June is Pride Month — a time when we examine the bravery and civil rights efforts of our LGBTQ friends, family, and community members, while also remaining mindful of the struggles the community has faced (and still faces) during ongoing efforts to obtain equal rights. If you’re interested in learning more about LGBTQ civil rights, we have rounded up the best documentaries to watch this Pride Month.
Stonewall Uprising tells the story of the June 1969 Stonewall Riots, which started when a police raid on the Stonewall Inn led to a three-day riot that united gay men, lesbians, and drag queens and compelled them to stand up for their rights.
This event is often seen as one of the more important events that helped spark the LGBTQ civil rights movement. Following the event, the country started seeing more and more pride marches and gay rights organizations. We now even celebrate the month of June as Pride Month.
This 2019 documentary discusses the history of LGBT rights, and the tough road activists groups and protesters have encountered since the late 1960s (and prior), when the world saw events like the Stonewall Riots in the U.S. This film looks at the progress made over the last 50 or so years, and how there is still have a long way to go.
Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine is a documentary film about one of the most notorious hate crimes of the 1990s. It talks about the life and death of 21-year-old Matt Shepard, who was fatally targeted in a homophobic attack in Wyoming in 1998. The film has a 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes, and it portrays the personal and public pain caused by this horrific attack and how it led to a movement that shone a light on crimes committed against the LGBTQ community.
Pray Away is about different individuals’ journeys with Exodus International, a group that promotes the idea that homosexual individuals can be made “ex-gay” through conversion and prayer. This documentary can be infuriating and hard to watch at times, as it shows advertisements from “ex-gay” advocates who try to claim they have “changed.”
However, as the documentary goes on, you begin to see a recurring theme. Many of the individuals who were once involved with the group regret their involvement, realize their sexuality is what it is, and begin to understand fully that they cannot change it. This documentary is disturbing, yet important, especially for anyone who thinks conversion therapy is a reasonable option.
This short 40-minute documentary is about a Chinese family with a homosexual son. The son chooses to have children via surrogacy with his partner, and the documentary shows the family’s reaction. An eye-opening story, this film shows the cultural and familial challenges LGBTQ individuals face in a heartfelt and honest way.
A Secret Love is a civil rights documentary, a family story, a sports documentary, and a beautiful love story. It has so much in one film, which is likely the reason this film earned a 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes. An absolutely moving account of a love story that lasts more than six decades, it shows how a lesbian baseball player sadly has to keep her love a secret from much of society.
This documentary helps show viewers what it’s like to have to fight to simply be who you are. Born to Be explores the journey transgender individuals go along when becoming their true selves. It follows Dr. Jess Ting, who helps these patients along their paths to becoming themselves. With a Rotten Tomatoes score of 100%, Born to Be strikes a perfect balance between informative and inspirational.
With an all-star cast that includes Orange is the New Black’s Laverne Cox, Disclosure is a film about how transgender individuals are portrayed in film and television. This thought-provoking documentary might just make you take a look back on some classic movies and shows and think, “Hmm, that doesn’t really seem right.” The film helps you to place yourself in the shoes of another and ask yourself, “How would I feel if someone were portraying me in that light?”
The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson is yet another multifaceted documentary on this list, as it combines elements of true crime and LGBTQ civil rights. Johnson was found floating in the Hudson River in 1992, and while her death was initially ruled a suicide, some wondered if foul play was involved. This documentary film received rave reviews across the board, earning a 97% score from Rotten Tomatoes.
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