The 30 Best LGBTQ+ Movies of All Time & Where to Watch Them

Documentaries, dramas and swoon-worthy romances.
Movie posters for "Boys Don't Cry" and "Carol"
Photos, left to right: Amazon, IMDb
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Brittany Barber
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Brittany Barber
The Knot Contributor
  • From top movie picks to celebrity scoops and travel advice, Brittany writes on a wide range of topics for The Knot.
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  • Brittany has a Bachelor of Arts in media and communications studies, along with minors in creative writing, theater studies and music performance....
Updated Feb 01, 2024
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The best LGBTQ+ movies feature powerful stories that give voice to experiences often sidelined in mainstream media. While these films serve as excellent entertainment, many of them also work to educate, challenge perceptions and celebrate the multidimensional truths of LGBTQ+ communities.

These cinematic masterpieces weave tales of love, identity, tragedy and triumph, reflecting diverse narratives across a range of decades and cultures. From the vibrant and defiant spirit captured in Paris is Burning to the passionate scenes in Blue is the Warmest Color, these critically acclaimed films are not to be missed.

Each of the following movies give viewers the chance to relate with the joys, pains and complexities of the LGBTQ+ characters depicted. They critique stereotypes, confront history and invite broader conversations about acceptance and equality. So, whether you're looking for gripping LGBTQ+ documentaries or the best LGBTQ+ romance movies, keep reading for our curated collection of amazing films to add to your watchlist.

The Knot's LGBTQ+ Movie Ranking

Still from "Saltburn"
Photo: Prime Video

When it comes to the best LGBTQ+ movies, here are our top picks.

Best Romance: Carol
Most Nostalgic: My Own Private Idaho
Best Documentary: We Were Here
Most Underrated: Girl Picture
Best Newcomer: Saltburn
Editor's Favorite: Paris is Burning

Read on for the 30 best LGBTQ+ movies of all time.

Paris is Burning

Considered one of the best LGBTQ+ movies, this vibrant documentary delves into Harlem's ball culture scene in the 1980s. After six years of filming, director Jennie Livingston pieced together an intimate glimpse into the lives of African-American, Latino, gay and transgender communities who were involved. It explores race, gender and sexuality in America, showcasing the struggles, aspirations and epic performances of ball participants.

Release Date: September 13, 1990 | Watch Trailer

God's Own Country

In the rural landscape of Yorkshire, England, a young farmer's monotonous life is upended by the arrival of a Romanian migrant worker. As the story unfolds, their relationship evolves from simply co-existing to a deep, complex bond that challenges traditional notions of love within a conservative community.

Release Date: September 1, 2017 | Watch Trailer

Flee

This animated documentary depicts the life of Amin Nawabi, who shares his journey as a refugee after fleeing to Denmark from his home in Afghanistan. Director Jonas Poher Rasmussen, who has known Nawabi since they were teenagers, interviews him. Blending Nawabi's present and past, this film explores themes of identity, trauma and resilience, revealing his struggles with his personal history.

Release Date: June 17, 2021 | Watch Trailer

Saltburn

"Saltburn" poster
Photo: Amazon

With an ensemble cast that includes Barry Keoghan, Jacob Elordie and Rosamund Pike, Saltburn is a darkly comedic psychological thriller that is sure to give you the chills. It follows Oliver, an outcast student at Oxford, who becomes fixated with the popular and affluent Felix. When he is invited to stay with Felix's family for the summer, things take a turn for the worse.

Release Date: November 22, 2023 | Watch Trailer

Girl Picture

Set in Finland, Girl Picture follows three teenage girls navigating the complexities of young adulthood. As each character confronts the challenges of self-discovery, the story beautifully captures the intensity of female friendships and the clumsiness that often comes along with figuring out one's sexual identity.

Release Date: April 14, 2022 | Watch Trailer

We Were Here

This compelling LGBTQ+ documentary revisits the AIDS crisis in San Francisco through the personal stories of five people who were directly impacted. It explores the devastating effects of the epidemic on the gay community while highlighting the extraordinary compassion, unity and activism sparked by the tragedy.

Release Date: Sep 9, 2011 | Watch Trailer

My Own Private Idaho

This LGBTQ+ movie is a 1991 independent film directed by Gus Van Sant. It's a character-driven story that focuses on two young men, Mike Waters (played by River Phoenix) and Scott Favor (Keanu Reeves). It follows their journey through the Pacific Northwest, where they encounter a range of interesting people and situations.

Release Date: September 29, 1991 | Watch Trailer

BPM

When it comes to gay movies you have to watch, BPM is one of them. Set in Paris during the 1990s, this French film portrays members of the ACT UP movement as they advocate for AIDS awareness and treatment. It's a powerful mix of romance, tragedy and activism, revealing the personal and collective struggles of those who fought to survive.

Release Date: August 23, 2017 | Watch Trailer

The Half of It

Still from "The Half Of It"
Photo: IMDb

Loosely based on the 1897 play Cyrano de Bergerac, this LGBTQ+ film follows a shy, intelligent girl who agrees to help a clumsy jock win over a girl. As the plot unfolds, it becomes a complex triangle of unrequited love that explores themes of friendship and identity, highlighting the courage it takes to express (and accept) one's truth.

Release Date: May 1, 2020 | Watch Trailer

Boy Erased

This moving drama is based on Garrard Conley's 2016 memoir of the same name, which tells the story of a young man who is sent to a controversial gay conversion therapy program. The film depicts his struggle with identity, faith and familial expectations, highlighting the emotional and psychological impacts of such programs.

Release Date: September 2, 2018 | Watch Trailer

The Handmaiden

Inspired by the 2002 novel Fingersmith by Sarah Waters, The Handmaiden is set in Japanese-occupied Korea in the 1930s. With plenty of deception, eroticism and betrayal, the story follows a young Korean woman who is hired as a handmaiden to a wealthy Japanese heiress.

Release Date: June 1, 2016 | Watch Trailer

Moonlight

Moonlight follows Chiron, a young black man growing up in Miami. It's divided into three acts, each depicting a different stage in his life from childhood to adulthood. It explores his struggles with identity, sexuality and the challenges of his environment. It received critical acclaim for its powerful storytelling, stunning cinematography and exceptional performances, including an Oscar win for Best Picture.

Release Date: September 2, 2016 | Watch Trailer

Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Set in France in the late 18th century, this romantic LGBTQ+ drama revolves around Marianne, a young painter commissioned to create a portrait of Héloïse, a young woman who has just left the convent. As the two women spend time together, they develop a deep bond and an intimate relationship unfolds.

Release Date: February 14, 2020 | Watch Trailer

Tomboy

This French film follows the story of Laure, a 10-year-old girl who, after moving to a new neighborhood, decides to introduce herself as a boy named Mikäel. As Mikäel, Laure finds acceptance among her peers — but as the plot moves forward, Laure grapples with the complexities of her true identity and the consequences of her secret.

Release Date: December 2, 2011 | Watch Trailer

Carol

Poster of "Carol"
Photo: IMDb

Starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, Carol is set in 1950's New York. It tells the story of an affair between an aspiring young photographer and an older woman going through a difficult divorce, highlighting the societal prejudices and personal challenges they face during their time together.

Release Date: November 27, 2015 | Watch Trailer

Pariah

Pariah is a powerful, coming-of-age drama about a 17-year-old Black girl navigating her lesbian identity in Brooklyn. The film beautifully captures her journey of self-discovery, the conflicts with her family's expectations and her search for belonging in a world that often feels alienating.

Release Date: December 28, 2011 | Watch Trailer

Call Me By Your Name

Set in 1980s Italy, this film follows the summer romance between 17-year-old Elio Perlman (played by Timothée Chalamet) and 24-year-old American graduate student Oliver (Armie Hammer). Their passionate relationship unfolds against the backdrop of a picturesque Italian countryside, leading to profound self-discovery and heartbreak.

Release Date: January 19, 2018 | Watch Trailer

A Secret Love

A Secret Love is a documentary that unveils the long-hidden romance between Terry Donahue and Pat Henschel, who kept their same-sex relationship a secret for nearly seven decades. Having met in Canada in 1947, their story reflects the progression of LGBTQ+ rights, offering an inspiring and deeply personal look at enduring love against the odds.

Release Date: April 29, 2020 | Watch Trailer

Weekend

This British romance movie portrays a fleeting encounter between two men, which serves as an in depth exploration of connection, intimacy and self-discovery. Over a weekend, their casual interaction deepens, offering a raw and realistic look at modern relationships and the nuances of forming a bond.

Release Date: November 4, 2011 | Watch Trailer

The Favorite

Poster for "The Favorite"
Photo: Amazon

Starring Oliva Colman and Emma Stone, The Favorite is set in the early 18th-century English court. It's a darkly comedic and visually stunning exploration of power, manipulation and desire, offering a unique look at historical queer relationships and political intrigue.

Release Date: January 1, 2019 | Watch Trailer

Milk

This biopic chronicles the life of Harvey Milk, California's first openly gay elected official. It presents Milk's journey from a community organizer in San Francisco to a political figurehead, culminating in his tragic assassination and highlighting his enduring impact on LGBTQ+ rights.

Release Date: October 28, 2008 | Watch Trailer

Beautiful Thing

Based on Jonathan Harvey's play of the same name, Beautiful Thing is set in the working-class area of Southeast London. This LGBTQ+ rom com follows the romance between two teenage boys, Jamie and Ste, who discover love and joy despite tough circumstances.

Release Date: June 21, 1996 | Watch Trailer

Farewell, My Queen

Based on Chantal Thomas's novel of the same name, this LGBTQ+ drama is set during the final days of the French monarchy. It portrays the intense emotional entanglement between Queen Marie Antoinette (Diane Kruger), her reader Sidonie Laborde (Léa Seydoux) and the Duchess Gabrielle de Polignac (Virginie Ledoyen).

Release Date: June 15, 2012 | Watch Trailer

Boys Don't Cry

Poster for "Boys Don't Cry"
Photo: Amazon

This LGBTQ+ film tells the true story of Brandon Teena, a trans man who was murdered in Nebraska in 1993. It breaks down Brandon's struggles with identity, love and acceptance in a conservative rural town, emphasizing the immense challenges faced by transgender individuals in a society that often rejects them.

Release Date: October 29, 1999 | Watch Trailer

Show Me Love

Show Me Love is a Swedish film about the budding romance between two very different teenage girls in the small town of Åmål, Sweden. As they come to terms with their feelings for one another, they must navigate social pressures and the intensity of adolescent transformation.

Release Date: October 23, 1998 | Watch Trailer

Before Night Falls

Based on his autobiography of the same name, this biographical drama follows the life of Cuban poet and novelist Reinaldo Arenas (played by Javier Bardem). It chronicles his time in and out of jail, his attempts to leave Cuba and his struggles with sexuality, politics and censorship.

Release Date: February 9, 2001 | Watch Trailer

Parting Glances

This pioneering film from 1986 is one of the first to focus on the impact AIDS had on America's gay community during the Ronald Reagan era. It follows the long-distance relationship of Robert and Michael, a gay couple in their late 20s.

Release Date: February 19, 1986 | Watch Trailer

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

This film tells the true story of Lee Israel (played by Melissa McCarthy), a struggling writer who turns to forging letters from famous literary figures to make ends meet. As her "business" grows, she forms an unexpected friendship with her accomplice, Jack Hock (played by Richard E. Grant), who has AIDs.

Release Date: October 19, 2018 | Watch Trailer

The Birdcage

Poster for "The Birdcage"
Photo: Amazon

Starring Robin Williams, The Birdcage is a 1996 remake of the 1978 French film La Cage aux Folles by Édouard Molinaro. It's a touching rom com about a gay couple who pose as a heterosexual couple when they meet their son's conservative in-laws, leading to a series of humorous and heartwarming moments.

Release Date: March 8, 1996 | Watch Trailer

Blue is the Warmest Color

Based on the graphic novel by Julie Maroh, this French film should be high up on your list of passionate gay movies to watch. It centers on Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos), a young woman whose life changes when she meets Emma (Léa Seydoux), an artist with a free-spirited approach to life. The film explores their intense love affair and the emotional journey of Adèle as she discovers who she is.

Release Date: October 9, 2013 | Watch Trailer

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