Right off the bat, I’ll say there are way more than 10 best LGBTQ movies to watch. Society has made leaps and bounds when it comes to recognizing the LGBTQ community as human beings, which has brought on more entertainment depicting so.
While we still have a long way to go, it helps that many writers, producers, and directors have taken the initiative to make films that have leading characters that the LGBTQ community can look up to, feel comfortable about, and most of all, relate to.
Films that have LGBTQ characters tend to stereotype them and put them in a box where we can only learn so much about them. But, the films on this list have them front and center. They're real; their stories are relatable, their lives are imperfect just like everyone else, and they too go through extreme struggles (if not more) than heterosexual characters.
The more that the film industry shines a light on this community means the better the film and representation of LGBTQ characters.
10 But I’m A Cheerleader
Natasha Lyonne plays Megan who despite having a boyfriend, being popular, and on her school’s cheerleading squad, her parents have decided she is gay. Without question, they ship her off to a boot camp called True Directions. This camp is meant to convert anyone who identifies as LGBTQ into a heterosexual human being. While there, Megan is sharing living quarters with Graham (Clea DuVall), a female who identifies as gay and is completely unashamed by it. Megan now has to decide if the feelings she has developed for Graham are real or if she is just “confused.”
This was a film that when released in 1999 and upset a lot of people who felt it was too forward. However, it has turned out to be a cult classic in the LGBTQ community.
9 The Handmaiden
Park Chan-Wook's tale of love, deceit, and lust about a woman whose elaborate plot to live a life free of an arranged marriage is absolutely juicy. Unfortunately, for her, there is already a plot to rob her of her millions and leave her in an asylum.
A young pickpocketer is groomed to be the woman who will help seduce and steal this young heiress' money. The movie takes you down a path of excitement and shows you just how that combination of greed and laziness can blow up in your face. It’s based on a British crime novel titled Fingersmith which also had a 2008 film based on it.
Making its premiere at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival Rafiki is a love story about forbidden love. Set in Kenya where Kenyan women are supposed to become wives and mothers. Two girls meet and fall in love amongst the hatred against LGBTQ individuals. Kena and Ziki go through a rough time when it is discovered that they are in love and dating. They are now forced to choose between being in love or being safe. Their journey takes the viewers through a series of emotions and leaves us feeling a sense of injustice and hope for the future of the LGBTQ community.
Milk stars Sean Penn as real-life politician Harvey Milk who was assassinated in the late '70s. The film was ahead of its time when it came to not just LGBTQ rights but human rights. The film shows viewers that he fought for what was right and not just what he believed in. It also focused on Milk’s relationship with his much younger partner Scott Smith.
This was a point of contention because no one ever thought it would last. Fortunately, Smith was there for Milk during his campaign and well after. He was even his campaign manager. The film ultimately does a great job highlighting the life of someone who did so much for the LGBTQ community.
The French-Canadian film is a coming-of-age drama by Jean-Marc Vallee. It's about a young man whose whole life has been a journey leading up to him realizing that he is gay. We follow Zac and his relationship with his father as it grows from genuinely close to distant once his father begins to realize his son is gay. Zac’s story is told over a period of years where he travels far and wide to come to terms with the idea that he is gay and that what others think of his sexual orientation should not matter. His moment of acceptance is beautiful and he realizes that once he begins to accept himself, others around him begin to as well.
The 2016 Barry Jenkins film Moonlight was based on an unpublished play by Tarell Alvin McCraney called In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue. It focuses on a young boy who is bullied "because of the way he walks.” He learns early on through labeling by his mother that he is gay.
He meets a local drug dealer who takes him under his wing and shows him how to accept himself. We follow along as this drug dealer reassures him that it is okay to be who he is. Even if it’s not what others expect. The movie is touching and boasts a father/son relationship. It was especially significant because it portrays queer people of color, which is something that is mostly seen as toxic in the African-American community.
4 Love, Simon
Love, Simon is a teen romantic-comedy about a young man who finds out that a student from their school has anonymously come out under the pseudonym “Blue.” Simon begins to communicate with him online sharing personal details. Unfortunately, someone finds their emails and identifies Simon as one of two guys and begins to blackmail him. It becomes a hilarious situation yet, heartbreaking. A young man is practically being forced to come out because of a jealous classmate. On top of having to deal with being forced out of the closet, Simon still has to deal with all the drama of being a teenager.
Two girls in Iran meet and fall in love but around them is every obstacle to keep them apart. This is a heroic story about two women who choose to love one another — no matter who says they are wrong. Some of the obstacles that they face are a sibling who is self-righteous. He feels that everyone should listen to what he says and slowly becomes obsessed with his sister's relationship to the point where tragedy strikes. Circumstances demonstrates what happens when a country’s religion is able to dictate the lives of their people.
2 As You Are
Set in the '90s, As You Are follows a group of three friends trying to figure out who they are and how they fit into this society. The two boys are brought together by their parents dating. They also befriend a classmate, Sarah, after she helps them when they are assaulted by a group of bullies. Their relationships take drastically different turns as they learn about love while dating one another. This film is sent to a dark place when one of the threesomes begins to branch out on his own to experiment with drugs and alcohol. All three relationships are tested by the choices that each person makes.
1 The Miseducation Of Cameron Post
Another LGBTQ film that premiered at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival was The Miseducation of Cameron Post. Starring Chloe Grace Moretz as a young girl in the '90s, she is caught by her prom date making out with another girl.
Moretz's character is sent to a Christian camp that is designed to “reprogram” the brain; forced into believing that being straight is the only way to live. She encounters two people who quickly become her friends and they soon realize that there is nothing to fix about them. It’s an exploration of what it's like to be an LGBTQ teenager in the '90s. Especially amongst satanic panic and overprotective parents.