131 Best LGBTQ+ Stories to Watch (Page 5)

Staff & contributors

This section includes movies where at least one of the main characters doesn’t identify as heterosexual or cisgender. Our goal is to showcase movies on popular streaming services that portray the lives and experiences of LGBTQ+ communities across the world. These experiences are an integral part of human history but only recently are starting to be told in mainstream film.

, 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: Amy Warner, Anita Farmer Bergman, Annie Kalahurka, Carrie Brownstein, Cate Blanchett, Chelsea Carnder, Christine Dye, Cory Michael Smith, Deb G. Girdler, Douglas Scott Sorenson, Giedre Bond, Greg Violand, Jake Lacy, John Magaro, Ken Strunk, Kevin Crowley, Kk Heim, Kyle Chandler, Michael Haney, Michael Joseph Thomas Ward, Mike Dennis, Nik Pajic, Rooney Mara, Ryan Wesley Gilreath, Sadie Heim, Sarah Paulson, Tanya Smith, Taylor Marie Frey, Todd Haynes, William Cross

Director: Todd Haynes

Rating: R

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.

Genre: Drama, History, Romance

Actor: David Schachter, Geoff Edholm, Tracy Vivat

Director: Arthur J. Bressan Jr.

Rating: Not Rated

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, Gunnar Jonsson, Kristín Þóra Haraldsdóttir, Patrik Nökkvi Pétursson, Patrik Nökkvi Pétursson, Sólveig Guðmundsdóttir, Sveinn Geirsson, Þorsteinn Bachmann

Director: Isold Uggadottir

Rating: TV-14

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, Bárbara Mundt, Cristián Chaparro, Daniela Vega, Eduardo Paxeco, Erto Pantoja, Fabiola Zamora, Francisco González Hermosilla, Francisco Reyes, José Antonio Raffo, Loreto Leonvendagar, Luis Gnecco, Marcial Tagle, Moisés Angulo, Nestor Cantillana, Nicolas Saavedra, Pablo Cerda, Pablo Greene, Paola Lattus, Paulina Hunt, Roberto Farías, Sergio Hernández, Trinidad González

Director: Sebastián Lelio

Rating: 15, R

Your Name Engraved Herein is a melancholy and emotional film set in 1987 just as martial law ends in Taiwan. The film explores the relationship between Jia-han and Birdy, two boys in a Catholic school who are in a romantic relationship. The movie tackles homophobia and social stigma in society which evokes a bleak and rather depressing atmosphere, emphasised by the movie's earthy aesthetic. There is a rawness in the film’s narrative and dialogue, topped off by the lead actors’ successfully raw performances. Your Name Engraved Herein is tender as well as heartbreaking, occasionally depicting the joy of youth.

Genre: Drama, History, Romance

Actor: Barry Qu, Cheng-Yang Wu, Chih-ju Lin, David Chiu, Edward Chen, Erek Lin, Fabio Grangeon, Honduras, Hui-Min Lin, Jason Wang, Jing-Hua Tseng, Leon Dai, Lin Chih-ju, Lotus Wang, Lung Shao-Hua, Ma Nien-Hsien, Mimi Shao, Siu Wa Lung, Soda Voyu, Stone Yang, Tseng Ching-hua, Waa Wei, Wang Shih Sian, Yi-Ruei Chen

Director: Kuang-Hui Liu, Liu Kuang-hui

Rating: N/A

, 2023

For a short while in the ‘80s, the pop scene benefited from the sheer musical joy created by George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley, known together as Wham! With confectionary hits like “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” and “Last Christmas,” the  British duo sang about the escapism that a generation desperately sought out. Their songs were dismissed by pundits as shallow (“How can the country be in love with these two idiots?”), but as young people flocked to their concerts in droves, it was clear that Wham! struck a chord with the worn-out youth. 

They were no Beatles or Bowie, not heavyweight enough to make a lasting impression in our collective pop culture memory, but theirs is a story rich with meaningful lessons. Wham!, the film, is as much about the personal lives of the duo as it is about the difficulty of making it as independent artists; about the saving grace of music; and about the importance of authenticity. 

Genre: Documentary, Music

Actor: Andrew Ridgeley, Aretha Franklin, Bono, Boy George, David Bowie, Elton John, Freddie Mercury, George Michael, Helen DeMacque, Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, Sting, Terry Wogan

Director: Chris Smith

Rating: NR

, 2015

Shrooms director Paddy Breathnach has als dipped his toes in romcoms and thrillers, but this queer Bogota-set drama has a lot of tenderness in its heart. Micro-budget and full of life as the name suggests, Viva is an inspiring story that centers around Jesus (Héctor Medina) and his own individuation. A hairdresser with the talent of a drag performer, he assumes the role of Viva in the weekend cabaret. As warm and open as his father is detached and somber, Jesus is a likeable protagonist with the vulnerability and dedication to follow his dream, that no wonder the film made the Oscar shortlist in 2016.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Héctor Medina, Jorge Perugorría, Laura Aleman, Luis Alberto García, Luis Manuel Alvarez, Mark O'Halloran, Renata Maikel Machin Blanco

Director: Paddy Breathnach

Two elderly gay men, Pak and Hoi, start a secret relationship during their twilight years. The catch: Pak is married and both are, well, old. Beneath their shared moments of tenderness, there is an undercurrent that the romance is ultimately futile, their remaining years too short to start life anew. Yet at the same time, director Ray Yeung uses the protagonists’ old age as justification for their love affair. Having dedicated their entire lives to their families and loved ones, romance is presented as a rewarding experience indicative of queer freedom, no matter how ill-fated or short-lived it might be.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Ben Yuen, Ben Yuen Foo-Wa, Ben Yuen Foo-Wah, Kong To, Lam Yiu-Sing, Tai Bo

Director: Ray Yeung

Based on the real-life experience of director Elegance Bratton, who was himself a Black gay marine soldier during the “don’t ask, don’t tell” period in the US, The Inspection documents the behind-the-scenes cruelty that goes on in training the armed forces. Specifically, it inspects how institutions like the marines are hardwired to promote a certain kind of masculinity and how people like Bratton, perennially in the margins, respond, react, and fight back. 

It’s moving and artful but also lighthearted and humorous, finding light even in the darkest corners. It’s self-contradictory that way, but the film is all the better and nuanced for it. Gabriel Union’s performance is also worth noting here; in a career-defining turn, she transforms into a character at once so hateful and loving, you’ll be hard-pressed not to give her your full attention onscreen.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Aaron Dominguez, Andrew Kai, Aubrey Joseph, Becky Boxer, Bokeem Woodbine, Daniel Williamson, Eman Esfandi, Gabrielle Union, Jeremy Pope, McCaul Lombardi, Nicholas Logan, Raúl Castillo, Steve Mokate, Tyler Merritt, Wynn Reichert

Director: Elegance Bratton

Rating: R

It may seem like it’s targeted at a specific demographic, but Spoiler Alert is actually a universal tale about love, grief, and moving on. Jim Parsons affectingly plays Michael, a romantic and TV aficionado who has trouble separating fact from fiction. He views life as one big sitcom, but his cheery outlook is increasingly challenged by the tragedies he encounters, not least of which is the surprise diagnosis of his boyfriend Kit (Ben Aldridge). 

Spoiler Alert is very sweet, perhaps too sweet for some viewers, but if you enjoy the unabashed schmaltz of romantic dramas, then this comes highly recommended. Of course, for that extra fluff, Spoiler Alert is mostly set during the holidays, so it’s best to watch while cozying up with a loved one—just make sure you have spare tissues on-hand for those tearjerking moments.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Antoni Porowski, Ben Aldridge, Bill Irwin, Christine Renee Miller, Jeffery Self, Jim Parsons, Josh Pais, Nikki M. James, Paco Lozano, Sally Field, Scott Burik, Shunori Ramanathan, Supriya Ganesh, Tara Summers, Winslow Bright

Director: Michael Showalter

A great example of frank, emotionally honest filmmaking with three totally vulnerable lead performances, Passages takes a subject that can so easily be reduced into clichés—infidelity—and approaches it with a genuine sense of melancholy. It can still be frustrating to watch fully developed adults refuse to communicate more clearly about their feelings, but director and co-writer Ira Sachs also understands the nuanced gender dynamic that informs some of these bad decisions. Tomas understands that his commitment to Martin may not give him the "easy" satisfaction of a traditional romance, but there is also a sense that his attraction to Agathe (supposedly the first time he's truly fallen for a woman) might be more of an impulsive attempt to settle for something safer, something that he has more control over.

Ben Whishaw is reliably sympathetic as Martin, and Adèle Exarchopoulos carries herself with the unembellished authenticity that many of the best French actors do. And Franz Rogowski makes Tomas both entirely pathetic and still so very heartbreaking in the predicament he's put himself into. There are no cheap histrionics or outbursts of emotion here—just performers living fully within each moment and selling us on the situation they're in.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Adèle Exarchopoulos, Arcadi Radeff, Ben Whishaw, Caroline Chaniolleau, Erwan Kepoa Falé, Franz Rogowski, Olivier Rabourdin, Radostina Rogliano, Théo Cholbi, William Nadylam

Director: Ira Sachs

Rating: NR

, 2023

After winning Oscars for their documentary work, filmmakers Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin make their narrative feature debut with Nyad. The move to narrative fiction isn’t a monumental jump for the director duo, whose cinematic documentaries (among them Free Solo and The Rescue) play like nerve-shredding action thrillers and intense human dramas. Nor does Nyad’s subject — another extreme feat of human daring and endurance — make this feel a million miles away from their most famous works.

The most obvious departures from the directors’ documentary strengths — Nyad’s flashbacks and hallucination scenes, for example — do sometimes highlight their newness to narrative filmmaking, however. These scenes feel shallow and therefore disconnected from the movie’s otherwise deeper treatment of its subject, just as the performances dip into outsized cliches at times. Mostly, though, Nyad manages to float above the trap of trying too hard to be an inspirational sports drama thanks to its confrontation of Diana’s prickly personality. This flips the film’s perspective onto that of Diana’s team (including her coach and former girlfriend, played by Jodie Foster), who ultimately suffer the consequences of her stubbornness. That refusal to submit to hagiographic impulses gives the film a documentary-like edge of truth, making the rousing moments here feel genuinely earned.

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Anna Harriette Pittman, Annette Bening, Carolyn McCormick, Eric T. Miller, Erica Cho, Ethan Jones Romero, Garland Scott, Jeena Yi, Jodie Foster, Johnny Solo, Karly Rothenberg, Katherine Klosterman, Luke Cosgrove, Marcus Young, Melissa R. Stubbs, Nadia Lorencz, Rhys Ifans, Stephen Schnetzer, Tisola Logan

Director: Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin

Rating: PG-13

It would be understandable if it only occurs to you midway through that Little Girl isn't actually a narrative feature but a gorgeously made documentary. Director Sébastien Lifshitz approaches his main character of Sasha not just with respect and empathy for her identity, but with a dedication to bring out the euphoria of feeling comfortable in one's skin. As a result, Lifshitz seems to intentionally avoid any and all scenes where Sasha may face discrimination (especially at school), but even if this choice occasionally make the material feel thin, getting to see Sasha gradually learning to express herself more—or even just just seeing her enjoy a quiet moment on her own—is more precious than anything.

Genre: Documentary

Director: Sébastien Lifshitz

Led by Rosy McEwen's commanding performance brimming with fear and self-loathing, Blue Jean pours all of the anguish and defiance felt by the LGBTQ+ community under Margaret Thatcher's administration into a single character. Writer-director Georgia Oakley keeps her plot light, but through conversations with other beautifully portrayed queer women (especially those played by Kerrie Hayes and Lucy Halliday), she piles on one conflicted emotion after another about what this lesbian woman's responsibility is toward herself and her community when they find themselves threatened. But even as the film takes a definite stance, it validates every response as authentic—borne out of a need to protect the people whom one loves.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Amy Booth-Steel, Aoife Kennan, Deka Walmsley, Edmund Wiseman, Farrah Cave, Kerrie Hayes, Lainey Shaw, Lucy Halliday, Lydia Page, Rosy McEwen, Stacy Abalogun

Director: Georgia Oakley

Featuring real, in-the-moment footage of operations to rescue young queer individuals from the continuing anti-gay purges in the Chechen Republic, Welcome to Chechnya makes for a demanding but essential call to action. There's a genuine sense of fear that pervades the documentary, not just for those being rescued after being forcibly outed, beaten, and trapped by the people around them, but for the filmmakers themselves, whose operations are built on meager resources and desperate, spur-of-the-moment decisions. It's a remarkably courageous film—one that also presents new ways of keeping sensitive subjects safe through the thoughtful use of deepfake technology, keeping their identities hidden while allowing them to freely express themselves.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Vladimir Putin, Zelim Bakaev

Director: David France