Get ready to dive into all the documentaries that touch on LGBT history available at the touch of a button. Here's our selection of Netflix docs we think you should check out immediately (unfortunately Edie & Thea: A Very Long Engagement was recently not renewed for Instant streaming but we hope it returns soon). All of these movies are currently available for streaming as of January 1, 2014 (but that is subject to change).
1. We Steal Secrets
Ostensibly about WikiLeaks creator and mastermind Julian Assange, this film is also one of the most poignant and chronicles of Bradley (no Chelsea) Manning. Recreating the chat logs between Manning and Adrian Lamo, along with how the whistleblower (with soundtrack of Lady Gaga's "Telephone"), it's an essential documentary that needs to be seen.
2. Paris is Burning
This pioneering documentary chronicles the New York City ball scene in the mid-to-late 1980s. The film is both poignant and hopeful, as it documents the poor and disenfranchised members of ball culture who create new identities, families, and worlds in which they can feel the love and acceptance of which society has robbed them.
3. How to Survive a Plague
Though Pride may be a rainbow-colored bacchanal for many people, it's essential that we take a look back and remember all the people who've come before. David France’s documentary on the AIDS crisis and the bravery and activism of ACT UP and TAG has received glowing praise from critics and viewers since its 2012 release (and an Oscar nomination). It will be adapted into an ABC miniseries as well. If it were not for the work of the brave men and women featured in the film, AIDS could still be a death sentence and we, as a community, would not be where we are today.
4. Small Town Gay Bar
Despite the collective outings of Ellen DeGeneres, Elton John, Rosie O'Donnell and Olympic diver Greg Louganis, homophobia is alive and well—especially in the small towns of the Deep South. Focusing on the day-to-day struggles of two Mississippi gay bars and the grateful patrons who often travel hundreds of miles to find them, filmmaker Malcolm Ingram reveals a surprisingly close community that treats its residents like family members.
5. We Were Here
The AIDS crisis forever changed gay culture in San Francisco, as examined in this absorbing documentary from David Weissman, who explores the disease's impact on five individuals. Vintage film clips accompany their sobering stories.
6. L'Amour Fou
Yves Saint-Laurent—synonymous with Le Smoking suit, the safari jacket and Studio 54 -- met Pierre Bergé in 1958. This intimate documentary pays tribute to their love affair, business partnership and extraordinary 50-year friendship.
7. Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin
This powerful documentary chronicles the life of openly gay civil rights activist Bayard Rustin, who, among many contributions to the cause, is best known for organizing the 1963 March on Washington, D.C., involving hundreds of thousands of people.
8. This Film Is Not Yet Rated
Kirby Dick's provocative documentary investigates the secretive and inconsistent process by which the Motion Picture Association of America rates films, revealing the organization's underhanded efforts to control culture. Dick questions whether certain studios get preferential treatment and exposes the discrepancies in how the MPAA views sex and violence. Interviewees include John Waters, Darren Aronofsky, Maria Bello, Atom Egoyan and more.
9. Out Late
This inspirational documentary profiles five individuals who came out as lesbian, gay or transgender after the age of 55, and examines the reasons for the timing of their decisions to reveal their orientation to their family and friends.
Helmed by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, this illuminating documentary chronicles the story of Shane Bitney Crone, who finds himself shut out and deprived of the legal protections of marriage after his same-sex partner dies in a tragic accident.