30 Best LGBTQ+ Stories in Film

Updated January 3, 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.

Girl (2019)

Girl won four awards at the Cannes Film Festival last year and was nominated to 9 Magritte Awards. It was also Belgium’s entry to the Oscar for best foreign-language film. When a dance school accepts her, Lara has the opportunity to realize her dream and become a professional ballerina. The dancing takes a toll on her body, but her biggest obstacle is that she was born into the body of a boy. Girl illustrates the trans teenage experience with sensitivity, slowly and humanly making Lara’s anguish become the viewer’s. Based on a true story.

Genre: Drama
Actor: Alice de Broqueville, Angelo Tijssens, Arieh Worthalter, Chris Thys, Els Olaerts, Katelijne Damen, Lukas Dhont, Magali Elali, Nele Hardiman, Oliver Bodart, Steve Driesen, Tijmen Govaerts, Valentijn Dhaenens, Victor Polster
Director: Chad Faust, Lukas Dhont
Rating: N/A, R
29.

Dating Amber (2020)

This lovely comedy-romance from Ireland is about a closeted gay teen and his lesbian schoolmate who pretend to be in a relationship to avoid being bullied at their school.

This premise makes Dating Amber an original story in a genre in which that's increasingly rare. This is added to the setting, in 1995 rural Ireland, which is executed to gorgeous perfection in everything from the clothes to the music. 

Dating Amber ends up being more coming-of-age than a comedy-romance. It's a tale of friendship and self-acceptance.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Actor: Anastasia Blake, Barry Ward, Eva O'Connor, Fionn O'Shea, Ian O'Reilly, Ian O'Reilly, Lauryn Canny, Lola Petticrew, Peter Campion, Sharon Horgan, Simone Kirby
Director: David Freyne
28.

Carol (2015)

Watching Carol is like reading a really interesting book while relaxing on a Sunday afternoon. It is one of those movies that you probably heard about during its Oscar run, and have since delayed actually viewing it. Well now that it is on Netflix and other streaming services you have no excuse! It’s refreshingly unique, incredibly charming, and features a kind of story that hasn’t been told very often – a love story between two women. Both characters played by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara attempt to live true to their own principles while facing unjust yet severe backlash from society. If you are open to it, the love story in this will stay with you forever.

Genre: Drama, Romance
Actor: Anita Farmer Bergman, Carrie Brownstein, Cate Blanchett, Cory Michael Smith, Giedre Bond, Greg Violand, Jake Lacy, John Magaro, Ken Strunk, Kevin Crowley, Kk Heim, Kyle Chandler, Nik Pajic, Rooney Mara, Sadie Heim, Sarah Paulson, Todd Haynes
Director: Todd Haynes
Rating: R
27.

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".

Genre: Drama
Actor: Alejandro Goic, Aline Kuppenheim, Amparo Noguera, Antonia Zegers, Daniela Vega, Francisco González Hermosilla, Francisco Reyes, Luis Gnecco, Marcial Tagle, Nestor Cantillana, Nicolas Saavedra, Pablo Cerda, Paola Lattus, Sergio Hernández
Director: Sebastián Lelio
Rating: 15, R
26.

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. 

Genre: Drama
Actor: Ísold Uggadóttir, Babetida Sadjo, Bragi Arnason, Kristín Þóra Haraldsdóttir, Patrik Nökkvi Pétursson, Patrik Nökkvi Pétursson, Sveinn Geirsson, Þorsteinn Bachmann
Director: Isold Uggadottir
Rating: TV-14
25.

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. 

Genre: Drama
Actor: Carson MacCormac, Cory Lee, Darren Mann, 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
24.

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.

Genre: Drama, Mystery
Actor: Bill Sage, Billy Drago, Brady Corbet, Chase Ellison, Chris Mulkey, David Lee Smith, Elisabeth Shue, Jeffrey Licon, Joan Blair, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Kelly Kruger, Larry Marko, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Michelle Trachtenberg, Richard Riehle, Zane Huett
Director: Gregg Araki
Rating: NC-17
23.

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.

 

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Actor: David Rakoff, Guinevere Turner, Sarah Schulman
Director: Cheryl Dunye
22.

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. 

Genre: Drama
Actor: Denis Lavant, Grégoire Colin, Michel Subor, Nicolas Duvauchelle
Director: Claire Denis
Rating: Unrated
21.

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.

Genre: Drama
Actor: Britt Rentschler, Burgess Jenkins, Cole Doman, Colton Ryan, 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

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