10 best classic queer films to watch this fall
In these dark days of politics, especially where our LGBTQ community is concerned, personal storytelling, visibility, and representation is more important than ever to keep our rainbow unicorn sprinkling glitter all over the world. Seeing our love stories, comedies, and tragedies in both Hollywood and independent films plays a huge part in giving visibility to communities and stories that don’t ordinarily see a big screen. Oftentimes film can offer a bridge to a deeper understanding and breaks down internalized biases and homophobia – and yes, that includes us homos.
In this, the season TIFF and film stuff all over our city, we thought we present some of our favourite queer films that might make you a stronger critical thinker and, at the very least, a certified cinephile.
Hannah Gadsby: Nanette
Okay, this isn’t technically a film, but it is an important Netflix presentation that completely flips the script on what you might expect from a comedy special. And us gays are all about flipping scripts. Gadsby, a lesbian Australian comedian who’s been in the game for years, announced in the middle of her set that she’s leaving comedy, and her reasons for doing so are tragic, poignant, and downright powerful.
Essential viewing alert! This film isn't for your consideration, it's mandatory viewing.
Moonlight looks at the reality of life for a black gay boy as he moves into adolescence and then becomes a man. Told in three parts, this film isn’t a preachy take on what it is to be black, or what it is to be a closeted gay, or what the right way to be both of those things is. It doesn’t progress toward an end moral; it simply presents the protagonist’s lived reality and sits with him in experiencing his culture and his internal struggle with sexuality. This film is full of feels.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post
Set in 1993 at God’s Promise gay conversion camp, this is the story of Cameron Post’s reckoning with her sexual identity where it intersects with religion. Chloë Grace Moretz captures the teenaged angst of confusing sexual feelings, whose expression are discouraged by authority figures and community leaders. As the title suggests, it’s a story about education, about who teaches us and what they teach us, and what we choose to recognize as our personal truth. This film brought me back to a time I’d rather forget – the temptations, the shame, the anger, the isolation, and the secrecy – yet remembering it and noting how things have changed since then was a truly uplifting experience.
Growing up in a devoutly anything family is a damn travesty for up-and-coming gays. Some escape it, and others stay the course and settle for safety. Set in London, this story is about two lesbians who were caught making out by one of their fathers, a highly respected rabbi. Many years later, after the rabbi’s daughter has abandoned the family to live her fluid life in New York, she reconnects with her old flame when she comes back home to bury her father. This is a great film about forgiveness, understanding, and tradition. Oh, and (spoiler, but not really) Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams totally do it, and it’s everything you want it to be.
Call Me By Your Name
This is a stunning coming-of-age film, set in 1980s Italy, featuring a blossoming romance between a 17-year-old student and the older man hired as his father’s research assistant. Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet could not be more convincing as lovers caught in the classically awkward yet scintillating will-they-won’t-they, is-he-thinking-what-I’m-thinking dance that closeted gay love stories usually start with off-screen.
Demonstrating how the things we say and do in front of our youth and how acts of violence against gays can traumatize them into staying in the closet for way too long, this hidden gem is about an artistic teenager driven to escape his hometown in a bid to confront his inner monster.
Blue Is the Warmest Colour
Even though the end of this movie really had me rolling my eyes, overall I think it’s a strong step in the right direction for lesbian films. Which, if I’m being honest, are always a little cringe-worthy for multiple reasons, including thin plots, bad acting, and unrealistic sex (perhaps because many happen to be directed by men?). However, this French subtitled film was engaging from beginning to end, with believable, complex characters depicting the intense love and drama etypical of so many lesbian relationships.
A classic cowboy-meets-cowboy love story, duh. Aside from making us rethink what masculinity really means and how it relates to sexual identity, this film, directed by Ang Lee, is iconic for many reasons and a must-see, especially for gay boys and girls born post-2000. Made in 2005, this movie was, and still is, a major thing – to see two rising stars commit to a same-sex role. Its huge success opened the door for other films to be made that represent what life really looks like in its diverse splendour.
As a disclaimer, I was not a huge fan of this movie at first, but that could be partly because I was expecting some crazy lesbian action featuring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara but was left disappointed and with whatever the female equivalent of blue balls is. Hey, I’m just going by what’s out there, okay? That being said, it’s a perfectly proper, lovely Hollywood film about an aspiring photographer who develops an intimate relationship with an older woman in 1950s New York. But if you’re looking for something even slightly pornographic to get your jollies, don’t make the same mistake I did. It’ll be the longest two hours ever.
Battle of the Sexes
Starring Emma Stone and Steve Carell, this is the true story of the 1973 tennis match between world number one Billie Jean King and ex-champ and serial hustler Bobby Riggs. I, for one, had no clue about the history of this tennis match, and the film does an incredible job of portraying what happens in a loving heterosexual relationship when one of the partners begins to discover their fluidity. It’s an exciting story that demonstrates what partnership truly means in times of struggle.
Finally, I love this movie. It’s one of my favourites because it demonstrates that it’s never too late to come out and live as your truest self. Christopher Plummer plays an adorable old gay man discovering what it’s like to be out in his final years, and Ewan McGregor plays the son who remembers his father’s final years and his own childhood – trying to sort out this side of his father he’d never seen and what it means to be oneself after all the authority figures imposing rules, judgements, and expectations on us have passed on.
This is a funny flick from way back. It’s hilarious but kind of overdoes it on the flamboyant gay thing. But basically, everything Robin Williams has ever done is amazing.
Dog Day Afternoon
Kind of an LGBTQ film before its time, but not really. It is significant that Al Pacino’s love interest in this film is a pre-op trans woman, considering this is a movie filmed and set in the early 1970s. And generally, just a fantastic movie. Classic Pacino!