10 Good Gay Movies

Tuesday, June 29, 2010 at 2:47 pm

Even though I’m a straight male, there’s nothing that says I can’t enjoy a quality film involving depictions of the gay, lesbian, or transgendered communities. That’s why I’ve put together this list of 10 good gay movies. Many involve themes important to the gay community, while others simply feature central characters who happen to be attracted to members of the opposite sex.

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The last part of June has an important meaning in the American gay community, and you’ll find a large number of gay pride parades taking place in cities such as Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles. These are normally held in part to commemorate the Stonewall riots, an event that helped kick off the gay rights movement across the nation.

So put down your beer and copy of Maxim, and pick up one of these 10 good gay movies. You’ll learn a little something about how the other half lives, and maybe you’ll even come away with a newfound respect for Liza Minnelli.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001) – An East German transsexual (John Cameron Mitchell) falls in and out of love, puts together a kick-ass band comprised of Korean-born Army wives, and pursues a former lover who’s risen to fame by stealing her songs. A gender-bending tale of painful romance and sweet revenge, the film has since developed a strong cult following, especially among the LGBT community.

Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985) – Adapted from the Manuel Puig novel of the same name, the film is about two men sharing a Brazilian prison cell: Luis Molina (William Hurt) is a gay man convicted of having relations with an underage boy, and Valentin Arregui (Raul Julia) is a member of a leftist revolutionary group. As Molina passes the time by telling Arregui of a Nazi propaganda film called Her Real Glory, the two men slowly begin to develop feelings for one another. Meanwhile, one is secretly spying on the other for the government.

Brokeback Mountain (2005) – Ang Lee directed this unconventional romance between two cowboys in Wyoming. Playing out over 20 years, Ennis del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) each pursue their own lives and families, but nothing comes close to the love they share during their infrequent fishing trips together. The passion, loss, and regret will touch you, regardless of your sexual orientation. Also starring Randy Quaid, Michelle Williams, and Anne Hathaway. Nominated for eight Oscars, it would win three.

And the Band Played On (1993) – Based on the nonfiction book by Randy Shilts, this HBO film combines social commentary with something akin to a detective story set in research labs and gay bathhouses. At the center of the mystery is the increasing number of deaths among gay men in cities such as San Francisco and New York. Dr. Don Francis (Matthew Modine) sets out to find the answers, and his discovery of the lethal AIDS virus is immediately opposed by rival scientists, gay leaders, and even the Center for Disease Control. An important tale co-starring Alan Alda, Ian McKellen, Glenne Headly, Steve Martin, Richard Jenkins, Richard Gere, and Lily Tomlin.

Gods and Monsters (1998) – Loosely based on the last days of gay filmmaker James Whale (Ian McKellen), the film adds in plenty of fictional speculation but remains a compelling look at a man’s life slipping away. Brendan Fraser plays Clayton Boone, Whale’s ex-Marine gardener, and the unlikely duo slowly bond as Boone fends off Whale’s advances. Lynn Redgrave is also outstanding as Whale’s disapproving housemaid. Winner of the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, the film was based on the Christopher Bram novel Father of Frankenstein (Whale directed both Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein).

A Single Man (2009) – Based on the novel of the same name, A Single Man follows George Falconer (Colin Firth), a gay British professor in 1962 Los Angeles who plans to kill himself following the sudden death of his longtime companion. As he drifts through his surreal last day on Earth, George spends time with his longtime female pal (Julianne Moore) and forms a touching bond with one of his students (Nicholas Hoult). A haunting look at one man trying to hold it together for just a few hours before seeking oblivion, Firth’s performance is especially noteworthy.

Taboo (1999) – Nominated for the Palme d’Or at Cannes, this hypnotic Japanese film is set in the 19th century and revolves around a samurai (Ryuhei Matsuda) whose distinctive feminine good looks cause nothing but chaos for those around him. You won’t find many samurai films that deal with issues of homosexuality, and this one also throws in several swordfights for good measure.

Dog Day Afternoon (1975) – Based on a true story, Dog Day Afternoon stars Al Pacino as Sonny Wortzik, a first-time criminal who engineers a bank robbery in order to pay for a sex change for his wife (Chris Sarandon). Filled with all kinds of counter-culture commentary (Attica! Attica!), the film deftly blended black humor and drama into a concoction that earned six Oscar nominations. Premiere magazine would later name Pacino’s performance as the fourth greatest in film history. Co-starring John Cazale and Charles Durning.

In & Out (1997) – Hollywood tries its hand at a gay comedy, and Kevin Kline and Tom Selleck (minus his famous moustache) lock lips for a good 10 seconds. Inspired by Tom Hanks’ acceptance speech for his Philadelphia win, the film opens with self-absorbed actor Cameron Drake (Matt Dillion) thanking former English teacher Howard Brackett (Kline) in his acceptance speech and outing him as a gay man. This especially surprises Howard’s fiancee (Joan Cusack), but friends and family rally to support his alternative lifestyle. Problem is, Howard completely denies the claim. The media descends on the otherwise peaceful town, and Cameron travels back home with his anorexic model girlfriend (Shalom Harlow) to try and undo the damage. Meanwhile, Howard must do some serious soul-searching as his wedding day approaches. Co-starring Bob Newhart, Debbie Reynolds, and Wilford Brimley.

Milk (2008) – Sean Penn won the Best Actor Oscar for his role as Harvey Milk, a 70’s-era activist and politician who became the first openly gay man elected to office in the state of California. Equal attention is paid to his life and loves, and indie icon Gus Van Sant directs the proceedings. An inspirational biopic about one man’s ability to make a difference, Milk also stars Josh Brolin, James Franco, Diego Luna, and Emile Hirsch.

You can purchase these good gay movies at Amazon, or you can sign up for a free trial membership at Netflix. Movies like Philadelphia, Fried Green Tomatoes, and Capote are also available, as well as more obscure titles. We do get a small commission if you make a purchase, but it all goes right back into the website.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 29th, 2010 at 2:47 pm and is filed under Good Movies. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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