The 25 best gay movies of all time

The greatest thing about LGBTQ cinema? That'll be the greatest thing about all cinema - terrific stories and compelling characters revealed through a nice wodge of plot. See, the 'gay movie' tag is flexible. It can mean loads of things depending on the film in question. You might have a gay flick that's tackle a character's sexuality or one that just happens to involve gay characters. Then there's all the other genres thrown into the mix; horror, sci-fi, romance, fantasy, thriller... the list goes on. What follows are the top 25 gay movies, showcasing the vibrant, albeit oftentimes difficult lives of these characters. 

25. Dog Day Afternoon (1975) 

The movie:  40 years on this Sidney Lumet's movie still packs a punch. Based on the real-life story of a Brooklyn bank robbery gone wrong - during a mega-hot summer - it combines solid drama with a fast pace. Bad boy Sonny (Al Pacino) plans a bank heist that will help him pay for his male lover's (Chris Sarandon) sex change operation.    

Why it's worth a watch: Such an earnest situation at the time pushed at the mainstream movie boundaries. The real brilliance of the script is how damn funny it is. From the third member of the heist crew who bails, to Sal's suggestion of Wyoming when asked which country he'd like to escape to, you'll find yourself chuckling frequently. 

24. Dallas Buyers Club (2013) 

The movie: Years before he terrorised his Suicide Squad cast members with dead animals and used contraceptives, Jared Leto's "method approach" earned him an Oscar. Jean-Marc Valle's no-frills biopic also snagged his co-star Matthew McConaughey an award for his stellar portrayal. And that's just one fascinating aspect of this moving, gorgeously-crafted movie. Like your tearjerkers? Look no further. 

Why it's worth a watch: Though Leto is magnificent this is McConaughey's show. Outdoing Christian Bale in the method stakes by shedding loads of weight, the comeback king plays AIDS sufferer Ron Woodroof, whose unconventional approach to self-medication sees him become a beacon of hope for those living with AIDS.   

23. Mysterious Skin (2004) 

The movie: Directed by celebrated gay auteur Gregg Araki, who dabbles with LGBT in practically every one of his movies, we follow the lives of Neil (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Brian (Brady Corbet). The pair share a tragic event in their past, which sends them off in wildly different directions - one becomes a male prostitute, the other an alien abduction obsessive.  

Why it's worth a watch: It's not the happiest film, yet Mysterious Skin is nevertheless a rewarding drama that deals with some really difficult issues in a sensitive and compelling way. Plus, didja read the bit about aliens?  

22. Imagine Me and You (2005) 

The movie: Ol Parker's quaint British comedy is a by-the-numbers romance that was originally intended to be played straight; woman meets mysterious stranger on her wedding day and proceeds to fall in love with them. After a serious overhaul, Piper Perabo's bride locks eyes with Lena Headey's sexy florist (yep, Cersei) as she trots down the aisle. It's a refreshingly upbeat lesbian pic. 

Why it's worth a watch: In a world where gay characters are regularly sidelined as comedic relief, Imagine Me and You puts them front and center. They're still funny, mind, but the whole thing's about them. Brilliant! 

21. Happy Together (1997) 

The movie: This Hong Kong drama charts the rocky relationship between Ho Po-Wing (Leslie Cheung) and Lai Yiu-fai (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai). The pair take a trip to Argentina in the hope that it will breathe some life into their partnership. Doesn't quite work out. They break up, they make up, and the backdrops to all of their squabbles are stunning.  

Why it's worth a watch: It's a confident and stylish offering from director Wong Kar-wait, who insists that the point of the movie isn't to become 'another gay film' but simply as a portrait of modern romance, regardless of gender. Hurrah. 

20. The Boys In The Band (1970)

The movie: Widely considered to be a milestone in cinematic evolution, William Friedkin's Off Broadway adaptation was one of the first films to revolve solely around gay characters. This bunch are all residents of New York City, led by Michael (Kenneth Nelson) who throws a birthday party one evening for Harold (Leonard Frey). The whole glitzy affair transforms into an intriguing night when Michael's straight friend Alan (Peter White) arrives. 

Why it's worth a watch: Now that closets are frequented less and less, the film now exists as somewhat of a period piece. A historical document if you will. Nevertheless it's a lot of fun to hang out with these characters and dive into their world. 

19. My Own Private Idaho (1991) 

The movie: What's most haunting about Gus Van Sant's drama is the fact that we'll never see what was promised by River Phoenix's performance as a Portland hustler. It's arguably one of the late actor's finest turns, that finds him and Keanu Reeves working the city streets to make some dough, all the while growing closer. It's loosely based on Shakespeare's Henry IV and V, was made on a low budget, and is now a celebrated cult classic.  

Why it's worth a watch: Critic Roger Ebert notes that it successfully evokes that state of drifting need. I'd have to agree with him.  

18. Pride (2014) 

 The movie: A terrific British comedy drama set during the miners' strike of the 1980s. This heart-warming, funny flick follows a group of Welsh lesbians and gays who form a group in support of the miners. As well as several 'lump in the throat' moments as the conservative community comes to accept the LGBTQ gang, this features a who's who of Brit cinema talent.  

Why it's worth a watch: It may take a few liberties here and there with historical details, yet the lessons of tolerance and keeping a sense of humour even in your darkest hour remain important.  

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

The movie: Sparkly, shiny and hilarious, Priscilla makes for addictive viewing - and not just because it features Terence Stamp in drag. Well, Stamp's brilliant, but then again so is all of the star-studded cast. Hugo Weaving leads the pic as Anthony, a drag queen who convinces his two best pals to road trip with him across Oz doing shows. They rope in Guy Pearce's Adam and hit the road.  

Why it's worth a watch: While the stage show upped the camp considerably, the cinematic Priscilla is a hybrid beast of its own. It's an intimate drama and all-out comedy, spliced together with flashy dance routines.  

16. Boys Don't Cry (1999)

The movie: Talk about dedication. Hilary Swank lived as a man for a month in preparation for her role as a teenage girl who wants to be a boy. Boys Don't Cry goes deeper than previous transgender movies, shining a light on the ugliness and fear that trans people are faced with when in conservative communities. Based on the real story of Brandon Teena - born with those names reversed - it's a real eye-opener.  

Why it's worth a watch: Not only did Swank bag an Oscar for her efforts, the film itself is an eloquent, moving account of real bravery in the face of adversity. Boys might not, but you will most definitely cry. 


Gem is GR+'s west coast entertainment news reporter. She’s a bit obsessed with all things Aliens and Terminator.


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