16 Must-Watch LGBTQ Movies of All Time: From The Living End to Pink Flamingos

Here's a list of the top 15 LGBTQ+ movies ever, from 'Paris Is Burning' to 'My Own Private Idaho' to 'Moonlight'.

Updated on Sep 25, 2023   |  05:48 PM IST  |  115.7K
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Get ready for an extraordinary movie marathon. We've made a list of the top 15 LGBTQ+ movies ever. These aren't just ordinary movies; they've touched hearts, broken barriers, and become a really important part of cinema history.

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Nowadays, things are getting better in movies. More LGBTQ+ people are part of the action, while making sure we see them in mainstream films. From classic movies showing the hard times LGBTQ+ people face to funny movies about gay life, these movies are big steps forward in showing LGBTQ+ stories.

From the glitz and glamour of 'Paris Is Burning' to the heartfelt story of 'Moonlight,' these films celebrate love, who we are, and how diverse we can be. Whether you're LGBTQ+ or a friend, these movies have something special for everyone.

So, grab some popcorn, get comfy on the couch, and prepare to be moved, inspired, and entertained. Whether you want love stories, drama, or a mix, we've got it. Let's dive into a world of stories that have no limits.


1. My Own Private Idaho (1991)

  • Genre: Drama/Romance
  • Star Cast: River Phoenix, Keanu Reeves, James Russo, William Richert, Rodney Harvey
  • Director: Gus Van Sant
  • Writer: Gus Van Sant
  • Year of release: 1991
  • Where to Watch/OTT Platform: Amazon Prime
  • IMDb rating: 7/10
  • Runtime: 1h 44m

In the late 80s, Gus Van Sant entered Hollywood when a new group of indie filmmakers was rising. His movie in 1991, "My Own Private Idaho," loosely based on Shakespeare's stories, features River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves as two friends on a journey to find themselves and grow up.


At that time, when queer movies were starting to gain attention in mainstream cinema, "My Own Private Idaho" was a significant breakthrough. It was driven by River Phoenix's quiet and emotional performance. The movie is a sensitive and thoughtful exploration of identity and self-discovery, making it a pioneering achievement in queer cinema.


2. But I'm A Cheerleader (1999)

  • Genre: Romance/Comedy
  • Star Cast: Natasha Lyonne, Michelle Williams, Brandt Wille, Bud Cort, Mink Stole, RuPaul , Katie Donahue, Danielle Rene.
  • Director: Jamie Babbit
  • Writer: Jamie Babbit
  • Year of release: 1999
  • Where to Watch/OTT Platform: Amazon Prime
  • IMDb rating: 6.8/10
  • Runtime: 1h 25m

In the 1990s, there were lots of fun and silly movies, but one that really stuck with millennials is "But I'm a Cheerleader." It's a funny movie where Natasha Lyonne plays Megan, a popular girl who gets sent to a camp because her parents think she might be gay. While there, she becomes friends with another girl named Graham, played by Clea DuVall.

The movie is hilarious and doesn't take itself too seriously. It pokes fun at the challenges of coming out as LGBTQ+, which can be really tough. Using humor helps people understand and relate to this experience in a new way.


3. The Living End (1992)

  • Genre: Drama/Indie film
  • Star Cast: Mike Dytri, Craig Gilmore, Mark Finch, Mary Woronov, Johanna Went 
  • Director: Debra Granik
  • Writer: Debra Granik
  • Year of release: 1992
  • Where to Watch/OTT Platform: Amazon Prime
  • IMDb rating: 6.5/10
  • Runtime: 1h 24m

In 1992, a movie called "The Living End," directed by Greg Araki, was part of a movement called New Queer Cinema. The story is about two men, Luke and Jon. Luke is unhappy with his life, and Jon is a quiet film critic. They go on a wild journey after Luke kills a homophobic police officer.


This movie was inspired by Ridley Scott's "Thelma and Louise," which was a big deal for feminism. "The Living End" was also a big deal, especially in the early 90s. It talked about important topics for the LGBTQ+ community like HIV and homophobia. It was sexy, chaotic, and in the end, really good. This movie is an important part of LGBTQ+ cinema history and influenced many future films.


4. To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar (1995)

  • Genre: Comedy/LGBT
  • Star Cast: RuPaul, Joey Arias, Lady Bunny, Miss Understood, Candis Cayne, Flotilla DeBarge, Miss Coco Peru, Lady Catiria, and Quentin Crisp.
  • Director: Beeban Kidron
  • Writer: Beeban Kidron
  • Year of release: 1995
  • Where to Watch/OTT Platform: Amazon Prime
  • IMDb rating: 6.7/10
  • Runtime: 1h 49m

In 1995, Patrick Swayze, Wesley Snipes, and John Leguizamo acted in a funny movie called "To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar." The story is about three drag queens from New York - Vida, Noxeema, and Chi-Chi - who get stuck in a small town on their way to Hollywood.

This movie, along with others around the same time, was a big deal for LGBTQ+ cinema. Swayze and Snipes were famous for tough guy roles, so seeing them in an LGBTQ+ film, dressed as women throughout, was a significant moment. "To Wong Foo" isn't a perfect portrayal of drag culture; it's a bit simple and doesn't go too deep. But it's still a fun and impressive movie that helped bring drag into the mainstream.


5. Pink Flamingos (1972)

  • Genre: Comedy/Drama
  • Star Cast: Divine, David Lochary, Mary Vivian Pearce, Mink Stole, Danny Mills 
  • Director: John Waters
  • Writer: John Waters
  • Year of release: 1972
  • Where to Watch/OTT Platform: Binged
  • IMDb rating: 6/10
  • Runtime: 1h 48m

John Waters is known for making really outrageous and provocative movies that make fun of traditional values and show a wild side of queer culture. One of his most famous films is "Pink Flamingos" from 1972.


The movie is about a drag queen named Divine, who calls herself the "dirtiest person alive." She gets into a competition with the Marbles, two small-time crooks. "Pink Flamingos" is not an easy movie to watch - some people might even say it's one of the grossest movies ever. But it's admired for being bold and challenging what's considered normal.

Even though it's pretty extreme, "Pink Flamingos" became a big hit in the underground movie scene. It helped the queer community feel more connected during a tough time.


6. The Boys In The Band (1970)

  • Genre: Drama/LGBT
  • Star Cast: Kenneth Nelson, Peter White, Leonard Frey, Frederick Combs, Cliff Gorman
  • Director: William Friedkin
  • Writer: William Friedkin
  • Year of release: 1970
  • Where to Watch/OTT Platform: Amazon Prime
  • IMDb rating: 7.6/10
  • Runtime: 1h 58m

"The Boys in the Band" is a movie from 1970 directed by William Friedkin. It's an important film in the history of movies featuring gay characters. The story is about a group of gay men who get together for a party in an apartment on the Upper East Side. Things start to go wrong when an unexpected guest shows up, and the party becomes chaotic.

Now, this movie isn't a happy one. It's pretty sad and dark. But it was one of the first popular movies that focused on gay characters. It shows a pretty negative view of the gay community, with characters who are unhappy with themselves and struggle with their feelings.

Back in the 1970s when it came out, a lot of people could relate to the characters and their struggles. Sadly, even today, some of the issues the movie talks about are still a reality for some people in the LGBTQ+ community.


7. The Favourite (2018)

  • Genre: Drama/Comedy
  • Star Cast: Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz, Nicholas Hoult, Emma Delves
  • Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
  • Writer: Yorgos Lanthimos
  • Year of release: 2018
  • Where to Watch/OTT Platform: Disney+
  • IMDb rating: 7.5/10
  • Runtime: 1h 59m

"The Favourite" is a movie from 2018 that's a bit unusual. It's about three really good actors: Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, and Rachel Weisz. They play characters who are trying to win the favor of Queen Anne in old-timey England.


Now, this movie isn't your typical comedy. It's sharp and kind of mean, but in a funny way. It's also pretty dark, but that's what makes it interesting. The cool thing is that it's a great example of a modern movie that tells a story about queer people.

The three main actors are fantastic, and they make the movie really special. It's like a mix of comedy, drama, and it has some important ideas in it too. Overall, "The Favourite" is a clever, funny, and unique movie that's worth watching, especially if you like movies about interesting relationships and power struggles.


8. BPM (Beats Per Minute) (2017)

  • Genre: Drama/Drama
  • Star Cast: Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, Arnaud Valois and Adèle Haenel.
  • Director: Robin Campillo
  • Writer: Robin Campillo
  • Year of release: 2017
  • Where to Watch/OTT Platform: Prime Video
  • IMDb rating: 7.4/10
  • Runtime: 2h 23m

"BPM (Beats Per Minute)" is a movie from 2017. It's a drama that tells a story about a group of people who are part of an organization fighting against a disease called AIDS, which was a big problem in the 1980s. The movie shows how these activists are trying to raise awareness about the disease and get better treatments.

It's not just about the disease, though. The film also focuses on the personal lives of the activists, their relationships, and the challenges they face. It's a powerful and emotional film that gives you a glimpse into what it was like during that time when AIDS was a major crisis.

The main actors in the film include Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, Arnaud Valois, and Adèle Haenel. They did a great job in their roles and made the movie really powerful.


9. Tangerine (2015)

  • Genre: Drama/Indie film
  • Star Cast: Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Mya Taylor, Karren Karagulian, Mickey O'Hagan, Alla Tumanian
  • Director: Sean Baker
  • Writer: Sean Baker and Chris Bergoch
  • Year of release: 1991
  • Where to Watch/OTT Platform: Binged
  • IMDb rating: 7.1/10
  • Runtime: 1h 28m

"Tangerine" is a movie from 2015, made by director Sean Baker. It's pretty unique because it was filmed entirely using three iPhone 5s. The story is about Sin-Dee, a transgender woman who just got out of jail. She finds out her boyfriend, who also acts as her pimp, has been unfaithful to her. Upset about this, she teams up with her friend Alexandra to get back at him.


What makes this movie special is that it shows the lives of transgender women and sex workers in a different light. It's not just about the tough stuff; it's funny and empowering too. It breaks away from the usual stereotypes and taboos we often see in movies about these topics.

Despite its low-budget making and unique filming style, "Tangerine" is a visually stunning and satisfying movie about friendship and empowerment. It's considered one of the best LGBTQ+ films of its time.


10. Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)

  • Genre: Drama/Comedy
  • Star Cast: Richard E. Grant, Dolly Wells, Jane Curtin, Anna Deavere Smith, Stephen Spinella, and Ben Falcone
  • Director: Marielle Heller
  • Writer: Marielle Heller
  • Year of release: 2018
  • Where to Watch/OTT Platform: Vudu
  • IMDb rating: 7.1/10
  • Runtime: 1h 46m

"Can You Ever Forgive Me?" is a 2018 movie starring Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant, and it's considered one of their best performances. The film is based on a true story about Lee Israel, a struggling writer who starts faking letters from famous writers and selling them.

The movie is great because of the director's skill and Melissa McCarthy's acting. It shows us a story filled with frustration, loss, and ambition. What's unique is that the characters are not your typical likable heroes; they're complicated and sometimes even unlikable, but that's what makes them interesting.

This movie also stands out in LGBTQ+ cinema because it delves into the less cheerful aspects of the characters' lives. It's not just about being gay; it's about the struggles and flaws these characters have, making it a deeper and more complex story.


11. Happy Together (1997)

  • Genre: Romance/Drama
  • Star Cast: Leslie Cheung, Tony Leung Chiu-wai, Chang Chen, Gregory Dayton, Shirley Kwan
  • Director: Wong Kar-wai
  • Writer: Wong Kar-wai
  • Year of release: 1997
  • Where to Watch/OTT Platform: Amazon Prime
  • IMDb rating: 7.1/10
  • Runtime: 1h 36m

"Happy Together," a movie from 1997, tells the story of Lai and Ho, two guys who travel from Hong Kong to Argentina. But their relationship is far from smooth sailing. They argue a lot, break up, and then somehow end up together again.


Now, you might think that slice-of-life movies can be a bit boring, but "Happy Together" is different. It's not a drag to watch because Leslie Cheung and Tony Leung, the two lead actors, are amazing. Cheung, who's a big deal in the LGBTQ+ community, plays Ho with all his flaws and vulnerabilities. On the other hand, Leung, who's always reliable, gives us a more thoughtful version of Lai, who's been through a lot.

In a nutshell, "Happy Together" is a film that captures the ups and downs of a rocky romance. It's both captivating and heartbreaking, and it makes you think about what it means to be a man and the craziness and beauty of love.


12. Hedwig And The Angry Inch (2001)

  • Genre: Musical/Drama
  • Star Cast: John Cameron Mitchell, Miriam Shor, Stephen Trask, Theodore Liscinski
  • Director: John Cameron Mitchell
  • Writer: John Cameron Mitchell
  • Year of release: 2001
  • Where to Watch/OTT Platform: NA
  • IMDb rating: 7.7/10
  • Runtime: 1h 33m

"Hedwig and the Angry Inch" is a movie from 2001 based on a stage musical by John Cameron Mitchell. The story is about Hedwig, a performer from East Germany who travels around the US with her band. She's also following her ex-lover, who not only broke her heart but also stole her songs.

This movie is rebellious in a really cool way. It's all about celebrating being yourself and not caring what anyone else thinks. Even before people talked much about gender identity, this film was already doing it. It's a powerful and exciting musical that's like a crazy rollercoaster ride of emotions. And the message it sends about being true to yourself has become even more important over the years.


13. The Birdcage (1996)

  • Genre: Comedy/LGBT
  • Star Cast: Robin Williams, Gene Hackman, Nathan Lane, Dianne Wiest 
  • Director: Mike Nichols
  • Writer: Mike Nichols
  • Year of release: 1996
  • Where to Watch/OTT Platform: Amazon Prime
  • IMDb rating: 7.2/10
  • Runtime: 1h 57m

"The Birdcage" is a comedy movie from 1996. It's about a couple, Armand and Albert, who run a nightclub in South Beach, Miami. They're both men, and their son, Val, wants to get married to a girl whose parents are really conservative. Val asks his dad, Armand, to act straight when the girl's parents come to visit.


The twist is that Armand and Albert are openly gay, and their nightclub is quite flamboyant. So, they have to hide their true selves and pretend to be a traditional, straight couple. Hilarity ensues as they try to keep up the act.

The movie is all about love, acceptance, and breaking stereotypes. It shows that families come in all shapes and sizes, and love is what matters most. It's a feel-good, funny film that teaches us to be ourselves and love who we love.


14. The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert (1994)

  • Genre: Musical/Road
  • Star Cast: Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce, Terence Stamp, Rebel Penfold-Russell, John Casey
  • Director: Stephan Elliott
  • Writer: Stephan Elliott
  • Year of release: 1994
  • Where to Watch/OTT Platform: Amazon Prime
  • IMDb rating: 7.5/10
  • Runtime: 1h 44m

"The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert" is a movie that came out in 1994. It's about a group of people who go on a road trip through the Australian desert. But here's the twist: they're not your average travelers. They're performers, and they're all dressed up in glamorous and colorful outfits, especially one character named Priscilla, who's actually a big, flashy bus.

The movie is about their journey and the sometimes challenging situations they encounter. It's a bit like a comedy, a drama, and a musical because there's a lot of great music in it too.

Overall, it's a fun and heartwarming story about friendship, self-discovery, and being true to yourself, no matter how you look or who you are.


15. A Fantastic Woman (2017)

  • Genre: Drama/Drama
  • Star Cast: Daniela Vega, Francisco Reyes, Luis Gnecco, Aline Küppenheim 
  • Director: Sebastián Lelio
  • Writer: Sebastián Lelio
  • Year of release: 2017
  • Where to Watch/OTT Platform: Amazon Prime
  • IMDb rating: 7.2/10
  • Runtime: 1h 44m

"A Fantastic Woman" is a 2017 movie directed by Sebastián Leilo. It's considered one of the best films about LGBTQ+ experiences from the 2010s. The story follows Marina, played by Daniela Vega, who is a transgender woman. She's dealing with the sudden death of her boyfriend, Orlando. To make matters more difficult, she faces harassment from Orlando's family.

This movie is powerful because it handles these heavy topics with a lot of care and understanding. Daniela Vega's performance is remarkable as she portrays Marina's pain and challenges. "A Fantastic Woman" is a big achievement for LGBTQ+ cinema, and it's especially important today when transgender people often face discrimination and hate for no reason. It's a movie worth watching to gain insight into these issues and show support for the transgender community.


16. Milk (2008)

  • Genre: Drama/Romance
  • Star Cast: Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Emile Hirsch, Diego Luna, James Franco.
  • Director: Gus Van Sant
  • Writer: Gus Van Sant
  • Year of release: 2008
  • Where to Watch/OTT Platform: Youtube
  • IMDb rating: 7.5/10
  • Runtime: 2h 8m

In the 2008 movie "Milk," directed by Gus Van Sant, Sean Penn delivered a remarkable performance that earned him his second Oscar. The film tells the real-life story of Harvey Milk, who made history as California's first openly gay elected official. It delves into Milk's political journey and the tragic end he met at the hands of Dan White.

What makes "Milk" stand out is how it doesn't follow the typical path of biographical films. Instead of simply recounting the facts, it paints a vivid picture of Harvey Milk as a person. It's not your usual biography; it's more like a deep dive into Milk's character and what made him tick. Despite clearly admiring Milk, the film avoids becoming overly sentimental. It shows Milk's impact on American politics without going overboard on emotions, even though his story is undeniably tragic.


Are all actors in gay movies actually gay?
Not necessarily. Just like in other movies, actors in gay movies might or might not be gay in real life. They're actors, and their job is to portray different characters, including LGBTQ+ ones.

Why are gay movies important?
Gay movies are important because they help represent the experiences and stories of LGBTQ+ people. They can also promote understanding and acceptance by showing that love and relationships are universal, no matter who you love.

What's the difference between a gay movie and LGBTQ+ cinema?
Gay movie often specifically refers to films about gay men, while LGBTQ+ cinema encompasses a broader range of identities, including lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals.

What are some popular gay movies to start with?
There are many great gay movies to choose from. Some popular ones include Brokeback Mountain, Love, Simon, Moonlight, Call Me by Your Name, and Pride. These can be a good starting point if you're interested in exploring this genre.

About The Author

Introducing Khushi Srivastava, an aspiring and enterprising content writer with a passion for weaving captivating stories through the


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