17 Essential LGBTQ Movies You Should Watch Right Now

Keanu Reeves and River Phoenix star in Gus Van Sant's My Own Private Idaho (1991).
Keanu Reeves and River Phoenix star in Gus Van Sant's My Own Private Idaho (1991).
The Criterion Collection

It’s one very weird Pride Month we’re living through in 2020. While marching in a muscle tank is out, as with many things during the coronavirus pandemic, there are slivers of opportunity. To that end, what better way to celebrate all that is queer than with a headfirst dive into the incredibly rich history of LGBTQ movies from the comfort of your couch?

Queer cinema—or as it was endearingly branded in the ‘90s, New Queer Cinema (the ‘90s were extremely gay for independent film)—has afforded directors of all sexual identities and orientations all over the world an opportunity to showcase distinctive, nuanced, personal stories of what it means to be a member of the LGBTQ community. Fortunately, in recent years, we’ve also seen more of this work from Black American filmmakers like Dee Rees (Bessie, Mudbound) coming to public view.

These movies aren’t necessarily the definitive queer movies, nor are they the most popular. But they represent an idiosyncratic, undeniably off-kilter, sometimes fabulous, and always fully realized vision of what it means to feel slightly apart from the straights. (Though the straights are most definitely welcome to the party.)

1. Far from Heaven (2002)

This whole list could easily be dedicated solely to Todd Haynes—the towering director behind queer movies from the ‘90s on. But with all apologies to the great Carol (2015) and Safe (1995), we need to keep things concise. Haynes's best film, Far from Heaven, may not appear queer at first, but the slick update of mid-century melodramas then known as "women’s pictures" masterfully queers up its source material. Cathy (Julianne Moore) is a love-deprived housewife flirting with her Black gardener (Dennis Haysbert), while her husband Frank (Dennis Quaid) is a suit with a closeted affection for men. But everyone here is painfully inching their way to a full expression of their sexual and romantic selves—something any LGBTQ person knows well.

Watch it: Amazon, iTunes, Starz, YouTube

2. Nowhere (1997)

Director Gregg Araki (Mysterious Skin) has sadly never received the mainstream attention he deserves, but Nowhere remains a singular insight into his so-called Teenage Apocalypse Trilogy (which also includes 1993's Totally F***ed Up and 1995's The Doom Generation). The film, which follows an assorted mix of adrift LA youth of different colors and orientations who are connected by their disaffection, is by turns funny, surreal, and tragic—often in the same scene.

Watch it: DVD

3. Laurence Anyways (2012)

In more recent years, we’ve gotten fresh cinematic portraits of trans life. Laurence Anyways from French-Canadian indie darling Xavier Dolan is on the florid side, as with all of Dolan's films, but it’s oh so pretty. He films the blossoming of a trans woman in a difficult relationship like a glossy music video simmering with heartbreak.

Watch it: Amazon Prime

4. Happy Together (1997)

If you haven’t dabbled in Chinese cinema, here’s a gorgeous place to start. Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai—who won a BAFTA for 2000's In the Mood for Love—trains his eye on two men feeling the heady push and pull of mutual lust and dissatisfaction. The photography alone, from noisy urban Hong Kong streets to the swirling waterfalls of Buenos Aires, is swoon-worthy.

Watch it: The Criterion Channel

5. Bad Education (2004)

After a three-year break from directing, Oscar-winning Spanish auteur Pedro Almodóvar came back into the spotlight in 2019 with his semi-autobiographical Pain and Glory. But his criminally underrated Bad Education touches on gay youth and abuse in fascinating, brutally straightforward fashion. It might be the best performance of Gael García Bernal’s career.

Watch it: Amazon, iTunes, YouTube

6. In a Year with 13 Moons (1978)

Lilo Pempeit in In a Year with 13 Moons (1978).Fantoma

Watch this movie only if you’re up for a profoundly disturbing (but beautifully rendered!) experience. German filmmaking legend Rainer Werner Fassbinder is at his most stark here, unraveling the tale of a trans woman taking account of lost love and her current identity. Hard as it is to watch, it’s a vital window into the still all-too-real problems and violence the trans community faces.

Watch it: Amazon Prime, The Criterion Channel

7. My Own Private Idaho (1991)

Gus Van Sant is in some ways the most accessible LGBTQ filmmaker. But long before the overlong and overrated Harvey Milk biopic Milk, he delivered a rollicking punch in My Own Private Idaho. Though the film is structurally fractured and utilizes pretty much every filmic tool in the toolbox—including a bonkers Shakespearean interlude, documentary-style interviews, and yes, Flea—it somehow all hangs together thanks to the poignant performances of River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves as hustlers who are desperate to find something like home.

Watch it: The Criterion Channel

8. Trash (1970)

Did you know Andy Warhol made movies? Shaggy and frequently ridiculous, they’re also sometimes stunning. Case in point: This very low-budget, all-the-way-in-your-face take (directed by Paul Morrissey) on a heroin addict and his trans girlfriend (a hilariously shrieking Holly Woodlawn) who will do anything to get by in a rough, anything-goes New York City.

Watch it: DVD

9. Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013)

It’s perhaps less than an authentic portrayal of first lesbian love, but Cannes winner Blue Is the Warmest Color works so well because the beats of a fluttering romance turned hurtful are universal.

Watch it: Netflix

10. Paris Is Burning (1990)

At the time it came out, Paris Is Burning was a surprising commercial success and a curiosity. Director Jennie Livingston spent careful time observing the world of Harlem-based voguing balls (which inspired Madonna’s hit “Vogue”) and the wildly talented, frequently catty, fabulous but downtrodden dancers who inhabited them. That many of those performers have died from HIV/AIDS complications makes it that much more essential a document.

Watch it: DVD or Blu-ray

11. Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)

It’s no surprise that Hedwig and the Angry Inch has become a Broadway hit. What began as an Obie Award-winning Off-Broadway musical in 1998 spawned this indie phenom movie—directed by John Cameron Mitchell, who also stars—then made its way back to the stage via Broadway, where it won four Tony Awards, including Best Revival of a Musical. In all its incarnations, Hedwig has a killer soundtrack surrounding the unapologetically messy trans woman at its center (and yes, she has an angry inch). She tears down borders like a broken Berlin Wall.

Watch it: HBO Max

12. Bound (1996)

The Matrix-famous Wachowskis were way ahead of their time with this tight, noirish crime thriller in which Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon can’t resist each other in a mob-filled Art Deco apartment building. This cannot be overstated: It’s very hot.

Watch it: HBO Max

13. Moonlight (2016)

Barry Jenkins's Moonlight, which won the 2017 Oscar for Best Picture, doesn’t need more of the standard praise, so I’ll say this: I grew up in a more affluent Miami neighborhood, but the depiction of two Black boys in the city’s impoverished Liberty City fumbling their way to understanding their sexuality as they’re marginalized by the outside world felt so real when I first watched it in theaters. The beach scene is magical. When the two reconnect as men over a homemade Cuban meal—my hometown’s sign of love—I was flooded with tears. More importantly, those tears were earned.

Watch it: Netflix

14. Pariah (2011)

By the very title, you know that the protagonist of Dee Rees’s (Mudbound) delicately told portrait focuses on an outsider. Alike (Adepero Oduye) is a teenage girl struggling with her lesbian desires and the expectations and conflict in her family, yet she is no standard coming-of-age heroine. Oduye is so self-possessed in her portrayal, it’s impossible to look away.

Watch it: Amazon, iTunes, YouTube

15. Tangerine (2015)

This low-tech black comedy from Sean Baker (The Florida Project) doesn’t look like it was shot on an iPhone, but it was. Tangerine is a bleary, saturated fever dream that touches on corners of trans prostitution in L.A., but it also illuminates the deep abiding hope of people who just want to be recognized as the humans they are.

Watch it: Hulu

16. The Crying Game (1992)

If you lived through the ‘90s, you probably know the shot: the mid-film reveal. But while too many of us focused on the sexual dynamics of The Crying Game, Neil Jordan’s masterwork sensitively weaves a queer romance into a tapestry covering fascinating corners of Irish life.

Watch it: Netflix, Showtime

17. The Birdcage (1996)

I have to get personal: The Birdcage was the first LGBTQ movie I saw in theaters as a kid. I was floored. It’s hilarious. Robin Williams and Nathan Lane make an idiosyncratic but believable gay South Beach couple who also happen to own a drag club. And who have to convince a conservative couple that they are, in fact, a straight couple. The movie might seem dated now, but it was massively empowering in its time. When my dad took me and my brother out of the theater, he was clear: “That was funny, but there’s nothing funny about being gay. Gay people are just like everyone else.” The conversation reverberated as I came out years later.

Watch it: Showtime

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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The Psychological Tricks Disney Parks Use to Make Long Wait Times More Bearable

© Jorge Royan, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
© Jorge Royan, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

No one goes to Disneyland or Disney World to spend the day waiting in line, but when a queue is well-designed, waiting can be part of the experience. Disney knows this better than anyone, and the parks' Imagineers have developed several tricks over the years to make long wait times as painless as possible.

According to Popular Science, hacking the layout of the line itself is a simple way to influence the rider's perspective. When a queue consists of 200 people zig-zagging around ropes in a large, open room, it's easy for waiting guests to feel overwhelmed. This design allows riders to see exactly how many people are in line in front of them—which isn't necessarily a good thing when the line is long.

Imagineers prevent this by keeping riders in the dark when they enter the queue. In Space Mountain, for example, walls are built around the twisting path, so riders have no idea how much farther they have to go until they're deeper into the building. This stops people from giving up when they first get in line.

Another example of deception ride designers use is the "Machiavellian twist." If you've ever been pleasantly surprised by a line that moved faster than you expected, that was intentional. The signs listing wait times at the beginning of ride queues purposefully inflate the numbers. That way, when a wait that was supposed to be 120 minutes goes by in 90, you feel like you have more time than you did before.

The final trick is something Disney parks are famous for: By incorporating the same level of production design found on the ride into the queue, Imagineers make waiting in line an engaging experience that has entertainment value of its own. The Tower of Terror queue in Disney World, which is modeled after a decrepit 1930s hotel lobby down to the cobwebs and the abandoned coffee cups, feels like it could be a movie set. Some ride lines even use special effects. While waiting to ride Star Wars: Ride of the Resistance in Galaxy's Edge, guests get to watch holograms and animatronics that set up the story of the ride. This strategy exploits the so-called dual-task paradigm, which makes the line feel as if it's going by faster by giving riders mental stimulation as they wait.

Tricky ride design is just one of Disney's secrets. Here are more behind-the-scenes facts about the beloved theme parks.

[h/t Popular Science]