14 essential LGBT movies to watch this Pride Month UK
From feel-good flicks to heart-rending sob-fests, family dramas, musicals, thrillers and epic romances, here are the LGBT movies every queer person and ally worth their salt needs to watch.
An ultimate feel-good flick, Pride tells the true story of a group of London-based gay and lesbian activists who, upon realising they share common foes in Margaret Thatcher, the police and the conservative press, lend their support to striking miners in 1984 Wales.
As all British classics do, Pride expertly uses humour and heart – think dildo jokes, lesbian-intrigued grandmothers and the ultimate juxtaposition of camp and social club – to balance the heavier themes of AIDS, prejudice and assault that punctuate this true story.WATCH NOW
BUT I’M A CHEERLEADER
A founding pillar of lesbian cultural canon, But I’m A Cheerleader harnesses all the camp cheese and frivolity that forms such an essential part of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Natasha Lyonne (of Orange is the New Black and Scary Movie fame) plays a cheerleader whose conservative parents suspect is a lesbian. They ship her off to conversion therapy, where she falls for an enigmatic outsider, (played by Clea DuVall).
Special shout out goes to RuPaul Charles, who steals the show as an ‘ex-gay’ conversion therapy counsellor who bloody rocks his baby-blue booty shorts.WATCH NOW
DISCLOSURE: TRANS LIVES ON SCREEN
The trans community have had decades of hurtful, inaccurate and misguided representations of trans characters on screen.
Disclosure provides a hugely important counterbalance to that canon. The documentary takes viewers through the history of trans representation in film and television – through the countless Hollywood depictions of trans characters as deceptive villains or the butt of the joke, with cis men often cast to play trans women – and uncovers the impact these portrayals have had on popular culture.WATCH NOW
YOUNG SOUL REBELS
Not a film often included in many ‘best LGBT movies’ lists but a touchstone of Black, British, queer cinema nevertheless, Young Soul Rebels has been described as ‘part-thriller, part-gay love story’.
Set amidst London’s punk scene in the late ‘70s, the film investigates the murder of a Black gay man and the violently apathetic response of the city’s police force.
Determined to discover the truth, the victim’s two friends – a pair of Black pirate radio DJs, one of whom is in an interracial relationship with a white man – risk the hostility of the authorities and the rise of skinhead culture for justice.WATCH NOW
There was a reason this dominated all the headlines in 2016 awards season, guys.
Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara both gave what is very possibly the best performances of their careers in this intimate adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel, evocatively directed by Todd Haynes.
Set in the 1950s, Carol follows two women flirting with a forbidden romance. Yet what we love most about the film is that it follows many of the now almost cliché tropes of straight cinema – impossibly irresistible settings, love at first sight over a crowded room – and grounds them in a believability that is both harsh and magical in equal parts.
We dare you not to fall in love with this flick.WATCH NOW
We don’t think we’ll ever get over the fact that Tangerine was shot in its entirety on iPhone 5s.
But the genius of this film is that its low-budget production isn’t its most remarkable attribute. Rather, Tangerinetakes the seemingly doomed trope of two Black, transgender hookers living in Los Angeles and turns it into an old-fashioned American comedy with heart.
Upon hearing that her pimp boyfriend hasn’t been faithful during the 28 days she was locked up, Sin-Dee and her best friend, Alexandra, embark on a mission to get to the bottom of the scandalous rumour.WATCH NOW
CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
One of the quintessential gay films of the 21st century.
In his sensuous adaptation of the André Aciman novel, Italian director Luca Guadagnino has created a powerful portrait of first love and the struggles with identity and self-expression that this love often brings, particularly to those in the LGBTQ+ community.
Elio (Timothée Chalamet), a teenager, develops feelings for Oliver (Armie Hammer), his father’s 24-year-old assistant, in 1980s northern Italy. Although their relationship is fleeting, Elio realises his sexual orientation and tries to come to terms with what it means for him.
Stay for the dreamy original compositions from Sufjan Stevens.WATCH NOW
THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT
We know they’re actors, alright, but that doesn’t mean we’re not shipping the powerhouse couple that is Annette Bening and Julianne Moore in this 2010 Best Picture nominee.
The Kids Are All Right is a portrait of a family much like any other: there are mid-life crises, sulking teenagers, hilarious mishaps and a marriage put to the test. The only difference is that this one has two moms.
Same-sex couple, Nic and Jules, have a fairly perfect family with their children, who they conceived via artificial insemination from the same donor. But, unbeknownst to their moms, kids Joni and Laser seek out their biological father – a restaurateur named Paul (Mark Ruffalo) – and invite him into their lives.WATCH NOW
HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH
This zany, spunky stage musical adaptation follows Hedwig – an ‘internationally ignored’ rock star and botched sex-change operation survivor – on her search for stardom and love, as she follows the former lover who stole her songs.
If you’re looking for a catchy musical you can hum along to for the rest of the weekend, then this is it. If you’re looking for a film centring on serious emotional substance, packed with personality, humour, heart, then this is also it.
So, expect all the glitter, ‘70s wigs and glam rock. But expect more than this. Expect, underneath it all, a poignant examination of originality and performance as a means of owning who you are and transcending heartbreak.WATCH NOW
This Oscar-winning performance from lead actor Sean Penn has earned Milk its place in any ‘best LGBT movies’ list.
Telling the true story of Harvey Milk and his struggles as an American activist who fought for gay rights and became California’s first openly gay elected official, Milk is unfortunately as resonant today as it was when it was first released in 2008.
What we love most about this film (and what, we’ve heard, about the real man who inspired it too), is that Harvey Milk’s queerness is forever placed front and centre of the action: his unapologetic homosexuality informing both his political ambitions and the widespread support he earned from his community.
A powerful, tragic and fitting tribute to a LGBTQ+ legend.WATCH NOW
BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOUR
It seems no list of the most essential LBGT movies to watch would be complete without Abdellatif Kechiche’s queer coming-of-age drama, despite the media maelstrom that’s circled the film off-camera since its release.
After all, a lesbian film directed by a straight man is troubling enough, let alone when you factor in its inclusion of a pretty graphic and largely gratuitous lesbian sex scene – never mind Kechiche’s reportedly abusive behaviour as a director on set.
All that aside, the film itself really is a landmark depiction of sexuality and first love. It follows Adèle, a teenager who has just broken up with her boyfriend, as she meets a beautiful woman who sports a funky blue haircut and inspires within her a desire she never knew she felt.WATCH NOW
A SINGLE MAN
Fashion designer Tom Ford’s first foray into a career as a film director has given us this: an absolute triumph of style, grit and heart, focusing not on falling in love, but instead on what happens after love.
Colin Firth delivers another devastating performance in A Single Man, playing George – an English professor who finds himself unable to cope with the sudden death of his long-term partner in 1960s Los Angeles and falls into a suicidal depression.
On his last day at work, George’s chance meetings with students, colleagues and his best friend, Charley, help him make a decision.WATCH NOW
We’re not sure we’ve seen a fitting enough tribute to this compelling romantic drama yet, so we’ll try our best here.
Kate Winslet has never been better as acclaimed but overlooked British palaeontologist Mary Anning, who spends her largely solitary life searching for fossils along the rugged south coast in 1840s England.
A wealthy visitor suddenly entrusts Mary with the care of his sick wife (Golden Globe winner Saoirse Ronan), and while Mary initially clashes with her lethargic, melancholy guest, a passionate bond is soon forged between the pair that transcends personalities, class and social expectations.
Deeply moving, funny and gorgeously romantic, we’re yet to see a more authentic tribute to lesbian desire.WATCH NOW
We end our list with multi-Oscar winner Moonlight, which offers a masterstroke in documenting modern American society and an individual’s place within it.
A coming-of-age drama that follows Chiron – a young, African American boy who finds guidance in the teachings of a local drug dealer – Moonlight is neither about being black, poor or gay specifically, but is rather a gentle exploration of identity and how it’s formed.
Breaking Chiron’s life down into three decisive moments, Moonlight is at times heart-breaking in its battles with discrimination and forbidden love, and at other times uplifting in its celebration of the empathy and humanity that still pervades society, despite it all.WATCH NOW