Best Movies Made by Queer Directors to Stream Now

Design by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist There’s no need to confine queer entertainment to Pride…

Design by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist

There’s no need to confine queer entertainment to Pride Month, but what is Pride Month without queer entertainment? The Jane Austen-inspired romantic comedy Fire Island and a motel-renovation series hosted by drag superstar Trixie Mattel kick off the party in early June, and Peacock’s Queer as Folk reboot follows later in the month. You can also dip back into the annals of LGBTQ+ cinema. Thrillist has compiled a list of movies from queer directors who have tackled a variety of subjects, queer and otherwise, that are worth (re)watching over the next few weeks.

appropriate behavior
Gravitas Ventures

Appropriate Behavior, dir. Desiree Akhavan (2014)

Desiree Akhavan’s Appropriate Behavior is, on its surface, a familiar story about a messy Brooklynite trying to find her purpose. But Akhavan’s voice is so specific that the movie transcends the parts you’ve seen before. Yes, Shirin is maybe a Hannah Horvath type, but she’s also unabashedly queer and reckoning with how that fits into her Persian identity and her traditional family. The movie doesn’t offer easy answers about how these all coalesce, but it is bracingly funny along the way.
Where to watch: Amazon Prime, The Criterion Channel, Pluto TVThe Roku Channel, Tubi, Vudu

Bound, dir. Lana and Lily Wachowski (1996)

Though they hit it big with their second movie three years later, the Wachowskis’ first feature is a stunningly great queer neo-noir, starring Jennifer Tilly as a gangster’s moll and Gina Gershon as an ex-con plumber who fall in love and plot to run away with a cool $2 million of the mafioso’s money. This movie is overwhelmingly romantic, Tilly and Gershon perfectly matched in a game of flirtation that feels both classic and new at the same time. And that’s not even mentioning Joe Pantoliano’s delightfully villainous turn as Tilly’s gangster boyfriend Caesar. If you want a Wachowski movie that’s not too bizarre or over-the-top, Bound is the best place to start.
Where to watch: Amazon Prime

natasha lyonne but i'm a cheerleader
Lions Gate Films

But I’m a Cheerleader, dir. Jamie Babbit (1999)

Honorary queer icon Natasha Lyonne cemented her place in lesbian canon more than two decades ago in this comedy. She stars as Megan, a teen cheerleader with an athlete boyfriend who she doesn’t like kissing too much. When Megan’s parents suspect her of being lesbian—which comes as news to her—they ship her off to a no-nonsense conversion camp to set her straight. Under the leadership of disciplinarians Mary Brown (Cathy Moriarty) and “formerly gay” Mike (RuPaul), campers undergo a five-step program to “correct” their gender expression and “cure” their homosexuality. Throughout her stay, Megan grows dangerously close to rebellious camper Graham (Clea DuVall), challenging everything she thought she knew about love and sexuality. Years later, But I’m a Cheerleader holds up as the campy conversion therapy comedy that nobody asked for and everybody enjoyed.
Where to watch: Pluto, The Roku Channel

Carol, dir. Todd Haynes (2015)

Todd Haynes’ story about lesbian love in the 1950s is a gorgeous film from start to finish: from the direction (every frame is as lush as a painting) to the awards-worthy performances (Rooney Mara as the gawky, vulnerable Therese and Cate Blanchett as the alluring, perfectly coiffed Carol—seriously, give this woman’s hair-swoop its own award). Carol is one of the most tender cinematic depictions of what it feels like to be in love—how the quality of light changes, how time slows, how every fleeting gesture takes on the deliberateness of sign language—and why two people would be willing to go against everything society expects of them in order to hold on to it.
Where to watch it: Pluto, Vudu

michelle williams kirsten dunst dick
Sony Pictures

Dick, dir. Andrew Fleming (1999)

You may have seen All the President’s Men or Gaslit or any of Hollywood’s other countless Watergate dramas, but nearly all of them pale in comparison to Andrew Fleming’s incredible film about the true story of how two teenage girls actually brought down Nixon. Okay, fine, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but Fleming’s satire starring Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams is a truly hysterical, inspired take on the era. While lollygagging may prompt the two teens to wander into Dick’s office and become his unofficial dog walkers, their naivety is never a punchline. Rather, the stars are as sweet as the Hello, Dolly! cookies they bake the commander-in-chief, fully convincing you that two girls could take him down, too. It’s a radical cult classic that’ll leave you giggling like Kiki and Michelle on the phone with Deep Throat.
Where to watch: Hulu

Happiest Season, dir. Clea Duvall (2020)

As it stands, the LGBTQIA+ holiday movie canon is slight, so it was a joy when Veep star Clare DuVall’s Happiest Season won over streaming audiences with this recent Hulu hit. It’s a frequently very funny movie that gives off warm and twinkly holiday vibes while also retaining a hefty amount of bite. Kristen Stewart stars as Abby, who is wildly in love with her girlfriend Harper (Mackenzie Davis) and plans to propose over Christmas. However, this is the first time Abby is invited to join Harper’s family for the season: On the car ride to the suburbs, Harper reveals that she’s not out to her parents yet. Her dad (Victor Garber) is coded conservative and running for mayor of their town, and Harper is his favorite who is terrified of doing anything that will displease him. So she’s remained in the closet, and Abby is forced to play along. What follows is a comedy of errors that recalls The Birdcage about all the different ways in which people come out.
Where to watch: Hulu

nicole kidman in the hours
Paramount Pictures

The Hours, dir. Stephen Daldry (2002)

Have you ever gone grocery shopping just to pretend you were Meryl Streep waltzing around New York buying flowers? If so, maybe you’ve watched Stephen Daldry’s The Hours a few times. Based on Michael Cunningham’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, the plot follows three women from different generations who are bound together by Virginia Woolf’s seminal text Mrs. Dalloway. Of course, Woolf herself is played by Nicole Kidman (who won the Oscar for her performance) dealing with her unrelenting depression and how it affects her family. Julianne Moore gives a heartbreaking performance as a depressed housewife who is unable to care for her doting son and also might be secretly closeted. And Streep is planning a huge party for the best friend/ex-lover she has been caring for during his AIDS diagnosis. It’s a film that sticks to your ribs—remembering Moore alone in a hotel room or even just pondering the many hours that go into one’s seemingly little life.
Where to watch: HBO Max

Laurence Anyways, dir. Xavier Dolan (2012)

One of the most interesting things about wunderkind director Xavier Dolan might not be that he’s 33 and has already directed 10 films and won a bunch of awards, but that he’s seemingly unafraid to take risks in his work. Sometimes that doesn’t work, but it did in the case of 2012’s Laurence Anyways. With his regular muse Suzanne Clément, Dolan tells the story of Laurence, who decides to tell his beloved girlfriend that he has always felt trapped in his body and wants to begin transitioning to live the rest of his life as a woman. As Laurence begins her journey, things get complicated with Fred (Clement) and other aspects of her life. But Dolan goes for big swings, creating a wildly colorful, joyful, and heartbreaking film.
Where to watch: Amazon Prime

the living end gregg araki
Cineplex Odeon Films

The Living End, dir. Gregg Araki (1992)

Gregg Araki, a patron saint of the New Queer Cinema movement that produced subversive indie gems throughout the ’90s, cemented his reputation with this sensual spin on Thelma & Louise. The premise is simple: A foolhardy drifter (Mike Dytri) and an apprehensive film critic (Craig Gilmore)—both HIV-positive—set out on a road trip after killing a homophobic police officer. If that sounds grim, think again. The Living End is a vivacious and appropriately seedy time capsule that hails from a complicated moment in gay history when filmmakers channeled their highs and lows in the form of blissfully unconventional narratives.
Where to watch: The Criterion Channel

Maurice, dir. James Ivory (1987)

There’s a misconception that the Merchant-Ivory dramas are stuffy period pieces that tottered out of a library. That could not be more incorrect when it comes to Maurice, James Ivory’s adaptation of E.M. Forester’s novel. While the film deals with class and shame in early-20th-century England, as the titular character, portrayed by James Wilby, uncovers his sexuality, it is also deeply erotic, featuring Hugh Grant in maybe his sexiest role as Clive, the object of Maurice’s desire.
Where to watch: Tubi

mary j. blige mudbound
Netflix

Mudbound, dir. Dee Rees (2017)

The South’s post-slavery existence is, for Hollywood, mostly uncharted territory. Director Dee Rees rectifies the overlooked stretch of history with this novelistic drama about two Mississippi families working a rain-drenched farm in 1941. The white McAllans settle on a muddy patch of land to realize their dreams. The Jacksons, a family of black sharecroppers working the land, have their own hopes, which their neighbors manage to nurture and curtail. To capture a multitude of perspectives, Mudboundweaves together specific scenes of daily life, vivid and memory-like, with family member reflections, recorded in whispered voice-over. The epic patchwork stretches from the Jackson family dinner table, where the youngest daughter dreams of becoming a stenographer, to the vistas of Mississippi, where incoming storms threaten an essential batch of crops, to the battlefields of World War II Germany, a harrowing scene that will affect both families. Confronting race, class, war, and the possibility of unity, Mudbound spellbinding drama reckons with the past to understand the present.
Where to watch: Netflix

Multiple Maniacs, dir. John Waters (1970)

John Waters makes movies for the absolute sicko freaks living inside all of us, and Multiple Maniacs is one of his very best, following a traveling circus that calls itself The Cavalcade of Perversion, whose owner Lady Divine (played by the one and only Divine, obviously) robs the patrons at gunpoint after every show, and whose other members are violent societal castoffs who go on a hilarious and horrifying murdering spree. Full of sexual perversions, foul language, and shocking acts of violence, there’s something in Multiple Maniacs for the monster in all of us.
Where to watch: The Criterion Channel, HBO Max

The Philadelphia Story, dir. George Cukor (1940)

One of the greatest romantic comedies ever made, The Philadelphia Story seduces you with its whip-smart dialogue and the charming performances of the three leads. Having Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and Jimmy Stewart (who won his only Academy Award for his role as tabloid journalist Mike Connor) in your movie can almost feel like cheating. How could one movie contain this much charisma and star power? Adapted from the hit Broadway play by Philip Barry, the script gives them plenty of screwball scenarios and heart-pulling reversals, each staged and shot with formal elegance by George Cukor, the filmmaker who brought a similarly precise touch to Grant and Hepburn’s 1938 film Holiday only two years before this.
Where to watch: HBO Max

portrait of a lady on fire
Neon

Portrait of a Lady on Fire, dir. Celine Sciamma (2019)

Portrait of a Lady on Fire opens with the simple image of a hand drawing charcoal lines across a blank piece of paper. That’s how an artist begins her work: sketching out the outline and making preliminary judgements about what goes where. We soon learn the hand belongs to Marianne (Noémie Merlant), a French painter in the 18th century who falls in love with the young woman (Adèle Haenel) assigned to her as a subject. (In the early stages of the relationship, Marianne must keep her profession hidden on long walks with her object of obsession, giving the narrative an almost spy-movie like touch.) The fastidiousness of the early scenes helps establish the precise, exacting style of director Céline Sciamma, who tends to favor uncluttered compositions filled with lots of blank space, deliberate movements, and dramatic splashes of color. The flame-kissed title is very literal. As the story builds to its inevitably tragic and bittersweet finale, the movie strikes a powerful emotional chord.
Where to watch: Hulu

Princess Cyd, dir. Stephen Cone (2017)

Stephen Cone’s radical and empathetic portrait of a young girl discovering her own sexuality simply cannot be missed. Jessie Pinnick plays young Cyd Loughlin, a confident and headstrong 16-year-old who is sent to live with her estranged aunt for a summer. She and her aunt Miranda (Rebecca Spence) quickly become close, Cyd seeing in her the mother she was forced to grow up without. Cyd starts questioning her own sexuality, a move that troubles her aunt, a writer of religious fiction, and things come to a head when Cyd daringly wears a tuxedo to a neighborhood gathering after developing a romance with a local barista named Katie (Malic White).
Where to watch: Hulu, The Roku Channel, Tubi

saving face
Sony Pictures Classics

Saving Face, dir. Alice Wu (2004)

Alice Wu’s 2004 rom-com is a severely underrated story about a lesbian doctor (Michelle Krusiec) from Queens and her unexpectedly pregnant single mother (Joan Chen) who moves in with her when she’s ostracized from their community. Wilhelmina, who goes by “Wil,” begrudgingly attends dances in Flushing where her mother hopes she’ll find a husband. She meets the alluring dancer Vivian (Lynn Chen), who happens to be the daughter of her boss. Vivian is comfortable with her sexuality in a way that eludes Wil, who retreats deeper into the closet with her mother occupying her space. But their shared secrets bring mom and daughter closer than they might think. It’s a sexy and touching story about love and family that deserves your attention.
Where to watch: Hulu, Tubi, Crackle

Shiva Baby, dir. Emma Seligman (2021)

Emma Seligman’s comedy about shiva gone very wrong often plays more like a horror film, the chattering of bubbes turning downright maniacal as the score’s strings intensify. We first meet Danielle (comedian Rachel Sennott) in the middle of sex with Max (Danny Deferrari), her sugar daddy, who shows a lecherous interest in her budding law career. Most of the movie, however, takes place at the post-funeral memorial for a distant family acquaintance Danielle is roped into attending with her parents (Polly Draper and Fred Melamed). It quickly becomes obvious that our protagonist is not, in actuality, pursuing a law career. She’s an aimless college student who has made up her own major. If the agony of being barraged with countless questions about her future weren’t bad enough, her high school ex (Molly Gordon) is a guest, as is—surprise!—Max. Jewish geography is indeed as much a curse as it is a blessing. Seligman’s camera stays focused on Danielle as her anxiety skyrockets and she makes a series of increasingly rash decisions. At less than 90 minutes, Shiva Baby is both economical and a bit slight, but Seligman makes fascinating choices at every turn.
Where to watch: HBO Max

colin firth in a single man
The Weinstein Company

A Single Man, dir. Tom Ford (2009)

Is life worth living after the sudden death of your partner? That’s the question Colin Firth’s forlorn George faces in this drama, based on the novel by Christopher Isherwood and directed by fashion designer Tom Ford. You’ll see Ford’s eye in every gorgeous scene, as if the movie is one long, breathtaking couture commercial. Set in 1960s Los Angeles, A Single Man will simultaneously break your heart and give you hope as George interacts with colleagues, visits an old friend (Julianne Moore), and has a romantic tryst with a student at the university where he teaches—all as he decides whether this will be the day he ends his life.
Where to watch: Tubi

Suspiria, dir. Luca Guadagnino (2018)

It takes a lot of guts to remake what is arguably the finest horror film of Dario Argento’s career—and fans of the original film should be deeply grateful that a new rendition was handed to director Luca Guadagnino (Call Me By Your Name), who clearly knows and loves the original. What we have here is an epic horror film that follows the quiet but very ominous activities of an elite Berlin dance school faculty, and the unfortunate young women who begin to suspect the truth about the school. Even given the original movie’s place in the horror film hall of fame, there’s something truly, wildly, indelibly ambitious about this beautifully scary, sensual film. And that score by Thom Yorke!
Where to watch: Amazon Prime

antonio banderas tie me up tie me down
Lauren Films

Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, dir. Pedro Almodóvar (1990)

Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar has carved out a niche for himself telling stories about troubled men and women crashing into each other’s lives. His 1990 romantic comedy Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! is perhaps the most simplistic of his many narratives. A recently released mental patient (Antonio Banderas) falls for an actress (Victoria Abril) and decides to hold her hostage until she loves him. The actress has been on a downward spiral for a while, fighting drug dependency while accepting a lesser role in a goofy thriller. Despite the squeamishness of its premise, Almodóvar crafts a sweet, surprisingly innocent romance. His superpower as a director is making even the most unpalatable stories go down with a splash of color and a childlike optimism that shapes the motives of his characters.
Where to watch: HBO Max

To Die For, dir. Gus Van Sant (1995)

Before he received an Oscar nomination for Good Will Hunting, Gus Van Sant helmed this wickedly sharp satire starring Nicole Kidman as an aspiring TV news anchor who gets a job reading the weather, and soon finds herself plotting to kill her husband. Taking aim at the warped tabloid landscape of the ’90s, the script by Buck Henry, who adapted Joyce Maynor’s 1992 novel, is laced with funny lines, wry observations, and bursts of shocking violence. Kidman and Van Sant walk a delicate tonal line together, never losing track of the sense of yearning that drives the character to such desperate ends.
Where to watch: Tubi

cheryl dunye in the watermelon woman
First Run Features

The Watermelon Woman, dir. Cheryl Dunye (1996)

There’s a superlative attached to Cheryl Dunye’s The Watermelon Woman: The seminal indie is the first feature directed by an openly lesbian Black woman. That’s far from the only reason you should watch this brilliant movie, which stars Dunye herself as, well, Cheryl, a struggling filmmaker working at a video store. (Obviously, this is not far from Dunye herself.) The film intercuts Cheryl’s own life with a documentary she’s attempting to make about a Black actress from the 1930s just credited on screen as “The Watermelon Woman.” As it breaks ground as part of the New Queer Cinema movement, it also puts Dunye’s work in conversation with filmmakers of her own generation, as well with the generations of Black representation on screen. It’s also frequently hilarious.
Where to watch: Showtime

Working Girls, dir. Lizzie Borden (1986)

Molly, the Yale-educated sex worker played by Louise Smith in Lizzie Borden’s portrait of time on the clock Working Girls, really wants to get home and be finished with her job for the night. She’s tired of the pushy male customers, the constant ringing of the phone in the cramped Manhattan apartment she entertains clients in, and the demands of her taskmaster boss Lucy (Ellen McElduff). With rigorous style and subtle wit, Borden lays out the complex economic realities of a brothel, showing how the social dynamics between the women are always shifting depending on the circumstances. Borden’s camera captures every moment of humor, boredom, and fear with startling moral clarity.
Where to watch: The Criterion Channel

Year of the Dog, dir. Mike White (2007)

Mike White already had a successful writing career (see: Chuck & Buck, Orange County, The Good Girl, School of Rock) when he made his directorial debut with this squirmy comedy about a midlife administrative assistant named Peggy (a career-best Molly Shannon) whose only real companion is her beloved dog Pencil. When Pencil dies, Peggy’s world is turned on its side—until a handsome animal-rescue volunteer (Peter Sarsgaard) enters the picture. Shannon perfectly embodies a White signature: the clumsy protagonist who doesn’t know when to shut up, as seen more recently in Enlightened, Dinner with Beatriz, and The White Lotus.
Where to watch: Pluto

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