato's Symposium, this indie masterpiece is equal parts a trumpet for progressive liberalism and a nostalgic ode to the era of glam rock. I could watch this film again and again. And I have. I once watched it three times in a day.

5. PRIDE (2014)

STARRING: BEN SCHNETZER, DOMINIC WEST, ANDREW SCOTT, GEORGE MACKAY, IMELDA STAUNTON, BILL NIGHY, PADDY CONSIDINE, JESSICA GUNNING 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.

4. BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN (2005)

STARRING: HEATH LEDGER, JAKE GYLLENHAAL, MICHELLE WILLIAMS, ANNE HATHAWAY DIRECTOR: ANG LEE.

 

It is still the greatest injustice in the history of the Oscars that Brokeback Mountainmissed out on the Best Picture prize to the now dated Crash. A heart-wrenching story of forbidden love, this masterpiece of epic cinema places two insignificant cowboys against the backdrop of harsh social oppression, set in the sweeping landscapes of Wyoming. Both married and starting their own families, Ennis and Jack fall in love on their trips to the mountain together. But as time passes and they can't bear to be apart, the unfeasibility of their creating a life together becomes impossible for either to bear. Peppered with astonishing performances from all of its leads, Brokeback Mountain isn't just one of the finest LGBT films ever made, it's one of the greatest films of any kind. Period. Its calamitously heartbreaking story is one that will live on as one the greatest stories of star-crossed lovers in the history of modern cinema.

3. MOONLIGHT (2016)

STARRING: MAHERSHALA ALI, JANELLE MONAE, NAOMIE HARRIS, TREVANTE RHODES, ANDRE HOLLAND. 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.

2. 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 ladled 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. WEEKEND (2011)

STARRING: TOM CULLEN, CHRIS NEW. DIRECTOR: ANDREW HAIGH.

 

This choice for the Greatest LGBT Film Of All Time will probably prove controversial, but this tiny film about two people falling in love is one of the most moving and heartfelt things I have ever seen on film. Set over the course of a single weekend, the film follows Russell, who meets Glen on a night out. Expecting that their tryst to be 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 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? I couldn't forgive myself for spoiling the end of this film for anyone, but I have NEVER cried as much as I did in those last three minutes. And I continue to cry each time I see it. 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. To anyone who has not seen Weekend, I urge you to fall in love all over again with this eminently recognisable couple.

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