Fire Island debuted on Hulu this Pride Month to widespread critical acclaim, joining an ever-growing list of well-made LGBTQ + films for viewers to enjoy. While representation of the LGBTQ + community and their stories are important, and so many voices are getting heard, there are plenty of hidden gems that are just as great but have not gotten the attention they deserve.
So, in celebration of Pride Month, here are several great LGBTQ + films that have flown under the radar for one reason or another, but are still a great watch.
10 In & Out (1997) – 6.4
In this ahead-of-its-time 1997 film starring Kevin Kline, a former student of Kline’s remarks to the world at an Oscars speech that his idol, Kline, was his inspiration because the latter is gay. This is a surprise to not only Kline’s wife, but to Kline himself. Ironically, Joan Cusack was actually Oscar-nominated for her role as the wife.
Kline’s character gradually does realize his true sexuality over the course of the movie, culminating in a groundbreaking kiss between him and Tom Selleck’s character. The setup and some of the scenes may seem a little outdated from 2022’s perspective, but as an artifact of its time in the history of LGBTQ + cinema, it deserves to be seen.
9 My Beautiful Laundrette (1985) – 6.8
While Daniel Day-Lewis is known for extreme method acting, his first critically-acclaimed performance came in My Beautiful Laundrette. In the film, he plays the boyfriend of Omar, a Pakistani man living in London, as the two of them run a laundrette owned by Omar’s family.
The performances of Day-Lewis and co-star Gordon Warnecke are incredibly earnest, and their characters’ existence in the conservative age of Margaret Thatcher adds another layer to the character study. But it is not a tragedy; it’s an uplifting story that was needed then and is still important now, as it features down-to-earth human characters that, even 37 years later, audiences of any orientation can relate to.
8 The Half of It (2020) – 6.9
One of Ranker’s favorite LGBTQ + movies on Netflix, The Half of It follows a shy and smart student, Ellie, as she agrees to write a letter for a male jock to his female crush in exchange for money. Through the course of this job, she not only befriends him, but starts to herself fall for his crush.
This retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac features a cast of likable characters led by a lead performance from Ellie’s Leah Lewis, although the trio of main characters are all able to carry the film with their chemistry together. The Half of It is especially great for those who like high-school LGBTQ + romances.
7 Boy Meets Girl (2014) – 7.0
Although the L, G, and B get the most attention when it comes to romances, the transgender members of the community deserve excellent stories that reflect their experiences, as well, and Boy Meets Girl does exactly that. Despite its cliché title, the film is incredibly unique, telling the story of a romance between a transgender woman named Ricky and a cisgender woman named Francesca, in Kentucky.
While the movie gets plenty of drama from that setup, it focuses as much if not more so on its rom-com potential, and to great effect. It is also noteworthy that the title is in reference not to the gender of the characters, but instead to the role and idea of gender in 2014 romantic relationships, an intelligent spin on the phrase.
6 Orlando (1992) – 7.1
Based on the groundbreaking 1928 Virginia Woolf novel of the same name, Orlando stars Tilda Swinton and follows the experiences of a soul born male during the Elizabethan era who becomes an intimate companion to Queen Elizabeth I. Then, after miraculously living for centuries, wakes up one day to realize their body has transformed into that of a woman.
While Woolf may have written the novel by being inspired by a particular person, the story’s treatment of gender was in hindsight quite revolutionary, and its themes translate well to the film, even if many plot points (aside from the transformation) have changed. Read metaphorically, it is a love letter to the human soul irrespective of its body, a powerful message for a historical fiction drama.
5 Giant Little Ones (2018) – 7.2
A teen drama, Giant Little Ones centers around a relationship between two ostensibly straight teenage boys that becomes incredibly complicated after a sexual encounter between them, and the destructive ways in which one of them attempts to suppress dealing with it.
What makes Giant Little Ones a great teen LGBTQ + movie is its honesty, and its breadth. The main story between the boys is always in focus, but it also explores gender through a friend of one of theirs who remains loyal despite the boy having been shunned by the rest of the school. It’s a kaleidoscopic vision of the 21st-century teen experience.
4 Boys (2014) – 7.4
A Dutch made-for-TV movie, Boys is similar in premise to Giant Little Ones: follows a 15-year-old male athlete, Sieger, who has a sexual encounter with a team member and begins to question his sexuality because of it, which leads to complications that encapsulate the difficulty of finding one’s identity.
Despite it being made in the Netherlands, any cultural differences for English-speaking audiences are easily forgotten because of the universality of Sieger’s quest to understand himself. Even those who have never struggled with his specific questions can find a relatability in the instability of adolescence on screen, while the core relationship between the two boys is dramatic at times, but ultimately endearing.
3 Pride (2014) – 7.8
Like My Beautiful Laundrette, Pride takes place during the Thatcher era, and dramatizes the real-life efforts of British gay and lesbian activists who raised money in support of a miners’ strike. As Margaret Thatcher was opposed to both LGBTQ + rights and trade unions, the two form a natural solidarity.
Not only is this solidarity message an uplifting one for Pride Month, but also about the importance of standing together when it comes to speaking out for rights across the board. Pride is about different types of underdogs fighting for an ultimate common purpose: recognition. The star-studded cast pulls it off brilliantly.
2 The Way He Looks (2014) – 7.9
Although it’s not a translation of the original Brazilian title, The Way He Looks is a pun on the fact that the movie’s main character, Leonardo, is blind, and his struggles for independence define the start of the film. When new student Gabriel enters his life, however, Leonardo finds himself falling for Gabriel, and it seems the feelings are mutual.
Leonardo’s blindness plays a pivotal role throughout the story, but it never played for sentimentality; it’s treated with honesty and respect. The developing feelings between him and Gabriel are also part of the way he is able to find himself and come to assert his independence over his own life. It’s a romance movie where the romance plays only half the role in the story, complementing the independence theme well.
1 Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019) – 8.1
Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire rightfully garnered critical attention and acclaim when it was released in 2019, but its status as a foreign-language awards contender is what meant that, while many people heard about the movie, a lot of them haven’t gotten around to seeing it.
What makes Céline Sciamma an iconic LGBTQ + filmmaker to watch is encapsulated in this film about a romance that develops between a painter and her subject. The film is neither tragic in the vein of many LGBTQ + dramas, nor does it devolve into sappiness like many mainstream romance films do. Instead, it takes an honest, intimate look at two souls, in a way that feels honest and respects the characters.
NEXT: 10 Great LGBTQ + Movies To Watch On Hulu During Pride Month
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