I’m supposed to write a piece about the greatest LGBTQIA+ films of all time…
…which has made me realise I really haven’t watched that many—certainly not enough to have a ‘best of’ list. Maybe I’m traumatised. As a teenager, just after I came out to my parents, I returned home from a friend’s house and my well-meaning parents just happened to be watching Brokeback Mountain. They were super casual, like, ‘Oh, just watching a normal film, wanna join us?’ as Heath Ledger rooted Jake Gyllenhaal on the 60-inch plasma.
Since then I’ve watched a few of the classics, but you probably know ’em already. The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert moved me to tears (if you haven’t watched it, go fucking watch it, you loser! It’s really great, aside from the racist bits). Paris Is Burning is essential viewing for every human on the planet. A Single Man is perhaps the most stunning perfume ad that has ever existed. God’s Own Country and Beach Rats are sploosh as fuck. Moonlight is exquisite. A friend tells me Head On is fantastic (I’ve only seen the bit with Alex Dimitriades’ schlong on Xtube—sue me!). I avoided Call Me By Your Name for two years (another film about queer longing! Give me gay Alien already!) but when I finally watched it (while my straight housemate scrolled Instagram for two hours in visible discomfort) it was great stuff.
Anyway, I asked some way more cultured queer VIPs to recommend their favourite queer films, and here’s what they suggested!
The Half Of It, 2020
‘My favourite LGBTQ film is The Half of It. There are very few films that focus on the intersectionality of identities, and even fewer that specifically hone in on the Asian-American experience in tandem with navigating being queer. The Half of It is special to me for that reason. As a supremely hyphenated individual who experiences the world as a multi-cultural mixed-race, bisexual, Asian-American woman, a lot of my experiences are about the idea of being half of a whole. Ellie is the first character I got to see myself reflected in on the big screen.’ — Mxmtoon, Singer-Songwriter and Youtuber
But I’m A Cheerleader, 1999
‘But I’m a Cheerleader is a super camp movie about a teen girl who gets sent to gay conversion camp by her parents. She ends up falling in love with another girl at the camp, Graham. It’s really corny and stoopid and RuPaul makes a cameo. I wouldn’t say it’s hugely culturally significant but it looks at gender identity and rainbow families in a really cute way.’ — Seb Brown, Jewellery Designer
Blue Is The Warmest Colour, 2013
‘I studied film and so wanted to choose something obscure but here I am. It’s the Dancer in The Dark of queer/lesbian films with sex scenes that are obviously written by a cis straight white dude whose research was watching porn. The start and end of love in three hours tears your heart out and then puts it back in, just a little differently. But it was hot and I still love it. I watched this film with 20 lesbians, 5% of whom thought the sex was realistic while the rest were just speechless after. Another choice would have been The Hunger, an 80’s queer vampire film with Catherine Deneuve, Susan Sarandon and David Bowie, or another Susan Sarandon lesbian banger, Thelma and Louise, and then maybe Bound, But I’m A Cheerleader and Frozen.’ — Claire Lehmann, Artist and Ceramicist
Dirty Girl, 2010
‘The film that immediately springs to mind is Dirty Girl starring Juno Temple, Milla Jovovich and even country music star Tim McGraw! I originally saw it a few years ago at the Mardi Gras Film Festival. Set in the late 80’s, it tells the story of a precocious tearaway teen girl and her gay best friend and their adventures as runaways. I guess it’s not specifically a gay film, but it does touch on issues of tolerance and self-acceptance in a light-hearted and comedic way. It has a camp soundtrack which includes Sheena Easton and Teena Marie. Edutainment at its finest!’ — Joseph Tenni, International Talent Manager at Chadwick Models
A Fantastic Woman, 2017
‘Sebastián Lelio’s 2017 film A Fantastic Woman is one of my personal favourite movies of the last decade. Leading actress Daniela Vega’s characterisation is a groundbreaking representation. She portrays a self-assured trans woman who unexpectedly loses her partner, and what follows is a sympathetic story that never crosses the line of being exploitative or fetishistic. The film is a delicate look into grief from a transgender perspective, and how the daily aggressions we already face can compound with tragedies throughout life.’ — Anja Brown, Model at Priscillas Model Management
God’s Own Country, 2017
‘I watched God’s Own Country with my boyfriend last year during one of Melbourne’s long lockdowns, and we both really loved it (not just because of Romanian actor Alec Secăreanu). Growing up closeted in Darwin with white working-class parents, I felt I could relate to a lot of the family dynamics: moments packed with meaning, but the critical words left mostly unsaid. I found myself tense-watching, preparing for the worst as we followed closeted British farmer Johnny dealing with his homo desire and growing feelings for migrant co-worker Gheorghe (played by sexy Alec), but I’ll leave you to watch it yourself to find out what plays out.’ — Adam Pulford, Greens Councillor for Moreland
‘My favourite queer movie is Matilda, which has no actual gay characters, but a lot of themes that queer kids can relate to, like harbouring a deep, dark secret (in Matilda’s case, telekinesis) and having a raging crush on your teacher. Also, there’s no way that Ms Trunchbull is straight.’ — Tatiana Waterford, Stylist
Spa Night, 2016
‘I watched Andrew Ahn’s Spa Night recently and loved how intimate and personal it was. The tension between identity and desire is played out beautifully through minimal dialogue and strong cinematography.’ — Guy Hastie, Fashion Designer
The Kids Are Alright, 2010
‘I remember watching this at the Richmix, Bethnal Green on a Sunday night in 2010 and leaving the cinema wanting to do shit better. Julianne Moore is married to Annette Bening and has an affair with Mark Ruffalo (woof). Then their daughter is the extraordinarily beautiful Mia Wasikowska and their son the cute-as-a-button Josh Hutcherson. I could rest my case there, but it’s so bloody well-executed, totally charming, witty, and accessible yet candid and substantial all at once. It felt so fresh at the time—Moore and Bening’s relationship was just like any relationship but lesbian AND up on the big screen—and a decade on it I appreciate it even more. So, thank you Lisa Cholodenko—Annette Bening singing Joni Mitchell, red wine in hand, will be with me always.’ — Geoffrey Finch, Fashion Designer
Death Becomes Her, 1992
‘I’m not sure if I have any favourite queer movies at all, actually… I guess a queer movie I do love is Death Becomes Her. Would that count as a queer movie? It does have Goldie Hawn and Meryl Streep in it. I find both actors together might mean the film should be classified as queer, don’t you think? There is this one scene when the medicine woman is giving them the drink and she is simply just wearing this bra designed by Gaultier—absolutely stunning!’ — Adrian Voss, Fashion Designer
‘I would have to say Death Becomes Her, as my initial viewing is lodged deep within my psyche. The lead characters’ obsessions with embodying an ideal social construct of beauty and desirability is a folly, and ultimately leads to disaster. There is a poignant, amusing, sad and relevant message in this film. And it’s also delightfully fabulous.’ — Jia Jia Chen, Artist and Ceramicist
Has anyone done Death Becomes Her?’ — Byron Spencer, Photographer and Musician
P.s. Chelsea Fairless, Co-Founder of @everyoutfitonSATC, points out that She-Devil is better than Death Becomes Her.
P.s.s. If you want to do something cool today, donate to Black Rainbow, the organisation that works to prevent Indigenous LGBQTI suicide down under.
P.s.s.s. I would like to point out that the combination of people who super-kindly gave film recommendations for this piece does not provide a thorough cross-section of the incredibly diverse LGBTQIA+ community—it’s just friends and colleagues who got back to me on time!