50 Essential Gay Films

12.9.2012

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.

PARTING GLANCES (1986, dir. Bill Sherwood)

Dale Peck, Novelist:
A quiet but unsettling story of a Manhattan gay couple at a crossroads in their relationship. Janet Maslin at The New York Times, as perceptive then as she is today, dismissed the film as "a parade of homosexual stereotypes," but gay viewers knew better, seeing not stereotypes but human beings who have fallen into social roles not always comfortable, let alone ennobling, that best suit their personalities. Domesticity weighs differently on the two men: Michael, slight and bookish, spends much of his time caring for his ex-lover Nick (Steve Buscemi in his first feature turn). Sloe-eyed Robert, by contrast, has maneuvered a two-year transfer to Africa, to escape both his relationship jitters as well as the epidemic. The irony of running to Africa to get away from AIDS is one that history has made only more pointed.

The movie takes place on Robert’s last day in the city: a morning run, a morning fuck; a visit to Nick by Michael; a goodbye dinner with Robert’s boss; an evening fuck; a going-away party thrown by Michael’s friend Joan; a visit to a nightclub that lasts until the wee hours of the morning. As the movie progresses, its world and, as a consequence, its themes expand with startling rapidly. Michael is pursued by an adorable Columbia freshman; Robert’s boss turns out to be closeted and something of a pedophile; a German performance artist speaks to Nick of the profound aesthetic possibilities of AIDS. There are bodies, lisps, beats, operatic hallucinations, covert coupling (heterosexual as it turns out), and drugs (but only of the recreational variety: this was 1986, after all). Through it all there is New York: glamorous and dirty, erudite and slutty, in sickness and in health.

VELVET GOLDMINE (1998, dir. Todd Haynes)

Margaret Cho, Comedian:
An amazingly beautiful film all about the ’70s versus the ’80s, glam versus new wave, Bowie versus Iggy, gay versus straight versus in between, loving your rock idols and then sleeping with them. It has incredible fashion, a killer soundtrack, romantic love scenes between Christian Bale, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, and Ewan McGregor, and the legendary and gorgeous Toni Colette fag-hagging it up as a faux Angela Bowie. Truly one of the finest films ever made.

Five Gay Horror Flicks: EYES OF LAURA MARS (1978, dir. Irvin Kershner)

Faye Dunaway stars as this slasher’s titular heroine, a New York fashion photographer haunted by psychic visions of fabulous people getting their eyes poked out by an ice pick–wielding maniac.

FIve Gay Horror Flicks: THE HUNGER (1983, dir. Tony Scott)

When a vampiress (Catherine Deneuve) bites her victims, they’re supposed to live forever. Not so for her lover (David Bowie), whose rapid aging leads him to a doc (Susan Sarandon) who specializes in such disorders. Result? The classiest lesbian sex scene in history.

Five Gay Horror Flicks: SLEEPAWAY CAMP (1983, dir. Robert Hiltzik)

Painfully shy Angela (Felissa Rose) is shipped off to summer camp with cousin Ricky (Jonathan Tiersten), and soon the bodies start piling up. The kids are bullies, the cook’s a perv, and the ending…well, the title says it all.
 

Five Gay Horror Flicks: A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, PART 2 (1985, dir. Jack Sholder)

When Freddy Krueger–plagued Jesse (the now-out Mark Patton) isn’t sweating his ass off in his tighty-whities, he’s stumbling into leather bars and screaming, "He’s inside me, and he wants to take me again!"

Five Gay Horror Flicks: THE LOST BOYS (1987, dir. Joel Schumacher)

Vampire-as-homo metaphors aside, it’s baby-faced Sam (Corey Haim) who elicits the double takes in this Brat Pack gem. As if his born to shop T-shirt and falsetto “Ain’t got a man!” bathtub scene weren’t enough, look for his poster of a midriff-bearing Rob Lowe.

STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (1951, dir. Alfred Hitchcock)

Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train is one of the great queer movies, though there are no explicit gay scenes in it. First of all, it is based on lesbian author Patricia Highsmith’s first novel of the same name, and its two male leads are involved in an intense love-hate murderous duet just as in her later novel The Talented Mr. Ripley. In this one, the beautiful Farley Granger (whose career was eventually destroyed by rumors he was gay) is a champion tennis player who longs to be rid of his wife so that he can marry a senator’s lovely daughter. Granger meets a spoiled society mama’s boy, played by Robert Walker, on the train. Walker is a stalker who knows every detail of Granger’s life—and even guesses that Granger would be happy if someone bumped off his inconvenient spouse. Walker proposes that they each commit the other’s murder. Walker will kill Granger’s wife and Granger will kill Walker’s rich father. That way, Granger will be free to marry the senator’s daughter and Walker will be rich.

This is a tale of handsome male doubles. The mouthwateringly appealing Granger (shown in an extended scene playing tennis in skimpy shorts) is paradoxically the one interested in women; Walker, who is butcher in appearance with his traces of acne scars and bad clothes, is cast as a man who never looks at women and flirts constantly (and menacingly) with Granger. They are doubles—but also opposites. They are obsessed with each other—and even in death Walker double-crosses Granger. It was no accident that three years earlier Hitchcock had cast Granger as a gay killer in Rope, his version of the ghastly Leopold-Loeb murder in which two gay guys kill an innocent person just to prove they are capable of evil.

In discussing Strangers on a Train, Hitchcock admitted that by casting the "soft" Granger he was able to cut through lots of extraneous exposition; Granger’s personality supplied most of the necessary elements. What is fascinating is that Hitchcock, in a period when most directors were subscribing to the idea that gays were pathetic neurotics, presented the more unusual argument that gays were evil, dangerous, transgressive.

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