Every year in June, the LGBTQIA+ community and their allies get together to celebrate Pride Month, which was originally started to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall rebellion in New York that propelled the modern day gay rights movement forward. In honor of the annual event, we’re taking a look back at some of the greatest LGBT-themed movies made over the last 20 years, with each of them never failing to pull at our heartstrings. From queer classic Brokeback Mountain to the Sundance hit Call Me By Your Name, continue reading for a list of titles that you should be revisiting this Pride Month.
While you’re here, check out five of our favorite LGBTQIA+ stars including Lena Waithe, Laverne Cox and Janet Mock, who’re using their voice and creativity to make an impact in the entertainment industry and in our society.
1. The Favourite
Set in early 18th century England when the country was at war with France, the critically acclaimed 2018 film The Favorite centers around an internal feud that erupts at Queen Anne’s (Olivia Colman) court. While Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) has become the secret lover of the sickly Anne and basically the governor of the country, the arrival of a new servant called Abigail (Emma Stone) disrupts the courtly hierarchy in a magnitude no one would have expected.
Starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, Carol delves deep into the furtive relationship between aspiring photographer Therese Belivet (Mara) and an older woman called Carol Aird (Blanchett) who’s going through a tough divorce from her negligent husband. Set in the early 1950s, the movie follows the duo as they develop their friendship and later, romance that risks Carol of losing custody of her daughter. The film captures in detail the heart-wrenching moments of love lost and found, as well as the struggles one goes through when trying to come to terms with one’s sexuality. Needless to say, the performance of both actresses are absolutely phenomenal. Notably, Carol was awarded the Queer Palm prize at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, which recognizes the treatment of LGBT themes throughout the movie.
3. A Single Man
Before the 2016 film Nocturnal Animals, designer Tom Ford actually made his directorial debut in 2009 with the highly acclaimed movie A Single Man. Based on the Christopher Isherwood novel of the same title, the cinematic masterpiece revolves around Colin Firth’s character George Falconer, an English professor struggling to cope with the pain of losing his longtime partner Jim – his life is taken by a fatal car accident. Whilst coping with depression, George meets a student called Kenny Potter (Nicholas Hoult) who shows interest in him despite conventional standards, and who later plays a significant role in saving George from his suicidal urges. It’s definitely not the most lighthearted movie but if you’re looking for stories that deal with overcoming grief after a traumatic loss, you’ll appreciate A Single Man.
Famously winning the Academy Award for Best Picture back in 2017, Moonlight is undoubtedly one of the most iconic movies of our time. Not only is it the first film with an all-black cast to be honored with the award, it’s also the first-ever LGBT-themed movie in history to receive the Oscar for Best Picture. Broken down into three acts, Moonlight follows the story of Chiron, played by Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes at different stages of the character’s life. Between heavy topics including identity and drug use, the movie paints a raw picture of Chiron’s relationship with his best friend Kevin, who share a short-lived moment of passion when they’re teenagers.
5. Blue Is the Warmest Color
Directed by Abdellatif Kechiche, Blue Is the Warmest Color is perhaps one of the most memorable LGBT films released in the past decade. The 2013 French movie centers around Adèle (played by Adèle Exarchopoulos), a 15-year-old whose life experiences sudden changes when she meets an older, blue-haired art student named Emma (Léa Seydoux). Originally seeing a boy at school, Adèle begins having fantasies about Emma, whom she randomly notices on the street one day. After being reunited unexpectedly at a lesbian bar, the two grow closer together and eventually become more than just friends — but it’s not a perfect love story after all. The coming-of-age romance drama explores everything from sexual identity and social acceptance, to heartbreak and adulthood. Near three hours long, this beautifully melancholic movie is an emotional roller coaster for many.
Starring Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor, Tangerine is remarkable not only because it’s shot entirely on an iPhone, but also for its down-to-earth depiction of Los Angeles’ sex-trade subcultures. The Sean Baker-directed film, which first released at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, follows two transgender sex workers Sin-Dee Rella (Rodriguez) and Alexandra (Taylor) as they confront one of the biggest tests of their friendship on Christmas Eve. Having just finished her short prison sentence, Sin-Dee excitedly meets up with Alexandra, only to find out that her boyfriend Chester (James Ransone) has been cheating on her — but this is just one of the many secrets that Sin-Dee finds out during that drama-filled day.
7. Call Me By Your Name
Another coming-of-age film on our list, Call Me By Your Name (2017) sees Timothée Chalamet starring opposite to Armie Hammer. Chalamet plays Elio, a teen who resides in Northern Italy with his parents. In summer 1983, Elio’s father who’s an archaeology professor invites his 24-year-old graduate student Oliver (Hammer) to stay at his home while assisting with his academic paperwork. Despite initially feeling annoyed by the presence of his family guest, Elio can’t help but find an unusual connection to Oliver. The two share an intimate few weeks together, but like all of the best romances, the courtship results in heartbreak and not to mention a lot of tears.
8. Brokeback Mountain
Directed by Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain (2005) follows rodeo cowboy Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) and ranch hand Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) as they work together as shepherds in the Wyoming mountains. One night, Jack makes a drunken pass at Ennis, who initially isn’t sure of how to react but finally reciprocates. What is meant to be a one-off incident turns into a secret affair that spans two decades. While both men seemingly carry on with their lives by marrying their wives (played by Anne Hathaway and Michelle Williams), they find it achingly impossible to forgo what they share. Winning more than 80 prestigious awards, Brokeback Mountain is a timeless tale that’ll break your heart no matter how many times you’ve rewatched it.
A love triangle is formed in Xavier Dolan’s Heartbeats when two new friends, Francis (played by Xavier Dolan himself) and Marie (Monia Chokri), both develop an infatuation with the same love interest, Nicolas (Niels Schneider). To win over his affection, the two competes with one another through petty behaviour, like trying to outdo the other by getting Nicolas a more impressive gift for his birthday. The rivalry reaches boiling point when the trio goes on a trip together, and in the end, jealousy doesn’t seem to do anyone any good and desires are left unfulfilled.
Directed by Maryam Keshavarz, 2011 movie Circumstance is set in modern day Iran and explores elements of the country’s youth culture not often depicted on the silver screen. The film follows two teenage girls, the wealthy Atafeh (Nikohl Boosheri) and her orphaned best friend Shireen (Sarah Kazemy), as they attend underground parties and explore their own sexuality.
An adaptation of the Naomi Alderman novel of the same name, Disobedience tells the story of forbidden love between New York photographer Ronit Krushka (Rachel Weisz) and her childhood friend, Esti (Rachel McAdams). When Ronit returns to London after learning about the death of her estranged father, she is reintroduced to the Orthodox Jewish community that she doesn’t fit in. Ronit soon discovers that it is Esti, now the wife of her father’s disciple, Dovid, who informs her of her father’s passing because she wishes to see her again. The reunion between the two friends eventually reignites the passion that lie deep within their hearts, but can it stand against the challenges that come with the boundaries of faith?