By Kate Boyle
The LGBT+ community has been contributing to the film industry since the industry’s beginnings. Despite this, it is uncommon to find LGBT+ people receiving recognition for their work behind the camera. I’ve compiled a selection of currently available movies with LGBT+ directors, writers, composers/lyricists and where they can be streamed. It’s by no means an end all be all list of the greatest LGBT+ contributions to cinema, so I’m sorry if I’ve left of anyone’s favorites… This is just a place to start.
Pedro Almodóvar is one of the most well-known and successful Spanish filmmakers. He’s been releasing movies since the 1970s, and is a frequent nominee and recipient for film awards around the globe. His latest movie, “Pain and Glory” (2019) was nominated for Academy Awards for Best International Feature Film and Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role. It tells the story of an aging film director as he reflects back on his life. “Pain and Glory” can be found streaming on Starz in the US and is available to rent on many other platforms.
-Other Almodóvar recommendations: “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” (1988) and “Volver” (2006)
Jamie Babbit is an American director, producer and screenwriter. She’s known for her work on many popular TV series like “Gilmore Girls”, “Silicon Valley”, and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”. She is also known for her 1999 film “But I’m a Cheerleader”. The film is a satirical comedy about high-school cheerleader Megan, who’s parents send her to conversion camp to cure her after she is suspected of being a lesbian. You can find “But I’m a Cheerleader” streaming on Amazon Prime in the UK and can be found on the Criterion Channel and Vudu in the US.
-Other Babbit recommendations: “Itty Bitty Titty Committee” (2007) and “Addicted to Fresno” (2015)
Director, screenwriter, actor and playwright John Cameron Mitchell is best known for his involvement in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” (2001). Mitchell directed, cowrote, and starred in the film that tells the story of the “internationally ignored” rock singer, Hedwig, and her search for stardom and love. You can find “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” streaming on HBO in the US.
-Other Mitchell recommendations: “How To Talk To Girls at Parties” (2017) and “Rabbit Hole” (2010)
Andrew Fleming is an American director and screenwriter best known for creating some of our favorite cult classics from the 1990s. His best known films are “The Craft” (1996), “Dick”(1999), and “Hamlet 2” (2008). Since many people have already seen these movies, check out “Ideal Home” (2018). It stars Paul Rudd and Steve Coogan as a bickering gay couple who must suddenly care for a 10 year old boy. It can be found on Netflix in the UK and is available to rent on many platforms in the US.
-Other Fleming recommendations: “The Craft” (1996) and “Hamlet 2” (2008)
Nicholas Hytner is a British and Jewish director known for his work on both film and the stage. Hytner got his start in opera and theatre. His first venture into film was “The Madness of King George” (1994), an adaptation of a play that earned him four Acadamy Award nominations. My favorite of his films is “Center Stage” (2000). “Center Stage” is about a group of young adults from various backgrounds, enrolled at the American Ballet Academy in New York. The film follows each of the characters struggles and triumphs as they try to make it in a professional ballet company. Often labeled the greatest dance movie ever, “Center Stage” is a wonderful mix of stage and film. It can be found streaming on Netflix in both the US and UK.
-Other Hytner recommendations: “The Crucible” (1996) and “The Lady in the Van” (2015)
American screenwriter and director Dee Rees is another LGBT+ director to watch for. She is best known for being the first black woman to be nominated for any Academy Award in a writing category. Her 2017 film “Mudbound” was nominated for four Academy Awards. “Mudbound” tells the story of two men who work on a farm in rural Mississippi, where they struggle to deal with racism and adjusting to life after serving in World War II. “Mudbound” can be found on Netflix in the US and UK.
-Other Rees recommendations: “Pariah” (2011) and “Bessie” (2015)
Beloved Canadian writer and director Patricia Rozema has a diverse filmography emerging from the Toronto New Wave group of the 1980s. Her 2018 film “Mouthpiece” was adapted from a play of the same name by Amy Nostbakken and Norah Sadava. They also star in this powerful, funny and abstract look into a woman’s mind in the first 48 hours following her mother’s death. “Mouthpiece” can be found streaming on Kanopy in the US and is available to rent on other platforms.
-Other Rozema recommendations: “I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing” (1987) and “Mansfield Park” (1999)
American producer, writer and director Lee Daniels is known for his involvement in award winning television and film dramas. His film “Precious” (2009) won two Academy Awards and earned another four nominations. It was also the first film with a Black director to be nominated for Best Picture. Set in Harlem circa 1987, “Precious” tells the story of an overweight, abused, illiterate teen who is pregnant and is invited to enroll in an alternative school in hopes that her life can head in a new direction. It can be found on HBO in the US.
-Other Daniels recommendations: “The Butler” (2013)
Acclaimed American art-house director Gus Van Sant has been a staple in the LGBT+ film world since the 1980s. When he’s not making movies, Van Sant is a published author, photographer and painter. He has made many phenomenal films but my recommendation (thanks to my Nirvana obsessed sister) is “Last Days”(2005). It follows the life and career of a Seattle musician and inspired by legendary rock musician Kurt Cobain’s final days. Van Sant wanted to make a true biopic about Cobain’s life but ran into legal problems with Cobain’s widow. So instead, Van Sant decided to write and direct a fictional and inspired retelling. “Last Days” can be found on HBO in the US.
-Other Van Sant recommendations: “Milk” (2008), “My Own Private Idaho” (1991), and “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot” (2018)
Even though he wasn’t a director or producer, Howard Ashman was responsible for making some of the most cherished childhood films more memorable. Ashman was an award winning Jewish-American playwright and lyricist best known for his work alongside Alan Menken. Together, Ashman and Menken would create the music for Disney animated classics “Beauty & the Beast” (1991), “Aladdin” (1992), and “The Little Mermaid” (1989). All of these films are available to stream on Disney+, but Ashman is also known for another (cult) classic, “Little Shop of Horrors” (1986). This film is about a nerdy florist finds his chance for success and romance with the help of a giant man-eating plant who demands to be fed. “Little Shop of Horrors” can be found streaming on HBO in the US and is available to rent on various platforms in the UK.
-Other Ashman recommendations: “Oliver and Company” (1988)