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Queer cinema and on-screen representation have grown enormously over the last several years. The last decade in particular has been important for the genre, with movies like Moonlight winning Best Picture at the Oscars, and teen movies like Love, Simon having a widespread release. More queer stories continue to reach the spotlight, and the genre is expected to grow and continue reaching wider audiences. However, there still remain some LGBTQ+ movies that have flown under the radar, and haven’t seen the recognition they deserve. Here are 11 underrated LGBTQ+ movies that are worth a watch.
11 To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar (1995)
To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar centers around three drag queens, played by Patrick Swayze, Wesley Snipes, and John Leguizamo – with great performances from all three. They take a road trip to the Drag Queen of America pageant, and find themselves stranded in a small town. While there, they grow close with the women in town, who accept them and the way they change their lives. It was the first major movie to focus on drag queens, and one of the first to humanize queer characters. Funny and uplifting, it was groundbreaking at the time, and remains heartfelt and empowering today.
10 Three Months (2022)
Three Months stars singer Troye Sivan as Caleb, who finds out he was exposed to HIV. While waiting three months for his test results, he connects with Estha (Viviek Kalra), who is also awaiting test results. Bonded by their situations, the two grow close and join a support group that gives Caleb the support and community he needs. It’s powerful for addressing real-world issues like HIV, and it does so in a touching, hopeful way.
9 Eat With Me (2014)
Eat With Me tells a love story and a family story, as chef Elliot (Teddy Chen Culver) faces the closure of his Chinese restaurant while trying to find love with chef Ian (Aidan Bristow). An additional struggle is Elliot’s strained relationship with his mother Emma (Sharon Omi), who’s moved in with him. Food and the spirit of cooking shine in the movie, and allow Elliot and Emma to reconnect and share their feelings with each other. It’s a joyful movie that intertwines food, family, and love.
8 God’s Own Country (2017)
God’s Own Country centers around Johnny (Josh O’Connor), a farmer who avoids his family stress with drinking and sex. His life changes when he meets Romanian migrant worker Gheorghe (Alec Secăreanu), who’s been hired to help the farm. Despite early disagreements, the two fall for each other, and start an intimate and genuine relationship that Johnny has never had. The relationship helps him start to change his ways and deal with his problems, in a testament to the touching romance that the two leads perfectly bring to life.
7 Edge of Seventeen (1998)
Set in 1984, Edge of Seventeen focuses on Eric (Chris Stafford), an Ohio teen who works at a theme park for the summer, and grows attracted to a boy named Rod (Andersen Gabrych). With this attraction comes Eric trying new looks and pushing fashion boundaries, along with exploring a gay bar and making queer friends. It ends hopefully, but is not a fully happy movie, as it delves into the negative parts of being out. However, it remains a heartfelt exploration of coming out that was groundbreaking at the time, and largely holds up today.
6 Anything’s Possible (2022)
Directed by Billy Porter, Anything’s Possible follows Kelsa (Eva Reign), a transgender teenager exploring romance. After crushing on Khal (Abubakr Ali), Kelsa must deal with the conflict of her friend liking him too, along with the fear of how people will react to the relationship. The movie succeeds in what The Hollywood Reporter calls a “delightful expansion” of typical rom-com leads, and while having a trans character is groundbreaking, it’s equally groundbreaking for just letting Kelsa have a joyful, normal rom-com story, rather than one of struggle.
5 Hearts Beat Loud (2018)
Hearts Beat Loud stars Nick Offerman as Frank and Kiersey Clemons as his daughter, Sam. Their relationship is strained after the death of Sam’s mother, but they grow closer when Sam performs a song with her dad. When the song goes viral, Sam is torn between performing with her dad and being with her girlfriend before she goes to college and starts her own life. Sam and her girlfriend’s romance is sweet, and makes a great contrast for the father-daughter relationship in this feel-good movie with great music.
4 Colette (2018)
Starring Keira Knightley, Colette is a biographical movie about the French writer. After agreeing to ghostwrite a novel for her husband, who is in debt, Colette finds the novel to be a success. He pushes her into writing more, which leads to her fighting for ownership of the writing and clashing with societal norms. She also develops relationships with women, which may not take the central story, but add tenderness and continue to show the push against the norm.
3 A Fantastic Woman (2017)
A Fantastic Woman won Best International Feature at the Oscars, but deserves more recognition, particularly in the U.S. Led by Daniela Vega’s excellent performance as Marina, we see her and her boyfriend go to a resort. However, he winds up dead the next morning, and Marina’s status as a trans woman immediately makes her a suspect. It gets into the real and dangerous discrimination trans women face, while still letting Marina have powerful and happy moments.
2 Pariah (2011)
Despite being widely praised, Pariah often goes underrecognized. 17-year-old Alike (Adepero Oduye) must deal with family, relationships, and the world in her quest to understand her lesbian identity, and fully live in that identity. Oduye’s great performance takes the audience on her journey, from exploring her sexuality to how she dresses, and how it all impacts her. It’s a moving and powerful coming-of-age journey. The Library of Congress selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry in 2022, one of the few Black lesbian-directed movies to have the honor.
1 Closet Monster (2015)
Closet Monster stars Connor Jessup as Oscar, an 18-year-old makeup artist hoping to get into art school. As a boy, he witnesses a violent homophobic attack on someone and deals with his parents divorcing, both of which haunt him throughout his life and his growing feelings for Wilder (Aliocha Schneider). The movie effectively uses body horror in an unexpected way, representing Oscar’s internalized hatred of himself. He overcomes this in an emotional moment of breaking away from his father. Overall, it’s a beautifully filmed, hopeful movie about embracing who you are, led by Jessup’s amazing performance.