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Celebrate Pride season with the best films of LGBT+ cinema

Celebrate Pride season with the best films of LGBT+ cinema


It’s June, which means Pride is in full swing. This year marks the 45th year since London’s first UK Gay Pride parade was held in 1972. Pride is a time for people across the world to enjoy what makes us different, a time for the out and the proud to let their freak flag fly, and the rainbow to overflow.

Paul Klein

What better way to embrace your inner and outer beauty than to put on a film with your partner and watch a cinematic delight of an evening that appeals to your sexual preference. We cordially invite you to be yourselves, enjoy some non-colour skittles (a great Pride treat) and be out, and proud with films that have celebrated what it is to be different.



Director: Matthew Warchus
Starring: Bill Nighy – Imelda Staunton – Dominic West – Paddy Considine – Andrew Scott – George Mackay – Joseph Gilgun

A perfect illustration of what a feel good movie is: a movie that makes you feel good. The uplifting story of the London-based group Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners who upped and went to a Welsh village to show solidarity during Thatcher’s time as Prime Minister.

The culture clash comedy works a treat but it’s the story of how chalk and cheese communities came together for the greater enemy, best exemplified by Paddy Considine’s miner who proudly says “to find you had a friend who didn’t even know, well that’s the best feeling in the world”. It’s heartwarming, it’s laugh out loud funny and it features some career best turns from its actors. A movie that dares you not to smile, and knows that by the end, it’ll have burrowed into your heart, and will lift your spirits.



Director: Sean Baker
Starring: Kitana Kiki Rodriguez – Mya Taylor – James Ransone

Starring real actual transgender people (not someone pretending? Shocker) this film has biographical elements for Rodriguez and Taylor both of whom spent time selling their bodies to unsavoury types, the big story was that the film was shot on iPhones, but actually the biggest revelation is that this indie spirited drama wasn’t bequeathed with awards, there were arguments made for the stars to be nominated in acting categories and rightfully so, after all the performances are hard hitting, perfectly modulated and considering it’s the screen debuts for the performers, a bloody triumph to behold.

If the film isn’t to everyone’s taste that’s okay, because it’s a very hard film to watch, and might not have a repeat value to it, but that’s a testament to it’s raw intensity and it’s truth.


Director:  Abdellatif Kechiche
Starring: Lea Seydoux – Adele Exarchopoulos

Controversial, yes, but in it’s shining moments it’s a force to be reckoned with. Based on the graphic novel of the same name, this french language meditation is a story of people who are different, who are wrong for one another but who are in love because they see something in one another. It’s easy to see why the extended sexual scenes attraction the controversy and attention they did – they’re long, and look painfully real in the portrait of two women discovering one another’s bodies. But, in the emotional content and performances by Seydoux and Exarchopoulos are some of the best portraits of early twenties love that has been put to film in a long time.



Director:  Barry Jenkins
Starring: Trevante Rhodes – Andre Holland – Naomie Harris – Janelle Monae – Mahershala Ali

We’re not talking about La La Land, sorry Warren Beatty. This year’s incredible Best Picture winner is Moonlight, a portrait in three parts about the life of a person who discovers who they are, and how society either crushes it or manages it.

The performances by the young actors are all brilliant and natural, and the adult turns for Trevante Rhodes and Andre Hollard will become calling cards for their Hollywood phone calls. As for the three veterans, Naomie Harris has never been so scary as the substance abusing mother from hell, while Janelle Monae brings a hefty dose of warmth, but it’s Mahershala Ali in his Oscar winning turn as Juan who gets the films standout scene. What will go down as the “faggot” scene, does for the F word what films like Coach Carter or 12 Years a Slave did for the N word in recent times. Not since Spike Lee first gave us a joint has black cinema felt so urgent, so fresh and so utterly thrilling.



Director:  Ang Lee
Starring: Heath Ledger – Jake Gyllenhaal – Anne Hathaway – Michelle Williams – Kate Mara – Randy Quaid – Linda Cardellini – David Harbour – Anna Faris

Not just a great film for the LGBT community, but a great movie and love story for the ages. The late great Heath Ledger is the star of the show as one of two cowboys discovering their sexuality. Jake Gyllenhaal is the other half of this touching story of men in love, while the supporting roles are all top notch.

Director Ang Lee won his first Oscar for his artistry in directing this modern classic, and though it prompted billions of lazy and often homophobic jokes, it was a fantastic showcase. Needless to say this could never have been done when if Marky Mark Wahlberg had taken the role – he turned it down as the story “creeped him out”, but then again he’s a man who said he’d have stopped 9/11 single handedly. Anne Hathaway and Michelle Williams are the women affected by the forbidden love, and a small turn from Kate Mara nails home the tragedy.


Director:  Bryan Singer
Starring: Patrick Stewart – hugh jackman – Halle Berry – Anna Paquin – Brian Cox – Rebecca Romijn – Kelly Hu – Ian Mckellen – James Marsden – Alan Cumming – Famke Janssen – Shawn Ashmore

Yes, X2, the best X-Men film made this list. Now, let’s face facts, all the X-Men films are about LGBT struggles, they’re also about racial struggles, the subtext is there for the oppressed, the “other”. You can see the parallels in X-Men (putting people on registers as threats to normal ways of life), The Last Stand (the government finds a “cure” that is ineffective and wrong), First Class (“you didn’t ask, so I didn’t tell”) all the way through to even Logan in which an ageing icon of the different world is put in the spotlight against his wishes.

In this way, the characters are not unlike many LGBT activists whose struggles became the story of them and not the collective (like a less flamboyant jacked up Elton John). But in X2 there is the most blatant attempts to show this, not just in the character of Nightcrawler and Mystique: “Why not blend in all the time” – “Because we shouldn’t have to”, but in the continued casting (Ian McKellen is famously a massive gay rights activist, Anna Paquin is also an out-and-proud Bisexual), while the infamous “coming out” scene, “have you ever tried not being a mutant?” is where it’s most obvious, and of course director Bryan Singer is also a proudly bisexual man in the Hollywood sphere.


Director:  Sidney Lumet
Starring: Al Pacino – John Cazale – Charles Durning – James Broderick – Lance Henriksen – Chris Sarandon – Carol Kane

This Al Pacino crime movie centres on his attempts to rob a bank to pay for his partner’s gender reassignment operation. There’s no doubt that what Pacino does is illegal, but the rationale behind it has a Robin Hood-style nobility to it. Pacino would later go on to star in another crime film with LGBT overtones in Cruising, but with much more sinister and uneasy results. But this is a finely done drama that has a respect and understanding for its transgender themes.


Director: Sally Potter
Starring: Tilda Swinton – Billy Zane – John Wood – Charlotte Valandrey – Heathcote Williams -quentin Crisp – Jimmy Somerville – Simon Russell Beale – Toby Stephens

Taking inspiration from the book by Virginia Woolf, Orlando is the complex gender non-conforming story of a life lived to extremes. Perfectly cast is Tilda Swinton who’s interest in an androgynous lifestyle comes to the fore in this epic of intimate proportions. It’s not hard to see why Potter would cast her, Swinton is not only a gorgeous woman but she has a quality that is hard to pin down, her slender frame and sharp facial features make her an almost supernatural creature that at times is impossible to properly comprehend. The story, as well, features sensitivity towards the changing themes and times, and Quentin Crisp the famed cross dresser appears rather brilliantly as Queen Elizabeth in a piece of casting that is both witty but also well placed.



Director: Jonathan Demme
Starring: Tom Hanks – Denzel Washington – Jason Robards – Mary Steenburgen – Antonio Benderas – Ann Dowd – Charles Napier – Bradley Whitford – Richard W Castle – Joanne Woodward

Jonathan Demme’s taboo busting tale of a man wrongly fired for having AIDs was one of the first mainstream attempts to deal with the complex real life issue of homophobia. In Tom Hanks, there is a sensitive and committed performance, as Andrew Beckett, who wants justice before he dies, while Denzel Washington is pitch-perfect as his homophobic lawyer who has his mind opened by his contact with Hanks. The story is rich and rewarding, and with Demme’s sturdy direction (and his clearly pro LGBT film, after he received criticism for the transphobic implications of The Silence of the Lambs), and the sensitive screenplay by out and proud writer Ron Nyswaner there is a lot to like in this touching drama. Couple that with the fantastic song by Bruce Springsteen, and it’s a classic film that brought gay into the mainstream.


Director: The Wachowskis
Starring: Jennifer Tilly – Gina Gershon – Joe Pantoliano – John Ryan

In a time before The Matrix series, and before their transition into women, the former Wachowski brothers made their debut with this gripping and stylish neo-noir crime thriller that focuses on a woman who attempts to leave her mafioso boyfriend, and ends up falling into a sexual relationship with an ex-con. Overtly it’s a crime movie, but Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon sell the attraction between the two women. As much as The Wachowskis may have fallen in terms of their talents in crafting a decent film, this thrilling debut is nothing short of an incredible, sexy and surprisingly sensitive treatment of a lesbian relationship.


Director: Frank Oz
Starring: Kevin Kline – Tom Selleck – Joan Cusack – Matt Dillon – Debbie Reynolds – Wilford Brimley – Bob Newhart

Hollywood is famously a little homophobic, like a lot homophobic. But in the form of this funny comedy it makes it’s early steps. Based, although loosely on the Tom Hanks’ Oscar speech faux pas where he outed his drama coach in front of the world, this story is of a mild mannered English teacher played by Kevin Kline who is outed by a former student, and soon discovers that he is in fact gay. There are great jokes, and Joan Cusack was awards nominated for her role as the put upon fiancee who’s perfect wedding is thrown into turmoil by these revelations.

Of course, it might be most famous for Kline’s superb attempt at not dancing to a club remix of I Will Survive with camp, arm waving results. It’s a little dated by progressive standards, but for Hollywood in the 90s it’s a bridge building exercise that never fails to entertain and raise a few laughs in the process.


Director: Lisa Cholodenko
Starring: Annette Bening – Julianne Moore – Mark Ruffalo – Josh Huterson – Mia Washikowska

Lavished with Oscar nominations (Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Original Screenplay) this comedy-drama centres on the life of married lesbians Jules (Julianne Moore) and Nic (Annette Bening) along with their two kids Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and Laser (Josh Hutcherson). The couple used the same person’s sperm donation so that the kids would, at the very least, be biologically half siblings, with one carrying a child each. Their lives are thrown into chaos when the kids track down their sperm donor Paul (Mark Ruffalo) and begin to involve him in their lives.

As a comedy it’s very funny; wittily written with some moments of actual slapstick humour, while the writing is sharp enough that its turns into drama and back into comedy are handled with affection, and understanding. As a film that goes some way to prove that same sex parents won’t harm the children they raise, it’s clear to see why it was lauded with praise. It’s the adults that are filled with inner turmoil and mistrust; the kids are all right.


Director: Peter Jackson
Starring: Kate Winslet – Melanie Lynsky – Sarah Peirse – Diana Kent – Clive Merrison – Simon O’connor

Nominated for his screenplay (co-written with his partner in film and in life Fran Walsh) this true story about friendship, unspoken anger and desire is handled with a grace and restraint Jackson hadn’t shown before in a career of Feebles and Bad Taste. Kate Winslet plays Juliet Hulme, a British immigrant in New Zealand, who strikes up a friendship with Melanie Lynskey’s Pauline Parker.

Together they create worlds of incredible fantasy, beautifully realised by Jackson in stop-motion beauty, but the forces of their parents seek to keep them apart, and things turn tragic. As a true tale of burgeoning underlying homosexual awakening, it’s a harrowing tale, but it never feels exploitative. The intensity isn’t in the acts of violence that underline the film, it’s in the emotion displayed by the young performers. It’s true that Jackson has a streak of splatter horror and of grand epics in him, but his best film – by far – is his intimate portrait of two girls who come to share a kinship that engulfs everything, and ends in tragedy.


Director:  Stephan Elliot
Starring: Terence Stamp – Hugo Weaving – Guy Pearce – Bill Hunter

Two drag queens and a transgender woman travel across the Australian outback from Sydney to Alice Springs in a bus they call Priscilla. Things get very very camp from there. This Aussie smash hit that inspired the stage show only just gets away with casting cis-man Terence Stamp as a trans-woman because the portrayal is so lovingly positive, and helped bring mainstream LGBT films to the forefront of the 90s. While Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce camp it all the way as drag queens, the whole film has a very out and proud sense of joy, and never once feels like it’s pandering, playing on lowest common cliches, or exploiting the subject matter.


Director:  Beeban Kidron
Starring: Wesley Snipes – Patrick Swayze – John Leguizamo – Stockhard Channing – Blythe Danning – Arliss Howard – Chris Penn

Coming hot on the heels of Priscilla, To Wong Fu is a joyous romp about three drag queens who embark on a road trip to enter the drag queen pageant. The thoroughly charming Patrick Swayze, always reliable John Leguizamo and most surprising of all Wesley “occasionally bonkers” Snipes play the three drag queens. There’s support from Stockhard Channing and Chris Penn, cameos aplenty (RuPaul, Quentin Crisp) and the whole film also has that same welcoming sense of fun and happiness. This one might not have lasted in the same way that Priscilla did, but its mix of comedy, buddy-movie and the comedy talents of the cast mean that once watched, it becomes a firm favourite and is still a guilty pleasure to this day.


Director: Stephen Frears
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis – Gordon Warnecke – Saeed Jaffrey – Roshan Seth

Surprisingly timely given the current Brexit climate, Stephen Frears enjoyable indie drama stars a young Daniel Day-Lewis finding a romance with a member of the Pakistani community. It’s funny, sometimes sadly real but has heart and soul to spare. What sets this apart from other ‘culture clash’ romances is that it doesn’t feel forced, or awkward, and it always remains the right side of sincere and loving, which Frears has an uncanny ability to do. His more lauded work is based around the royals or the upper members of society but actually when dealing with the dispossessed and those of a working class background is when he really hits his stride.



Director: Gus Van Sant
Starring: River Phoenix – Keanu Reeves – James Russo – Rodney Harvey – William Richert – Flea – Udo Kier – Brian Wilson – Jim Caviezel

As one of the most prominent figures of the New Queer Cinema movement, Gus Van Sant has carved a strange niche for himself, alternating between big awards courting mainstream movies and little independent art films. My Own Private Idaho seems like a bridge between the two, mixing movie star bro-bonding and intimate gay character study. Apparently based, in some part, on Henry IV Part One, Henry IV Part Two and Henry V, the story follows River Phoenix’s street hustler as he helps his friend Keanu Reeves search for his mother and the bonds that are formed, and are broken. Van Sant has no time for “look at the poor” style filmmaking and instead crafts a story of love, friendship, and an ambiguous ending that still has people discussing what it means to this day.


Directed By: Wong Kar-wai
Starring: Leslie Cheung – Tony Leung Chin-wai – Chang Chen

When outing Sulu as an openly gay character, Star Trek Beyond co-writer Doug Jung, an Asian-American man, stated that his partner needed to be Asian also, and that finding an East Asian actor to portray a gay role was hard based on a societal shame they collectively feel. In the end, Jung filled in the role himself. If that’s the case then it doesn’t show in Hong Kong masterpiece Happy Together (after The Turtles song) by Wong Kar-Wai. Depicting an uneven and frankly failing relationship, the story of two men who may or may not be falling out of love is one that transcends the boundaries of just being gay, it’s about all relationships. The film illustrates that there is nothing magical about being homosexual, the problems faced by heterosexual couples are faced by the homosexual community too.



Directed By: Jim Sharman
Starring: Tim Curry – Susan Sarandon – Barry Bostwick – Richard O’brien – Nell Campbell – Patricia Quinn – Jonathan Adams – Peter Hinwood – Meat Loaf – Charles Gray

The über text for any person trying to discover who they are the overly sexually liberated musical event is a cult classic that has gone on to become a bona fide work of out-and-oh-so-proud art. Tim Curry is a sexual icon and symbol of questioning your identity in the fish-net stocking clad, Glamdalf, Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick are the sexually repressed couple who have their minds (and legs) opened by the events.

You do the Time Warp, you sing Hot Patootie and by the end, you either want to sing and grab the nearest person and ask them to Touch-a Touch-a Touch you (because you want to be dirty), the Rocky Horror Picture Show is a place for people to be themselves, regardless of their sexual identity or gender, it’s a place where you go to be yourself, be proud, it’s a LGBT pride movement in 90 minutes with great one liners, great songs and an atmosphere of acceptance.

It also helps that Richard O’Brien straddles the line between male and female and is a famously androgynous icon, while Patricia Quinn and Nell Campbell spend their scenes together drying humping one another, that Meat Loaf apparently tried it on with every cast member (and succeeded with a good number of them), and there’s a cameo by Christopher Biggins eating a big creamy eclair… subtlety be damned.


Directed By: Mike Nichols
Starring: Robin Williams – Nathan Lane – Gene Hackman – Diane Wiest – Dan Futterman – Calista Flockhart – Hank Azaria – Christine Baranski

Marketed with the tagline “Come as you are” there is no denying that this is a film for everyone. The set up is comic gold, Dan Futterman is the son of gay couple Robin Williams and Nathan Lane announces that he is engaged to Calista Flockart. Thrilled, they intend to plan the wedding, until they find out Flockhart’s parents are ultra right-wing conservatives involved in politics, Gene Hackman and Diane Wiest.

Williams is on top comic form playing a gay man who runs the titular club, while Nathan Lane also has a blast being as camp as humanly possible, even Hackman a man who sometimes is short of a sense of humour is game for the jokes and with Hank Azaria and Christine Baranski in supporting roles it’s easy to see why so many names came on board. Nichols never lets Williams go too wild though as he keeps the film moving along and the plot paced nicely, but for those who enjoy comic genius, this has some deep deep belly laughs.


Directed By: Peter Sollett
Starring: Ellen Page – Julianne Moore – Michael Shannon – Steve Carell – Luke Grimes

A true story written by Philadelphia scribe Ron Nyswaner. Out and proud Ellen Page also produced this labor of love about the story of Laurel Hester a New Jersey police detective who was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, to add insult to terminal diagnosis, the board of chosen freeholders would not pass her pension benefits to her domestic partner, a younger car mechanic called Stacie Andree, whom she met in 1999. The two owned a house, and despite Hester being one of the first women to reach the rank of lieutenant in her department, and a respected member of the force as well as an out-and-proud lesbian, she was not granted the right to pass her benefits to Andree as marriage between same-sex couples was illegal.

Julianne Moore is simply brilliant as Hester and Ellen Page shines as Andree while Michael Shannon, Steve Carell and Luke Grimes all offer great support, but the true story is what shines most of all, as two women, bound by love and love alone stood up for what they saw as a legitimate union of heart and of soul and refused, even while going through the most heartbreaking of times, to back down and accept that it was okay to marginalise those of a different sexual orientation.



Directed By Ira Sachs
Starring: John Lithgow – Alfred Molina – Maria Tomei – Charlie Tahan – Cheyenne Jackson – Harriet Sansom Harris – Darren Burrows – John Cullum

The brilliant John Lithgow and the always wonderful Alfred Molina shine brightly in this touching comedy-drama. Lithgow and Molina are Ben and George a happy gay couple who, after 39 years of being together decide to finally wed when it is made legal to do so. George is the breadwinner as a music teacher at a Catholic school, and has never been hidden about his sexual preference, but by getting married he has made a public declaration of his homosexual status, and the archdiocese cannot keep him in their employ.

Without his salary to support them, Ben and George must both rely on their friends to house them while they figure things out, Ben with his nephew and family, and George with their former neighbours, a hard partying gay cop couple. Molina and Lithgow are simply brilliant in their roles, unafraid to play up the rom-com elements but able to shift into hard hitting drama when needed. The best scenes are those when they just go on dates and talk to one another, a sign that they are truly in love with one another. However, the scene in which George is fired is an acting masterclass by Molina who says his faith in God is unshaken, but his trust in the church has taken a hit. A wonderful story about a part of the gay community that isn’t always shown, the out-and-proud older people.

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Directed By: James Mcteague
Starring: Natalie Portman – Hugo Weaving – John Hurt – Stephen Fry – Stephen Rea – Roger Allam – Sinead Cusack – Rupert Graves – Tim Piggot-smith – Eddie Marsan

Comic book craziness written by The Wachowskis, and taking very loose inspiration from Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s Thatcher-Attack graphic novel. In the future the United Kingdom has fallen under the fascist grip of the Norsefire party, lead by the hard nosed Chancellor Adam Sutler, who holds the UK in a vice like grip, taking anyone but the heterosexual white community and testing on them, torturing them and sometimes just flat out killing them. Into this mess blunders Natalie Portman’s Evey Hammond who is rescued by Guy Fawks’ enthusiast revolutionary V, played by Hugo Weaving.

Most people may remember some of the more impressive moments like the perverted priest and his obsession with underage girls, or Sinead Cusack’s conflicted journal entries, but the two stand out scenes are the incredible story of lesbian actress Valerie, and Stephen Fry’s Gordon Dietrich who reveals to Evey that he is a closeted gay man, collector of banished arts, holder of one of the few Qurans left in the UK, and says the line “you wear a mask for so long you forget who you were beneath it”. Fry nails the scene, and the film stops it’s flashy madness for a moment to let all those people — out or closeted — to reflect on what society can be, and how hard it is to be a member of the ‘other’.