The 20 Best LGBTQ+ Movies Ever

From heartwarming rom-coms to award-winning dramas, these films have excellent representation.

(Image credit: Alamy)

Proper representation on screen, especially as we grow up, is foundational to our understanding of ourselves. LGBTQ+ representation in films has expanded and evolved, particularly in the late 20th and early 21st century, away from stereotypes and tropes and into more fully fleshed-out characters. The history of queer cinema is long and often fraught, with early high points including The Rocky Horror Picture Show and John Waters' filmography, and many, many low points. But many daring artists have explored identity and representation in fascinating and beautiful ways, both in fiction and nonfiction spaces.

From heartwarming rom-coms to tragic dramas to compelling coming-of-age stories, these are some of the best LGBTQ+ movies—some of which have gone down in history as the best films of all time. There's a lot to love, and a lot to choose from, but here are some picks to start with if you're a fan of queer cinema.

'All of Us Strangers' (2023)

paul mescal and andrew scott in all of us strangers

(Image credit: Searchlight Pictures)

Andrew Haigh’s fantasy drama will make you feel a range of emotions you’ve never felt. Based on the Taichi Yamada novel Strangers, it stars Andrew Scott as a lonely screenwriter who visits his childhood home and ends up finding his parents (Jamie Bell, Claire Foy), unchanged from the ‘80s, still there. As he reconnects with them and forms a relationship with the endearing man who lives downstairs in his building (Paul Mescal), he learns a great deal about living in the present—and Haigh relays an extremely moving story about opening oneself up to love. You’ll never listen to “The Power of Love” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood the same.


'Bottoms' (2023)

ayo edebiri and rachel sennott in bottoms

(Image credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures)

When there hadn’t been a new instant-classic teen comedy in years—let alone a queer one—writer/director Emma Seligman and writer/star Rachel Sennott came through. Their absurdist, ridiculous film Bottoms centers around a lie told by besties PJ (Sennott) and Josie (Ayo Edebiri) that goes too far and leads them to start a fight club that’s branded as a women’s empowerment initiative but is just a way to meet hot girls. Bottoms pulls from beloved raunch movies but also lives in a wild world of its own that will have you knocked out (black eye not included).


'Bound' (1996)

Corky (Gina Gershon) and Violet (Jennifer Tilly), in The Wachowskis' 'Bound'

(Image credit: Summit Entertainment)

The girlfriend of a mobster meets her ex-con neighbor, basically seduces her, and draws her into a scheme to rob millions from the mob and start a new life. This '90s film is the Wachowski sisters' directorial debut—and thanks to an intimacy consultant on set, it's a progressive-for-its-time crime thriller with two women at the center of it. It's violent and very much a neo-noir, but the film clearly roots for the women and their dreams of pursuing a fresh start, together.


'Brokeback Mountain' (2005)

jake gyllenhaal and heath ledger in brokeback mountain

(Image credit: Focus Features)

Despite receiving pushback at the time, Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger were adamant about starring in Ang Lee’s adaptation of Annie Proulx’s 1997 short story of the same name and took their roles very seriously. The two starred as a pair of Wyoming cowboys who fall for one another while on a work trip in the desolate west. The film examines their relationship and respective marriages to women (played by Michelle Williams and Anne Hathaway) over two decades, creating a modern classic love story that we still can’t quit to this day.


'But I'm a Cheerleader' (1999)

clea duvall and natasha lyonne in but i'm a cheerleader

(Image credit: Lions Gate Films)

Megan Bloomfield (played by honorary gay girl Natasha Lyonne) is an all-American suburban teen and Queen Bee, so she’s shocked to learn her parents have sus-ed out that she has sapphic inclinations and send her to conversion therapy camp. Set in a pretty-in-pink, dollhouse-like world and full of campy dialogue, this hysterical film from Jamie Babbit doubles as a cult classic and smart send-up of a disturbing practice. Its cultural significance is undeniable, too: Contemporary queer artists like Pom Pom Squad and Muna have used it as a reference in their work and it’s even become a stage show.


'Call Me by Your Name' (2017)

timothee chalamet as elio in call me by your name

(Image credit: Sony Pictures Classics)

Everything about Call Me by Your Name—its vibrant setting in the Italian countryside, the original music from Sufjan Stevens, and the palpable yearning of Timothée Chalamet’s Elio—will take you back to your first love. Luca Guadagnino is a master of desire as he brings to life André Aciman’s beloved novel about teenager Elio’s pining and relationship with the college student Oliver (Armie Hammer) staying with his family for the summer. Just keep the tissues nearby—as this coming-of-age film explores self-discovery through both love and heartbreak.


'Carol' (2015)

rooney mara and cate blanchett in carol

(Image credit: The Weinstein Company)

Todd Haynes’ Carol is a romance that simmers until it’s hot—from flirtations over a perfume counter and coy dinners in supper clubs over poached eggs and spinach to whirlwind getaway drives. The Oscar-nominated film adapts The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith, starring Cate Blanchett as the titular wealthy homemaker going through a divorce and Rooney Mara as the aspiring photographer/shopgirl who she falls for in a buttoned-up, WASP-y ‘50s New York. Few forbidden romances stun like this one.


'The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson' (2017)

Marsha P. Johnson, wearing a flower crown, sits in a kitchen while smiling and holding a glass, in a still from 'The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson'

(Image credit: Courtesy of Netflix)

This must-see docuseries centers Marsha P. Johnson, the trailblazing activist and transgender icon who was an early face of the LGBTQ+ rights movement. While a large chunk investigates her mysterious death in 1992, the doc also highlights archival footage of the elder’s vibrant personality, while drawing a direct line between what Johnson faced and the violence against transgender women that still continues today.


'Disclosure' (2020)

Laverne Cox sits in a white room and is framed by film cameras, in a still from the Netflix documentary 'Disclosure'

(Image credit: Ava Benjamin Shorr/Netflix)

Media representation of marginalized communities affects how they’re treated in real life, and the history of LGBTQ+ depictions over the years hasn’t been great. This doc looks back over the history of transgender depictions in Hollywood, as experts from Laverne Cox to Lilly Wachowski discuss how the industry has evolved and reframes classic scenes in a new light. A lovely bonus: Every single person interviewed is trans.


'The Favourite' (2018)

Rachel Weisz as Lady Sarah and Olivia Colman as Queen Anne in Yorgos Lathimos' 'The Favourite'

(Image credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Oh, the mess. Even in the golden age of reality TV, today's relationship drama has nothing on the fictional love triangle of two ambitious women and the literal Queen of England. At the start of Yorgos Lanthimos' absurd period drama, Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz) is the lifelong friend, right-hand woman, and clandestine lover of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman). But then recently broke aristocrat Abigail (Emma Stone) arrives at the palace, and a battle of wits and seduction ensues. This sapphic take on the 18th-century English court can be laugh-out-loud funny and shatteringly devastating at the same moment, and Weisz, Stone, and (Oscar winner) Colman are alluring and terrifying the whole way through.


'Fire Island' (2022)

bowen yang and joel kim booster in fire island

(Image credit: Hulu)

After years of mainstream rom-coms taking the plot of classic literature and making it modern, from 10 Things I Hate About You to Clueless, Joel Kim Booster finally made one for the gays with Fire Island. Based on the plot of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, this very sweet and very funny comedy follows a group of gay men on their annual retreat to the queer haven outside of NYC, Fire Island, and the courtings/hookups/betrayals that ensue.


'The Handmaiden' (2016)

Sookee (Kim Tae-ri) and Hideko (Kim Min-hee), in Park Chan-wook's 2016 film 'The Handmaiden'

(Image credit: Courtesy Magnolia Pictures)

Twists on twists on twists! You never know what's coming with this award-winning and critically acclaimed South Korean film from Park Chan-wook, about a con man (Ha Jung-woo) trying to steal the inheritance of a wealthy heiress (Kim Min-hee) in Japanese-occupied Korea. Eroticism and sadism abound here between the characters, and the film includes a variety of explicit scenes. At the center, though, is a burgeoning relationship between two women, and it's the healthiest thing about the whole situation.


'Love, Simon' (2018)

Jorge Lendeborg Jr. as Nick, Nick Robinson as Simon, Alexandra Shipp as Abby, and Katherine Langford as Leah, in the rom-com 'Love Simon'

(Image credit: Ben Rothstein/Twentieth Century Fox/Everett)

It's a simple rom-com, but that simplicity works in its favor. Simon Spier (Nick Robinson) is gay and not out to friends and family. One of his classmates (but who?) is also gay, and the two bond online. Teen-related drama ensues, but it's all sweet and dramatic without any of the characters having to fear for their lives.


'Moonlight' (2016)

Alex Hibbert as Little and Mahershala Ali as Juan, in Barry Jenkins' 'Moonlight'

(Image credit: A24)

This movie got a lot of critical love, including a Best Picture Oscar, and rightfully so. But that attention obscured the hyper-specificity of the story: A poor Black boy (Alex R. Hibbert) who grows up feeling unsafe to explore or embrace his homosexuality. The film covers three moments of deep tenderness (encircled by violence and pain) that make him who he is. That this story isn't seen much on screen speaks to the necessity of this film and others like it, but it's also simply a stunning gut-punch of a watch, with a glimmer of hope at the end.


'My Beautiful Laundrette' (1985)

still from Stephen Frears' 'My Beautiful Launderette'

(Image credit: Mubi)

A relationship between two men—one of them Pakistani (Saeed Jaffrey) and from a socially conservative family, one of them a former fascist (Daniel Day-Lewis)—plays out among the racism, classism, and violence of 1980s London. Their relationship isn't depicted salaciously and focuses instead on their daily moments of intimacy while building a secret bond. It's an older film, but it also notably dares to show the two leads happy and hopeful at the end, despite a myriad of literal and metaphorical blows to their wellbeing.


'Nimona' (2023)

still from Netflix film 'Nimona'

(Image credit: Courtesy of Netflix)

In 2023, two Oscar-nominated animated films captured the hearts of queer fans for their allegories on trans identity and gender dysphoria. The one that went straight to streaming is a sci-fi epic about a plucky teen shapeshifter who offers to play sidekick to a lovelorn knight wrongfully convicted of a crime. Plus, for anyone who needs more loud and out depictions of queerness, Lord Blackheart’s dearest is another male knight.


'Paris Is Burning' (1990)

Pepper Labeija of the House of Labeija, in Jennie Livingston's 'Paris Is Burning'

(Image credit: Miramax)

This award-winning doc is a gorgeous look at ball culture in New York City and the wide range of presentations, identities, and races in the community. This is also a look at the AIDS crisis and the deep homophobia present in the 1980s and '90s; it's seen as so significant that it's preserved in the Library of Congress. The spirit lives on, including in reality TV shows, like RuPaul's Drag Race and Legendary, but this captures the "Golden Age" of drag balls.


'Portrait of a Lady on Fire' (2019)

Adèle Haenel as Héloïse and Noémie Merlant as Marianne, in Céline Sciamma's 'Portrait of a Lady on Fire'

(Image credit: Courtesy of Neon)

Set in the 18th century, a woman (Noémie Merlant) is secretly hired to paint a wealthy female subject (Adèle Haenel), who refuses to sit for a portrait that will be sent to her future husband. The two spend a lot of time gazing at each other (it's incredibly quiet but very sexy) in this film before beginning an illicit affair. Spoiler alert: Like a lot of queer movies, the couple cannot be together, so it's also a tale of longing and love lost. But every moment is gorgeous.


'Tangerine' (2015)

still from Sean Baker's film 'Tangerine'

(Image credit: Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures)

The fact that this movie was shot entirely on an iPhone is the least interesting thing about it—transgender sex workers Sin-Dee Rella and Alexandra traverse Los Angeles in search of Sin-Dee's cheating boyfriend and pimp, to both hilarious and tragic effect. Trans actresses of color Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor play trans women of color on screen, and the movie resists the tired, old "hooker with a heart of gold" trope. This is not a perfect movie—it definitely falls prey to violence and subjugation of its subjects, but it's one of a few recent films (A Fantastic Woman, Pariah) that centers and prioritizes marginalized communities not often seen on screen.


'The Watermelon Woman' (1996)

Guinevere Turner as Diana and Cheryl Dunye as Cheryl in Dunye's 'The Watermelon Woman'

(Image credit: First Run Features)

At a time when depictions of lesbians of color were few and far between, filmmaker Cheryl Dunye made history with an autofiction that showed that Black queer women existed in Hollywood long before she came around. Dunye stars as Cheryl, an aspiring director who discovers parallels between the life of an unknown performer who played a mammy in the 1930s, and her burgeoning relationship with her white girlfriend (Guinevere Turner). It’s a classic genre-blending auteur comedy perfect for lovers of the '90s movies.


Katherine J. Igoe
Contributing Editor

Katherine’s a contributing syndications editor at Marie Claire who covers fashion, culture, and lifestyle. In her role, she writes stories that are syndicated by MSN and other outlets. She’s been a full-time freelancer for over a decade and has had roles with Cosmopolitan (where she covered lifestyle, culture, and fashion SEO content) and Bustle (where she was their movies and culture writer). She has bylines in New York TimesParentsInStyle, Refinery29, and elsewhere. Her work has also been syndicated by ELLEHarper’s BazaarSeventeenGood Housekeeping, and Women’s Health, among others. In addition to her stories reaching millions of readers, content she's written and edited has qualified for a Bell Ringer Award and received a Communicator Award. 

Katherine has a BA in English and art history from the University of Notre Dame and an MA in art business from the Sotheby's Institute of Art (with a focus on marketing/communications). She covers a wide breadth of topics: she's written about how to find the very best petite jeanshow sustainable travel has found its footing on Instagram, and what it's like to be a professional advice-giver in the modern world. Her personal essays have run the gamut from learning to dress as a queer woman to navigating food allergies as a mom. She also has deep knowledge of SEO/EATT, affiliate revenue, commerce, and social media; she regularly edits the work of other writers. She speaks at writing-related events and podcasts about freelancing and journalism, mentors students and other new writers, and consults on coursework. Currently, Katherine lives in Boston with her husband and two kids, and you can follow her on Instagram. If you're wondering about her last name, it’s “I go to dinner,” not “Her huge ego,” but she responds to both.