June is LGBTQ Pride Month across the USA, with parades and other events scheduled to take place in cities nationwide. It was June 28, 1969, when a police raid at the Stonewall Inn in New York City resulted in several days of riots and clashes, sparking the modern LGBTQ rights movement. To date, only two U.S. presidents have recognized Pride Month, Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same sex marriage nationwide.
To commemorate Pride Month, here are 20 LGBTQ-themed movies and TV series worth checking out:
Battle of the Sexes
Emma Stone and Steve Carell headline this film about the most watched tennis match in TV history, the epic 1973 battle between top ranked Billie Jean King and former Wimbledon and US Open champion Bobby Riggs. The event marked a turning point in respect (and a move towards more equal pay) in women’s tennis and the movie showed the world what a pioneering badass King is on and off the court.
One of the funniest movies of 2018 is about a trio of overprotective parents who try to intervene when they discover their teenage daughters plan to lose their virginity on prom night. One of the teens, played by Gideon Adlon, has some sweet moments as she finally comes to terms with her same sex orientation on prom night. This film’s highlight of the sexual double standard for young men and women is pretty eye opening too.
Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal star in Ang Lee’s iconic 2006 adaptation of the Annie Proulx short story about a couple of cowboys involved in a secret, decades long romance after meeting at a sheep herding job in remote Wyoming in 1963. Gut wrenching performances, gorgeous cinematography and a haunting score make this one a must see.
Call Me By Your Name
Timothée Chalamet stars in this James Ivory (of the popular Merchant Ivory films) adaptation of the André Aciman novel about 17-year-old Elio, experiencing his first love, for a brilliant and handsome graduate student (Armie Hammer) who is spending the summer of 1983 living and working with Elio’s family at their villa in Northern Italy.
Cate Blanchett is a wealthy divorcee and lipstick lesbian who must choose between her new girlfriend (Rooney Mara) and custody of her young daughter in the 1950s period piece that captures the repressive homophobia of the era, underscored by exceptional acting, costuming and set design.
God’s Own Country
A lonely young sheep farmer in northern England loses himself in alcohol and casual sex in this modern day take of Brokeback Mountain until he meets a handsome Romanian migrant worker hired by his family to help work the lambing season. The migrant worker makes our farmer realize there just might be a “happily ever after” for him after all.
Lily Tomlin is a cranky, free spirited writer coping with being dumped by her much younger girlfriend when along comes her teenage granddaughter, who’s pregnant and looking for money to pay for an abortion. So off they go, in search of cash from an assortment of friends and past loves, learning a lot about each other in the process. This well-written, feminist-fueled story is funny, refreshingly unpredictable and realistic.
This movie debut from Bianca Del Rio (aka Roy Haylock), season 6 winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race, is about a high school teacher whose drag alter ego exacts revenge on a small conservative town in Texas after he’s fired for being gay. (Yes, it STILL happens.) The comedy also stars SNL alum Rachel Dratch and is filled with appearances from a slew of Drag Race alums.
The Imitation Game
Benedict Cumberbatch stars in the heartbreaking true story of gay British mathematician Alan Turing, whose invention broke the code of the infamous Nazi German “Enigma” message encryption device, effectively ending World War II, saving millions of lives and altering the course of history. Despite his amazing achievement, Turing was later imprisoned for indecency and chemically castrated for being gay.
The Kids Are Alright
Annette Bening and Julianne Moore star in this film about a lesbian/bisexual couple raising two teenagers who are faced with a conundrum when the sperm donor father (Mark Ruffalo) suddenly appears in their lives, wanting to create a relationship. Bening, who won a Golden Globe for her role, is outstanding.
When Simon (Nick Robinson) discovers there is a fellow closeted gay student at his high school, the two strike up an anonymous online relationship, sending Simon on a journey to discover the identity of his new pen pal, and incidentally, sparking his own terrifying, exciting journey of self discovery. Heartfelt moments abound – in particular, a tearjerker of a speech by Jennifer Garner, as Simon’s mom.
Sean Penn won the the 2008 Best Actor Oscar for his stirring portrait of San Francisco politician and gay rights activist Harvey Milk, who along with mayor George Moscone, was assassinated in 1978, a year after becoming the first openly gay man elected to major public office in California. The film showcases Milk’s relationships and political activism in the LGBTQ movement.
This 2016 Best Picture Oscar winner is the haunting story of young boy in Miami coming to terms with being gay while coping with a crack-addicted mother, neighborhood bullies and a sad life of near-constant disappointment and loneliness that will forever shape his future.
Paris Is Burning
This iconic documentary, about the black and Latino drag balls of the late 1980s New York, should be required viewing for any fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race, to see the origin of such concepts as chantay, shade, vogueing and realness – and the unwavering spirit of this often marginalized segment of society.
Category is?! 1980s New York vogue ball realness! For his last TV series for FX, Ryan Murphy (Glee, American Horror Story), has achieved a first – the largest recurring transgender cast in television history – in a surreal, enthralling, and wonderfully entertaining show about competing vogue “houses.”
In the early 1980s a group of London gay activists took it upon themselves to raise money for striking miners in Southern Wales. This film, about that seemingly unlikely alliance, has plenty of cute fish-out-of-water moments and loads of heart.
RuPaul’s Drag Race
With the big finale of Season 10 fast approaching, the Emmy award-winning reality show has captured the attention of America, and the world, bringing the artistry of drag into mainstream pop culture and giving us catchy pop songs (Sissy That Walk, Kitty Girl, Category Is), tongue pops, death drops, Hieeeee!, Ro-Laska-Tox, and this season… Vanjie!
Tab Hunter Confidential
This biographical documentary about 1950s movie heartthrob Tab Hunter is a fascinating glimpse at how a stunningly handsome young man became a huge star despite being gay in the socially conservative era of Hollywood’s big studios. It’s an extremely fun, gossip-filled documentary and a fitting tribute to a very likable Hollywood icon.
Tangerine is the story of Sin-Dee Rella, a transgender sex worker in Los Angeles who, just after being released from prison, discovers her boyfriend/pimp has been cheating on her. Shot on three iPhones, this edgy girlfriend drama/comedy is a mesmerizing look at one of the more distinctive sex trade subcultures, and is proof that you don’t need a big budget to make an entertaining film.
Tom of Finland
This is the story of Touko Laaksonen, creator of Tom Of Finland, one of most iconic homoerotic art brands of the modern era, tracing his life as a Finnish military officer who survives the repressive anti-gay post-WWII era through his macho, hyper-sexualized drawings, which years later, would become an archetypal part of the gay rights movement.