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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
25 Comments
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Happy Pride Month: Here's 43 Great LGBT Films To Help You Celebrate

"Flaming Creatures"
Avant-garde filmmaker Jack Smith's 1963 masterpiece may have been too hot for New York City censors when it was first screened, but Smith went on to inspire a whole slew of filmmakers and writers.  Former Village Voice writer J. Hoberman was just one huge fan, devoting many pages to him across the Manhattan weekly and books.  The film, which shows drag queens and transvestites in close-up applying clothing and make-up, lying about naked and seducing each other and others, marks the debut of New American Cinema star/let Mario Montez (not to be confused with the Universal Pictures star Maria Montez, for whose acting Smith had the utmost admiration).  [Bryce J. Renninger]


"Hedwig and the Angry Inch"
A rock musical about a bitter East German transgender singer with a one inch dick is bound to garner a cult following. Said film, "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," has since coming out in 2001. Thankfully, the film's also great too. Before going all Oscar-friendly by directing Nicole Kidman to an Academy Award nomination in "Rabbit Hole," John Cameron Mitchell penned the book to the Off-Broadway sensation, that he later adapted into the trailblazing feature film of the same name. Mitchell proved himself to be a quadruple threat to be reckoned with his directorial debut by showing off some serious singing chops; acting his heart out as the titular heroine; directing with flair to spare; and writing a moving story of love and loss that's gone on to win over those who would normally balk at a film fronted by "slip of a girly boy." [Nigel M. Smith]


"I Want What I Want"
"I Want What I Want" is a very sincere early film about transsexuality. Unfortunately, "early" here means 1972, but I can't think of a film from this era - save perhaps "A Year With 13 Moons" - which is more brave in its depiction of the subject matter, even though I remain unconvinced that the filmmakers knew much about life as a transsexual. Anyway, "I Want What I Want" stars Anne Heywood as Roy, a real estate agent who decides to change his sex. It occasionally devolves into sexploitation, but its depiction of sexual transition remains one of the most complicated I've seen. [Austin Dale]


“The Kids Are All Right”
Lisa Cholodenko’s dramatic comedy captures a family in distress after the two teenage children of a lesbian couple seek out the sperm donor responsible for half of their chromosomes. Annette Bening and Julianne Moore play Nic and Jules, two moms who act like any other concerned parents with flaws (Nic drinks a little too much, Jules is a little too laidback) and Mark Ruffalo is Paul, their hunky, single sperm donor. Nic and Jules attempt to welcome the new masculine presence into their household, but Paul’s arrival wakes up a number of pent up issues beneath the surface of their marriage. The film is refreshingly frank in its depiction of same-sex parenting, acknowledging that same-sex couples face their own unique set of issues while raising a family. [Devin Lee Fuller]

25 Comments

  • James Weslowski | June 15, 2014 5:55 PMReply

    It seems weird that this article does NOT know that the Stonewall riots were 45 years ago, not 43 and t5hat no one seems to notice. It was a warm June night in 1969,not 1971. This major error of such an important date makes me discount the whole rest of the article a bit, although many of my favorite LGBT films -- or at least a lot of important ones -- are on the list.

  • James Weslowski | June 15, 2014 5:57 PM

    Sorry, I just noticed the article was from two years ago. I forgot everything survives on the Internet and was stupid to think it was current! My apologies!

  • 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