40 LGBTQ+ Movies Spanning Centuries and Genres
Whether you’re in the mood for a thoughtful, serious drama, a fun and lighthearted comedy, or a documentary deep dive into real history, there are a ton of movies that focus on LGBTQ+ characters, storylines, experiences, and themes. Over the course of the past several decades, depictions of LGBTQ+ stories have evolved significantly, with an ever-broadening range of stories and experiences taking the spotlight. From Oscar winners and big-name hits to under-the-radar faves, we’ve rounded up some of the most notable LGBTQ+ movies we’ve seen. Take a look through our list in the gallery ahead, and see which movies you’ve already seen and which you should add to your streaming queue.
LGBTQ+ Movies: "Ammonite"
Saoirse Ronan and Kate Winslet star in this period drama set in 1840s England and very loosely based on real historical figures. Fossil collector and paleontologist Mary Anning lives in a small seaside community, caring for her mother and running a small shop where she sells small fossils she finds along the shore. When a geologist stumbles across her shop and offers to pay her for tutorials on fossil collecting, Mary grows close to his isolated and ignored wife, Charlotte. Over time, their relationship turns romantic, but the rules of their time mean that they have to be very careful not to reveal the truth to anyone.
LGBTQ+ Movies: "Brokeback Mountain"
Even if you haven’t seen “Brokeback Mountain,” you’ve definitely heard about this Oscar-winning drama. Based on a short story by Annie Proulx, the movie traces the intense and complicated relationship between Ennis and Jack, two cowboys who meet and fall in love on a job in 1960s Wyoming. Their passionate love affair is stymied by their own internal struggles and by the expectations of society at the time, making it pretty much impossible for them to be together. Although they both get married, start families, and even go years without speaking to each other, the connection between them never completely fades away.
LGBTQ+ Movies: "Carol"
In this 1950s romantic drama, two very different women meet and fall in love, despite a number of complications that threaten to keep them apart. Therese, an aspiring photographer in a disappointing relationship, crosses paths with Carol, a wealthy older woman, when Carol comes in to the department store where Therese is working. They slowly form a connection and fall in love, but it’s difficult for both of them. Therese’s boyfriend wants to get married, while Carol’s husband is blackmailing her about her sexuality and threatening to take their daughter away. Their romance has its ups and downs as they both confront the other questions in their lives and decide what the future might be.
LGBTQ+ Movies: "The Half of It"
Teen movie tropes and “Cyrano de Bergerac” combine in this very modern, charming coming-of-age tale. Ellie is something of a loner in her high school, mostly interacting with others only to “ghostwrite” their assignments for them for money. Things get complicated when Paul, a popular but awkward jock, approaches her to ghostwrite something different: a love letter to their classmate Aster. As Paul continues pursuing Aster, he returns over and over to get Ellie’s behind-the-scenes help wooing her. Paul and Ellie start to form a friendship of their own as they work together, even as Ellie comes to understand her own feelings for Aster.
LGBTQ+ Movies: "Love, Simon"
“Love, Simon” hits all the beats of the classic teen movie, but this time with a queer character at its centre. Simon, a gay teenager who hasn’t come out yet, starts communicating online with an anonymous gay student at his high school, known only by the pseudonym “Blue.” When another student discovers their messages by accident, Simon is forced to help him woo one of Simon’s friends, under threat of blackmail. Along the way, Simon tries to discover who Blue really is and slowly begins coming out to the people in his life. Just like other teen movies, all the schemes and secrets spill out eventually, but it leads to the happiness Simon has always wanted.
LGBTQ+ Movies: "Moonlight"
It’s easy for the legacy of “Moonlight” to just be the shocking and confusing moment when it won the Oscar for best picture, but that’s not fair to this truly excellent movie. The story traces three distinct stages in the life of Chiron, a young Black man who grows up struggling with poverty, drugs, and a slowly dawning realisation about his own sexuality. As the years go on, he navigates a complicated relationship with his mother, gets involved even deeper with the drug trade, and tries to reconnect with one of the only people he ever felt able to be himself around.
LGBTQ+ Movies: "Portrait of a Lady on Fire"
Set in late 18th-century France, this historical romance tells the story of the forbidden bond between a wealthy young aristocrat and the unconventional artist hired to paint her portrait. Marianne is hired secretly as a “companion” by Héloïse’s family, as Héloïse has refused to be painted and doesn’t want to be married at all. The more time the two women spend together, however, the less willing Marianne is to go along with the deception. Their romance slowly builds over the course of their time together, but they both know it has an end date, leaving them to find ways to leave behind reminders of the love they once shared.
LGBTQ+ Movies: "Alex Strangelove"
High school student Alex seems like he’s going through the motions of your “typical” teenage experience: school, friends, dating. He and his best friend turned girlfriend Claire make plans to have sex for the first time after their prom, but Alex starts to question everything when he goes to a party and meets Elliot, an openly gay teen. His connection with Elliot, who clearly is crushing on him, starts to make him question his own identity and sexuality. Alex’s journey to figuring himself out is messy and a little dramatic, like any teenager’s life is, but he’s got plenty of hope for his future.
LGBTQ+ Movies: "Beginners"
The relationship between a father who comes out late in life and his son is the beating heart of this dramedy. Christopher Plummer won an Oscar for his portrayal of Hal, a widower who begins living life as a gay man after the death of his wife. As he explores the gay community and falls in love again, Hal learns how to be more open with himself and with others, including his son, Oliver, with whom he’s had a complicated relationship. Inspired by his father’s new outlook, Oliver himself tries to open up, be more honest, and pursue love even when it’s scary.
LGBTQ+ Movies: "The Birdcage"
This classic comedy stars Nathan Lane and Robin Williams as a longtime couple who run a Florida drag club, with Armand (Williams) as the owner and Albert (Lane) as the club’s headlining performer. When Armand’s son comes home with the news that he’s engaged, they’re thrilled and like his new fiancée very much. The complications arise when it turns out that her parents are ultra-conservative and believe that Armand is straight and married to a woman. Hijinks ensue as Albert tries to pose first as “Uncle Albert,” then, even more outrageously, as Armand’s “wife,” putting a strain on everyone’s relationships and eventually emphasising the importance of putting honesty and love first.
LGBTQ+ Movies: "The Boys in the Band"
Adapted twice (once in 1970 and again in 2020) from a 1968 play, this ensemble drama focuses on a birthday party gone very, very wrong among a group of gay friends and acquaintances in 1960s New York. Even before the party gets underway, tensions between different members of the group are already threatening to boil over. When everyone decides to play a misbegotten game involving conversations with “true loves,” things get very messy, very quickly. Everyone at the party has to come to terms with something, whether it’s past secrets, current relationships, or something as simple as what they really think of themselves.
LGBTQ+ Movies: "Booksmart"
Two teenage misfits embark on a hilarious, very awkward, and often very sweet journey to get the “complete” high school experience before they graduate, with some unexpected results. Amy and Molly are overachievers in every way, and they’re also wildly unpopular. After discovering that many of their peers (who, unlike them, did party and have fun throughout high school) got into equally prestigious colleges, the friends wish they’d spent more time enjoying themselves. To compensate, they make a pact to go to a party or two and let loose. For Molly, that means flirting with her crush Nick and trying to let go of her need to control. For Amy, that means an unexpected romantic connection and the chance to be a “hero” to her classmates.
LGBTQ+ Movies: "A Fantastic Woman"
This acclaimed Chilean film won the Oscar for best foreign language film in 2018. Marina, a young transgender woman, works as a waitress and singer in Santiago, Chile. Her life is turned on its head when her older boyfriend suffers a fall and a fatal aneurysm. When his family swoops in, Marina finds herself being disrespected by them and by law enforcement, subjecting her to indignities big and small as they insinuate things about her relationship. All this time, she’s just trying to grieve her partner, put her life back together, and perhaps even fulfill her dreams of being an opera singer.
LGBTQ+ Movies: "God's Own Country"
On a remote sheep farm in England, Johnny finds himself bearing most of the responsibilities of his family farm, with his grandmother getting too old and his father suffering a stroke. He tries to hide his frustrations in drinking and in meaningless, secret hookups with other men. When his family hires Gheorghe, a Romanian migrant worker, to help with lambing season, Johnny is drawn to the newcomer, who has a very different view on both life and relationships. As the two men discover the depths of their bond, they struggle with what it means and what the future could look like for them.
LGBTQ+ Movies: "Rocketman"
The true life story of legendary musician Elton John gets the campy musical treatment in this biopic musical set to his own catalog of iconic songs. The movie traces how young Reginald Dwight came to love music and tried unsuccessfully to get his parents’ affection, then grew up to try his hand at a music career. Teaming up with a lyricist named Bernie Taupin proves to be the perfect creative partnership, and a much-needed supportive friendship as Elton grows more comfortable being openly gay. Unfortunately, his personal relationships are much less successful and he has a weakness for the party scene that comes along with his fame and fortune. It takes hitting rock bottom before he finally pulls himself together and learns to love himself the way he deserves.
LGBTQ+ Movies: "A Single Man"
In the 1960s, middle-age professor George lives in Los Angeles, still grieving over the death of his longtime partner in a shocking car crash. George hides a secret from the few people still close to him: he’s planning to end his own life, feeling completely lost after his partner’s death. As he goes about his life and tries to set his affairs in order, he flashes back to memories of their relationship over the years. He also crosses paths with a few other people, from friends to total strangers, who give him pause and might make him reconsider his tragic decision.
LGBTQ+ Movies: "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert"
Two drag queens and a trans woman journey across Australia in a memorable tour bus in this road trip comedy. Drag queen “Tick” is headed to perform at a resort managed by his ex-wife, and along for the ride are Adam, a flashy and younger drag queen, and Bernadette, a grieving trans woman. As they journey across the desert, they meet a variety of people, some very accepting, some very much not. All three members of the group find themselves having to deal with the issues they’ve kept to themselves, supporting each other and hoping that everything works out for the best.
LGBTQ+ Movies: "But I'm a Cheerleader"
Teen movies get a satirical, queer twist with this cult classic comedy. Megan seems like a normal, popular high school student, a senior on the cheerleading team who’s dating a popular jock. When her friends begin to suspect that she’s gay, they stage an “intervention,” and Megan is sent off to a conversion camp. While there, Megan befriends another girl, Graham, and the two girls begin to fall in love against a backdrop of outrageous “techniques” practised at the camp. With the help of two former students, Megan and a few others begin to rebel against the strict rules, learning to be comfortable with themselves and stand up for each other.
LGBTQ+ Movies: "The Celluloid Closet"
This documentary isn’t just a movie about the LGBTQ+ community – it’s a movie about how movies have depicted the community over the years. With in-depth analysis, film clips from several decades, and interviews with people in the film industry, the movie takes a closer look at the evolution of how LGBTQ+ characters have been depicted since the beginning of film up through the 1990s (the “present day” at the time the documentary was made). From the impact of the infamous “Production Code” to stereotypes and a degree of progress late in the 20th century, the documentary examines how the movies have portrayed queer characters and what that means.
LGBTQ+ Movies: "Hedwig and the Angry Inch"
Adapted from a stage musical, this rock musical plays with the lines of gender in its tale of a queer singer-songwriter who grew up in communist East Berlin. Fascinated with philosophical ideas about identity, soulmates, and gender, Hedwig changes her life to escape her home and marry an American soldier. In order to pull it off, Hedwig undergoes a gender reassignment surgery, which goes wrong. Over the next few years, Hedwig has to reset her life over and over again, from having her music stolen by someone she thought loved her to starting her own band. In the end, only Hedwig can truly reconcile the different parts of herself into a person she can be happy as.
LGBTQ+ Movies: "My Own Private Idaho"
Did you know that this famous indie film is technically inspired by Shakespeare? Loosely based on “Henry IV” and “Henry V,” the movie follows Mike and Scott, two friends who embark on an epic and life-changing journey together, traveling across the country and eventually even to Rome. The pair are sex workers who have leaned on each other through ups and downs. As Scott admits that he’s planning on leaving this life behind when he gets his inheritance from his powerful father, Mike tries to trace what really happened to his mother. As they head out in search of answers, the bond between them grows even more complicated.
LGBTQ+ Movies: "Paris Is Burning"
Filmed mostly through the latter half of the 1980s, this iconic documentary traces the drag ball culture of New York City and the Black, Latino, and LGBTQ+ communities involved in the scene. The movie provides a primer on how ball competitions work, as well as in-depth interviews with many of the people closely involved in developing, maintaining, and evolving the culture. Alongside the apparent glamour of the scene, the movie also documents the very real concerns that their communities faced, from poverty and homelessness to bigotry, violence, and the AIDS epidemic. It’s a chronicle of a very specific place and time, as well as a broader commentary on marginalised and often overlooked communities and their contributions to popular culture.
LGBTQ+ Movies: "Happiest Season"
Nothing says the holidays like a romantic comedy full of family drama and awkward secret-keeping. In this holiday flick, Harper and Abby head to visit Harper’s family for Christmas, only for Harper to reveal that she’s lied to her family about her relationship with Abby and about her sexuality in general. Abby is stuck pretending to be Harper’s straight “roommate” for the duration of the trip, which doesn’t sit well with her at all. As Abby learns more about Harper’s family expectations and personal history, she starts to question whether they can have a future together at all, or whether they’re not actually meant to be.
LGBTQ+ Movies: "Pariah"
This 2011 film combines a coming-of-age story with a coming-out story. Alike, a 17-year-old Black high school student, is just starting to come to terms with her own identity as a butch lesbian. While she has the support of her friend Laura, her mother strongly disapproves and tries to force her into an identity she deems more “appropriate.” As Alike begins to explore her identity and her feelings more deeply, she puts her heart out there and takes some big risks. All the while, she has to deal with the knowledge that, if she truly embraces who she is, she could lose at least one of her parents forever.
LGBTQ+ Movies: "Saving Face"
In this romantic dramedy, two Chinese-American women fall in love and struggle with what that means for them and their families. Wil is a successful surgeon, but she’s keeping her sexuality a secret from her mother, who keeps trying to set her up with her friends’ sons. Instead, Wil connects with Vivian, the daughter of one of her mother’s friends. Vivian is dealing with her own version of being a “disappointment” to her family, pursuing a career in modern dance instead of ballet. As their feelings for each other grow stronger, they struggle with the conflict between upholding family expectations and following their hearts.
LGBTQ+ Movies: "Single All the Way"
Who doesn’t love romantic comedy tropes? This holiday-themed rom-com checks off a bunch of the best tropes we know and love, from “best friends to lovers” to “fake dating” to “everyone can see it.” Peter’s holiday plans take a nosedive when the boyfriend he planned to introduce to his family turns out to be married. Dreading his nosy, well-intentioned family’s questions, he convinces his longtime BFF Nick to come along and pretend that they’ve started dating. Before they can enact their ruse, though, Peter’s mom reveals that she’s found him the perfect holiday date. As Peter tests the waters with his mom’s pick, though, he can’t help thinking about Nick much more than he probably should.
LGBTQ+ Movies: "Tangerine"
Fresh off a month in prison, transgender sex worker Sin-Dee is horrified when her friend reveals that her boyfriend (and pimp) has been cheating on her. While her friend Alexandra gets ready for a musical performance that night, Sin-Dee sets off to track down Dinah, the “other woman,” who has quite a bit to say when she does find her. Along the way, the three women form an unusual bond of their own, while crossing paths with other colourful characters who populate their world. With big and small betrayals piling up, each of them have to decide what they’re going to do next and who they can trust.
LGBTQ+ Movies: "The Watermelon Woman"
Cheryl, a young Black lesbian in the 1990s, spends her days working an unsatisfying job in a video store. When she’s not at work, she’s pursuing her real passion: making a film about a little-known, largely uncredited Black actress from the 1930s, who spent her career stuck in the stereotypical roles offered to Black women in Hollywood at the time. As Cheryl researches her movie, she tries to interview people who might have clues as to who the “Watermelon Woman” really was. Her work takes her deep into years of secret relationships and questions of race, gender, and sexuality that still linger, even decades later.
LGBTQ+ Movies: "Blue Is the Warmest Color"
Winner of the prestigious Palme d’Or at Cannes, “Blue is the Warmest Color” is a coming-of-age story centered on two young women who fall in love, and what comes next. Adèle and Emma meet and fall head over heels for each other, just as Adèle is figuring out her sexuality. At first, their passionate connection helps them to overcome all the obstacles in their way, from judgmental family and friends to their conflicts over their careers. As time goes on, however, they start to drift apart, and it becomes clear that love, on its own, might not be enough to keep them together.
LGBTQ+ Movies: "Chasing Amy"
An unexpected love story is at the center of this romantic dramedy. Comic book artists Holden and Alyssa meet at a convention and become good friends. Although Holden is interested in Alyssa romantically, he finds out that she’s a lesbian, sending their relationship in a different direction. As their friendship continues, the lines of romance and friendship, as well as of different sexual identities, start to blur, and the other people in their orbits start to get involved as well. It winds up being less of a traditional romantic comedy and more of a story about figuring out who we are and what different kinds of love mean.
LGBTQ+ Movies: "The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson"
If you’ve read or watched much about the history of the American LGBTQ+ communities or of the Stonewall riots, you’ve definitely heard of Marsha P. Johnson. Johnson, a gay rights activist and drag queen, has been compared as the “Rosa Parks” of the LGBTQ+ rights movement. In 1992, her life came to a tragic end when her body was found floating in the Hudson River. Under mysterious circumstances, the case went cold and was ruled a suicide, but many in her circle didn’t believe that for a moment. In this documentary, Victoria Cruz, a transgender rights activist and a friend of Johnson’s, revisits the mystery of Johnson’s death and honours the work her friend and others did for the LGBTQ+ community.
LGBTQ+ Movies: "The Feels"
A lesbian bachelorette party takes centre stage in this comedy. A group of friends set out for a bachelorette weekend, celebrating the upcoming wedding between two of them, Andi and Lu. At first, it seems like it’s just going to be a fun, wild-but-not-really girls’ weekend for them to all hang out and celebrate. When Lu drunkenly admits that she’s never actually had an orgasm, it sends the weekend in a very different direction. Instead of just being about celebrating the upcoming wedding, the weekend instead gets everyone in the group thinking about their own romantic and sexual histories and what has been important to them over the years.
LGBTQ+ Movies: "Let It Snow"
This ensemble teen comedy has several storylines woven together, all tied loosely together by an unexpected snowstorm. One of the main storylines concerns the secret relationship between Dorrie, a waitress at the local “Waffle Town” restaurant, and Kerry, a popular cheerleader. When we first meet them, they’re hooking up in secret, and Kerry is too afraid to take things public or even acknowledge that she knows Dorrie. As the story continues and other love stories and friendships unfold all around them, Kerry and Dorrie have to decide whether staying in secret is really the future they want, or if they can be brave enough to move forward.
LGBTQ+ Movies: "The Handmaiden"
In this thriller, a con man plots to marry a Japanese heiress, Lady Hideko, in order to have the power to send her to an asylum and take her inheritance for himself. He hires a pickpocket, Sook-hee, to become Hideko’s maid, get close to her, and convince her to marry him so he can carry out his plan. As Hideko and Sook-hee grow closer and develop feelings for each other, however, things don’t exactly go to plan. Unexpected alliances form and secrets from the past are revealed as both women fight to be able to live their own lives on their own terms.
LGBTQ+ Movies: "The Hours"
Three very different women, living in three different eras, are all connected through complicated feelings and a sense of connection to Virginia Woolf’s famous novel “Mrs. Dalloway.” In the 1920s, Woolf herself struggles with her mental health while trying to write the novel, and a visit from her sister complicates things further. In the 1950s, Laura appears to be the perfect housewife and mother, but she can’t shake the feeling that something is missing in her life. Finally, in 2001, Clarissa is throwing a party for her friend Richard, a writer living with AIDS who has a connection to the other segments of the story.
LGBTQ+ Movies: "The Kids Are All Right"
Nic and Jules are a married couple, raising their two teenage children after using the same sperm donor and each giving birth to one of them. When their children reach out in search of answers about their biological father, the family finally meets the sperm donor, restaurant owner Paul. Paul’s arrival throws a bit of a wrench in their lives and exposes some of the cracks and frustrations that they’ve just been papering over up until now. When a betrayal rocks the foundations of their family, they must make some choices about whether to stick it out and address their problems or cut their losses and run.
LGBTQ+ Movies: "Milk"
Based on a true story, this drama narrates the rise (and tragic end) of Harvey Milk, a California politician who became the first openly gay person elected to public office in the state. The movie follows the arc of Milk’s life, from his activism for gay rights and his relationship with a younger man to his move to San Francisco, his initial failed runs for office, and his successful campaign to land on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. In time, Milk develops a complicated working relationship with Dan White, a staunchly conservative colleague on the Board, which slowly becomes a rivalry that leads to tragedy.
LGBTQ+ Movies: "Weekend"
This romantic drama tells you exactly what it is in the title: the story of a single weekend and what happens between two men who just met over the course of those few days. Russell and Glen meet at a gay club and hook up, but instead of just going their separate ways, they keep coming back to each other. Over the course of the weekend, they confide in each other about their pasts and their hopes, and they form a much deeper bond than either one expected. The question then becomes whether their connection can last longer than the weekend, or if it will just become a precious memory.
LGBTQ+ Movies: "My Beautiful Laundrette"
The romance between two childhood friends anchors this dramedy set in 1980s London. Omar is the son of a once-famous Pakistani journalist, caring for his father and running a laundrette owned by his more-successful uncle. When Omar crosses paths with his childhood friend Johnny, now a street punk, he offers Johnny a job and they resume a romantic relationship they had begun years ago when they were students. Along the way, they try to fix up the laundrette, get entangled with the illegal drug business, and deal with family expectations as they navigate the complex racial, political, economic, and social realities of the era.
LGBTQ+ Movies: "Call Me By Your Name"
In the early 1980s, 17-year-old Elio spends the summer in Italy where his father, an archaeology professor, is doing some work. Elio starts out spending time with some childhood friends and steering clear of his father’s work, but he can’t seem to stop noticing Oliver, a graduate student staying with the family while he assists on the project. Elio and Oliver soon realise their attraction to each other and begin a passionate affair, but they know that the time they have together is very limited. While their romance may not be able to go the distance, the things they learn from being together will always stay with them.