Celebrating 17 Years of Film.Biz.Fans.
by Austin Dale, Devin Lee Fuller, Peter Knegt, Bryce J. Renninger and Nigel M. Smith
June 5, 2012 1:22 PM
23 Comments
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Happy Pride Month: Here's 43 Great LGBT Films To Help You Celebrate

"Far From Heaven"
Julianne Moore and Todd Haynes prove the second time's a charm with their sophomore collaboration (he first directed her in "Safe") "Far From Heaven." Done in the style of a Douglas Sirk ("All That Heaven Allows," "Imitation of Life") lush melodrama, "Far From Heaven" stars a never-better Moore as a 1950's housewife whose idyllic life begins to crumble after discovering her husband (an affecting Dennis Quaid) locked in a heated embrace with another man in his office, after hours. Being the 1950's, he expresses regret when confronted by his wife and agrees to see a psychiatrist to 'cure' his ways. Haynes does Sirk proud while elevating Sirk's style beyond its artifice to ground "Far From Heaven" in real, profound emotions. And Moore delivers the performance of her career. [Nigel M. Smith]

"Female Trouble"
Arguably John Waters best film, there's nothing particularly LGBT about "Female Trouble" save for the fact that its directed by Waters and stars his drag queen muse, Divine. But considering the collective contribution of these iconic figures of American queer culture, that's more than enough to warrant inclusion of this or any of their films. The film gives us the extraordinary cinematic gift that is Dawn Davenport (Divine), one of the trashiest girls to ever hit the silver screen.  Following her evolution from schoolgirl to fame-obsessed mass murderer, "Female Trouble" is a delicious, disgusting and bizarrely insightful riot. [Peter Knegt]

"Fire"
In the first film in Deepa Mehta's Elements trilogy, the Indian-Canadian filmmaker tells the story of two women who were not fulfilled in their marriages (played by Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das).  The two couples are getting ready to start families in Delhi, but the women are having second thoughts about the contracts they entered into. To make up for the lack of love in their lives, the two find love in each other.  Finding inspiration in Ismat Chugtai's pre-Parittion short story "The Quilt," Mehta shows two women fiercely in love with each other, ending with a "trial by fire" right out of the Ramayana. The film was released in the middle of the rise of the Hindu right, especially the ultra-conservative Shiv Sena, who protested the film when it debuted in India.  [Bryce J. Renninger]

"Flesh"
At first glance, Paul Morrissey's "Flesh" isn't a movie so much as a vintage beefcake editorial at 24 frames per second. The delicious, barely legal Joe Dallesandro is in every scene and spends much of his screen time completely nude. The film is composed of sharp jump cuts and formless, improvised scenes shot with no money on weekends. However, "Flesh," a day-in-the-life film about a bisexual hustler has a powerful immediacy, starkly representing an intersection of straight and gay worlds during the Stonewall era. It's a gutsy film for 1968. It's about gay sex, and it upends years of cinematic voyeurism with its central male nude. Plus, it's got a hilarious scene with Warhol's gorgeous trans superstars Candy Darling and Jackie Curtis. [Austin Dale]

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23 Comments

  • Elizabeth Quinn | June 26, 2013 1:56 PMReply

    Here is one I wanted to share that's currently on iTunes. http://tinyurl.com/oaqprhf Such wonderful documentary to show that love is love!

  • LA | June 26, 2013 11:15 AMReply

    Ummm How to survive a plague? How is this not on the list?!?!

  • Carlos | June 8, 2012 2:43 PMReply

    Surprised that Pricilla Queen of the Desert
    or
    To: Wong Fu: Thanks

  • carlos | June 8, 2012 2:41 PMReply

    I am surprised that Jeffery (or is that Geoffry?) with Patrick Stewart wasn't on the list

  • Kenny | June 7, 2012 3:49 PMReply

    Surprised "Latter Days" wasn't on there.

  • doris | June 6, 2012 12:58 PMReply

    it's sad that there are so few lesbian films and most of them are horrible

  • Adam | June 6, 2012 9:58 AMReply

    PHILADELPHIA and I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS are two films that I'm surprised didn't jump right away into the minds of the staff.

    In regard to the lack of lesbian films. It's both sad and unfortunate that there are not more Women and Lesbian films and filmmakers on this list and in the world of filmmaking in general. But to be honest the films mentioned by some people below either suck or at best mediocre, and that is why they didn't come to the minds of the Indiewire staff. Furthermore, I misogyny is a terrible word to be throwing around so lightly, and it borders on slander.

    The great art historian, Linda Nochlin profoundly summed it up best in her famous essay, 'Why are There No Great Women Artists?' It was written about women in painting and sculpture, but I think it applies well to film as there have only been a few great female directors.

    "What is important is that women face up to the reality of their history and of their present situation, without staking excuses or puffing mediocrity. Disadvantage may indeed be an excuse; it is not, however, an intellectual position. Rather, using as a vantage point their situation as underdogs in the realm of grandeur, and outsiders in that of ideology, women can reveal institutional and intellectual weaknesses in general, and, at the same time that they destroy false consciousness, take part in the creation of institutions in which clear thought—and true greatness—are challenges open to anyone, man or woman, courageous enough to take the necessary risk, the leap into the unknown."

  • bob hawk | June 6, 2012 12:35 PM

    Yes, PHILADELPHIA (above) and TRANSAMERICA (below) could be added. And I forgot Craig Russell's OUTRAGEOUS!, which I love. But I don't think that the main article's list, and this ever-burgeoning list in Comments (encouraged by Peter Knegt below) is about GREAT greatness (which is rare indeed) but great to CELEBRATE (to my mind the key word of the headline). Words that come to mind are celebratory, fun, affectionate, erotic -- and speak to how certain films are remembered at whatever age we originally saw them, and what we still might return to for warm or guilty pleasure. I would say there's room on this list for the cinematic equivalent of both comfort and junk food, trashy novels and the sweeping grandeur of heart-stopping romance and arousing sensuality. Certainly, the gender imbalance in most of the arts, as articulated by Adam in citing Nochlin's essay, is glaringly real and immediately provokes a stream of thoughts. For instance, I could not think of one "great" woman composer of classical music (albeit, in the more popular sector I would bow to everyone from Joni Mitchell to Dolly Parton, and quite a few more). Only one sculptor comes to mind (Louise Nevelson). In dance, the 20th Century is spanned by Martha Graham, then Agnes deMille, and then Pina Bausch, ushering us into this century and still grabbing our attention on screen. But why are there scores of women novelists and poets, but very few dramatists who even come close to whatever we consider greatness? To get back to film (including but not limited to lesbians), there are Maya Deren, Barbara Hammer, Barbara Kopple -- and the many more who are "allowed" to flourish in documentary and/or the experimental realm but otherwise often make but one feature film and then struggle to get financing for a follow-up (as do many indie men, actually). Kathryn Bigelow and Cheryl Dunye, each in their own VERY different way, have a body of work -- but consider Julie Dash (DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST), Donna Deitch (DESERT HEARTS) or Rose Troche (GO FISH), who have found their livelihood primarily in television. If they were men they'd be working more features (and would that they were). Women, queers, ethnic and other minorities -- their outsider/underdog vantage point is important in reflecting and challenging our society in general, but one would hope that in the next generation an accelerated move toward gender parity within the indie gestalt could occur.

  • Sridhar Rangayan | June 6, 2012 8:52 AMReply

    I too noticed the rather low quotient of lesbian themed films, but there are also very few transgender themed films - what about Transamerica, one of the cult trans themed films?

  • bob hawk | June 6, 2012 5:32 AMReply

    Wonderfully eclectic and idiosyncratic list -- and the previous 13 commentators have amply fleshed things out. A few more to add to the pot (some iconic, some purely personal, not all of them p.c.): BIG EDEN, BOYS IN THE BAND; CAMP; CELLULOID CLOSET; COLMA: THE MUSICAL; THE CONSEQUENCE; EBAN AND CHARLEY; EDGE OF SEVENTEEN; EDWARD II; THE FOURTH MAN; FOX AND HIS FRIENDS; GODS AND MONSTERS; L'HOMME BLESSE; I AM LOVE; I KILLED MY MOTHER; LAW OF DESIRE; LILIES; MAKING LOVE; MAURICE; MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO; MYSTERIOUS SKIN; THE OWLS; PERSONAL BEST; PRICK UP YOUR EARS; PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT; SAVAGE GRACE; SEBASTIANE; SHOW ME LOVE [aka FUCKING AMAL]; STONEWALL [!]; SUNDAY, BLOODY SUNDAY; SWOON; TAXI ZUM KLO; UNDERTOW [aka CONTRACORRIENTE] -- and my favorite porno of all time (it has a plot, and an arc!): Tom DeSimone's THE IDOL (1979).

  • Andrew | June 6, 2012 1:22 AMReply

    I know the second half of the film is a litte "out there" but why no Tropical Malady?

  • JV | June 6, 2012 12:42 AMReply

    Where is Happy Together? One of most erotic, complicated, elusive, and powerful films in "Gay" Cinema starring the late gay icon Leslie Cheung and Tony Leung.

  • CF | June 5, 2012 11:14 PMReply

    Silver Life: The View from Here (1993) is a definite must watch, on the surface the film deals with the pains that AIDS inflicts on both the individual and the family, but also it shows a most beautiful love story.

  • POWER UP FILMS | June 5, 2012 8:21 PMReply

    Dear Indiewire, I do love you, but where are the films Celebrating Lesbians? AND it is 2012 why are any Non-LGBTQ films included? WOW, Misogyny hurts!
    Reading this list may leave Lesbians feel not only forgotten and trumped by non-Queer films, but punched in the stomach and transported back 20 years to where we should be simply grateful for the chance to be an innuendo; or killed; or mocked; or abused; or loathed on-screen. Not exactly my idea of Celebrating Lesbian Pride!

    As a professional Film Producer of Queer Indie Films and the President of Film Production & Distribution for POWER UP Films - the only 501(c)(3) non-profit Educational Organization and Film Production Company for Women & the LGBTQ Community - I am truly shocked & disappointed that only (approx) 3.333 films out of the 43 films selected by the creators of this bizarre list are Lesbian.

    While the LGBTQ Community (for political ease) is categorized together, in reality, the representation and interests of those very distinct categories do not necessarily overlap. As such, I would like to list a few wonderful Lesbian films (mysteriously not included) that feel more like Celebrating Lesbians: Desert Hearts; Imagine Me and You; Entre Nous; High Art; Go Fish; The Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls in Love; Chutney Popcorn; Gia; and, to toot POWER UP Films own horn ITTY BITTY TITTY COMMITTEE and DEBS.

    Enjoy, and May The Pride be with you!
    Lisa Thrasher
    For more information about POWER UP Films: @thrashPOWrUPfLm www.powerupfilms.org

  • Lisa Thrasher | June 5, 2012 7:18 PMReply

    Dear Indiewire,

    I do love you, but … where are the films “Celebrating” Lesbians? AND it’s 2012 … why are any Non-LGBTQ films included? WOW, Misogyny hurts!

    Reading this list may leave Lesbians feel not only forgotten and trumped by non-Queer films, but punched in the stomach and transported back 20 years to where we should be simply grateful for the chance to be an innuendo; or killed; or mocked; or abused; or loathed on-screen. Not exactly my idea of “Celebrating Lesbian Pride!”

    As a professional Film Producer of Queer Indie Films and the President of Film Production & Distribution for POWER UP Films - the only 501(c)(3) non-profit Educational Organization and Film Production Company for Women & the LGBTQ Community - I am truly shocked & disappointed that only (app) 3.333 films out of the 43 films selected by the creators of this bizarre list are “Lesbian.”

    While the LGBTQ Community (for political ease) is categorized together, in reality, the representation and interests of those very distinct categories do not necessarily overlap. As such, I would like to list a few wonderful “Lesbian” films (mysteriously not included) that feel more like “Celebrating” Lesbians: Desert Hearts; Imagine Me and You; Entre Nous; High Art; Go Fish; The Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls in Love; Chutney Popcorn; Gia; and, to toot POWER UP Films’ own horn … ITTY BITTY TITTY COMMITTEE and DEBS.

    Enjoy, and “May ‘The Pride’ be with You!”

    For more information about POWER UP Films: @thrashPOWrUPfLm www.powerupfilms.org

  • Drew | June 5, 2012 6:00 PMReply

    How can you forget 'The Killing of Sister George?" A landmark lesbian movie.

    Not only the first X-rated movie in the mainstream, but one of the first (if not the first) films to depict lesbian couples and lifestyles.

    "The Killing of Sister George" paved the way for movies like "The Kids are All Right."

    Great list though... :P

  • HWD911 | June 5, 2012 5:07 PMReply

    what no 'SPORK' !?

  • Deborah A | June 5, 2012 3:59 PMReply

    Did I miss The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love, Desert Hearts, Puccini for Beginners
    on your list?

  • Jim Tushinski | June 5, 2012 3:26 PMReply

    Kind of a strange list. There are so many wonderful films that most people don't even know about. Why pad the list with stuff like Madonna or Eddie Murphy or even Rebel Without a Cause? What about Parting Glances (the most perfect Pride month film imaginable)? What about I've Heard the Mermaids Singing? My Beautiful Laundrette? Urbania? Poison? (oh ok...three Todd Haynes films on one list might be a bit much) Bound? Born in Flames? And come on...Flaming Creatures? Yes it's influential, but so are Pink Narcissus, Bijou, Scorpio Rising...all more watchable than Flaming Creatures and all just as groundbreaking. I'd say 50% of the list is good and 50% is questionable choices. But that's always the case with film lists. I'm sure my list would be seen as odd or perverse by many.

  • Peter Knegt | June 5, 2012 3:40 PM

    We'd agree with you 100% ourselves. We basically each just chose 7 or 8 films that we individually felt warranted inclusion, there was no rhyme or reason to it beyond that. So it's by no means comprehensive, and there's dozens and dozens of films that should be on a list like this that aren't here. We'd also love to have folks use the comments section to flesh out what's missing.

  • Dennis Doros | June 5, 2012 3:17 PMReply

    PORTRAIT OF JASON (1967), THE QUEEN (1968), WORD IS OUT (1977), BEFORE STONEWALL (1984), PARTING GLANCES (1986) and COMMON THREADS (1989) are equally important (and just as remarkable) films. You can also throw in Derek Jarman's CARRAVAGIO and Rosa von Praunheim's work including I AM MY OWN WOMAN. Supporting the Outfest Legacy Project (http://www.outfest.org/legacysite/) would be a great way to celebrate.

  • YAH | June 5, 2012 2:27 PMReply

    Have a sense of humor, Nah!

  • nah | June 5, 2012 2:25 PMReply

    got through the 3rd page w/rando unnecessary suggestion of eddie murphy as being gay at which point i decided another 10 clickthroughs aren't necessary