agnès films Readers Celebrate Pride with LGBTQ+ Films and TV Shows


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Happy Pride month! While most Pride events have been cancelled this year due to COVID-19, we can safely watch groundbreaking work by and about the LGBTQ+ community while quarantining at home. We asked our audiences on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to share their favorite films, TV shows, and documentaries that tell compelling and complex LGBTQ+ stories. This Pride month, we invite you to watch and enjoy these films and shows and experience a myriad of magnificent ways of loving and living that they bring to life on the screen. Did we miss your favorite show or film? Tweet them to us @agnesfilms!

Films

Brokeback Mountain (2005), dir. Ang Lee
By Alexandra Hidalgo

I’ll never forget the magnitude of feelings that enveloped me as I sat in a crowded movie theater in LeMans, Francewhere I was teaching English at the timeto watch Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain. I quickly learned to ignore the French subtitles and got lost in the story’s all-encompassing romance between Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Ennis del Mar (Heath Ledger), two Wyoming sheep herders, who are as shocked as they are overwhelmed by their attraction to each other. As they leave the isolation of the wilderness where their love blossomed to return to a society that sees their bond as a threat to everything they hold dear, Jack and Ennis must decide between staying together and becoming outcasts. Their struggles as they navigate those choices make for one of the most poignant portrayals of what we do when faced with a cruel society that’s unable to honor what is perhaps the most basic right of all: to freely love those we love. Brokeback Mountain is available to rent on Prime Video.

Still from Brokeback Mountain.

 

Love, Simon (2018), dir. Greg Berlanti
By Kara Headley

Love, Simon is a heartwarming coming-of-age story that follows Simon Spier (Nick Robinson), a closeted highschooler who falls in love with an anonymous classmate, known as Blue. When Blue posts about struggling with his sexual orientation on their school’s message forum, Simon anonymously sends him an email, relating to his post.The two begin a correspondence, falling for one another in the process. As Simon searches for Blue, his classmate, Martin (Logan Miller) finds Simon’s emails and blackmails Simon into helping him get together with Abby (Alexandra Shipp), Simon’s new friend. As the plot unravels, Simon must find a way to get Martin off his back, come out to his friends and family, and discover Blue’s true identity as we root for him to succeed even as he falters and inadvertently hurts those who’ve always been by his side. Love, Simon is available to rent on Prime Video.

The Half of It (2020), dir. Alice Wu
By Kara Headley

The Half of It follows closeted teenager Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis) as she is hired by her classmate Paul Munsky (Daniel Diemer) to write a love letter his crush, Aster Flores (Alexxis Lemire). In this fresh new take on the classic Cyrano de Bergerac story, Ellie also has a crush on Aster. As Aster and Ellie, catfishing as Paul, exchange letters and texts, Ellie finds herself falling harder for Aster and forming a friendship with Paul. Perpetually shy Ellie doesn’t want to tell Paul about her feelings for Aster, so she keeps it a secret until things begin to boil over. The Half of It is a truly unique and heartwarming coming of age film that captures how deeply love dwells inside us when we’re first discovering its power. The Half of It is available to stream on Netflix.

Still from The Half of It.

 

Call Me By Your Name (2017), dir. Luca Guadagnino
By Alexandra Hidalgo

In the summer of 1983, Elio Perlman (Timothée Chalamet), a 17-year-old gifted musician with a flare for languages and a voracious reading appetite, falls in love with his archaeology professor father’s graduate assistant, Oliver (Armie Hammer). Set in the Italian countryside and capturing the nostalgia so many of us feel for the eighties without overdoing the time-period touches, the film is a lyrical ode to first loves and all the feelings they awaken, set to a score made up mostly of the spirited music Elio plays throughout the film. Chalamet and Hammer give career-defining performances that capture the film’s awakening of sexuality with effortless grace. I dare you to watch the final scene with Chalamet staring at a roaring fire without shedding some tears for your first love, whether or not they are still in your life. Call Me by Your Name is available to rent on Prime Video.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019), dir. Céline Sciamma
By Kara Headley

Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a period film that tells the story of Marianne (Noémie Merlant), a portrait painter, and Héloïse (Adèle Haenel), her reluctant subject. Marianne is instructed by Héloïse’s mother to paint her daughter in secret, as Héloïse refuses to pose for a portrait. Marianne agrees, and gets to know Héloïse as a friend, studying and painting her in secret. Throughout the process of creating the portrait, Marianne and Héloïse fall in love with one another, all while knowing their romance could only last until the portrait was completed. The camera is often positioned so we see Héloïse as Marianne would. We get to watch as Marianne breaks away at Héloïse’s stormy exterior and gets to her fierce, loving core. As the story unfolds, we see two vulnerable women, no longer afraid to be themselves, so long as they are in the safe bubble of each other’s presence. Portrait of a Lady on Fire is available to stream on Hulu.

Still from Portrait of a Lady on Fire.

 

  • Beach Rats (2017), dir. Eliza Hittman
  • Bohemian Rhapsody (2018), dir. Bryan Singer
  • Booksmart (2019), dir. Olivia Wilde
  • Boy Erased (2018), dir. Joel Edgerton
  • Boys (2014), dir. Mischa Kamp
  • But I’m a Cheerleader (1999), dir. Jamie Babbit
  • C.O.G. (2013), dir. Kyle Patrick Alvarez
  • Carol (2015), dir. Todd Haynes
  • Chasing Amy (1997), dir. Kevin Smith
  • Closet Monster (2015), dir. Stephen Dunn
  • Desert Hearts (1985), dir. Donna Deitch
  • Grandma (2015), dir. Paul Weitz
  • High Art (1998), dir. Lisa Cholodenko
  • Lady Bird (2017), dir. Greta Gerwig
  • Moonlight (2016), dir. Barry Jenkins
  • Moonlit Winter (2019), dir. Dae Hyung Lim
  • My Summer of Love (2004), dir. Paweł Pawlikowski
  • Pariah (2011), dir. Dee Rees
  • Philadelphia (1993), dir. Jonathan Demme
  • Rocketman (2019), dir. Dexter Fletcher
  • Saving Face (2004), dir. Alice Wu
  • The Birdcage (1996), dir. Mike Nichols
  • The Danish Girl (2015), dir. Tom Hooper
  • The Favourite (2018), dir. Yorgos Lanthimos
  • The Handmaid’s Tale (1990), dir. Volker Schlöndorff
  • The Imitation Game (2014), dir. Morten Tyldum
  • The Watermelon Woman (1996), dir. Cheryl Dunye
  • Tomboy (2011), dir. Céline Sciamma
  • XXY (2007), dir. Lucía Puenzo

Shows

Sense8 (2015-2018), created by J. Michael Straczynski, Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski
By Kara Headley

Sense8 tells the story of eight individuals who are connected through a mental bond. Each of these eight people, known as “sensates,” are able to mentally communicate and tap into one another’s abilities, knowledge, language, and emotions. The sensates are spread throughout the world, yet depend on each other for survival when Whispers, a sensate hunter, seeks to capture them. Sense8 features a diverse cast and multiple complex LGBTQ+ characters like Lito Rodriguez (Miguel Ángel Silvestre), a gay Mexican actor who lives with his boyfriend in Mexico City, Nomi Marks (Jamie Clayton), a transgender woman, lesbian, and political blogger, who lives with her wife, Amanita Caplan (Freema Agyeman). Creators Lana and Lilly Wachowski bring their personal experiences as transgender women to writing the show, creating authentic queer representation. Sense8 is available to stream on Netflix.  

Still from Sense8.

 

Steven Universe (2013-2020), created by Rebecca Sugar
By Kara Headley

The Crystal Gems are the guardians of the universe, a team of magical space beings who draw their power from their gems. Steven (Zach Callison), who is half gem, half human, is learning how to use the powers from his gem with help from Garnet (Estelle), Amethyst (Michaela Dietz), and Pearl (Deedee Magno). The show’s colorful animation adds to the energy and excitement of Steven as he learns how to control his powers. The show is constantly pushing the boundaries for children’s television, depicting queer relationships through the “fusion” of two gems, a nonbinary character, and a lesbian wedding. Steven Universe is available to stream on Hulu.

Queer Eye (2018-Present), created by David Collins
By Kara Headley

In this Netflix reboot of the classic show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, the Fab 5, a group of four men and a nonbinary person, help transform the lives of individuals, whom they call their “Heroes.” Antoni Porowski is the food and wine expert, and he teaches the Hero the importance of eating healthy and deliciously. Tan France is in charge of fashion, helping the Hero find their personal style and showing them that looking your best helps you feel your best. Karamo Brown is the culture and lifestyle expert, although if you ask me, he should be called the therapist. He helps the Heroes come to terms with that which might be holding them back. Bobby Berk renovates the home of the Hero, with the idea that having a functional living space makes for a functional life. Jonathan Van Ness is in charge of grooming, and he helps bring out the beautiful everyone has. The optimism of the Fab 5 is contagious — you will find yourself rooting for the Heroes right alongside them. Queer Eye is a wholesome and uplifting show that will inspire you to be your best, most authentic self. You can watch Queer Eye on Netflix.

Still from One Day at a Time.

 

One Day at a Time (2017-Present), created by Gloria Calderon Kellett and Mike Royce
By Kara Headley

One Day at a Time follows three generations of the Alvarez family, all living together in Los Angeles. One of the most powerful storylines in the show follows the teenage daughter, Elena (Isabella Gomez), and her journey discovering that she is a lesbian and subsequently coming out to her family. At first, Elena’s mother, Penelope (Justina Machado), is unsure of how much she supports Elena being a lesbian. This leads to, in my opinion, one of the best episodes in the series, Pride and Prejudice. Penelope does copious amounts of research, confides in her friends and family about her feelings, and goes to a gay bar with one of her queer friends. She realizes that her concerns were unfounded, and she’s happy her daughter knows who she is and is comfortable enough to share this part of her life with her family. Some tension rises when other members of the family cite religion as a reason they are not okay with Elena’s sexuality, but it comes from none of the people Elena is close with. It’s clear that the writers wanted to create an environment where the LGBTQ+ community and religion coexist. Later in the series, Elena gets her first significant other, Syd, who is nonbinary. One Day at a Time shows what it is to come out and what it is to accept your loved ones who are LGBTQ+. Check out the first 3 seasons of One Day at a Time on Netflix.

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power (2018-2020), created by Noelle Stevenson
By Alexandra Hidalgo

Noelle Stevenson’s series is an astounding and revolutionary show in terms of inviting children to embrace queer characters as at once normal and heroic. Orphaned Adora has been brought up by the Horde, a militarized organization that taught her to fear and destroy the rebel princesses that the Horde sees as threats to the order they’ve established. In a nuanced metaphor for the forces that drive homophobia, when Adora finally meets the princesses, she realizes that they are nothing like they’d been described. Instead, they are brave and kind and enjoy life in ways that she didn’t even know existed while being raised under the Horde’s suppressive regime. There are no explicitly heterosexual characters in the show. Not only is Adora in love with a woman, but the show also features various gay and lesbian characters on both sides of the struggle between the princesses and the Horde, as well as Double Trouble, a non-binary character. As children watch this story and get lost in the battle at its heart, they get to inhabit a world where queerness is the norm on every side of the spectrum. That’s exactly the kind of transformative shows they need to be watching in order to shift the ways in which future generations engage with queerness. She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is available to stream on Netflix.

Characters from She-Ra and the Princesses of Power.

 

  • Atypical (2017-Present), created by Robia Rashid
  • Brooklyn 99 (2013-Present), created by Dan Goor and Michael Schur
  • Call the Midwife (2012-Present), created by Heidi Thomas
  • Chicago Fire (2012-Present), created by Michael Brandt and Derek Haas
  • Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (2015-2019), created by Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna
  • Glee (2009-2015), created by Ian Brennan, Brad Falchuk, and Ryan Murphy
  • Grace & Frankie (2015-Present), created by Marta Kauffman and Howard J. Morris
  • Grey’s Anatomy (2005-Present), created by Shonda Rhimes
  • I Am Jazz (2015-Present), created by Aengus James, Colin King Miller, David St. John, and Shanta Mays
  • Killing Eve (2018-Present), created by Phoebe Waller-Bridge
  • Legend of Korra (2012-2014), created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko
  • Modern Family (2009-2020), created by Steven Levitan and Christopher Lloyd
  • Never Have I Ever (2020-Present), created by Mindy Kaling
  • Orange Is the New Black (2013-2019), created by Jenji Kohan
  • Pose (2018-Present), created by Steven Canals, Brad Falchuk, and Ryan Murphy
  • The Red Line (2019), created by Caitlin Parrish and Erica Weiss
  • Riverdale (2017-Present), created by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
  • RuPaul’s Drag Race (2009-Present), created by RuPaul
  • Schitt’s Creek (2015-2020), created by Dan and Eugene Levy
  • Sex Education (2019-Present), created by Laurie Nunn
  • Shameless (2011-Present), created by  Paul Abbott and John Wells
  • The Fosters (2013-2018), created by Bradley Bredeweg and Peter Paige
  • The L Word (2004-2009), created by Michele Abbott, Ilene Chaiken, and Kathy Greenberg
  • The Society (2019-Present), created by Christopher Keyser
  • Transparent (2014-2019), created by Jill Soloway
  • Vida (2018-Present), created by Tanya Saracho
  • Will & Grace (1998-2020), created by David Kohan and Max Mutchnick
  • Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist (2020), created by Austin Winsberg

Documentaries

Paris Is Burning (1990), dir. Jennie Livingston
By Alexandra Hidalgo

One of the joys of being a film professor can at times also become a drawback. We do partially get paid to watch films and talk about them, which is exquisite, but that sometimes means rewatching a film every time you teach it. While some films eventually grow tedious, Paris Is Burning is always a new viewing adventure. Although some of the ball performers featured in this groundbreaking documentary have expressed issues with the making of it, Livingston’s ode to New York City’s ball culture and its Black and Latinx performers is a hypnotic classic that rewards endless viewings. Paris celebrates the closeness between members of performing houses, which are groups of young queer people who come under the care of a den mother, and often work on their performances and costumes together. Besides preparing them for the ball, the houses bring together young queer people who’ve been rejected by society and forge new families of love and acceptance. It’s an emblematic counterculture film that continues to inspire those who want to celebrate their queerness by wearing feathers and sequins, as well as those who want to celebrate it by presenting themselves as embodying masculinity, even if they don’t actually identify with it. Infinitely teachable and inspiring, Paris is a world that, I hope, will burn on our screens for centuries to come. You can watch Paris is Burning on YouTube and also purchase the DVD from the Criterion Collection.

PARIS IS BURNING, 1990. (c) Off White Productions/ Courtesy: Everett Collection.

 

Chavela (2017), dir. Daresha Kyi and Catherine Gund
By Alexandra Hidalgo

English speakers may not be as familiar with Chavela Vargas, the ranchera and bolero singer born in Costa Rica who went on to become a legend in Mexico during her 50-year career as a performer. Chavela brings together interviews with this iconic woman before she died as well as archival interviews over the decades. Chavela and the women she loved talk about her experiences as a lesbian performer in Mexico at a time when women were expected to marry and meekly bring up the next generation. As we listen to her haunting voice made increasingly textured by decades of long nights on the road drinking with her male counterparts, the soul of bolero music and its wounded tales of poetic heartbreak take on a whole new meaning. When Chavela sings this music, we hear the roaring pain and insubordination of a woman who loves women and will not deviate from that love, no matter how much her adopted homeland tells her that that love is wrong. Chavela is available to rent on Prime Video.

Tongues Untied (1989), dir. Marlon Riggs
By Alexandra Hidalgo

This cutting-edge classic by auteur Marlon Riggs celebrates Black gay identity with a blend of spoken word poetry, dance, performance art, and accounts of Riggs’s experiences from childhood to adulthood. He shares his journey from figuring out that he liked boys when he was a boy himself, to falling in love with white men as the gay culture of the time was pushing him to do, to coming to embrace his Blackness while forming a community of gay black men in New York City. Riggs’s world is sensual, tender, and rebellious. His camera captures closeups of intense connection between men and celebrates the rhythms and cadences of love through choreographed performances and footage of his community in New York. It’s impossible not to feel like you yourself are walking down those streets in their company as Riggs films his friends to Nina Simone’s classic anthem, “Black Is The Color of My True Love’s Hair.” Tongues Untied is available to stream on Kanopy.

Still from Chavela.

 

Tarnation (2003), dir. Jonathan Caouette
By Alexandra Hidalgo

In this compassionate and ground-breaking film, Jonathan Caouette brings together decades of home footage and new material to tell his story of growing up as a gay man with a loving-yet-mentally-ill mother and an absent father. We see Caouette struggle as a child with the role of caretaker for the woman who is meant to look after him, who instead depends on his affection for her survival. Caouette uses experimental and vigorous editing with dozens of images splitting the screen at once and brings us into his own trauma and that of his family, showcasing the discomfort his family feels at his constant questioning to understand how his mother became the wounded woman she now is. Tarnation takes us on a gay man’s journey to understand the woman who brought him into the world, and by understanding her, come to terms with who he is and who he wants to become. While Tarnation is not available to stream, you can purchase the DVD from Amazon.

Tiger King (2020), dir. Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin
By Kara Headley

He’s gay, he’s “broke as shit,” and he owned over 150 tigers. Joe Exotic, aka the infamous “Tiger King,” was the star of the 2020 docuseries that took the internet by storm. Tiger King follows Joe Exotic, his quest to own the best tiger zoo, run for governor of Oklahoma, and kill his nemesis, Carole Baskin, who runs a rival zoo. This docuseries brings the audience up close and personal with the lives of those who worked for and were close with Exotic through interviews and footage from Exotic’s internet show. It is a highly entertaining series full of eccentric characters that will have you thinking, “Oh God, why did Joe do that?” and “What will he do next?”

As an aside, this is not what I would consider good representation of the LGBTQ+ community. Joe Exotic is not a good person, and he does not represent the LGBTQ+ community as a whole. But dang, is he entertaining. You can watch Tiger King on Netflix

Still from Tongues Untied.

 

  • Black Is Black Ain’t (1994), dir. Marlon Riggs
  • Jewel’s Catch One (2016), dir. C. Fitz
  • Out in Suburbia (1989), dir. Pam Walton
  • A Secret Love (2020), dir. Chris Bolan
  • Strong Island (2017), dir. Yance Ford
  • The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson (2017), dir. David France
  • The Revival: Women and the Word (2016), dir. Sekiya Dorsett
  • Three of Hearts: A Postmodern Family (2004), dir. Susan Kaplan
  • Waking Sleeping Beauty (2009), dir. Don Hahn
  • Wish Me Away (2011), dir. Bobbie Birleffi and Beverly Kopf

Have a film, TV show, or documentary that didn’t make the list or are binging this month? Be sure to tweet us @agnesfilms! You can learn more about Kara and Alexandra on their profiles.