This experimental film was a watershed moment for gay cinema in a time when blatant homoerotic imagery could still be grounds for prosecution. In fact, a screening in Los Angeles caused the theater manager to be charged with obscenity.
Chelsea Girls (1966)http://www.out.com/sites/out.com/files/imagecache/slide-image/queerCinema_ChelseaGirls.jpg16109
dir. Andy Warhol & Paul Morrissey
While many of Warhol’s film works are experiments in cinematic endurance, this feature made celebrities of his self-proclaimed drag Superstars and was a commercial success.
The Baltimore mischief-maker had already clocked a few films when he surfaced from clandestine screenings in basements with this Divine vehicle that shocked both the art world and the masses -- forever making him a force to be reckoned with.
Mala Noche (1985)http://www.out.com/sites/out.com/files/imagecache/slide-image/queerCinema_MalaNoche.jpg16106
dir. Gus Van Sant
The film inspired many directors of what would be later termed the New Queer Cinema movement. As Gregg Araki explains, “It feels necessary. It speaks in a voice with something meaningful and original to say.”
Paris is Burning (1990)http://www.out.com/sites/out.com/files/imagecache/slide-image/queerCinema_Paris.jpg16105
dir. Jennie Livingston
The groundbreaking film exposed the world of Harlem drag families and continues to inspire generations of documentarians, while also calling into question the exploitation of marginalized communities.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)http://www.out.com/sites/out.com/files/imagecache/slide-image/queerCinema_Hedwig.jpg16104
dir. John Cameron Mitchell
After a decade in which gay-themed films seemed to slide toward formulaic rom-com or big-budget Hollywood fare, Mitchell landed on the scene with a rock opera about an East German transgender musician, making films scrappy and fun again.
The low-budget British film centered on a tryst between two men and seemed like a flash of insight for young filmmakers -- that they could make arty, personal, and distinctly queer films and still get distributed.