5 influential LGBT+ themed movies

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With the official LGBT+ Pride month coming to an end and the London Pride Parade coming up this weekend, it may be an appropriate time to reflect on the best pieces of LGBT+ themed movies.

It’s easy to say that the entertainments industry has not fallen short of delivering some influential LGBT+ masterpieces that have contributed to the wider acceptance and discussion of the LGBT+ community and issues that lie within it.

But there are some movies in particular which stand out as the most memorable.

Pre-warning: These films are sure to pull on your heart strings and more than likely leave you in a pool of tears, so watch at your own risk.

Milk (2008)

Director: Gus Van Sant

Photo: movieleadership.com

This movie uses flashbacks from a statement recorded in Harvey Milk’s (Sean Penn) late life and archival footage to follow his influential life from his 40th Birthday to his death. Milk and his then boyfriend Scott Smith (James Franco) move to San Francisco where Milk opens a camera shop in the city’s Castro district. Gay rights activism turns into political activism as Milk decides his voice for the gay community would be more beneficial as a politician.

After several elections and losses for both the city seat and state assembly seat, Milk becomes the first openly gay man in the United States to be elected to political office when he wins a San Francisco supervisor seat in 1977.

This influential movie acts as a reminder to modern audiences of the incredible impact Harvey Milk had in the wider acceptance of LGBT+ individuals in politics. He really was a true inspiration and movies like this are essential in order for people to appreciate the fight that members of the LGBT+ community have put up in the past.

Blue is the warmest colour (2013)

Director: Abdellatif Kechiche

Photo: youtube.com

This subtitled movie, set in France, perfectly captures the realistic struggle of high school student Adele (Adèle Exarchopoulos) exploring her sexuality and accepting genuine love from someone who society deems to be an unacceptable match. When Adele meets Emma (Lea Seydoux), a free spirit who is rejected by Adele’s friend due to her sexuality, an opportunity to explore love with a woman arises. She is taken on a journey of growth, self acceptance, loss of self and finally true acceptance of self through love and loss.

Realistic, emotional and heart warming, a true LGBT+ themed stand out movie.

The Danish Girl (2015)

Director: Tom Hooper

Photo: btchflcks.com

Set in Copenhagen, Denmark, 1926, the film is loosely based on the lives of Danish painters Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener. This movie interpretation focuses on artists Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne) and his wife Gerda (Alice Vikander) who are happily married. After standing in for a female model for one of Gerda’s portraits, Einar discovers that he wants to identify as a woman and names himself Lili Elbe. The story follows Lili’s journey of firstly trying to have her situation ‘cured’, to fighting against society’s corrupt beliefs and then finally being one of the first people to undergo sex reassignment surgery.

A beautiful and elegant spectacle with an enlightening message of how much progress society has made in accepting the transgender community. There’s still much further to go but movies like this help us to appreciate where we are now and how far we’ve come.

Carol (2015)

Director: Todd Haynes

Photo: comingsoon.net

A romantic classic in modern cinema, set in the Christmas season in 1950s New York and adapted from Patricia Highsmith’s influential novel ‘The Price of Salt’. This adaptation follows the story of an unexpected love affair between Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara), an aspiring photographer in her 20s and Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett), an older woman trapped in a loveless marriage with her husband with whom she has a child with.

As well as societal norms going against their blossoming relationship, complications surrounding Carol’s marriage and Therese’s existing relationship arise.

The film puts the difficulties of being an LGBT+ individual in 1950s New York into perspective, acting as a reminder of how far society has come (despite a lot of improvement still being needed).  The cinematography does this love story justice as the warming winter colours and intimate camera shots immerses the audience into the beautiful growth of the two protagonists as they accept their own feelings and love from an individual they would never have dreamed to be loved by.

Boys Don’t Cry (1999)

Director: Kimberley Peirce

Photo: famousfix.com

I was torn as to whether or not I felt that this film was in the top 5 of all LGBT+ movies I’ve watched as I originally found it quite slow and difficult to get into. However, I felt that it was impossible not to include a movie that tackles the serious issues of violence, honesty and the difficulties that come with relationships for transgender individuals.

The story follows the life of female-to-male transgender Brandon Teena (Hilary Swank) who starts his new life in a tiny Nebraska town after being outed in his hometown as biologically female by his ex-girlfriend’s brother. In Nebraska, Brandon becomes one of the popular lads and falls in love with aspiring singer Lana (Chloe Sevignyy). However, his life is slowly torn apart again when his best friends reveal that he was born a female.

It’s brutal, emotional and hard hitting which was essential for the time it was released (1999). It was a time when being transgender was still such a taboo and it was essential for the  brutality and risks that transgender individuals were immersed in to be bought to light for any change in society to begin. Obviously many individuals still find themselves in the middle of violence and brutality like that which is shown in this movie but I believe that this was a staple in the progression of discussion of issues in the transgender community.


All of these movies highlight that the entertainments industry, particularly TV and Film, are key in acting as a catalyst for societal development. It is important to take the time to show gratitude and appreciation for movies like the 5 listed above and the influence they have had in encouraging our generation, as well as members of the older generation, to make a difference and fight for the rights of the LGBT+ community.


Words by Maisie Green

Featured image: visitscotland.com

Khushi and Hannah are your entertainment editors

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