Everyone has a list of LGBT films, usually topped by Brokeback Mountain, Philadelphia, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Thelma and Louise. With literally hundreds of LGBT themed movies to choose from, many of them big box office smashes, no one can agree. We’ve noticed that men and women tend to have different lists from each other too.

We thought we’d put together our own list of LGBT films trying to avoid the obvious choices, and focusing on indie movie fare.

In no particular order:

Bound (1996)

The Wachowski brothers burst onto the scene with this superb bisexual/lesbian neo-noir thriller. Violet (femme and alluring Jennifer Tilly), a moll owned by her Mafia boyfriend (Joe Pantoliano) but looking for escape, has an affair with butch neighbor Corky (Gina Gershon in the hottest lesbian film role ever). The two women hatch a scheme to steal millions from the mob. Unusally, empowered women beat the crap out of everyone – and this time the violence isn’t directed at women, but is by women. The sex scenes were choreographed by a female lesbian sexpert Susie Bright ensuring that the hot sex scenes were genuine and technically correct. She even has a cameo role. Queer women tend to love this flick.

My Beautiful Laundrette (1985)

Writer Hanif Kureishi and director Stephen Frears proved you could combine racism, class warfare and gay love in one story with this Brit flick that put the entire creative team on the map. The script was nominated for an Oscar and the brilliant Daniel Day Lewis charmed as the film’s gritty punk.

My Own Private Idaho (1991)

River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves star in this Gus Van Sant tale of two street hustlers travelling from Portland to Italy and Idaho. Consider it as a gay Easy Rider. A must-see, poignant, emotional and frustrating. Don’t expect a happy ending.

Pink Flamingos (1972)

Booed by critics and banned by many theaters upon its release, Pink Flamingos is perhaps one of the most impactful works by gay director John Waters, being a campy ode to “the other.” The film features a cast of vile characters vying to become “the filthiest person alive,” including a couple who kidnaps women, impregnates them, and sells their babies on the black market. But the filthiest and most memorable presence is the drag queen Divine, whose shit-eating finale bestowed upon her an instant celebrity that continues to endure. While Pink Flamingos most likely would not win a GLAAD Media Award if it were released today, its celebration of queerness made a mark in 1970s America that has guaranteed its status as a cult classic. — D.R.

Shortbus (2006)

A Raindance UK premiere for this raunchy tale of LGBT dating by director John Cameron Mitchell. Complete with a musical threesome that involves out singer-songwriter Jay Brannan singing into another man’s asshole, the film has a documentary feel that’s brought home when viewers inevitably see pieces of their own relationship drama in the myriad couplings at the center of the story. Shortbus is emotional, honest, awkward, and humorous.

A Single Man (2009)

Fashion designer Tom Ford turned his attention to this awesome adaptation of Chritopher Isherwood’s novel. It’s sweet and achingly sad. Colin firth delivers long soliloquies directly to the camera – holding us breathless with every word.

Mary Jane’s Not A Virgin Anymore (1997)

Shot micro budget on Super 8mm and shown off VHS at Raindance, Sarah Jacobson‘s story covers a horny Jewish girl who thinks having sex with anyone will make her cool. Jacobson launched her career as the Queen of Underground Cinema with this movie but lost her life to cancer in New York in 2004.

C.R.A.Z.Y. (2005)

This French-Canadian film about Zac, a young gay guy growing up in the ’70s in a homophobic environment, is a coming-of-age story on its surface but a father-son story at its core. Gervais, Zac’s father, struggles with accepting his son’s homosexuality, and Zac aims to make his father proud (often failing), transforming this into a story that transcends time period or setting. C.R.A.Z.Y. was the breakout film for Dallas Buyers Club director Jean-Marc Vallee and remains one of his biggest hits, both critically and commercially. — Kevin O’Keeffe

Go Fish (1994)

Go Fish was lauded when it came out in the early 1990s as the first film about being a lesbian — and it tackled a number of important themes with believable scenes and actors who looked, sounded, and felt authentic. It launched the careers of director Rose Troche (producer of Concussion) and her then-girlfriend, screenwriter Guinevere Turner (of American Psycho fame), and helped mirror conversations happening in the real world about butch-femme dichotomies, familial pressures for queers of color, owning lesbian history, and why lesbians who sleep with men get lambasted..

Happy Together (1997)

The story of two passionate, on-again-off-again lovers won Best Director for Wong Kar-Wai at Cannes. It follows Yiu-Fai and Po-Wing on a trip to Argentina that seems to leave the couple falling apart. On a list of the 50 most essential gay films from Out magazine, playwright Tony Kushner described Happy Together‘s leading men enthusiastically. “The actors are both brilliant, funny, and terrifically moving, irritating and endearing,” he wrote. “They bicker, battle, and make love with complete abandon, and — well, why not say it? — they’re the sexiest gay couple ever filmed.” — L.G.

All About My Mother (1999)

Viewed by many critics and cinephiles as Pedro Almodóvar’s best film, All About My Mother is a meditation on the beauty and complexity of women and how some lucky men are endowed with that same mix of softness and grit. It is told through the experiences of Manuela (luminous Argentinian actress Cecilia Roth), who loses and gains children, lovers, and friends during an odyssey through Madrid and Barcelona. The protagonist also encounters AIDS and drugs, but the tale doesn’t feel soapy, only heartfelt. All the characters face life with a passion and resolve that feels uniquely Spanish. With beautiful cinematography and near-perfect performances, out director Almodovar proved himself a global treasure with this film. —N.B.

Have we missed your favourite out? Let us know in the comments box below.

About 

Elliot Grove is the founder of Raindance Film Festival and the British Independent Film Awards. He has produced over 700 hundred short films and also five feature films, including the multi-award-winning The Living and the Dead in 2006, Deadly Virtues in 2013 and AMBER in 2017. He teaches screenwriting and producing in the UK, Europe, Asia and America.

Raindance trailer 2017

Elliot has written three books which have become industry standards: Raindance Writers’ Lab: Write + Sell the Hot Screenplay, now in its second edition, Raindance Producers’ Lab: Lo-To-No Budget Filmmaking and Beginning Filmmaking: 100 Easy Steps from Script to Screen (Professional Media Practice).

In 2009 he was awarded a PhD for services to film education.

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