The 15 Best LGBT Movies of the 21st Century

8. Laurence Anyways (Xavier Dolan, 2012)

Laurence Anyways (2012)

As well as reinvigorating the cinema of Quebec, wunderkind Xavier Dolan is somewhat of a poster boy for the emerging queer cinema movement. Many of his other films could have made this list, including his explosive debut I Killed My Mother, or the thriller, Tom at the Farm, but we have chosen Laurence Anyways, which still remains his most evocative and powerful film. Telling the story of a transgender person’s transition and the woman she is in a relationship with, this is a no-holds barred, free-wheeling epic that clutches at the heartstrings.

Dolan is one of the most exciting filmmakers to come out in the past ten years, not only due to the subject matter and style of his stories, but for the brilliance he coaxes out of his actors. This is especially true of Melvil Poupaud’s emotionally harrowing performance as Laurence, and Suzanne Clément’s turn as her lover. The film may not have needed to be quite so long, but at the end one does feel like they have been put through the emotional ringer.


7. Stranger by the Lake (Alain Guiraudie, 2013)

Stranger By the Lake

One of three French films on the list, Stranger by the Lake is another example of how that nation is encouraging and developing affecting queer stories. It takes place over one summer, as its protagonist regularly goes to a gay nudist lake in order to relax alongside like-minded men. This is also a place where men go to hook-up, as we are shown through some rather graphic sex scenes. From here we are not told a traditional love story, with the setting instead being used to frame a thriller that Hitchcock himself would be proud of.

The protagonist Franck, who has built up a platonic relationship with the elder Henri, from which we hear many initial and riveting conversations, is looking for love at the lake. But things go south once he witnesses what seems to be a murder. From there, director Alain Guiradie creates a tense thriller which has us guessing right up until the final scene.


6. Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee, 2005)

Based on the titular story by Annie Proulx, which first debuted to sensational reviews in the New Yorker in 1997, Brokeback Mountain was the breakout gay story of the 00s. Telling the tale of two cowboys who fall in love while working as sheepherders in 60s America, this story of forbidden love is notable for both its romance and restraint. The two stars, Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, give it their all here, navigating both the complexities of their own emotion and the judgemental era within which they have fallen in love.

It is a tearjerker, but in the very best sense. Told with classical grace by Ang Lee, the backdrop of the Wyoming mountains serves as a wondrous corollary to their feelings. It is also a rare movie that depicts men who can find joy in loving both men and women, giving bisexuality an extremely rare representation in Hollywood cinema. Very nearly a Best Picture winner (it eventually lost to the hackneyed Crash), Brokeback Mountain opened the floodgates to mainstream American gay cinema; showing that there was huge audience potential in telling stories such as these.


5. Blue is the Warmest Color (Abdellatif Kechiche, 2013)


A three hour epic that depicts the coming-of-age of one woman who grows up in Paris, Blue is The Warmest Color is a rapturous experience from beginning to end. Shot in impressive widescreen, the film has a depth and breadth that makes it one of the most enthralling experiences ever to hit the big screen. It tells the story of Adèle, a sensitive young girl whose life is upended by the appearance of another girl with striking blue hair. From there it charts the course of a singular love story through all of its stages, all the way from incipient crush to full-throttled intensity to heartbreaking loss.

It paints on a huge canvas, its emotional effect mostly resting on the face of Adèle Exarchopoulos, who works wonders here. It has long moments where it just lets its characters be. Whether they are making love, like in that ten-minute-plus scene that is hard to erase from the memory, eating pasta, or dancing to music, every moment is given full-force, allowing us to be completely subsumed into its vast romance. A breakout hit when it premiered at Cannes, it made genuine movie stars out of its two main leads, Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux.


4. The Summer of Sangaile (Alantė Kavaitė, 2015)

The Summer of Sungaile

Many queer movies, and a sizeable number on this list, take place in the summer. As well as being a period where you don’t have to go to school, or you have taken a long holiday off work, it also seems to be a time where it becomes harder to deny one’s true feelings — be them homosexual or otherwise.

The Summer of Sangaile, from Lithuania, is a great example of this, telling the story of two girls who fall in love with one another while lounging by lakes, riding bicycles, smoking cigarettes and getting drunk. Like À nos amours, the film is thrillingly alive, creating a summer that feels tangibly real, working to elevate the love within towards the sublime.

The movie is a great example of a strong love working to make one a better person. The main character is more or less disgusted with herself, and takes to self-harming to mitigate her own loathing. It is when she falls in love however, that she is allowed to blossom, resulting in one of the sweetest romances in living memory. This film should be seen by more people.


3. Carol (Todd Haynes, 2015)

Carol (2015)

Based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith, Carol is a period piece that deals with lesbian love in the sexually repressed era of the 1950s. It features Cate Blanchett as an older woman who becomes immediately besotted with a department store clerk when trying to buy a Christmas present for her daughter. The love story to follow ends up being one of the most affecting in modern cinema.

It is a film that fetishes and makes a large point of the coded gestures that would be necessary in a courtship such as this in a time that doesn’t allow for lesbian love. Perhaps more than any other film on this list, Carol shows the unique power of queer cinema. As queer love is based on tiny gestures, these help to create a cinematic language of their own, making them perfectly suited for the big screen.

Elevated by the camerawork, which framed or reflected repeatedly through windows, shows the limitations of loving another person of the same sex, Carol is a classic thanks to knockout performances by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara.


2. Moonlight (Barry Jenkins, 2016)


A coming-of-age epic styled on the three part structure of Hou Hsiao Hsien’s Three Times, Moonlight is an achingly tender portrait of a young boy feeling into his sexuality while growing up in Florida. As beautifully made as it is affecting to watch, the movie depicts what it is like to grow up poor, black and gay in a world with the cards stacked against you. Working with the great cinematographer James Laxton, the images in Moonlight are ethereal yet intimate, giving us an unusual level of empathy with our main character.

Equally ambitious are the changes in time, seeing our protagonist move from a nervous young boy to a sexually confused teenager to a fully-grown and emotionally repressed man. Under just a two hour run-time, we get an entire sense of the life, with no easy answers. But it is ultimately a story of hope, and a heartfelt message towards other queer kids, especially queer kids of colour, that they are not alone, and can find happiness in their own time.


1. Call Me By Your Name (Luca Guadagnino, 2017)

Set in Northern Italy during the Summer of 1983, during the strange transition period between the liberation of the 70s and the AIDS crisis to follow, Call Me By Your Name is a film so sumptuous that it feels like you can actually live in it. It tells the story of a seventeen year-old boy named Elio who becomes infatuated with a graduate student named Oliver who has come to work with his father. Navigating personal growth and an undeniable crush, Elio has to come out of his shell in order to make Oliver understand his feelings for him.

It is almost the perfect film. Despite giving the impression of complete ease, there are actually very few wasted shots. The screenplay, by the expert adapter of E.M Forster, James Ivory, is full of novelistic detail —a hand on a shoulder, an infamous scene with a peach, a glance in the shower — that sees a budding romance as a collection of small, impossibly intense moments as opposed to one grand gesture. Easily the finest movie of the past year, and another great example of the wonders queer cinema can achieve.

Author Bio: Redmond Bacon is a professional film writer and amateur musician from London. Currently based in Berlin (Brexit), most of his waking hours are spent around either watching, discussing, or thinking about movies. Sometimes he reads a book.