When LGBTQ community-gathering spaces were largely put on pause by the pandemic, those once-in-person safe havens became our streaming platforms and technical devices at home. Hyper-specific pop subcultures emerged — here’s looking at you, queer readers of “Friends” — and reputations for streamers’ philosophies toward and commitment to LGBTQ content were widely discussed online. (Shout out to Showtime: the premium cable network still servicing lesbians everywhere.)
Even as the world has opened back up, in Hollywood, it feels like queer storytelling and community are more galvanized than ever. Nowhere is that more tidily displayed than on the carousels of “LGBTQ” offerings found across entertainment platforms. Netflix, a heavyweight in any streaming conversation (regardless of its rocky 2022), has played a significant role in green-lighting major queer-inclusive projects across television and film.
Not only has the platform championed many shows that were queer in premise — see “Grace and Frankie” or “Sex Education” — but it has also featured more LGBTQ storylines in mainstream hits, such as “Stranger Things,” as their seasons have continued. On the film side, Netflix has released rom-com gems, like “The Half of It,” and more serious dramas, like “The Boys in the Band.”
However, Netflix has also been criticized for its perceived lack of commitment to championing queer series longterm. There was the ridiculous “Sense8” debacle, during which Netflix canceled a beloved queer sci-fi series from The Wachowskis during the actual month of Pride in 2017. Fast forward five years and Ted Sarandos is staking the service’s entire reputation on a Dave Chapelle special.
We’ve put together a list including Netflix original series and films as well as movies the streamer is hosting for the time being. There’s a range here of popular titles — really just the tip of the iceberg — and lesser-known finds, which can be overwhelming to navigate amid Netflix’s mysterious algorithm. Here are 44 of the best LGBTQ movies and TV shows on Netflix available in June 2023. (Yes, just in time for Pride.)
With editorial contributions by Samantha Bergeson, David Ehrlich, Kate Erbland, Proma Khosla, Ryan Lattanzio, and Christian Zilko.
(Editor’s Note: This list was originally published in April 2022 and has been updated multiple times since.)
“Closet Monster” isn’t exactly a horror film, but the directorial debut from Stephen Dunn captures the horrors of hating yourself in a way like no other film has. Connor Jessup stars as Oscar, a closeted teenager and aspiring VFX makeup artist from a homophobic family. When he develops a crush on a coworker, his own self-loathing about his sexuality manifiests itself in literal physical pain that warns him away. Using elements of body horror in its character study, “Closet Monster” manages to internalize the very real pain that internalized homophobia can cause. —WC
Before she was getting double Emmy nominations for “The White Lotus” and “Euphoria” and raking up a laundry’s list of upcoming projects, Sydney Sweeney was the dream girl in “Everything Sucks,” a short-lived ’90s set teen comedy about a group of kids at Boring High School (a fake school in the real Boring, Ohio) making a movie together. Specifically her character, drama geek Emaline, is the object of affection for Kate (a terrific Peyton Kennedy), a shy A/V Club wallflower whose coming out story provides the show its dramatic backbone. “Everything Sucks” wasn’t perfect, leaning too hard on ’90s nostalgia and refrences for its own good, but the tender connection that forms between Kate and Emaline makes it absolutely worth a watch. —WC
“Orange is the New Black”
One of Netflix’s first big hits and arguably its first truly great show, “Orange is the New Black” ran for seven seasons and 91 episodes — an eternity in streaming years. And although its final seasons were unquestionably bumpy, the show deserved its long run: at its peak, it was a smart, empathetic, and riveting character study of the various woman at Litchfield Penitentiary. While main characters Piper (Taylor Schilling) and Alex (Laura Prepon) and their romance was always sort of blah, the show made up for it by quickly expanding outside of them to explore the lives of the much more interesting women around them: from lesbian inmates like Crazy Eyes (Uzo Aduba, phenomenal like always), Nicky (Natasha Lyonne), and Poussey (Samira Wiley), to trans women like Sophia (Laverne Cox, who made history as the first trans person to be nominated for an acting Emmy). —WC
“The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”
Tituss Burgess was a Broadway Baby for years before “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” but the deeply goofy comedy series from Tina Fey and Robert Carlock is how the fabulous actor and singer found mainstream acclaim. Burgess played Titus (with one “s”), the self-absorbed struggling actor and roommate of the title character (Ellie Kemper). And while Kimmy was always the main focus, Burgess proved a scene-stealing presence on the show, between his hilarious struggles in show business and his adorable relationship with boyfriend Mikey (Mike Carlsen). —WC
Whenever Todd Haynes’ unspeakably beautiful Patricia Highsmith adaptation comes to mind, it brings some of the novel’s last words along with it: “It would be Carol, in a thousand cities, a thousand houses, in foreign lands where they would go together, in heaven and hell.” In that light, a spot on a list of the decade’s best films hardly seems like much of a reach.
Brought to life by the careful genius of Phyllis Nagy’s script, the supple glow of Ed Lachmann’s 16mm cinematography, and two of the most extraordinary performances ever committed to celluloid (which isn’t to sweep old Harge under the rug where he belongs), Haynes’ Carol is more than just a bone-deep melodrama about a mutual infatuation during a repressive time. It’s more than a vessel for Carter Burwell’s swooning career-best score, or Sandy Powell’s seductive costumes, or the rare queer romance that gave its characters a happy ending — an ending that resonates through Cate Blanchett’s coy smile with the blunt force of every impossible dream Carol Aird has ever had for herself. It’s more than just an immaculate response to decades of “if only” dramas like David Lean’s “Brief Encounter,” or a heartstopping series of small gestures that build into the single most cathartic last shot of the 21st century. It’s all of those things (and more!), but most of all it’s an indivisibly pure distillation of what it feels like to fall in love alone and land somewhere together. —DE
“She-Ra and the Princesses of Power”
She-Ra and the “He-Man” franchise have always had a strong campy appeal that made it at least gay-adjacent, but ND Stevenson’s acclaimed reboot of the franchise for Netflix refreshingly dropped the -adjacent part completely.
A story driven take on the She-Ra mythos, in which the hero’s alter-ego starts as a soldier for the Horde army before defecting to become the protector of Etheria, the animated series is filled with colorful characters, fun action, and quirky humor. And while there are plenty of queer minor characters from the beginning, the show’s slow-burn between Adora and her childhood friend-turned-mortal-enemy Catra provides the show with its emotional core, and it’s a perfectly soapy dynamic that will have you rooting for the two to alternatively kill or kiss each other. —WC
Soapy teen stories are so much better when they’re gay, and “Young Royals” is one of the gayest and soapiest. The Swedish series, which has released two seasons and will return for a third and final, focuses on the romance between Wille (Edvin Ryding) and Simon (Omar Rudberg), two outsider teens at the country’s prestigious Hillerska boarding school. Their sweet connection is complicated by the fact that Simon is a scholarship student, while Wille is a prince in the Swedish royal family, and is more or less forced to remain in the closet because of it. Their bond also gets tested by their fellow students around them, including Wille’s evil cousin August (Malte Gårdinger), childhood friend Felice (Nikita Uggla), and Simon’s social-climbing sister Sara (Frida Argento).
If that premise sound slightly ridiculous and cheesy, that describes the show to a tee, but it makes for an enjoyably dramatic binge, with constant twists, turns, and complications that serve to make Simon and Wille’s lives slightly more hellish. Plus, the committed work from the strong young cast elevates the material considerably; Ryding is particularly impressive, turning in a vulnerable performance that captures the anxiety of being closeted, and gives the show much more heft than it otherwise would have. —WC
“The Ultimatum: Queer Love”
It doesn’t quite rise to the heights of the iconic all-queer season of MTV’s “Are You The One?” But “The Ultimatum: Queer Love” is a refreshing antidote to the many, many, MANY straight as hell dating reality shows that Netflix have gifted (?) subscribers over the years. A marked improvement from the original “The Ultimatum,” which featured a cast of contestants so toxic that it went past entertaining and into concerning territory, the “Queer Love” iteration stars a group of gay women and non-binary leads on the verge of marriage as they are tasked with mingling with other couples, and choose to pair up with someone outside their original pairing to live with for three weeks.
A lot of the problems from the original show exists in “Queer Love;” mainly, that the format of “The Ultimatum” is extremely stupid and barely makes any sense. But the cast is far more likeable than the one from the first season, or most Netflix reality shows for that matter, and the expanded number of potential pairings makes for a much more intriguing watch. Also, mercifully, this show is NOT hosted by Nick and Vanessa Lachey, but instead by JoAnna Garcia Swisher, in one of the biggest wins for the gays Netflix could have ever provided us. —WC
“Grace and Frankie”
Howard J. Morris and “Friends” co-creator Marta Kauffman enjoyed a stroke of pure genius with “Grace and Frankie”: a sparkling LGBTQ sitcom set in SoCal, as sweet as it is sharp, which ran for seven seasons and remains one of Netflix’s most successful half-hour series.
The beloved odd couple comedy reunites “9 to 5” stars Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin as two very different (straight) women who learn their husbands — Sam Waterson and Martin Sheen — are leaving their wives for one another. As the gravity of the men’s deception sets in, the titular Grace and Frankie are forced to confront single life in their 70s together. Soon, the former beauty exec and hippy artist are rooming together in a beach house the couples once shared, while their exes embark on a new life in a hard-won queer home of their own.
From dating farmers and fraudsters to inventing a vibrator for women with arthristis, the sex-positive and innately feminist antics of Grace, Frankie, and their gay ex-husbands make for generally light fare. But the show also carefully and compassionately explores the changing dynamics of modern found family, the difficulties of coming out later in life, and the endless misogynstic obstacles facing older women in the 21st century. —AF
Set at a wealthy private school in New Delhi, “Class” is a Hindi adaptation of Netflix’s Spanish-language original series “Elite” from producer Ashim Ahluwalia. Jumping on the tried-and-true raunchy rebellious teen setup, the series chronicles the unraveling of a delicately balanced coterie of upperclassmen after the addition of three new scholarship students. Months after their arrival, a student has been murdered, and everyone is a suspect. The addition of adorable queer couple Faruq and Dhruv make it one of the few shows from India to showcase queer romance.
Though taken from “Elite,” the premise of “Class” fits seamlessly into urban India, where caste and religion absorb the upper classes, where subplots about crime and corruption draw on finely honed Hindi films of the same genre. Thanks to existing source material with an established tone — and the Netflix stamp with its global reach — “Class” exudes more confidence than adult-focused Hindi shows like “Four More Shots, Please” or movies like “Veere Di Wedding,” which also include freewheeling cursing, drugs, and sexual references. While those titles also dealt with privileged (and light-skinned) urban Indian socialites, “Class” has awareness baked into its premise and no interest in shying away from the ugliness of wealth disparity. —PK
This forbidden romance between an Orthodox Jewish woman and her childhood best friend stars Rachel McAdams and Rachel Weisz engaging in a tense and tender dance of passion. Based on the novel by Naomi Alderman and directed by Chilean filmmaker Sebastián Lelio (“A Fantastic Woman), “Disobedience” follows Esty (McAdams), a married woman from an ultra-Orthodox community who is in love with Ronit (Weisz), the rabbi’s daughter who left religious life as a teenager but returns upon her father’s death. Dovid (Alessandro Nivola) welcomes Ronit into his home warmly, but soon must confront his wife’s predilections.
A perfectly balanced three-hander boasting finely tuned performances, the steamy film follows Esty’s tightrope-walk between tradition and desire, between the path she chose and the one she dreams of. While religious queer stories are often tame and full of repression, “Disobedience” flips the script to offer a passionate portrait of a courageous woman going after what she wants. While their spit-swapping sex scene may have turned heads at its premiere, the film’s staying power lies in its daring performances and sharp script. —JD
“Call Me by Your Name”
How did Luca Guadagnino make a movie that looks, sounds, and feels like nostalgic summer love? Who knew it looked like the golden light of an Italian villa, or the smiling eyes of a father witnessing his child’s first heartache? Or that it sounded like shutters clattering in the wind, the heavy slam of a wooden door, or a spoon’s clumsy tap tap tap on a soft-boiled egg? And most of us certainly didn’t know know love felt like rolling casually into a fountain, or the gooey inside of a peach.
It’s hard to know where to focus in “Call Me by Your Name,” between each gorgeous frame of the Italian delights and its impossibly good-looking young lovers. Armie Hammer is an ’80s Adonis in his short shorts and billowing Oxford shirts, towering awkwardly over the androgynous beauty of the soon-to-be-everywhere Timothée Chalamet. Their bodies, which Guadagnino graciously (but tastefully) puts on display, skip and tousle across the screen. Though some will lament the spareness of the their more intimate acts, this film is so gorgeous that to see anything else would have yielded sensory overload. —JD
A coming-of-age teen romance equal parts adorable and heartwarming? Sign us up. Based on the graphic novel of the same name, “Heartstopper” centers on British teen Charlie (Joe Locke), who has a crush on classmate Nick (Kit Connor). In order to get closer to Nick, Charlie joins the rugby team and kicks off quite literally a guessing game over whether or not Nick is gay. While Charlie vents to newfound friend Nick over his own relationship woes, the duo deepen their “will they, won’t they” love story. Half coming-out story, half unrequited romance, “Heartstopper” clearly has the opposite effect, making our hearts beat faster as we wait to see if Nick will similarly fall for Charlie. Thankfully, the series has been renewed for two more seasons at Netflix as of May 20. —SB
Queer representation in mainstream Bollywood is still in its early stages, but Harshvardhan Kulkarni’s “Badhaai Do” (written by Kulkarni, Suman Adhikary, and Akshat Ghildial) offers a cheeky twist with less heavy-handed messaging than most.
Shardul (Rajkummar Rao) and Suman (Bhumi Pednekar) couldn’t be less interested in the heterosexual marriages their parents keep pushing on them, so they get married to appease their families and continue pursuing queer relationships. But being married presents its own challenges, including living in Shardul’s strict police quarters and mounting pressure from their parents who want grandchildren. When Suman starts seeing Rimjhim (Chum Darang), they find themselves dodging question after question and losing steam to maintain the facade that she’s a visiting cousin.
The film depicts two fleshed-out queer characters at its center, and they challenge each other and themselves on what it means to live an authentic life. It’s clear that Shardul is not immune to societally ingrained misogyny, which he must reckon with when Sumi suffers on his behalf. Rao and Pednekar are known for appearing in groundbreaking and innovative films, and “Badhaai Do” is no exception. —PK
Netflix’s endlessly charming high-school comedy about sex, love, and friendship is winsome from the start — not least because of how well the show handles queer stories, starting with Eric (Ncuti Gatwa). He’s not in the closet at school or with his family, which offers a positive depiction of how living out and proud can look with a supportive community. His bullying at the hands of Adam (Connor Swindells) serves the narrative rather than exploiting LGBTQ trauma; we learn that Adam himself is closeted and coming to terms with his identity, and their relationship evolves over the course of three seasons.
Best of all, Eric alone doesn’t carry the burden of telling queer stories on “Sex Education.” There’s popular snob Anwar (Chaneil Kular), French poet Rahim (Sami Outalbali), Otis’s former girlfriend Ola (Patricia Allison), self-assured class weirdo Lily (Tanya Reynolds), and Cal (Dua Saleh), whose rejection of the gender binary forces school golden boy Jackson (Kedar Williams-Stirling) to reconsider his own sexuality. Each of these characters is endearing and flawed and endlessly hilarious as only “Sex Education” can deliver. —PK
“The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson”
David France’s follow-up to “How to Survive a Plague” follows the extraordinary life and mysterious death of transgender activist Marsha P. Johnson. A village fixture and one of the driving forces in the Stonewall Riots, Johnson’s body was found in the Hudson river in 1992. The film traces her life, but spends more time on her death — and Johnson’s friend the activist Victoria Cruz’s labyrnthine search for justice. —JD
Netflix shut down Ryan O’Connell’s semi-autobiographical comedy series “Special” after just two all-too-short seasons, a shame considering that Season 2 left on such an open-ended note for its lead. Also named Ryan, and played by O’Connell, he’s a writer with CP wading into the choppy waters of dating in Los Angeles. He experiences love and sex for the first time — often to alternately crushing and comic results. O’Connell and Punam Patel, who plays his best friend and co-worker at a Buzzfeed-like content farm called Eggwoke, are a dream small-screen team. The series has humor and heart but isn’t too saccharine sweet as O’Connell takes on the often alienating experience of image-obsessed queer LA life. —RL
“The Andy Warhol Diaries”
Executive producer Ryan Murphy takes Andy Warhol enthusiasts and neophytes alike into a melancholy immersion of the man’s life and work — using his own words and voice reconstructed with artificial intelligence — in “The Andy Warhol Diaries.” While Warhol was seemingly scrupulous about keeping his private life private — often flippantly telling journalists he was “asexual” — there’s plenty beneath the surface of his groundbreaking 20th-century art to suggest otherwise. That’s one of the achievements of “The Andy Warhol Diaries,” which melds talking-head testimonies from those who knew him (Julian Schnabel, John Waters, Fab Five Freddy, Jerry Hall, Debbie Harry, and many, many more) with impressionistic montages of his work and archival snippets from his New York scene at the Factory.
“The Andy Warhol Diaries” offers an unusually intimate vantage point into understanding the artist as a person, a shy closeted kid raised in Pittsburgh by Austro-Hungarian immigrant parents who concealed his shyness in adulthood behind the artifice of makeup and, of course, his many wigs. Directed by Andrew Rossi (“Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times” and “The First Monday in May”), the six-part documentary series is a must-see for Warhol fans and newcomers looking to understand his work’s impact then and now. —RL
What began as a darkly funny queer YouTube series became a Logo TV streaming series that then sold to Netflix, premiering its final season in 2019. But through all the shifts in format and delivery platform, Kit Williamson’s “EastSiders” maintained its cynically humorous take on a self-destructive friend group living in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles. At the center of the show is up-and-down relationship between Cal (Williamson) and Thom (Van Hansis), for whom opening things up only leads to infidelity and further substance use. The series is also an early showcase of Constance Wu as Cal’s sidekick best friend, who got a fully formed hilarious arc of her own with her boyfriend Ian (John Halbach). —RL
“The Haunting of Bly Manor”
The second installment of Netflix’s anthology series from Mike Flanagan, coming off “The Haunting of Hill House,” “Bly Manor” brings the gothic drama to the U.K. as Victoria Pedretti stars as Dani, an American au pair for two orphaned children. “The Haunting of Bly Manor” is told in reverse by a narrator (Carla Gugino), recalling a mysterious haunted mansion that forces Dani to confront her own metaphorical ghosts — plus a few very real ones. As Dani relives her personal trauma and guilt for being engaged to her now-deceased fiancé Eddie (Roby Attal) despite being gay, she finds solace in groundskeeper Jamie (Amelia Eve). Their romance blossoms as Bly Manor sours under adulterous affairs, possessed children, and restless souls, leaving Dani and Jamie to narrowly make their escapes while saving the children. —SB
Craig Johnson’s “Alex Strangelove” felt like a rarity on Netflix in 2018, a John Hughes-style, throwback high school teen romance with a queer twist. Now, that’s standard fare for the streamer with series like “Sex Education” and “Heartstopper,” but here the coming-out story of teen Alex (Daniel Doheny) is well-told in feature-length size. Though Alex has plans to lose his virginity to his best friend Claire (Madeline Weinstein), a queer ex machina arrives in the form of openly gay Elliot (Antonio Marziale), who leads him to question his sexuality. Alex thinks at first he might be bi (we’ve all been there), but his attraction to Elliot becomes overwhelming, causing even more confusion. This is a smart and refreshing film about teen sexuality that doesn’t shy from its uncomfortable moments, but also takes a celebratory approach to its subject matter at a time when many coming-out stories still felt bogged by pain. —RL
The erotic entanglements and serious personal baggage of six 20somethings living as property guardians in an abandoned hospital are mined for hilarity in the Channel 4 series “Crashing.” It’s created, written by, and starring Phoebe Waller-Bridge in her pre-“Fleabag” early days. There are a number of queer and straight characters whose sexual borders get blurred within the walls of this flophouse, but look especially for a young, bleach-blond Jonathan Bailey as hypersexual narcissist Sam, who ignites sparks with Fred (Amit Shah) to much messiness in the friend group. “Crashing” has the same acid-tongued humor of “Fleabag” — and characters just as lovably floundering and restless. —RL
The “Fear Street” Trilogy
Filmmaker Leigh Janiak’s ambitious, time-spanning “Fear Street” trilogy giddily unpacks and twists all manner of horror ideas, but finding a new way into a central love story is perhaps its most subversive concept. Based on R.L. Stine’s YA horror novels of the same name, “Fear Street” doesn’t treat its teen audience or characters with kid gloves. That extends into both the gore level (high) and the honesty with which it tackles even the non-scary stuff, like its love stories, including a queer relationship that endures across three entire films.
At the heart of the trilogy is the relationship between Deena (Kiana Madeira) and Sam (Olivia Scott Welch), former girlfriends recently torn apart by Sam’s meddling mom and Sam’s move to tony Sunnyvale from the more downmarket Shadyside. Without spoiling what follows in the series, we’ll say this: Deena and Sam’s love story is key to the entire series, and emblematic of both the fresh spin Janiak puts on the stories and the classic sense of “otherness” often found in the genre’s greatest heroes. —KE
“Pretend It’s a City”
More than just a style icon, Fran Lebowitz is the living embodiment of every striving New Yorker’s dream: to sustain long-term cultural relevance while doing very little work. With the help of influential friends like Martin Scorsese, who filmed and edited Lebowitz’s musings on life, literature, and New York City into half-hour bite-sized diversions, she received the equivalent of a lifetime extension. The avowed bachelor notoriously suffers from writer’s block, though she can rattle off pithy anecdotes and one-liners better than most stand-up comedians. There’s so much wit and wisdom packed into each episode that, though they fly by much too quickly, you’ll be jazzed to start all over again. —JD
“The Power of the Dog”
Jane Campion’s chiseled Western features Benedict Cumberbatch in a career-high performance as a repressed cattle rancher who likes the smell of his own stink, Jesse Plemons as his more civilized but obviously codependent brother, and Kirsten Dunst as his inward-coiling wife who finally explodes. But the real deal in “The Power of the Dog” is the promise of Australian actor Kodi Smit-McPhee as Peter, Dunst’s lithe and otherworldly son whose gimlet eyes conceal wells of mystery, pain, and rage. Draped across this tapestry of fine actors is Ari Wegner’s sinister vision of 1920s Montana.
It comes as no surprise that Campion — the Oscar-winning filmmaker behind such movies as “The Piano” and “In the Cut,” and TV series including “Top of the Lake” — could turn out another masterful flaying of the masculine ego, and the flickering feminine inside of it. Going straight back to Thomas Savage’s 1967 source novel, Campion threads the needle between queer repression, desire, and violence. A psychosexual current starts to vibrate between Smit-McPhee and Cumberbatch, who wears his cowboy ego like a costume that starts to shed in Peter’s hands. It’s possible to read “The Power of the Dog” as a kind of acid-dipped love story, thanks to the queer sensibilities of its filmmaker, who uses her portent-filled approach to visually and aurally articulate the desires her emotionally sheltered protagonists can’t. —RL
“Call My Agent!”
This boisterous French workplace comedy about a scrappy firm of Paris movie agents returned this year for its fourth and final season, just in time for this highbrow “Entourage” to finally land across the pond. Where “Entourage” drops names like James Cameron and Mark Wahlberg, “Call My Agent!” features cameos from the likes of Juliette Binoche and a running Jacques Depardieu joke. While any film lover will enjoy the show’s cinematic pedigree, queer audiences get not one but two fabulous queer characters. There’s cutthroat agent and seducer Andrea Martell (Camille Cottin), who could give Bette Porter a run for her money. She’s both lovable and fun to hate, but it’s flamboyant and fanciful assistant Herve (Nicolas Maury) who is easily the fan favorite. In many ways, “Call My Agent!” represents the best of what Netflix offers — access to the top international shows and films one would otherwise miss. —JD
“I Care a Lot”
Rosamund Pike returns to her icy-cool “Gone Girl” character Amy Dunne in “I Care a Lot,” where she plays a high-falutin con artist who swindles elders while disguised as a care person — with the added intrigue of playing a lesbian. Pike plays Marla Grayson, a professional, court-appointed guardian for dozens of elderly wards whose assets she seizes and bilks through dubious but somehow legal means. It’s a well-oiled racket that Marla and her business-partner and lover Fran (Eiza González) use with brutal efficiency on their latest “cherry,” Jennifer Peterson (two-time Academy Award winner Dianne Wiest) — a wealthy retiree with no living heirs or family to call her own. But when Jennifer turns out to have an equally shady secret of her own, along with connections to a loose cannon of a gangster (played by Peter Dinklage), Marla has to up her game. —RL
Swoonworthy comedian Mae Martin writes and stars alongside Lisa Kudrow in this bitingly clever six-episode show about chasing straight girls and chasing highs. Hilariously crafted, thrillingly paced, and brimming with the kind of raw honesty rarely found on TV, “Feel Good” will certainly make you feel, if not necessarily good, then something refreshingly real. Eshcewing “Fleabag” vibes wrapped up in an authentically queer dark comedy about addiction, “Feel Good” is a delightful surprise after decades of two dimensional queer characters written as an afterthought. —JD
Directed by Sam Feder and executive produced by Laverne Cox, “Disclosure” plays like the next chapter in “The Celluloid Closet,” though it stands entirely on its own. The film gives trans representation the full consideration it deserves, offering a fascinating excavation of an often painful history with moments of levity and personal reflection. Each touchstone is filtered through the lens of the interviewees, all of whom are trans. The simple pleasure of viewing a film with an entirely trans cast is nothing short of revelatory, making “Disclosure” another positive entry into the very history it is seeking to rewrite. —JD
Intimate and beautifully rendered, “Funny Boy” is a visually lush coming-of-age drama set amidst a vicious ethnic conflict that is regionally specific but tragically universal. It is the latest feature film from revered Indo-Canadian filmmaker Deepa Mehta, who first rose to international renown in 1996 with “Fire,” a groundbreaking lesbian romance that was censored in India after screenings led to violent protests and the destruction of movie theaters. Though “Funny Boy” is a far more chaste film, it may find more controversy for its portrayal of the 1983 riots, or Black July, the anti-Tamil pogroms that began the 26-year Sri Lankan Civil War. As if with the breezy wave of a hand, Mehta has woven these intricacies with a painterly touch, stacking the opposing forces of sexual and cultural identity into a whirl of color and emotion and memory. —JD
“The Boys in The Band”
Director Joe Mantello, who first revamped Mart Crowley’s 1968 play on Broadway three years ago with an all-star cast of out-gay male actors, brings that exact same troupe, and sensibility, to the not-quite-big-screen with his new film adaptation produced by Ryan Murphy for Netflix. The result is a sophisticated, tart-tongued revival, and a gayed-up “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” that surmounts the challenges faced by stage-to-screen adaptations, specifically the utter confinement to a single space. Mantello preserves the narrative’s period-specific repartee and brings the stage script to life in sublime ways. The performances are all superb, and the fact that the cast comprises solely out-of-the-closet gay men creates for a special alchemy here, as these actors, first established in their summer 2018 Broadway run, have a familiarity and comfort with each other you’d be unlikely to see in a mixed cast of straights and gays. Crowley, who died last March, didn’t live to see this film, but you can feel his blessing gliding over it all. —RL
Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby became an international sensation almost overnight when “Nanette” premiered on Netflix in 2018. She followed that explosive special up with another delight, knocking it out of the park again with a slightly lighter special that packs just as much punch as her first. She turns some of the half-baked critiques (“a bit of feedback”) of “Nanette” into comedic fodder for “Douglas,” snapping back at her haters with surgical precision. Where “Nanette” addressed sexual trauma with unexpected wit, Gadsby turns to her autism diagnosis for another unmined comedic topic. The results are just as fresh, and impactful, as ever. —JD
“Mucho Mucho Amor”
OK, so we don’t know exactly how Walter Mercado identified. Whether spoken out loud or not, there’s no world in which an astrologer who owns that many capes can’t be read as queer — no matter what his longtime assistant says about their relationship. Though Latinx folks have known his name for decades, the late Puerto Rican icon reached new renown with the release the entertaining and uplifting Netflix documentary, “Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado.” The first and most widely televised astrologer in the world, Mercado graced TV screens and radio stations in every Spanish-speaking market for nearly four decades beginning in the 1970s. After disappearing from public view amidst an arduous legal battle over the rights to his name and work, he retreated to a fortress-like villa in San Juan. His outsized personality, dazzling capes, and uplifting message of love earned him the arduous devotion of millions of fans the world over.
“A Secret Love”
As lovingly rendered as they are with each other, this tender documentary charts Terry Donahue and Pat Henschel’s nearly seven-decade-long relationship, offering a portrait of two lesbian elders as they make peace with their flagging health. The film offers a precious example of a committed long-term queer relationship, as well as a vital record of how different things were way back when. There are scant dramatic turns or shocking revelations, but “A Secret Love” is thoroughly enjoyable, heartfelt wholesomeness from start to finish. —JD
“The Half of It”
“Saving Face” filmmaker Alice Wu’s triumphant return to filmmaking is a queer riff on “Cyrano de Bergerac” that ultimately prioritizes friendship over romance. That’s a refreshing take for any movie, especially in the YA genre, and it sends a poignant message that is much more helpful — and relatable — for most kids than a fairytale ending. The film’s charming protagonist is Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis), a precocious high schooler who lives with her widower father and keeps to herself at school. When boorish Paul (Daniel Diemer) clumsily enlists her help writing love letters to his crush, the two strike up an unlikely friendship that withstands whatever obstacles that come their way — even liking the same girl. —JD
“Circus of Books”
It’s hard to think of a better premise for a documentary than a gay porn shop run by a straight Jewish couple, but throw into the mix that their daughter is the filmmaker and you have one of the most surprising films of the year. Filmmaker Rachel Mason follows in the footsteps of hybrid documentarian Kirsten Johnson, but throws in a heaping dose of Borscht belt humor, Jewish tradition, and gay history. Her loving account of her parents Barry and Karen Mason and how they came to run one of LA’s most popular gay cruising spots is the perfect blend of personal excavation and engaging storytelling. Karen emerges as the film’s comic lead and quintessential Jewish mother, haggling at the sex expo and questioning her daughter’s artistic choices in the same breath. It’s the unexpected confluence of these eclectic elements that make it such a singularly delightful film. —JD
Isabel Sandoval’s masterful portrait of a trans Filipina immigrant is so intimately rendered it almost feels too close at times. Premiering at Venice Days, the film was entirely directed, written, produced, and edited by Sandoval, who also plays the film’s lead. Sandoval is the closest thing queer cinema has to a trans auteur working on such a level. The film follows an undocumented trans woman as she saves up for a green card marriage, which becomes complicated by newfound romance. Sharply edited and shot with an austere beauty, “Lingua Franca” is a profound example of what happens when marginalized voices are given full creative control. —JD
Exuding charm, infectious energy, and unshakeable confidence, Alice is the teenage trans girl protagonist of your movie dreams. She’s a runner-up in a reality competition show for young models, which she never lets her adoring public forget via her bubbly YouTube updates. She’s living her best life in a chic Brazilian city when her father unexpectedly moves her to the more conservative countryside. As Alice contends with boys’ school uniforms and ignorant bullying, she also opens herself up to new forms of friendship. First-time feature director Gil Baroni makes a grand entrance with this flirty, heartfelt, and celebratory trans comedy. More trans films like this one, please. —JD
“Tales of the City”
In a new chapter of beloved San Francisco writer Armistead Maupin’s classic “Tales of The City”, buoyant heroine Mary Ann Singleton (Laura Linney) is all grown up, but still making the same mistakes. Returning to 28 Barbary Lane twenty years after she first found herself in the land of magical fairies, Mary Ann must put back the pieces of her San Francisco life, including an estranged relationship with the child she left behind (Elliot Page). Olympia Dukakis reprises her role as Anna Madrigal, the magical and mysterious doyenne of Barbary Lane, and hunky Murray Bartlett plays Mary Anns best friend Michael “Mouse” Tolliver.
While the show’s blatant attempts at keeping current (namely by including every identity from the LGBTQ+ alphabet soup) can feel a bit disjointed at times, there’s something undeniably comforting about its unconventional marriage between rose-colored nostalgia and progressive identity politics. Creator Lauren Morelli (“Orange Is the New Black”) and executive producer Alan Poul (“Six Feet Under”) found a way to honor the spirit of the original while celebrating the queer culture of today. Curling up with “Tales of the City” feels like stepping into your neighborhood gay bar, where everybody knows your name — and your pronouns. —JD
Queerness means seeing and experiencing the world differently, with a vibrance and texture unique to people existing in a society that others them and their expressions of gender and love. Created by J. Michael Straczynski and The Wachowskis — yes, of “The Matrix” fame — this brilliant sci-fi ensemble series explores the emotional depths and connective tissue of LGBTQ community through a lens that takes empathic perspective to its storytelling extreme. When eight strangers suddenly discover they are “sensates” — psychically linked to one another, but scattered across the globe — they must investigate their mysterious connection and the power it gives them together.
“Sense8” is a good show, but notable at Netflix for a historic cancelation decision, and its subsequent partial reversal. Fans were left on a cliffhanger at the end of “Sense8” Season 2. Netflix announced it would cancel the series at the start of Pride 2017: a decision met with near-immediate blowback. Critics argued that abandoning the series was reflective of Netflix’s lack of committment to championing queer stories longterm. The platform then gave the show a finale in 2018, considered the final installment of Season 2. —AF
Set in the wake of the election of Brazil’s former far-right president Jair Bolsonaro, “Mars One” follows a single working-class family as they long for more, love each other, self-reflect, and struggle to make ends meet. “Mars One” nimbly centers each of its four main characters, including rebellious and magnetic queer student Nina (Camilla Damião), elegantly weaving their stories into a poignant familial whole.
Gabriel Martins’ elegantly personal portrait is both grand and delicate in scope, weaving four human stories into a tender family drama. All relatable, flawed, and charming in their own ways, they antagonize each other without anyone losing their humanity. The frame drips with sensuality when Nina meets a girl at a club, the slow approach to a tender first kiss sexier than anything more explicit could be. Nina’s exploration of queerness is a part of her journey, but not its entirety; and her parents are shocked but sweetly accepting in the end. Thanks to the deeply skilled actors and Martins’ reserved approach to plot, Martins strikes a delicate balance that’s unusually satisfying. —JD
“Edge of Seventeen”
Like a John Hughes era scored by Boy George and Annie Lenox, this late-‘90s American indie is about growing up and coming out in 1980s Ohio. Directed by David Moreton and written by Todd Stephens, this hidden gem of the New Queer Cinema was critically embraced at the time, playing the Sundance Film Festival in 1999. The romantic comedy/drama hasn’t quite reached the cult status of its contemporary “But I’m a Cheerleader,” possibly due to a lack of big names (though it does feature a young Lea Delaria as butch bar manager Angie).
The film follows sensitive high schooler Eric (Chris Stafford) as he explores, and then nearly renounces, his queerness. Featuring unsentimental sex scenes that don’t overly glamorize early sexual encounters, Eric is seduced and left brokenhearted by slightly older casanova Rod (Andersen Gabrych) before attempting straightness with his best friend Maggie (Tina Holmes). As Eric fumbles towards a queer identity that includes eye liner and a Moog synthesizer, the charming “Edge of Seventeen” presents a relatable and naturalistic portrait of queer youth. —JD
This juicy dark comedy is a feminist satire inspired by “Strangers on a Train,” the Alfred Hitchcock film based on lesbian writer Patricia Highsmith’s novel. The romp stars Camila Mendes (“Riverdale”) and Maya Hawke (“Stranger Things”) as two unlikely allies in a battle for high school justice, with Hawke as the loner queer who must infiltrate the popular crowd. Touching lightly on class awareness and gender politics, the girls are firmly in control of this candy-coated world — though only one can come out on top. As their Machiavellian quest for revenge leads to some unlikely revelations, the self-righteous antiheroines prove that boys aren’t the only toxic ones. It’s all part of the sickly fun and games of this quippy romp through the steely cunning of that universally feared group: teenage girls. —JD
“Stay on Board: The Leo Baker Story”
Pro skater Leo Baker kickflips the script on the tedious trans athlete “debate,” shredding preconceived notions about trans athletes with the same swagger he uses to attack the half-pipe. Beginning in 2019, the film follows Baker and his teammates on the U.S.A. National Team when they find out skateboarding will become an Olympic sport for the first time in the 2020 games.
Shot over roughly three years, the film follows Baker through the journey of coming out to himself, his friends and family, and then the world. Taking an empathetic and respectful approach, the film allows him the grace and space to explore who he is without needing concrete answers, neither overly focusing on Baker’s transition nor minimizing the difficulties therein. As he weighs the professional benefits to delaying transition against the joy and relief of being himself, the film offers an important window into the daily indignities all trans people face, one that many will recognize. Hopefully, those who don’t will feel it just as deeply, and come away with a little more empathy. —JD