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Reader’s Poll: The 25 Most Important LGBT Filmmakers

Reader's Poll: The 25 Most Important LGBT Filmmakers

June is Pride Month, commemorating the 1969 Stonewall riots and asking all of us to remember how we got where we are today. So we thought it might be fun to start up an annual Pride Month poll here at /bent, asking our readers to tell us the films, television shows, songs and people (both fictional and real) that have been important to them in the past 45 years. 

READ MORE: Reader’s Poll: The 25 Most Important LGBT Films

Seventy-two people responded, and we’ll be sharing the results over the next few weeks, with the second poll up today: The most important LGBT filmmakers of the last 45 years. 

Now, before we get to the results: We do realize doing this kind of thing is highly subjective, which is why we’re going with “most important” and not “best.” We hoped that what resulted was eclectic mix of filmmakers that have helped shape the queer cultural landscape. And we think it really is. But here are some interesting things to note before you go through the list: 

  • The “points” listed next to each film refers to the way we tabulated things. People voted in top 10 lists, so if the film was #1, it got 10 points, #2 got 9 points, etc. 
  • The top two choices were somewhat obvious (and scored miles ahead of their competitors), and had quite a heated showdown between them. In the end only 16 points separated #1 and #2, but there were over 100 points between #2 and #3.
  • The most fascinating thing as far as we’re concerned? So many of these filmmakers did not have films on our top 25 “most important” LGBT films from a few days back. In fact, 7 of the top 10 did not and over half the list overall didn’t.
  • As expected, queer men made up for the vast majority with 21 (of 26 — one listed were a male team).  Though in those polled’s defence: Its not your fault that the vast majority of filmmakers you have to pick from are queer men. 
  • Four women made the list (including one trans woman), but only one in the top 10.
  • Ten of the filmmakers on the list are not American-born.
  • Ten of the filmmakers were born in the 1960s, the most represented decade in that regard by double. Five came out of the 1950s, and 4 each came out of the 1940s and 1970s. Two were born in the 1920s, and one — by far the youngest filmmaker on this list (guess who!) — was born in 1989.
  • Filmmakers that emerged out of the late 1980s/early 1990s “new queer cinema” were all over this list, making up half the top 10.
  • Only three filmmakers on this list have directed films that have grossed over $100 million, and they are oddly enough tied for 24th place, with the other sitting atop the list at #1.
  • Only three of them have seen their films nominated for a best picture Oscar, while another (all different) three have won at least one Oscar.
  • And in case you’re curious, the 10 runner-ups, in order of votes, were: Kenneth Anger, Ira Sachs, Tom Kalin, Donna Dietch, John Schlesinger, John Greyson, Cheryl Dunye, Patricia Rozema, Roland Emmerich and Bill Condon. 

So without further adieu, we present the 25 most important LGBT filmmakers, according to you. Definitely use the comments section to discuss your thoughts and/or your own choices, but remember – these were your picks – do don’t blame us if your offended about their quality or lack of diversity through the LGBT spectrum.

24 (tie). Bryan Singer – 26 points
Born: 1965 in New York, New York
Debut Film: “The Usual Suspects” (1995)

Most Important LGBT Film (According To You):  Singer hasn’t really made any explicitly LGBT films, though 2 points went to “X2: X-Men United” (2003) anyway, which has very much been read as an allegory for gay rights.

24 (tie). Lana Wachowski – 26
Born: 1965 in Chicago, Illinois
Debut Film: “Bound” (1996)

Most Important LGBT Film (According To You):  “Bound” (1996)

23. Isaac Julien – 30
Born: 1960 in London, England
Debut Film: “Who Killed Colin Roach?” (1993)

Most Important LGBT Film (According To You):  “Young Soul Rebels” (1991)

22. Rose Troche – 31
Born: 1964 in Chicago, Illinois
Debut Film: “Go Fish” (1994)

Most Important LGBT Film (According To You):  “Go Fish” (1994)

21. Kimberly Peirce – 34
Born: 1967 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Debut Film: “Boys Don’t Cry” (1999)

Most Important LGBT Film (According To You):  “Boys Don’t Cry” (1999)

19 (tie). Stephen Daldry – 37
Born: 1960 in Dorset, England
Debut Film: “Billy Elliot” (2000)

Most Important LGBT Film (According To You):  “The Hours” (2002)

19 (tie). Andrew Haigh – 37
Debut Film: “Greek Pete” (2009)

Most Important LGBT Film (According To You):  “Weekend” (2011)

18. Pier Paolo Pasolini – 39
Born: 1922 in Bologna, Italy
Died: 1975 in Rome, Italy
Debut Film: “Accattone” (1961)

Most Important LGBT Film (According To You): “Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom” (1975)

17. Dustin Lance Black – 40
Born: 1974 in Sacramento, California
Debut Film: “The Journey of Jared Price” (2000)

Most Important LGBT Film (According To You):  “Milk” (2008, as screenwriter — though none of his directorial efforts got votes)

16. Jamie Babbit – 44
Born: 1970 in Shaker Heights, Ohio
Debut Film: “But I’m a Cheerleader” (1999)

Most Important LGBT Film (According To You):  “But I’m a Cheerleader” (1999)

15. Marlon Riggs – 46
Born: 1957 in Fort Worth, Texas
Died: 1994 in Oakland, California
Debut Film: “Ethnic Notions” (1986)

Most Important LGBT Film (According To You): “Tongues Untied” (1989)

14. Andy Warhol – 46
Born: 1928 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Died: 1987 in New York, New York
Debut Film: “Sleep” (1963)

Most Important LGBT Film (According To You): “Trash” (1970) — though Paul Morrissey directed the film. It was the only Warhol-associated film to get a vote.

13. Apichatpong Weerasethakul – 53
Born: 1970 in Bangkok, Thailand
Debut Film: “Mysterious Object at Noon” (2000)

Most Important LGBT Film (According To You):  “Tropical Malady” (2004)

12. Francois Ozon – 53
Born: 1967 in Paris, France
Debut Film: “Sitcom” (1998)

Most Important LGBT Film (According To You):  “Water Drops on Burning Rocks” (2000)

11. Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman – 55*
Born: 1955 in New Jersey (Epstein); 1951 in Los Angeles (Friedman)
Debut Film: “Word Is Out” (1978) for Epstein; “Common Threads” for Friedman

Most Important LGBT Film (According To You):  “The Time of Harvey Milk” (1984) for Epstein; “The Celluloid Closet” (1995) for Friedman

*-Epstein got 8 points solo, but the remaining 47 came as a duo with Friedman so we decided to list them as such.

10. Lisa Cholodenko – 69
Born: 1964 in Los Angeles, California
Debut Film: “High Art” (1998)

Most Important LGBT Film (According To You):  “The Kids Are All Right” (2010)

9. Xavier Dolan – 74
Born: 1989 in Montreal, Quebec
Debut Film: “I Killed My Mother” (2009)

Most Important LGBT Film (According To You):  “I Killed My Mother” (2009)

7 (tie). John Cameron Mitchell – 86
Born: 1963 in El Paso, Texas
Debut Film: “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” (2001)

Most Important LGBT Film (According To You): “Shortbus” (2006)

7 (tie). Gregg Araki – 86
Born: 1959 in Los Angeles, California
Debut Film: “Three Bewildered People in the Night” (1987)

Most Important LGBT Film (According To You): “Totally Fucked Up” (1993)

6. Derek Jarman – 105
Born: 1942 in London, UK
Died: 1994 in London, UK
Debut Film: “Sebastiane” (1976)

Most Important LGBT Film (According To You): “Caravaggio” (1986)

5. John Waters – 123
Born: 1946 in Baltimore, Maryland
Debut Film: “Mondo Trasho” (1969)

Most Important LGBT Film (According To You): “Pink Flamingos” (1972)

4. Todd Haynes – 126
Born: 1961 in Encino, California
Debut Film: “Superstar” (1987)

Most Important LGBT Film (According To You): “Poison” (1991)

3. Rainer Werner Fassbinder – 148
Born: 1945 in Bavaria, Germany
Died: 1982 in Munich, Germany
Debut Film: “Love is Colder Than Death” (1969)
Most Important LGBT Film (According To You): “Querelle” (1982)
2. Pedro Almodovar – 265
Born: 1949 in Ciudad Real, Spain
Debut Film: “Pepi, Luci, Bom and Other Girls on The Heap” (1980)
Most Important LGBT Film (According To You): “Law of Desire” (1987
1. Gus Van Sant – 281
Born: 1952 in Louisville, Kentucky
Debut Film: “Mala Noche” (1985)
Most Important LGBT Film (According To You): “Milk” (2009)
Check back later this week for our list of the 25 most important LGBT television shows and check out all the results for every poll here.

This Article is related to: Lists



Pat Rocco? Fred Halsted? Jean Genet? Vaginal Davis? Rosa von Praunheim?


Does it matter who sleeps with whom ? Its movies! An they good or not. And doesn't matter who made them, blacks, whites, greens, jews, gays, one-eyed pirates. I'm so sick of this LGBT propaganda thing.

Victor Santana

TOP 5 is fair, but I don't understand why Xavier Dolan is on this list.


what about Fiona Cunningham-Reid's documentaries – such as Croc-A- Dyke Dundee and Feed Them to The Cannibals ?

Peter Nellhaus

The list also reflects cultural biases in film distribution. Virtually unknown stateside is Thai filmmaker Tanwarin Sukkhapisit. A transexual, her first film, the autobiographical "Insects in the Backyard" was banned in Thailand. She may well be the first transexual to get a nomination for Best Director (sorry, Lana), for "It Gets Better".


The fact that Trash is considered an Andy Warhol film (he had nothing to do with it aside from saying "That's great, Paul") shows how little about history and film the vast majority of readers know. It's very skewed toward popular filmmakers and celebrities from the last 20 years and so it misses major outsider filmmakers like Wakefield Poole, Joe Gage, Artie Bresson, and George and Mike Kuchar (all of whom made better and more influential films than many of the filmmakers on the list), as well as insane omissions like John Schlesinger (apparently Midnight Cowboy and Sunday Bloody Sunday are too obscure for readers here). But what does one expect from the masses – even among people who supposedly are interested in indie film? The only reason Querelle is listed as Fassbinder's most important gay film is because it's the only one in English. And it has lots of penis-shaped towers.

knee play

Where is Christine Vachon? She should probably be #1.

Kingo Gondo

John Schlesinger–gay–directed one of the most important films about gay life ever, Sunday Bloody Sunday, and he is omitted from the top 25.

Apparently your readers are idiots.


Who participated? There's so much wrong it's barely worth reading. And your most important lgbt films are a joke. There's some serious vapid people on a site about cinema.


Dustin Lance Black? Are you kidding me?


Bryan Singer but no Lee Daniels???

David Ehrenstein

No Patrice Chereau? This list is worthless!

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