200 BEST LGBTQ+ MOVIES OF ALL TIME
It’s been a big few years for LGBTQ films. In 2016, Carol earned six Oscar nominations, and just a year later, for the first time in history, Moonlight became the first LGBTQ+-themed movie to win Best Picture. At the 2019 Oscars, Olivia Colman was named Best Actress for playing the lesbian queen Anne in The Favourite, beating out Can You Ever Forgive Me?‘s Melissa McCarthy, who played lesbian writer Lee Israel. In 2020, Pedro Almadóvar’s Pain and Glory would make a dent on the awards circuit, as would Celine Sciamma’s romance Portrait Of A Lady On Fire, one of the best-reviewed movies of recent years. Meanwhile, Love, Simon made history in 2018 as the first mainstream, wide-release teenage rom-com to focus on a gay character (a spin-off TV series, Love, Victor, enters its second season on Hulu this year). And it wasn’t the last: A lesbian romance lies at the center of critically acclaimed high school flick, Booksmart, as well as last year’s Christmas rom-com, The Happiest Season. Meanwhile comedy Midas Judd Apatow is currently producing a gay rom-com starring Billy on the Street’s Billy Eichner, which will hit theaters in Summer 2022.
- Watch: Cinematographer James Laxton breaks down the swimming lesson from Moonlight
- Read: Critic Ian Thomas Malone on seminal trans film A Fantastic Woman
- Read: Critic Manuel Betancourt on seminal LGBTQ+ comedy The Birdcage
- Read: Critic Valerie Complex on Pariah, and how it changed her life
All of these films stand on the shoulders of other LGBTQ+ films that have come before. Our list of the 200 Best LGBTQ+ Movies of All Time stretches back 90 years to the pioneering German film, Mädchen in Uniform, which was subsequently banned by the Nazis, and crosses multiple continents, cultures, and genres. There are broad American comedies (The Birdcage), artful Korean crime dramas (The Handmaiden), groundbreaking indies (Tangerine), and landmark documentaries (Paris Is Burning). In our latest thorough update to the list, we added titles like the documentary Welcome to Chechnya, about LGBTQ+ activists risking their lives for the cause in Russia; Certified Fresh comedy Shiva, Baby; and Netflix’s The Old Guard, a rare movie about super beings that showed a same-sex relationship between two of its heroes.
When revising this list in further recent updates, we’ve also looked to include more stories from outside of the U.S., and we’re excited for people to discover films like Taboo (Gohatto), a gay love story set during the waning years of the samurai era; The Wound (Inxeba), centered around three men during a tribal initiation ceremony in Africa; and Australian film 52 Tuesdays, about the relationship between a daughter and her mother who is undergoing a gender transition.
To be considered for the list, a movie had to prominently feature gay, lesbian, trans, or queer characters; concern itself centrally with LGBTQ+ themes; present its LGBTQ+ characters in a fair and realistic light; and/or be seen as a touchpoint in the evolution of queer cinema. And it had to be Fresh. The final list was culled from a longlist of hundreds, after which the films were ranked according to the Adjusted Tomatometer, which acts as a kind of inflation adjustment, taking into consideration the Tomatometer score, as well as the number of reviews a film received relative to the average number of reviews for films released that same year. We did not include miniseries, leaving out seminal works like Angels in America, nor movies made for TV. (Movies released on streaming services, such as new addition Mucho Mucho Amor, were included.) And we recognize that some of the films in the list will re-ignite healthy debates that have been fixtures of discussion around LGBTQ+ films — straight actors playing gay characters, cis actors playing trans characters, and the historical dominance of white male perspectives. We’d encourage those debates to continue, respectfully, in the comments section below. (And speaking of comments: yes, we know that But I’m a Cheerleader is missing — we love it too! — but it’s Rotten.)
For now, join us as we celebrate the work of hundreds of filmmakers whose talents and risks have opened up the possibilities of cinema.