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The best LGBTQ films to stream right now

“New Queer Cinema,” coined by American scholar B. Ruby Rich in Sight & Sound magazine in 1992, was the first term used to help recognize and define LGBTQ-themed independent filmmaking, as its movement was taking flight. Today, films of all kinds, from independent to mainstream, feature LGBTQ themes and appeal to audiences universally.

So, what LGBTQ films can you stream right now? Here’s a selection of some of the best.

When you’re done looking through this list and watching the movies that pique your interest, peruse our guides:

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Jared Leto and Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club
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Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

There’s a good reason that both Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto picked up Academy Awards for their roles in this biographical drama. It’s loosely based on the life of Ron Woodroof, who was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in the 1980s before treatments had been properly researched and terrible stigma surrounded the disease. McConaughey’s transformation into the man struggling with his illness, while also smuggling treatment drugs into Texas to help others who were suffering, is mesmerizing. But the show-stopping performance is Leto’s portrayal of Rayon, a transgender woman who is HIV-positive and addicted to drugs.

Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Genre: Biography, Drama
Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner
Director: Jean-Marc Vallee
Rating: R
Runtime: 117 minutes

Logan Lerman and Emma Watson in The Perks of Being a Wallflower
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The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

This coming-of-age film based on the 1999 novel of the same name by Stephen Chbosky is about Charlie (Logan Lerman), a young man who writes letters to a friend chronicling his daily life in high school as he deals with his depression and anxiety. The introverted Charlie is having trouble making friends, but finally gets an “in” with a group of students when he catches Patrick (Ezra Miller) and the high school quarterback (Johnny Simmons) kissing at a party and they beg him to keep it a secret. It’s a heavy story that deals with the deep-seated troubles of a young man trying to cope with a difficult past he doesn’t fully understand.

Rotten Tomatoes: 86%
Genre: Drama, Romance
Stars: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Kate Walsh, Dylan McDermott, Joan Cusack, Paul Rudd, Mae Whitman
Director: Stephen Chbosky
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 103 minutes

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Moonlight (2016)

Earning eight Academy Award nominations and winning three, including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor for Mahershala Ali (making him the first Muslim to win an Oscar for acting), and Best Adapted Screenplay, this is a coming-of-age drama that will truly move you. Based on the unpublished semi-autobiographical play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney, it tells the story of a young Black man and the ways he deals with his sexuality throughout various points in his life — from a young boy to an adolescent and then as a young adult. As he discovers his identity, he deals with constant physical and emotional abuse about being gay, especially as a Black man.

Rotten Tomatoes: 98%
Genre: Drama
Stars: Trevante Rhodes, Andre Holland, Janelle Monae, Jharrel Jerome, Mahershala Ali
Director: Barry Jenkins
Rating: R
Runtime: 111 minutes

Taron Egerton in Rocketman
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Rocketman (2019)

What was Elton John like as a young man and how did he rise to fame as such an eccentric and flamboyant persona with a fashion sense like no other? That’s the story this biographical musical film tells in beautiful form, following the icon from his early days as a prodigy at the Royal Academy of Music to his time partnered with long-time collaborator, lyricist Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell). In development since the 2000s, Taron Egerton was worth the wait for his mesmerizing performance as Sir Elton, which earned him a Golden Globe alongside the many other awards the film received.

Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Genre: Biography, Drama, Music
Stars: Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden, Bryce Dallas Howard
Director: Dexter Fletcher
Rating: R
Runtime: 121 minutes


John Cameron Mitchell in Hedwig and the Angry Inch
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Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)

Brilliantly portrayed by the film’s writer and director John Cameron Mitchell, the title character, Hedwig, is a genderqueer East German rock singer who becomes a mentor to, and collaborator with, a younger man named Tommy (Michael Pitt), who ends up stealing her music and hitting it big. Hedwig, however, isn’t having it. She takes her band, the Angry Inch, on the road to shadow Tommy’s tour while exploring her gender identity along the way. The film, based on the 1998 stage musical of the same name, essentially bombed at the box office but has since developed a cult following. The character and the film’s music were recently highlighted in a musical episode of The CW series Riverdale.

Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Music
Stars: John Cameron Mitchell, Andrea Martin, Michael Pitt, Miriam Shor
Director: John Cameron Mitchell
Rating: R
Runtime: 92 minutes

Boy Erased
Courtesy of TIFF

Boy Erased (2018)

After coming out to his Baptist parents, Jared (Lucas Hedges) is sent to a gay conversion therapy program where he meets other LGBTQ people, each dealing with it from unique perspectives — from those deeply devoted to “conversion” to others merely pretending so they can get back to their real lives and be their true selves. The story is based on Garrard Conley’s memoir of the same name that chronicled his own journey being sent as a child to a conversion camp by his fundamentalist parents in Arkansas.

Rotten Tomatoes: 81%
Genre: Biography, Drama
Stars: Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Joel Edgerton, Russell Crowe, Xavier Dolan
Director: Joel Edgerton
Rating: R
Runtime: 115 minutes

Matt Damon and Michael Douglas in Behind the Candelabra
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Behind the Candelabra (2013)

Michael Douglas stars as iconic pianist Liberace in this biographical drama about the last 10 years of the musical genius’s life. At the heart of the story is Liberace’s relationship with Scott Thorson, played by Matt Damon, that begins as a friendship and quickly turns romantic. As Liberace’s controlling ways come to light, however, Thorson heads down a dark path to help him cope with the frustration. The film is based on Thorson’s own 1988 memoir, Behind the Candelabra: My Life with Liberace, and received critical acclaim.

Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Genre: Biography, Drama, Music
Stars: Michael Douglas, Matt Damon, Rob Lowe, Dan Aykroyd, Scott Bakula, Debbie Reynolds
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Rating: R
Runtime: 118 minutes

The Times of Harvey Milk
San Francisco Public Library

The Times of Harvey Milk (1984)

This isn’t the film starring Sean Penn, but rather the 1980s documentary about the political career of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay city supervisor in San Francisco. He rose to prominence from a small neighborhood activist to a symbol of gay political achievement, both up to and after his 1978 assassination. The film was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry due to its cultural and historical significance.

Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Genre: Documentary, Biography, History
Stars: Harvey Milk
Director: Rob Epstein
Rating: NR
Runtime: 90 minutes

Pride on Amazon Prime
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Pride (2014)

In an odd coupling, gay and lesbian activists decide to help raise money for the families of those impacted by the British miner’s strike of 1984. While the latter group initially doesn’t welcome the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners campaign, they eventually begin to warm up to one another. It’s a lovely true story about acceptance, squashing homophobia, and dispelling myths about both groups. The film has received tremendous praise, even a Golden Globe nomination.

Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Genre: Biography, Comedy, Drama
Stars: Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Dominic West, Paddy Considine, Andrew Scott, George MacKay, Joseph Gilgun, Ben Schnetzer
Director: Matthew Warchus
Rating: R
Runtime: 120 minutes

We Were Here on Amazon Prime
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We Were Here (2011)

The perfect rating speaks volumes about this documentary, which tells the story of the early ’80s HIV/AIDS crisis in San Francisco that became known as the “Gay Plague.” At the heart of the film are interviews with five people who lived through it, including everyone from a man who counseled gay men during that time to a black dancer who sold flowers for the funerals of those who died from the disease, and a nurse who was involved with administering drugs during clinical trial periods. Viewers should come out of the movie with a better understanding of how important medical care, social services, and community support are for getting through a crisis like that one.

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Genre: Documentary, Biography, History
Stars: Ed Wolf, Paul Boneberg, Daniel Goldstein, Guy Clark, Eileen Glutzer
Director: David Weissman
Rating: NR
Runtime: 90 minutes

My Best Friend on Amazon Prime
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My Best Friend (2018)

In this beautiful coming-of-age story, Lorenzo is a 16-year-old boy discovering his sexuality with the help of a friend, Caito, a 17-year-old who begins living with him and his family. The story is relatable as the young boy struggles to find out who he really is and comes to terms with his confusing feelings and attractions. The film is based on the Spanish-language Argentinian film Mi mejor amigo.

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Genre: Drama, Romance
Stars: Angelo Mutti Spinetta, Lautaro Rodriguez
Director: Martin Deus
Rating: PG
Runtime: 91 minutes

1985 on Amazon Prime
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1985 (2018)

When Adrian returns home to Dallas to say his goodbyes to his estranged family, he doesn’t reveal one major detail: that he is actually dying of AIDS. Though he’s in the closet and afraid to reveal the truth about his sexuality to his conservative and deeply religious family, it might not matter, because it seems Adrian’s family already knows, even if they won’t accept or admit it. Meanwhile, Adrian discovers that his younger brother might be gay as well. Adding an interesting element is that the movie is filmed on black-and-white super 16mm film.

Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Genre: Drama
Stars: Cory Michael Smith, Virginia Madsen, Michael Chiklis, Aidan Langford, Jamie Chung
Director: Yen Tan
Rating: NR
Runtime: 85 minutes

Girl on Netflix
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Girl (2018)

Nora Monsecour was a trans female dancer that director Lukas Dhont met when he was a teenager. Her story inspired this film about Lara (Victor Polster), a 15-year-old transgender girl with aspirations of being a professional ballerina. It touches on gender dysphoria, the particularly tough time frame when going through puberty, the importance of receiving support from loved ones, and the reality of dealing with those who express negative attitudes. Beware: There are depictions of self-harm, which might be triggering for some. But Monsecour herself has given full support.

Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
Genre: Drama
Stars: Victor Polster, Arieh Worthalter, Katelijne Damen, Valentijn Dhaenens
Director: Lukas Dhont
Rating: R
Runtime: 106 minutes

A Secret Love on Netflix

A Secret Love (2020)

Imagine being madly in love with someone for nearly 70 years and never being able to go public with your relationship. This was the case with two women, the director’s aunts, who played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. At a time when being a lesbian wasn’t accepted, they kept their relationship under wraps, which required a lot of sacrifices. It’s a frustrating but also heartwarming chronicle about how these two women lived with a tremendous weight on their shoulders and still beat all of the odds to live out their true love story.

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Genre: Documentary
Stars: Terry Donahue, Diana Bolen, Pat Henschel
Director: Chris Bolan
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 83 minutes

I Am Divine on Netflix
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I Am Divine (2013)

Divine, real name Harris Glenn Milstead, was one of the trailblazer drag performers of the ’80s, who served as a muse of filmmaker John Waters. While Divine passed away in 1988, his distinctive look and persona have inspired so many people and pieces of artwork that came after him. In the film, Waters talks with people who were close to Divine during the height of his career, including his family, friends, and collaborators. A cult figure, Divine was named “Drag Queen of the Century” by People Magazine in 1988.

Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Genre: Documentary
Stars: John Waters, Tab Hunter, Ricki Lake, Mink Stole, and more
Director: Jeffrey Schwartz
Rating: NR
Runtime: 90 minutes

Disclosure Documentary Netflix
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Disclosure (2020)

Disclosure is an eye-opening look at how transgender people in Hollywood are still not always depicted in a fair and honest way. Several celebrities weigh in on the topic, including Laverne Cox, Candis Cayne, Chaz Bono, and Lilly Wachowski, to discuss their personal experiences in the film and TV industries, as well as the cultural landscape and how far we have to go. The film, which has a near-perfect rating thus far, has received almost universal praise for its handling of such a sensitive topic.

Rotten Tomatoes: 98%
Genre: Documentary
Stars: Various
Director: Sam Feder
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 100 minutes

Circus of Books on Netflix
Circus of Books (2019)

Circus of Books is the story of perhaps the most unlikely couple to have ever owned a gay pornography shop. Karen and Barry Mason were on hard times in mid-seventies California when the took over the titular bookstore, which grew to become a safe haven for LGBTQ youth during the AIDS crisis and is now considered a place of massive historical significance for the LGBTQ community. Director-writer Rachel Mason talks with her parents about how they came to own the shop, which was first established in the ’60s, and what it meant to them to keep their occupation a secret from friends and family. At a time when LGBTQ culture was not at all socially accepted, the Masons became unintentional activists.

Rotten Tomatoes: 98%
Stars: Karen Mason, Barry Mason, Rachel Mason
Director: Rachel Mason
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 92 minutes

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Christine Persaud
Christine has decades of experience in trade and consumer journalism. While she started her career writing exclusively about…
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