There are a ton of movies that have both gay characters and gay storylines, but so many of them are either poorly written, riddled with a ton of offensive stereotypes, have lackluster performances, or are just plain bad.
Fortunately for all the queer cinephiles, there are definitely critically-acclaimed, gay-themed movies out there that are worth a watch. Here are some of the best of the best!
This Kickstarter-funded documentary by David Thorpe explores the stereotypes about speech patterns of gay men and features Dan Savage, David Sedaris, Tim Gunn, George Takei and Margaret Cho. The film was first runner-up for the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival’s People’s Choice Award for Best Documentary and has an 84% fresh score from critics on Rotten Tomatoes. Michael O’Sullivan of The Washington Post said of the film, “What begins as a first-person account of one man’s quest to change the way he speaks soon becomes something closer to pop anthropology, in the process throwing in a bit of sociolinguistics and stand-up comedy. This is, as it happens, a very funny little movie (as well as a sweet, wise and relatable one). Who among us — gay, straight, male, female — isn’t at least a little self-conscious about the way he or she sounds?”
This romantic comedy-drama starring Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plumber follows Oliver, a man reflecting on the death of his father Hal, who came out late in life, while he tries to form a new romantic relationship with a woman. The film has an 84% fresh score from critics and has a Certified Fresh rating. Beginners also won the 2011 Gotham Award for Best Feature, and Christopher Plumber won a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor.
A Single Man, the Tom Ford drama based on the Christopher Isherwood novel of the same name, stars Colin Firth as George Falconer, a gay British university professor living in Los Angeles in 1962 and mourning the loss of his partner. Julianne Moore plays Charley, his best friend. Firth received Golden Globe, Academy Award, and Screen Actors Guild nominations for best Actor, while Moore was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress. A Single Man also won Outstanding Film at the 21st GLAAD Media Awards. The film has an 85% fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes.
Women may have swooned for Tab Hunter, the actor and singer who rose to fame in post-war Hollywood, but this all-American star had a secret. Tab Hunter Confidential explores what it was like to navigate fame as a closeted gay man, and features extensive interviews with Hunter. John Waters, Clint Eastwood, and Debbie Reynolds are also featured in the film. The film won Best Documentary at the California Independent Film Awards, was nominated for Outstanding Documentary by the GLAAD Media Awards, and has an 88% fresh score from critics and a 98% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.
This documentary on Stark Trek icon and LGBT activist, George Takei, has a 91% score on Rotten Tomatoes, and a Certified Fresh rating. Ronnie Scheib at Variety said of the film, “A unique blend of camp and conviction, To Be Takei deftly showcases George Takei’s eclectic personality and wildly disparate achievements, from Star Trek crewmate to gay-rights activist.” Fans of George Takei, or those who want to know more about the iconic actor, should add this movie to their queue.
Eastern Boys is a French drama that follows Marek, a Ukrainian immigrant in Paris who works the street with his friends. Daniel, a businessman in his fifties, approaches Marek. The solicitation turns into a home invasion, and then an unexpected relationship. The film explores themes of sexuality, immigration, and power dynamics with a sensitivity that earned it a 89% score from critics on Rotten Tomatoes. The film also won the Horizons Award for Best Film at Venice Film Festival and the Best International Film Award at Santa Barbara International Film Festival.
The Brazilian coming-of-age romantic drama The Way He Looks follows Leonardo, a blind teenager who wants independence, as he falls for a new student named Gabriel. The film won multiple awards, including the FIPRESCI Prize for Best Feature Film, and the Teddy Award for Best LGBT-Themed Feature. It was also selected as the Brazilian entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 87th Academy Awards. The Way He Looks has a 92% score from critics on Rotten Tomatoes.
4 Moons is a Mexican drama about four very different interwoven stories of love. The film was shortlisted to be Mexico’s submission for the 88th Academy Awards, and has a 85% fresh score from critics on Rotten Tomatoes. “4 Moons paints a spirited and sensitive portrait of gay boys and men in 21st-century Mexico,” said New York Times critic Anita Gates of the film.
If you’re looking for a film that’s a little stranger, this erotic thriller should be in your queue. Frank spends his summers cruising on the shores of a lake in rural France. He meets Michel, a mysterious man, and falls in love. The two become the primary suspects when a death occurs by the lake. The film has a 93% fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes. Pierre Deladonchamps won the award for Most Promising Actor at the 39th César Awards.
Weekend follows Russell after he picks up Glen at a nightclub on Friday, and spends the next 48 hours with him, only to part at the end of an impactful weekend. Roger Ebert described it as a “smart, sensitive, perceptive film, with actors well suited to the dialogue.” The film has a 95% fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes, and a Certified Fresh rating.
This powerful documentary chronicles the AIDS epidemic in early 1980s San Francisco, and the personal and political issues that were raised. A number of subjects are interviewed, including Daniel Goldstein, an HIV+ artist who lost two partners to AIDS, Guy Clark, a Castro florist who supplied flowers to many funerals, and Ed Wolf, a counselor to gay men. The film holds a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
This 2015 drama, the directorial debut of Josh Kim, was selected as the Thai entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 88th Academy Awards. The film follows Oat, an 11-year-old orphan who has an older gay brother facing Thailand’s annual military draft lottery. The film has a 83% score on Rotten Tomatoes.