The 5 LGBTQ+ Films Everyone Must Watch

Nerd Reactor

Before the 1990s, the genre of “New Queer Cinema” was non-existent. Sure, there were films that had gay and lesbian couples and films that alluded to an LGBTQ+ relationship without being explicit, but the LGBTQ+ as its own genre of film wasn’t a thing. When early films came out (haha), the very idea of queerness was masked, often shrouded behind grossly inaccurate representations of queer folk or of queer folk as the punch-line. Some members of the LGBTQ+ community felt that negative representation was better than no representation, while others still wanted to see someone like themselves on the big screen.

Whether you’re a member of or an ally of the LGTBQ+ community, everyone can learn something from and find joy in these must-watch LGBTQ+ films.


Moonlight (2016)

Based off of an unpublished play titled In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney, Moonlight was the “it” film of 2016, winning many accolades, including Best Motion Picture at the 74th Golden Globe Awards and the Academy Award for Best Picture. It became the first film with an entirely black cast and first LGBTQ+ film to win an Oscar for Best Picture.

Moonlight is a coming-of-age film that focuses on the life of Chiron Harris, who struggles to navigate his sexuality and identity and heal from the abuse he endured as a child as a result of bullying. Chiron’s story is divided into three parts: i. Little, ii. Chiron and iii. Black.

One of the most beautiful aspects of the film is its soundtrack, in which composer Nicholas Britall applied the technique “chopped and screwed” remixes from hip-hop to orchestral music. The disconnect between an assumed rap and hip-hop heavy soundtrack with the actual soundtrack of hip-hop remixed to classical music highlights Chiron’s coming-out journey, breaking the stereotype of hyper-masculine black men.

If you ‘re interested in films that celebrate diversity, break ground and feature a complex soundtrack, this movie is for you.

Watch it on Youtube or Amazon Video for $3.99.


Tangerine (2015)

Tangerine/YouTube

Tangerine focuses on a day-in-the-life of Sin-Dee Rella, a transgender sex worker who has just been released from prison. Her best friend Alexandra, also a transgender sex worker, reveals that Sin-Dee’s boyfriend, Chester, cheated on her while she was in prison and well… the search for Cheating Chester ensues.

One thing that is not to be ignored about this film is the innovative and gorgeous cinematography. Unless you do your homework, you would never guess that this was filmed using only three iPhone 5s’s. Baker and Radium Cheung’s decision to film using such casual and accessible equipment echoes the characters’ laid-back vibe and the all-too-relatable situation of confronting a cheating partner.

Tangerine breaks ground in its decision to make intersectional identity its focus by casting black, trans-identifying actresses as the main characters (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, who plays Sin-Dee, and Mya Taylor, who plays Alexandra), but it also tears down the negative connotations associated with sex workers. Sin-Dee and Alexandra are hard-working women who struggle to make a living and look damn good doing it. They are aware of the transphobia and stigma surrounding them, but they don’t let that interfere with them living contently and having relationships. Perhaps one of the most touching moments in this laugh-out-loud film is at the end (spoiler alert), when a group of men driving past Sin-Dee throw a cup of urine in her face while yelling transphobic slurs. Alexandra goes to Sin-Dee’s aid without hesitation, taking her to a nearby laundromat where she helps Sin-Dee take off her shirt, skirt and wig and throws them in the washing machine. While they wait for the clothes to dry, Sin-Dee makes a comment about how she feels without her wig, being vulnerable with herself and the audience for the first time. Alexandra then takes off her own wig, giving it to Sin-Dee.

If you’re looking for a movie that succeeds in subverting social norms through humor and realness, Tangerine is for you.

Watch it on Netflix.


Philadelphia (1993)

Philadelphia/Wikipedia

Remember how there was no queer visibility in film before 1993? Well, Philadelphia broke that trend.

Starring Tom Hanks as Andrew Beckett, a senior associate at a law firm who is gay and living with AIDS, and Denzel Washington as personal injury lawyer Joe Miller, Philadelphia was the first mainstream film to openly address homosexuality, the severity of the HIV/AIDS crisis and homophobia. The film was loosely based on the real-life events surrounding attorney Geoffrey Bowers and Clarence B. Cain, who sued two law firms because of the dismissal of AIDS-related cases.

Audiences received the film positively, with the movie grossing $206,678,440 worldwide. Film critics also praised the film. Robert Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times said it was, “quite a good film, on its own terms. And for moviegoers with an antipathy to AIDS but an enthusiasm for stars like Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington, it may help to broaden understanding of the disease. It’s a ground-breaker like Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967), the first major film about an interracial romance; it uses the chemistry of popular stars in a reliable genre to sidestep what looks like controversy.”

If you’re looking for an American drama that is brutally honest and taps into human sympathy, this film is for you.

Also, Antonio Banderas plays Tom Hanks’ partner. Who can resist Antonio Banderas?

Watch it on YouTube for $2.99 or Amazon Video for $2.99.


Bound (1996)

Bound/Roger Ebert

Who doesn’t love a pair of badass babes? Friends or lovers, women taking on the world and giving zero f*cks is a beautiful thing to see. Strong female bonds are just what this world needs right now, and if even if you’re not part of the LGBTQ+ community, Bound is sure to deliver your daily dose of confident women.

Starring Jennifer Tilly as Violet and Gina Gershon as Corky (the elusive ingénue and the ex-con handywoman…), this neo-noir film is brought to life by the Wachowskis, who famously directed The Matrix series. The film follows Violet, who is trying desperately to escape her mafioso boyfriend Caesar, as she beings a secret affair with Corky. From there, the secret couple makes a plan to steal $2 million from the mafia.

Ex-cons, a whirlwind romance, crime and two smart women who know how to outsmart the mafia?

Yes, please.

A fun-fact about the film is that the Wachowskis brought sex-education teacher Susie Bright onset (and let her have a cameo in the film) to direct the sex scenes between Violet and Corky. Props to them for bringing in a sex-educator to tastefully direct these intricate scenes (unlike some other films…) and show a loving, realistic relationship between two women. This is representation done right. You’re doing amazing, sweetie.

Bound received generally positive reviews from audiences and critics, being praised for its humor and style.

Note: not all lesbian movies have to end in death. They can end with two badass women dressed in leather cruising off into the sunset with tons of stolen cash.

If neo-noir or crime movies are your thing, or even if you’re just tired of seeing lesbians get cut off left and right in mainstream TV shows, this movie is definitely for you.

Watch it on YouTube, Amazon Video, Google Play and iTunes for $2.99.


Almost Adults (2017)

Calling all Carmilla fans: this one’s for you. No, Elise Bauman and Natasha Negovanlis aren’t lovers in this one, but they’re best friends, which is better.

The film follows best friends Cassie and Mackenzie as they go through their final year of college and learn how to adult (ugh). Mackenzie embraces her sexual identity as a lesbian, trying her hand at online dating through Tumblr, while Cassie ends a long-term relationship and begins focusing on her future. The two struggle to maintain their friendship while growing apart, but by the end of the movie, they’re still besties.

Girl power!

If you love either one or both of the two actresses, Carmilla, or just comedy and laughing your woes away about adulting, this movie is for you.

Watch it on Netflix.

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