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Whether it’s period dramas or white women-majority movies, the most commonly known queer film tend to get overlooked some of the pivotal titles that make the LGBTQ+ cinematic landscape what is is.

Here, in our go-to guide of queer film, we’ve stacked up some of our favourite gems and must-watch movies that deserve more attention. So, whether you’re looking for a throwback hit like But I’m A Cheerleader or a history-making screener that’ll get you in four feels, we’ve got all the options.

Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga (2019)

Cast: Sonam Kapoor, Anil Kapoor, Rajkummar Rao, Madhumalti Kapoor

Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga (How I Felt When I Saw That Girl) made waves as India’s first mainstream lesbian film in 2019. Packed with the frills of a Bollywood classic, this coming-of-age queer rom-com will put you through your paces and then some.

The film follows Sweety Chaudhary (Sonam Ahuja) as she attempts to balance the expectations of her family, faith, and those around her. Then, when she meets Kuhu (Regina Cassandra) at a wedding everything seems. But, when strings get crossed, a struggling playwright get pulled into the mix, and an honour-driven family start suspecting things, Sweety is forced to make the ultimate decision. Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga is a sign of tides turning in the Bollywood movie space and it’s about time.

The Watermelon Woman (1996)

Cast: Cheryl Dunye, Guinevere Turner, Valarie Walker, Lisa Marie Bronson

Watching The Watermelon Woman for the first time will teach you a thing or two on how to blur the line between fiction and non-fiction. A directorial debut by Liberian-American filmmaker Cheryl Dunye, this queer staple follows Cheryl, an aspiring Black lesbian filmmaker, who seeks out a hard-to-find Black creative only known as ‘the Watermelon Woman’.

Ahead of its time, Dunye’s movie rewrote the status quo with its themes of identity, desire and its spotlight on the queer experience. Dunye’s movie boldly offered a commentary on Black erasure and the lack of exposure of Black talent in the film industry. Comedic, textured, and cutting-edge, The Watermelon Woman is a 90’s must-watch.

Polarized (2023)

Cast: Holly Deveaux, Baraka Rahmani, Hesham Hammoud, Tara Samuel, Darren Martens

Sometimes, you can’t control who you fall in love with. In Shamim Sarif’s new queer Palestinian-Canadian film, Polarized, the director explores exactly this. The movie, shot against the prairie landscapes of Manitoba, follows two women – Lisa (Holly Deveaux) and Dalia (Maxine Denis) – as they figure out how they fit in each other’s lives.

Dalia, a proud Palestinian Muslim agricultural business owner, is due to get married to her husband. Her employee, Lisa, is dealing with the fallout of losing her family farm to medical bills, and the crushing expectations of her evangelical Christian household.

As religious and cultural tensions rise between their rural hometown communities, Lisa and Dalia find themselves closer than ever before. But, when a shared moment between the two threatens to undo all that they’ve worked for, both women must reassess what love and survival looks like.

Bodies Bodies Bodies (2022)

Cast: Amandla Stenberg, Maria Bakalova, Myha’la Herrold, Chase Sui Wonders, Rachel Sennott, Lee Pace, Pete Davidson, Conner O’Malley

“You don’t ask what your middle name is, okay?! For a really long time! … He’s a Libra Moon, that says a lot!” Rachel Sennott’s character Alice tells her clique in Bodies Bodies Bodies in order to distract from the fact that her much-older boyfriend Greg (Lee Pace) of just-a-few weeks is not, in fact, a serial killer. It’s one of many deliriously funny quotes from Halina Reijn’s satirical slasher, which puts privileged Gen-Z teens at the forefront of the whodunnit genre – including Amandla Stenberg and Maria Bakalova’s queer couple Sophie and Bee – while examining how the newer generation address societal topics and the authenticity of friendships in the digital age.

One of the final scenes in which Alice reminds Jordan that she’s “upper middle class” – which Jordan takes as a malicious insult – and Alice revealing to the surviving characters that she has body dysphoria to zero sympathy,is one of 2022’s most priceless and endlessly quotable scenes and will, if there’s any justice in this world, be lip-synced to in clubs by drag artists for years to come.

Rafiki (2018)

Cast: Samantha Mugatsia, Sheila Munyiva, Neville Misati, Nini Wacera

Tensions run high when Kena (Samantha Mugatsia) and Ziki (Sheila Munyiva) start a same-sex love affair and are forced to hide their affection from the Kenyan locals. Homosexuality is still illegal in the African nation, and when they are caught, they are confronted by an angry mob. However, with this film the fictional discrimination on screen shone a harsh spotlight on the reality queer people in Kenya face when the Kenya Film Classification Board banned its release “due to its homosexual theme and clear intent to promote lesbianism in Kenya contrary to the law”. Director Wanuri Kahiu sued the Kenyan government to get the film released so it could be submitted as the country’s entry for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. The ban was lifted for seven days and went on to sell out cinemas, subsequently becoming the second highest-grossing Kenyan film of all time.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)

Cast: Noémie Merlant, Adèle Haenel, Luàna Bajrami, Valeria Golino

While the queers seem to always seems to be stuck in the past, this is one of the few lesbian period dramas we won’t get tired of. Set in France in the late 18th century, Portrait of a Lady on Fire tells the story of a forbidden love affair between Héloïse (Adèle Haenel) an aristocrat, and Marianne (Noemie Merlant), an artist commissioned to paint her portrait. In a captivating love story, Portrait of a Lady on Fire forces its characters to reckon with reality, romance and their roles as women in remote France.

An established, gripping story, the historical drama made history when it screened at the Cannes Film Festival, with Céline Sciamma becoming the first-ever female director to win the coveted Queer Palm award. Moreover, the movie also earned at the Critics’ Choice Awards and Golden Globe Awards for its outstanding work.

Michelle Yeoh in Everything Everywhere All At Once

Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022)

Cast: Michelle Yeoh, Stephanie Hsu, Ke Huy Quan, James Hong, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jenny Slate, Harry Shum Jr., Tallie Medel

Now, before you say anything, this technically isn’t a romance movie, but it does deal with love in all its forms. From steamy scenes with hotdog fingers to nurturing a dying relationship between mother and daughter, Everything Everywhere All At Once deals with much more than multiverse madness.

An absurdist sci-fi epic about a Chinese immigrant (Michelle Yeoh) who must connect with parallel universe versions of herself to prevent an evil entity from causing multiversal destruction. While it wasn’t necessarily marketed as queer, Everything Everywhere All At Once is unquestionably an LGBTQ+ film. Sure, it folds in topics of Asian-American identity, disintegrating familial relationships, generational trauma and, of course, nihilism, but it’s also queer af.

To ignore  Evelyn (Yeoh) and Joy (Stephanie Wsu) trying relationship would undo a core aspect of what makes this movie what it is. Because, in the end, Everything Everywhere All At Once hones in on the uncomfortable universality of being unaccepted, different, and fighting for another shot. Evelyn’s sense of shame around her daughter’s sexuality is heartbreakingly familiar. It’s neither acceptance nor progression, it’s stagnant tolerance, once that amplifies the pain on either end. It’s an aspect of her daughter she tried to hide away from herself, her elderly father, and others. And, as viewers, it’s a difference we eagerly hope they can resolve.

Oh, and let’s not forget, there’s also that multiverse romance subplot between Evelyn and her IRS inspector Deidre (Jamie Lee Curtis). So, while it’s a little unorthodox, Everything Everywhere All At Once, in some dimension, is a queer film.

The Favourite (2018)

Cast: Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone, Joe Alwyn

Set in the early 18th century as England and France are at war, the film follows the life of ailing UK royal Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) and her closest friend Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) who governs the country in her stead. But the arrival of Sarah’s cousin Abigail Masham (Emma Stone), who’s fallen on hard times, promises chaos in the monarchy as the two women begin to fight for their place as Queen Anne’s right-hand woman and companion. A wonderfully chaotic and comedic film, The Favourite is one to watch, even for the standout casting alone. And, if you don’t believe us, well, the movie also scooped up 10 Oscar nominations at the 91st Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post (2018)

Cast: Chloë Grace Moretz, John Gallagher Jr., Sasha Lane, Forrest Goodluck, Marin Ireland

If you’ve seen Emily Danforth’s acclaimed novel, then you know it’s quite the commitment to read. So, if you’re looking for the film version, well Desiree Akhavan’s adaptation does a brilliant job of distilling tough themes into a sensitive, moving film. The plot follows Cameron Post (Chloë Grace Moretz) who is shipped off to a gay conversion camp by her aunt after getting caught kissing another girl. There, in her new environment, Post begins to learn more about herself, the hypocrisy of her surroundings, and how everyone is much more similar than she thought. A Sundance Film Festival’s grand jury prize winner, The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a beautiful watch and introduces a brilliant New Hollywood cast.

Saving Face (2004)

Cast: Lynn Chenn, Michelle Krusiec, Joan Chen, Jin Wang, Guang Lan Koh, Jessica Hecht, Ato Essandoh, Wang Luoyong

See, we considered putting Blue Is The Warmest Colour (2013) here, but given the lingering drama around the film, we’ve decided to allocate this slot to a routinely overlooked movie. The first Hollywood film to centre on Chinese Americans since The Joy Luck Club nine years prior, Saving Face marked the feature-length debut of Alice Wu.

The 2004 romantic comedy-drama follows a young surgeon called Wilhelmina (Lynn Chena), who is openly lesbian but closeted to her mother Gao (Joan Chen). One of the most notable films to deal with homosexuality within Chinese culture, Saving Face – even though it didn’t set the box office alight – has remained relevant since its release due to its unprecedented impact on the LGBTQ+ Chinese community. The Los Angeles Times also named the film as one of the 20 best Asian American films of the last 20 years.

But I’m a Cheerleader (1999)

Cast: Natasha Lyonne, Clea DuVall, RuPaul, Melanie Lynskey, Eddie Cibrian, Katrina Phillips, Michelle Williams

Orange is the New Black star Natasha Lyonne stars as Megan Bloomfield, a popular high school cheerleader who is shipped off to conversion therapy camp after her parents discover her lesbianism. But I’m a Cheerleader received negative reviews at the time of its release because of its stereotypical portrayal of gay men and women, as well as similarities to John Waters’ films, but later reassessments have appreciated his influence and its deliberately satirical and campy themes. It has since developed a cult following in the LGBTQ+ community, particularly among queer women.

Carol (2015)

Cast: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson, Jake Lacy, Kyle Chandler, John Magaro, Cory Michael Smith

Yes, we all know this one and, of course, we had to include it. Starring our favourite white duo, the chemistry between Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara is something that needs to be studied.

Set in the 1950s, Carol (Blanchett) is an older woman navigating a difficult divorce who embarks on a forbidden affair with an aspiring female photographer Therese Belivet (Mara). As the pair find themselves inseparable, Carol and Therese embark on a spontaneous journey together, hoping to flee to the confines of conventional society and Carol’s husband, Harge. A deeply moving and melodramatic film, Carol will leave a last impression long after you’ve watched it. And, if that’s not enough the film’s stunning cinematography and soundtrack are reasons to watch the movie alone.

Disclosure: Trans Lives on Screen (2020)

Cast: Laverne Cox, Brian Michael Smith Jen Richards, Alexandra Billings, Rain Valdez, Angelica Ross, Mj Rodriguez, Trace Lysette, Candis Cayne, Chaz Bono

Directed and produced by Sam Feder, Disclosure is an absolute must-watch. The documentary, which can be streamed on Netflix, explores Hollywood’s long-running depiction of transgender people and the impact of their stories on transgender lives and American culture. The documentary examines how notable pop culture shapes stereotypes and images of transness in the media. Drawing on productions such as The L Word, Dallas Buyers Club, Boys Don’t Cry and more — notable trans guest speakers offer their perspectives on what visibility in the mainstream felt like.

Disclosure features stars such as Laverne Cox (Orange is the New Black), Trace Lysette (Transparent), Angelica Ross (Pose), Rain Valdez (Razor Tongue), Jen Richards (Mrs. Fletcher), Candis Cayne (Dirty Sexy Money) and Brian Michael Smith (9-1-1: Lone Star).

The Half Of It (2020)

Cast: Leah Lewis, Daniel Diemer, Alexis Lemire, Collin Chou, Enrique Marciano, Catherine Curtin

So, you’ve seen Alice Wu’s classic Saving Face. Well, here’s her modern rom-com hit that’s just as good. A Netflix release, The Half Of It follows Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis), a shy and introverted Asian-American student who agrees to help the school jock (Daniel Diemer) woo his crush; a popular high school classmate. But, this is where things get interesting: Ellie likes her too. A movie about muddled loyalties, new emotions, and figuring out your generational roots, The Half Of It forces Alice to understand where’s she from before she can move forward to the things she wants. And, for the fans of nebulous, existential thoughts — there are enough references to Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit to last a lifetime.