By now, we’re thick in the festive season – which means we’re edging, one day at a time, towards the end of the year. And if you’re anything like me, the past twelve months of incessant emails and social media dopamine hits means your attention span has dwindled to the point where it’s a struggle to stay engaged for the duration of a minutes-long TikTok. Now is the time to urgently reset your brain chemistry by sitting – strictly sans phone – through some long-form content, and we have just the thing! Yes, the wonderful long reads on this very site (duh!) but, also: films.
As it turns out, 2023 was a good year for movies – and not just any old movies, but gay, queer and trans ones at that. From Section 28 drama Blue Jean, to the frivolity of Red, White & Royal Blue, there’s lots to keep you entertained as you go on a digital detox for the rest of December.
Find our top 2023 queer cinema picks below and get stuck in.
Drama Blue Jean sees actor Rosy McEwen tackle a role as Jean, a closeted PE teacher whose life begins to unravel under the shadow of Section 28. Highly moving, the film feels particularly poignant against the 2023 backdrop of increasingly inhumane treatment of trans children in UK schools and the ongoing LGBTQIA+ book bans in the US.
Meandering teen comedy Bottoms follows lesbian incels and “untalented ugly gays” Josie (Ayo Edebiri) and PJ (Rachel Sennott) as they attempt to up their social capital and hook up with cheerleaders by starting a feminist fight club. What could go wrong?
Dicks: The Musical
Dicks: The Musical isn’t just a musical. It’s a musical by A24! While we let that paradox set in, here’s the gist: two bonafide mega misogynists meet when their respective companies undergo a merger and they’re suddenly sharing a workplace. Immediately, they hate each other, but there’s a twist: they’re long-lost twins. From there, predictably Parent Trap-esque antics ensue. And did we mention it stars both Megan Mullally (her off Will & Grace!) and Megan Thee Stallion?
Eldorado: Everything the Nazis Hate
Netflix documentary Eldorado: Everything the Nazis Hate delves into the glamour of Berlin nightlife during the Weimar Republic – a well-trodden topic which is given a fresh update via a focus on Eldorado, a queer nightclub at the time, and various LGBTQIA+ German cultural figures in the 1920s and 1930s. One for the queer history buffs.
Neo-noir Femme follows Jules/Aphrodite (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) , a successful drag queen who is plunged into a profound depression following a homophobic attack. When she chances upon her attacker at a gay sauna, an opportunity for revenge reveals itself – but how far will she take it?
Executive-produced by Lena Waithe, intimate, black and white documentary Kokomo City interviews four Black, trans women about their experiences of sex work. Raw and unfiltered, it doesn’t shy away from the violence which haunts its subjects’ lives – but it makes sure to show the moments of joy and levity, too.
This resonant drama follows Monica (Trace Lysette), a trans woman who returns to her family home to care for her mother as she grapples with dementia and, in doing so, finds a fragile form of peace. Sensitive and nuanced, Monica resists easy catharsis and instead finds strength in its emotional realism.
The Netflix adaptation of Nimona, the graphic novel by transmasculine author ND Stevenson, is as queer as they come. Starring Riz Ahmed as gay knight Ballister and Chloë Grace Moretz as the titular character who also happens to be a non-binary shape-shifter, Nimona is a redemption romp where misunderstood queers get their happy ending.
Annette Bening stars in this true story as Diana Nyad, a lesbian swimmer who swam from Cuba to Florida at the age of 64. The best bit? Lesbian icon (can we call her a celesbian?) Jodie Foster plays Nyad’s coach Bonnie Stoll – also an IRL lesbian. Goooo sports!
A ménage-à-trois from Hell, Passages centres on the fractured marriage between Martin (Ben Whishaw) and Tomas (Franz Rogowski) which comes to a head when the latter falls in love with the beguiling Agathe (Adèle Exarchopoulos) after years of exclusively dating and hooking up with men. This one spoke to my heart as a messy, polyamorous bisexual, I can’t lie – but it’s not for the faint-hearted.
Red, White & Royal Blue
Enemies-to-lovers rom-com Red, White & Royal Blue follows the son of the US President and the grandson of the King of England as they’re forced to make amends following an international scandal (it involves wedding cake). It’s fun, it’s cute and it’ll go down a treat with any queer monarchists out there.
Rotting in the Sun
No, it’s not the sequel to Dicks: The Musical – but you’d be forgiven for thinking so with the amount of full-frontal nudity. Instead, Rotting in the Sun follows a depressed director as he heads to a gay beach town in search of some respite and unwittingly comes face-to-face with influencer Jordan Firstman, who plays an exaggerated version of himself. The black comedy takes shots at everything from gentrification to online celebrity with brutally grotesque humour – just don’t watch if you’re squeamish.
Colman Domingo stars in Netflix biopic Rustin as the civil rights leader Bayard Rustin, the openly gay advisor to Martin Luther King Jr and a key figure in organising the 1963 March on Washington. An impactful portrait of a queer, Black elder who is finally getting his dues.
HBO documentary The Stroll serves as an oral history of the streets of New York’s Meatpacking District in the 1980s and 1990s, an area which was often frequented by Black and Latina trans women who made their living via sex work. Dealing with the harms of workplace discrimination as well as the various ways sex workers are exploited by clients and the police, it’s a reminder of the intertwining sex worker and queer communities and the struggles which both groups have faced over the years.
Theater Camp finds light in the universal truth that theatre kids are, sadly, the worst. The mockumentary tracks the drama and chaos of a financially insolvent drama camp in upstate New York and is helmed by winning performances by Molly Gordon (who co-directs and co-writes) and Ben Platt (who co-writes) as insufferable camp staff.
Before George Michael was George Michael, he was one half of 80s boy band Wham! alongside childhood friend Andrew Ridgeley. The simply titled Netflix documentary Wham! dives into this big-haired, radio-friendly period in Michael’s life as well as his struggles with being closeted throughout the early stage of his career.
Debuted at 2023’s Toronto International Film Festival, Unicorns explores the realities of sexual fluidity via lead character Luke (Ben Hardy), a single dad who unexpectedly falls for drag queen Aysha, played by Jason Patel. Our fingers are crossed for a theatrical release in 2024!