7 LGBTQ movies which shaped me as a gay person | Film

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By Sophie.

1.      Carol (2015, dir. Todd Haynes)

    Based on the 1952 novel The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith, this dreamy vintage lesbian masterpiece is a must-see. Set in 1950s New York, it follows aspiring photographer Therese Belivet (played by Rooney Mara) as she is swept off her feet by the endlessly alluring Carol Aird (played by Cate Blanchett). The first time I saw Carol, I was snuggled up at Cinema Nova here in Melbourne with my girlfriend, and it was so infinitely reassuring to see a healthy representation of a lesbian couple who (spoiler alert) eventually get their happily ever after. Cara and I are two movie-loving lesbians in a happy and healthy long term relationship, so this movie was a particularly meaningful one for us to see.

2.      Pride (2014, dir. Matthew Warchus)

This one is such a gem that I saw it twice in theatres. During the conservative reign of Margaret Thatcher, a feisty group of lesbians and gays from London lend one hell of a helping hand to striking Welsh coal miners. This somewhat unlikely pairing is founded on each group’s shared experience of oppression and violence from the police, conservatives, and Ms Thatcher. Inspired by a true story, this film is sure to leave your spirit soaring, despite a few tears shed. Additionally, the message of inter-community solidarity strikes me as particularly apt in this current political climate.

3.      But I’m a Cheerleader (1999, dir. Jamie Babbit)

If all you want is a cheesy lesbian rom-com with a happy ending, look no further. The beautiful Natasha Lyonne (who now stars as Nicky on Orange is the New Black) plays Megan, a seemingly stereotypical American high-schooler, as she comes to terms with her lesbianism. It’s cute and colourful, though I’d avoid it if you find any mention of conversion therapy particularly difficult. This was the first lesbian movie I ever sought out as a questioning baby-gay, and I watched it in secret on my little red iPod touch in my bedroom. I’m very sentimental about this one.

4.      Holding the Man (2015, dir. Neil Armfield)

Based on Timothy Conigrave’s memoir of the same name, this romantic drama follows two teenage boys in late 1970s-1980s Australian suburbia as they fall in love, grow up, and build a life together. I don’t want to spoil anything so that’s all I’ll say, but this movie will break your heart. I sobbed so loudly that I’m grateful I didn’t see it in theatres, to be honest. But it’s that profoundly pure kind of movie-grief, and I hope it doesn’t drive you away from witnessing this truly beautiful story.

5.      My Summer of Love (2004, dir. Pawel Pawlikowski and Paul Pavlikovsky)

This was another one of my early iPod touch indulgences, and it cemented a big ol’ crush on Emily Blunt. Two girls from different socioeconomic backgrounds bond over their dysfunctional family lives, and fall kind-of in love in the process. It’s one of those LGBT movies where they never explicitly name their desires, but worth a watch if only for the Edith Piaf- heavy soundtrack.

6.      The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994, dir. Stephan Elliott)

     What kind of Aussie-gay would I even be if this wasn’t on the list? Two drag queens and a transgender woman hit the road to bring their drag act to the Australian outback. It’s got all the glitter and camp humour you could want. If you love Rupaul’s Drag Race this is an essential movie for you, honey.

7.      The Celluloid Closet (1995, dir. Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman)

The Celluloid Closet is a seminal documentary in LGBT cinema history, based on Vito Russo’s book of the same name. It intersperses clips of gay film moments throughout Hollywood history with insightful commentary from a range of industry and LGBT perspectives. As a gay film nerd, this tickles my fancy, and I’m sure you’ll love it too.

Collectively, these films have allowed me to see myself, or who I could grow to be, reflected up on the silver screen. They have taught me important aspects of my cultural history as a member of the LGBT community, allowing me to contextualise my own experience as a young Australian lesbian in a wider historical lens. Most importantly, these movies have made me feel less alone. It is comforting to see narratives of people you can directly empathise with onscreen, and that simple fact is what makes media/cinematic representation so important for myself and members of other diverse groups.

Addendum: Movies on my to-see list that should be on yours too:

  1.       Moonlight (2016, dir. Barry Jenkins)
  2.       Milk (2008, dir. Gus Van Sant)
  3.       The Kids Are Alright (2010, dir. Lisa Cholodenko)
  4.       Pariah (2011, Dee Rees)
  5.       Brokeback Mountain (2005, dir. Ang Lee)
  6.       Freeheld (2015, dir. Peter Sollett)
  7.       The Watermelon Woman (1997, Cheryl Dunye)

And that’s it, folks! Happy Pride Month and a big thank-you to the lovely Claire for inviting me to contribute to Cause a Cine!

Cause a Cine do not own any of the images used in this post. 
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