12 Groundbreaking LGBTQ+ Movies of the 21st Century

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June is Pride Month, and we are here to celebrate the monumental growth of the film industry in terms of LGBTQ+ stories. From formative coming-of-age films to the heartbreaking struggles and triumphs of the LGBTQ+ community in society throughout history, it is evident that love in all its beautiful forms should be accepted and represented in film. For people of all ages, movies are an escape just as much as they are intended to reflect the audience and the world we live in. The entertainment industry as a whole has come a long way in terms of representation and inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community.

This month is the perfect time to reflect on LGBTQ+ movies that were not just incredibly impactful, but also groundbreaking for the community and their much-needed presence in the film industry. Titles such as Brokeback Mountain and Hedwig and the Angry Inch as well as more modern films such as Call Me By Your Name and Love, Simon are beautiful representations of love in some of its most pure and raw forms. We have put together 12 groundbreaking LGBTQ+ movies of the 21st century for you to check out.

12 Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Hedwig and the Angry Inch came out in 2002 and was the film adaptation of the hit rock theater show. The story follows Hedwig (John Cameron Mitchell), a rock singer on the hunt for superstardom. After facing a brutal and forced gender reconstruction surgery, Hedwig is a character that goes on a journey to find out who they are now in a society that may not accept everyone. This musical comedy has stood the test of time as an eye-opening story about what it means to let go of the boundaries set by gender and the liberation in a person’s freedom to define themselves as they choose.

Related: A Brief History of LGBTQ+ Cinema

11 Brokeback Mountain

Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger broke boundaries in the 2005 film Brokeback Mountain. The story told in this film follows the forbidden romance between Ennis Del Mar (Ledger), a ranch hand, and Jack Twist (Gyllenhaal), a rodeo cowboy. This movie beautifully portrays the struggle and pain of having to hide their relationship over the span of 20 years, even going as far as to marry other women. The erotic and deeply emotional nature of their queer relationship captivated audiences and with the breathtaking performances by both Gyllenhaal and Ledger. Brokeback Mountain continues to be one of the best displays of an LGBTQ+ love story in film history, breaking ground as the first queer movie to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.

10 Weekend (2011)

Weekend is a movie from the United Kingdom that beautifully captures the love story between Russell and Glen. After a fateful one-night stand, the two establish a connection that reaches far deeper than what a typical one-night stand would entail. The amazing performances by both Tom Cullen and Chris New make this movie something to marvel at. If you are in search of a deeply romantic and emotionally vulnerable relationship to watch on screen, it is time fo you to get on board with Weekend.

9 Blue is the Warmest Color (2013)

When Adèle, a French teenager played by Adèle Exarchopoulos, falls into a whirlwind emotional and sexual relationship with Emma, an art student played by Léa Seydoux, after meeting in a lesbian bar, the couple goes on a journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance. Blue is the Warmest Color received praise for being a deeply emotional and heartfelt coming of age movie for the LGBTQ+ community. However, it also faced some criticism that found issues in this film about love between women being directed by a man. Even with some backlash, the film manages to do exactly what it sets out to do to its audience. In a review in the Los Angeles Times, film critic Betsy Sharkey describes the morals of the film being “Sex without love is nothing; life without love is even less.”

8 Stranger By the Lake (2013)

Stranger By the Lake is a French film directed by Alain Guiraudie that is one hell of a love story. This erotic thriller and drama film utilizes a very minimalist approach in its plot and visuals to establish the nature of human connection through the relationship between Franck and Michel. The constant pressure to discover your own identity within yourself is a very prevalent theme in this incredibly unique and delicately handled film. It is definitely worth a watch for artistic purposes alone.

7 Tangerine (2015)

The movie Tangerine came out in 2015 and if you love a great revenge plot, this is the movie for you. Tangerine follows a transgender sex worker Sin-Dee Rella (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) who finds out that her boyfriend had cheated on her. And so, even after just getting out of prison, she is set on enacting her revenge and finding the cisgender woman he was cheating with. This movie was incredibly shot entirely on an iPhone 5, and its chaotic and vibrant energy from the look of the movie to the look of the characters themselves makes it a stand-out on this list. Per Decider, Tangerine broke ground in 2015 as the first movie starring transgender actors to receive major awards contention, with Mya Taylor making history at the Independent Spirit Awards.

6 Carol (2015)

The impressive ensemble of Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson, and Kyle Chandler makes the 2015 LGBTQ+ drama Carol a must-watch. In this film, an undeniable yet complicated romantic relationship develops between Therese Belivet (Mara) and the ever so poised and elegant Carol (Blanchett). This movie reaches far beyond a black and white romance and exposes the difficulties of love, whether it be finding it or learning what it takes to accept it. Carol ended up winning multiple Academy Awards in 2016 and is highly acclaimed to be one of the best LGBTQ+ films of all time.

Related: Best LGBTQ+ Movies About Women, Ranked

5 Moonlight (2016)

Moonlight is another coming of age movie for the LGBTQ+ community. The 2016 drama film from A24 follows Chiron Harris, played by Trevante Rhodes, as he goes through life from the ups and downs of his adolescence to his journey in discovering his sexuality and identity. Moonlight was an exceptional representation of the Black community as well as the LGBTQ+ community that received one of the biggest honors in film, the Academy Award for Best Picture at the Oscars in 2017.

4 The Handmaiden (2016)

The combination of erotic thriller and a lesbian romance is a recipe for success and the 2016 film The Handmaiden does just that and then some. This South Korean film follows a woman who intends to steal the inheritance of a wealthy Japanese heiress. However, they end up falling in love and devise a plan of revenge, keeping their relationship a secret in the process. This dark, mysterious, gripping, and sensual film is not just a wonderfully entertaining LGBTQ+ romance, but includes a variety of themes surrounding Asian culture in the 1930s and reflected in society today. If this movie piques your interest at all, you can watch it on Amazon Prime.

3 Call Me By Your Name (2017)

Call Me By Your Name is one of the most highly acclaimed LGBTQ+ films in recent history. The beautifully shot movie follows the blossoming and age-gap romance between 17-year-old Elio Perlman, played by Timothée Chalamet, and Oliver, played by Armie Hammer. Based on the astounding novel by André Aciman, attraction and desire turn this couple’s lives upside down. Don’t keep your tissues far either because just when you think that this movie could not hit any harder, Elio’s father, played by Michael Stuhlbarg, delivers one of the most gut-wrenching and heartfelt monologues to hit the big screen. A culmination of all this in addition to the incredible cinematography and performances by Chalamet and Hammer, this movie is an absolute gem.

2 A Fantastic Woman (2017)

It is important now more than ever for the transgender community to have their voices heard in the entertainment world. In 2017, Sony Pictures released A Fantastic Woman, a Spanish-language film that follows the struggles of Marina Vidal, played by the exquisite Daniela Vega. Marina, a transgender waitress by day and entertainer by night, faces the struggles of her grief after the man she loves dies. Seen as a huge step forward for the transgender community, from Marina’s experience as a trans woman in society as well as in her personal life, A Fantastic Woman won the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film in 2018.

1 Love, Simon (2018)

It is a must for the film industry to tell the stories of LGBTQ+ youth. Love, Simon, starring Nick Robinson, is a movie that touches on the inner turmoil and empowerment that comes from coming out for young members of the LGBTQ+ community. Using the balance of fulfilling friendships, a supportive family, and the typical struggle of life as a high schooler, this film exudes the beauty of love and acceptance for anyone struggling to find it. Love, Simon‘s success also pushed a spinoff series on Hulu called Love, Victor that will be releasing its third and final season on June 15. Most notably, Love, Simon was the first gay movie to be produced by a major Hollywood studio, cementing its status as a groundbreaking LGBTQ+ film.


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