Friday, June 30, 2017

The Top 22 LGBT Movies

If you didn't know, June is Pride Month, or LGBT Pride Month if you prefer. As a movie blogger, I decided to do what I (almost) always do in honor of such occasions. I figured how movies fit in and made a list. This list does need a minor spoiler warning because for a couple of them, just being here is a spoiler. They're still great movies, so see them anyway. By the way, when you get to the end you might wonder where THAT movie is. Yup, I've seen it. Nope, I don't like it. Ask me about it in the comments if you like. Anyway, on to what I think are...

The Top 22 LGBT Movies

(Some titles I haven't seen: The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Bad Education, The Boys in the Band, But I'm a Cheerleader, Gods and Monsters, Happy Together, Heavenly Creatures, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, The Hours, The Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls in Love, Looking for Langston, My Beautiful Laundrette, My Own Private Idaho, Orlando, Paris is Burning, Pride, Stranger Inside, Tongues Untied, The Watermelon Woman, Weekend)

Why 22? It's simple. I got to 20, realized I forgot a couple of movies, stuck them in the middle and didn't want to remove anything. You know what, let's start this over...

The Top 22 LGBT Movies

22. Side Effects
This psychological thriller from director Steven Soderbergh features a dynamite performance from Rooney Mara. She stars as a young woman dealing with depression who has tried to commit suicide, had some serious sleepwalking episodes, and oh by the way, killed her husband. We follow her through a labyrinthine plot and Mara is perfect all the way through. (My Full Review)

21. A Single Man
Colin Firth plays George, a gay man grieving over the death of his long-time partner. Se in 1962, he also has to remain closeted or risk losing his job. It doesn't help matters that a young man has become somewhat obsessed with him. Similar to Side Effects, this is a movie carried by its performances. In this case, Colin Firth shines as our titular single man. He is joined in excellence by Julianne Moore, Nicholas Hoult, and Matthew Goode. (My Full Review)

20. The Kids Are All Right
Nic (Annette Benning) and Jules (another appearance on this list by Julianne Moore) are a married, with children conceived through artificial insemination. There world turns upside down when their kids decide to seek out their dad without their moms' permission. We really get to know the people in this film and understand their problems. We don't get answers to everything and the film is better for it. (My Full Review)

19. Bessie
The first of several biopics on the list, this one is all about legendary blues singer Bessie Smith, portrayed in spectacular fashion by Queen Latifah. Smith is a tough broad in every sense of the term and has no qualms about doing whatever she wants with whoever she wants in or out of the bedroom. (My Full Review)

18. The Birdcage
Based on the legendary play, La Cage aux Folles, this film features Nathan Lane and the late-great Robin Williams as a gay couple who own a drag club.  Albert even performs as the club's main attraction. Their son informs them that he's being seeing a girl whom he intends to marry. That means they have to meet her parents. Unfortunately for them, her parents are hardcore, and rather high-profile, conservatives. Not wanting to mess things up for their son, our heroes agree to pretend to be straight. Hijinks and shenanigans ensue.

17. Philadelphia
The story follows lawyer Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks), a closeted homosexual living with AIDS. He is fired from his firm shortly after they find out both of those things. He decides to sue his former employees and decides upon Joe Miller (Denzel Washington) to represent him. It's part courtroom drama and part social commentary. It's a bit aged, but still manages to be a poignant film. Hanks would win an Oscar for his portrayal, but for my money it's Washington as his lawyer and Antonio Banderas as his partner that steal the show. (My Full Review)

16. Transamerica
Bree (Felicity Huffman) is a transgender woman just about to have her vaginoplasty when she receives a call from someone who claims to be her long lost son and needs to be bailed out of jail. She decides to go get the young man and a cross-country road trip ensues. Oh, here's the kicker, the young man has no idea his father now identifies as a woman and Bree would like to keep it that way. Huffman turns in a performance very well deserving of the Academy Award nomination it garnered her. It's a fairly unique road trip movie with tons of heart. It also came out the same year as THAT movie, and I like this one much better.

15. Carol
Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett turn in dual dynamite performances as Therese and Carol, respectively. Therese is a young department store clerk whom Carol takes a shine to. The two soon find themselves in a relationship while Carol's already rocky marriage to Harge (Kyle Chandler) disintegrates even further. The two women pull us through the film, each of them putting us through the emotional ringer. (My Quick and Dirty Review)

14. Milk
This one is a biopic about politician Harvey Milk (Sean Penn). Milk was the first openly gay person to be elected to office in the state of California. As you can imagine, it wasn't easy. The film follows him first as a regular civilian, then on the campaign trail, and the battles he had to fight after being elected. Neither Penn or co-star Emile Hirsch has ever been better (at least in what I've seen). Penn won an Oscar for his efforts. The story sizzles and is just impossible to take your eyes from.

13. All About My Mother
Manuela (Cecilia Roth) is keeping a secret from her son. It’s about his absent father. Before she can tell him, he’s killed in a tragic accident. She then decides she needs to confront her past and goes looking for her ex. This film features a colorful cast of characters who all depend on Manuela as if they were their mother, whether she is or not. What might appear on the surface to be a freak show worthy collection of characters with ridiculous problems ends up as an engrossing and very human story delivered by director Pedro Almodóvar. (My Full Review)

12. Bound
Violet (Jennifer Tilly) is the girlfriend of Caesar, a money launderer for the mob. She takes a liking to, and seduces, Corky (Gina Gershon) the ex-con who has been hired as the plumber for the apartment building they all live in. In hopes of disappearing together and starting a new life, the two hatch a plan to steal million bucks from Caesar. And away we go. This steamy affair is the feature film debut of directors The Wachowskis who go on to direct The Matrix. As a side note, but one of relevance to the list, the Wachowskis are both transgender women, Lana and Lilly, formerly Larry and Andrew.

11. Pariah
Alike (pronounce uh-lee-kay) is a high school student who is also a lesbian. She's struggling mightily with how to come out to her family, particularly her ultra-religious mother. Though she's sure of her sexuality, she's not so sure how to navigate a relationship and is trying to learn the ropes in that arena, as well. Like a few other movies on this list, it's a coming-of-age story filled with lots of obstacles. The dynamic between mother and daughter touches every nerve. Adepero Oduye handles the daughter/troubled teen part exceptionally well. Mom is played by Kim Wayans with a performance I had no idea she was capable of giving. (My Full Review)

10. The Skin I Live In
Here, we have the second entry from the master of the sexual identity crisis, director Pedro Almodóvar. This one follows rich and famous surgeon Dr. Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas). He's working on creating an artificial skin that will be resistant to burns and insect bites. What the world doesn't know is that he's doing all of his testing on Vera (Elena Anaya), a woman he's been keeping captive at his estate for quite some time. The viewer is taken on a rather disturbing journey with plenty of twists and turns. Along the way, we're treated to a mystery, a revenge flick, and body-horror movie. All of these elements are handled expertly and leave us exhausted in a really good way. (My Full Review)

9. Boys Don't Cry
Hilary Swank stars as Brandon Teena, a woman passing as a man who was wandered into Falls City, Nebraska. Based on a true story, we watch as Brandon meets and falls in love with Lana (Chloe Sevigny). Unfortunately, Lana runs with some decidedly non-progressive types who may not take too kindly to Brandon should the find out the full truth of his identity. Swank deservedly took home an Oscar for her work in this role. The film, as a whole, just breaks your heart. (My Full Review)

8. Tangerine
Sin-Dee (Kitana Rodriguez) and Alexandra (Mya Taylor) are a pair transgender women working as prostitutes. They are also best friends. Sin-Dee has just gotten out of jail and is desperately looking for her boyfriend Chester (James Ransone), who also happens to be her pimp, for cheating on her. Alexandra has problems of her own, trying to round up an audience for her singing debut at a local nightclub. Famously shot using a pair of iPhones, the movie conjures up all the intimacy that would suggest as we get up close and personal with the characters in this darkly comic slice of life. (My Full of Review)

7. The Handmaiden
Speaking of films that pull together multiple genres, throw a bunch of twists and turns at us, and leave us exhausted in a good way, there's this gem from director Park Chan-Wook. Being succinct in describing the plot is hard, but I'll give it a shot. Count Fujiwara (Ha Jung-woo) hires Sook-Hee (Kim Tae-ri) to help him swindle heiress Lady Hideko (Kim Min-hee) out of her fortune. Craziness ensues. By craziness, I mean a splendid, gorgeously shot film that pushes us past our limits, over the edge, doesn't apologize, and we love it for that very reason. (My Quick and Dirty Review)

6. Monster
There aren't many female serial killers in the annals of American crime history. This film is about one, Aileen Wuornos (Charlize Theron). She is a prostitute who gets raped and beaten up by a client whom she kills in self defense. After that, she begins killing her johns whether they've showed any aggression towards her or not. She also robs them, as this is the only way she knows to take care of herself and her girlfriend Selby (Christina Ricci). Theron gives one of the best performances I've ever seen. In fact, legendary film critic Roger Ebert said it wasn't a performance at all, but "an embodiment." Whatever it is, it earned her an Oscar.

5. Blue is the Warmest Color
High school girl Adele (Adele Exarchopoulos) meets Emma (Lea Seydoux), who is in college. The two begin a committed relationship we follow well into Adele's adult life. They go through lots of ups and downs and we ride along for every one of them. These are two people we don't just come to know, we come to feel. The most effective trick this movie pulls, though, is that relationships of all stripes have similar ebbs and flows. (My Full Review)

4. Dog Day Afternoon
Sonny (Al Pacino), Sal (John Cazale), and Stevie (Gary Springer) are not professional criminals. However, they still decide to try robbing a bank in Brooklyn. Mistakes are made, attention is drawn to them, and before you know it, they find themselves in swirling storm of negotiations with the police, managing hostages, and a media frenzy. Why are they robbing the bank? Well, that's a spoiler I won't let slip. I know the movie is over forty years old, but I'll still guard that secret for those who haven't seen it. Just know that Pacino is as masterful as ever in what is also one of the all-time great crime dramas.

3. Mysterious Skin
Neil (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Brian (Brady Corbet) are two young men who have followed very different paths in life. Neil is an adventurous, gay male prostitute with a thing for older guys. He also happens to have been molested by his Little League baseball coach when he was eight years old. Brian is much more introverted and believes he was once abducted by aliens due to his chronic nightmares, nosebleeds, and blackouts. We follow the two as their paths cross and truths are revealed about them both. Joseph Gordon-Levitt gives his most overlooked performance as he is excellent. The movie as a whole just delivers repeated gut-punches. I ranked it very highly because it's a fantastic film. Still, this is probably the toughest film on this list to actually watch. By the way, this was released in the US in 2005, the same as THAT movie. Yup, this one is far better, too.

2. Moonlight
Occasionally, a film comes along that doesn't just take you on a roller coaster of emotions, it also offers insight, is gut-wrenching, and leaves you emotionally hanging, unsure of what's next for the people on the screen. And we love it. This is that type of movie. We go through a very hard life with Chiron (played at different stages of his life by three different actors) until he becomes someone no one recognizes, himself included. It's a powerful saga, beautifully framed by director Barry Jenkins and cinematographer James Laxton. The three young actors playing Chiron are excellent. Mahershala Ali walked off with an Oscar for his work as Chiron's mentor/father figure and Naomie Harris was nominated for one. However, it's not just an actor's showcase. It's a marvelous film that pulled all the right elements together. (My Full Review)

1. How to Survive a Plague
This documentary details the life and times of the activist group, Act Up. In particular, it focuses on the groups efforts in the 1980s to speed up the process of developing effective drugs to combat AIDs and making them available to the public. The film benefits from an abundance of footage of protests, organization meetings, and archived interviews with all the group's important people. Of course, there are also lots of present day interviews with those present and still accounted for. The result of all this is a well-rounded portrait of a group trying to change the world, but couldn't always decide on how best to do this. (My Full Review)

I'm done. This is the part where you tell me why THAT movie should be on the list.


  1. Definitely not Moonlight. It just didn't work for me. I'd pick (in no particular order) Boys Don't Cry, Blue is the Warmest Color, The Kids Are All Right, Philadelphia, Carol, Pride, Milk, Paris Is Burning, The Hours, Brokeback Mountain and All About My Mother. Since we have so many in common I'll check out those I haven't seen, especially Dog Day Afternoon. I wasn't expecting to see it on the list. I guess it's because I know very little about the film.

    1. Can't wait to read your thoughts on Dog Day Afternoon. Blech, you like THAT movie.

  2. So much love for this list, Dell! I was going to do such an undertaking myself, but I feel like I haven't seen enough classics to do it justice. I LOVE your choice for #1, which is a brilliant, important film for so many reasons. You definitely need to watch Paris is Burning right now, though, and immediately add it to this list.

    I have no problem with THAT movie not being on this list, even though I like it. I haven't seen it since it was in theaters, and I really can't bring myself to watch it again.

    Others that aren't on your "haven't watched" list that I would recommend include: Get Real, Beautiful Thing, Latter Days, To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything Julie Newmar, Edge of Seventeen (from 1998), and Not Another Gay Movie (which is so bad it's awesome).

    1. As you can see there's a number of classics I haven't seen either, but I figured "why not. " Paris is Burning is high on my list of those unseen. I have seen To Wong Foo. Good movie. It just missed the cut.

  3. I'm glad to see Mysterious Skin so high on this list. That film, while hard to watch is absolutely amazing. It made JGL my favorite actor.

    There's lots of great films here, though I haven't seen all of them. Philadelphia is one I need to see. Transamerica I should probably rewatch just because I hated on it so much during that Oscar season. Felicity was getting all these accolades and Cillian Murphy was completely ignored for the superior Breakfast on Pluto.

    One your haven't seen list, But I'm A Cheerleader, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, My own Private Idaho, and Heavenly Creatures are wonderful.

    1. Mysterious Skin n is so tough, but man is it good.

      Philadelphia is a good one, though to be honest, Denzel carries the movie while just sits around looking sick. I haven't seen Breakfast on Pluto.

  4. Love your list even though I have not seen some of them. I would love to see the one with Antonio Banderas as a badman surgeon. I loved Felicity Hoffman in Transgender and Love Colin Firth in A Single man. I was ok with Philadelphia but I appreciated Denzel's performance and love Antonio's. Monster is scary and yet you actually feel for her in some way. I would add Pricilla: Queen of the Desert to this Heavenly Creatures. Now, I have to ask, what is "that" movie:)??

    1. The Skin I Live In is fantastically macabre, yet still manages to be poignant. Banderas was great in this and Philadelphia. In the latter, both he and Denzel were better than Hanks. Priscilla is one I hope to watch really soon. THAT movie = Brokeback Mountain.

  5. I've seen most of these films as I can definitely be on board with this. Especially How to Survive a Plague which is just intense. Especially the ending to see many of those people who were fighting for their lives and see that they're still alive.

    1. That is such an excellent and important movie. I had to give it my top spot.

  6. Love the nod for Transamerica. Such a good movie, and so sadly unknown by too many people.

    On your "unseen yet" list, here are a few notes:
    The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert--great. It would be worth it for the flip-flop dress alone, but there's so much more than the crazy fashion.
    Gods and Monsters--worth it for McKellen, who is an international treasure, always.
    Happy Together--Kind of worth seeing. It's really a standard "one is faithful, one is not" story, but they're the same gender so it's different? It's not bad. Pretty, though.
    Heavenly Creatures--See this as soon as you can.
    Tongues Untied--Angry and raw. Good because of that.
    The Hours--One of the best movies of its year, hands down.
    My Beautiul Laundrette--I loved it.
    My Own Private Idaho--Kind of a meh. Didn't care for it.

    Here's a few to add to your list
    Sunday Bloody Sunday--Great performances. A very odd love triangle, indeed.
    The Wedding Banquet--Gay son is forced into marriage by his traditional parents. Good story and worth seeing.
    Normal--Late in life and marriage, a man decides to opt for gender reassignment. I mention this one mainly because it was filmed within a few miles of where I live and I bought a couple of props after the shoot closed.

    1. Glad to see someone else showing love to Transamerica.

      Yeah, Priscilla is going to be a sooner rather than later for me. Thanks on the notes for the rest. I do plan on getting to them all.

      I have heard good things about Sunday Bloody Sunday. Haven't heard of the other two.

  7. Some good movies Dell, some that we are in complete disagreement on and a few I haven’t seen.

    With this sort of list I think every person’s would be different, sometimes close and others vastly different.

    Obviously I can’t comment on the ones I haven’t seen but I’ll break into groups the ones I have with a comment or two along the way.


    Milk-While I loved The Times of Harvey Milk more that was a documentary so the approach was different and this is a fine presentation of his life.
    Dog Day Afternoon-LOVE the inclusion of this brilliant piece of filmmaking with Al Pacino’s best performance ever. He’s matched every step of the way by Charles Durning and John Cazale.

    Really liked:

    A Single Man-Beautiful performance by Colin Firth and a small jewel from Julianne Moore.
    Bessie-It didn’t shake me and quake me and make me feel goose pimply all over but Queen Latifah was very fine indeed.
    The Birdcage-Pretty cliché but the enormously talented cast down to the smallest part made it work.
    How to Survive a Plague-An estimable film though I found And the Band Played On more impactful.


    All About My Mother
    Boys Don’t Cry- I know it’s real life and the story needs to be told and I respect the hell out of the film and Swank’s performance but it was just too brutal for me to ever watch more than once.
    Monster-Much the same as above with me thinking even more highly of Charlize Theron’s work but it’s an ugly unpleasant film.
    Mysterious Skin-Not to sound like a broken record this was one of the most profoundly emotionally intense films I’ve ever seen and I respect it for that but I felt like someone had punched me square in the gut when it was over.


    Carol-So many seemed to love it, and I loved Haynes’s Far from Heaven, but I thought the film was chilly and too muted.
    The Kids Are All Right-I found this forced and points off for naming their kid Laser! What the hell kind of stupid name is that?


    Philadelphia-I think I’ve shared my hatred for this pile of cow plop before so I’ll let that stand.
    Moonlight-Sorry but I just don’t get it. A tremendous disappointment for me.

    I like your stretching the list to include all you wanted to be there. A top 10 or 20 can be so restrictive so I’ll reply in kind with mine but I’m going to 26! It’s so hard to place properly after you leave the top 10, I want them all to be number 11!

    My top 26 more or less in order:

    Latter Days
    The Trip
    Torch Song Trilogy
    Longtime Companion
    Beautiful Thing
    The Wedding Banquet
    Dog Day Afternoon
    The Times of Harvey Milk
    Angels in America-Okay it’s a miniseries but it’s a masterpiece
    And the Band Played On
    The Adventures of Priscilla
    Gods and Monsters
    Sunday Bloody Sunday
    Brokeback Mountain-Sorry you’re not a fan and while it’s not near my top 10 I like this film.
    Prayers for Bobby
    Heavenly Creatures
    A Single Man
    Parting Glances
    The Killing of Sister George
    Burnt Money
    Death in Venice

    1. Thanks for this detailed comment. Love it.

      You are exactly right, no two people should have the same list.

      I haven't seen The Life and Times of Harvey Milk. I plan on it, but I'm quite satisfied with Penn's portrayal. And Dog Day Afternoon is brilliant.

      The Birdcage is cliche, but man is that cast good. I still need to see And the Band Played On.

      I completely understand what you're saying about the movies in the "Liked" section. Those are some tough movies.

      I agree, Laser is a stupid name.

      Sorry you didn't connect with Moonlight. It's a film that really works for me.

      I definitely need to see a number of those you have listed.

    2. Oh I loved Sean Penn's take on Harvey Milk. I think having seen it now once you watch Life & Times you'll be able to appreciate even more the detail he put into the portrayal and really tried to present who Harvey was.

    3. Cool. Can't say I'll see it anytime soon, but I think I will give it a go.

  8. ACK! Damn I forgot Prick Up Your Ears, Make the Yuletide Gay and A Home at the End of the World! Okay I'm stopping now before I drive myself crazy!!

  9. Lots of important LGBT-films on that list Dell. Blue is the Warmest Color is a lesbian film that gets a lot of attention and rightfully so, as it's very well-acted.
    Desert Hearts (1985) I don't see mentioned here and would also recommend, which has things to say about female relationships.

    1. Haven't heard of Desert Hearts. Thanks for the recommendation.

  10. I have to ask - what's with insane Brokeback hate here? You won't even name it. I even name Schumer and Dunham when I rant :D

    1. I'm being overly dramatic, of course, but I do find it incredibly boring. Far as not naming it, just having a little extra fun at the film's expense and gently prodding all those other lists like this where it's ranked in the top 3, which is a lot.

  11. So many great shouts on this list. Not any space for Brokeback Mountain which says it all. I'm curious to see My Beautiful Laundrette too.

    1. Thanks. Yeah, I need to see My Beautiful Laundrette. And no, there is no space for THAT movie.

  12. This is a great list. I appreciate every film you mentioned. All About My Mother is such a great film. I really need to see that movie again.

    1. Thanks! And All About My Mother is a great movie. I need to revisit it myself.