This list of 28 gay movies will give you something to watch on those rainy nights, whether chilling alone with a glass of wine or beer, or with a friend or lover. For the purpose of this list, I've regarded a movie as LGBT if it has LGBT primary characters or LGBT themes or plots.
Some of these movies are funny, others are tragic, and a few are even cringe-worthy - but they're all worth watching. In no particular order, here are 28 gay movies you should watch.
A 1993 drama starring Tom Hanks as Andrew Becket, a lawyer with AIDS who ends up fired from his law firm. With the help of Joe Miller, an initially homophobic lawyer played brilliantly by Denzel Washington, he takes his old employer to court for discrimination.
This film is indeed a product of its times, with very little actual gay interactions between Becket and his lover. The real character arc here is Joe Miller's, who slowly learns to accept Becket as a human being worthy of respect and compassion.
2. The Birdcage
A 1996 comedy starring Robin Williams as Armand and Nathan Lane as Albert, two Jewish gay men who own and live above a gay nightclub. When Armand's son Val brings his fiancé Barbara, played by Calista Flockhart, as well as her very conservative and homophobic family to dinner, he asks his gay parents to tone it down a little.
Of course, this attempt to appear straight leads to a constant series of farcical misunderstandings and jokes. A remake of a 1978 French film, The Birdcage uses Williams and Lane's brilliant comedic instincts to its advantage.
A 2006 romantic comedy spoof. Another Gay Movie reprises the tropes and cliches of other romantic comedies, most notably American Pie, whose basic plot it essentially lifts outright. A group of young gay friends go on a quest to lose their anal virginity.
Unlike some of the other Another Gay Movie movies, this one does at least rely on more than cultural references for its humor. If you just want a dumb, somewhat raunchy movie with sometimes regrettable jokes, you could do worse.
4. Brokeback Mountain
A 2005 drama faithfully based on a short story by Annie Proulx, beautifully directed by Ang Lee. Ennis del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) meet on a job shepherding sheep through the mountains of Wyoming. One night, overcome by passion, they have sex, starting an on-again-off-again relationship that lasts many years.
Not able to admit that they are gay, either to themselves or to society at large, they are forced to hide their love for each other. Married to women, they sneak off on "fishing trips" periodically to renew their relationship. The beautiful scenery, as well as the sympathetic but complex treatment of their love for each other, makes this a poignant gay classic.
5. But I'm a Cheerleader
A 1999 comedy directed by Jamie Babbit. Megan Bloomfield (Natasha Lyonne) is sent to a gay conversion camp for being a lesbian, which she denies. But at the camp she falls in love with another woman and begins to accept her lesbianism even as the camp leaders try, with increasingly bizarre techniques, to "cure" her of her homosexuality.
The candy-colored palate and stylized characters play with stereotypes and manage to make something rather terrible (gay conversion camps) into a source of satirical laughter.
6. In and Out
A 1997 comedy directed by Frank Oz and starring Kevin Kline as Howard, a teacher in a small town preparing to marry his female fiancé. When a former student outs him as gay on national television, he has to face something he himself has not even realized: he's not as straight as he always thought he was.
Very much another product of its time, this movie's humor doesn't always age well, but it still has some scenes worth watching, among them Howard's attempt to cure his homosexuality by listening to supposedly masculinity-inducing tapes.
A 2008 historical film directed by Gus Van Sant and starring Sean Penn. This film covers the career of Harvey Milk (Penn) as a social organizer and eventually the first openly gay member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, up to his assassination.
Not only is this a critically acclaimed film, but it covers an important period of gay history and the fight for gay rights. Sean Penn's performance is particularly memorable.
8. Mysterious Skin
A 2005 drama directed by Gregg Araki. This gay film could be called a coming of age story, but with a raised eyebrow and a squint. Like most of Araki's films, it pushes limits in ways that aren't always comfortable.
Neil (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a gay teenager who was molested as a child by his little league coach. Now a male hustler, he struggles to understand his past, until he meets Brian (Brady Corbet), who has always believed he was abducted by aliens. Together they begin to piece together the secrets of their childhood. A difficult but beautiful film.
9. Boys Don't Cry
A 1999 biographical drama directed by Kimberly Peirce. This film tells the true story of Brandon Teena, played by Hilary Swank. A trans man, Teena moves to Nebraska where he hopes to find love. But instead, he is beaten, humiliated, and raped by two acquaintances, who later murder him.
Though occasionally difficult to watch, and frequently enraging, it is nonetheless an excellent film, showcasing a brilliant and nuanced performance by Swank.
10. Different from the Others
A 1919 German film, originally titled Anders als die Andern, staring Conrad Veidt and Reinhold Schünzel. Paul Körner (Veidt) is a violinist who falls in love with one of his students. An extortionist threatens to blackmail him for what is, under the German law of the time, a crime.
This film is regarded as the first pro-gay movie ever produced. The Weimar Republic actually instituted new censorship laws in response to the film, and when the Nazis came to power, they had most copies of the film destroyed. Only one copy is known to survive. It is certainly worth watching for its historical significance.
11. Patrik, Age 1.5
A 2008 Swedish comedic drama about a gay couple who wish to adopt. Finding it difficult to find an agency willing to let them adopt a child, Sven (Torkel Petersson) and Göran Skoogh (Gustaf Skarsgård) finally find one that will allow them to adopt Patrik, who is supposed one and a half years old.
However, the 1.5 on the paperwork was a typographical error: Patrik is actually 15 years old, a troubled team with a criminal past, and homophobic to boot. The gay couple struggle to keep their relationship and deal with the new and unwilling addition to their family.
12. The History Boys
A 2008 British dramatic comedy, based on a play by Alan Bennett. Set in the eighties, this film follows the story of eight friends who all attend a boy's preparatory school in Sheffield. Their general studies teacher, Hector, is well-loved and respected but is known to be a homosexual who sometimes gropes the students.
A new teacher, Tom Irwin (Stephen Campbell Moore), is much less warm and friendly, though also gay. The story addresses the complex attitudes toward the young men and their teachers, as well as each other, with the humor and intellect one expects from Bennett.
13. The Itty Bitty Titty Committee
A 2007 comedy directed by Jamie Babbit. Anne (Melonie Diaz) has been rejected by her university and lost her girlfriend, so she is ripe for recruitment into a radical feminist organization that raises awareness through vandalism and "public art."
She begins to fall in love with the leader of the organization, Sadie (Nicole Vicius). Like Babbit's other film on this list, But I'm a Cheerleader, the characters are often broadly painted and the humor a bit obvious, but it remains an entertaining film, particularly among activists who enjoy laughing at themselves sometimes.
14. Get Real
A 1998 British romantic comedy. Steven Carter (Ben Silverstone) is a sixteen year old boy who is too afraid to come out of the closet in his small town. He finds sexual satisfaction cruising public toilets, where he meets John Dixon (Brad Gorton), an Oxford-bound jock.
The two strike up a clandestine relationship, but when Steven finds the courage to come out, he finds that John is not willing to stand with him. The charm of this coming out story is in the way it takes typical high school movie tropes and repurposes them in service of its gay theme.
15. Ed Wood
A 1994 biopic, directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp as the eponymous Ed Wood. This film traces the life and career of Ed Wood, often regarded as one of the worst directors in history.
Wood is not gay, but he is a transvestite and he was sympathetic to the plight of those who are different in a world that demands homogeneity. His films are often campy, bizarre, and powered with a frantic enthusiasm that Burton captures exquisitely in this biopic.
16. Edge of Seventeen
A 1998 coming of age story, directed by David Moreton. This comedy-drama follows the adolescent struggles of Eric Hunter (Chris Stafford) as he begins to come out of the closet and chase his dream of being a musician.
This film touches on a number of the themes of being gay and adolescent, and while some of it may seem dated now, it helps that it is a period piece set in the '80s.
17. The Doom Generation
A 1995 film by Gregg Araki. Like most of Araki's film, this film is a highly stylized and frequently disturbing nihilistic adventure, following the complex love triangle between Jordan White (Jordan White) and Amy Blue (Rose McGowan), and the drifter they pick up, Xavier Red (Jonathan Schaech).
After Xavier kills a person accidentally, the three go on the run together. Amy is often mistaken for other people, which leads to violent misunderstandings. Don't make the mistake that I did, and watch it on a date. This film is part of a lose trilogy, including Totally Fucked Up (1993), and Nowhere (1997). In my opinion, this is the best of the three.
18. My Own Private Idaho
A 1991 drama directed by Gus Van Sant, starring River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves. Mike Waters (Phoenix) is a hustler who falls in love with his friend, Scott Favor (Reeves), the son of the mayor of Portland.
Scott also works as a hustler, more as a lark than out of necessity, and when he comes of age he plans to quit hustling and become a respectable member of society. The sex scenes are heavily stylized and the chemistry between Phoenix and Favor makes this movie a perennial favorite of mine.
19. Six Degrees of Separation
1993 comedy-drama starring Will Smith. The gay theme here is light but present. When the son of actor Sidney Poitier, Paul (Will Smith), knocks on Ouisa (Stockard Channing) and Flan Kittredge's (Donald Sutherland) door, they invite him in and help him out.
He's injured, after all, and the son of a great American actor and a friend of one of their children at Harvard. Of course, Paul is nothing of the sort: he's a conman and hustler. But in the process of bilking the wealthy Kittredge's out of their money, he becomes entwined in their lives and minds, especially Ouisa, who sees in him a freedom she's never known.
Paul is gay, though this fact is touched on lightly in the film, which is actually in many ways refreshing for a drama of the '90s. The acting is stylized and often stilted, mirroring an amateurishly told dinner-table story, fitting with the theme and content.
A 2005 musical drama directed by Chris Columbus. A number of young people living in New York City in the late 1980s attempt to make rent after their previously waived rent come due.
Their struggles with the financial difficulty of being artists in New York City, as well as the scourge of AIDS, are meant to capture the feeling of the late 80s, though the 2005 film, based on an earlier stage production by the same name, often falls short.
21. Beautiful Thing
A 1996 British film, originally intended only for television, but later released in theaters due to its critical reception. Jamie (Glen Berry) is a teenager who falls in love with Ste (Scott Neal), another teenager whom Jamie's mother Sandra (Linda Henry) takes in to help him escape from an abusive home.
When Jamie and Ste begin a relationship, Sandra is initially resistant, but eventually comes around. This film is a coming out story that underlines the fear and difficulty of sexual awakening without playing it for unrealistic drama.
22. Handsome Devil
A 2017 Irish comedy-drama directed by John Butler. Ned (Fionn O'Shea) is a shy young man at a boarding school where rugby rules. His new roommate Conor (Nicholas Galitzine), is the new star rugby player.
Where that could be a recipe for disaster, Conor and Ned form a friendship that is tested by the homophobic culture of the school. A mixture of coming-of-age story, buddy film, and sports movie, the handsome devil has rightly been praised by critics for its sensitive and realistic treatment of the effect of homophobia on young men.
A 1987 film based on E. M. Forster's novel of the same name, written and set in the first decade of the twentieth century. This gay movie follows the life of Maurice (James Wilby) from being a young boy to an adult who discovers his gay desires.
From early but chaste love affairs to attempts to "cure" his homosexuality through hypnosis, to an eventual stormy relationship with Alec (Rupert Graves), this period piece lays out all the difficulties of being gay in the early twentieth century in Britain.
24. Call Me By Your Name
A 2017 coming-of-age story directed by Luca Guadagnino. This film tells the story of Elio (Timothée Chalamet), a bookish 17-year old whose father invites Oliver (Armie Hammer), a 24-year-old graduate student to live with them for the summer in order to help him with his work.
The two young men strike up a friendship that blooms into a relationship, though one challenged by Oliver's need to return to the United States. This is a moving and touching story about a young man's first relationship and first heartbreak
25. Beach Rats
A 2017 drama directed by Eliza Hittman. This film tells the story of Frankie (Harris Dickinson), a young man in Brooklyn who regards himself as straight. But he meets older men on the internet for casual sexual encounters. He struggles to keep his straight life separate from the sex he has with older men, but increasingly finds the lines between those two lives blurring.
This gay movie is particularly interesting for addressing the issue of men who have sex with men but do not identify as gay, a phenomenon most movies -- and indeed, most culture -- ignores.
26. BPM (Beats Per Minute):
A 2017 French drama directed by Robin Campillo. In the early 1990s, a group of French ACT UP activists attempting to effect change in response to the AIDS crisis.
While the movie begins with a focus on the political action of the chapter's members, it shifts into the personal struggles of the chapter's members, including Nathan (Arnaud Valois) who falls in love with HIV+ Sean (Nahuel Pérez Biscayart). Their relationship and the aftermath of it forms the climax of the film.
27. Love, Simon
A 2018 romantic comedy directed by Greg Berlanti. Simon (Nick Robinson) is a closeted high school student. When a mysterious person known only as "Blue" comes out in his school, the two begin to trade emails.
Unfortunately, a classmate, Martin (Logan Miller) finds the emails and blackmails Simon for help in winning over Abby (Alexandra Shipp), one of Simon's best friends. This heartwarming story averts a lot of the stale tropes of gay movies, treating this coming out story as a typical, but fresh, mainstream romantic comedy.
A 2016 drama directed by Barry Jenkins. Not only was this film the first LGBT movie to win an Oscar for Best Picture, it is the first film with an all-black cast to win that award as well. It tells the story of Chiron, a child, and later a man, who grows up in Miami.
The story is told as a triptych, beginning with Chiron's childhood as "Little" (Alex Hibbert), then as a teenager as Chiron (Ashton Sanders), and finally as an adult as "Black" (Trevante Rhodes). This film explores not only the difficulty of growing up gay but how that difficulty is compounded by being poor and black in America.
Author: Thomas Carver