The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association (GALECA) recently announced its membership’s picks for their second “GALECA 10 Best” list: The 10 Best LGBTQ Films Every Straight Person Should See.
Critics from the 120-member organization (Mirror A&E Editor J.W. Arnold is a member) submitted their personal choices for the list, selecting feature-length (70 minutes or longer) narrative films released theatrically in the U.S. Television movies, documentaries and short films were not eligible.
According to project chairs John Esther and Wesley Lovell, the goal was “to present films that we thought not only best reflected LGBTQ life and history—but which were also cinematically compelling and even groundbreaking. We weren’t looking for a traditional list of feel-good, positive portrayals of our world. We looked for love and stars, laughs and scars, bad boys, mean girls and veritable wars We looked at it all.”
They also acknowledge the films may not offer perfect representations of the community or the sheer diversity, but does showcase how broad LGBTQ entertainment critics’ interests and influences reach. The results sparked plenty of discussion—and some heated debate—within the organization.
Here are GALECA’s picks, in alphabetical order:
“The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”: More than portraying drag queens with a sensational truth, director Stephen Elliot’s joyful film glimmers with vibrant visuals and Oscar-winning costume design that remain influential today. Yet amid the lip-syncing, frock-wearing and smack-talking irreverence is a simple story of three men. One wants to be there for his son (Huge Weaving). One wants to escape the misery surrounding the departure of an accepting husband (Terence Stamp). One (Guy Pearce) just wants to explore life outside the big city without realizing that finding safety so far from home isn’t as easy as it seems.
(U.S. release date: August 10, 1994. Running time: 104 minutes. Fox Home Entertainment.)
“Boys Don’t Cry”: A provocative milestone in LGBT cinema, co-writer/director Kimberly Peirce’s knockout feature debut relays the true-life story of Brandon Teena (Oscar winner Hilary Swank). Upon release, “Boys Don’t Cry” opened up widespread dialogue about gender identity, violence toward the LGBTQA community, female sexuality and a lot more that, frankly, too many take for granted as par for the discourse in today’s discussion about queer identity, theory and rights. Let the conversations begin.
(U.S. release date: Oct. 8, 1999. Running time: 116 minutes. Fox Searchlight Pictures.)
“Brokeback Mountain”: Modern audiences have become increasingly more accepting of gay relationships on the big screen, with much of the credit going to the decades-spanning film. Painted with humanity and genuine emotion by master filmmaker Ang Lee, the film followed two ranch hands, Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal), as they find love and fairly graphic passion on a bleak mountainside in 1963. Returning to the “normal” world, over the years they find their hearts crushed by the strictures of society.
(Release date: December 9, 2005. Running time: 134 minutes. Focus Features.)
“Hedwig and the Angry Inch”: The film version of John Cameron Mitchell’s stage musical, about an East German singer who attempts to come to terms with the botched sex-change operation that left her with an “angry inch,” has rightly developed a cult following. Taking musical conventions and turning them on their bejeweled ear, the movie digs its painted nails into an infrequently celebrated subculture and winds up more than enlightening.
(U.S. release date: January 19, 2001. Running time: 91 minutes. New Line Cinema)
“The Kids Are All Right”: In the end, all any of us can hope for is a little piece of this world where we can build a family and live the life we’ve always wanted. Co-writer/director Lisa Cholodenko’s film paints the portrait of a suburban family whose peaceful veneer is cracked by curiosity and doubt. Starring Oscar nominees Annette Bening and Julianne Moore as a lesbian couple whose two children (Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson) seek out and insert their biological father (Oscar-nominated Mark Ruffalo) into their dynamic, the film tackles common issues facing many modern families.
(U.S. release date: July 9, 2010. Running time: 104 min. Focus Features.)
“Longtime Companion”: The film’s cinematic importance cannot be understated. The film’s studio release, at a time when the fear of AIDS was reaching a nadir, was something of a marvel. Another brick in the wall of hate crumbled. Knowing this film is tantamount to feeling enlightened and enriched.
(U.S. release date: May 11, 1990. Running time: 100 minutes. Samuel Goldwyn Company.)
“Maurice”: Director and cowriter James Ivory’s adaptation of E.M. Forster’s novel exquisitely captures the love and longing of young gay men in Edwardian England. From the sets to the scenery to the Oscar-nominated costumes, the film is loaded with such style, one may wish it were once again those grand ol’ repressive times. Viewers will relish, though, the progressive-thinking capper. Sit down, swap out “Downton Abbey” and pass the cognac.
(U.S. release date: Sept. 1, 1987. Running time: 139 mins. Lorimar Home Video.)
“Milk”: Featuring a thoughtful, tour-de-force performance by Sean Penn (Oscar’s choice for Best Actor), director Gus Van Sant’s biopic of civil rights icon Harvey Milk — the first openly gay person to be elected to office in California (in 1978) and who was later assassinated by a former colleague — stands as a supremely affecting biopic.
(U.S. release date: Nov. 26, 2008. Running time: 128 min. Focus Features.)
“My Beautiful Laundrette”: Set against the backdrop of Thatcher’s tumultuous and reactionary England, director Stephen Frears’ film tells the tale of two lovers, Omar (Gordon Warnecke), a Pakastani, and his old friend, Johnny (Daniel Day-Lewis), a local gang member. Thanks to Omar, the two begin to run a laundermat together. But this is lower-class England, where there is always trouble looming for immigrants and young, gay men.
(U.S. release date: Sept. 7, 1985. Running time: 93 mins. Orion Classics.)
“Weekend”: One Friday night, Russell (Tom Cullen) and Glen (Chris New) meet at a gay club. The two go back to Russell’s and have sex. From that night on, these two strangers begin to develop an intimate and somewhat intellectual relationship, delving into the nature of identity and love over the course of a weekend. Russell and Glen’s encounter will leave an indelible impression on each other — and viewers as well.
(U.S. release date: Sept. 23, 2011. Running time: 96 min. IFC Films.)