Gay Movies: which ones are worth watching?

To this day, there aren’t a lot of gay movies out there, and the ones that exist can be very disappointing, especially those that were made for straight audiences. Luckily, this list of films will help you navigate the ins and outs of queer movies, helping you decide which are worth your while.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire 8/10
Release year: 2019

If there was one word to describe this movie, it would be eye contact. Well, maybe two words. The movie is set in 1770s France where a young woman, Heloise, is set to marry a rich nobleman. Marianne is a painter who is commissioned to do Heloise’s wedding portrait without Heloise knowing. During Heloise’s stay, the two women grow closer together and explore their feelings for each other. This movie has incredible visuals, from shots of gorgeous beaches to flowy ball gowns. It does a good job of capturing the developing feelings through the screen and building up the tension through the film. Every detail in the movie is really meaningful, and the ending ties everything together beautifully. The only critique is that there are a lot of emotions portrayed through silence which is great and creates depth, but it takes up a lot of the run time.

Carol 10/10
Release year: 2016

I mean where do I even begin? This movie just feels natural. The music, the actors and the costumes all work together effortlessly. It’s about two women falling in love despite the time period, their social status and societal expectations. Therese, an aspiring photographer who works at a toy store, meets Carol who is trying to buy a Christmas gift for her daughter. The chemistry between the actresses feels so natural, and the way the movie is shot only reinforces it. Everything feels real, just like you are trying to navigate that relationship with them.

Imagine Me & You 9/10
Release year: 2006

“Imagine Me & You” is the plot of every fanfiction ever written. At her own wedding, Rachel notices Luce, a florist in the audience, and feels instantly connected to her. They start becoming friends, and Rachel adjusts to life as a married woman. Luce is unapologetic about her sexuality which prompts Rachel to start questioning hers and her attraction to Luce. The relationship between Luce and Rachel feels pure. They have a genuine attraction that seems irresistible. This movie is a classic romantic comedy and has everything you could ever want, from likable characters to a satisfying ending. It feels like a romcom but gay.

Tell It to the Bees 5/10
Release year: 2018

This movie is another historical movie set in the 1950s. I wouldn’t mind these historic movies because they do bring up a lot of important issues, however, most of them result in sad endings. “Tell It to the Bees” is about Dr. Jean, who is forced to move back to her hometown to take over her father’s practice. She quickly becomes the outsider of the community due to rumors floating around about her sexuality. She begins a secret and exciting romance with Lydia, who has a young son. The movie is visually appealing and heartfelt. However, it’s bland. The idea is not really new and the plot is not exciting enough to stand out from all the other good movies out there. It’s not the most interesting movie, though it does tug on your heartstrings.

I Care a Lot 8/10
Release year: 2021

What I love about this movie is that the plot doesn’t revolve around the characters being queer. It is simply incorporated into the movie which is what movies in this day and age should look like! It’s a thriller/comedy about Marla (Rosamund Pike), who scams old people for money, puts them into nursing homes and then sells their property to make profit. The movie is funny, exciting and kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time. However, if you want a movie that focuses on a specific relationship, this one is not for you. What classifies this movie as LGBTQIA+ is that Marla has a girlfriend, Fran, who appears throughout the whole movie.

Fear Street 5/10
Release year: 2021

“Fear Street” is a Netflix horror trilogy following a group of teenagers who come to face an evil spirit that has plagued their town for centuries. Although the film looked promising, the movie itself was a bit too gory for my taste, and the plot wasn’t anything extraordinary. I would classify this film as one of those bad movies you watch when you’re bored, yet still, find adequately entertaining. The relationship between characters Deena Johnson and Sam Fraser was strained after their break up, yet it was beautiful watching their love for each other rekindle in life-or-death situations. And because the trilogy featured scenes from 1994, 1978, and 1666, viewers got the unique opportunity to follow attitudes towards queer relationships throughout history. This movie wasn’t awful, but don’t go out of your way to watch it.

Call Me by Your Name 10/10
Release year: 2018

I cannot stress enough that “Call Me by Your Name” is a must-see! Based on the novel by André Aciman, 17-year-old Elio Perlman unexpectedly falls for a guest staying at his summer house in Italy. Although the book was amazing, I would go so far to say that the film was even better. Timothée Chalamet beautifully expresses the raw and vulnerable nature of a young boy discovering both the joys and heartbreaks of love, all the while coming to terms with his own sexuality. The soundtrack, which included songs such as “Mystery of Love” by Sufjan Stevens, perfectly matched the soft and whimsical mood, while dreamy scenes of ponds and peach trees perfectly capture the essence of lazy Italian summers.

PROM 2/10
Release year: 2020

“PROM” was worse than I anticipated, which is saying a lot considering I went in with low expectations. The film follows a teen girl whose homophobic town does everything in their power to stop her from going to prom with her high school girlfriend. Meanwhile, a group of struggling broadway actors with questionable intentions step in to rally support for the young girls. If this cliche plotline isn’t bad enough, just you wait – it gets worse. Characters lacked depth, which oversimplified what it means to be a queer teenager in this decade. Hardly anything was shown about the protagonist’s life other than what directly related to her sexuality. This film also played into stereotypes, especially with straight actor James Corden playing gay character, Barry Glickman, a narcissistic and flamboyant Broadway actor. “PROM” was cringy and frustrating to watch. It’s hard not to feel embarrassed for the director.

Happiest Season 3/10
Release year: 2020

“Happiest Season” is just like every other bad Christmas movie… but gay. The somewhat predictable plot follows a lesbian couple, Abby Holland and Harper Caldwell, through Harper’s struggles with coming out to her conservative family. This issue becomes especially difficult when inviting her girlfriend to spend Christmas with her family. My biggest complaint is that this film focused more on the fact that their relationship was queer rather than the relationship itself. While it is amazing to have more LGBTQ+ representation in holiday films, I wish these women were depicted like any other straight couple would be in a movie. Overall, this movie was a disappointing attempt to add more diversity into holiday films.

Pray Away 9/10
Release year: 2021

“Pray Away” is a Netflix documentary that exposes the history of conversion therapy in the U.S., especially focusing on the truth behind Exodus International. This film was disturbingly fascinating and heart-wrenching, exposing both internal and systematic homophobia as well as its current relevance. Interviews with advocates for conversion therapy and “ex-gays” were moving and the trauma these programs inflicted on its participants were visible. Watching this film made me infinitely more aware of my own privilege and thankful for the progress we have made. At the same time, I was surprised at how recent these issues were. I would definitely recommend watching this, but be warned: it is not a feel-good film.