The oldest and largest gay magazine in the United States, The Advocate, is the world’s leading source of LGBTQ news and politics. The historic magazine, which was inspired by a police raid of a Los Angeles gay bar, has grown to become a prominent voice for topics related to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community and its allies.
By Lucas Grindley, Editor in Chief, The Advocate
Every list of favorite films depends on the person watching. What we see depends on what we’ve lived or what we were doing when a film debuts. Here are my favorite LGBTQ films. Share yours in the comments section.
Be sure to check out The Advocate’s “Community Recommendation” collection in home on your X1 or online with XFINITY Stream. Click here to read more about our other XFINITY LGBTQ “Community Recommendation” collections.
“Love Is Strange“
Straight couples have “The Notebook” or 100 other movies if they want to dream of a romantic twilight for their lives together. Few films let my husband and me glimpse into a possible future. I bawled for a good 20 minutes at the end of this one while trying to escape back to the car from the movie theater. Maybe it’s because one of the men is a music teacher and my husband is in opera education or because I recognized some of their everyday chitchat that I realized love is strange and fragile, and so am I.
The film is based on the novel by gay author Michael Cunningham, and most people remember it for nine Oscar nominations, including one for Nicole Kidman and that prosthetic nose. But it was the dedication of Meryl Streep’s Clarissa to Ed Harris’s Richard that made me think of my own best friend and how there was a time I too had stayed alive for her sake. We’d also been in a relationship in college, which complicated and made permanent our connection. She would stick by me through anything, right? Friendships are long tested.
The Academy Awards mix-up stole from LGBTQ people the Best Picture moment that we’d been waiting for — ever since “Brokeback Mountain” lost and “Carol” was ignored, and all that came in between. The music is supposed to swell and the crowd lets out a spontaneous roar, which would’ve been emotional proof that Hollywood supports this black cast with its gay love story. It matters to know you’re not alone — as this film let so many know.
Male critics didn’t universally understand this film, based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel “The Price of Salt,” perhaps because they couldn’t relate to chemistry that is female and understated. It had to be — because any more than a look in the eye could give away too much. You could lose a job or your child in 1952. But that’s what I loved about the film: its appreciation of an unseeable electricity that is felt between two people even while disguised by our bodies, and flowing scarves or luxurious gloves, and by culture.
“The Devil Wears Prada“
Everyone has a movie they watch when you want to escape. I’ve watched the cerulean speech more times than I can count and shared every gif from the movie at least once over text messaging to gays I know. It’s possible I’m too obsessed, since admittedly I started eating Jarlsberg in my grilled cheese sandwiches. There’s a throwaway line from Andy’s boyfriend about a pound of Jarlsberg in a sandwich and it makes me hungry. We all need comfort food.
“Friends & Family“
This is the first gay movie that my husband and I saw in a movie theater together. I don’t remember what made us buy tickets for this little comedy from the lineup of that year’s gay and lesbian film festival. We were living in small town Sarasota, Fla. There was nothing more communal than being packed into a theater of gay people to watch a gay movie — or at least there was nothing like it for me until “Friends & Family.”
“Paris Is Burning“
It’s probably no surprise that an evangelical growing up in New England entirely missed this film about the ball scene in New York City. That Madonna had appropriated the search for belonging among people of color in the balls went entirely over my head when we were striking a pose as a kid in 1990 — the year the song came out and the film. But this documentary is a part of our queer history that you have to go back and watch, no matter where you were in life as the ’80s ended, because it’s forever helped define our culture in ways bigger than Madonna.
What I remember most about “Brokeback Mountain” was my general bewilderment that Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger were onscreen. These were two of the hottest young male stars coming up in Hollywood. My husband and I rented a lot of your typical gay movies before 2005, and “Brokeback” was a breakthrough. We’d thought something important had changed in the culture, but it wasn’t enough for it to win Best Picture.
“The Skeleton Twins“
Somewhere along the 25 years we’ve known each other, my best friend and I decided we are basically family. LGBT people adopt family all the time. But in “The Skeleton Twins” — which is about actual twins played by Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig — we recognize a connection between two people that can’t easily be broken by either of their mistakes. Like the twins, we understand each other’s hopes and disappointments, and make each other better.
“Kill Your Darlings“
A gay sex scene involving Daniel Radcliffe got most of the attention when the film was released. Maybe that was unfair. This story of Allen Ginsberg and his clan of idealistic writer friends ought to be relatable to anyone. But I’m a gay writer, and this is a gay writer’s movie. I relate to wanting to change the world with something I write instead of letting the world change me.
Some people have a thing for skaters or baseball players or military service members. When “Shelter” was released 10 years ago, the list of aesthetics considered exclusively straight still included surfers. Then “Shelter” convincingly threw all that out, and surfers could fall in love and start families, maybe opening a world of other possibilities.
The first time I saw this movie I was still closeted and maybe trying to act straight, with hopefully more success than Albert. But you start to realize it’s just a lot more fun to be yourself. Thanks, “Birdcage.”
Maybe part of what I love about “Tangerine” is it’s obviously shot in Los Angeles, where I live. The doughnut shop and gas station and long stretches of sidewalk are places I could easily drive by on any given day of the week and yet still never see this story. “Tangerine” is about two friends who are transgender sex workers — a combination of adjectives that often get dehumanized. This movie reminds me and all of us of our common humanity.
Tom Hanks is perpetually relatable in every character. Maybe it’s no surprise then that one of the first portrayals of HIV on-screen to reach me in my bubble came from Hanks, who as Andrew Beckett fights discrimination and a disease. Watching it now is a tough reminder of what life was like in 1993, when the film was made.
“Gods and Monsters“
Who hasn’t wanted someone they shouldn’t have? Maybe what you really wanted was to replace loneliness. This portrayal of out filmmaker James Whale’s final days won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. And I still can’t believe I know the producer, Paul Colichman, who owns The Advocate.
What my friends and I love about this movie is that it finally felt like a real love story of two gay men from our generation. They find each other at a club, same as I found my husband. The romance that develops is beautiful and heartbreaking, also true to life.
“A Single Man“
This was the first film, for me and perhaps many other gay men, that forced me to imagine how I’d confront the loss of my partner whenever that day comes late in life. For George Falconer, played by Colin Firth, it’s with a planned suicide.
Gay rights pioneer Harvey Milk got the biopic he rightfully deserved. The rest of us are left with an important glimpse into history that is required movie watching. If you’re as into politics as I am, it might have you raring to make a difference in the world. Milk would’ve wanted you to run for office.
“The Normal Heart“
The world isn’t on your side, and its leaders are ignoring you. This adaptation of Larry Kramer’s play “The Normal Heart” is the story of how one group of men fought for their community as the AIDS epidemic began. You’ll cry for your country.
“Far From Heaven“
Director Todd Haynes gets two spots on my list of favorite movies — the other is “Carol.” It might be that his style is so gorgeous that the stories stick with me. Or it’s because Haynes’s characters are so subtle yet striking. This is the story of a 1950s woman who copes with discovering her husband is gay.
Tell us your favorites in the comments below, or take to social media with #XFINITYLGBTQ.
On X1: Navigate to “Popular Destinations” > LGBTQ Film & TV.
On Native: Go to “On Demand” > LGBTQ Film & TV.