The LGBTQ+ community has existed throughout human history, but it wasn’t until the turn of the 20th century that it started making its mark on mainstream media. In fact, The Celluloid Closet, an award-winning documentary by filmmaker Rob Epstein and writer Jeffrey Friedman, traces the history of queer films from 1895 all the way up to 1995—and its extensive list of queer films has been referenced in almost every other queer-centric film since then. That said, there are still plenty of films being made that deserve your attention—so here are seven that you must watch and why.
1. Call Me by Your Name
This 2017 movie follows a summer romance between two men. It’s not just beautiful, it is also a heart-wrenching depiction of first love. Starring Armie Hammer as Oliver and Timothée Chalamet as Elio, it also has an all-star cast supporting them including Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar, Esther Garrel, and Victoire Du Bois.
The film was written by James Ivory, who won an Oscar for his screenplay for Howard’s End. The film received rave reviews from critics and earned three nominations for the 2018 Golden Globes: Best Picture – Drama; Best Actor – Drama (Chalamet); and Best Screenplay (written by James Ivory). If you want to see what some have called one of the best films in years, then you need to watch Call Me by Your Name.
2. The Danish Girl
The movie is directed by Tom Hooper and is based on a novel written by David Ebershoff. The film stars Eddie Redmayne as Danish painter Einar Wegener/Lili Elbe who transitions to a woman. While it’s not an exclusively queer movie, it does have a strong queer presence with Alicia Vikander playing Gerda Wegener, one of Elbe’s wives (there were several) during her transition from male to female.
The movie itself is about love, loss, identity and self-discovery in all its forms. It has won many awards including Academy Awards for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Vikander and Best Makeup & Hairstyling. For those looking for an emotional journey that will make you laugh, cry and fall in love then The Danish Girl is definitely worth watching!
The story of forbidden love between two women in 1950s New York City. When Carol’s unexpected relationship with Therese becomes more intense, Carol’s partner leaves her. Heartbroken, Therese sees her own hurt mirrored in Carol’s eyes, and they both must find the courage to go on.
Carol is an extremely moving drama about two women who fall in love. This film received rave reviews from both critics and viewers alike. It deals with themes of isolation, loneliness, denial, and repression—and ultimately explores what happens when you risk everything for your heart’s desire. It was written by Phyllis Nagy (based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Price of Salt) and directed by Todd Haynes (I’m Not There). The cinematography alone is worth watching!
On Oscar night 2017, Barry Jenkins’ film Moonlight picked up an award for Best Picture. It’s a coming-of-age drama that follows Chiron, a queer boy growing up in Miami. The film reveals how sexual identity is never fixed or solid, but always changing and evolving. Moonlight’s story reflects how we understand gender identity development. As many of us know, it can be difficult to find accurate depictions of LGBTQ+ characters on screen.
This 2008 film tells a true story about Harvey Milk, an openly gay San Francisco City Supervisor who was assassinated. Starring Sean Penn, James Franco, Josh Brolin, Emile Hirsch and Diego Luna, Milk is a moving film with fantastic acting. It’s one of those movies that everyone needs to see. Harvey Milk was not only an important historical figure but someone who paved the way for equality.
He was also a politician who showed how much he cared about his community by going out into it and working hard to make change happen. He believed in what he stood for, and he inspired others around him to believe in themselves as well. Milk is inspiring because it shows how far we have come as a society but also how far we still need to go in order to achieve full equality.
With the mainstreaming of films for US audiences, perhaps we are on the cusp of another era with more inclusive films. We have only attempted to point you in the right direction for the queer film audience in this piece. We hope you will find what you seek and fall deeply in love with many of these films.