With a major step taken towards sexuality equality this week, it seems like a good time to remind ourselves of the sometimes forgotten gay presence that comes through films, and which continues to make ever-more-encouraging steps forward. Rocky Horror was quite clearly a significant release all those years ago, whilst more recently the wonderful love story of Brokeback Mountain and the biopic of political figure and inspiration to many Milk have both been very well received and have performed a great deal of good when it comes to stirring attitudes and provoking change.
Films that really cater to the gay community (rather than films for a mainstream audience with an LGBT element) might be considered to be Priscilla, Queen of the Desert or the more conventional coming-out story of two London boys in Beautiful Thing, to use as just one example. But even beyond these, gay representations have made an impact – even in the big films – for a very long time indeed. Sidney Lumet’s Dog Day Afternoon and Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope both had two male leads who are suspected – if not confirmed – to be in a homosexual relationship, although unfortunately both couples are committing crimes (though one is of passion), and these were released as long ago as 1975 and 1948 respectively.
In terms of changing attitudes in the present, the good news is that a recent animation primarily aimed towards kids – and I won’t say which to avoid spoiling it – ended with the coming-out of one of its characters; on the surface a nice joke and a neat twist, but with ramifications that go way beyond that – an admirable move indeed. What lies below then is a list of ten LGBT-related films that – unlike TV movie Clapham Junction or docu-drama The Matthew Shepard Story (both well worth watching in their own right) – are actually accessible in terms of finding them on the shelves simply because the two aforementioned titles are, unfortunate as it is, very difficult to come across.
A Single Man
Colin Firth portrays the troubles of not only an LGBT-struggle in the days where because of societal attitudes it was even more challenging, but also of the everyday difficulties of what it is to live and indeed to cope with the readjustment to life after the almost unthinkable tragedy of losing his partner.
An indie romantic tale which involves Christopher Plummer playing a character who, with the recent passing of his wife, finds himself – and his sexuality – at an age far closer to death than birth, and embraces this new lifestyle even so.
Boys Don’t Cry
This remarkably hard-hitting drama features a superb performance from Hilary Swank in the lead role, and is concerned with transgender issues for a young person in a new environment. It’s difficult, upsetting and will leave you emotionally destroyed, but don’t let that stop you.
For the Bible Tells Me So
A documentary examining the position of religion on homosexuality by focusing on a number of people and their experiences interspersed with examinations of the Bible and its interpretations.
The Kids Are All Right
A story which presents two lesbian parents as the norm and shows them to be good, intelligent, funny people who are able to love and care for their children, although who are still susceptible to the same mistakes, difficulties and daily dilemmas as everybody else.
An examination of the slightly suspect though highly influential sexuality spectrum devised by Alfred Kinsey (played by Liam Neeson) in this biopic of not only the work of the influential man, but his devotion to it via his private life too.
The true story of notorious American serial killer Aileen Wurnos, played spectacularly in the role of her career by an unrecognisable Charlize Theron. The lesbian relationship at the forefront of this movie remains a complicated insight and thankfully unconcealed element of this unique, complex character and a thoroughly under-championed film.
This Movie Is Not Yet Rated
The American movie ratings system, the MPAA, comes under scrutiny here as the filmmakers charge it with censorship, a lack of transparency, double-standards and more in this engrossing documentary. One of the salient issues is a difference in rating in comparison for heterosexual to homosexual sex scenes.
V for Vendetta
A strange inclusion at first glance perhaps, but let’s not forget that one of the most emotional and involving sequences of the film is Valerie’s tale. V for Vendetta, in exploring the possibility of a future fascist leadership, doesn’t forget about the consequences for the everyday people, particularly those who are ‘different’ – or perceived as such, and Stephen Fry’s character is another example of the inclusion of this aspect.
Finally, and possibly the most I urge you to watch the most, is this specifically, unashamedly gay romantic drama which examines a fleeting yet passionate period of just two days between two people as they encounter each other’s views and habits. They talk about their ideas and thoughts of the gay lifestyle and the gay experience with refreshing honesty, surprising wit and unfortunate melancholia.