20 Best Queer Films of 2023

20 Best Queer Films of 2023

March 8, 2024

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It’s 2023, and representation has never been more diverse and abundant in cinema. This year alone, we’ve seen tropes be subverted (as in Cassandro, the story of the first out wrestler) and genres reimagined (as in the lesbian horror film Bad Things). The fluidity of love is examined painfully in Ira Sachs’ Passages, while longing has never felt more tender in the much-celebrated All of Us Strangers. And more optimistically, comedies like Bottoms and Red, White & Royal Blue offer a light-hearted take on the unique LGBTQ+ experience. This is all to say that we’re spoiled for choice, so in this list, we try to narrow down your options to only the best the year has to offer so far. Below is a hopefully helpful guide on the very best queer films of 2023 and where you can stream them right now. 

1. Monster (2023)

best

9.4

Country

Japan

Director

Hirokazu Kore-eda

Actors

Akihiro Kakuta, Ayu Kitaura, Daisuke Kuroda, Eita Nagayama

Moods

Character-driven, Dramatic, Emotional

Monster is a deceptively simple story about growing up and the many misunderstandings that come with it. It’s told through different points of view, a technique that could easily feel gimmicky in the hands of a lesser director. But with director Hirokazu Kore-eda at the helm, it feels natural and inevitable, as if there was no other way to tell this specific story. It’s a masterful mystery, but Monster is less about suspense and answering the whodunnit question than it is about navigating the murky waters of truth and real life. As corny as it sounds, watching Monster is an experience unto itself: you’ll find yourself believing something one moment and dismantling it the next, learning and unlearning in a span of two hours. But as with past Kore-eda films, it’s the story’s heartwarming sensitivity that trumps everything. You’ll likely come for the mystery but stay for its heart.

2. All of Us Strangers (2023)

best

8.8

Country

United Kingdom, United States of America

Director

Andrew Haigh

Actors

Ami Tredrea, Andrew Scott, Carter John Grout, Claire Foy

Moods

Dramatic, Emotional, Lovely

As in his previous films, Director Andrew Haigh explores the delicate nature of loneliness, grief, and love in All of Us Strangers, except this time he does so through a supernatural lens. The result is mesmerizing: amid the tenderness the film draws from its characters, there’s a swirl of mystery too: how is it possible that Adam is conversing with his dead parents? Who, exactly, is Harry? The intrigue is there, and Haigh builds to a satisfying climax that answers all these questions. The mystery also lends the film an ethereal style that makes it visually resemble a horror or thriller more than it does a romance or drama. But as superb as it looks and as compelling as the ambiguity is, they never distract from the film’s central goal, which is to bring us into the complex emotional journey Adam goes through as he simultaneously develops a relationship with Harry and parses his childhood trauma with his parents. It’s a hefty film, filled with big emotional moments that will have you crying, smiling, longing, and healing all at the same time. And like any good film, it will haunt you for days on end.

3. The Stroll (2023)

best

8.5

Country

United States of America

Director

Female director, Kristen Parker Lovell

Actors

Laverne Cox, Michael Bloomberg, Rudolph Giuliani, RuPaul

Moods

Discussion-sparking, Inspiring, Thought-provoking

At one point in the documentary, director Kristen Lovell says, “I wanted to archive the movement that was building between transwomen and sex workers,” and that’s exactly what she achieves with The Stroll, a well-researched, creatively edited, and deeply moving account of the trans-sex-work experience that defined New York for a good chunk of the 20th century. It’s both historical and personal, touching and rousing, as it recounts a history that’s often been forgotten even among the LGBTQ+ community. To do this, Lovell digs up archival footage, brings to life long-buried data, and strikes up heartfelt conversations with survivors of The Stroll, that street in New York where Lovell and her fellow homeless escorts used to pick customers up. Thanks to Lovell’s hard work in telling this extraordinary story of struggle and success, there isn’t a moment in this film where you’re not shocked, frustrated, or exhilarated along with them.

4. Taylor Mac’s 24-Decade History of Popular Music (2023)

best

8.5

Country

United States of America

Director

Jeffrey Friedman, Rob Epstein

Actors

Anastasia Durasova, Heather Christian, Machine Dazzle Flower, Matt Ray

Moods

Instructive, Mind-blowing, Smart

A 100-minute highlight reel of the audacious 24-hour performance staged by artist Taylor Mac in 2016, this concert film succeeds not only in capturing the show’s eclectic mix of songs, drag costumes, and interactive audience segments, but in capturing the emotional atmosphere conjured up in that Brooklyn warehouse. The very premise of the performance is ripe for analysis: a history of America starting from 1776, progressing one decade every hour, represented by selections of popular music of the time—which Mac questions at every turn, reinterpreting and reclaiming them for a contemporary queer audience. It begins as a creatively educational exercise, but gradually becomes more and more personal, until the audience is fully involved in the performances themselves.

Even the 24-hour format transcends its gimmick. That the show becomes an endurance test is deliberate, with bonds forming in real time and the exhaustion of this ever-changing drag performance conveying the weight of all this history on the most vulnerable and misrepresented sectors—who’ve already endured continuous losses decade after decade. And still there is cause for celebration, and genuine warmth among the people slowly becoming more vulnerable with each other over 24 hours. It’s a beautiful, intelligent, frequently funny, and ultimately moving experience in a class all its own.

5. Saltburn (2023)

best

8.5

Country

United Kingdom, United States of America

Director

Emerald Fennell, Female director

Actors

Alison Oliver, Andy Brady, Archie Madekwe, Barry Keoghan

Moods

Character-driven, Gripping, Original

Oscar-winner Emerald Fennell got a lot of free reign with her debut, Promising Young Woman, which was a slightly modest ordeal even with a lead of Carrey Mulligan’s calibre. But now, with her sophomore film, she go to have some fun. Assembling a devout cast of particularly skilled actors—Barry Keoghan, Jacob Elordi, Rosamund Pike, and Mulligan again—seems like an obvious decision, but the mix of them all is unlike anything we’ve seen before. A class satire, a psychological thriller, and a psychosexual drama, Saltburn is high class entertainment, with a snappy script, and many tricks up its sleeve. Brace yourselves for some bath-action, grave-action, and full-moon-menstrual-action and many other scenes you may have not ever pictured shown on the screen. Actually, it’s impossible to prepare for a film like this one, but being open certainly helps digest the shock and provocations that are there for you to behold.

6. Mutt (2023)

best

8.3

Country

United States of America

Director

Vuk Lungulov-Klotz

Actors

Alejandro Goic, Cole Doman, Jari Jones, Jasai Chase-Owens

Moods

Character-driven, Discussion-sparking, Emotional

Just based off its title, Mutt is already a film that tackles a state of in-between, and perhaps what makes it already precious is how honest and personal it can get, while remaining a good fictional story. This striking debut took Chilean-Serbian filmmaker Vuk Lungulov-Klotz more than six years to make, at least from the initial stages of the script as he was working through his own transition, how that felt and how he dealt with it in life and art. That said, Mutt is a film that stands on its own feet, without the need for any such context: the script, the performances, the frantic pacing of it, they are all top-level stuff. A generous, open film that has its trans protagonist be who they are, whatever that may be, and gives as much insight as it allows for curiosity and empathy. If Mutt is educational in any way, it is through it’s apt storytelling and truthfulness that bleeds through the screen; its significance for trans cinema cannot be overstated, but it is also once of the most accomplished debuts of 2023.

7. Perpetrator (2023)

best

8.1

Country

France, United States of America

Director

Female director, Jennifer Reeder

Actors

Alicia Silverstone, Casimere Jollette, ​Christopher Lowell, Ireon Roach

Moods

Dark, Intense, Suspenseful

There’s a degree of removal in Perpetrator which some viewers may find jarring: most visibly, in the performances, whose heightened sensitivity can seem unlikely for a horror film. That said, director Jennifer Reeder’s main conceit here is to entertain and make you think, and she doesn’t want you to get too comfortable. In the central concept of “Forevering,” a family curse spell that Jonny goes through, Reeder vests her character with metamorphic potential, and with that, ignites hope for a future that is better for women and for horror cinema as a whole. But the film is not overly intellectual. It’s rather intuitive in its world-building and celebrates horror’s final girl trope in a well-deserved way. A little gore, some slasher tropes, LGBTQ+ themes, and strong central characters make it a perfect pre-Halloween treat.

8. Of an Age (2022)

best

8.0

Country

Australia

Director

Goran Stolevski

Actors

Elias Anton, Grace Graznak, Hattie Hook, Jack Kenny

Moods

Character-driven, Dramatic, Emotional

It’s difficult not to compare Of an Age to other beautifully shot and tenderly told queer love stories like Call Me By Your Name and Weekend. Like them, Of an Age gives its young lovers ample time and space for their relationship to blossom over a short while. And like them still, it’s made of intimate moments that will haunt the lovers long after their first meet, crystallized as they are with affection, longing, and the knowledge that they might not feel as deeply about anyone ever again.

But if Call Me By Your Name is awash with Italy’s grandeur and Weekend is snugged in Britain’s cold embrace, then Of an Age is distinctly Australian, all humid suburbia and sunbaked roads. The film hones in on emotional and cultural specifics alike, and by doing so, it successfully captures the immaculate and unforgettable heartache of first love.

 

9. The Blue Caftan (2022)

best

8.0

Country

Belgium, Denmark, France

Director

Female director, Maryam Touzani

Actors

Lubna Azabal, Saleh Bakri, Zakaria Atifi

Moods

Dramatic, Romantic, Touching

Set in one of Morocco’s oldest medinas, Blue Caftan is a tender portrayal of pure love and the different forms it takes. It follows traditional tailor Halim (Saleh Bakri) and his wife Mina (Lubna Azabal) who, despite their imperfect marriage, prove their affection in small but moving ways. He peels tangerines for her and washes her hair, she preps his meals and defends his craft from demanding customers. When a third person, Youssef (Ayoub Missioui), enters the picture, even more manifestations of passion (and the lack and longing and excess of it) emerge. 

It’s a dramatic film, but never overly so. Like the silky fabric Halim handles with expert care, it’s rich but soft, detailed but delicate. In the face of poverty, sickness, and discrimination, the film mines moments of joy, friendship, and pleasure, subverting the expectation that tragic circumstances must mean tragic outcomes. 

Blue Caftan, even in its saddest moments—and there are plenty—is a film full of love, made even more memorable by the deft performances and palpable chemistry of its three leads.

10. Kokomo City (2023)

7.8

Country

United States of America

Director

D. Smith, Female director

Actors

Daniella Carter, Dominique Silver, Koko Da Doll, Liyah Mitchell

Moods

Discussion-sparking, Instructive, Quirky

The idea of representation in movies is often limited to superficial gestures of putting on screen people who look a certain way. Kokomo City is a reminder of cinema’s possibilities when one really tries to queer filmmaking itself, with genuine queer voices driving a production. This documentary is messy and incredibly playful in its style—in ways that might read to some as lacking cohesiveness, or as tonally inconsistent. But the way director D. Smith is able to capture the dynamic energy of a series of conversations makes these powerful, funny, tragic anecdotes and dialogues feel truly grounded in people’s everyday experiences, and makes the plea for protection of trans lives all the more urgent.

Throughout Kokomo City, this collection of individuals goes off on various tangents that never become difficult to follow. They speak about the nature of sex work, hidden desires felt by traditionally masculine male clients, and various degrees of acceptance within the Black community. And between these statements alternating from impassioned to emotional to humorously candid, Smith injects cheeky cutaway footage, layers text on screen, and plays an eclectic rotation of music throughout. It’s about as real and as three-dimensional as these trans lives have ever been shown on screen.

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