The Stonewall Riots began on 28 June 28 1969 when New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club located in Greenwich Village in New York City, in the United States. The raid sparked a riot among bar patrons and neighbourhood residents as police roughly hauled employees and patrons out of the bar, leading to six days of protests and violent clashes with law enforcement outside the bar and around that area.
The 1960s and preceding decades lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) were not welcomed and same-sex relationship was illegal in New York City. For such reasons, LGBT individuals flocked to gay bars and clubs, places of refuge where they could express themselves openly and socialise without worry. However, the New York State Liquor Authority penalised and shut down establishments that served alcohol to known or suspected LGBT individuals, arguing that the mere gathering of homosexuals was “disorderly.”
Thanks to activists’ efforts, these regulations were overturned in 1966, and LGBT patrons could then be served alcohol. But engaging in gay behaviour in public (holding hands, kissing or dancing with someone of the same sex) was still illegal, so police harassment of gay bars continued and many bars still operated without liquor licenses—in part because they were owned by the Mafia.
The Stonewall Riots served as a catalyst for the gay rights movement in the United States and around the world. From that moment on, the community started building up a better world for themselves and more and more they came out of the closet and started fighting for their rights of love, respect, freedom, equality and acceptance.
As part of this community, I’ve decided to make my list of some essential LGBTQIA + movies as a way to pay tribute to this community and value its fights, achievements and pride throughout the contemporary History. Check it out below:
Billy’s Hollywood Screen Kiss (1998)
“Billy’s Hollywood Screen Kiss” is an independent, gay-themed romantic comedy film written and directed by Tommy O’Haver and starring Sean P. Hayes, Brad Rowe, and Meredith Scott Lynn.
The film was a breakthrough performance for Hayes, who would go from this film to his role as Jack McFarland on the hit television show Will & Grace. The movie revolves around Billy, who is a gay fine-arts photographer who falls in love with straight coffee-shop waiter Gabriel.
One of the earliest mainstream studio pictures to engage with trans experience, director Duncan Tucker’s 2005 film stars Felicity Huffman (‘Desperate Housewives’) as Brie, a trans woman on a journey with a teenage tearaway who doesn’t know he’s her son. Turns out he isn’t the only one with a few things to learn.
Director Todd Haynes’ adaptation of a Patricia Highsmith novel centres around two women — unhappily married socialite Carol (Cate Blanchett) and the department-store salesgirl she pursues an affair with, Therese (Rooney Mara) — so hemmed in by 1950s convention you can practically see the boxes that surround them. That also means you can feel the bravery in their electric moments of veiled flirtation: a look that lasts a second too long, a grin that fights its way across their faces. A spur-of-the-moment road trip gives them the freedom to explore their desire, playing house in the privacy of hotel rooms, until a vicious custody battle forces Carol back into the closet.
The Broken Hearts Club (2000)
This is a romantic comedy-drama film written and directed by Greg Berlanti that follows the lives of a group of gay friends in West Hollywood, centred on a restaurant owned by the fatherly Jack (John Mahoney) and the softball team he sponsors. The friends rely on each other for friendship and support as they search for love, deal with loss, and discover themselves.
“The Broken Hearts Club” was Berlanti’s first feature film, based on his circle of friends at the time. The movie was met with generally favourable reviews from critics, receiving praise for portraying homosexuality as normal and its characters as average gay men. The film focuses on “the universal themes of romance, acceptance and family”.
The Birdcage (1996)
“The Birdcage” is a comedy film directed by Mike Nichols, adapted by Elaine May, and starring Robin Williams, Gene Hackman, Nathan Lane, and Dianne Wiest. Dan Futterman, Calista Flockhart, Hank Azaria, and Christine Baranski appear in supporting roles. It is a remake of the 1978 Franco-Italian film “La Cage aux Folles”.
The film features Robin Williams as Armand Goldman, an openly gay nightclub owner in the South Beach called ‘Birdcage’ whose son announces his engagement to the daughter of an ultra-conservative politician.
In typical farce style, his partner Albert (Nathan Lane), a flamboyant and effeminate man who plays Starina —the star of his club’s drag show—poses as his dowdy wife in order to convince his son’s future in-laws that they’re a wholesome American family.
I can guarantee this movie will make you laugh and have a lot of fun. This LGBTQIA + classic movie teaches us respect and acceptance in a funny way.
Williams and Lane are phenomenal and convincing as a gay couple, and they have perfect chemistry in the course of the movie. Also, Anzaria, the actor who plays Agador, their flamboyant Guatemalan housekeeper who aspires to be in Albert’s drag show, leads a fabulous performance that makes the movie even more enjoyable! Everyone must see this cult movie!
The lingering sense of lives left unfulfilled permeates “Moonlight”, even if the film, directed by Barry Jenkins, does end on a somewhat positive note. Set in a barely recognisable yet unsettlingly realistic Miami, the film’s portrayal of the three stages of main character Chiron’s life, from boyhood to adulthood, thrums with pain, tenderness and understanding.
The complexities of his situation and his internal and external crisis of masculinity are sharply matched and cut down by moments of kindness, Mahershala Ali and Janelle Monáe both deliver heartfelt performances.
The burgeoning – and conflicted – the relationship between Chiron and Kevin is the sort of romance that, while filled with strife, is also overrun with possibility. There’s plenty of tough stuff in it, but you can’t help but walk away from this one feeling a bit warm and fuzzy.
Directed by Matthew Warchus, this movie is based on a real story that happened in 1984, when the miners went on strike people got together all around the UK to raise money for the miners and their families. One of the biggest fundraisers was a group of gay and lesbian campaigners in London – who saw the harassment of the miners by Margaret Thatcher’s government as mirroring their persecution.
Calling themselves LGSM (Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners), they set off from London in two minibuses and a clapped-out campervan to a village in South Wales carrying buckets of loose change raised in gay clubs.
Beautiful Things (1996)
This is the film of British writer Jonathan Harvey’s 1993 play, a tender story of emerging sexuality and friendships between outsiders on a south London council estate. Sweetly it shows the tentative coming together of two white, working-class schoolboys, Jamie (Glen Berry) and Ste (Scott Neal), whose wide-eyed romance, when it happens, turns out to be less complicated than the lives of some of the characters around them.
Those characters include their eccentric teenage neighbour Leah (Tameka Empson), who is obsessed with Mama Cass and plays her records loudly in the middle of the night. It’s a soft-hearted urban fantasy directed by Hettie MacDonald.
My Beautiful Laundrette (1985)
Sexuality is only one element in a storm of conflicting values and behaviours in Hanif Kureishi’s screenplay about Omar (Gordon Warnecke), a young British-Pakistani man caught between the entrepreneurial, Thatcherite dreams of his uncle (Saeed Jaffrey) and the more romantic, intellectual ambitions of his alcoholic father (Roshan Seth).
Omar’s unlikely attraction to Johnny (Daniel Day-Lewis), an old friend turned neo-fascist hooligan, results in a sex scene in the back of Omar’s refurbished laundrette that makes literal the idea of everything coming out in the wash. DC
All About My Mother (1999)
Pedro Almodovar’s filmography practically constitutes an LGBT cinema canon in itself. But this rich, ripe, wrenching Oscar winner from 1999 may represent his most generous Valentine to the community.
Cecilia Roth is Manuela, a grieving mother searching Barcelona’s colourful queer scene for the transvestite who unwittingly fathered her late son. If that sounds like a lot, Almodovar isn’t afraid to overload his film, incorporating pregnant nuns, stage divas and the Aids crisis into a heady stew. It’s a film that finally celebrates the togetherness of outsiders.
‘Love! Valour! Compassion!’ (1997)
A long time bunch of friends plan on spending the summer together. Gregory (Stephen Bogardus), a successful Broadway choreographer, and his young blind boyfriend, Bobby (Justin Kirk). Perry (Stephen Spinella) and Arthur (John Benjamin Hickey), a couple who are celebrating their 14th anniversary. There’s the HIV-positive Buzz Hauser (Jason Alexander), described as “the love child of Judy Garland and Liberace”. Then acerbic British composer John (John Glover) brings his hunky new playmate, Ramon (Randy Becker), to the gang’s Hudson Valley getaway, and the dynamic immediately changes.
Terence McNally, adapted his own Tony-winning play for director Joe Mantello, and the film is the perfect reminder that McNally was one of the great chroniclers of gay love, gay relationships, and what it meant to find a chosen family who would support you through good times and bad.
Boys Don’t Cry (1999)
Directed by Kimberly Peirce and starring Hilary Swank, Chloë Sevigny, and Peter Sarsgaard, “Boys Don’t Cry” depicts the story of Brandon Teena, a young transgender man murdered for living his truth in the American Midwest.
Peirce’s film is that opened minds and hearts to the concept of trans identity at the turn of the millennium, dramatising Teena’s identity crisis with unsentimental frankness and shivery sensuality.
Swank brought home the Academy Awards statuette for Best Actress for her outstanding performance as Brandon Teena.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)
‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch’ was writer-director-star John Cameron Mitchell’s stellar 2001 debut feature. Fuelled by his jet-propelled performance and sensational songs co-written with Stephen Trask, it’s a bittersweet ode to the survival of the freakiest.
Born in East Germany but marooned in the American heartland, Hedwig has been doubly shortchanged – first by a botched sex change, then by her ex achieving stardom with music they made together. Hilarious, poignant and often quite spiky, the film, like its subject, is a one-off.
“Milk” is an American biographical film that depicts the story of Harvey Milk and his struggles as an American gay activist who fought for gay rights and became California’s first openly gay elected official.
Directed by Gus Van Sant and written by Dustin Lance Black, the film stars Sean Penn as Milk and Josh Brolin as Dan White, a city supervisor, James Franco as Scott Smith, and Victor Garber as San Francisco Mayor George Moscone.
Milk’s life changed History and his courage changed lives. This is a fundamental movie to promote and value LGBTQIA + community and everybody must see it!
“Philadelphia” is a 1993 American legal drama film written by Ron Nyswaner, directed by Jonathan Demme and starring Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington that has the merit of being the first mainstream Hollywood film about the disease.
It was the first film I watched whose theme explores HIV/AIDS, homosexuality, and homophobia in poignant, sensitive and educative ways back in the early 90s when I was just a teenager and barely understood the things in life. This film was enlightening so that I could understand the myths and truths about this sad virus and its consequences for the victims – either by the effects of the disease on the body or, by the effects of prejudice, ignorance and disrespect that the population with the virus were exposed to.
The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert (1994)
“The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” is an Australian road comedy film written and directed by Stephan Elliott. The plot follows two drag queens played by Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce and a transgender woman, played by Terence Stamp, as they journey across the Australian Outback from Sydney to Alice Springs in a tour bus that they have named “Priscilla”, along the way encountering various groups and individuals.
The film’s title references the slang term “queen” for a drag queen or female impersonator. The film was a surprise worldwide hit and its positive portrayal of LGBT individuals helped to introduce LGBT themes to a mainstream audience. It received predominantly positive reviews and won an Academy Award for Best Costume Design at the 67th Academy Awards.
Where transvestism had previously been played for absurdity in the cinema, this filthy-gorgeous comedy instead played up its lavish beauty. The sight of a drag queen atop a pink commuter bus, miles of glittering tinfoil fabric billowing into the desert behind her, was enough to make even the most obstinately tweedy dresser jealous of her boogie.
The Way He Looks (2014)
“The Way He Looks” (Portuguese title: “Hoje Eu Quero Voltar Sozinho”) is a 2014 Brazilian coming-of-age romantic drama film directed, written and co-produced by Daniel Ribeiro, and stars Guilherme Lobo, Fabio Audi, and Tess Amorim.
The film revolves around Leonardo (Guilherme Lobo), a blind teenager searching for independence. His everyday life, the relationship with his best friend, Giovana (Tess Amorim), and the way he sees the world change completely with the arrival of Gabriel (Fábio Audi).
The movie is pure poetry, pride and joy! It features a cool soundtrack and my favourite is the song “There’s too much love” played by the Scottish indie pop band Belle & Sebastian (by the way I love so much this band)!
Call Me by Your Name (2017)
Based on the acclaimed novel by André Aciman and with an Oscar-winning screenplay written by James Ivory, and directed by Luca Guadagnino, “Call Me by Your Name” is more than just a bittersweet meditation on the enduring impact of a summer romance.
Guadagnino captures the confusion, simmering lust and crackling tension between precocious and thoughtful 17-year-old Elio (Timothée Chalamet) and the allure of the older, magnetic and dashingly handsome Oliver (Armie Hammer). Elio’s obsessive nature and infantile arrogance, as well as his fraught desires, are captured so vividly that, regardless of whether or not you’ve ended up screwing a slightly older man in your parents’ summer house in northern Italy, it still feels oddly recognisable and nostalgic.
It’s a gentle and devastating coming-of-age romance. I have to highlight the amazing soundtracks created by Sufjan Stevens that I am in love with.
Ma Vie en Rose (1997)
Little Ludovic’s parents think their young child is a boy with a worrying thing for Barbie-style dolls. But Ludovic isn’t worried. She just feels she’s a girl. Childhood trans identity remains a controversial subject and Belgian director Alain Berliner’s 1997 work was a bold early attempt to put it at the heart of a film. It stands up well, too. Georges Du Fresne gives a beautiful central performance as Ludovic, the irreverent humour is a joy and this is a solidly empathetic portrayal of a child pursuing happiness in a world that fears difference.
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
It made over £140 million worldwide, which means that Ang Lee’s muscular yet delicate cinematic interpretation of a slender Annie Proulx story will be hard to beat as the highest-grossing gay romance of all time. It’s something of a miracle that it reached such a summit – in addition to scoring eight Oscar nominations – without compromising the subtle, laconic sadness of Proulx’s prose.
Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal star in the tragedy-bound love story as strapping sheep-herders in 1960s Wyoming. Lines like ‘I wish I knew how to quit you’ immediately entered the all-time quote list. And to this day, no one can look at a flannel shirt on a hanger without getting misty-eyed.
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