Recently, the Malaysian online community was abuzz with the topic of LGBT, mainly due to the postponement of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” as well as the review of Lionsgate’s “Power Rangers”. Both blockbuster movies feature “exclusive gay moments” (read: LeFou and Trini) and as homosexuality is illegal in Malaysia, the Malaysian Censorship Board (LPF) had to re-evaluate them.
In light of this, we’ve compiled a list of LGBT films that you should watch at least once in your life. Be it sentimental love stories or based on real-life events, here are our top 10 LGBT film picks:
(If you are a homophobe, please leave this page because we don’t want any hate here. #LoveWins.)
1. Happy Together (1997)
There’s no shortage of toxic relationships in movies, but none is as destructive and honest as the one seen in Wong Kar Wai’s award-winning film, “Happy Together” (春光乍泄). Starring the late Leslie Cheung and Tony Leung, the film follows a dysfunctional gay couple who travels to South America from Hong Kong in hopes of rekindling their on-again, off-again relationship. While Cheung plays an impulsive playboy named Ho, Leung takes on the role of being Ho’s responsible yet sensitive boyfriend, Lai.
Paired with beautiful cinematography by Christopher Doyle, we think that the melancholic film perfectly captures Lai’s extreme loneliness and the main characters’ desire of finding happiness really well.
2. Boys Don’t Cry (1999)
“Boys Don’t Cry” is a powerful based-on-a-true-story film that is helmed by Kimberly Peirce. The film follows the real-life story of Brandon Teena, a young transgender man who was raped and murdered in 1993. Although the plot focuses on the relationship between Brandon (played by Hilary Swank) and his girlfriend, Lana Tisdel (played by Chloë Sevigny), it also highlights various social issues like violence against LGBT people and homophobia. Moreover, to make the film more realistic, Peirce’s script used dialogues directly the 1998 documentary “The Brandon Teena Story”.
After its release, the movie was very well-received and Swank was awarded an Academy Award for “Best Actress”.
3. Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)
What happens when you combine a trans woman and some awesome glam rock music?
Based on Stephen Trask’s cult musical of the same name, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” stars John Cameron Mitchell as Hedwig, an East German who escapes his communist country by marrying a male American soldier after performing a sex change surgery. Unfortunately, the surgery goes wrong, leaving Hedwig with a one-inch lump of flesh between her legs. One year later, her husband leaves her and she finds herself alone with a failing music career. But don’t worry, everything eventually works out in the end for Hedwig, albeit rather oddly.
4. Brokeback Mountain (2005)
With 4 Golden Globe Awards and 3 Academy Awards under its belt, “Brokeback Mountain” is arguably the most popular LGBT film in the 2000s. Directed by Taiwanese-born filmmaker Ang Lee, the movie follows the complex and tragic love story of 2 cowboys/sheep-herders – Ennis Del Mar (played by Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (played by Jake Gyllenhaal). Not only is the film one hell of an emotional rollercoaster ride, it is also the highest-grossing gay romance of all time (it made over USD178 million worldwide!).
In the words of Cynthia Fuchs of Common Sense Media, “‘Brokeback Mountain’ is a thoughtful, lyrical, eventually frustrating examination of 2 men’s romance over many years.”
5. Transamerica (2005)
We’re no movie expert, but one thing’s for sure – Felicity Huffman’s portrayal of Sabrina Osbourne in “Transamerica” is exceptional. Known for her role as Lynette Scavo in ABC’s “Desperate Housewives”, the actress plays a transgender woman on an unexpected road trip with her 17-year-old son who is unaware that she is his father. Erm, we mean mother.
While it’s obvious that the film is mainly about family, it also explores other themes such as self-discovery and acceptance. Furthermore, the film earned Huffman a Golden Globe Award for “Best Actress”.
6. Milk (2008)
“All men are created equal. No matter how hard you try, you can never erase those words.”
Adapted from 1984 documentary “The Times Of Harvey Milk”, “Milk” is an award-winning biopic that tells the story of Harvey Milk, a San Francisco politician who was the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in America. Featuring an all-star cast that includes Sean Penn, Victor Garber, Josh Brolin, and James Franco, the film is directed by Gus Van Sant with a script penned by Dustin Lance Black.
We don’t want to give you any spoilers but let’s just say that the film is impactful, life-changing, and well-crafted.
7. The Kids Are Alright (2010)
In director Lisa Cholodenko’s “The Kids Are Alright”, Annette Bening and Julianne Moore play 2 big-hearted lesbian mothers who gave birth to 2 kids (played by Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson respectively) using the same sperm donor. Life for the unconventional family turns upside down when the kids bring their biological father (played by Mark Ruffalo) into their life.
“The Kids Are Alright” is the only film in this list that discusses real marriage problems such as marital fidelity, family values, and parenthood.
8. Blue Is the Warmest Colour (2013)
Based on Julie Maroh’s graphic novel of the same name, “Blue Is The Warmest Colour” is a beautiful yet erotic French romance film about exploring one’s own sexuality. Starring Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux, the movie follows Adèle, a high school student who meets and falls in love with Emma, a graduating art student with blue hair.
Although lesbian sexuality is the film’s main theme, it also shows how social class affects the teenagers’ exploration of love. For example, Emma’s upper-middle-class family is more accepting of the homosexual relationship than Adèle’s conservative middle-class household.
9. The Danish Girl (2015)
Another one of our LGBT film favourites is Eddie Redmayne’s “The Danish Girl” directed by Tom Hooper. Inspired by the lives of Danish artists Einar and Gerda Wegener, the 1920-set movie follows the former’s groundbreaking journey to become Lili Elbe, the world’s first transgender women.
The film was very well-received and many critics dubbed it “the most important film of 2015”. However, “The Danish Girl” was also criticised for casting a cisgender man to play a transgender woman. It was also excoriated for using a fictional novel (“The Danish Girl” by American writer David Ebershoff) as its source. Despite the controversies, the film flawlessly portrays the struggles of a man trying to live as a woman in a conservative society.
Note: “The Danish Girl” did not make it to Malaysian cinemas as the film was banned by the LPF.
10. Moonlight (2016)
This list wouldn’t be complete without this year’s Oscar-winning film, “Moonlight”.
Directed by Barry Jenkins, the coming-of-age film sees a black gay man named Chiron through 3 stages of his early life. Black men in movies are usually portrayed as strong and tough, so its pretty rare to see a film centring on a vulnerable black character who is struggling to come to terms with his sexual identity. Moreover, the film also addresses other topics like poverty, bullying, homophobia, and drug addiction. We won’t give away any spoilers, but “Moonlight” is a meaningful film that will give you all the feels.
The film stars Trevante Rhodes, André Holland, Janelle Monáe, and Mahershala Ali.
Were there any LGBT movies that we’ve left out? Do you have a personal favourite that is not in the list? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below ?