The Best in Queer Cinema: LGBTQ+A Movies That You Shouldn’t Miss

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It’s pride month once again, and what better way to celebrate it than watching LGBTQIA+ films?

[Editor’s note: This article was first published in June 2023 and has been updated several times since.]

Apart from celebrating the pride community, as an ally and an entertainment blogger, I have the responsibility of recommending some of the best in queer cinema that tell their stories–their struggles, celebrations, coming-of-age, being out, and embracing themselves.

These movies embrace what it is to become LGBTQIA+, and everyone, whether you’re part of the community or not, would be entertained, touched, and awakened (many of them are satires) by these films. I added my favorite ones; Some are intense, while some are just heartwarming and light. Nevertheless, they surely represent the pride community. I’ll add more titles as every year passes, so this blog post is evergreen, and you can keep coming back to it.

Disclaimer: Many of the films and actors featured are embedded in controversy. Note that this blog post is about the story itself, not the issues of their filming, production, and the personal lives of the people involved.

Tangerine

The Best in Queer Cinema: LGBTQ+A Movies That You Shouldn't Miss - Tangerine

The street-cred LGBTQIA+ indie film, situated in West Hollywood, is one of my favorite pride films of all time. Tangerine is vulgar and raucous, and it is direct in its satirical outburst of depicting parts of LA, the city of dreams, in a state of poverty, danger, prostitution, illiteracy, and exploitation.

Despite feeling compassion and empathy over the hardships and madness of its main characters, Tangerine is light. I find comfort in the film; what more the LGBTQIA+? The main characters of the film are transwomen, but people who are new to the several colors of the rainbow of the LGBTQIA+ community would be surprised to discover the orientations of the film’s other portrayals.

Tangerine is funny, gentle, heartwarming, and poignant. Watch it here.

A Frozen Flower

The Best in Queer Cinema: LGBTQ+A Movies That You Shouldn't Miss - A Frozen Flower

Set in the Goryeo Dynasty, A Frozen Flower tells the story of The King who is married to the princess of the Yuan Dynasty. The King is secretly gay but is pressured by both his council and the Yuan Dynasty to have a child of his own, to be able to produce another heir to the crown.

Because of the necessity, the King tasked his secret lover, the leader of his palace guards, to sleep with his wife to bear a child. What is first uncomfortable becomes a secret affair of the two, furthering the kingdom’s scandalous state.

A Frozen Flower, as expected, is a very controversial Korean film, despite being 2008’s number one blockbuster movie. But its story, apart from the sex scenes (including a queer one), is a political satire on power, jealousy, anger, and betrayal. It’s a rare gem in Korean entertainment; definitely a must-watch! Watch it here.

Blue is the Warmest Color

The Best in Queer Cinema: LGBTQ+A Movies That You Shouldn't Miss - Alue is the Warmest Color

Winner of the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2013, Blue is the Warmest Colour (La Vie d’Adèle – Chapitres 1 & 2 / The Life of Adèle: Chapters 1 & 2) is an epic love and coming-of-age story of Adèle (played by Adèle Exarchopoulos), how the world revolved about her hardships and how she navigated it.

The film is about Adèle’s evolution as a bisexual woman who feels like she is never understood by anyone around her, including her true love, Emma. The three-hour film is a mix of Adèle’s ups, her downs, and her complexities. Many times she loses control of her life and ends up making bad choices, but in Adèle’s case, sometimes, I’m doubtful if the choices she made were terrible or the only best ones she could do.

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Blue is the Warmest Color could be one of the few reality-driven films about what it is to be human. I admire Adèle Exarchopoulos’ portrayal of her namesake. Up to this day, the character eludes me, and it’s the immaculate reason why the film is a success, despite its controversies. Watch the movie here.

Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros

The Best in Queer Cinema: LGBTQ+A Movies That You Shouldn't Miss - Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros

Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros (The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros) is one of the crucial films in Philippine cinema. The movie cemented indie filmmaking’s significant stature in the country’s entertainment industry. As one of the most popular indie films, it catapulted the main actors’ careers into the mainstream.

RELATED: What it Takes to Make the Cut in Philippine Cinema

The film has all the essential elements of a successful and critically-acclaimed film. It’s a coming-of-age story of a little LGBTQIA+ kid embedded into his family’s dangerous and crime-ridden connections. Hence, you feel several emotions while watching it–from being happy, nervous, compassionate, angry, and sad to being happy again.

Apart from being a pride film, it showed how oppressively corruption, poverty, and crime have bequeathed the poor parts of the Philippines, but even so, how Filipinos have maintained to be generally-happy folks. Watch the film on IWantTFC.

Happy Together

The Best in Queer Cinema: LGBTQ+A Movies That You Shouldn't Miss - Happy Together

Happy Together starts with a rough sex scene between the two main characters. Like their sex life, the lovers’ relationship is tough and complicated. That’s because Lai (Tony Leung) and Ho (Leslie Chung) are still plagued by the shadows of their past. Their city exhausted them, so they moved to Argentina, only to make things more complex and turbulent. The film is heavy and sometimes draining, like a relationship you keep holding on to, even if it leaves you astray.

Directed by Wong Kar-Wai and shot by cinematographer Christopher Doyle (the great duo), the film was produced in concurrence with the Neo Queer cinema in the 90s. As a political satire, the film captures the uncertainty and complication after the UK brought Hong Kong back to China in 1997 (with a grace period of 50 years before it officially became a part of the latter country). While HK finally became free from their British conqueror, the apparent anxiety of their people couldn’t be denied.

The satire of HK’s political angst coincides with the relationship between Lai and Ho. Of course, there are happy times, for which Doyle and Wong’s genius made out the scenes in color, while the turbulent times are in black and white. Happy Together is a classic queer film that the pride community shouldn’t miss. Watch it on MUBI.

Die Beautiful

The Best in Queer Cinema: LGBTQ+A Movies That You Shouldn't Miss - Die Beautiful

The epic film, Die Beautiful, celebrates Trisha Echevarria (played by Paolo Ballesteros) and her extraordinary story–her recent death and wake and back to the life she lived. The nonlinear film starts with Trisha’s wake and how her best friend, Barbs, transforms her into different characters (Mylie Cyrus, Angeline Jolie, etc.) every day until she is buried. The film then switches to different moments of her past–from fun to painful experiences at her high school, her lovers, the beauty contests she joined, her decision to adopt a child, and her ongoing family crises.

You can make out to describe Die Beautiful however you want because it is everything that contradicts one another: it’s both light and heavy, funny and sad, etc., except for one thing: it’s a beautiful masterpiece and never ugly. Watch it on Netflix.

The Handmaiden

The Best in Queer Cinema: LGBTQ+A Movies That You Shouldn't Miss - The Handmaiden

The Handmaiden tells the story of a wealthy heiress confined by the business of her aunt’s husband, to whom she is engaged. But her formidable future shifts when another gentleman ploys to marry her and her fortune with the help of a cunning handmaiden. She meets her new handmaiden, a pickpocketer set to deceive her. But both women felt something special while being together.

Directed by the great Park Chan Wook, The Handmaiden might be considered another tragic or traumatic masterpiece by those who haven’t seen it. However, while the film is critically-acclaimed, it makes any LGBTQIA+ and feminist viewer feel redeemed.

The Handmaiden is almost like a feel-good or superhero film that brings redemption to all the hardships that many women experience from abusive men, especially since the savior is another woman. Watch the movie here.

Mysterious Skin

The Best in Queer Cinema: LGBTQ+A Movies That You Shouldn't Miss - Mysterious Skin

Mysterious Skin is perhaps one, if not the most painful film that I have seen in my entire life. Once I started wondering why it’s not one of the most popular queer films around, I soon realize that that’s because the movie is straightforward and delicate: one must be wary of watching it ‘coz it triggers. The end’s twist made me stare at the credits for a few minutes. Everything was just unbelievable and unbearable.

The film is about two perplexed teenagers that were once friends when they were kids. Brian (Brady Corbet) is obsessed with UFOs and swears to everyone that aliens have abducted him as a child, while Neil (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) became a gay prostitute struggling to make ends meet. Both teens live different lives until they get a chance to be reunited, and Neil tells Brian the real reason behind their madness. Watch the movie here.

Muli

The Best in Queer Cinema: LGBTQ+A Movies That You Shouldn't Miss - Muli

Muli, directed by indie-supremo Adolfo Alix Jr., is one of the forgotten but rare gems in Philippine queer cinema. It enjoys very few streaming opportunities, but in my opinion, it’s an important film.

Like some of the best rom-com movies, this type is about a “love that never dies” and is embedded into the transition of the Philippines from the time of the Marcos dictatorship until the early 2000s. While steering all the critical events of the country and being apart from one another, one thing is constant: Errol and Jun’s love and attraction every time they see each other.

RELATED: Rom-Com Films’ Impact on Your Relationship Status

I watched Muli with my mother about 11 years ago, and during that time, she wasn’t completely accepting of LGBTQIA+ in relationships yet, but this film made her an ally. She was rooting for Jun and Errol’s relationship.

Boys Don’t Cry

The Best in Queer Cinema: LGBTQ+A Movies That You Shouldn't Miss - Boys Don't Cry

Boys Don’t Cry is the biographical film about the tragedy that befell Brandon Teena, an American transgender man who was raped and later killed by his two homophobic acquaintances due to hate and unacceptance of his gender.

The film is engraved in pop culture and society as the instrument that changed most of America’s perception of trans people. Upon its mainstream release, it suddenly opened new insights and discussions about society’s judgment and hate crimes against the LGBTQIA+ community. Watch the movie on Disney+.

House of Himiko

The Best in Queer Cinema: LGBTQ+A Movies That You Shouldn't Miss - House of Himiko

One of the most acclaimed queer films in Japan, House of Himiko, is about a woman named Saori (Kou Shibasaki) who is still in resentment after being abandoned by her gay father. One day, his father’s young lover shows up, telling her that her dad is dying and that he’s offering her a job at a private rest home for gays. Saori needed the money, so she accepted the offer, despite her pain and non-acceptance of gays in general.

In a mix of comedy and drama, House of Himiko showcases what it means to truly be an ally, as slowly, Saori warms to the gay residents of Himiko, each with different quirks that make her like and understand them, and eventually, her long-estranged father. Watch the movie here.

Before Night Falls

The Best in Queer Cinema: LGBTQ+A Movies That You Shouldn't Miss - Before Night Falls

Who would’ve thought that Johnny Depp had played a transwoman in his career? It’s an exciting bonus of this film, but more than anything, Before Night Falls is about the life of Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas.

Based on the writer’s autobiography, the story revolves around Arenas’ challenging career and his yearning for freedom after coming to terms with his sexuality in a homophobia-laden revolutionary Cuba.

Boasting an Oscar-worthy performance by Javier Bardem and another exciting cameo by Sean Penn, the film is undoubtedly one of the best LGBTQIA+ films ever made. Watch the movie here.

RELATED: 9 Most Essential Films in the Year 2000

Billie and Emma

The Best in Queer Cinema: LGBTQ+A Movies That You Shouldn't Miss - Billie and Emma

Billie and Emma is another coming-of-age Filipino indie film, but what makes it apart from other pride films is that it is set in a small rural town in the 90s. Despite that, the main and supporting characters in the film are very progressive. It even reminds me of Call Me By Your Name, whose supporting and side characters root for the two main leads (and also because of its beautiful setting).

It’s different for the school of the two lovers, however. Set in a typical and strict nun-run Catholic school, Emma (Gabby Padilla) is an achiever and a school leader. However, things get complicated when Billie (Zar Donato), a newcomer, beguiles her. The two become close and attracted to each other that Billie decides to break up with her boyfriend, only to complicate things more when she finds out she’s pregnant.

Billie and Emma is simple, heartwarming, and friendly to audiences of different generations. It can be new for a youngster exploring Feminism and LGBTQIA+ themes and nostalgic for millennials and Gen-X people who have been there and grew up in the 90s, who fought for inclusivity and gender equality. Despite that, the film is rarely politically correct. It’s mostly beautiful and nostalgic, especially with its rural setting and 90s alternative soundtrack. I wish I could watch the film again.

Call Me By Your Name

The Best in Queer Cinema: LGBTQ+A Movies That You Shouldn't Miss - Call Me By Your Name

‼️ Spoiler Alert! ‼️ My heart aches for Elio as tears run down his eyes after a phone call with Oliver, his “lover” whom he has not seen for a long time, announcing that he is getting married. The four-minute-long cry in front of the fireplace ending was an astounding, standing-ovation-worthy scene by Timothe Chalamet. It reiterated that Elio was very in love with Oliver and that he was his first heartbreak.

Set in a beautiful summer in Lombardy, Italy, the coming-of-age film, Call Me By Your Name is an unexpected love story, and to be honest, you won’t feel its emotions at the start, especially if you can’t relate to Elio. At first, everything was just mundane until the main characters felt the connection and tension. That’s when a straight person feels elated and disheartened towards the end.

Armie Hammer, who plays Oliver, faced a major scandal that ended his Hollywood career. Although the production can always replace him for the sequel, director Luca Guadagnino decided against it, which is bad news to fans. Nevertheless, you can always read the book Find Me. Watch Call Me By Your Name on Netflix.

Conclusion / End Message

Thank you for reading. As I’ve said, this post will be evergreen, and the list only encompasses 12 out of the legion of queer movies I’ve seen. I’ll be adding more recommendations for you. If you have more queer film suggestions, feel free to contact me at thepopblogph@gmail.com with the subject: pride movie recommendations. You may also message me on our Facebook page.

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