Mashable is celebrating Pride Month by exploring the modern LGBTQ world, from the people who make up the community to the spaces where they congregate, both online and off.
Whether you’re demonstrating in the streets or voicing support at home, celebrating LGBTQ communities has never been so essential.
But between making face masks, organizing Zoom calls, joining protest groups, and scheduling food (and drink!) deliveries, we know plenty of Pride participants are feeling maxed out with all the extra coronavirus logistics between them and a proper June celebration. So to knock one thing off your to-do list — and ours — we dove into every streaming service’s LGBTQ catalogue and picked films we think you’ll want to pop on at the end of your Pride-filled days.
From educational documentaries to charming rom-coms, these are the 30 LGBTQ movies that make our Prides complete, listed in no particular order. Happy streaming!
1. Before Stonewall (1984)
Filmmakers Greta Schiller and Robert Rosenberg did a public service in their creation of seminal documentary Before Stonewall. An educational yet humorous work that provides essential context to the LGBTQ community’s long-fought campaign for civil rights, this is a great starting place for anyone eager to better appreciate just how far acceptance has come and how far it still has to go.
2. Moonlight (2016)
Director Barry Jenkins’ Academy Award-winning Best Picture may use some of the formulaic components seen in other coming-of-age stories, but it imbues them with such immense inventiveness and originality that to compare Moonlight to anything else feels like an insult. This film has rightly been called some of the most impactful filmmaking in history, a perennial meditation on abuse, regret, pain, and acceptance.
How to watch: Moonlight is available to stream on Netflix.
3. Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)
Hedwig and the Angry Inch is always best enjoyed on the stage. But when a visit to the theater isn’t an option, director and star John Cameron Mitchell’s screen adaptation more than does the trick. In this musical dramedy, Stephen Trask’s spectacular songs once again come to life as the titular and iconic East German rock singer explores revenge, betrayal, and acceptance.
How to watch: Hedwig and the Angry is available to stream on HBO Max.
4. The Watermelon Woman (1996)
Director Cheryl Dunye’s cinematic debut brings utter fearlessness to righting wrongs. In this romantic comedy, Cheryl plays a pseudo-autobiographical version of herself intent on giving credit to the Black actors and filmmakers that came before her but were too often left unnamed in their works. Widely regarded as the first feature-length film directed by an openly lesbian Black woman, The Watermelon Woman remains a triumph 24 years later.
How to watch: The Watermelon Woman is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.
5. My Beautiful Laundrette (1985)
In this charming, sexy, and silly comedy from Stephen Frears, Gordon Warnecke, and Daniel Day-Lewis play childhood friends-turned-lovers struggling to make the most of their meager means. When the pair take over a laundromat together, they must face the normal pitfalls of operating a business as well as battle the political climate surrounding immigrants in ’80s Great Britain.
How to watch: My Beautiful Laundrette is available to stream for free on Pluto TV.
6. Love, Simon (2018)
Folks looking for a heartwarming, sweet, and goofy romp to accompany the perfect at-home Pride celebration can stop their search. Love, Simon, starring the always charming Nick Robinson, broke ground as the first major studio film to focus on a gay teen romance. Delightful as it is important, this movie combines the best of rom-coms and coming out stories to check every box on a movie lover’s list.
7. Weekend (2011)
Tom Cullen and Chris New redefine the chance encounter in director Andrew Haigh’s Weekend. Told over the course of a 48-hour period, this stirring, passionate romance considers the impacts strangers can have on one another — even when their time together is cut all too short.
8. Carol (2016)
Based on Patricia Highsmith’s groundbreaking 1952 novel, Todd Haynes’ Carol brings the lives of Carol Aird and Therese Belivet to the screen through actors Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. This masterful rendition of a Christmas-set romance will pull at your heartstrings in all of the right ways — permanently nestling into a corner of your soul.
9. Tongues Untied (1989)
Artist Marlon Riggs’ experimental film Tongues Untied addresses the onslaught of racist and homophobic prejudices Black gay men have been forced to endure and navigate for decades. Combining documentary footage with scripted personal accounts, this 55-minute film remains an impactful and relevant point of reference in intersectional LGBTQ activism.
How to watch: Tongues Untied is available to stream on Kanopy.
10. Happy Together (1997)
Directed by Wong Kar-wai, this nail-biting romantic saga depicts a tumultuous relationship on the brink of collapse. The film’s leads Leslie Cheung and Tony Leung Chiu-wai explore passion and its limitations as Happy Together provides a unique, if not jarring, glimpse into affairs of the heart.
How to watch: Happy Together is available to stream on Kanopy.
11. Wig (2019)
One of the most iconic events of New York City Pride, Wigstock has taken many forms over the years. Watch as director Chris Moukarbel follows present-day queens as they attempt to revitalize the festival made popular by legends like Lady Bunny, RuPaul, and more in 2018.
How to watch: Wig is available to stream on HBO Max.
12. Paris Is Burning (1990)
It’s the film you knew had to be on this list. Director Jennie Livingston’s unparalleled documentary Paris Is Burning captures the New York City drag ball culture of the late ’80s with style, grace, and intelligence. It’s a powerful reflection on wealth disparity, race discrimination, and stigma surrounding the LGBTQ community — a must-see if there’s ever been one.
How to watch: Paris Is Burning is available for rent/purchase on iTunes.
13. Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Jake Gyllenhaal and the late Heath Ledger shepherd a nuanced narrative of passion, fear, romance, and shame in director Ang Lee’s tale of star-crossed lovers in rural Wyoming and Texas. A timeless reflection on what it takes to unite who you are expected to be with who you really are, Brokeback Mountain can be a little sappy — but its faultless message always lands.
How to watch: Brokeback Mountain is available to stream with Starz.
14. How to Survive a Plague (2012)
Reporter David France looks back on the HIV/AIDS epidemic in this riveting, comprehensive documentary. Weaving hundreds of hours of archival footage into a cohesive narrative on the LGBTQ community’s fight against biased healthcare practices, How to Survive a Plague bottles what it means to make societal change happen before it’s too late.
How to watch: How to Survive a Plague is available to stream free on Amazon Prime Video.
15. Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)
Writer-director Céline Sciamma will blow you away with this historical French drama. Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel lead as a painter and her unwilling subject whose intimate time together begins a secret romance that threatens to unravel them both. Painful and poetic, Portrait of a Lady on Fire is the underappreciated watch you need to make time for.
How to watch: Portrait of a Lady on Fire is available to stream on Hulu.
16. The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)
Few things are an unspeakably fun as The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Terence Stamp, Hugo Weaving, and Guy Pearce star as drag performers traveling the Australian Outback in this heartfelt comedy packed with iconic one-liners and costume changes. (It should be noted that this film contains some outdated, racist portrayals of nonwhite characters. Many argue the film remains a historic text for the changes it brought about in mainstream acceptance of LGBTQ art.)
17. Upstairs Inferno (2015)
Documentarian Robert L. Camina remembers the catastrophic fire that took the lives of 32 people at New Orleans gay bar UpStairs Lounge on June 24, 1973. Witnesses to the tragedy reflect on the lives lost, the expected arsonist behind the attack, and the city’s lacking response to community devastation. This is a heartbreaking but essential chapter in any LGBTQ history book.
How to watch: Upstairs Inferno is available for rent/purchase on Amazon Prime Video.
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18. Pariah (2011)
Adepero Oduye devastates in this coming-of-age story. A cinematic journey that leaps from the screen straight to your soul, Pariah follows a 17-year-old Black woman as she fights to accept her lesbian identity and reconcile her sexual orientation with her family’s vision of the future.
19. Tomboy (2011)
Another installment from writer-director Céline Sciamma. Tomboy paints a staggering portrait of a gender non-conforming child grappling with societal expectations in a new environment. Full of hope but grounded in its true-to-life performances, this film exists as a testament to becoming who you really are at any age. Then 10-year-old Zoé Héran positively dazzles with her lead role.
20. Kiki (2016)
There has never been a better time to revisit Sara Jordenö’s breathtaking Kiki. Centered on the drag and ballroom scene of New York City and those communities’ roles in rebuffing systemic intersectional bias, this documentary is an inspiring reminder that joy and love can bring about lasting change — but not without profound struggle.
How to watch: Kiki is available to stream on Hulu.
21. We Were Here (2011)
Director David Weissman’s documentary We Were Here transports viewers back to the San Francisco LGBTQ scene of the ’80s and ’90s as interview subjects relive their struggle to contend with the unfathomable H.I.V/AIDS crisis. A testament to the strength of the human spirit and the power of community, this is a history lesson worth paying attention to.
22. Trembling Before G-d (2001)
The intersection of sexual identity and faith remains a struggle for many members of the LGBTQ community. In Trembling Before G-d, director Sandi Simcha DuBowski honors that fight by allowing Orthodox Jews to share their experiences reconciling the parts of themselves destined to conflict.
How to watch: Trembling Before G-d is available for rent/purchase on iTunes.
23. Professor Marston & the Wonder Women (2017)
Luke Evans, Rebecca Hall, and Bella Heathcote star as polyamorous lovers in this biopic about the life of William Moulton Marston, the creator of Wonder Woman. Though Marston’s surviving family members have largely denounced the depiction of their late relative, director Angela Robinson’s drama remains a widely beloved instance of representation for non-monogamous people.
How to watch: Professor Marston & the Wonder Women is available to stream on Hulu.
24. Call Me By Your Name (2017)
Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer lead in director Luca Guadagnino’s stunning coming-of-age romance. Winner of Best Adapted Screenplay at the 90th Academy Awards, Call Me By Your Name approaches its starring couple with tenderness, understanding, and unshakable warmth. This is the perfect pick for a cozy-yet-ethereal night in.
25. A Fantastic Woman (2017)
Winner of Best Foreign Language Film at the 90th Academy Awards, director Sebastián Lelio’s A Fantastic Woman is a tragedy and triumph for the ages. Daniela Vega plays a woman who loses her partner unexpectedly. Amidst her grief, she must contend with her late partner’s family and their transphobia. This film offers exquisite cognizance of the pain prejudice can add to existing loss.
26. My Own Private Idaho (1991)
Keanu Reeves and the late River Phoenix star in this 20th century retelling of Shakespeare’s Henry IV and Henry V. Director Gus Van Sant guides his leads through a tense, melancholy exploration of intimacy, power, and uncertainty that never fails to deliver poignant reflection despite its adventure-fueled storyline. Oh, and the pair’s chemistry is…searing.
27. A(sexual) (2011)
Director Angela Tucker’s debut documentary offers a thorough, albeit imperfect, examination of what it means to be asexual in our often sex- and romance-obsessed culture. A(sexual) offers profound incite into what it means for asexual people to fight for their right to not partake in normalized relationship rituals and define their own spaces within the LGBTQ community.
28. Tangerine (2015)
Director Sean Baker’s low-budget tour de force follows transgender sex worker Sin-Dee Rella, played by the effervescent Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, as she seeks to enact revenge on the man who cheated on her and the cisgender woman he cheated with. Bittersweet and hysterical, Tangerine is a one-of-a-kind viewing experience you’ll cherish forever.
How to watch: Tangerine is available to stream on Hulu.
29. Milk (2008)
In director Gus Van Sant’s astounding biopic, Sean Penn stars as activist and politician Harvey Milk. The first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California, Milk progressed the rights of LGBTQ Americans by unprecedented leaps and bounds. Milk honors that legacy with its heartfelt imagining of an icon. Penn won Best Actor for his portrayal of Milk at the 81st Academy Awards.
How to watch: Milk is available to stream with Starz.
30. The Birdcage (1996)
In the wake of an unexpected wedding, The Birdcage chronicles the chaotic blending of two very different families. Along the way, Nathan Lane dons full drag, Robin Williams dances his pleated pants off, and Gene Hackman brings remarkable depth to his straight-man role. This is the perfect pick if you want something light and fun to watch with your chosen family.