These LGBTQ+ Films Are Worth Celebrating

Mandalay Vision/REX/Shutterstock
Over the course of our lifetimes, we’ve seen sweeping civil rights victories for the LGBTQ+ community. In June of 2015, a Supreme Court ruling made same-sex marriage a right throughout the nation. And just this week for the very first time, a U.S. appeals court ruled that federal civil rights laws protect LGBTQ+ employees from workplace discrimination.
Although there's obviously more work to be done, these milestones of progress are cause for celebration. Fortunately for the lethargic of us, we can celebrate right from our couch. Enter the LGBTQ+-themed movie marathon.
While news headlines lump a huge, diverse population into a single acronym, the films on this list unravel that broad categorization by telling the stories of LGBTQ+ individuals. They depict aging lovers who’ve weathered decades together; activists fighting for change in their communities; kids on the cusp of self-discovery; men trapped in unhappy marriages; and long-time partners getting hitched at last.
Advertisement
Each of these movies is merely a drop in the bucket of stories worth sharing and celebrating.
1 of 16
Call Me By Your Name (2017)

There's a reason why everyone is talking incessantly about Call Me By Your Name. It's a transportive, moving story about the kind of pure and profound relationship we spend our lives hoping we experience at some point. You will be hoping Elio (Timothée Chalemet) and Oliver's (Armie Hammer) summer in Northern Italy lasts forever, for their sake.
2 of 16
Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)

When drag-queen Anthony (Hugo Weaving) is offered to take his show to Alice Springs, a town in the middle of the Outback, he persuades his two best friends and fellow performers to come along. Together, the three set forth on their journey in a bus they call "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert." What Adam (Guy Pearce) and Bernadette (Terence Stamp) don't know is that Anthony was offered the role by his estranged ex-wife. Once the tour bus gets to Alice Springs, Anthony will be faced with the family he left behind.
Advertisement
3 of 16
Paris is Burning (1990)

Rarely does a documentary provide such a fascinating, holistic lens into a counterculture. Filmmaker Jennie Livingston followed the queer people of color and trans people who formed the back bone of New York's drag balls in the '80s and '90s. While the scenes of voguing are great, so are the documentary's ruthless critique of class, gender, and capitalism, that still hold up almost three decades later.
4 of 16
My Beautiful Laundrette (1985)

In a rough neighborhood of London, Omar (Gordon Warnecke) inherits a laundromat from his uncle. Then, a gang of racist punks assault Omar. One gang happens to be Omar's ex-lover, Johnny (Daniel Day Lewis), whose life had gone awry after their breakup. They rekindle their relationship and get the laundromat fixed up — it's Johnny and Omar against the world. This gem of a film also features the best ear lick in cinematic history.
5 of 16
Pride (2014)

You may not think that gay rights activists and coal miners go hand-in-hand, especially considering today’s political climate.

But in 1984, a group of English gays and lesbians realized they shared a common enemy with striking coal miners: Thatcher, the conservative press, and the police. So, a group of LGBT Londoners travels to Whales and lends their aid to the miners — who, at first, are reluctant to have them. Uplifting, heartwarming, and bursting with your favorite British actors, Pride depicts the initial founding of a movement that would go on to have real political reverberations in the U.K.
6 of 16
The Kids Are Alright (2010)

After 20 years as a couple, Jules (Julianne Moore) and Nic (Annette Bening) have one of those quirky, wonderful households bursting with warmth. But when their two teenage kids get the bright idea to contact their birth donor and invite him over, their family will be tested and redefined.
7 of 16
Brokeback Mountain (2006)

In 1963, Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) learn that a lot can happen between two cowboys during the long, cold months on the range. Their love for each other runs deep — deep enough to endure 20 years of unhappy marriages, sporadic encounters, and constant longing. Meet the most tear-jerking, epic love story since Titanic.
Advertisement
8 of 16
Carol (2015)

Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) finds her little life greatly expanded when, one day, rich housewife Carol (Cate Blanchett) bursts into the department store where Therese works. Amidst 1950s rigid notions of conventionality, Carol and Therese act upon their instant chemistry. And though you came for the love story, you'll stay for the exquisite sets and artistry of the film itself.
9 of 16
Orlando (1992)

Welcome to a world where the rules don’t apply. It’s the year 1600, and nobleman Orlando (Tilda Swinton) struts about, asserting his power and masculinity through affairs and adventures. But one fine day in the 1700s, Orlando wakes up transformed into a woman. When Lady Orlando returns home, she’ll struggle to hold onto her ancestral land, just because she's a woman.

Orlando may sound gimmicky, but before you judge, remember it's based on a Virginia Woolf novel of the same name. You may be surprised to learn the progressive source material was written in 1928, since both the novel and film playfully explore gender identity with nuance and humor.
10 of 16
Weekend (2011)

One-night stands aren't supposed to get serious. But what happens when they do? Maybe if Russell had gone home, instead of going to a gay club and meeting Glen, he wouldn't have to find out. As it is, Russell has to contend with the fact that something is growing between the two, whether or not they take it seriously.
11 of 16
Milk (2008)

Most Americans probably hadn't heard of Harvey Milk before the acclaimed biopic shook up awards season in 2008. Based on a true story, Milk tracks the journey of the first openly gay American elected to public office. At the age of 40, Harvey Milk (Sean Penn) move from New York to San Francisco, where he and his lover open a small camera store. With the support of his new activist friends, Milk plunges into the world of politics, where his career (and destiny) will become intertwined with another San Francisco supervisor, Dan White.
12 of 16
Tangerine (2015)

Tangerine initially generated buzz because it was shot entirely on iPhone 5 cameras, but that’s not what garnered the gritty indie amazing reviews. After a 28-day stint in prison, Sin-Dee Rella, a transgender sex worker, discovers that her boyfriend (and pimp) Chester has been cheating on her with a cisgender woman. When Sin-Dee and her friend Alexandra hit the streets of L.A. to find Chester, drama is close behind.
Advertisement
13 of 16
Love Is Strange (2014)

After 40 years together, Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina) decide to take advantage of the recently passed New York state law legalizing same-sex marriage. Soon after their wedding, the Catholic school where George teaches music fire him, disapproving of his marriage. Without George’s income, the couple is unable to pay for their brand-new apartment, and must split up to live in two different friends’ houses.
14 of 16
Yossi & Jagger (2002)

In a remote station on the Lebanese border, Yossi, a commanding officer, begins an affair with Jagger, one of his soldiers. The lovers don't just have the watchful, suspicious eyes of other soldiers to contend with: When a colonel announces a forthcoming attack, Yossi and Jagger's bond will be tested by war, too.
15 of 16
Cloudburst (2011)

For 31 years, Stella and Dot were a rip-roaring, fun-loving couple. Now, well into their 70s, Stella is almost deaf and Dot is legally blind. After Dot's granddaughter decides to put her in a nursing home, the couple escapes from the home and runs off to Canada to get married so they can stay together. Their trip goes astray when they pick up a hitchhiking drifter running away from problems of his own.
16 of 16
Like this post? There's more. Get tons of celebrity news, fun takes on pop culture, and trending stories on the Refinery29 Entertainment Facebook page. Like us on Facebook — we'll see you there!
Advertisement