Due to COVID-19, the entertainment industry has been greatly impacted this year – with a plethora of films scheduled for theatrical release postponed to 2021 or allocated to streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu.
Although we’re still waiting until it’s safe to see our most-anticipated blockbusters in cinemas, viewers around the world have been able to sit and watch the latest releases from the comfort of their own homes – creating an escape from our grim reality in the process.
Here, we’ve selected our ten favourite LGBTQ films of the year. Like we said before, this isn’t a ranking – we’ve simply listed then in alphabetical order.
Once you get to the end of the list, however, you’ll see our top pick of the year, which was unanimous amongst the GAY TIMES editorial team.
The Boys in the Band
Based on the off-Broadway production of the same name from the late Mart Crowley, Netflix’s adaptation of The Boys in the Band boasts career-high performances from original stars Jim Parsons, Matt Bomer and Andrew Rannells. Although the film is set in 1968, it surprisingly holds modern relevance as the characters delve into issues that still plague the LGBTQ+ community today, such as shame, self-hatred and internalised homophobia.
Circus of Books
Directed by Rachel Mason, Circus of Books tells the story of her conservative Jewish parents who operated one of the most prolific gay porn empires in the United States for more than 30 years. The film showcases how the Masons dealt with with their son coming out as gay and how their store provided the LGBTQ+ community in Los Angeles a space to socialise and celebrate themselves without judgement. It’s a story that hasn’t been told, and reminded us all of the power of safe spaces and chosen families.
Upon release, Happiest Season received widespread critical acclaim for the cast’s performances – especially Aubrey Plaza, whose character proved to be the breakout on social media – Clea DuVall’s direction, and for finally providing LGBTQ+ audiences with some much-needed festive queer. It is widely regarded as the first major LGBTQ+ Christmas rom-com.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Viola Davis vies for another well-deserved Academy Award for her performance as legendary blues singer Ma Rainey, with the George C. Wolfe-directed drama refusing to shy away from her well-documented queerness. The late Chadwick Boseman also delivers his finest performance as Levee Green, Ma’s trumpeter who is determined to make his own mark on the music industry.
Hong Khaou’s second feature film is absolutely gorgeous. Following Henry Golding’s gay protagonist Kit, the touching drama examines the intricate relationship that emigrants have with their birth country. Films such as this are often bereft of sequels – will that long-rumoured Call Me By Your Name follow-up ever come to fruition? – but Kit’s romance with his Grindr hook-up, Lewis (Parker Sawyers), has us begging for more.
The Old Guard
The Old Guard marked a groundbreaking moment for LGBTQ+ cinema this year with the inclusion of two major queer heroes. One scene in particular between Marwan Kenzari and Luca Marinelli’s characters, Joe and Nicky, has been hailed as one of the most authentic – and passionate – queer movie scenes of 2020. It also boasts another kick-ass performance from veteran action heroine Charlize Theron, which we can’t get enough of. Bring on the sequel!
The Prom is a relentlessly queer ride from start to finish. The songs are infectious, the routines are marvellous, and the message of self-love is more vital than ever. More importantly, the film is a stark reminder for heteronormative audiences that – guess what? – queer people are still being ostracised from their families and rejected by society. Yes, that’s still a thing! In 2020! We’ll admit: it’s corny as hell, and James Corden’s casting was a clear misstep, but it’s the queer celebration we need and deserve right now.
A Secret Love
Following the 65-year-long secret relationship between baseball star Terry Donahue and her partner Pat Henschel, as well as the challenges they face coming out later in life, A Secret Love is a heart-wrenching tribute to the sacrifices endured by the older LGBTQ+ generation in the face of persecution. You’ll need tissues for this one.
Welcome to Chechnya
Oscar-nominee David France teamed up with HBO earlier this year for a powerful call to action with a documentary about Chechnya’s ongoing anti-LGBTQ+ persecution. The film focuses on a small group of Russian activists – often with hidden cameras – as they help vulnerable queer people escape capture, torture and even execution from the government as part of their horrifying ‘gay purge’. It exposes the unimaginable horrors of the country’s violence and highlights the incredible work of the activists who are risking their lives to confront the purge head-on.
Film of the Year: Disclosure
Disclosure created a much-discussed discussion earlier year around trans visibility, exploring Hollywood’s depiction of the community and the impact of their stories on transgender lives and American culture. Featuring stars such as Laverne Cox, Trace Lysette, Angelica Ross, Rain Valdez, Jen Richards, Candis Cayne and Brian Michael Smith, the documentary unpacks decades of inauthentic representation while outlining how much progress still needs to be made.