50 Essential Gay Films


By Out.com Editors

Which gay movies deserve a bigger audience? We asked our favorite directors, entertainers, and artists to help us compile a hit list.

MIDNIGHT COWBOY (1969, dir. John Schlesinger)

Michael Sucsy, Director/Producer:
Midnight Cowboy — an oddball love story between two male street hustlers -- depicts sexuality as both fluid and complex. Schlesinger, who was only recently out when he made it, handles the complicated and quirky Of Mice and Men–type relationship between prostitute Joe Buck (Jon Voight) and crippled conman Ratso Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman) with the deft hand of a true outsider. Sadly, the MPAA originally rated the film X, apparently on the advice of a psychiatrist who felt the movie’s neutral handling of homosexuality was promoting “mental illness.” The theme song, “Everybody’s Talkin,’ ” remains one of my favorites. Each time I hear it, I am transported to the tragically touching ending of this heartbreaking film.

THE HOTEL NEW HAMPSHIRE (1984, dir. Tony Richardson)

Amanda Palmer, Musician:
The Hotel New Hampshire was one of those brilliant films that managed to do justice to the even more brilliant novel (by John Irving ). I saw the movie when I was about 13, and the love scene between Jodie Foster and Nastassja Kinski thoroughly confirmed two things in my life: 1) I wanted to have female lovers and 2) if possible, one of those lovers should be Jodie Foster.

THE ANGELIC CONVERSATION (dir. Derek Jarman, 1985)

Neil Bartlett, Novelist/Playwright:
All of Derek’s films now seem to me like letters mailed from a vanished country. How could we have ever been so hated, so hungry—not to mention so creative—amid the wastelands of 1980s materialism and homophobia? Perhaps this is the one that now haunts me most. Nothing could be simpler or cheaper—this is, among other things, real guerilla filmmaking, a poetic hit-and-run straight from the heart. Grainy, almost illegible home movie shots of a lover wandering amid the romantic ruins and gardens of an older, richer England stutter and fade while Judi Dench reads some of the greatest love poems ever written by one man to another -- Shakespeare’s sonnets. It’s like the proverbial candle flame, shining like a good deed in a naughty world: guttering, fragile, but capable of lighting a profound blaze of inspiration. I miss him and all the films he never got to make.

TORCH SONG TRILOGY (1988, dir. Paul Bogart)

Our Lady J, Musician:
This adaptation of Harvey Fierstein’s successful Broadway play is a must-see for every ’mo with a nagging mother. Besides a beautiful plot, cast, show tunes, and all, it was ahead of its time in the way it shed light on everything from gay-bashing (poor Matthew Broderick) to coming out to your family (love Anne Bancroft!).

JUST ONE OF THE GUYS (1985, dir. Lisa Gottlieb)

Five Gay Teen Flicks For Chicks
When Terry, a wannabe teenage journalist, suspects her womanhood is holding her back from winning a coveted internship, she swaps sexes and goes undercover to prove she’s more than just a pretty face.

TEEN WITCH (1989, dir. Dorian Walker)

Five Gay Teen Flicks For Chicks
It’s the oldest story in the book: girl is a loser, girl learns she’s a witch, girl secures the love and adoration of her high school—including a hunky football player—with a few well-chosen and well-chanted spells. And everyone lives happily ever after.

CLUELESS (1995, dir. Amy Heckerling)

Five Gay Teen Flicks For Chicks
Offering as many life lessons as fashion tips, Clueless belies its initially vapid, Noxzema commercial–like exterior to reveal a squishy, altruistic center where good deeds beget good deeds and unavailable crushes become gay BFFs.

SAVED! (2004, dir. Brian Dannelly)

Five Gay Teen Flicks For Chicks
Sure, there’s a prototypical bad girl pretending to speak in tongues (but actually moaning about her hoo-ha) to get the best of her pious classmates, but it’s Mandy Moore’s heavenly turn as a vindictive goody two-shoes that’s the film’s real star.

MEAN GIRLS (2004, dir. Mark Waters)

Five Gay Teen Flicks For Chicks
Before she landed in jail, rehab, or the arms of Samantha Ronson, Lindsay Lohan (along with writer and costar Tina Fey) gave the world the catty, screwy gift of Mean Girls. Our DVD players have been “too gay to function” ever since.

SOME LIKE IT HOT (1959, dir. Billy Wilder)

Charles Busch's Top Five Drag Films:
Wilder’s hysterical comedy has a remarkably live-and-let-live attitude toward the infinite variety of sexual behavior and is more sophisticated than any Hollywood comedy made today.