June is pride month or LGBTQ+ month. So what’s the big deal about pride month, and how does it relate to films? I am glad you asked! June 28th, 1969 police raided a popular gay, lesbian, transgender, and bisexual bar called the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. The reason for the police raid was that the bar did not have a liquor license, which is false. Police have raided gay bars throughout the 1950s and 60’s always without an excuse out of prejudice. On that night of June 28th, the police used brutal force in beating up many LGBTQ+ patrons of the bar.
Many spectators jeered the police beating these men and women. One patron named Marsha P. Johnson fought back by throwing a glass bottle at the police; this act began the Stonewall Riots. Marsha P. Johnson was an African American transgender woman and activist. Her act started the long fight for LGBTQ+ civil rights that continues today, and this fight is why pride month is celebrated.
Each year the LGBTQ+ community all over the world march in the streets, hold parades, and celebrate those brave men and women who fought for their rights to be treated as human beings. You may ask, what does this event have to do with movies and tv? As I mentioned in my previous article on the Black Lives Movement, films and tv shows can be used as a tool in educating and celebrating inclusion and diversity. In this article, I have compiled a list of 27 movies, tv, documentaries and animation shows, some of which my friends who are part of the LGBTQ+ community and supporters of the community have helped me to compile. I dedicate this article to Shelby, Elizabeth, Samantha, Desiree, Sabrina, and others.
Pariah (2011), centers around seventeen year old Alike, who is exploring her sexuality as a young lesbian while facing rejection by her religious parents. As her parents, school, and society force her to reject any notion of her sexuality, she begins to embrace it and find love with her female neighbor. You can catch Pariah on Amazon Prime for ninety- nine cents and other streaming platforms.
Disobedience (2017), focuses on a young Jewish Orthodox woman who has returned to her Jewish community after being shunned for falling in love with her female childhood friend. She tries to gain acceptance from the community, but encounters her childhood friend and begins to rekindle those passionate feelings again. This film centers on faith and sexuality. You can catch Disobedience on Youtube to rent for 3.99
Call Me by Your Name (2017), is a coming of age story about a young man name Ello Perlman and his family spending the summer in an Italian countryside. As Ello is taking in the landscape, he meets a young doctoral student named Oliver. Soon the two men form an intimate bond that makes their summer an unforgettable one. Call Me by Your Name is available on Amazon Prime and VUDU to rent.
The Danish Girl (2015) examines the life of transgender danish artist Elinar Wegner (Eddie Redmayne) and her wife Gretta Wegner(Alicia Vikander). Elinar’s wife supports her reassignment surgery but soon discovers that Elinar has found love with someone else. This film won multiple Academy Awards for best director, actor/ actress, and cinematography. Danish Girl is now available on Netflix and Amazon Prime to rent.
Tomboy (2011) is a French drama film that centers around Laure, a young girl who dresses as a boy to play with the neighborhood kids. While dressing as a boy, she soon discovers her sexuality as a transgender child. As the truth of her identity is revealed, she decides to live her truth by not conforming to societal norms. You can catch Tomboy on Amazon Prime, VUDU, and Itunes to rent.
Milk (2018) is a biopic drama that follows the life of gay rights activist Harvey Milk (Sean Penn), becoming the first openly gay politician in California during the 1970s. Unfortunately, he was murdered in his office by rival politician Dan White (Josh Brolin), who became upset with Milk and others for not supporting his reappointment into office. Harvey Milk opened the doors for many gay politicians to serve after his untimely death and fight for the civil liberties of all LGBTQ+ men, women, and non-binary people. Milk is available on Starz, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.
The Life and Death of Marsha P. Johnson (2017) is a documentary about Trans female activist Victoria Cruz, investigating the murder of her friend and fellow activist Marsha P. Johnson, who was suspiciously murdered in 1992. Ms. Cruz investigates the last known whereabouts of Marsha, her importance as the forerunner of the LGBTQ+ movement, and enemies she may have had. This documentary, at its core, is about a woman who wants to know what happened to her dearest friend, who was murdered. You can watch the Life and Death of Marsha P. Johnson exclusively on Netflix.
Disclosure (2020), This Netflix documentary examines Hollywood’s depiction in film of transgender people from the 1900s to the present age. In addition to clips from Hollywood films, this documentary features interviews from transgender actors, authors, and producers who share their challenges in the film industry. Disclosure is now streaming on Netflix.
The Gospel According to Andre (2017), this documentary follows the life and career of fashion icon Andre Leon Tally, who grew up as a black gay man in the segregated south and rose to fame as one of the most influential curators of fashion. The Gospel According to Andre, is now streaming on Hulu, Youtube, and other platforms.
RuPaul Drag Race (2009- Present) is an American reality competition television series that focuses on finding the best drag queen superstar. This show is hosted by RuPaul Charles, one of the most famous drag queens in television and film history. It features 13 contestants who all compete in a series of challenges that center around talent, comedy, and acting to be the next drag superstar. RuPaul’s Drag Race is one of my favorite shows because gay men share their challenging experiences as drag queen performers while being gay in America. This series is now in its 12th season! You can catch RuPaul’s Drag Race on Vh1, Sling TV, and Logo.
Pose (2018- Present), is a dramatic musical series created by Ryan Murphy set against the 1980’s big business era. It centers around the ballroom culture( fashion show) of the LGBTQ+ community. The series features the first and largest cast of transgender actors and actresses in television history telling transgender people’s stories, especially in the African American and Latino communities during the 80s and today. The show’s outbreak stars are Bill Porter, Indya Moore, Dominique Jackson, and Mj Rodriguez. Pose is now in its 3rd season and is available to watch on FX and Netflix.
Bessie (2015) is an HBO feature film that examines the life and death of Bessie Smith, an African American lesbian blues singer during the 1920s swing era. She was one of the first African American blues singers to perform for a mainstream audience. Queen Latifah stars in this riveting film! You can catch Bessie on HBO Max, Hulu, Youtube, and other platforms.
I love you Phillip Morris (2009), is a dark romantic comedy based on the real-life story of the con artist and infamous prison escapee Steven Jay Russell (Jim Carey ), who falls in love with fellow inmate Phillip Morris (Ewan Mcgregor). Morris motivates Russell to turn from his life of crime, but change can sometimes be hard to come by. This film is available on Hulu and Youtube.
The Legend of Korra (2012-2014) is an animated sequel to Avatar, The Last Airbender. The Legend of Korra series follows Avatar Korra, the successor to Aang, as she navigates through a 19th-century steampunk world of racism, zealous religious leaders, governmental taskmasters, sexism, and sexual orientation. This show became controversial because of these themes featured on a Nickelodeon kids show. Unlike its predecessor, Avatar, The Last Airbender, this series incorporated LGBTQ characters Korra and Asami, a wealthy female industrialist. The show’s finale had two endings: One of Korra and Asami kissing each other in the final scene, but fearing controversy the producers of the show changed the last scene to Korra and Asami facing each other and holding hands in a ceremonial wedding pose. The Legend of Korra is available on CBS access, Amazon Prime, and VUDU for 1.99.
(Steven Universe) 2013- 2020, a groundbreaking animated series and the first of its kind to be created by a female for Cartoon Network. The series follows a young boy named Steven, a half-human/ gem humanoid, and a group of gem warrior women who fight to protect humanity from evil forces and foes sent to destroy it at every turn. It was groundbreaking because of a same-sex marriage scene between the two characters Ruby and Sapphire, at a time when same-sex marriage in the US was illegal in 2016. In an Entertainment Weekly article, creator Rebecca Sugar recalls how challenging it was to make LGBTQIA characters within a G- rated cartoon setting.
In one episode entitled “What Can I Do For You?, “Ruby and Sapphire’s dancing scene is censored from UK broadcasting networks that aired the show. Also, a petition on change.org was drafted to cancel the show back in 2016 because of the same-sex marriage concept in a children’s television show. Never the less, Steven Universe remains popular because of its animation, songs about inclusion, love, individuality, and queer characters. You can watch Steven Universe on Cartoon Network, Hulu, HBO MAX, and other streaming platforms.
She- Ra and the Princesses of Power (2018- 2020), a reboot of the 1985 series, follows teenage princess Adora, as she gains supernatural powers by welding a magical sword that transforms her into She- Ra , the warrior princess. She- Ra fights alongside the Princesses of Power in destroying the evil horde bent on destroying the universe. The main character She- Ra develops a lesbian relationship with her friend and moral enemy Catra.
In an Indiewire.Com interview, creator Noelle Stevenson admitted the challenge of incorporating an LGBTQ love story within an already established cult classic series. Also, how introducing these characters in an animated setting becomes a challenge for parents who are protective of their kids’ views on life. She- Ra and the Princesses of Power is now streaming on Netflix.
Moonlight (2016) isa Barry Jenkins film that introduces its main character Chiron, in three chapters of his life exploring his sexuality as a young black gay man in Miami. This film challenges masculinity and being gay in the black community. You may remember the controversy of this film at the 2017 Oscars when Warren Betty announced that La La Land won for the best picture category, but Moonlight was the actual winner. This controversy went down as one of the pivotal and disconcerting moments in Oscar history. Moonlight is now streaming on Netflix, Amazon Prime (3.99), and Youtube (3.99).
We Were Here (2011), LGBTQ documentary about the booming gay and lesbian community in 1970’s San Francisco and the AIDS crisis during the 1980s that changed the city forever. This documentary includes interviews from those affected by the AIDS epidemic through losing partners and family members to the virus. We Were Here is available to rent through Itunes (0.99), Youtube (2.99), and Amazon Prime (0.99)
The Normal Heart (2014), HBO film directed by Ryan Murphy and written for television by Larry Kramer, who wrote the stage play of the same name. The film is based on the true story of Larry Kramer’s campaign to educate gay men about safe sex during the 1980s AIDS crisis and the American government’s lack of concern in finding a cure for this virus. The film stars Mark Ruffalo (Avengers ) and Jim Parsons (Big Bang Theory). You can find this film on Amazon Prime (HBO subscription), HBO MAX, and HBO GO.
Paris is Burning (1990), an American documentary film that chronicles gay ball room culture in New York City during the 1980’s trump era from the perspective of African American and Latino gay and trans men and women who performed at these balls. Fun fact! Madonna discovered the dance move Voguing from attending these underground balls. Her inclusion of the dance move in the music video Vogue brought it into mainstream media in the 1990s.
Another fun fact, the FX series Pose is also inspired by this documentary. The controversy of Paris is Burning comes from those featured in this film feeling exploited after the film’s big box office debut and critical acclaim garnered all over the world. A problem I ran into with this film is that it was impossible to find! The film was taken off of Youtube and is only available to buy and rent on Itunes and The Criterion Collection. I suggest renting it on Itunes personally or checking Kanopy.
United in Anger: A History of ACT UP (2012) examines the activist group ACT UP, who demonstrated powerful protests and evidence of the government’s slow response to the AIDS epidemic in the gay community during the 1980s. United in Anger is available to rent on Youtube, iTunes and Amazon Prime. It is also available on Kanopy with a library and school-university subscription.
Bohemian Rhapsody (2018), a musical film following the life of lead singer Freddie Mercury from the band Queen. Also, this film exams his life as a closet gay man who suffered and died from AIDS in 1991. Fun Fact: Adam Lamber, the new lead singer of Queen, has a small role in this film. You can watch Bohemian Rhapsody on Hulu, HBO Max, and Amazon Prime.
Rocketman (2019) a biographical film about the life and musical career of singer Elton John (still living) , who suffered from drug addictions and his experience as a closeted gay man in rock music. Fun Fact: Elton John was one of the consultants on this film. His new Autobiographical book “Me,” covers many aspects in more detail from the film. Rocketman is available to stream on Hulu, Sling TV, and Youtube.
Brokeback Mountain (2005) is anAmerican romantic drama by director Ang Lee (Li of Pi), it explores the sexual relationship between two cowboys hired to herd sheep in the Wyoming Mountains. Mainly, this film examines and challenges the rugged masculinity of cowboys in the American West. Brokeback Mountain is available on Starz, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.
Boys Don’t Cry (1999), a biographical film about a young transgender man named Brandon Teena, who moves to a rural town in Nebraska to start his life over. While in this small town, his life seems to change for the better with new friends, a girlfriend, and a job, until his life as a transgender man is revealed in a gruesome and deadly way. This film is based on the true story of Brandon Teena, murdered by a group of small-town locals who killed him and his friends; including a young closeted black gay man. Boy’s Don’t Cry, is now available to stream on Hulu, HBO Max, and Youtube.
The Birdcage (1996), Now onto a lighter note with the 1996 comedy/drama The Birdcage starring Robin Williams and Nathan Lane. This film is a remake of the French film “La Cage Aux Folles,” which centers around a happily married gay couple who owns a gay night club in Miami. When the couple’s son comes to visit, he brings good and bad news! The good news is he is getting married! But the bad news is his parents have to hide their sexuality to appease his fiancee’s conservative parents. Despite the comedy involved, this film addresses themes of gay marriage, politics, and bigotry. The Birdcage is available on Showtime, Hulu, Pluto TV, Youtube, and Amazon Prime.
To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar (1995), a comedy/ drama film starring Wesley Snipes, Patrick Swayze, and John Leguizamo as three drag queens that travel to Hollywood to compete in a drag queen pageant. On their way to Hollywood, the car breaks down in a small rural town where they encounter bigotry but change the residents’ lives in the process. I remember watching this film for the first time as a kid thinking how unattractive Wesley Snipes is as a drag queen lol! You can catch this film on Cinemax, Netflix, and Amazon Prime.
But I’m a Cheerleader (1999), a satirical romantic comedy about a high school cheerleader whose parents suspect she is gay. They send her to a conversion therapy camp to “cure” her of her lesbianism. The joke or punchline of the film is that the main character is in denial about her sexual orientation because “Cheerleaders can’t be lesbians so she must be straight, right?” It challenges the stereotypes of high school norms and the discovery of one’s sexual orientation. But I’m a Cheerleader is now streaming on Vudu, Tubi, Amazon Prime, and Pluto TV.
Happy Pride! ( Librarian Ninja Girl )