30 Best LGBTQ+ Stories in Film

Updated September 18, 2023 • 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.

Love, Simon (2018)

An easy yet original coming-of-age story about Simon, a high-schooler with great parents, great friends, and one big secret he's not telling either. It's not a particularly complex movie, and it may not be one you'll remember forever, but it's very easy to have a pleasant time watching it. And if you're OK with that, its takes on finding one's identity and the negative impact of keeping secrets from our loved ones might surprise you in their depth. Love, Simon is a reminder that movies don't have to be religiously realistic to get a heartfelt new story across. It's entertainment with a message, the same way Juno or The Perks of Being a Wallflower were.

Our staff rating: 8.2/10
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Actor: Alex Sgambati, Alexandra Shipp, Bryson Pitts, Cassady McClincy, Chantell D. Christopher, Christian Ojore Mayfield, Christopher L. Plunkett, Clark Moore, Collin McHugh, Drew Starkey, Dylan Cheek, Emily Jordan, Haroon Khan, Jamila Thompson, Jennifer Garner, Joey Pollari, Jonathan Fritschi, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Josh Duhamel, Joshua Mikel, Katherine Langford, Keiynan Lonsdale, Logan Miller, Mackenzie Lintz, Mandy Fason, Miles Heizer, Nancy De Mayo, Natasha Rothwell, Nicholas Stargel, Nick Robinson, Nye Reynolds, Patrick Donohue, Philip Covin, Robbie Rogers, Samantha Bulka, Sean O'Donnell, Talitha Bateman, Talitha Eliana Bateman, Terayle Hill, Tony Hale, Tyler Chase, Tyson Love
Director: Greg Berlanti
Rating: PG-13
29.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)

This unique romance is set during a time when a man would be sent the painting of the woman he was to marry before the wedding could take place. Héloïse, secluded with her mother and a maid on a remote island, doesn't approve of her upcoming wedding and refuses to be painted. Her mother sends for a new painter, Marianne, to try to paint her without her noticing. Marianne has to take on this near-impossible task when she starts having feelings for Héloïse. This makes for a riveting romance where Marianne has to choose between her heart and her art while keeping a huge secret from her love interest.

Our staff rating: 8.2/10
Genre: Drama, History, Romance
Actor: Adèle Haenel, Adèle Haenel, Armande Boulanger, Christel Baras, Clément Bouyssou, Clément Bouyssou, Guy Delamarche, Luàna Bajrami, Luàna Bajrami, Michèle Clément, Noémie Merlant, Noémie Merlant, Valeria Golino
Director: Céline Sciamma, Céline Sciamma
Rating: R
28.

Fifi Howls from Happiness (2014)

This incredible documentary is about the elusive Iranian artist Bahman Mohassess, whose work has the uniqueness of a Picasso or a Salvador Dalí.

But unlike his European counterparts, most of Mohassess’ work has been destroyed. Some in the aftermath of the Islamic Revolution in Iran but most, interestingly, by the artist himself.

After the revolution, he went into exile. For 40 years his whereabouts remained unknown — until an Iranian filmmaker based in Paris tracked him in a hotel in Rome.

Very early in the film, director Mitra Farahani points out that Mohassess died half an hour after one of their filming sessions.

The urgency of their conversations, the genius of Mohassess and his relationship to his art, and the uniqueness of the untold story of his life, all make this more than just another documentary. It’s a work of immeasurable historic value.

Our staff rating: 8.2/10
Genre: Documentary
Director: Mitra Farahani
Rating: Unrated
27.

Tropical Malady (2004)

A breathtaking and enigmatic masterpiece of Thai cinema, Tropical Maladyis a poetic and deeply philosophical exploration of human desire, spirituality, and the mysteries of nature. It follows the story of two men, a soldier and a farmer, who fall in love and embark on a journey deep into the heart of the jungle, where they encounter a shape-shifting spirit. The film's surreal and dreamlike imagery is mesmerizing, and the performances are outstanding, especially the nuanced and subtle portrayal of the two protagonists. This film is truly a stunning and unforgettable work of art that challenges our perceptions of love, identity, and reality.

Our staff rating: 8.2/10
Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Romance
Actor: Sakda Kaewbuadee
Director: Apichatpong Weerasethakul
26.

Margarita with a Straw (2014)

Margarita with a Straw is a bold and unflinching film that offers a sensitive and nuanced portrayal of disability, sexuality, and identity. The film follows the journey of a young woman with cerebral palsy as she navigates her way through life, love, and self-discovery. The film's honest portrayal of exploring sexuality, its rich and diverse cast of characters, and its raw and emotional story make it a deeply affecting watch. It's a triumph of representation and inclusivity, and a testament to the power of storytelling to challenge and change the way we see the world.

Our staff rating: 8.2/10
Genre: Drama
Actor: Doug Plaut, Hussain Dalal, Jacob Berger, Kalki Koechlin, Kuljeet Singh, Malhar Khushu, Revathi, Revathy, Sayani Gupta, Tenzing Dalha, William Moseley
Director: Nilesh Maniyar, Shonali Bose
Rating: Not Rated
25.

Aimée & Jaguar (1999)

Set in war-torn Berlin during World War II, this film explores the forbidden romance between a married mother of four and a Jewish woman working undercover for the resistance based on the real lives of Lilly Wust and Felice Schragenheim, as detailed in Erica Fischer's book of the same name. As expected, all of the frightening challenges of Jewish people, women, and queer folks are presented bluntly. But there are enough touching and humane moments of empathy that contrast the harsh realities of war. The performances by Maria Schrader and Juliane Köhler are simply remarkable, bringing depth and authenticity to their characters' intense connection and creating a poignant viewing experience. 

Our staff rating: 8.2/10
Genre: Drama, History, Romance
Actor: Dani Levy, Désirée Nick, Detlev Buck, Dorkas Kiefer, Elisabeth Degen, Heike Makatsch, Johanna Wokalek, Juliane Köhler, Maria Schrader, Rosel Zech, Ulrich Matthes
Director: Max Färberböck
24.

Disclosure (2020)

Disclosure is a patient and articulate study of the ways movies have physically conditioned us to respond to certain expressions of queerness with fear, disgust, or laughter. But it also serves as a reminder that trans bodies have been represented on screen for as long as movies have existed—making it all the more unacceptable that we still often only see reductive and harmful stereotypes of trans people over 100 years since the birth of cinema. However, Disclosure is far from a "takedown" designed to make viewers feel bad. At the end of it all this remains a celebration film's power to dignify perspectives we rarely get to see through, and it's one of the nerdiest and most passionate trips through film history you could hope to have.

Our staff rating: 8.3/10
Genre: Documentary
Actor: Ajita Wilson, Alexandra Billings, Alexandra Grey, Angelica Ross, Anne Heywood, Arsenio Hall, Barbra Streisand, Blanche Sweet, Brian Michael Smith, Caitlyn Jenner, Candis Cayne, Candy Darling, Carmen Carrera, Cathy Moriarty, Chaz Bono, Chloe Sevigny, Chris Sarandon, Crystal LaBeija, Dana Wynter, Daniela Sea, Daniela Vega, Divine, Dustin Hoffman, Eddie Redmayne, Elliot Fletcher, Eric Gurry, Flip Wilson, Gary Collins, Glenn Close, Hailie Sahar, Harry Langdon, Henry B. Walthall, Hilary Swank, Holly Woodlawn, Jackie Curtis, James Garner, Jamie Clayton, Janet McTeer, Jared Leto, Jaye Davidson, Jazzmun, Jean Harlow, Jeffrey Tambor, Jen Richards, Jim Carrey, Joan Rivers, John Gavin, John Lazar, John Lithgow, John Lone, Julie Andrews, Katie Couric, Kim Kardashian, Lady Chablis, Laverne Cox, Leo Sheng, Lesley Ann Warren, Lilly Wachowski, Mandy Patinkin, Marquise Vilson, Mary Badham, Matthew McConaughey, Mercedes Ruehl, Michael Blodgett, Michael D. Cohen, Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, Milton Berle, Oprah Winfrey, Peter Scolari, Phil Donahue, Raúl Juliá, Ray Charles, Robert Preston, Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle, Roscoe Arbuckle, Sandra Caldwell, Sean Young, Stephen Rea, Tom Hanks, Trace Lysette, Veronica Redd, Vivian Vance, Wendy Williams, William Hurt, Zackary Drucker
Director: Sam Feder
Rating: R
23.

Wojnarowicz (2021)

Even a straightforward documentary on the New York East Village visual artist David Wonjarowicz (pronounced VOY-nuh-ROH-vitch) would be thrilling, given the energy and the irreverence of his artworks especially during the AIDS epidemic from the 1980s to the 1990s. But director Chris McKim goes above and beyond, essentially imagining how Wojnarowicz would have directed his own film. McKim treats the movie like a collage in itself, expertly blending footage and sound together not just to capture the artist's fury, but to remember how deeply he loved, transcending space and sickness. As an account of the underground New York art scene at the time, a profile on a supposed enfant terrible, and a tribute to all those who lost their lives to a disease accelerated by discrimination, Wojnarowicz is a beautiful, complex tapestry.

Our staff rating: 8.3/10
Genre: Documentary
Actor: David Wojnarowicz, Fran Lebowitz, Nan Goldin
Director: Chris McKim
22.

Tangerine (2015)

What’s great about this highly inventive film is that it doesn’t look like it was shot through three iPhone 5s. Instead of using shaky cameras and static shots, Tangerine glides us through saturated, orange-toned scenes that evoke the Los Angeles sunset. Launching director Sean Baker into prominence, Tangerine is an innovative film that, at heart, is a nuanced comedy about the trans sex worker community. Newcomers Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor run the show, and their performances create a vivid, electric drive that powers the whole movie. But it’s the quieter moments, the moments after betrayal, the moments of recovery, that make this movie truly special.

Our staff rating: 8.3/10
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Actor: Ana Foxxx, Chris Bergoch, Clu Gulager, Graham Mackie, Ian Edwards, James Ransone, Jason Stuart, John Gulager, Josh Sussman, Karren Karagulian, Luiza Nersisyan, Mickey O'Hagen, Mya Taylor, Scott Krinsky, Shih-Ching Tsou
Director: Sean Baker
Rating: R
21.

Laurence Anyways (2012)

This is a gorgeous French-Canadian movie with out-of-this-world sound work.

Laurence is deeply in love with his girlfriend, Fred. On his birthday, he announces to her that he wants to restart his life as a woman, having always hated his male body. Fred doesn't know how to take the news: “everything I love about you is everything you hate about yourself”.

Laurence Anyways is about how their romance continues after this revelation. There are so many reasons to watch this movie: the story, the acting, the cinematography; but trust me, the soundtrack alone is reason enough.

Our staff rating: 8.4/10
Genre: Drama, Romance
Actor: Alexandre Goyette, Anne Dorval, Anne-Élisabeth Bossé, Antoine-Olivier Pilon, Bronwen Mantel, Catherine Bégin, David Savard, Denise Filiatrault, Emily Hampshire, Emmanuel Schwartz, Éric Bruneau, Jacob Tierney, Magalie Lepine Blondeau, Manuel Tadros, Melvil Poupaud, Monia Chokri, Monique Spaziani, Mylène Jampanoï, Nathalie Baye, Patrice Coquereau, Patricia Tulasne, Perrette Souplex, Sophie Faucher, Susan Almgren, Suzanne Clément, Vincent Davy, Violette Chauveau, Xavier Dolan, Yves Jacques
Director: Xavier Dolan
Rating: Not Rated

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