The following movies have had an influential and lasting cultural impact on the world today, by sharing powerful narratives from within the LGBTQ community
Paris is Burning
Jennie Livingston’s documentary filmed in the early 1980s follows the underground ball culture of New York City that was a lifeline for many minority and LGBTQ communities at the time. Livingston spent seven years with the f ilm’s subjects; immersing herself in their Harlembased, drag ball culture where they spent night’s vogueing. One of the film’s most vulnerable characters, transsexual Venus Xtravaganza, who spends her time hustling to finance a sex change, aspires to be a rich, white girl yet is found murdered under a hotel bed before the film’s end. The documentary is inspiring, tragic and honestly revealing of a brutally suppressed community.
When the Ang Lee-directed controversial film, starring leading actors Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledgers in a simple love story between the cowboys set in 1960s Wyoming, hit theatres, it was initially hit by crass jokes and criticism. Yet it went on to win Oscars for Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Score, and the now-iconic film has gone on to have lasting cultural effect. The story spans 20 years and the two men leave a trail of deceived wives, bewildered parents and confused children as their complex relationship develops at a time where it was illegal and culturally unacceptable to be gay.
Written by Dustin Lance Black and directed by Gus Van Sant, Milk is a biographical film based on the life of inspiring gay rights activist and politician, Harvey Milk. The first openly gay person to be elected to public office in 1970s California, Sean Penn plays Milk as he celebrates his 40th birthday and then throughout the 1970s as he battles to be recognized in politics. The film ends (spoiler alert) with his tragic assassination in 1978, and was released two weeks before California’s voter referendum on gay marriage, Proposition 8. It went on two win two Oscars, including Best Picture, and gain eight nominations.
A Single Man
Tom Ford’s directorial debut, based on a novel of the same name by Christopher Isherwood, won critical acclaim not only because of the cast’s mind-blowing performances but also because of the film’s beautiful aesthetic (we’d expect nothing less from Mr Ford). Set in the early 1960s, the tragic story follows an English college professor George (played by Colin Frith) as he mourns the death of his partner Jim and goes through his day before aiming to commit suicide at the end. The film was applauded by the film circuit and garnered many awards nominations with Firth picking up Best Actor in a Leading Role in the same year.
Blue is the Warmest Color
One of the most intimate, graphic and realistic queer films to have hit the mainstream, this indie film catapulted lead ac tors Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux into stardom, and not just because of the film’s raunchy sex scenes. The raw and touching story follows two women as they form a deep emotional and physical relationship and went on to win the Palme d’Or at 2013 Cannes Film Festival and the FIPRESCI Prize the same year. Despite the movie’s long-lasting cultural significance, sadly director Abdellatif Kechiche was criticized for poor working conditions on set and both actors said would not ever work with Kechiche in the future.
Director Todd Hayes beautifully captures the tragedy of a forbidden affair between an aspiring female photographer and an older woman going through a difficult divorce. A moving love story between two women of different classes in 1950s New York, played by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, the film received a ten-minute standing ovation at its Cannes Film Festival international press screening and premiere, and was critically praised for its new artistic perspectives on sexuality and identity. With six nominations, the film failed to win an Oscar, yet in March 2016, the British Film Institute named Carol as the best LGBT film of all time.
Exploring the defining chapters of a young black man growing up in Miami, Moonlight is a groundingbreaking piece of cinema, not least because of it’s depiction of black gay men, a rare and relatively untouched narrative in Hollywood. The stor y fol lows protagonist Chiron, played by Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and then as an adult drug dealer by Tevante Rhodes, and explores the difficulties he, as a black man, faces with identify and sexuality. Directed by Barry Jenkins, the film won the Golden Globe and Academy Award for Best Picture in 2016 and is critically acclaimed for reflecting the complexities of modern America.
Call Me by Your Name
This coming-of-age drama set in 1983 propelled it’s young star, a then-unknown Timothee Chalamet, to the front row of every fashion week show. The film follows 17-year-old Elio (Chalamet) and the complexities of young love, longing and all-consuming desire as he falls for his father’s 24-year-old graduate student, Oliver (played by Armie Hammer) over a hot, steamy summer in northen Italy. Directed by Luca Guadagnino, the film gained four Oscar nominations with Chalamet becoming the youngest Best Actor nominee since 1939, as well as a ten-minute standing ovation at the New York Film Festival – a record for the festival.
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