30 Best LGBTQ+ Stories in Film

Updated September 27, 2022 • Staff

In this list, we count down the best films where the main story revolves around a character who doesn’t identify as heterosexual or cisgender. There are documentaries (such as Best of Enemies), coming-of-age stories (like Dating Amber) and so much more - a little bit of the diverse ways in which LGBTQ+ stories make it into film.  

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30.

A Fantastic Woman (2017)

As heartbroken as you will be after watching this movie, you will feel nothing but triumph in the main actor's debut role. This movie has very little hope to offer the viewer, except the small amount felt every time the main character, Marina, gets up again to fight another day. This film depicts grief in such a profound and personal way within a character who must remain relatively silent and alone most of the movie. You will quickly know why the film is called "A Fantastic Woman".

Our staff rating: 7.8/10
Genre: Drama
Actor: Alejandro Goic, Aline Kuppenheim, Amparo Noguera, Antonia Zegers, Bárbara Mundt, Daniela Vega, Eduardo Paxeco, Erto Pantoja, Fabiola Zamora, Francisco González Hermosilla, Francisco Reyes, José Antonio Raffo, Loreto Leonvendagar, Luis Gnecco, Marcial Tagle, Nestor Cantillana, Nicolas Saavedra, Pablo Cerda, Paola Lattus, Roberto Farías, Sergio Hernández, Trinidad González
Director: Sebastián Lelio
Rating: 15, R
29.

And Breathe Normally (2018)

Iceland is a country of vast lands but limited population - only about 300,000 people can call themselves Icelandic. On the other hand, 8 million people have connecting flights through Iceland every year. 

In this setting of mass movement, a single mother dealing with poverty is offered a chance to turn things around - a job as a border agent. One of her first days, she comes across an asylum seeker on a connecting flight from Guinea Bissau to Canada, trying to cross with a fake passport. 

Their stories don’t only intertwine as border agent and asylum seeker, but as two mothers. And Breathe Normally is about struggling with poverty both in Europe and coming from a place like Guinea Bissau. It’s a beautiful, plot-heavy statement on the importance of solidarity and of seeing the human behind the country of origin or race. 

Our staff rating: 7.8/10
Genre: Drama
Actor: Ísold Uggadóttir, Babetida Sadjo, Bragi Arnason, Gunnar Jonsson, Kristín Þóra Haraldsdóttir, Patrik Nökkvi Pétursson, Patrik Nökkvi Pétursson, Sveinn Geirsson, Þorsteinn Bachmann
Director: Isold Uggadottir
Rating: TV-14
28.

Giant Little Ones (2018)

An insightful and thoughtful Canadian coming-of-age drama, Giant Little Ones is about two seventeen-year-old best friends whose relationship changes after an incident one night. Spanning a quick 90 minutes, it manages to tell its story quickly and honestly, as it touches on themes of sexual identity not only for the teenagers but for their parents as well. And it has a great message about tolerance. It's a lovely and wholesome movie. 

Our staff rating: 7.8/10
Genre: Drama
Actor: Carson MacCormac, Cory Lee, Darren Mann, Evan Marsh, Hailey Kittle, Jeff Clarke, Josh Wiggins, Kiana Madeira, Kyle MacLachlan, Maria Bello, Niamh Wilson, Olivia Scriven, Peter Outerbridge, Stephanie Moore, Taylor Hickson
Director: Keith Behrman
Rating: R

Free Watching Options:

Watch Giant Little Ones (2018) on Amazon Prime for free
27.

Buddies (1985)

Robert lies dying in hospital, an activist still raging against the lack of financial support and mainstream acknowledgment of the AIDS crisis. David volunteers to be his “buddy” while he’s bedbound, keeping him company and conversing. He’s less bothered by how the world treats homosexuality and AIDS, and although he commits to sticking by Robert, he’s doubtful of the need for his protests.

The film is firmly on Robert’s side, giving him space to shout and show frustration. What’s more, Buddies never treats sex as dirty or dangerous, allowing it to be something in which gay people find joy and solace, refusing to cast it as shameful. By the end of the decade, Geoff Edholm, who played Robert, and director Arthur J. Bressan Jr. had both lost their lives to the pandemic. It’s a snapshot of hospital rooms across the world, which were often hidden from sight, as a community was left to fend for itself, unsupported. David comes to understand.

Our staff rating: 7.8/10
Genre: Drama, History, Romance
Actor: David Schachter, Geoff Edholm, Tracy Vivat
Director: Arthur J. Bressan Jr.
Rating: Not Rated
26.

Mysterious Skin (2005)

When Brian was eight years old he lost five hours of his life to a black out. Now ten years later he is searching for the truth. His search leads him to Neil, a boy who was on his little league team the summer of the blackout. Brian has always believed he was abducted by aliens from the dreams he had with Neil in them. Neil however knows the truth. Neil had just left the small town life and moved to New York. When he comes home for Christmas and meets Brian will he finally tell him the answers he has been looking for? This is the story of one boy who can't remember and a boy who can't forget.

Our staff rating: 7.9/10
Genre: Drama, Mystery
Actor: Bill Sage, Billy Drago, Brady Corbet, Bruno Alexander, Chase Ellison, Chris Mulkey, David Alan Graf, David Lee Smith, Elisabeth Shue, Gwenne Hudson, Jeffrey Licon, Joan Blair, John Ganun, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Kelly Kruger, Larry Marko, Lisa Long, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Michelle Trachtenberg, Reedy Gibbs, Richard Riehle, Trieste Kelly Dunn, Zane Huett
Director: Gregg Araki
Rating: NC-17
25.

The Watermelon Woman (1996)

This drama was the first feature written and directed by an out Black lesbian, Cheryl Dunye, and it is an absolute joy: a cheeky faux-documentary that ingeniously blends lesbian dating life with a historical dive into Black actors in 30s Hollywood.

Dunye plays Cheryl, a self-effacing version of herself, an aspiring director working at a video store who begins to research an actress known as the Watermelon Woman for a documentary. The more Cheryl dives into her research, the more she sees parallels between her subject and her own relationship. 

As incisive as it is funny, The Watermelon Woman shares some common ground with other major indie debuts of the era like Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It and funnily enough Kevin Smith’s Clerks, but Dunye’s style is wholly her own and a dazzling treat to experience.

 

Our staff rating: 7.9/10
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Actor: Brian Freeman, Cheryl Clarke, David Rakoff, Guinevere Turner, Irene Dunye, Lisa Marie Bronson, Sarah Schulman
Director: Cheryl Dunye

Free Watching Options:

Watch The Watermelon Woman (1996) on Showtime for free
24.

Beau travail (1999)

Often considered Claire Denis’ best film, Beau Travail is an epic exploration of both masculinity and colonialism. Inspired by Melville’s Billy Budd, she transplants the story to Djibouti where the French Foreign Legion run seemingly aimless drills in an arid desert landscape while largely alienated from the local community. 

Denis inverts the male gaze and imbues charged eroticism to the bodies in motion as the men train and wrestle. Accompanied by the music of Britten’s Billy Budd opera, these movements transform into a breathtaking modern dance. Underneath her jaw-dropping direction is a cutting allegory on repression, desire, and violence, working on both the individual and geopolitical level. This incredible tale is capped off by one of the best end credit sequences of all time. 

Our staff rating: 7.9/10
Genre: Drama
Actor: Dan Herzberg, Denis Lavant, Gianfranco Poddighe, Grégoire Colin, Michel Subor, Mickael Ravovski, Nicolas Duvauchelle
Director: Claire Denis
Rating: Unrated
23.

Uncle Frank (2020)

You’ll recognize more than a few faces in Uncle Frank. There are no mega-stars but the caliber of acting in this 70s story is truly impressive.

Beth is an 18-year-old in rural South Carolina who grew up admiring the family member she could relate to the most: her uncle, a college professor living in New York.

When she finishes high-school, she makes the move to the city her beloved uncle told her so much about. Once there, she discovers that he has been living a double life which he kept a secret from the family.

This is the perfect holiday movie for those looking for a story that’s not about the actual holidays. It’s sweet, often funny, and packs a heartfelt and genuine story without being too predictable.

Our staff rating: 7.9/10
Genre: Drama
Actor: Banks Repeta, Britt Rentschler, Burgess Jenkins, Caity Brewer, Christopher Speed, Cole Doman, Colton Ryan, Hannah Black, Jane McNeill, Judy Greer, Lois Smith, Margo Martindale, Michael Banks Repeta, Paul Bettany, Peter Macdissi, Sophia Lillis, Stephen Root, Steve Zahn
Director: Alan Ball
Rating: R

Free Watching Options:

Watch Uncle Frank (2020) on Amazon Prime for free
22.

Love is Strange (2014)

Love is Strange is an even-handed drama about a Ben and George (John Lithgow and Alfred Molina), a loving couple who marry after 39 years of companionship, only to face a series of unexpected consequences of their decision. George is fired from his position as a music teacher, they’re forced to sell their home, and they find themselves living separately with various friends and relatives. The story revolves largely around their time apart, as they struggle in their separation while creating unintended commotion in the lives of their hosts. It’s a warm, wryly amusing and ultimately very touching film about the bonds of love and dedication. It may seem slow at times, but to watch it through to the end will lead you to realize how truly special it is.

Our staff rating: 8/10
Genre: Drama
Actor: Alfred Molina, Andrew Polk, Charlie Tahan, Cheyenne Jackson, Christian Coulson, Christina Kirk, Darren E. Burrows, Eric Tabach, Harriet Sansom Harris, John Cullum, John Lithgow, Manny Perez, Marisa Tomei, Olya Zueva, Sebastian La Cause, Tank Burt, Tatyana Zbirovskaya
Director: Ira Sachs
Rating: R
21.

Handsome Devil (2016)

I can’t get a song out of my head from this movie: the 1985 UK hit Desire As from Prefab Sprout.

It plays when the two main characters, a sensitive kid who’s bullied by his school for not liking rugby, and the school’s rugby star; talk over the “Berlin Wall” that separates their dorm room.

The song echoes “It's perfect as it stands, so why then crush it in your perfect hands?”. These two seemingly incompatible personalities form a friendship that comes under threat from their school’s traditional authority, especially as one of them is revealed to be gay. 

It might seem like a tough premise, but Handsome Devil is actually a comedy. It’s a sweet and easy coming-of-age comedy.

Our staff rating: 8/10
Genre: Drama
Actor: Amy Huberman, Andrew Scott, Ardal O'Hanlon, Ardal O'Hanlon, Fionn O'Shea, Fionn O'Shea, Hugh O'Conor, Jamie Hallahan, Jay Duffy, John Butler, Mark Doherty, Mark Lavery, Michael McElhatton, Moe Dunford, Nicholas Galitzine, Norma Sheahan, Patrick McDonnell, Ruairí OConnor, Ruairi O'Connor, Stephen Hogan
Director: John Butler
Rating: N/A

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