The month of June is celebrated as LGBTQ+ Pride Month to honor the impact that the community has had on history and society, as well as to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall Riots. Many cities across the country celebrate Pride Month by hosting parades, festivals, concerts, picnics, and parties, but we would like to celebrate by watching our favorite LGBTQ+ movies!

Positive LGBTQ+ representation in media is critical for all audiences, as it not only helps queer audiences – both young and old alike – see themselves and their history, giving them something to look up to, but it also encourages acceptance in wider society. Every year, GLAAD looks at the current representation of LGBTQ+ people in film, to see what kinds of characters are being showcased and how these depictions impact the community, ultimately with the goal of continuing to campaign for positive portrayals to better reflect reality. In GLAAD’s most recent survey of 2020 films released by major studios, 22.7% contained LGBTQ+ characters – an increase of 4.1% from 2019 – and an amazing 40% of these characters were people of color. However, there were no transgender or nonbinary characters, and half of the LGBTQ+ characters saw less than 10 minutes of screentime.

While there is always room for more substantial representation, there are quite a few excellent LGBTQ+ movies to satisfy all audiences that deserve to be celebrated this month. Gear up for Pride by watching eight of our favorite LGBTQ+ movies and checking out two new ones coming out this year.

Parting Glances (1986)

Parting Glances is one of the few, if only films set during the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in New York City to have been produced during the epidemic. For being not just a reflection of what once was, but telling history as it was happening, the independent film is regarded as one of the most important films of LGBTQ+ cinema. It would be director and writer Bill Sherwood’s only feature film, before his death at the age of 37 years old from AIDS complications. Parting Glances is a slice-of-life look inside a 24-hour period, with a script so true to life and realistic in its characters and settings that you’ll forget you’re even watching a fictional movie at all, rather than an unscripted documentary. Robert and Michael, a couple in their late 20s, attend a formal dinner party followed by a more casual party in preparation for Robert’s upcoming departure to Africa, where he plans to work for two years. Also in attendance at the latter party is Nick, Michael’s ex-boyfriend whom he still loves and attends to, who is rapidly dying of AIDS. Michael is reluctant to accept the prognosis and spends a portion of the 24 hours pushing different remedies and diets on Nick. The emotions are real and unexaggerated, though we know that Robert, Michael, and Nick were far from the only ones living this same experience. It’s raw and bittersweet, and even comedic at times, while showcasing urban LGBTQ+ culture of the 1980s and the realities of AIDS for exactly what they were, free of any embellishment.

Bound (1996)

Before asking the question: red pill or blue pill, the Wachowskis made their directorial debut with Bound. Starring Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon, Bound never tries to hide what it is: a sultry, violent, lesbian crime thriller. It’s a breath of fresh air from the hundreds of crime thrillers with male leads that are already out there, though it wasn’t easy to get made. Especially not in the 1990s. Studio after studio turned down the script when the Wachowskis refused to make the lead character a man, until Dino De Laurentiis, whom the Wachowskis worked with on Assassins (1995), offered to produce the movie on a tiny $6 million budget. Even Gina Gershon’s agents warned her against doing the movie, but not willing to budge on her own desire, she left them. Bound was never much of a commercial success, though it was praised by critics for its sophistication and confidence, being likened to the films of Tarantino and Hitchcock. The LGBTQ+ community applauded Bound as one of, if not the first, mainstream films with a central, sympathetic lesbian relationship, especially one featuring both a butch woman and a femme, Asian character. Even better, this one has a happy ending, at least for Corky and Violet. Not so much for the Mafia.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)

While more films have started to feature gay, lesbian, and bisexual characters in major or minor roles, it’s less common for films to focus on transgender characters. Adapted from the 1998 stage rock musical of the same name, John Cameron Mitchell’s Hedwig focuses on a genderqueer, gay rock musician. To flee from East Germany, a teenage Hansel takes his mother’s name and undergoes a botched operation to marry an American soldier, only for the Berlin Wall to fall a year after their escape to Kansas. Hedwig successfully furthers her music career until her songs are stolen after her gender identity is revealed, leading her to seek revenge in the form of a lawsuit against a competing musician. The musical explores the search for love, explaining that humans originally had two faces, four arms, and four legs – either two men back-to-back, two women, or one man and one woman – before being split in half by an angry Zeus, condemning them to a life of searching for their missing half. Though Hedwig has partners throughout the film, she doesn’t attain peace until she learns that her other half is within herself. She must learn to love and accept her whole self, finally becoming confident as a self-proclaimed misfit. So much of the transgender experience is being able to love and accept oneself, regardless of how anyone else views you, and Hedwig portrays this message beautifully.

Rent (2005)

Be sure to bring the tissues for this one. Adapted from the 1996 musical of the same name by Jonathan Larson, the 2005 feature film brings back a majority of the original Broadway cast. Rent tells the story of a group of seven friends – four of which are HIV positive – consisting of multiple LGBTQ+ couples, struggling to survive in New York City in 1989 and 1990. Found families are a core concept in the LGBTQ+ community. Just like any family, things aren’t always perfect. There are fights, breakups, and tragedies, but at the end of the day, they still always have each other, even if it is only in spirit. Rent also highlights the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community and stays away from stereotypes. All three of the central relationships are between interracial couples, and their professions range from filmmaker to professor, performance artist to lawyer, street performer to musician, and a dancer. It’s equal parts heartbreaking and heartwarming, but it’s the heartbreak that makes the sweet, tender moments more meaningful. Ultimately, we all have “no day but today,” so why not live in love rather than living in fear?

Brokeback Mountain (2005)

When Ang Lee’s romantic Western won three Academy Awards and smashed the box office by raking in $178 million, despite facing censorship in numerous countries, including in parts of the United States, LGBTQ+ cinema was finally pushed into mainstream culture. Though often referred to as “The Gay Cowboy Movie,” critics, cast, and viewers alike still debate over the sexualities of the two leads, Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist, portrayed by the late Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, respectively. Ultimately though, that’s the beauty of the film. It’s never explicitly stated if the men are gay, bisexual, straight, or otherwise, which leaves it up to audience interpretation. Each viewer can experience the film differently, based on their own perceptions of the characters as well as of themselves. Brokeback touches on the lasting effects of homophobia through Ennis’s reluctance, in contrast with the pursuit of happiness through Jack’s willingness. The film subverts the hyper-masculine Western frontier by allowing two lonely, repressed men the chance to experience what it’s like to be loved and to love another. The beautiful, star-crossed love they find together just happens to be with someone of the same sex.

Moonlight (2016)


Intersectionality is a key component of the LGBTQ+ community and their history – especially that of Blackness and queerness – that is often left out of wider discussions. Which is why it is crucial that these parts of the community are highlighted in films. Not only was Moonlight the first LGBTQ+ film to feature an entirely Black cast, but it was the first LGBTQ+ film to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards, and all on a mere $1.5 million budget. Black masculinity is presented as a central element of the film in all of Chiron’s stages of life. In Chiron and Kevin’s community, hyper-masculinity is not a mere desire, but an unfortunate requirement to survive, leading to Kevin hiding his sexuality from their peers, while Chiron is bullied for it. An easy, simple answer to the dichotomy of black masculinity and toughness against sexuality and vulnerability is never found or presented, because there isn’t one. Chiron grows up to feel that he must adopt the persona of tough masculinity, as he does not live in a society that permits him to continue to embrace his sexuality, and his struggle between the two continues until the film’s final beats.

Love, Simon (2018)

Take a trip back to the days of heartwarming John Hughes teenage rom-coms with the story of Simon, a closeted gay, suburban teenager, and his secret, online romantic love interest, “Blue”. LGBTQ+ youth are an often-overlooked audience, but Love, Simon became the first major Hollywood film to center on LGBTQ+ kids discovering their first love. Navigating high school is hard enough, and no one feels like they fit in, but navigating high school while queer and terrified to come out to family and peers for fear of rejection makes it all that much more difficult. Especially in smaller towns where LGBTQ+ youth might feel isolated, out of place, and unfamiliar with the larger queer community, having teenage characters that they can relate to and see their story in is critical for survival. But it’s not enough for queer teenage stories to be seen on the big screen, it’s important that these movies portray hope and happiness, even if the road to get there can be rocky at times. When kids see that Simon and Blue can be happy and accepted by their peers and family, it offers a much-needed, metaphorical hug to tell them that everything does get better and who they are is nothing short of perfect.

What Keeps You Alive (2018)

Would you be surprised to learn that LGBTQ+ films have also entered the horror genre? Right off the bat, there’s the potential for negative tropes and harmful stereotypes to be portrayed, whether it’s the “bury your gays” trope – where LGBTQ+ characters are viewed as more expendable, resulting in their deaths – or the objectification of women. Thankfully, Colin Minihan’s What Keeps You Alive is a breath of fresh air as it avoids negative stereotypes against the LGBTQ+ community while also leaning into the established elements of the psychological horror genre in new ways, such as expanding upon the “final girl” trope. Jackie and Jules, a lesbian couple, celebrate their first wedding anniversary at a cabin from Jackie’s childhood. With any horror movie, things quickly take a turn for the worst. Remember when Rose turns on her boyfriend Chris in Get Out (2017)? Well, it’s kind of like that when Jackie starts to go after Jules. But the film never uses or explains queerness as a reasoning for Jackie’s evil actions. Rather, the film is more about emotional manipulation and being psychologically abused by someone you once loved – and exploring why a victim might stay in a toxic relationship to endure that pain. With any horror story, there are great twists that keep the viewer on the edge of their seat as Jules fights to get the upper hand over her abuser. It’s not a queer story, but rather a story that just happens to be queer. In fact, when the film was first being developed, the characters of Jackie and Jules were originally a husband-and-wife duo. It’s a thrilling cat-and-mouse game until the final moments. Just be sure to stay away from steep cliffs after watching.

George Michael Freedom Uncut (2022)

A pioneering LGBTQ+ icon and advocate, George Michael remains to be one of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold more than 115 million records before his passing at the age of 53. Michael rose to fame as a founding member of the English pop duo Wham! in the early 1980s, releasing hits that still have not dwindled in popularity, including “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go”, “Freedom”, “Careless Whisper”, and the holiday classic, “Last Christmas”. He of course would go on to achieve solo success with his debut album Faith selling over 25 million copies alone and received continued success throughout his 30-year career. The upcoming documentary, George Michael Freedom Uncut, was narrated by Michael before his passing, and will focus heavily on his personal life and career leading up to his best-selling album Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 and the tragic loss of his first love, Anselmo Feleppa, to AIDS-related complications in 1993, though Michael didn’t come out as gay to the public until 1998. George Michael was more than just commercial success though. Even more importantly, he was a strong advocate for the LGBTQ+ community and supported numerous HIV/AIDS organizations. He donated anonymously to numerous children, HIV, and cancer charities, as well as anonymously funded private medical procedures for women who experienced difficulties conceiving. No artist since has matched Michael’s style, personality, philanthropy, and voice, and seeing his final work is one you won’t want to miss.

Tickets now available for showtimes beginning June 22.

Bros (2022)

Hollywood’s first major gay romantic comedy with an entirely LGBTQ+ cast is nearly here! As writer and leading man Billy Eichner has boasted, LGBTQ+ actors are even playing the straight characters in the film – shutting down discussions that queer actors should only be permitted to play queer roles. The film boasts a racially diverse cast consisting of openly gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, gender non-conforming, and drag queen actors. Frequently, LGBTQ+ roles are given to straight and cisgender actors, rather than giving the artistic and professional opportunities to members of the community. Or another unfortunate commonality is for LGBTQ+ actors to be given the chance at a queer role, only for that role to be a trope of a side character, such as the gay best friend to the lead. Bros is tearing down the walls by giving audiences an unabashedly queer, adult rom-com for LGBTQ+ viewers, by LGBTQ+ creators. It is time for the community to proudly tell the stories that they want to see about LGBTQ+ people, friendships, and relationships, and all the hilarity, acceptance, love, awkwardness, and messiness that ensues.

Only in theaters on September 30.

  • Editorial