Bullies. Cliques. Mean girls. Insecurities. Cafeteria food. The high school experience can be rough — especially for LGBTQ+ kids who may be struggling with their sexual identities while trying to fit in.
These selected films explore the teen experience, and that jungle known as high school, with humor and compassion. For a long time, LGBTQ+ teens haven't been able to see their experiences in movies, but that's changing.
Thanks to films like theses, gay, trans, queer, bi, and lesbian teens across the globe can see stories like theirs told. They can see people who look like them struggling with the same things they struggle with. And they can see that people like them deserve high school romances and prom dances and friends too!
In this candy-colored comedy from director Darren Stein (Jawbreaker), an out gay kid is fought over by the high school queen bees, each of whom wants him as their “gay best friend.” The United States of Tara’s Michael Willett stars with Paul Iacono as his geeky gay buddy, with a fun cameo by Megan Mullally as a much too gay-friendly mom.
A group of queer kids form a secret after-school club to share their feelings and experiences in this LGBTQ variation on The Breakfast Club. The film stars Cameron Dean Stewart as a closeted jock, and the cast includes Scott Bakula as his dad, Hairspray’s Nikki Blonsky, and Glee’s Alex Newell.
Natasha Lyonne plays an all-American cheerleader whose parents send her to a gay “rehab camp” when they suspect she’s a lesbian. The strong cast includes Michelle Williams, Melanie Lynsky, Clea DuVall, and an out-of-drag RuPaul.
Skip the 2009 remake and see the gritty original from director Alan Parker (Evita) about talented teens coming of age at New York’s High School for the Performing Arts. Irene Cara, Lee Curreri, Barry Miller, and Maureen Teefy star along with Paul McCrane as a sensitive gay actor. The film earned Oscars for original score and for its infectious title song.
Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson, Noah) proves to be the best young actor of his generation as a troubled freshman who blossoms under the friendship of two seniors. The glorious Emma Watson plays the object of his affection and Ezra Miller is outstanding as his edgy gay friend in what may be one of the most evocative coming-of-age films ever made.
Tyler James Williams plays Lionel, a Black gay student at a predominantly white school in this comedy about racial issues at an American college. He struggles to fit in, but when he gets a chance to write a story for the school paper about Samantha White, a sharp-tongued Black student who became head of house for a local dorm, he gets a chance to find the community he missed.
Dee Rees wrote and directed this brilliant film about 17-year-old Alike, a Black girl embracing her lesbian identity. While her parents don't support her, Alike has an openly lesbian friend named Laura, and begins a relationship with a straight girl from her church. The film features a terrific script, excellent directing, and unforgettable performances.
Directed by Greg Berlanti, and based on the novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, this movie centers on Simon Spier, a closeted gay high school boy who is blackmailed when another boy at school discovers he's been writing emails back and forth with an anonymous gay student at the school. It's a heartwarming story of coming out and family.
This Academy Award winner for Best Picture is one of the best coming-of-age movies ever, following three stages in the life of a Black gay man. In the second stage, Chiron is a teen and explores his sexuality. This is one of the best movies of the 21st Century, and one that you can't miss.
Alice Wu’s follow-up to the lesbian classic Saving Face is a queer high school update of Cyrano de Bergerac. It stars Leah Lewis as Ellie Chu, a shy and friendless student who is approached by a male jock at her school who asks her to write a love letter to Aster Flores, the girl he has a crush on, and the girl she has a crush on too.
Harmony Santana became the first out trans actor nominated for a major acting award in the US when she was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for this movie. It follows Vanessa, a trans teen who’s unsupportive father comes home from prison. As she tries to be herself and find love, her father struggles accepting his daughter.
This Netflix original film follows high school student Alex Truelove as he discovers his sexuality. In the movie, he’s forced to chose between his long-time best friend Claire, who he recently kissed, and Elliot, an openly gay teen with a crush on him. The film ends with real-life coming out videos from queer youth.
Alice Júnior is one of the rare films to portray trans youth in a positive manner. It follows Alice, a 17-year-old trans YouTuber from Brazil who moves from the city to the countryside. There she’s forced to go to Catholic school and is bullied, all while she’s looking for her first kiss.
This dark comedy thriller stars Hari Nef, Odessa Young, Suki Waterhouse, and Abra as a group of teen friends dealing with an outbreak of chaos and violence when a hacker exposes everyone’s secrets in their small town. The film also stars queer actors like Noah Galvin and Colman Domingo.
Two seventeen-year-old boys experience their romantic and sexual awakenings in the mountains of France. Damien starts out being bullied by his classmate Thomas, but when Thomas moves in with his family, the two boys become closer than ever, revealing secrets they never thought they would.
This hilarious and touching film by Olivia Wilde in her directorial debut stars Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever as two graduating best friends who decide to go to one big party on the last day of school. Dever’s character Amy is gay, and wants to hook up with the girl she’s had a crush on all year at the party. This is one of the most-praised high school comedies in recent years, with Feldstein earning a Golden Globe nomination and the film winning a GLAAD Media award for Outstanding Film.
Trans director Rhys Ernst’s look at queer women and trans culture is one of the most accurate depictions of the community you’ll ever see. The movie follows a cis, straight teen boy who pretends to be a trans man so that he can date a queer girl he meets while visiting his lesbian sister in New York City. Unlike the book it was based on, the movie treats trans issues with respect and does a great job of highlighting the trans community.
One of the most critically acclaimed gay films in years, Your Name Engraved Herein follows to male students at a Taiwan high school who fall in love shortly after the country lifted its martial law in the 1980s. Changes in society, homophobia, and conflict threaten to tear the pair apart, as love tries to hold them together.
Hell yes, Jennifer’s Body is one of the best horror movies and one of the best high school movies of all-time. It stars Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried as two high school best friends who love to have sleepovers and makeout. When Jennifer (Fox) becomes possessed by an evil spirit, boys at their school start dying, and someone needs to stop her.
While Marvel is giving us its first gay superhero in 2021, Power Rangers gave us a gay, Latina superhero back in 2017. The film stars Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Becky G (as the queer Yellow Ranger, Trini), and Ludi Lin as a diverse team of Power Rangers who have to save their town from the evil Rita Repulsa.
Written and directed by Stephen Dunn, who is writing the upcoming Queer as Folk reboot, Closet Monster is a drama with elements of body horror about an 18-year-old boy’s internalized homophobia. It won the award for Best Canadian Feature Film at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival.
Not to be confused with the wonderful 2016 coming-of-age film starring Hailee Steinfeld, this version follows a gay young man in 1984. Eric Hunter is a Eurythmics-obsessed, musically driven teen in Sandusky, Ohio. At the start of his senior year of high school, Eric decides to dye his hair and wear the clothes he wants, and begins his gay journey.
The first film in Netflix’s recent teen slasher Fear Street trilogy follows Deena Johnson, a teen girl who just broke up with her closeted girlfriend and doesn’t believe in the local legend of a witch cursing the town. The film is a fun twist on the slasher genre, and each of the two other films in the trio are equally fun.
Crystal Moselle’s exploration of a group of female skateboarders in New York City is inspired by the real-life group of skaters who call themselves the Skate Kitchen. In the movie, they play fictionalized versions of themselves, welcoming a new girl, Camille, into the fold. The show was later spun off into an HBO series called Betty.
Ryan Murphy’s movie musical based on the Broadway play stars Out100 cover star Ariana DeBose and Jo Ellen Pellman as two high school girls who want nothing more than to dance together at their small-town high school prom. When their school won’t let them, some washed-up Broadway stars (Meryl Streep, Andrew Rannells, Nicole Kidman, and James Corden) decide to invade the town and save the day.
Unpregnant is a teen buddy road comedy starring Haley Lu Richardson and Barbie Ferreira. Richardson plays Veronica, a pregnant teenager who realizes she can’t get an abortion in her homestate of Missouri without parental permission, and decides to go on a road trip to get one. She goes with her former friend Bailey, who is queer, to Albuquerque in search of the abortion she wants.
This sex-positive comedy stars Kathryn Newton, Dideon Adlon, and Geraldine Viswanathan as three girls who pledge to lose their virginity on prom night. Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz, and John Cena play their parents trying to stop them. Adlon’s character, Sam, has a really cute coming out journey throughout the film, and it’s filled with hilarious jokes and performances by everyone.
This biographical coming-of-age musical is based on a true story of a British teen who wanted to go to prom in drag. Jamie New is a teen boy who dreams of being a drag queen. The movie follows Jamie as he gets a drag mentor, gets his first dress, and learns to love himself.