90 second expert: Gay movies

Quick Summary

  • Two men dance together as cinema’s first gay couple in early short The Gay Brothers
  • Censorship and repression turn gays into sissies, killers and suicides in Hollywood
  • Until avant-garde filmmakers create thrilling explorations of identity and politics
  • This paves the way for an indie-styled New Queer Cinema
  • Which in turn nudges gay sympathies and sensibilities into the mainstream.

Key Titles

Un Chant D'Armour (1950)

Hugely controversial sorta-porno short by novelist / playwright Jean Genet. Set in a jail, its uniquely hot’n’heavy 25 minutes sees prisoners in love through the walls and bars. Notorious, spiritual and romantic. Honest.

Scorpio Rising (1964)

One of the most influential ’60s underground films. No dialogue, just pop tracks and startling visuals (Brando, Hitler, Christ) as Anger dives into the violent, eroticised world of biker gangs. Imaginative and shocking.

Sebastiane (1976)

Derek Jarman’s debut filters a vision of passion, power and male sexuality through the story of a martyred Catholic saint. With dialogue in Latin and authentic lensing, it’s a homoerotic and cerebral landmark.

My Own Private Idaho (1991)

River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves are captivating as two male hustlers in Gus Van Sant’s tragi-comic road movie. Part pastiche, part magical mystery tour, it’s poignant and beautiful.

Blue (1993)

Made a year before Jarman’s death from AIDS, this acerbic narration of memories, music, poetic musings and more unfolds against an endless hypnotic sensory ocean of blue. Audacious – and very moving.

Tropical Malady (2004)

An extraordinary example of modern gay Asian cinema, this love story from Apichatpong Weerasethakul spins myth and reality into a fantasy about a soldier, a country boy and a Thai legend of shape-shifting shaman.

The Total Film team are made up of the finest minds in all of film journalism. They are: Editor Jane Crowther, Deputy Editor Matt Maytum, Reviews Ed Matthew Leyland, New Editor Jordan Farley, and Online Editor Jack Shepherd. Expect exclusive news, reviews, features, and more from the team behind the smarter movie magazine.