Celebrating 17 Years of Film.Biz.Fans.
by Peter Knegt
December 11, 2009 6:20 AM
18 Comments
  • |

B.O. of the '00s: The Top Grossing LGBT-Related Films

A scene from Ang Lee's "Brokeback Mountain." Image courtesy of Focus Features.

The 2010s are fast approaching - 20 days and counting - and indieWIRE is continuing this weekly Friday chart devoted to glancing back at the past ten years. With a film opening each weekend as a starting point, iW is charting various sub-categories of 2000s film, focusing on their North American box office performance. This week, with Tom Ford's "A Single Man" opening in theaters, iW is looking back at the last ten years of box office for films with significant lesbian, gay, bisexual transgendered characters or themes (an occasionally difficult distinction to measure, so please feel free to comment on films that should or should not have been included).

Since 2000, thirty-eight films with perhaps arguably LGBT related themes have grossed over $1 million. Very significant is that fact that, in the 1990s, fifty LGBT-related films grossed over $1,000,000, including five films ("The Birdcage," "In & Out," "The Talented Mr. Ripley," "Philadelphia" and "The Crying Game") which grossed over $50 million (and that number jumps to seven if you adjust for inflation). Only two did in the 2000s - "Brokeback Mountain" and "Bruno," that latter of which some argue was actually rather homophobic. Another distinction between the decades is that while in 1990s eight of the top ten releases were released by studios, only three were in the 2000s (though many of them were released by specialty subsidiaries of studios).

Additionally interesting is how much the Academy Awards came into play. Seven of the top ten grossers found grosses that were likely significantly boosted by major Oscar nominations. More over, four of the top five - "Brokeback Mountain," "The Hours," "Monster" and "Milk" - won one of the major categories. With "A Single Man"'s potential box office also partially relying on how potential awards notices for actors Colin Firth and Julianne Moore work out, it could likely be joining this trend.

Below are the 38 films that crossed the $1 million mark, a sadly low number considering the thousands and thousands of straight-themed films that did the same. Please note that while indieWIRE did extensive research to compile this list, it's always possible we missed a film - and "gay" can always be in the eyes of the beholder.

The poster for "Bruno."

Top Grossing LGBT-Related Films of the 2000s

1. Brokeback Mountain, 2005 $83,043,761
2. Bruno, 2009 $60,054,530
3. The Hours, 2002 $41,675,994
4. Monster, 2003 $34,469,210
5. Milk, 2008 $31,841,299
6. Rent, 2005 $29,077,547
7. Capote, 2005 $28,750,530
8. Frida, 2002 $25,885,000
9. Notes on a Scandal 2006 $17,510,118
10. Far From Heaven, 2002 $15,901,849
11. The Next Best Thing, 2000 $14,990,582
12. Y Tu Mama Tambien, 2002 $13,839,658
13. De-Lovely, 2004 $13,456,633
14. Kinsey, 2004 $10,254,979
15. Transamerica, 2005 $9,015,303
16. The Deep End, 2001 $8,823,109
17. Taking Woodstock, 2009 $7,460,204
18. Mulholland Drive, 2001 $7,220,243
19. Kissing Jessica Stein, 2002 $7,025,722
20. The Closet, 2001 $6,678,894
21. The Rules of Attraction, 2002 $6,532,619
22. Mambo Italiano, 2003 $6,253,026
23. C.R.A.Z.Y., 2005 $5,891,739
24. Bad Education, 2004 $5,211,842
25. Before Night Falls, 2000 $4,242,892
26. Hedwig and the Angry Inch, 2001 $3,067,312
27. Walk On Water, 2005 $2,713,932
28. But I'm a Cheerleader, 2000 $2,205,627
29. Shortbus, 2006 $1,985,292
30. The Broken Hearts Club, 2000 $1,746,585
31. Camp, 2003 $1,629,862
32. Happy Endings, 2005 $1,315,701
33. Saving Face, 2005 $1,187,266
34. L.I.E., 2001 $1,138,836
35. Chuck and Buck, 2000 $1,055,671
36. A Home at the End of the World, 2004 $1,029,872
37. All Over The Guy, 2001, $1,022,324
38. My Summer of Love, 2004 $1,000,915


"B.O. of the '00s" is a weekly feature from indieWIRE running until the end of the year. Check out the previous editions:

B.O. of the '00s: The Top Grossing Female Helmed Films
B.O. of the '00s: The Top Grossing Foreign-Language Films
B.O. of the '00s: The Top Grossing Documentaries
B.O. of the '00s: The Top Grossing Sundance Films

You might also like:

18 Comments

  • Vikram | December 25, 2009 10:09 AMReply

    Saw this list via AfterElton. I realise you've specified North American release only, and I also understand the difficulties in taking a list like this wider. Still, in an increasingly globalised age it might be worth looking at ways to include films from other parts of the world. Because not only are more lgbt themed films being made around the world, but some are doing pretty well. Patrik 1,5 was big in Sweden and King & Clown in Korea.

    No idea what this might mean in box office terms, but one film which would make your list is last year's Bollywood hit Dostana, which was very definitely gay themed, a great deal more than Y Tu Mama Tambien, for example. It was perhaps the third biggest hit of last year which, given the pulling power of Bollywood today, would make it one of the top grossing gay films of all time. Even if one was only to take US box office, boxofficemojo gives it a US lifetime gross of over a million (and worldwide of $17.7 million).

    Here's a link to an article I did on the subject:

    http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/News/News_By_Industry/Dostana_One_of_the_top_earning_gay_films/rssarticleshow/3898746.cms

    cheers, Vikram

  • jtruman | December 25, 2009 12:35 AMReply

    That's a shame. All great films! Great list overall though.

  • Peter Knegt | December 24, 2009 6:33 AMReply

    Imagine Me & You, Breakfast on Pluto and Mysterious Skin all grossed under $1 million.

  • jtruman | December 24, 2009 5:57 AMReply

    I'm not sure if it grossed over a million, it might not have - but I think Imagine Me and You is an really charming film that features two lesbian leads. And what about Breakfast on Pluto or Mysterious Skin? Maybe not million grossers either....

  • BarryWalters | December 20, 2009 9:46 AMReply

    I'd also add Happy Endings.

  • BarryWalters | December 20, 2009 9:37 AMReply

    Given that your criteria is North American box office, you're missing C.R.A.Z.Y., which didn't get a US release, but did nearly $6 million in Canadian dollars, is widely considered to be among the greatest French Canadian films, and most definitely has a gay protagonist .

  • BarryWalters | December 20, 2009 8:35 AMReply

    Some may disagree with me, but I see Pedro Almodóvar's Talk to Her as an LGBT film. It's difficult to fully discuss why without spoilers, but I'd argue that the Benigno character represents the diva-worshiping sensibility of many gay men taken to a provocative extreme, and that some of his sexual/affectional ambiguity is eventually reciprocated. At the very least, it's a film that intentionally blurs sexuality through a gay perspective.

  • Peter Knegt | December 20, 2009 2:59 AMReply

    Barry: I hadn't even thought about "C.R.A.Z.Y".... Despite tracking systems listing themselves as "North American box office," if a film ONLY plays in Canada, it doesn't ever turn up. So I missed it when I was doing research.

    I remember when that film came out it was a big story in Canada. It was the highest grossing film of the summer in Quebec, well above blockbusters like the final "Star Wars," etc. For a family drama that is - to some degree - a coming out narrative to explode like that was remarkable. It also came out the same summer gay marriage was legalized across the country, which made its success this really powerful cultural symbol.

    Anyway... I added it, and "Happy Endings." Thanks for the tips!

  • Prince Gomolvilas | December 15, 2009 2:15 AMReply

    Hi, Peter, thanks for compiling this list. I linked to it on The Bilerico Project:

    http://www.bilerico.com/2009/12/brokeback_and_bruno_top_list_of_highest-grossing_l.php

    I was wondering if the list of top-grossing LGBT films from the 1990s is available somewhere online. Or do you have it handy somewhere? A bunch of people are wondering.

    Thanks a bunch.

    P.S. The numbering is currently off on your list--you skipped 13.

  • Peter Knegt | December 14, 2009 8:01 AMReply

    Jenni: You're definitely right, and I it's explicit enough to warrant inclusion... and has been added. Thanks!

  • JenniOlsonSF | December 14, 2009 7:31 AMReply

    Not that I really WANT it to be on the list but given your stated criteria... Judi Dench's character is definitely a lesbian in NOTES ON A SCANDAL.

  • Peter Knegt | December 14, 2009 6:17 AMReply

    The Producers's gay characters are not leads. If I included any film with gay characters this list would be quite extensive.

  • briangod | December 14, 2009 5:04 AMReply

    Also The Producers - as, per your criteria, has gay characters and would likely be in the top 10 grossing gay films.

  • filmhawk | December 12, 2009 8:33 AMReply

    Kevin Kline has one more title in the '00s (besides IN & OUT, listed above). In DE-LOVELY (2004 @ $13,456,633) he played a gay Cole Porter (sharing an on-screen kiss with TORCHWOOD's out actor John Barrowman) -- as opposed to Cary Grant's de-gayed Porter in the 1946 NIGHT AND DAY.

    Then there is, of course, the whole question of perception vis a vis last year's DOUBT ($33,446,470). As you so well put it: "and 'gay' can always be in the eyes of the beholder." When I first saw the play, even with Bryan O'Byrne's more subtly ambiguous performance (as compared to Philip Seymour Hoffman's less-so one in the film), my eyes and ears saw/heard "gay" -- and certainly in the film (and not because Hoffman was so good as Capote and drag queen Rusty in FLAWLESS (1999); he also does heterosexuals very well). But John Patrick Shanley's very title will forever keep this in that intriguing grey area. (It's rumored, by the way, that Shanley did confide the truth to both those actors and that they were never to tell anyone else.)

  • filmhawk | December 12, 2009 7:05 AMReply

    Oops! A friend informed me that Kline & Barrowman do not kiss in DE-LOVELY. Talk about "eyes of the beholder"! Maybe I dreamt it (certainly I've seen Barrowman do enough man-to-man kisses in his time) and their duet of "Night and Day" in that film was LIKE a kiss. I guess it comes under the heading of a lead character who is BI-sexual (wink wink) in a really lame & tepid film that happened to take in over $13M.

    Anyway, you've opened up a fascinating subject where there are so many ambiguities and grey areas. I'm fairly certain that in the next ten years we will see an ever-growing attitude of "who cares?" -- enabling (one hopes) stronger and more upfront depictions of the full spectrum of LGBT life.

    In a way, this current discussion has something to do with BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN losing the Best Picture Oscar to CRASH. I swear that the tipping point was the fact that CRASH was set in L.A. (something to which the majority of voters can REALLY relate) and that if it had been set in some other city it might not have copped the big one. I'm just sayin' . . .

  • Peter Knegt | December 12, 2009 5:04 AMReply

    Jonathan in Dayton: Shortbus has been added... It definitely warrants being on this list & I'm not sure how I missed it.

    briangod: I explained that this list wasn't meant to be selective or political, and even notes this in "Bruno"'s regard (which I assume is what you mean, as "Borat" isn't actually on this list). The criteria asked for a film with a lead character who is LGBT. Bruno is gay. Chuck and Larry, however, are not.

  • Jonathan in Dayton | December 11, 2009 9:24 AMReply

    SHORTBUS isn't on the list...granted there's just as much straight content as gay, but there are some great gay characters - and JCM isn't scared to show them!

  • briangod | December 11, 2009 8:31 AMReply

    There is no reason a borish and homophobic movie like BORAT should be on this list. You didn't include I NOW PRONOUNCE YOU CHUCK AND LARRY -which I think is probably a good thing - both seem to be "gay" movies for people who still laugh at gay jokes written in the 70s.