The Most Unforgettable Queer Love Stories In Film

Elio (Timothée Chalemet) and Oliver (Armie Hammer) never exchange the phrase “I love you” in the movie Call Me By Your Name. Yet the breathtaking movie, which focuses on the profoundly intense connection that develops between Elio and Oliver over the course of one summer in Italy, certainly tells a love story — one that's almost universal in its depiction of pure emotion. Watching 17-year-old Elio tumble into these heady feelings for the first time, you’ll inevitably recall your own experiences of teenage love.
Call Me By Your Name is remarkable because it’s a queer love story with no adversary, aside from time and circumstance. Oliver and Elio are never persecuted for their sexual orientation. If you see Elio and Oliver slinking around the Italian villa, it’s out of a sense of mischievousness, not fear. If you see them looking torn up, it’s from a sense of heartsickness, not shame.
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Even though CMBYN is arguably different than movies that have come before it, this is hardly the first time a love story featuring LGBTQ+ characters made us cry our eyes out. Here are some of the most wrenching, beautiful queer love stories in film.
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God's Own Country (2017)

Many a love story has taken place in the wild countryside of Northern England. Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights. In this movie, we see two people come together in the same unforgiving landscape as those other iconic tales. Only this time, love blossoms between a Yorkshire-born man (Josh O'Connor) and the Romanian migrant worker (Alec Secareanu) who arrives to work on his family farm.
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Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

Oh, the things Sonny Wortzik (Al Pacino) for love. Like, for example, robbing a bank to pay for his lover's gender reassignment procedure. The botched robbery and day-long standoff featured in Dog Day Afternoon is actually based on a real event that happened in Brooklyn in 1972. John Wojtowicz tried to rob a bank, and then had a 14-hour televised stand-off with police that only ended when his lover was released from a mental ward to speak on Wojtowicz's behalf.
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My Beautiful Launderette (1985)

Soon after inheriting his uncle's laundromat, Omar (Gordon Warnecke) reconnects with his old friend, Johnny (Daniel Day-Lewis), in an unexpected way — Johnny and his punk friends attack Omar and his Pakistani friends. Still, Omar offers Johnny a way out by inviting him to renovate the laundromat with him, and get out of his tough friend group. An "us against the world" relationship develops between Omar and Johnny, and features one of the best neck licks in movie history (you'll have to watch to see it).
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Desert Hearts (1986)

If anything's going to compel you to explore life on an American ranch, it won't be Godless — it'll be Desert Hearts, a movie about love, self-discovery, and Nevada. In the movie, New York English professor Vivian Bell (Helen Shaver) moves to Reno to establish residency, and expedite her divorce proceedings, and ends up having an affair with a young free-spirit, Cay Rivvers (Patricia Charbonneau).
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Maurice (1987)

James Ivory, Call Me By Your Name's screenwriter, also wrote this iconic queer romance set in Edwardian England. While at Cambridge, Maurice Hall (James Wilby) and his friend Clive Durham (Hugh Grant) acknowledge, but do not act upon, their feelings for each other. When Clive chooses to settle down with a woman, Maurice is devastated. Still, he visits Clive's country estate, and begins an affair with the under-gamekeeper (Rupert Graves).
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Fire (1996)

Sisters-in-law Sita (Nandita Das) and Radha (Shabana Azmi) are both trapped in unhappy arranged marriages. Both of their husbands are challenging in their own way – Sita's husband is cold and unfaithful; Radha's doesn't believe in pleasure. Sita and Radha, who live in the same apartment, escape their loneliness by forging a deep relationship with each other. Fire was one of the first Bollywood movies to explore LGBTQ+ issues.
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Bound (1996)

Lilly and Lana Wachowski are now known for The Matrix and Sense8, but their first-ever film was a noir-ish heist about a lesbian couple trying to take down a mob leader, called Bound. After meeting in an elevator, ex-con Corky (Gina Gershon) helps her new lover Violet (Jennifer Tilly) get out of her relationship with a mob leader, and run away with his fortune while they're at it.
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But I'm a Cheerleader! (1999)

But I'm a Cheerleader! is primarily a satire – but its love story is as entertaining as its premise. Natasha Lyonne of Orange is the New Black plays a cheerleader sent away to a conversion therapy camp after her parents suspect she's a lesbian. Then, while she's there, she has her identity confirmed by, surprise surprise, a romance with a fellow camper.
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Yossi & Jagger (2002)

Somewhere in the remote, inhospitable border between Israel and Lebanon, a unit leader named Jagger (Yehuda Levi) and his commanding officer Yossi (Ohad Knoller) find that they can't suppress their feelings for each other — despite warnings of an imminent attack at the base. In 2012, the sequel Yossi looked how Yossi's life unfolded after the events seen in Yossi & Jagger.
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Brokeback Mountain (2005)

Of course this iconic love story makes the round-up. In Brokeback Mountain — or, as it's called in the podcast S-Town, the "Grief Manual" — two cowboys (Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger) fall in love during a herding mission in a remote region of Montana. The feelings don't fade even as they have to return to their marriages and 1960s America's constraints.
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Weekend (2011)

On his way home from a party, Russell (Tom Cullen) stops into a gay bar. He meets Glen (Chris New) and thinks it's going to be a one-night stand. But one night turns into a weekend, which turns into the two men becoming emotionally close. Something could be growing between them — if it weren't for the fact that Glen's imminent departure from the U.K. is hanging over their heads. Weekend will appeal to anyone plagued by lingering "what ifs" regarding their past hookups and love affairs.
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Free Fall (2013)

Free falling: It's both a Tom Petty song, and the experience of hurtling towards doom. In this German drama, police officer Marc Borgmann (Hanno Koffler) experiences the sensation of losing control over his tightly guarded life — free falling — when, during a work retreat, he has a love affair with another officer, Kay Engel (Max Riemelt). Marc returns home to his pregnant girlfriend and is torn between responsibility and his new love affair.
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The Way He Looks (2014)

The Way He Looks is the coming-of-age love story you never knew you needed. It's about the sweet, hesitant relationships that develops between a blind boy, Leonardo (Ghilherme Lobo), and his high school's new student, Gabriel (Fabio Audi).
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Blue is the Warmest Color (2017)

This French movie made headlines for featuring elongated, graphic sex scenes between its protagonists, Adele (Adèle Exarchopoulos) and Emma (Lea Seydoux). But Blue is the Warmest Color is more than a showcase for sex scenes. The three hour-long epic movie features a compelling and highly relatable story of first love, and first loss.
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Carol (2015)

Working as a salesperson at a swanky Manhattan department store, Therese (Rooney Mara) has dealt with many, many wealthy women — but none quite like Carol (Cate Blanchett), who slips Therese her number and address on a piece of paper the first time they meet. With a backdrop of the fashion and style of 1950s America, Carol and Therese begin an affair, and attempt to carve out a place for themselves despite Carol's marriage.
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Moonlight (2016)

In Moonlight, we see three stages in Chiron's formation as a young Black gay man growing up in Miami. The movie also tracks how his relationship with his friend (and lover) Kevin (Andre Holland) evolves, but never quite ends. The 2017 Oscars race came down to two love stories, but Moonlight came out superior, and won Best Picture.
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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.
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