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Top 11 Great Gay Interest Movies

by Jamie Frater
fact checked by Alex Hanton

So many genres of film making have been covered on the site, but one certainly sticks out for its lack of representation – and this, finally, is it. These are films that are not designed to promote or condemn homosexuality, but films which mirror the “coming of age” films, the “romance” films, and just general life-stories that we see so often in mainstream cinema. The difference is that these films are based on same-sex situations. I have tried very hard to select films that I think appeal to ALL people – not just a homosexual audience. I have seen all of these films and I would easily recommend them as masterpieces of cinema or story telling. For those with biases, put them aside and check these films out – I am certain you won’t regret it.


1982, Rainer Werner Fassbinder


I feel a bit guilty for adding this film – it is here for its art value only. The film itself is a little hard to watch unless you are particularly fond of avant garde French movies – it is not just a gay story, it is an art form – from the art of the author (Jean Genet) to the art of the director (Fassbinder). For many this might appear a B-grade film, but I assure you, it is not; it is true to the story, it is true to the life of the author, and it is a moving film. Perhaps even more moving is the fact that the main actor, Brad Davis, ultimately died of AIDS through drug use. This same actor was the brilliant star of Midnight Express.

Synopsis: French sailor Querelle arrives in Brest and starts frequenting a strange whorehouse. He discovers that his brother Robert is the lover of the lady owner, Lysiane. Here, you can play dice with Nono, Lysiane’s husband : if you win, you are allowed to make love with Lysiane, if you lose, you have to make love with Nono… Querelle loses on purpose…

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Beautiful Thing
1996, Hettie Macdonald


This is our coming of age film for the list. But, obviously, it is a coming of age film with a twist – the twist being the angst of teenage life coupled with the angst of realizing, and learning to deal with homosexuality. The acting is superb and the film really does have moments of tears and laughter. The addition of a brilliant soundtrack including much music by Mama Cass really makes this an amusing and fun film. If you only watch one movie on this list – let it be this one.

Synopsis: A tender love story set during a hot summer on a South-East London housing estate. Jamie, a relatively unpopular lad who bunks off school to avoid football, lives next door to Ste, a more popular athletic lad but who is frequently beaten up by his father and older brother. Such an episode of violence brings Jamie and Ste together: Sandra (Jamie’s mum) offers refugee to Ste, who has to ‘top-and-tail’ with Jamie. Hence, the story tells of their growing attraction for one another, from initial lingering glances to their irrefutable love, which is so magnificently illustrated at the end of the film.

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My Beautiful Laundrette
1985, Stephen Frears


This is a film that I found a little harder to appreciate, but it is still an extremely highly regarded film for its genre. Not only do we deal with homosexuality here, we also deal with multi-racial relationships. This is, as far as I am aware, the only film which deals with both issues. Set in a launderette during the Thatcher years, this film is historically interesting and a bonus for those who love the 80s.

Synopsis: My Beautiful Laundrette is set within the Asian community in London, during the Thatcher years, and displays those values, of money but ‘anybody can make it.’ Omar gains the running of his Uncle Nasser’s laundrette. He is helped by his friend Johnny who is an outsider, white but not entirely accepted by either the white or Asian Londoners. There are many memorable characters: Tania, Omar’s cousin whom he might marry. Salim the manager of Nasser’s garage and sometime drug importer. Rachel, Nasser’s white mistress, who like Johnny seems to be another outsider.

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My Own Private Idaho
1991, Gus Van Sant

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This was the first film of this type that I have seen and I will be forever thankful as I have become a great fan of the director Gus Van Sant ever since. If you have not seen any of his films (which I am sure is not the case for most listverse readers), this is a good one to start with. It has the beautiful cinematography that all of his films seem to have, without the more avant garde style that much of his recent work has. Additionally, this film shows us an entirely different side to the now-dead River Phoenix, whose acting here really shows us what a tragic loss the film industry suffered when he died.

Synopsis: Surreal character study focusing on the friendship between two male hustlers, Mike and Scott, in Portland, Oregon. They live on the streets, do drugs, and sell themselves to men and women. Mike is quiet, gay and suffers from narcolepsy. Abandoned as a child, he is obsessed with finding his long-lost mother. Scott is the rebellious son of a high-ranking family, who lives this life mostly to embarrass his father. Mike is in love with Scott, who still maintains he is straight and insists that his wild lifestyle on the streets is only temporary. Together, they embark on a quest to find Mike’s mother, traveling from Portland to Idaho to Italy, with Scott picking up a beautiful girl along the way.

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Ma Vie En Rose
1997, Alain Berliner

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Completely in French, this lovely gentle film shows us the story of a little boy who wants to be a little girl. We see the difficulty suffered by his Catholic family and neighbors as he simply does not fit in. Best of all, this film is shown through the eyes of the young boy who is the object of the movie. A unique perspective.

Synopsis: Ludovic is a young boy who can’t wait to grow up to be a woman. When his family discovers the little girl blossoming in him they are forced to contend with their own discomfort and the lack of understanding from their new neighbors. Their anger and impatience cave and Ludovic is sent to see a psychiatrist in the hopes of fixing whatever is wrong with him. A movie that addresses trans-gender and gender issues in general through the eyes of a child.

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The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert
1994, Stephan Elliott

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This film is the one most likely to be known by ALL readers. It was a hit for Guy Pearce and is full of flamboyant “fabulous” costumes and acting. Here we get a behind the scenes view of the Australian world of drag – and what a world it is! Coupled with the color and pizazz are the lonely lives of the main characters who struggle to find themselves, and their families, and a place in society. This is, undoubtedly, one of the best drag films ever – so much so that I rate it higher than the Birdcage (which is not included in this list).

Synopsis: Two drag-queens (Anthony/Mitzi and Adam/Felicia) and a transexual (Bernadette) contract to perform a drag show at a resort in Alice Springs, a resort town in the remote Australian desert. They head west from Sydney aboard their lavender bus, Priscilla. En route, it is discovered that the woman they’ve contracted with is Anthony’s wife. Their bus breaks down, and is repaired by Bob, who travels on with them.

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2005, Jean-Marc Vallée


This lesser-known film is unlike any of the others on the list. In this film we see the struggle of the young man drawn to others of his own gender, but never able to truly accept himself. We see the incredible split in his family as his mother buys him the pram he always wanted, followed by the father forcing the mother to return it – a true struggle between morality and immorality all in one family. Add a drug addicted brother, a geeky brother, and music by Ziggy Stardust and you have one hell of an entertaining film. The film is in Quebecois but subtitles make it easy to follow. Highly recommended – perhaps the best Canadian film of the last decade.

Synopsis: It’s a story of two love affairs. A father’s love for his five sons. And one son’s love for his father, a love so strong it compels him to live a lie. That son is Zac Beaulieu, born on the 25th of December 1960, different from all his brothers, but desperate to fit in. During the next 20 years, life takes Zac on a surprising and unexpected journey that ultimately leads him to accept his true nature and, even more importantly, leads his father to love him for who he really is. A mystical fable about a modern-day Christ-like figure, “C.R.A.Z.Y” exudes the beauty, the poetry and the madness of the human spirit in all its contradictions.

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1987, James Ivory


The biggest surprise in this film is the appearance of Hugh Grant, playing the young English University student who falls in love, and out, and in, with another student. Unique in this film is the period – the early 1900s when homosexuality, or more specifically, sodomy, was illegal in the United Kingdom. Not only do we see the issue of gender dealt with, but the issue of class – when one of the main characters (a wealthy young man), falls in love with a servant. This film is produced by Merchant Ivory – renowned for their excellent work in period dramas. A must see for anyone interested in historical sexuality issues.

Synopsis: Two male English school chums find themselves falling in love at Cambridge. To regain his place in society, Clive gives up his forbidden love, Maurice (pronounced “Morris”) and marries. While staying with Clive and his shallow wife, Anne, Maurice finally discovers romance in the arms of Alec, the gamekeeper. Written from personal pain, it’s E.M. Forster’s story of coming to terms with sexuality in the Edwardian age.

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Boys Don’t Cry
1999, Kimberly Peirce

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This is a film that cuts to the bone with emotion. Here we see some of the best acting to grace the silver screen of late (courtesy of Hilary Swank). The tragic and disturbing events in this film are, sadly, based on a true story. You simply can’t help but feel every moment of suffering that the main characters experience. This film definitely contains some extremely violent scenes and is not appropriate for young viewers, but it is a film that undoubtedly should be seen by everyone.

Synopsis: Based on actual events. Brandon Teena is the popular new guy in a tiny Nebraska town. He hangs out with the guys, drinking, cussing, and bumper surfing, and he charms the young women, who’ve never met a more sensitive and considerate young man. Life is good for Brandon, now that he’s one of the guys and dating hometown beauty Lana. However, he’s forgotten to mention one important detail. It’s not that he’s wanted in another town for GTA and other assorted crimes, but that Brandon Teena was actually born a woman named Teena Brandon. When his best friends make this discovery, Brandon’s life is ripped apart.

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Brokeback Mountain
2005, Ang Lee

Brokeback Mountain

Deciding where to rate this film was very tough – perhaps more so due to the recent death of Heath Ledger, but ultimately it had to be in the top 5. Here we see two of Hollywood’s greatest young actors playing roles we would never expect – and doing so outstandingly. No matter whether you are straight or gay, this is probably the romance film of the decade. In fact, the film won the best film kiss Oscar – the first between two men (both of whom are straight!) While I prefer to keep certain aspects of my private life to myself, I feel I must admit that I shed a tear at one of the final scenes in the film (the one in the parent’s house near the end – if you have seen the film you know what I mean). This film is an astonishing film production of a brilliant short story.

Synopsis: In the Summer of 1963 Wyoming, two young men, Ennis a ranch hand and Jack an aspiring rodeo bull rider, are sent to work together herding sheep on Brokeback Mountain, and what had otherwise been anticipated to be a rather uneventful venture, will soon turn into an affair of love, of lust, and complications that will span through 19 years of their lives. Through marriage, through children, and through the mighty grip of societal confines and the expectations of what it is to be a man.

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1997, Sean Mathias


I generally prefer not to leave a list on a depressing note, but this film has to rate as number one. It is a film adaptation of the play by x. In this film we see two gay German men who are forced in to a concentration camp for their sexual preference. Despite not knowing each other, the two manage to form a relationship which is entirely chaste – and yet more emotional and sexual (without sex) than a couple co-habitating. If you have not seen this film, watch it – the sex scenes (without sex) are completely unique to stage and screen. It will tie you up in knots, but it is definitely worth it.

Synopsis: Max is gay and as such is sent to Dachau concentration camp under the Nazi regime. He tries to deny he is gay and gets a yellow label (the one for Jews) instead of pink (the one for gays). In camp he falls in love with his fellow prisoner Horst, who wears his pink label with pride.

Buy the DVD at AmazonSource: Synopses courtesy of IMDB, the Internet Movie Database

Notable Omissions: The Birdcage, Even Cowgirls Get The Blues

fact checked by Alex Hanton
Jamie Frater

Jamie is the founder of Listverse. When he’s not doing research for new lists or collecting historical oddities, he can be found in the comments or on Facebook where he approves all friends requests!

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