Back to IndieWire

Reader’s Poll: The 50 Most Important LGBT Filmmakers

Reader's Poll: The 50 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 in our second  annual Pride Month poll here at /bent, we asked 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 46 years. 

Check out all the results for every poll here.

127 people responded, and we’ll be sharing the results over the next few weeks, with the second list out today: The most important LGBT filmmakers of the last 46 years (in that they have at least completed one film after Stonewall). 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: 

-As expected, queer men made up for the vast majority with 42 (of 53 — there were three male teams co-listed).  Though in those polled’s defence: Its not your fault that the vast majority of filmmakers you have to pick from are queer men. 

-Eleven women made the list (including one trans woman), but only one in the top 10.

-Twenty-one of the filmmakers on the list are not American-born.

-Twenty-two of the filmmakers were born in the 1960s, the most represented decade in that regard by double. Nine came out of the 1950s, 7 from the 1940s, 5 from the 1920s, 4 from the 1970s, and 1 each from the 1900s, 1930s, and 1980s. The latter example was by far the youngest filmmaker on this list (guess who!), and was born in 1989. Also note: Two filmmakers do not have their ages publicly listed.

-Filmmakers that emerged out of the late 1980s/early 1990s “new queer cinema” were all over this list, making up almost half the top 10

-Only seven filmmakers on this list have directed films that have grossed over $100 million

Without further adieu, we present the 50 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.

1. Pedro Almodovar 
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): “Ally About My Mother” (1999)

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

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

3. Gus Van Sant 
Born: 1952 in Louisville, Kentucky
Debut Film: “Mala Noche” (1985)
Most Important LGBT Film (According To You): “Milk” (2009)

4. Rainer Werner Fassbinder 

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)

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

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

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

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

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

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

7 (tie). Lee Daniels 
Born: 1959 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Debut Film: “Shadowboxer” (2005)

Most Important LGBT Film (According To You):  Daniels hasn’t really made a “LGBT film” per say, and didn’t get any votes on our list.

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

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

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

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

11. John Cameron Mitchell 
Born: 1963 in El Paso, Texas
Debut Film:  “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” (2001)
Most Important LGBT Film (According To You):  “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” (2001)

12. Christine Vachon 
Born: 1962 in New York, New York
Debut Film: “Poison” (1991)

Most Important LGBT Film (According To You):  Vachon produced a ton of films on our recent list, with “Boys Don’t Cry” (1999) leading the pack.

13 (tie). Pier Paolo Pasolini
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)

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

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

15. Gregg Araki 
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)

16 (tie). Kenneth Anger

Born: 1927 in Santa Monica, California
Debut Film: “Ferdinand the Bull” (1937 — that’s right, when he was 10)

Most Important LGBT Film (According To You):  “Scorpio Rising” (1963)

16 (tie). John Schlesinger
Born: 1926 in London, UK
Died: 2003 in Palm Springs, California
Debut Film: “A Kind of Loving” (1962)

Most Important LGBT Film (According To You):  “Sunday Bloody Sunday” (1971)


18. Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman 

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

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

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

20. Andrew Haigh 
Born: UK
Debut Film: “Greek Pete” (2009)

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

21.  Luchino Visconti
Born: 1906 in Milan, Italy
Died: 1976 in Rome, Italy
Debut Film: “Obsession” (1943)

Most Important LGBT Film (According To You):  “Death in Venice” (1971)

22 (tie). Dustin Lance Black 

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)

22 (tie). Lana Wachowski 

Born: 1965 in Chicago, Illinois
Debut Film: “Bound” (1996)

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

23. Marlon Riggs 
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)

24. Andy Warhol 

Born: 1928 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Died: 1987 in New York, New York
Debut Film: “Sleep” (1963)

Most Important LGBT Film (According To You): No Warhol films got votes. 

25. Patrice Chereau 
Born: 1944 in Maine-et-Loire, France
Died: 2013 in Paris, France
Debut Film: “The Flesh of the Orchid” (1975)
Most Important LGBT Film (According To You): Chereau did not have much LGBT content in his films, once saying: “I never wanted to specialise in gay stories, and gay newspapers have criticised me for that. Everywhere love stories are exactly the same. The game of desire, and how you live with desire, are the same.”
26. Isaac Julien 
Born: 1960 in London, England
Debut Film: “Who Killed Colin Roach?” (1993)

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

27 (tie). Stephen Daldry 

Born: 1960 in Dorset, England
Debut Film: “Billy Elliot” (2000)

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

27 (tie). Bryan Singer 

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.

29. Jodie Foster

Born: 1962 in Los Angeles, California
Debut Film (as filmmaker): “Little Man Tate” (1991)

Most Important LGBT Film (According To You):  Considering she still has trouble openly discussing her sexuality, it’s no surprise that there’s little LGBT content in her films (though “Home For The Holidays” has a prominent LGBT character).

30. Ira Sachs

Born: 1965 in Memphis, Tennessee
Debut Film: “The Delta” (1997)

Most Important LGBT Film (According To You):  “Love is Strange” (2014)

31 (tie). James Ivory & Ismail Merchant
Born: 1928 in Berkeley, California (Ivory); 1936 in Bombay, India (Merchant)
Died: 2005 in London, UK (Merchant)
Debut Film: “The Householder” (1963)

Most Important LGBT Film (According To You):  “Maurice” (1987)

31 (tie). Dee Rees

Born: Nashville, Tennessee
Debut Film: “Eventual Salvation” (2008)

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

33. Terence Davies
Born: 1945 in Liverpool, UK
Debut Film: “Distant Voices, Still Lives” (1988)

Most Important LGBT Film (According To You):  Davies hasn’t included a lot of LGBT content in his films, none of which got votes in our poll.

34. Bill Condon

Born: 1955 in New York, New York
Debut Film: “Sister, Sister” (1987)

Most Important LGBT Film (According To You):  “Gods and Monsters” (1998)

35. Tom Kalin

Born: 1962
Debut Film: “Swoon” (1992)

Most Important LGBT Film (According To You):  “Swoon” (1992)

36 (tie). Jamie Babbit
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)

36 (tie). Rob Marshall
Born: 1960 in Madison, Wisconsin
Debut Film: “Chicago” (2002)

Most Important LGBT Film (According To You): Marshall’s filmography doesn’t include an explicitly LGBT films.

38. Wash Westmoreland & RIchard Glatzer
Born: 1966 in Leeds, UK (Westmoreland); 1952 in Queens, New York (Glatzer)
Died: 2015 in Los Angeles, California (Glatzer)
Debut Film: “The Fluffer” (2001) for Westmoreland; “Grief” for Glatzer (1993)

Most Important LGBT Film (According To You):  “The Fluffer” (2001)

39. Cheryl Dunye
Born: 1966 in Liberia
Debut Film: “Janine” (1990)

Most Important LGBT Film (According To You):  “The Watermelon Woman” (1996)

40. Ryan Murphy
Born: 1965 in Indianapolis, Indiana
Debut Film: “Running With Scissors” (2006)

Most Important LGBT Film (According To You):  “The Normal Heart” (2014)

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

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

42 (tie). Alan Ball
Born: 1957 in Marietta, Georgia
Debut Film: As director, “Towelhead” (2007)

Most Important LGBT Film (According To You):  His only feature directing effort didn’t get a vote, but he’ll be very present on our upcoming TV series list.

42 (tie). Tom Ford
Born: 1961 in Austin, Texas
Debut Film: “A Single Man” (2009)
Most Important LGBT Film (According To You):  “A Single Man” (2009)

44. Bruce LaBruce
Born: 1964 in Southampton, Ontario
Debut Film: “No Skin Off My Ass” (1993)

Most Important LGBT Film (According To You): “Super 8 1/2” (1994)

45. Donna Deitch
Born: 1945 in San Francisco, California
Debut Film: “Desert Hearts” (1986)

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

46. John Greyson
Born: 1960 in Nelson, British Columbia
Debut Film: “Pissoir” (1988)

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

47 (tie). Roland Emmerich
Born: 1955 in Stuttgart, Germany
Debut Film: “The Noah’s Arc Principle” (1984)

Most Important LGBT Film (According To You):  He hasn’t made an explicit LGBT film yet, though “Stonewall” will change that later this year.

47 (tie) Patricia Rozema
Born: 1958 in Kingston, Ontario
Debut Film: “I’ve Heard The Mermaids Singing” (1987)

Most Important LGBT Film (According To You):  “I’ve Heard The Mermaids Singing” (1987)

47 (tie). Mike White
Born: 1970 in Pasadena, California
Debut Film: “Year of the Dog” (2007)

Most Important LGBT Film (According To You):  His writing effort “Chuck & Buck”

50. Eytan Fox
Born: 1964 in New York, New York
Debut Film: “After” (1990)

Most Important LGBT Film (According To You):  “Yossi & Jagger” (2002)

This Article is related to: Lists and tagged