The following movies have had a cultural, influential and lasting impact on the world today as they share powerful narratives that come from the LGBTQ community.

Paris is Burning – 1990

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 film’s subjects; immersing herself in their Harlem-based, 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.

Brokeback Mountain – 2005

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 Oscar’s for Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Score, and the 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 they complex relationship develops in a time where it was illegal and culturally unacceptable to be gay.

Milk – 2008

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 – 2009

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 performances but also because of the film’s beautiful aesthetic. Set in the early 1960s, the tragic film 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 Frith picking up Best Actor in a Leading Role in the same year.

Blue is the Warmest Color – 2013

One of the most intimate, graphic and realistic queer films to have hit the mainstream, the indie film catapulted leads Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux into stardom not just because of the raunchy sex scenes. The film follows the two as they form a deep emotional and physical relationship in a raw and touching story. The film won the Palme d’Or at 2013 Cannes Film Festival and the FIPRESCI Prize, yet director Adbellatif Kechiche was criticized for poor working conditions on set and both actors said they didn’t enjoy the filming process and wouldn’t not work with Kechiche in the future.

Carole – 2015

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 in Carole. A moving love story between two women of different classes in ’50s 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 it’s 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 Carole as the best LGBT film of all time

Moonlight – 2016

Exploring the three defining chapters of a young black man growing up in Miami, Moonlight is a grounding-breaking piece of cinema, not least because of it’s depiction of black gay men, a rare and relatively untouched narrative in Hollywood. The story follows Chiron played by Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and then as an adult drug dealer, Tevante Rhodes and explores the difficulties he, as a young black man, faces with identify and sexuality. Directed by Barry Jenkins, the film won the Golden Globe and Academy Award for Best Picture and is critically acclaimed for reflecting the complexities of modern-day America.

Call Me by Your Name – 2017

Never has a film made the art of eating a peach so sexy, as this coming-of-age drama set in the summer of 1983 became one of the biggest films of 2017 and propelled it’s young star, Timothee Chalamet to the front row of every fashion week and the lap of girlfriend, Lily-Rose Depp. The plot sees 17-year-old Elio (Chalamet) fall in love with his father’s 24-year-old graduate student, Oliver (played by Armie Hammer). Directed by Luca Guadagnino, the film is critically acclaimed artistically, as well as for the actor’s exceptional performances. It gained four Oscar nominations with Chalamet becoming the youngest Best Actor nominee since 1939.

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