Movies to Watch for Your Stay-at-Home LGBTQ+ Pride Film Fest
The coronavirus pandemic may have changed how we’re celebrating Pride Month this year. Many annual festivals and parades face cancellations or have been converted into virtual events that’ll allow us to continue to safely shelter in place while participating in a modified way. But even though options are more limited and you may not be able to attend public events, you can still celebrate — from the comfort of home.
One way to safely observe this annual tradition is by holding your own Pride film fest. If you're considering breaking out the popcorn and cocktails while putting your couch to good use, we've got some suggestions about what to watch.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
When The Rocky Horror Picture Show was released in 1975, it wasn’t a critical or commercial success, but it rightfully became a cult classic and is still consistently hailed as a milestone in queer cinema. Campily blending comedy and horror, this musical tells the story of a young couple whose car breaks down outside a castle — which they enter to get help, only to find themselves swept up in an "annual Transylvanian convention" packed with unique attendees celebrating their sexual freedom (and a Frankenstein-esque creation with the chiseled physique of a Greek god).
Gay USA (1977)
Shot on a single day across the United States by more than 25 different cameramen, Gay USA is a documentary that captures an openly joyful and inspiring celebration of Pride and the hard-fought battles that preceded this public expression. Featuring footage shot at a number of marches and events that took place on Gay Freedom Day in 1977, this movie stands as a comprehensive snapshot of LGBTQ+ communities during a time when efforts to bring visibility to the Gay Rights Movement were coalescing in an unprecedented way. Gay USA displays the defiant optimism that propelled the movement and groups that were constantly under attack, chronicling history as it was being made.
Paris Is Burning (1990)
For a time, drag ball culture and its voguing scene were little known to most people — but for those who participated, they were indispensable. This documentary by Jennie Livingston follows the New York City subculture’s heyday over seven years in the mid- to late-1980s, condensing them into a film that illuminates the elaborate structures of balls and the glamorous competitions they involved while interviewing both prominent and unknown members of the scene.
But I'm a Cheerleader (1999)
Gay conversion camps, homophobic parents and forced compliance with "traditional" gender roles are oppressive and unpleasant, to say the least. But when they’re satirized against a backdrop of cartoonish Barbie Dream House hues and when one of the parents is John Waters-film alum Mink Stole, they become vehicles for showing how camp and humor can be excellent coping tools.
Nico and Dani (2000)
Nico and Dani follows a 10-day span in the lives of the titular characters — two Spanish teenagers — as they settle into a casual summer vacation at a beach resort. But what the best friends anticipate to be a relaxing holiday turns into a series of revelations about their sexuality as Dani realizes he’s gay and has deep feelings for Nico, who wants to spend his time pursuing girls.
Activist and politician Harvey Milk was the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California (and one of the first in the entire United States), winning a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in the late 1970s. He made history and left an enduring legacy by helping to pass the first gay rights ordinance in the country, fighting against gentrification and displacement, and inspiring future generations of LGBTQ+ Americans to enter the political arena.
Carol is "decidedly not a love story that just so happens to be about two women. That they are both women, and that it is the 1950s, is as central to what happens to them as between them," writes Gabrielle Korn for Nylon. These two women — Carol and Therese — meet by chance at the department store where Therese works. Romance blossoms between them surreptitiously, as life in 1952 and Carol’s custody battle for her daughter demanded.
Moonlight follows Chiron through three stages of his life — childhood, adolescence, adulthood — and through the hardships he faces growing up in his Miami neighborhood — abuse, bullying, exposure to drug addiction. These elements shape his identity, but so do being gay and being Black, and we’re gifted a front row seat as Chiron navigates the murky waters of realizing who he is and the role his past played in shaping him.
The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson (2017)
Pride as we know it wouldn’t exist without Marsha P. Johnson, the trans activist and icon who led patrons at the Stonewall Inn to resist police antagonization and fight back during the famous riot that erupted on June 28, 1969. This frontline participation is one of the more widely known elements of Johnson’s life, but we owe it to her (and ourselves) to learn more about her story, especially her work to bring visibility and resources to her community. That’s where The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson comes in.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)
Told as a flashback, Portrait of a Lady on Fire follows Marianne, an artist who travels to western France in the late 1700s to paint a portrait of Héloïse, a woman who’s set to marry an Italian man. But Héloïse doesn’t want to get married, and as the two grow closer under Marianne’s guise of accompanying Héloïse everywhere to study her features for the portrait, they fall in love. Although their incandescent romance is cut short and the women are forced to separate, Portrait of a Lady on Fire brilliantly captures the magic of falling in love — and the longing melancholy that haunts us when we can’t be with the people we deeply desire.