People love to tell stories. The narratives that we see and hear in our everyday lives from our favorite shows, newspapers, movies, and books all have a profound effect on how we perceive ourselves and the world.
Unsurprisingly, a minority group like the LGBTQ community would use the mantra, “representation matters,” to perfectly vocalize this idea.
Hollywood in recent decades has seen value in telling queer stories. To their downfall, they have relied heavily on stereotypes like gays being weak, gay equates to feminine, or perhaps the more common one, that monogamy and gays do not mix.
Despite this, a few films exist that have intimate storylines with complex characters, who are trying to navigate their own lives.
A mixture of award-winning movies, and some small-scale narratives, each have a powerful message behind them, and manage to sufficiently express the queer experience through the visual arts.
In honor of Pride Month, a list of 10 LGBTQ must-see films.
Romance, Intimate, Heartfelt
Director Andrew Haigh
Being gay and single is a culture all of its own. When Russell (Tom Cullen) and Glen (Chris New) meet at a gay club, what was supposed to be a one-night stand turns into something unexpected. This film asks the question, “can a weekend with someone special be enough to resonate with you for life?”
Drama, Sensitive, Fragility
Director Barry Jenkins
“Moonlight” lovingly portrays what happens when rigid structures fail to allow sensitive individuals to flourish outside of the societal scope. Broken down into three parts, that follows one character from boyhood to adulthood, the story centers around a young Black American gay man, Chiron (Alex Hibbert/ Trevante Rhodes/ Ashton Sanders). Struggling for definition, he soon becomes aware of who he should be rather than who he thinks others want him to be.
Humorous, Family, Honest
Director Alan Ball
“Uncle Frank,” one of the newer gay films out there, covers a lot of ground in an hour and thirty minutes. Largely set in 1973 South Carolina, a man named Frank Bledsoe (Paul Bettany) goes on a road trip with his niece Beth (Sophia Lillis), from Manhattan to his hometown of Creekville for a family funeral. Frank’s lover Wally (Peter Macdissi) follows to be closer to him in his time of need. What Frank tried so hard to escape from comes back to haunt him in his home town.
Campy, Drag, Lush
Director Mike Nichols
A wonderfully fun depiction of gay culture, the film stars Armand (Robin Williams) and Albert (Nathan Lane), who are both lovers and business partners and own a drag night club in Miami Beach. When their son Val (Dan Futterman) tells them that he plans on marrying his girlfriend Barbara (Calista Flockhart), who has a conservative father, hilarious antics follow soon after.
PARIS IS BURNING
Documentary, Provocative, Colorful
Director Jennie Livingston
No list of films can be complete without one that brought national attention to the Latino, Black and queer communities living in New York City during the height of drag ball culture. Director Jennie Livingson interviews Willi Ninja, Angie Extravagaza, and Dorian Corery to name a few drag queens. This powerful documentary gives a snapshot of the culture at the time, filling audiences with a sense of loss, regret, and intense glee for the subjects.
Biography, Drama, Political
Director Gus Van Sant
“Milk” is considered, by many, to be a beautiful love letter to the LGBT community. Set in 1970’s, this biographical film utilizes archived footage and recordings of Harvey Milk in his lifetime. This film gently outlines his relationship with his boyfriend Scott Smith. While Milk’s time in office was short, he changed the course of queer history in America.
Loving, Comedy, Coming of Age
Director Greg Berlanti
Director Greg Berlanti creates one of the few love stories that does not end in a characteristically cliché ending. Well regarded for the characters openminded friends, this movie shows the difficulties of youth in a more modern illustration. Beneath all that is a subtle through line of gayness that affects each character in Simon’s orbit in a softer method than perhaps reality would suggest.
Western, Emotional, Heartbreaking
Director Ang Lee
“Brokeback Mountain” is a gay classic film that has opened up the mainstream idea of gay people to more positive representations in media. In the Brokeback Mountain of Wyoming, both Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger, who play Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist respectively, find themselves in a similar position when they were looking for work. In their break time together, these two cowboys build an intimate relationship packed with complexities. When they both marry their girlfriends, the struggle to be themselves reaches new heights and depths. The love they have for one anther takes a backseat to the obligations they made.
Witty, Hilarious, Teen
Director Olivia Wilde
Olivia Wilde, known for her many talents, makes her directorial debut in a coming-of-age and sisterhood film. The movie follows two teenage girls, Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein), on their last day of high school before they graduate. These two teens attempt to fill four years of partying into one last day before graduation day. In this journey, they discover their sexuality and the endless possibilities for their futures.
STRAIGHT UP (2019)
Smart, Insecure, Charming
Director James Sweeney
Directed, written, and starring James Sweeney, his film encompasses a unique homosexual coming-of-age story, similar to a Russian nesting doll it is filled with one surprise after another. Homosexuality represents only one aspect of this social comedy. This film centers around Todd (James Sweeney), who grapples with his sexuality and Rory (Katie Findlay), who is his intellectual equal and perhaps soulmate. Can a love story develop from the lack of sexual coupling?
Donnie Lopez is a journalist and a professor at Sam Houston currently based in Houston. His work has appeared in the Houston Chronicle, American Thinker and on BlackGirlNerds