The LGBTQ+ community has embraced and loved these classic films for years!
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer; Walt Disney Pictures; 20th Century Fox
Over the rich history of cinema, LGBTQ+ representation has been incredibly scarce (to say the least). It wasn’t until the last few couple of decades that we started to actually see queer characters and storylines play out on the big screen as the central theme of a mainstream movie, or at least a significant enough side plot.
Though we couldn’t see ourselves in film for so long, LGBTQ+ people still found certain movies and characters that we organically gravitated toward and consumed those projects as if they were just as queer as we were. Quotes, character names, and themes from these movies became shorthand references and “coded language” for LGBTQ+ people for many years, as we have to thank them for getting so many generations of queer people through some very rough times.
Scroll through to check out the non-LGBTQ+ movies that are considered queer culture!
‘Mommie Dearest’ (1981)
Starring Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford, Mommie Dearest is one of the absolute classics when it comes to queer people. This film features Dunaway’s campy and over-the-top performance as Crawford, an endless well of quotable lines, and a story about Hollywood, glamour, and vengeance.
‘The Wizard of Oz’ (1939)
We’re off to see the Wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz! It literally doesn’t get any better – or any gayer – than 1939’s The Wizard of Oz starring Judy Garland. In the past, being “a friend of Dorothy’s” was coded language for telling others that you were gay. And to this day, many queer people still refer to a close friend as their “good Judy.”
The 2002 adaptation of Chicago won the Academy Award for Best Picture, and for good reason! Between all of the performances from Renée Zellweger as Roxie, Catherine Zeta-Jones as Velma, and Queen Latifah as Matron “Mama” Morton, Chicago is pure perfection for queer sensibilities and musical theater lovers.
‘Sister Act’ (1992)
Whoopi Goldberg gives us absolutely everything in her portrayal of Sister Mary Clarence in Sister Act (and the sequel counts, too!). This bowl-of-fun-soup of a movie is a true classic for LGBTQ+ kids that grew up on Sister Act and even a new generation that is now watching it on streaming.
‘What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?’ (1962)
The legendary feud between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis came to a head in 1962’s What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? This “frenemies” dynamic between these two Hollywood icons is so memorable and gay that it even became a Ryan Murphy original series titled Feud in 2017. Though critics weren’t entirely sold on What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, it has definitely become a cult classic over the years.
‘The Stepford Wives’ (2004)
The gays love The Stepford Wives, and it’s not hard to see why. This movies combines all of the elements we love from things like Desperate Housewives and The Real Housewives franchise, but with a sci-fi twist that makes it even more interesting. With Nicole Kidman as the main character, this film is an absolute treat for the queers.
The erotic and dramatic 1995 film Showgirls is an absolute staple film for LGBTQ+ people, and even more so for drag queens. Though the movie flopped at the box office, the story of Nomi Malone (played by Elizabeth Berkley) has resonated with queer people for decades to come.
‘9 to 5’ (1980)
Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and Dolly Parton had all the girls, gays, and theys obsessed with the 1980 comedy 9 to 5. This film about three working women was literally revolutionary at the time, and not to mention how entertaining and captivating it also turned out to be. LGBTQ+ people love these three superstars, and 9 to 5 encompasses everything we love about them.
‘Valley of the Dolls’ (1967)
“You know how b*tchy f*gs can be.” Cinema really doesn’t get any gayer than Valley of the Dolls starring Barbara Parkins, Sharon Tate, Patty Duke, and Susan Hayward. Based on the Jacqueline Susann novel of the same name, Valley of the Dolls centers around three women pursuing a career in showbiz but falling into some kind of addiction.
Cher! Christina Aguilera! A musical film set in a burlesque club! When it comes to 2010’s Burlesque, it all adds up pretty easily as to why so many gay people are obsessed with this cinematic gem. This is a fierce, colorful, dazzling movie by Steve Antin that is entirely made with queer people in mind as the target audience.
‘Grey Gardens’ (1975)
Grey Gardens became a queer classic over the years for all the theatricality and fabulous (but also sad) nuances surrounding Little Edie as the subject of this 1975 documentary. As the cousins to former First Lady of the United States Jackie Kennedy, it’s clear that Little Edie and her mother are living much different lives than their famous relative.
Many critics considered Barbarella a low point in Jane Fonda’s career, but LGBTQ+ people still adored her drag-tastic performance and looks throughout the movie. The cultural impact of Barbarella can be felt across queer culture, with many references to this scandalous film still being made to this day.
‘Death Becomes Her’ (1992)
Two narcissistic women played by Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn desperately look for the source of youth while managing their destructive “frenemies” relationship with each other. Death Becomes Her is soooo gay, and it has definitely withstood the test of time over the years.
Justice for Glitter! Though some pop music fans try to make fun of this Mariah Carey movie, it is a definite camp classic, and certainly a favorite among LGBTQ+ people. In the film, Carey plays Billie Frank, a club dancer who navigates her way through the music industry. The Glitter album – a soundtrack to this movie – is also a true gem with hit songs like “Loverboy,” “Never Too Far,” and “Reflections (Care Enough).”
‘Hocus Pocus’ (1993)
Hocus Pocus is another example of a movie where viewers fall in love with the main trio of leading ladies. In this case, the Sanderson Sisters consisting of Bette Midler as Winifred, Sarah Jessica Parker as Sarah, and Kathy Najimy as Mary. Even though this is a Disney movie, it’s become a Halloween must-watch for LGBTQ+ people every single year.