You will be redirected back to your article in seconds
Back to IndieWire

Reader’s Poll: The 25 Most Important LGBT Films

Reader's Poll: The 25 Most Important LGBT Films

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. 

Check out all the results for every poll here.

Seventy-two people responded, and we’ll be sharing the results over the next few weeks, with the first up today, and it’s a doozy: The most important LGBT films 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 films 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 top two choices were extremely obvious to be sure (and scored miles ahead of their competitors), but they both truly are  very important films. And beyond them came a nice blend of films we were pretty sure would rank high, and films we were kind of scared wouldn’t. 
  • 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. 
  • Newer films likely fresher in people’s minds dominated at the top — #3, especially — but overall, it was across the board. Most films on the list actually came from the 1990s (9), while the 2000s (6) and the 1980s (5) were next. 
  • As expected, films featuring gay or bisexual men made up for the vast majority with 17 of the 25 films focusing on them.  Though in those polled’s defence: Its not your fault that the vast majority of films you have to pick from are about gay or bisexual men. 
  • American films were also heavy on the list, with 17 of the 25 from the US… Though notably 4 of the top 10 were not American films.
  • Women directed 5 of the films, which though still an appalling percentage (20%), it’s sadly much higher than most “best of” cinema lists.
  • And in case you’re curious, the 10 runner-ups, in order of votes, were: BoundAll About My MotherMauriceDog Day AfternoonThe Boys in the BandFireTotally Fucked UpI Killed My MotherIn The Year of Thirteen Moons and Mysterious SkinNotably, we’re as shocked as you that no John Waters film made the top 35 — but Pink Flamingos and Female Trouble were bubbling just under.

So without further adieu, we present the 25 most important LGBT films, 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.

25. Longtime Companion (Norman Rene, 1990)  – 27 points

24 (tie). The Celluloid Closet (Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, 1996) – 28

24 (tie). Desert Hearts (Donna Deitch, 1985) – 28 

22. Hedwig and the Angry Inch (John Cameron Mitchell, 2001) – 35

21. The Kids Are All Right (Lisa Cholodenko, 2010) – 38

20 (tie). The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Jim Sharman, 1975) – 39

20 (tie). But I’m a Cheerleader (Jamie Babbit, 2000) – 39

18. Tongues Untied (Marlon Riggs, 1989) – 40

16 (tie). Shortbus (John Cameron Mitchell, 2006) – 41

16 (tie). Bad Education (Pedro Almodovar, 2004) – 41

15. Sunday Bloody Sunday (John Schlesinger, 1971) – 43

14. The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert  (Stephan Elliot, 1994) – 44

12 (tie). The Times of Harvey Milk (Rob Epstein, 1984)  – 46

12 (tie). Cabaret (Bob Fosse, 1972) – 46

11. My Beautiful Laundrette (Stephen Frears, 1985) – 48

10. Blue is the Warmest Color (Abdelatif Kechiche, 2013) – 51

9. Boys Don’t Cry (Kimberly Pierce, 1999) – 54

8. Philadelphia (Jonathan Demme, 1993) – 57

7. Happy Together (Wong Kar Wai, 1997) – 59

6. My Own Private Idaho (Gus Van Sant, 1991) – 67

5. Law of Desire (Pedro Almodovar, 1987) – 70

4. Paris Is Burning (Jennie Livington, 1990) – 74

3. Weekend (Andrew Haigh, 2011) – 87

2. Milk (Gus Van Sant, 2009) – 152

1. Brokeback Mountain  (Ang Lee, 2005) – 246


Check out all the results for every poll here.

This Article is related to: Lists



Where is "And the Band Played On" ?


I'm surprised no love for "Portrait of Jason (1967)".


Maybe it's just me…but I loved Normal, with Jessica Lange and Tom Wilkinson. Wilkinson plays an older Midwest, decades-long married man who decides he must finally be who he is–a woman. Both funny and utterly heart wrenching. The scene between father and grown son who comes home to confront Dad, evolving woman, is almost too painful to watch.


"Boys in the Band" and "Ma Vie en Rose" and "Touch of Pink" and "Mambo Italiano"


Even reading this, love that, to this date, I have yet to see a really great movie about lesbians. Kids Are All Right was meh, and all the others are low-budget, terribly acted, terribly directed, or all of the above. Sad.


A few other noticeable omissions:

Les chansons d'amour (Love Songs), Wilde (starring Stephen Fry), François Ozon (Time to Leave, Criminal Lovers, Hideaway), Concussion, That Old Dream That Moves ( Ce vieux rêve qui bouge), I Shot Andy Warhol, L'homme blesse, Monster, Before Night Falls, Tropical Malady, The Crying Game, Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom, Mulholland Drive, O Fantasma, Chasing Amy, Ming-liang Tsai's The River, Gods and Monsters, Vic + Flo ont vu un ours, The Opposite of Sex, Heavenly Creatures, Death in Venice, Love and Human Remains, Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, The Talented Mr. Ripley, The Long Day Closes, Fox and His Friends, The Dresser, Duck Season, The Wedding Banquet, Fellini Satyricon, Notes on a Scandal, Lilies, Victor/Victoria, Ma vie en rose (1997), High Art, Edward II, Cries and Whispers, M. Butterfly, Beau Travail, Orlando, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Tom at the Farm, Prick Up Your Ears, Carrington, Querelle, Gayby, À tout prendre, Priest, A Single Man, and my personal favorite of all time, André Téchiné's Wild Reeds.

Should have made the list Top 50, perhaps?

Colette Robinson

If these walls could talk 2.


At a loss to understand how 'Victim' and 'The Boys In The Band' didn't make the list.


At a loss to understand how 'Victim' and 'The Boys In The Band' didn't make the list.


Geez – I thought everyone would mention "Jeffrey", "love valour compassion", and "it's my party". I guess they stick out to me as a guy who came out in the 1990s. :-)

Matt Mazur

Ecstatic to see Marlon Riggs' Tongues Untied here and Riggs represented on the filmmakers list! That said, wish there was more support for the landmark trans doc Southern Comfort, but also for Stranger by the Lake, which to me is one of the best and most important LGBT films in recent memory.


BearCity what's left out as well


Really surpised Latter Days didnt make the list




Weekend is way too high. It is not better than Idaho or Paris is Burning. That's absurd.


French Twist


Really glad to see that My Own Private Idaho made the list but I would have thought "Shelter" would have made the list, or possibly "Latter Days". If you haven't seen either they are great movies!!!

Chad S

I do understand why some of these are important and the year. I still shocked by the lack of some though. pink flamingos ,female trouble , Big Eden, beautiful things, bent, edge of seventeen, doing time on maple drive, latterdays, debs, the hanging garden, the bird cage , to Wong foo, or even cruising weren't on there.


Making Love (1982 Arthur Hiller) was the first:
-Gay themed movie to be released by a major studio
-Movie to feature realistic (non-comical, non-villainous, non-bitchy) gay characters.
-Movie to include intimate contact (and nudity) between two men
-Movie to star major Hollywood talent ( at least they were before this movie was released) as gay characters
-First Happy Ending Gay themed Movie ( Everyone Lives!!!)
Most of the movies on this list was made possible by 'Making Love' . But it came out years before its time and greatly damaged the careers of Michael Ontkean and Harry Hamlin.
Please check this movie out. It's still one of my favorites.


And C.R.A.Z.Y. …


I can't believe that "Big Eden" wasn't in the list. I would have put it at #2 behind "Brokeback Mountain." But I didn't know about the contest, so……. :(


Most of the choices, I can see why people would choose. Philadelphia? Not so much. The best I could say for it is that it was big budget in comparison to most lgbt moves of that time. And it was well-intentioned.

I know other people must remember seeing the classics listed from the eighties and early nineties – in their first run in movie theaters. When an lgbt movie came out it was great. You had to keep up with that sort of thing – and there was a tendency for lgbt movies to be reviewed only in lgbt-specific magazines and papers. No internet. You then had to drive to one of those theaters that specialized in artsy and foreign films. Also, you had to act pretty quickly because lgbt movies typically idn't have long runs at theaters. It was a hassle, but it made the whole experience more of a noteworthy event. Also, you felt positive about supporting lgbt actors and directors, even when the movie wasn't great.

And man, does anyone else remember how incredibly handsome Daniel Day-Lewis was in My Beautiful Laundrette?

Brian W

No Parting Glances?

brian Godshall

what about ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER (Almodovar); LOVE VALOUR COMPASSION. IN & OUT. and maybe most importantly ANGELS IN AMERICA – miniseries or not, it should be on here. BROKEBACK is in the right place. and how about THE HOURS? DALLAS BUYERS CLUB – maybe too new. thanks.


I love most of the films on the list. However, I'm pretty surprised that "Poison" didn't make it on here. Really, I'm surprised that there's no Todd Haynes at all.

Daniel Day-Lewis manages to be in 2 movies on the list (Sunday Bloody Sunday & My Beautiful Laundrette). The man can't stop being on lists of acclaimed films!

Reel Charlie (on WordPress)

When did you poll readers? I missed that. Interesting list. Lots of classics, and a few surprises.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *