The 50 Best LGBTQ Movies Ever Made by “Esquire”

This year, the public events of LGBTQ Pride Month—much like sports, school, and life itself—are cancelled. We’re stuck inside unless we’re marching for police reform. The few bars that have reopened are for the reckless and foolish, and let’s be honest: there’s only so much dancing a person can do on Zoom. The conditions are optimal for you to catch up on your queer cinema.

We’ve come a ways in fifty years, from the self-loathing middle-aged men of The Boys In The Band to the peppy teens of Love, Simon. The range runs from the shoestring brilliance of The Watermelon Woman to the big-budget glitter-bomb that is Rocketman. 1982’s tentative Making Love derailed the careers of its two lead actors; 2017’s Call Me By Your Name cemented its pair as movie stars. While gay characters tended until much too recently to be one-dimensional, white, and doomed, in 2018 Barry Jenkins won a Best Picture Oscar telling the layered and hopeful story of a gay Black man in Moonlight.

There’s a lot of history to explore, and there’s never been a better time to do it. Borrow a streaming service password from family– however you define it!–and dive in.

The 50 Best LGBTQ Movies Ever Made by Esquire

50) Love, Simon (2018)

49) The Children’s Hour (1961)

48) Rocketman (2019)

47) Handsome Devil (2017)

46) Viva (2015)

45) Desert Hearts (1985) 

44) Keep the Lights On (2012)

43) Happy Together (1997)

42) Other People (2016)

41) The Watermelon Woman (1996)

40) The Kids Are Alright (2010)

39) Personal Best (1982)

38) Beach Rats (2017)

37) My Own Private Idaho (1991)


Gus Van Sant’s loose Shakespearean adaptation brought the New Queer Cinema movement into the mainstream, with River Phoenix as a young, narcoleptic hustler and Keanu Reeves as his best friend and unrequited love interest.

36) Maurice (1987)


“Don’t you know I would have gone through life half-awake if you’d had the decency to leave me alone?” All the lushness of a Merchant Ivory production, with gay men at its center. Even if this weren’t a beautiful, affecting film, Hugh Grant’s hair alone would earn it a spot on this list.

35) Heavenly Creatures (1994) 

34) Making Love (1982)

33) The Wedding Banquet (1993)

32) Beginners (2010)

31) But I’m a Cheerleader (1999)

30) Pariah (2011)

29) Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

28) My Beautiful Laundrette (1985)

27) Before Night Falls (2000)

26) Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)


John Cameron Mitchell brings his cult musical about “internationally ignored” transgender rock star Hedwig to the screen. In this version, Mitchell shows us the backstory he was only able to tell on stage, and introduces us to Michael Pitt’s Tommy Gnosis. The rare rock musical that actually rocks.

25) A Single Man (2009)

Tom Ford’s directorial debut adapts Christopher Isherwood’s novel about an English professor returning to life a year after the death of his lover. As you would expect from Ford, it is a relentlessly stylish affair, with indelible performances by Colin Firth and Julianne Moore.

24) Jeffrey (1995) 

23) High Art (1998)

22) All About My Mother (1999)

21) Pride (2014)

20) Longtime Companion (1989)

19) Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971)

18) A Fantastic Woman (2017)

17) God’s Own Country (2017)

16) The Color Purple (1985)

15) Parting Glances (1986)

14) Tangerine (2015)

13) The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)

12) Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013)

11) Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)

10) Brokeback Mountain (2005)


The first mainstream queer film of the new millennium, Brokeback Mountain ushered its themes into the mainstream. Heath Ledger’s shy Ennis del Mar falls in what he cannot articulate as love with Jake Gyllenhaal’s Jack Twist over a long, lonely winter, and their lives bounce off each other’s for years afterward. Ang Lee and screenwriter Larry McMurtry expand Annie Proulx’s short story into a film without one false moment.

9) Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)

8) Call Me By Your Name (2017)


The greatest, most achingly beautiful gay male romance movie. Timothée Chalamet plays the precocious Elio, a teenager living in Italy who becomes infatuated with an older American student, Oliver (Armie Hammer), who is staying with his family for the summer. What begins as a contentious friendship turns into a full-blown love affair as the two young men spend their idle summer days in the lush Mediterranean locale, bracing themselves for an inevitable heartbreak.

7) Boys Don’t Cry (1999)

6) The Birdcage (1996)


Mike Nichols’s American remake of La Cage aux Folles features Robin Williams as a gay nightclub owner whose son announces his engagement to the daughter of an ultra-conservative politician. In typical farce style, his partner (Nathan Lane)—the star of his club’s drag show—poses as his dowdy wife in order to convince his son’s future in-laws that they’re a wholesome American family.

5) BPM (Beats Per Minute) (2017)


Set in the early ’90s, this energetic and emotional drama follows a group of activists in Paris fighting the government and its slow-moving efforts to battle the HIV/AIDS epidemic. While highlighting the dramatic and powerful work from ACT UP, the film also depicts the personal stories of those fighting for their lives, delivering a human and urgent remembrance of the plague that afflicted millions across the globe—and continues on today.

4) Carol (2015)

3) Philadelphia (1993)

2) The Boys in the Band (1970)

1) Moonlight (2016)


The only film on this list to earn an Oscar for Best Picture—and deservedly so. Barry Jenkins explores masculinity and repression in his study of Chiron, a young man coming of age in Miami (and played by three different actors at various stages of his life) who grapples with his sexual identity amid his troubled relationship with his crack-addicted mother. Chiron longs to break free of the predetermined path set out for himself by his environment, a journey set into motion by encounter with one of his male peers.

Via Esquire

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