We are already two weeks into Pride Month, and for many of us, celebrating pride will involve ingratiating ourselves with queer history, attending local celebrations and enjoying our favourite LGBTQ+ movies and TV shows. Whilst authentic representation hasn’t historically been prevalent in queer-centred entertainment, it is important to acknowledge the strides that have been made in cinema and TV when it comes to more diverse and inclusive storytelling, both in front and behind the camera. Long gone are the days when queer people remained on the sidelines as “the best friend”. Now, we’re centre stage. I have put together a list of my top 10 favourite LGBTQ+ films and TV shows that should be essential viewing for anyone this pride month (and the rest of the year).
The iconic documentary, Paris is Burning (directed by Jennie Livingston), depicts New York City’s ballroom scene during the late ’80s and early ’90s and showcases the lives of trans and gender-non-confirming trailblazers like Pepper LaBeija and Dorian Corey. The documentary challenged preconceived images of gender, sexuality, race and class. This film is a must-watch for the dazzling drag performances and for showing a shining display of the debt wider culture continues to owe to black and trans communities.
Moonlight is equal parts visually striking and heartbreaking. The film follows protagonist Chiron, played by Travante Rhodes as an adult, Ashton Sanders as a teen, and Alex Hibbert as a child, through key stages of his life. Written and directed by Barry Jenkins, Moonlight is the first all-black and LGBTQ+ film to win Best Picture at the Oscars. Moonlight is a nuanced and compassionate exploration of sexuality, masculinity, identity and addiction. If you somehow haven’t seen it yet, now is the time!
In this documentary, leading transgender and gender non-conforming creatives and thinkers share heartfelt perspectives whilst deconstructing Hollywood’s impact on trans representation on screen and the effects on wider societal views. Directed and produced by Sam Feder (alongside Amy Scholder) and featuring artists like Laverne Cox, Lily Wachowski and Chaz Bono, Disclosure is a long-overdue exploration of trans representation, from the authentic voices of society’s most prominent trans and queer voices. In a time where harmful legislation (particularly in the United States) continues to pass that damages the livelihood of trans and queer people, Disclosure highlights the power of representation, and how far we still have to go.
I would be remiss to leave out one of the most popular and culture-shifting shows we have seen in the last 15 years. RuPaul’s Drag Race has brought Drag into the mainstream like nothing before. A clever amalgamation of different reality shows (Project Runway, America’s Next Top Model and Survivor, to name but a few) RuPaul’s Drag Race has entered its 14th year on our screens, with 15 regular seasons, 8 All-Stars, 4 UK, 2 Down Under and many international spin-offs to boot. This juggernaut reality show has opened the world of queer performance to the masses and has propelled the careers of momentous queer figures including Trixie Mattel, Bob the Drag Queen and Jinkx Monsson. A further decade of Drag Race might make drag as mainstream as McDonald’s, Nascar, and the Postal Service. Only with more glitter and better wigs.
Directed by Stephen Elliott, Priscilla follows Drag Queens Anthony, Adam and transgender woman Bernadette as they travel across the Australian desert in the caravan ‘Priscilla’. During the course of the film, they encounter a number of obstacles from homophobic abuse, violence and anti-trans propaganda. The film was praised, for bringing gay culture to the masses. The legacy of Priscilla can’t be underestimated, with a musical by the same name touring successfully for the last two decades.
Milk chronicles the life of gay rights activist and politician Harvey Milk, who made history by becoming the first openly gay politician to be elected in the United States. Portrayed by Sean Penn, the drama explores Milk’s move from New York to San Francisco, where he opens a shop in service to the LGBTQ+ community, and becomes a pioneering figure in America’s political system. This academy award-winning drama is an incredibly important part of both American and LGBTQ+ history.
Flee is an animated docudrama, telling the story of a young refugee’s journey from Afghanistan to Denmark. Preparing to marry his long-term boyfriend, our protagonist finds himself locked in a painful web of memories, that he has kept to himself for years. Flee perfectly demonstrates the harsh reality behind the refugee experience of being forced to leave the only life that you have ever known.
Though only released in 2022, Fire Island has been hailed as a modern queer classic. Fire Island follows the story of two friends as they embark on their weekend trip to the US’s hottest gay vacation spot. Written in the style of Pride and Prejudice, the film puts Queer Asian-American narratives at the forefront. Although the film deals with several issues, such as body image, wealth, race and how the queer community can, at times, experience in-fighting, the story is peppered with inspirational and joyous moments. With no death and no despair, this movie breaks the mould for LGBTQ+ media, by presenting a hilarious celebration of queer life.
Pose is set in the 1980s, following the Ball Culture in New York. The series is led by an excellent and diverse LGBTQ+ cast including Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, Billy Porter and Angelica Ross, and trans writers Our Lady J and Janet Mock. Pose centres around Bianca Evangelista, as she tries to navigate her identity in an ever-changing world. The show covers many important issues, from black representation, and transphobic abuse to the Aids crisis in the 80s and 90s. Pose tells much-needed stories, based on real queer history, helping mainstream audiences understand the plight of the queer community.
Based on the popular comic of the same name, Heartstopper was released on Netflix only last year, instantly becoming a hit. The show focuses on Charlie Spring, a shy and quiet openly gay student, who develops feelings for the supposedly straight Nick Nelson. As Nick and Charlie grow closer in the series, difficult topics such as coming to terms with one’s own sexuality are tackled. An incredibly enjoyable watch, Heartstopper is a very relatable story that mirrors the experiences of many queer and trans individuals, especially within British society.