133 Best LGBTQ+ Stories to Watch (Page 6)

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.

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

Named after the Celtic concept of heaven, Summerland is a rare queer period drama that feels hopeful rather than despairing. The film takes us to the countryside in World War II, where our protagonist, the reclusive writer Alice Lamb (Gemma Arterton), studies the folklore about Summerland. We know that her isolation wasn’t fully chosen; her refusal to marry causes adults to gossip and causes children to speculate that she’s a witch. But this all changes when a young evacuee is entrusted to Alice’s care.

Gemma Arterton shines as a reluctant guardian stifled by repressed grief, and she makes Alice’s dynamic with Frank (Lucas Bond) and her former lover Vera (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) incredibly believable. And while it would have been lovely to see more of Vera, even just their first meeting easily captures that heady sense of pure enchantment with another person. It’s no wonder that Alice has to cling to folklore the same way we do. For many of us, it’s the only way we can express our hopes, fears, and dreams.

Genre: Drama, Romance, War

Actor: Amanda Lawrence, Amanda Root, Casper Allpress, Daniel Eghan, David Ajao, David Horovitch, Dixie Egerickx, Fergal McElherron, Gemma Arterton, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Jessica Gunning, Joshua Riley, Lucas Bond, Martina Laird, Nimmy March, Penelope Wilton, Rakhee Thakrar, Sally Scott, Siân Phillips, Thomas Coombes, Toby Osmond, Tom Courtenay

Director: Jessica Swale

Rating: N/A, PG

It’s always tricky translating literature to screen. In Shortcomings’ case, it struggles to make its Berkeley and New York settings appear more lived-in than just a few postcard-like frames. You could also tell that the conversations it stirs up about things like representation and mixed-race relationships began in the early aughts, when the novel it was adapted from was first released. But those lapses are small and forgivable in the face of a lovely ensemble cast and a whipsmart script. It also takes a special kind of skill to make a character as fiercely unlikeable as Ben (Min) watchable, to hold up a mirror to the audience and make them stay. Thankfully, it's a skill that Tomine and first-time director Randall Park display with such grace. Ben, Alice (Sherry Cola), and Miko (Ally Maki) are flawed and often pathetic, but they’re also honest reflections of who we become when the demands of self-preservation and romantic openness clash. It’s a little unnerving to hear them verbalize what we've always feared about ourselves, but it’s also exhilarating, not to mention comforting, knowing that we're not alone in feeling this way. Shortcomings works because it doesn't confine itself to genre: it's a character study first, and a romantic comedy second.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Adam Enright, Adrian Tomine, Ally Maki, Boran Anh, Debby Ryan, George Deihl Jr., Jacob Batalon, Jess Nahikian, Justin H. Min, Melanie J. Newby, Mike Cabellon, Nikhaar Kishnani, Randall Park, Ronny Chieng, Scott Seiss, Sheldon Best, Sherry Cola, Sonoya Mizuno, Stephanie Hsu, Tavi Gevinson, Theo Iyer, Timothy Simons

Director: Randall Park

Rating: R

Huesera: The Bone Woman might not be the scariest film horror fans would see, but it does strike at the heart of the scary experience of motherhood. Through eerie sounds of breaking bones and weirdly contorted hands at the edge of beds, the film depicts new mother Valeria being haunted by the titular spirit, despite her prayer to the Virgin Mary. Valeria pleads for her husband and family to listen, though each time she does becomes proof of her faults as a mother. The terror in newcomer Natalia Solián’s face makes it all feel believable, but it’s the folk-inspired imagery of first-time feature director Michelle Garza Cervera that turns this film into a feminist masterpiece.

Genre: Drama, Horror, Mystery

Actor: Aida López, Alfonso Dosal, Enoc Leaño, Martha Claudia Moreno, Mayra Batalla, Mercedes Hernández, Natalia Solián, Pablo Guisa Koestinger, Samantha Castillo, Sonia Couoh

Director: Michelle Garza Cervera

Rating: NR

, 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: Alexia Depicker, Alice de Broqueville, Angelo Tijssens, Arieh Worthalter, Chris Thys, Daniel Nicodème, Els Olaerts, Hélène Theunissen, Ingrid Heiderscheidt, Katelijne Damen, Lukas Dhont, Magali Elali, Naomi Velissariou, Nele Hardiman, Oliver Bodart, Pieter Piron, Rilke Eyckermans, Steve Driesen, Tijmen Govaerts, Valentijn Dhaenens, Victor Polster

Director: Chad Faust, Lukas Dhont

Rating: N/A, R

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: Ally Ni Chiarain, Anastasia Blake, Arian Nik, Art Campion, Barry Ward, Corey Millar, Emma Willis, Eva O'Connor, Evan O'Connor, Fionn O'Shea, Fionn O'Shea, Ian O'Reilly, Ian O'Reilly, Karl Rice, Lauryn Canny, Lola Petticrew, Peter Campion, Sharon Horgan, Shauna Higgins, Simone Kirby, Tara Flynn

Director: David Freyne

A sweet and wholesome tale of two boys falling in love against the backdrop of 90s homophobia and social issues. Jamie is a heavily bullied high schooler whose only sanctuary is his family's low-income apartment. His mom Sandra decides to also make that apartment a sanctuary for Ste, another highschooler suffering from an abusive father and older brother. They share Jamie's bed and their prospect of friendship quickly turns into something else.

Beautiful Thing is beautifully scripted and never too emotional. In fact, whenever the story moves towards the emotional, a funny scene is introduced to ease the tension. Many of these scenes feature Sandra's boyfriend, a well-spoken hippie by the name of Tony. Features heavy British accents, subtitles may be necessary!

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Andrew Fraser, Anna Karen, Ben Daniels, Beth Goddard, Davyd Harries, Garry Cooper, Glen Berry, Jeillo Edwards, John Benfield, John Savage, Jonathan Harvey, Julia-Lee Smith, Liane Ware, Linda Henry, Marlene Sidaway, Martin Walsh, Meera Syal, Scott Neal, Sophie Stanton, Tameka Empson, Terry Duggan

Director: Hettie Macdonald

Rating: R

Given that hookups are inherently quick and casual and impersonal, they are rarely portrayed in a romantic light. But Weekend flips the script on one-night stands by giving its two lovers enough time and space to explore how far their feelings can take them. While both Russell (Tom Cullen) and Glenn (Chris New) are gay, they have more differences than similarities with each other. Russell is reserved, awkward, and not entirely open, while Glenn is the exact opposite. 

This makes for intriguing conversations, which then makes for a smart, thought-proving watch. It’s talky but meaningful, and slow but assured. But most of all it’s romantic, and it’s sure to pull at your heartstrings the whole time. 

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Kieran Hardcastle, Tom Cullen

Director: Andrew Haigh

An eye-opening 1989 American documentary that boldly explores the experiences of Black gay men in America. Directed by Marlon Riggs, this film challenges societal norms and sheds light on the intersections of race, sexuality, and identity. Through a mix of personal testimonies, poetry, and distinctive visuals, Tongues Untied captures the struggles and resilience of its subjects, offering a raw and honest portrayal of their lives. Riggs' poetic approach and unflinching storytelling create an immersive experience that will leave a lasting impact. The film confronts issues of homophobia, racism, and social exclusion but also celebrates the strength and beauty of self-expression.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Actor: Eddie Murphy, Michael Bell, Willi Ninja

Director: Marlon Riggs

The Way He Looks revolves around Leonardo, a blind teenager, as he navigates the complexities of high school life and explores his budding feelings for Gabriel, a new classmate. The chemistry between the characters feels genuine, and the slow-burning romance between Leonardo and Gabriel unfolds with a sense of tenderness and vulnerability. Director Daniel Ribeiro crafted a comfortable watching experience and a true slice-of-life story that doesn't divulge more than this sliver of time in these teens' lives. Director Daniel Ribeiro's debut is a hopeful take on a queer, disabled romance that feels natural, sensitive, and refreshing.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Bárbara Pereira, Daniel Ribeiro, Eucir de Souza, Fábio Audi, Ghilherme Lobo, Guga Auricchio, Isabela Guasco, Júlio Machado, Lúcia Romano, Matheus Abreu, Naruna Costa, Pedro Carvalho, Selma Egrei, Tess Amorim, Tess Coelho, Victor Filgueiras

Director: Daniel Ribeiro

Rating: Not Rated

In Between is a beautiful and poignant film that offers a sensitive and nuanced exploration of the lives and experiences of three Palestinian women living in Tel Aviv. The film follows their struggles to reconcile their traditional and cultural identities with their desire for independence, freedom, and self-expression. The stunning visuals, evocative and emotional score, and brilliant performances of the cast combine to create a powerful and moving portrait of resilience, sisterhood, and hope. Profoundly human and deeply affecting, In Between offers a fresh and important perspective on the complex realities of life in Israel and Palestine.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Amir Khoury, Firas Nassar, Maisa Abd Elhadi, Mouna Hawa, Samar Qupty, Shaden Kanboura

Director: Maysaloun Hamoud

Howard Ashman was at the peak of his career—fresh off Little Mermaid’s sweeping win at the Grammys and Oscars, and concocting the iconic songs that would make up Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast—when he died of AIDS at 40. But even at that relatively young age, Ashman already had a lifetime’s worth of work to show. Howard, the documentary, gives us a glimpse into Howard’s inner and early life, starting with his fanciful and imaginative childhood, all the way down to his formative college years, his foundational work in “off, off” Broadway, and the breakout success of The Little Shop of Horrors the Musical. Disney isn’t the whole picture, the documentary rightfully proclaims, so in between the abovementioned highlights, director Don Hahn inserts pockets of heartwarming anecdotes from Howard’s friends and family, and some of Howard’s own wise words from interview snippets. It’s clear Hahn was a good friend of Ashman, since the documentary often feels like a warm get-together of the people who knew and loved Ashman best. 

Genre: Documentary, Music

Actor: Adam Jacobs, Alan Menken, Angela Lansbury, Anne Bobby, Annette O'Toole, Barbara McCutchan, Barry Peterson, Bill Boggs, Bill Lauch, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Brynn O'Malley, Charles B. Griffith, Chris Montan, Colleen Camp, Dan Rather, Dan Stevens, Danny Glover, David Friedman, David Geffen, Denise Nickerson, Dennis Green, Diane Sawyer, Divine, Don Hahn, Donald W. Ernst, Douglas Seale, Dudley Moore, Ellen Greene, Emma Watson, Estelle Bennett, Fats Waller, Frank Oz, Frederick Coffin, Gary Trousdale, Glen Keane, Howard Ashman, James Monroe Iglehart, Janis Menken, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Jerry Orbach, Joan Prather, Jodi Benson, John Herman Shaner, John Musker, Jonathan Hadary, Jonathan Haze, Karen Miller, Kirk Wise, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Kyle Renick, Larry Kramer, Leola Wendorff, Levi Stubbs, Maria O'Brien, Marvin Hamlisch, Maureen Abbott, Maury Yeston, Mel Welles, Melanie Griffith, Melinda Smith, Mena Massoud, Michelle Weeks, Mike Gabriel, Nancy Parent, Natalie Wood, Paige O'Hara, Pat Carroll, Paula Abdul, Peter Schneider, Phil Spector, Randy Cartwright, Richard Beymer, Richard White, Rick Moranis, Rob Minkoff, Roger Allers, Roger Ebert, Ron Clements, Ronnie Spector, Roy Edward Disney, Sarah Gillespie, Shirley Ashman, Steve Martin, Thomas Schumacher, Tichina Arnold, Tisha Campbell, Vincent Gardenia, Walt Disney, Will Smith

Director: Don Hahn

Great Freedom is not an easy watch. Apart from the quiet stretches of time and the claustrophobic confines of its prison setting, it also has its lead, Hans Hoffman (played with delicate force by Franz Rogowski) imprisoned again and again and again, unjustly treated like dirt by both his warden and fellow inmates.

But as a Jewish gay man who has lived through the war, Hans is no stranger to these trappings. As such, he takes each day as it comes, open to love, pleasure, and friendship, or at least the potential of these, despite the circumstances. And so Great Freedom is also hopeful and romantic, glimmering with the human tendency to not just survive but to live. Slow but compelling, subdued but powerful, Great Freedom is an affecting balancing act that's well worth watching. 

Genre: Crime, Drama, Romance, War

Actor: Andreas Patton, Anton von Lucke, Fabian Stumm, Franz Rogowski, Georg Friedrich, Thomas Prenn, Thomas Stecher

Director: Sebastian Meise

In this romantic drama, James Ivory adapts E.M. Forster's novel Maurice. Set in the early 20th century, Maurice Hall befriends Clive Durham while studying at Cambridge. Clive is rich, handsome, endlessly charming—and in love with Maurice. The two’s relationship blossoms quietly as they steal intimate moments in lush pastures and empty hallways. Fans of Call Me By Your Name will recognize some of the most tender and tense scenes, wherein Clive and Maurice lie together in the grass, surrounded only by weeds and flowers, as if they were the only two lovers left in the world. 

But their love story is stunted and complicated by notions of class and etiquette in an oppressive, conservative England. This is a coming-of-age story in which Maurice must ask himself not only who he is, but also who he wants to become, and how to live an earnest, honest life in the light.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Alan Foss, Arthur Whybrow, Barry Foster, Ben Kingsley, Billie Whitelaw, Breffni McKenna, Catherine Rabett, Christopher Hunter, Denholm Elliott, Harriet Thorpe, Helena Bonham Carter, Helena Michell, Hugh Grant, James Wilby, Jean-Marc Barr, John Elmes, Judy Parfitt, Julian Wadham, Kitty Aldridge, Maria Britneva, Mark Payton, Mark Tandy, Matthew Sim, Michael Jenn, Miles Richardson, Olwen Griffiths, Orlando Wells, Patrick Godfrey, Peter Eyre, Philip Fox, Phillada Sewell, Phoebe Nicholls, Richard Warner, Rupert Graves, Serena Gordon, Simon Callow

Director: James Ivory

Rating: R

This coming-of-age drama is set in a remote fishing village in Iceland. It follows a group of boys during a summer who catch a break from the harsh Icelandic nature. They spend a lot of time outdoors bonding together and discovering themselves.

One of the boys develops feelings for his best friend, Kristian, while Kristian chases a girl.

Watching the boys wrestle with their growth in this wasteland playground is amazing, but the shots of fjords, beautiful coastline, and living so in touch with nature, all of that almost steals the show.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Baldur Einarsson, Blær Hinriksson, Diljá Valsdóttir, Katla Njálsdóttir, Nanna Kristín Magnúsdóttir, Nína Dögg Filippusdóttir, Rán Ragnarsdóttir, Søren Malling, Sveinn Olafur Gunnarsson

Director: Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson

Rating: Unrated