30 Films About HIV & AIDS That Everyone Should Watch
These films documented the history of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Miramax Films / TriStar Pictures / 20th Century Fox
As we reach the 35th anniversary of World AIDS Day, it feels like a fitting time to remember the films that have documented the
history of the HIV/AIDS epidemic
over the years.
The Normal Heart
, these movies have told the stories of people we’ve lost during the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which has plagued the
+ community for over four decades. Despite all the progress we’ve made in recent years, it’s always important to remember the impact that this epidemic has had on our queer existence as a collective.
Scroll through to see our list of movies about HIV & AIDS that everyone should consider watching.
An Early Frost (1985)
The first major film, either televised or theatrical, to deal with the AIDS epidemic,
stars Aidan Quinn as a gay man who returns home to break the news to his family that he is living with HIV. It was watched by over 34 million people, garnered 14 Emmy nominations and won 3.
Parting Glances (1986)
In Steve Buscemi's first major film role, he plays a gay man living with HIV. The director, Bill Sherwood, died of an AIDS-related illness in 1990 without completing another film.
Tongues Untied (1989)
This documentary explores black gay culture in the '80s, including the loss of many to AIDS.
Longtime Companion (1989)
The Samuel Goldwyn Company
was the first wide-release theatrical film to tackle HIV/AIDS. The title is taken from the words used by the
New York Times's
description of the partner of someone who had died from an AIDS-related illness.
The Living End (1992)
Two men living with HIV run from the law in classic
Thelma & Louise
Zero Patience (1993)
This indie musical finds a 19th century English explorer meeting the first AIDS patient.
And the Band Played On (1993)
Ian McKellen and Lily Tomlin star in this film about the discovery of the virus.
Tom Hanks plays a wronged lawyer, fired after it's revealed that he has HIV.
The Cure (1995)
A boy finds out his best friend has AIDS and plans a trip to New Orleans to find the cure.
A young gay man in New York believes he'll be safe from contracting HIV/AIDS if he stays celibate. But things get complicated when he falls for a man living with HIV.
Shining Excalibur Films
Chloe Sevigny plays a teenage girl who wants to save other young women from the boy who gave her HIV.
Boys On the Side (1995)
Mary-Louise Parker plays a woman with AIDS who embarks on a road trip with a recently single lesbian (Whoopi Goldberg) and a young woman escaping an abusive relationship (Drew Barrymore).
It's My Party (1996)
Eric Roberts plays a man dying from AIDS who throws a party before he plans to kill himself. One of the first films to address the topic of someone living with AIDS and dying on their own terms, the film was based on the life of Harry Stein, director Randal Kleiser's ex-lover.
The Hours (2002)
The film connects three women of different generations through Virginia Woolf, one of which (Meryl Streep) is planning an award party for her best friend who has AIDS.
The Trip (2002)
This film follows the love story of a young conservative and a gay rights activist, concluding when one of them contracts HIV in the '80s and the other tries to get him home from Mexico.
It's one of the most iconic musicals of our time and a beautiful portrait of friendship and community, set against the AIDS-ridden East Village at the turn of the millenium.
Life Support (2007)
Queen Latifah plays a woman living with HIV who is overcoming her drug addiction and working with an AIDS outreach group.
The Witnesses (2007)
A doctor begins an affair with a young man who soon finds out he has AIDS.
A young woman with HIV strives for an education and a way out from her mother's abuse.
How to Survive a Plague (2012)
This documentary follows the AIDS outbreak and the uprising of queer protesters.
United in Anger: A History of ACT UP (2012)
New York State Council on the Arts
Though most people know David France's
How to Survive a Plague
, 2012 saw several films about ACT UP come out and this one, directed by ACT UP members Sarah Schulman and Jim Hubbard, shows the mechanics behind orchestrating some of the group's biggest demonstrations.
20th Century Fox
In this heartbreaking true story, an Irish woman goes searching for her son whom she was forced to give up for adoption as a baby, only to find he's involved in the HIV/AIDS crisis.
Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
After a Texas man finds out he has AIDS, he refuses to die without any resources and smuggles life-saving drugs from Mexico.
The Normal Heart (2014)
Larry Kramer's powerful, heartbreaking work comes to life in the HBO film about early HIV/AIDS fighters in New York City.
The Companion (2015)
A boxer in 1980s Cuba is assigned to be the a companion for an HIV-positive war veteran confined by the government to a sanatorium.
Holding the Man (2015)
This true love story follows a couple from when they first met in high school to when one dies from AIDS and the other struggles to write their story before losing his mind to the disease.
120 BPM (2017)
This story set in 1990s Paris tells the story of the intimate relationship between Sean and Nathan, two members of ACT UP Paris, set against the backdrop of the group's fight to secure medication for people living with HIV.
Paris 05:59 Theo & Hugo (2017)
Two young gay men meet at a sex club in the first 20 minutes of
, which is an extremely explicit French film about a one-night stand. One of the two is living with HIV and their encounter leads them both to go to the hospital to pick up post-exposure prophylaxis together.
Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)
20th Century Fox
Though the film infamously fudged the details around Freddie Mercury's HIV diagnosis, and its method of storytelling ultimately shamed him, his sexuality, and his HIV status, it nevertheless is one of the few biopics that centers a person of color living with HIV.
A genius lyricist, Howard Ashman was behind acclaimed works like
Beauty and the Beast,
The Little Mermaid
Little Shop of Horrors
, he becomes the subject, and the director tracks not only Ashman's success but how that was impacted by complicatons related to HIV and AIDS.