It's a personal mission of mine to see as many LGBTQ movies as I possibly can, even if that means watching them on sketchy movie streaming sites that end up giving my laptop fatal viruses (rest in peace, Chromebook #1). While I haven't seen all of them, I'm proud to say that I've seen quite a few—and I often find that when I talk to my friends about queer movies, I recommend the ones they haven't ever heard of.
The past year has shown a promising interest in showing queer themes in movies, for which I, like many others, are both apprehensive and grateful. Representation matters, and it's long past due for the big screen to show some love to the stories LGBTQ people desperately need to see. But don't worry; while we all wait for the newest queer movies to hit theaters near us, here's a list of ten films you might not have known even existed—and trust me, you should know them. And spoiler alert: no one dies!
1. 'The Incredibly True Adventure of 2 Girls in Love,' 1995
This coming-of-age drama centers on tomboyish Randy and her unlikely love interest, Evie. The films deals with themes of race, class, and non-traditional families, and gives subtle nods to important literary works with queer themes—Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass and Rita Mae Brown's Rubyfruit Jungle. Anyone from a small town can appreciate this film for the way it simultaneously captures the alienated and romantic bubble that young queer teens can live in when they feel like there's no one else like them.
2. 'Circumstance,' 2011
Circumstance (called En secret in French and Šar'ayet in Persian) is a French-Iranian-American drama set in Tehran, Iran. The film is a powerhouse, dealing with themes of lesbianism, drug abuse, religion, and freedom. It was ranked fourth on Autostraddle's 102 Best Lesbian Movies of All Time, and fans of FreeForm's The Bold Type will be happy to see a familiar face: Nikohl Boosheri stars as Atafeh, who I would personally consider one of the bravest queer characters to ever grace the screen. This one is as heartbreaking as it is thought-provoking, so be sure to stock up on tissues before putting this movie on.
3. 'Romeos,' 2011
Romeos is a German tragicomedy that follows the story of Lukas, a gay trans man, and Fabio, his love interest. Despite the frustration of a cis actor portraying a trans character, the film is lovable for its approach to the relationship between two men who are alike but so, so different. Notable scenes include a bathroom scene where Lukas' packer gets stolen from him by a drunk in a tub and then subsequently tossed around at the party, and a hauntingly beautiful scene of a drag queen singing "Wayfaring Stranger."
4. 'All Cheerleaders Die,' 2013
This horror-comedy is a tale of zombie cheerleaders, freshly revived by the main character Maddy's witchy ex-girlfriend Leena, who are out to make a killing on the football team. This one can be summed up as: support girl gangs and killing your local rapist—need I say more?
5. '52 Tuesdays,' 2013
52 Tuesdays is an Australian coming-of-age drama about one teen's struggle to accept her transgender parent, as well as experimenting with her own sexuality. It won Best Feature Film at the Melbourne Queer Film Festival. Even better, the character James, who is trans, is played by a gender con-conforming actor. The movie was filmed over the course of a year, on Tuesdays, giving it an authenticity that isn't lost on the audience.
6. 'Pride,' 2014
Pride is a historical comedy-drama of the incredible true story of the lesbian and gay activists who rallied together to support miners and their families during the British miner's strike in 1984. Even my straight friends liked this movie. By the end you'll have a greater appreciation for the UK's queer history, as well as a new jingle to sing to yourself: "Every woman is a lesbian at heart."
7. 'The Way He Looks,' 2014
Called Hoje Eu Quero Voltar Sozinho in Portugese, this Brazilian coming-of-age romantic drama is based on a 2010 short film called I Don't Want to Go Back Alone (Eu Não Quero Voltar Sozinho). The main character Leonardo is a blind teen struggling with gaining independence from his overbearing family and friend Giovana. He gains a new friend, Gabriel, which sparks a bit of a love triangle in Leonardo's friend group. Definitely a feel good movie that shows love isn't just skin deep.
8. 'The Summer of Sangailė,' 2015
This Lithuanian drama tells the story of Sangailė, who has a strained relationship with her family and dreams of being a stunt pilot. The only thing holding her back is a lack of confidence and a serious case of vertigo. She meets and befriends Austė at an air show, and cue summer fling. Fans of Blue is the Warmest Color will appreciate everything this film gets right about portraying a physical relationship between two women that Blue seriously lacked. There's nothing here for the male gaze; just a touching story of two people who come into each other's lives and leave just as quickly.
9. 'The Carmilla Movie,' 2017
This Canadian film is a continuation of the insanely popular web series Carmilla, starring Elise Bauman and Natasha Negovanlis (both Canadian Screen Award winners). The story is a feminist adaptation of Sheridan Le Fanu's 1872 gothic vampire novella of the same name, proving that college AU's can work if you do them right. The movie, however, is set five years after the events of the web series, where we find our protagonists living happily in Toronto. Their domestic bliss is monkey-wrenched once Carmilla's bitter, #whitefeminist ex-lover starts sending Laura creepy nightmares from beyond the grave. Old and new fans alike will appreciate the film's nearly all female cast, kick-ass non-binary character (played by a non-binary actor!), and distinct lack of historical whitewashing.
10. 'Princess Cyd,' 2017
A tale of family, sexuality, and the power of shutting up and listening. When Cyd visits her aunt Miranda in Chicago, she learns a lot about herself, her family, and how to be a little less judgmental. The overriding theme of hearing each other out is strong, but not forced, and the overdone trope of a character having a crisis over their sexuality is left at the wayside. The film is commendable for showing that the best redemption arc is a subtle one.