Out of the Closet, Into the Cinema: A Curated List of Queer Films for Our Community

A photo from Weekend, one of our 100 queer films.
Glen (Chris New) and Russell (Tom Cullen) in ‘Weekend,’ the film that launched Josh Inocéncio’s curated list of queer films.
Photo by Quinnford & Scout/Sundance Selects.

By Josh Inocéncio

“What’s Weekend?” my college roommate asked as we scrolled through Netflix one evening in our Corpus Christi apartment.

This frank drama centers on the relationship between two gay men who contemplate turning a passionate one-night stand into something more meaningful, read the Netflix summary.

“Nah, pass!” we balked rapidly, distancing ourselves from the Andrew Haigh-directed film.

As my old roommate and I later admitted, we were secretly interested. But during my years as a closeted undergrad (when I shared a Netflix account with two presumably straight guys), I didn’t dare suggest we watch. I didn’t even dare watch Weekend alone, for fear that tons of suggested gay films would pop up on the screen and out me to my roommates.

Then, I moved to Tallahassee for graduate school, and I was away from all connections to my home in Texas. No high school friends going to the same college as me, no judgmental religious communities. For the first semester, I lived alone in the home of a PhD student who was teaching at a university up north. With a whole house and Netflix account to myself, I fired up Weekend late one night. Finally, I could see myself represented in ways I hadn’t before in films. All those discreet desires for other guys as a teenager, wondering what gay clubs and one-night stands would be like, and wrestling with the queer tension between hook-ups and relationships. “I don’t do boyfriends,” says Glen, one of the two leads, as he resists Russell’s hopes for a relationship.

Thus, my odyssey into watching queer films began on lonely nights as a graduate student at Florida State, the place where I eventually came out as queer. I flew through classics like Brokeback Mountain (USA, 2005), Fellini Satyricon (Italy, 1969), and Midnight Cowboy (USA, 1969). Initially, I craved representation of characters like me, so the list skewed male and either white or Latino. From this, a few Latin American favorites emerged, such as Y Tu Mamá También (Mexico, 2001), Plan B (Argentina, 2009), and Contracorriente (Peru, 2013). But then, as I realized how many films I was racking up, I formalized the journey and sought films from across the queer spectrum. This is how I found Blue is the Warmest Color (France, 2013), which inspired a lively conversation with my mother after she watched it, too; Pariah (USA, 2011), which follows a black teenager as she explores same-sex attraction underneath her mother’s religious dogma; Out in the Dark (Israel, 2012), a Middle Eastern film that follows a love affair between an Israeli man and his Palestinian boyfriend; and Gun Hill Road (USA, 2011), a film about a transgender girl in the Bronx.

But five years and over 100 films later, I’m publishing this list online for others to peruse, enjoy, and add to as well. Consistently, I run into fellow queer people who aren’t familiar with our rich cinematic history that dates back to at least 1930s Germany with Mädchen in Uniform. Local teachers and professors have even started requesting recommendations for their classes. And while my list isn’t perfect, it’s a place to begin a conversation about queer representation in cinema.

The films are categorized in four major ways, including fiction v. documentaries, chronology, geography, and identity.

Fiction v. Documentaries. For a while, I put both fiction and documentary films on one list, because Paris Is Burning (USA, 1990) is just as important as Boys Don’t Cry (USA, 1999). However, as the list increased, I divided the two to make for easier selection, as well as to show, geographically, the discrepancy between documentaries and fiction about queer communities. For example, it’s been much easier to find documentaries on sub-Saharan Africa (e.g., The Pearl of Africa) than fiction films.

Chronology. Queer communities are represented in popular culture—including in film—by their civil rights gains. Therefore, it’s crucial to see a historical trajectory of queer characters in cinema, from the first time the word “homosexual” appeared in an English language film in Victim (UK, 1961) to the upfront Oscar winning Moonlight (USA, 2016). There are films that achieve history with their content or the accolades they receive. Thus, this list orders films chronologically and then alphabetically if they’re produced in the same year.

Geography. The year the film was produced, as well as what nation produced it, is listed next to each. Queer films are not only essential in busting myths for straight people about our communities, but they’re also crucial for showing us snapshots of how queer folks live and survive in other countries. An array of films that span every major region across the planet helps in establishing a global queer community.

Identity. We need to see ourselves—as well as the lives of those across the spectrum—represented. Therefore, the list also includes these identity categories: the American South, Transgender and Gender Identity, Lesbian, Bisexuality and Sexual Fluidity, Gay Men and Masculinity, and Historical. In the coming months, categories on race, genre, religion, and class will be added as we publish content around how these identities intersect with queerness in the films.

All of these films, too, must be queer-centric. Therefore, a gay supporting character isn’t enough to qualify (at least not now). It’s worthy to document how minor queer characters have transformed throughout cinema history, but that isn’t my current project. I’m seeking films about queer people, not ones that just include them in service of a heterosexual narrative.

Ever since reaching 100 films, I feel like I can go public and begin writing think pieces with a sense of history. However, the list will continue to grow. But in the meantime, explore the list, suggest recommendations to us, engage with our written content, and, most importantly, enjoy the films!

THE 100+ QUEER FILMS PROJECT

Curated by Josh Inocéncio

Fiction v. Documentaries.

Fiction Films

  1. Rope (USA, 1948)
  2. The Children’s Hour (USA, 1961)
  3. Victim (UK, 1961)
  4. Teorema (Italy, 1968)
  5. Fellini Satyricon (Italy, 1969)
  6. Midnight Cowboy (USA, 1969)
  7. Sunday Bloody Sunday (UK, 1971)
  8. The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (Germany, 1972)
  9. Cabaret (USA, 1972)
  10. Dog Day Afternoon (USA, 1975)
  11. Fox and His Friends (Germany, 1975)
  12. Sebastiane (UK, 1976)
  13. La Cage aux Folles (France, 1978)
  14. Cruising (USA, 1980)
  15. My Beautiful Laundrette (UK, 1986)
  16. My Own Private Idaho (USA, 1991)
  17. Philadelphia (USA, 1993)
  18. To Wong Foo! Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar. (USA, 1995)
  19. Head On (Australia, 1998)
  20. Boys Don’t Cry (USA, 1999)
  21. The Talented Mr. Ripley (USA, 1999)
  22. Burnt Money (Argentina, 2000)
  23. Come Undone (France, 2000)
  24. Hedwig and the Angry Inch (USA, 2001)
  25. Mulholland Dr (USA, 2001)
  26. Y Tu Mama Tambien (Mexico, 2001)
  27. The Hours (UK/USA, 2002)
  28. Angels in America (USA, 2003)
  29. Monster (USA, 2003)
  30. Alexander (USA, 2004)
  31. Brokeback Mountain (USA, 2005)
  32. Capote (USA, 2005)
  33. The Bubble (Israel, 2006)
  34. Milk (USA, 2008)
  35. A Single Man (USA, 2009)
  36. J’ai Tué Ma Mére (Canada, 2009)
  37. La Mission (USA, 2009)
  38. Mississippi Damned (USA, 2009)
  39. Plan B (Argentina, 2009)
  40. Beginners (USA, 2010)
  41. Black Swan (USA, 2010)
  42. Heartbeats (Canada, 2010)
  43. The Kids Are Alright (USA, 2010)
  44. Christopher and His Kind (UK, 2011)
  45. Gun Hill Road (USA, 2011)
  46. North Sea Texas (Belgium, 2011)
  47. Our Paradise (France, 2011)
  48. Pariah (USA, 2011)
  49. The Skin I Live In (Spain, 2011)
  50. Weekend (UK, 2011)
  51. Keep the Lights On (USA, 2012)
  52. Laurence Anyways (Canada, 2012)
  53. Mosquita y Mari (USA, 2012)
  54. Out in the Dark (Israel, 2012)
  55. The Skinny (USA, 2012)
  56. The Wise Kids (USA, 2012)
  57. Zenne Dancer (Turkey, 2012)
  58. 52 Tuesdays (Australia, 2013)
  59. Blue is the Warmest Colour (France, 2013)
  60. Contracorriente (Peru, 2013)
  61. Eastern Boys (France, 2013)
  62. Free Fall (Germany, 2013)
  63. Gerontophilia (Canada, 2013)
  64. Kill Your Darlings (USA, 2013)
  65. Last Summer (USA, 2013)
  66. Salvation Army (France/Morocco, 2013)
  67. Test (USA, 2013)
  68. Vic and Flo Saw a Bear (Canada, 2013)
  69. Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? (China, 2013)
  70. Blackbird (USA, 2014)
  71. Boys (The Netherlands, 2014)
  72. Cuatro Lunas (Mexico, 2014)
  73. Eat with Me (USA, 2014)
  74. The Imitation Game (USA, 2014)
  75. Interior. Leather Bar. (USA, 2014)
  76. Land of Storms (Hungary, 2014)
  77. Lilting (UK, 2014)
  78. The Normal Heart (USA, 2014)
  79. Pride (UK, 2014)
  80. Stranger by the Lake (France, 2014)
  81. The Way He Looks (Brazil, 2014)
  82. The Blue Hour (Thailand, 2015)
  83. Carol (USA, 2015)
  84. Closet Monster (Canada, 2015)
  85. The Danish Girl (USA, 2015)
  86. Drown (Australia, 2015)
  87. How to Win at Checkers (Every Time) (Thailand, 2015)
  88. Fire Song (Canada, 2015)
  89. Freeheld (USA, 2015)
  90. Front Cover (USA, 2015)
  91. Grandma (USA, 2015)
  92. In the Grayscale (Chile, 2015)
  93. Jenny’s Wedding (USA, 2015)
  94. Loev (India, 2015)
  95. Naz & Maalik (USA, 2015)
  96. Seashore (Brazil, 2015)
  97. Stonewall (USA, 2015)
  98. Tangerine (USA, 2015)
  99. Those People (USA, 2015)
  100. Viva (Ireland, Cuba*, 2015)
  101. 4th Man Out (USA, 2016)
  102. Holding the Man (Australia, 2016)
  103. King Cobra (USA, 2016)
  104. Moonlight (USA, 2016)
  105. Spa Night (USA, 2016)
  106. Tom of Finland (Finland, 2017)

Documentary Films

  1. Paris Is Burning (USA, 1990)
  2. For the Bible Tells Me So (USA, 2007)
  3. To Be Takei (USA, 2012)
  4. The New Black (USA, 2013)
  5. Campaign of Hate (USA, 2014)
  6. Mala Mala (USA/Puerto Rico, 2014)
  7. A Sinner in Mecca (USA, 2015)
  8. Tig (USA, 2015)
  9. The Pearl of Africa (Uganda/Kenya, 2016)

Identity.

The American South

  1. Mississippi Damned (USA, 2009)
  2. The Wise Kids (USA, 2012)
  3. Last Summer (USA, 2013)
  4. Blackbird (USA, 2014)

Transgender & Gender Identity

  1. Dog Day Afternoon (USA, 1975)
  2. To Wong Foo! Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar. (USA, 1995)
  3. Boys Don’t Cry (USA, 1999)
  4. Hedwig and the Angry Inch (USA, 2001)
  5. Gun Hill Road (USA, 2011)
  6. The Skin I Live In (Spain, 2011)
  7. Laurence Anyways (Canada, 2012)
  8. Zenne Dancer (Turkey, 2012)
  9. 52 Tuesdays (Australia, 2013)
  10. Tangerine (USA, 2015)

Lesbian

  1. The Children’s Hour (USA, 1961)
  2. The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (Germany, 1972)
  3. Mulholland Dr (USA, 2001)
  4. The Kids Are Alright (USA, 2010)
  5. Pariah (USA, 2011)
  6. Mosquita y Mari (USA, 2012)
  7. Blue is the Warmest Colour (France, 2013)
  8. Vic and Flo Saw a Bear (Canada, 2013)
  9. Carol (USA, 2015)
  10. Freeheld (USA, 2015)
  11. Grandma (USA, 2015)
  12. Jenny’s Wedding (USA, 2015)

Bisexuality & Sexual Fluidity

  1. Teorema (Italy, 1968)
  2. Sunday Bloody Sunday (UK, 1971)
  3. Cabaret (USA, 1972)
  4. Y Tu Mama Tambien (Mexico, 2001)
  5. The Hours (UK/USA, 2002)
  6. Black Swan (USA, 2010)
  7. Fire Song (Canada, 2015)
  8. In the Grayscale (Chile, 2015)

Gay Men & Masculinity

  1. Rope (USA, 1948)
  2. Victim (UK, 1961)
  3. Midnight Cowboy (USA, 1969)
  4. Fox and His Friends (Germany, 1975)
  5. Sebastiane (UK, 1976)
  6. La Cage aux Folles (France, 1978)
  7. Cruising (USA, 1980)
  8. My Beautiful Laundrette (UK, 1986)
  9. My Own Private Idaho (USA, 1991)
  10. Philadelphia (USA, 1993)
  11. Head On (Australia, 1998)
  12. Burnt Money (Argentina, 2000)
  13. Come Undone (France, 2000)
  14. Brokeback Mountain (USA, 2005)
  15. The Bubble (Israel, 2006)
  16. A Single Man (USA, 2009)
  17. J’ai Tué Ma Mére (Canada, 2009)
  18. Plan B (Argentina, 2009)
  19. Beginners (USA, 2010)
  20. North Sea Texas (Belgium, 2011)
  21. Our Paradise (France, 2011)
  22. Weekend (UK, 2011)
  23. Keep the Lights On (USA, 2012)
  24. Out in the Dark (Israel, 2012)
  25. The Skinny (USA, 2012)
  26. Contracorriente (Peru, 2013)
  27. Eastern Boys (France, 2013)
  28. Free Fall (Germany, 2013)
  29. Gerontophilia (Canada, 2013)
  30. Salvation Army (France/Morocco, 2013)
  31. Test (USA, 2013)
  32. Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? (China, 2013)
  33. Boys (The Netherlands, 2014)
  34. Cuatro Lunas (Mexico, 2014)
  35. Eat with Me (USA, 2014)
  36. Land of Storms (Hungary, 2014)
  37. Lilting (UK, 2014)
  38. The Normal Heart (USA, 2014)
  39. Stranger by the Lake (France, 2014)
  40. The Way He Looks (Brazil, 2014)
  41. The Blue Hour (Thailand, 2015)
  42. Closet Monster (Canada, 2015)
  43. Drown (Australia, 2015)
  44. Front Cover (USA, 2015)
  45. How to Win at Checkers (Every Time) (Thailand, 2015)
  46. Loev (India, 2015)
  47. Naz & Maalik (USA, 2015)
  48. Seashore (Brazil, 2015)
  49. Those People (USA, 2015)
  50. Viva (Ireland, Cuba*, 2015)
  51. 4th Man Out (USA, 2016)
  52. King Cobra (USA, 2016)
  53. Moonlight (USA, 2016)
  54. Spa Night (USA, 2016)

Historical

  1. Angels in America (USA, 2003)
  2. Monster (USA, 2003)
  3. Alexander (USA, 2004)
  4. Capote (USA, 2005)
  5. Milk (USA, 2008)
  6. Christopher and His Kind (UK, 2011)
  7. Kill Your Darlings (USA, 2013)
  8. The Imitation Game (USA, 2014)
  9. Pride (UK, 2014)
  10. The Danish Girl (USA, 2015)
  11. Stonewall (USA, 2015)
  12. Holding the Man (Australia, 2016)
  13. Tom of Finland (Finland, 2017)

*Viva is an Irish produced film about Cuba. Salvation Army is a French produced film about Morocco.

What should we watch next? Tell us your recommendation below!

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