Not every LGBTQ film ends in heartbreak.
Being queer can be tough, and that’s often reflected on screen when our stories are told through the medium of film. That’s great, because it’s important to see realistic representation. But what if we want to see a message of hope instead?
They may be hard to find, but there are some LGBTQ films out there with happy endings. We’ve rounded up 13 of our favourites below. Enjoy!
The Way He Looks (2014)
Cast: Ghilherme Lobo, Fabio Audi, Tess Amorim, Lúcia Romano
The Way He Looks is an award-winning Brazilian coming-of-age teen rom-com that originally started life as a short film, and was later adapted for the big screen. It follows Leonardo (Ghilherme Lobo), a blind teenager struggling with independence, as his life turns upside down with the arrival of new student Gabriel (Fabio Audi). It perfectly captures the feeling of first love.
My Beautiful Laundrette (1985)
Cast: Gordon Warnecke, Daniel Day-Lewis, Saeed Jaffrey, Roshan Seth, Derrick Branche
Before there was Call Me By Your Name, Moonlight and Brokeback Mountain, there was My Beautiful Laundrette. The film, which was nominated for an Academy Award and a BAFTA, explores the complex relationships between Pakistani and English communities in the Thatcher years, and follows the romantic relationship between Omar (Warnecke) and street punk Johnny (Day-Lewis) as they become joint managers of a family-owned laundrette in London.
Love, Simon (2018)
Cast: Nick Robison, Jennifer Garner, Josh Duhamel, Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp, Jorge Lendeborg Jr, Keiynan Lonsdale
Love, Simon became the first film by a major Hollywood studio to focus on a same-sex teen romance when it released in 2018, making history and receiving acclaim from viewers and critics. It also feels groundbreaking for being a feel-good queer romance. Sure, there are the usual trials and tribulations teens go through – in addition to a great portrayal of the difficulty that is coming out – but ultimately friendship and love win out. Even better, it’s funny!
Saving Face (2004)
Cast: Lynn Chen, Michelle Krusiec, Joan Chen, Jin Wang, Guang Lan Koh, Jessica Hecht
In Saving Face, Taiwanese American actress Krusiec stars as Wilhemina Pang, a successful surgeon who is closeted to her mother and friends. When her mother (Joan Chen) is kicked out of her home for being pregnant out of wedlock, she moves in with her daughter, putting a strain on her relationship with her dancer girlfriend and forcing her to come to terms with her sexuality.
Beautiful Thing (1996)
Cast: Linda Henry, Glen Berry, Scott Neal, Tameka Empson, Ben Daniels
Beautiful Thing stars retired British actor Glen Berry as Jamie Gangel, a closeted teenager infatuated with his classmate, Ste (Neal). When Ste is badly beaten by his drug-dealing brother, Jamie’s mother Sandra (Henry) takes him in, but due to the absence of a third bed, he is forced to bunk with Jamie. The film was highly commended at the time of its release, and has garnered a cult following amongst the LGBTQ community.
Imagine Me and You (2005)
Cast: Piper Perabo, Lena Headey, Matthew Goode, Celia Imrie, Anthony Stewart Head, Darren Boyd
Game of Thrones icon Lena Headey stars as Luce, a florist who catches the attention of Rachel (played by Coyote Ugly star Piper Perabo) on her wedding day. The two soon become close friends and form a romantic connection, which causes Rachel to question her marriage. It’s standard rom-com fare, but in queer cinema, that’s actually quite hard to find – and sometimes it’s exactly what you’re in the mood for.
Cast: Trevor Wright, Brad Rowe, Tina Holmes, Ross Thomas
When his college dreams are sidelined by family commitments, aspiring artist Zach (Wright) begins hanging out and surfing with his best friend’s older brother Shaun (Rowe). The two develop a close friendship, which eventually blossoms into something so much more. What makes this LGBTQ film stand out is that it actually has a happy ending. Shelter also won the Outstanding Film award at the 2009 GLAAD Media Awards.
Cast: Ben Schnetzer, Joe Gilgun, Faye Marsay, Dominic West, Andrew Scott, Freddie Fox, Chris Overton, Imelda Staunton, Jessica Gunning, Liz White, Bill Nighy, Paddy Considine, Rhodri Meilir
It may not be a traditional tear-jerker, but this feel-good story of community – based on true events and featuring an all-star cast – will leave you weeping with pride. A group of lesbian and gay activists come together to raise money for families affected by the 1984 British miners’ strike, which ultimately formed the highly successful Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners campaign. It was instrumental in the progression of LGBTQ issues in the United Kingdom, and the end will leave you feeling hopeful for the future.
Cast: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson, Jake Lacy, Kyle Chandler, John Magaro, Cory Michael Smith
This one might be up for debate, but after making audiences sob throughout most of the film with its beautiful portrayal of queer heartbreak, wistful cinematography and sheer melodrama, the final shot signals that there’s hope yet for the title character (Cate Blanchett) and her relationship with an aspiring female photographer (Rooney Mara). And sometimes hope is all we need.
To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar (1995)
Cast: Wesley Snipes, Patrick Swayze, John Leguizamo, Stockard Channing, RuPaul, Blythe Danner
The legendary American comedy stars Patrick Swayze, Wesley Snipes and John Leguizamo as Vida, Noxeema, and Chi-Chi, three New York City drag queens who embark on a road trip for the Drag Queen finals in Hollywood. During the journey, their car breaks down, leaving them stranded in a small town. Swayze and Leguizamo were nominated for Golden Globe Awards for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor, and despite its measly 41% approval rating, it has become a cult classic, and is sure to lift your mood.
God’s Own Country (2017)
Cast: Josh O’Connor, Alec Secăreanu, Ian Hart, Gemma Jones
This same-sex British love drama, which takes place in the Yorkshire highlands, tells the story of sheep farmer Johnny (Josh O’Connor) whose life changes with the arrival of Romanian migrant Gheorghe (Alec Secăreanu). Having received almost universal acclaim (and currently holding a 99% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes), the film is a must-see for lovers of queer cinema, especially if you’re a fan of angsty rivals-bec0me-lovers narratives.
Handsome Devil (2016)
Cast: Fionn O’Shea, Nicholas Galitzine, Andrew Scott, Moe Dunford, Michael McElhatton, Ruairi O’Connor
Handsome Devil tells the story of Ned, an ostracised teenager at an Irish, rugby-obsessed boarding school. He forms a close bond with new student and star rugby player, Conor, who’s struggling with his sexuality. Expect the typical teen angst and confusion, but also plenty of humour and a great examination of the way toxic masculinity at school – especially within sports – can affect gay men in their formative years.
Black Mirror: San Junipero (2016)
Cast: Mackenzie Davis, Gugu Mbatha-Brooker, Denise Burse, Raymond McAnally, Gavin Stenhouse
Okay, so we’re cheating a little bit with this one, but given the sheer amount of critical acclaim, glossy production values, and the fact that it’s over an hour long (that’s almost feature length, don’t fact check us) we’re including this on our list. Unlike other Black Mirror episodes, which paint a bleak view of the future and our relationship with technology, San Junipero was a same-sex love story that (quite literally) spanned across decades and featured a happy ending.