Happy Pride from The Reelness! Not too many years ago, gay-themed movies were pretty much schlocky, low budget affairs, typically featuring crass, low brow humor. The few mainstream flicks that included gay characters usually relegated them as the sassy gay best friend. Then there were the really bad films that were just offensively tone deaf.
Fortunately, moviemaking HAS gotten better, with plenty of quality, LGBTQ-themed movies available to inspire and entertain. Here are 21 recent films that have earned above average grades by The Reelness.
These films represent an assortment of gay, lesbian, and transgender topics. Click on the movie titles or link below each synopsis for our full review and where to find it. And feel free to comment below if you have a favorite LGBTQ film you’d like us to check out.
Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever star in this comedy about two bookworms who find out on the last day of high school that all the slackers who didn’t study so hard ALSO got into great colleges. In a final act of defiance, they decide to make their last night before graduation one to remember. The message, about enduring friendship, is terrific with a strong supporting cast that includes Billie Lourd, Jason Sudeikis, Lisa Kudrow and Will Forte.
This 2016 Best Picture Oscar winner is the story of Chiron, a young boy on the streets of Miami who must survive a life of constant disappointment – from a barely present, drug addicted mother to other teenage boys in government housing bullying him over his homosexuality. It’s an impactful story revealing the challenges faced by impoverished, young gay youth of color who grow up without strong parental figures.
What – gay cowboys?! Well, sort of. This is the tender drama of a young transgender boy in Montana who runs away from home with his mentally ill father (Steve Zahn) after his mom (Jillian Bell) refuses to let him live as a boy. It’s a surprisingly serious turn for Zahn and Bell, who are most accustomed to comedic roles. Ann Dowd (The Handmaid’s Tale) is also excellent as the police investigator trying to find the pair before harm comes to them.
Katherine Waterston and Vanessa Kirby star in this period romance set in the harsh frontier of upstate New York in 1856. In addition to being a starkly beautiful and heartbreaking love story, it serves as an important reminder of how much better we have it now compared to the LGBTQ pioneers of long ago.
Hailed as Britain’s answer to Brokebank Mountain, Josh O’Connor (The Crown) and Alec Secareanu star in this romantic drama about a lonely sheep farmer in Northern England who becomes involved with a sexy Romanian migrant farmhand during lambing season. Will he allow himself to experience love? Watch and find out.
Writer/director Francis Lee’s follow up to the aforementioned God’s Own Country is this poignant, period romantic drama starring Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan. It is based on real life amateur archeologist Mary Anning, who discovered a shocking amount of history-shaping fossils along the English coast in the early 1800s. Although there is no concrete proof either woman was a lesbian, Lee’s dramatic license is certainly plausible.
Hey, it wouldn’t be a gay movie list without at least one musical, right? This one stars Meryl Streep, James Corden and Nicole Kidman as a bunch of hilariously narcissistic Broadway stars who travel to a small town in Indiana to help out a lesbian teenager barred from taking her girlfriend to prom. Director Ryan Murphy’s adaptation of the popular Broadway play is reminiscent of his first two years of the TV show Glee, with heartfelt and clever songs and a cast that pokes fun of the corniness of Broadway musicals. Make sure to watch for Andrew Rannels’ rousing performance of “Love Thy Neighbor.”
This feel good movie is about a Brooklyn record store owner (Nick Offerman) who forms an alternative music duo with his lesbian teenage daughter (Kiersey Clemons), just months before she is to leave home for college on the West Coast. Toni Collette, Ted Danson and Blythe Danner round out an excellent supporting cast.
You know times are a changin’ when the Lifetime network decides to devote one of its all-American cookie cutter Christmas romances to two dudes. So yes, besides being a first (representation matters), The Christmas Setup actually is a pretty decent movie. And with Fran Drescher as the meddlesome, matchmaking mom, how can you possibly go wrong?
The 1970s weren’t particularly good times for gay uncles in middle America. This drama stars Paul Bettany as the cool uncle who joins his adoring niece (Sophia Lillis) on a road trip from New York City to their tiny conservative hometown in South Carolina for a family funeral. Needless to say, not everyone in the family is accepting of Uncle Frank being gay and the trip home triggers lots of repressed memories. Get the tissues.
A lesbian couple celebrating their one year wedding anniversary in the Canadian wilderness find they don’t know each other as well as they thought they did in this gripping, indie psychological horror. Despite a few weak spots in the second half, its still a pretty impressive low budget thriller with some surprising twists.
Charlize Theron stars in this adaptation of the comic book action/adventure about a group of immortal mercenaries who battle evil villains throughout the millennia to save humanity and reshape the course of history. Their identity is exposed just as a new member enters their ranks. While a bit sloppier than the Marvel franchise, The Old Guard is loads of fun, and features an impressive love story between two of the male immortals that puts the anemic LGBTQ nod in Avengers: Endgame to shame.
This documentary topped our 10 Best Movies of 2020 list, exploring the decades-long relationship of a couple of women, one of whom played in the WWII era, All-American Girls Professional Baseball League that was profiled in 1992’s A League of Their Own. Do yourself a favor and check this tearjerker out on Netflix. There IS crying in baseball.
Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth star in this romantic drama about a couple hitting the road in an RV for a final vacation as one faces the onset of dementia. Set in England’s gorgeous Lake District, it is a sweet, poignant story about a subject all too familiar for many entering their later years and about the importance of time.
A strong, millennial point of view and a solid ensemble cast make this high school drama a thought provoking one. It’s about a couple of popular high school swim team members who find themselves embroiled in scandal after a 17th birthday party. The film explores the murkiness of teen sexuality without oversimplying its message, relying on clichés or talking down to his audience. Despite a slow and somewhat clumsy first act, the film stays with you long after the credits roll.
Rafiki is a romantic drama between daughters of two rival politicians in Kenya, despite the nation’s ban on homosexuality. Initially banned in Kenya, the compelling story is an important reminder of the plight faced by the LGBTQ community throughout much of the developing world.
Gay conversion therapy is psychologically destructive and ineffective (and as of today, still legal in 30 U.S. states). This poignant drama, based on the true story of writer Gerrard Conley, stars Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe as Southern Baptist parents in Arkansas who put their gay son (Lucas Hedges) into such a facility. It should be required viewing for any family even thinking of engaging in such a practice.
Hijinks are quick to follow after parents Leslie Mann, John Cena and Ike Barinholtz find out their teenage daughters plan to lose their virginity on prom night. As the parents try to foil their plans, one of the girls turns out to be a lesbian, prompting a super sweet scene with her dad. And you get to see John Cena naked, so hey, that’s a bonus.
Ok, so it lays on the schmaltz, but this feel good high school dramedy about a teenager coming to terms with his sexuality via an online pen pal has all the feels. (For anyone looking for a less rosy, more conservative take on coming out, check out the TV series Love, Victor on Hulu.) That speech by Jennifer Garner near the finale of Love, Simon will have us ALL wanting her as our mom.
With its iconic pornstaches, bulging crotches, pecs and butts all straining to pop out of their leather and denim, Tom of Finland drawings represent the over-sexualized, hyper-masculinity that took root in gay life in the 1970s. This biopic about the Finnish artist who created them is an important part of queer history.
Lily Tomlin stars as an aging, hippy lesbian in this charming dramedy starring Julia Garner (Ozark) as her teenage granddaughter. When Garner shows up pregnant, they embark on an Iliad-styled journey through Southern California to help her raise money for an abortion by visiting a bunch of grandma’s ex-loves and friends. It is a poignant and heartwarming charmer.