It’s June! Pride Month! I saw my favourite drag queen Trixie Mattel last week and I’m still thinking about it! A new season of Queer Eye came out yesterday! Much is happening! To celebrate this month, I want to recommend some of my favourite LGBTQ+ films. From important documentaries that will educate you on the trailblazers who sparked the gay rights movement, to iconic cinema which casted a mainstream spotlight on an underground culture, to modern teen rom-coms, here’s some essential viewing to chill out to between pride marches and drag shows. Give this post a “like” if you enjoy it, and let’s get to it.
The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson (2017)
I’m kicking off these recommendations with the Netflix doco on Marsha P. Johnson, an outspoken American gay liberation transgendered activist and self-identified drag queen. Johnson was one of the prominent figures of the 1969 Stonewall riots. The riots were spontaneous, violent demonstrations by members of the LGBT community against a police raid that took place on June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan, NYC. Widely considered to be the most important event leading to the modern fight for LGBT rights in the United States, Johnson was a beacon of hope before her life was cut short at 46 in 1992 in an apparent suicide, which family and friends vehemently disputed. This documentary jumps between chronicling the important moments in her life to modern day, where her friend Victoria Cruz fights to have her cold case reopened as a homicide.
Without Marsha, and other transgendered activists in the documentary including Sylvia Rivera, the Stonewall riots might not have happened, and without the riots, the gay rights movement might not have happened. Things like this don’t get taught in high school history lessons, so it’s important to continue educating people on the origins of trailblazers like this. Heck, even some drag queen are still a little sketchy on the finer details of Stonewall. Who could forget this misconception from RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 7 contestant Derrick Barry which launched a thousand memes?
Derrick: Like when people don’t know what Stonewall is, you know what I mean?
Interviewer: Why don’t you tell everybody what that is.
Derrick: That was fighting for gay rights, and people were killed.
Willam: Nobody was killed at Stonewall.
Derrick: No–nobody was killed?
Paris Is Burning (1990)
Staying with iconic LGBTQ+ documentaries you can find on Netflix, I can’t go past this treasure. Before there was RuPaul’s Drag Race, voguing and reading, there was Paris Is Burning. If there was a required reading list for getting into drag, this would be at the top. PIB is American documentary directed by Jennie Livingston. Filmed in the mid-to-late 1980s, it chronicles the ball culture of New York City and the African-American, Latino, gay, and transgender communities involved in it. Hailed by critics as an invaluable documentary of the end of the “Golden Age” of New York City drag balls, it’s a thoughtful exploration of race, class, gender, and sexuality. Plus, it introduces you to iconic names such as Dorian Corey (who literally defines ‘reading’), Pepper LaBeija, Venus Xtravaganza, Octavia St Laurent and more.
The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert (1994)
Keeping with legendary drag films, Priscilla is a corner stone of not just classic gay cinema, but classic Australian cinema too. Priscilla follows two drag queens (Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce) and a transgender woman (Terence Stamp) as they journey across the Australian Outback from Sydney to Alice Springs in a tour bus they lovingly call “Priscilla.” It won an Oscar for Best Costume Design at the 67th Academy Awards and features a bunch of pre-existing LGBT classic hits as its soundtrack, from Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” to CeCe Peniston’s “Finally” and ABBA’s “Mamma Mia” as its stunning finale. The glittering sequin costumes and the elaborate, colourful wigs and headpieces against the red dirt of the Australian Outback is breathtaking, so add it to your ‘to watch’ list immediately.
Jumping forwards a few years, a modern LGBTQ+ classic is Carol, a 2015 film directed by Todd Haynes, whose considered a pioneer of the New Queer Cinema movement of filmmaking that emerged in the early 1990s. Set during the Christmas season of 1952, aspiring photographer Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) is working in Frankenberg’s department store in Manhattan where she meets a glamorous woman, Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett) who is searching for a doll for her daughter Rindy. From the superb acting, to the heartfelt script, to the luxurious 1950s styling, to the fact that it’s set during freaking Christmas time, I love this movie. Fun fact: It had been in the works since 1997 when Phyllis Nagy wrote the screenplay based off the novel The Price of Salt. After years of obstacles, problems and difficulties, Carol was finally released and received critical acclaim and many accolades, including five Golden Globe Award nominations and six Academy Award nominations.
Call Me By Your Name (2017)
I debated whether or not to include the newest LGBT flick to woo audiences. It’s polarising, some hailing it a gay masterpiece while others point out it is any but. Miz Cracker, RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 10 contestant and former journalist, wrote this incredible article for Slate, Why Do Gays Keep Falling for Call Me by Your Name? She explains these conflicting opinions sensationally well, so if you’re wondering why I doubted to include it here, read Cracker’s piece. Even if you’re not wondering, still read Cracker’s article, it’s just so well written. Back to the actual movie, CMBYN is a coming-of-age drama directed by Luca Guadagnino and based on the 2007 novel of the same name by André Aciman. Set in northern Italy in 1983, CMBYN chronicles a romance between 17-year-old Elio Perlman (Timothée Chalamet) and his professor father’s 24-year-old graduate-student assistant, Oliver (Armie Hammer). Whether you’re a fan of it or not, you cannot deny the cinematography of the film is stunning. The setting of Italy becomes the third character, while Chalamet and Hammer have great performances.
Love, Simon (2018)
You want to hear a sad story? I made plans with my friend to go see Love, Simon. I checked the movie times, got all ready, we went to get our tickets, only to see they had changed the movie times and it wasn’t even on anymore. What the heck. Long story short, I haven’t seen Love, Simon (I’ve read the novel though! It’s excellent, highly recommend it.) But I’m not letting my horrible movie planning get in the way of me including this in my recommendations. The minute it comes out on DVD (do they still exist!?) I’m getting it and watching it. Love, Simon follows the story of 17-year-old Simon Spier, a closeted gay teen in high school who is forced to balance his friends, family, and the blackmailer threatening to out him to the entire school, all the while attempting to uncover the identity of the anonymous classmate with whom he has fallen in love with online. While I can’t discuss the film, enjoy these highlights from one from Empire.
Love, Simon has made history by virtue of simply existing: the first studio-made high-school romcom with a gay character doing the hand-wringing over his heart-aching. […] This is not queer cinema at its most transgressive. It’s queer cinema at its most everyday. And it’s this, truly, that could be the most radical act of this sweet, heart-warming film. […] The high school teen romcom is reborn for 2018. Funny, sentimental and smart: John Hughes would be proud. – Empire.
So those are some films I’d recommend watching to celebrate Pride Month! This post was a bit of a departure from our usually scheduled programming, but I loved putting this together and writing it, so I hope you got something out of it too, whether it be a couple of new movie recommendations or some insight in LGBTQ+ history. Is there a film I’ve left off the list you think should be there? Leave me a comment below, I’d love more recommendations! Also give this post a “like” if you enjoyed it so I know!
All the love,