Countdown: The 15 Greatest LGBTQ Romance Movies of All Time – Parade
For Pride Month, or any other time of the year for that matter, it’s valuable to know where to look for great romantic movies. We’ve rounded up and ranked the 15 best romantic films about LGBTQ characters ever. These acclaimed movies reminded audiences worldwide that love is love.
Please note, for this list we’ve only included movies where romantic relationships are front-and-center, so recent triumphs Can You Ever Forgive Me? and Booksmart won’t be here, as those films were more focused on friendships.
In ascending order, here is our ranking of the 15 greatest LGBTQ romance films of all time. Some spoilers ahead.
15. Blue is the Warmest Color (2013)
Its reputation somewhat marred by controversy and a highly publicized falling-out between star and director, Blue is the Warmest Color is an undeniably moving epic, carried by sensational lead performances by Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos. Blue is the Warmest Color unanimously won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, also winning awards for director Abdellatif Kechiche and the actresses. Sadly, the director ‘s latest, Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo, was marred by even grislier behind-the-scenes controversy, and is one of the biggest critical disappointments in Cannes history.
14. The Handmaiden (2016)
This erotic psychological thriller is such a twisty ride that it almost feels like a spoiler to put it on this list. Park Chan-wook‘s elegant suspenser tells of a blossoming love between a wealthy Japanese woman (Kim Min-hee) and a Korean pickpocket (Kim Tae-ri)… and of the men who try to control and oppress them. For any viewer willing to embrace the subtitles, some shocking sex and gore, and a hefty runtime, The Handmaiden is a giddy blast. It won a BAFTA for Best Film Not in the English Language.
13. The Favourite (2018)
Though this is no one’s idea of a good date movie, The Favourite boasts one of the most stunning ensemble casts in memory, and it has no shortage of heart. The exquisitely crafted and brutally funny dark comedy tells of a love triangle between Queen Anne (Olivia Colman), her advisor Sarah (Rachel Weisz), and Sarah’s impoverished cousin Abby (Emma Stone). Abby is ultimately exposed as a user, but the love between Sarah and Anne has a sad, honest truth about it. What takes the film the extra mile is the depth of these characters; we feel for all of them. The Favourite was nominated for 10 Academy Awards—winning a really, really well-deserved trophy for Colman’s tragicomic tour de force.
Related: 10 Movies and TV Series to Watch If You’re Hooked on The Crown
12. (tie) Get Real and Show Me Love (both 1998)
Two full decades before there was Love, Simon, these funny and poignant dramedies beautifully captured the ache and innocence of first love between schoolmates. Based on the play What’s Wrong With Angry?, British release Get Real tells of a nerd (Ben Silverstone) who has a passionate fling with the school’s hottest jock (Brad Gorton). Swedish Show Me Love was titled after the classic Robyn tune that plays over its end credits, and it tells of two seemingly disparate girls (Alexandra Dahlström and Rebecka Liljeberg) who fall for each other.
You can’t put a price tag on a teen movie that really gets things right.
11. My Own Private Idaho (1991)
Love is love, even when it’s unrequited love. Nearly 25 years before he was John Wick, Keanu Reeves played opposite River Phoenix in Gus Van Sant‘s poetic, sexy and sad update of Shakespeare’s Henry IV. Phoenix’s performance as a narcoleptic male hustler with devastating abandonment issues earned universal praise, including the Venice Film Festival’s Volpi Cup for Best Actor. His death in 1993 was a shattering loss for film.
10. Brokeback Mountain (2005)
A watershed moment for Hollywood and pop culture at large, Ang Lee‘s tragic Western won best film and best director honors in nearly every corner of the awards circuit, including the Golden Globes, the BAFTAs, the PGA Awards, the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards and the Independent Spirit Awards. Brokeback Mountain received eight nods at the 78th Academy Awards, winning in three categories including Best Director. Its surprise Best Picture loss to Paul Haggis‘s Crash is widely considered one of the biggest upsets in Academy history, if not the biggest.
Related: 20 Romantic Quotes from Literature
9. Love, Simon (2018)
You may never find a film more quietly revolutionary than this, the first-ever Hollywood studio-released picture centered on a gay teen. You’ll also be hard-pressed to find a movie that’s sweeter–like, honestly genuinely sweet, nothing saccharine or phony about it. Seventeen-year-old Simon Spier (Nick Robinson)’s coming-out story generated a coveted A+ CinemaScore from test audiences, and in its way, it’s already an all-timer. Coming out is never easy, and it’s not an overstatement to say Greg Berlanti‘s accessible, often hilarious movie about it can change and even save lives.
8. Maurice (1987)
Based on the novel by E.M. Forster, this was an early triumph for Merchant Ivory Productions. In addition to sympathetic and textured performances from Hugh Grant, James Wilby and the rest of the impressive cast, Maurice is notable for its rebellious, ahead-of-its-time upbeat ending. Well, it’s a happy ending for two of the characters, anyway. Maurice received one Oscar nod, for its eye-catching and accurate period costumes.
Related: James Ivory Talks Maurice For a New Generation and Call Me By Your Name
7. Stranger by the Lake (2008)
Perhaps the darkest film on this list (it’s probably even darker than The Favourite because there are some slayings)–but too glorious to skip over, this French suspense yarn is set at an eerily quiet cruising ground and nude beach. Its appeal isn’t that far removed from Twilight, only it’s much smarter. At the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, Alain Guiraudie won Best Director, and L’Inconnu du lac also won the Queer Palm. The film features graphic sex scenes, some filmed with body doubles. Stranger by the Lake has so much on its brain that it would be entirely reductive to just label it a “gay movie.”
6. The Crying Game (1992)
Neil Jordan‘s dense, exhilarating character-driven masterwork is many things. It’s a violent, taut thriller about political unrest. It’s so funny at times one could be tempted to call it a dark comedy. It has one of the most hyped and brilliant plot twists of all time, one to rival Psycho and The Empire Strikes Back.
Running through all of this is a touching romance of the best kind—the kind where two people grow and become better human beings because they know each other. The Crying Game won the BAFTA Award for Best British Film. It was nominated for six Oscars, winning for Best Original Screenplay. This is one of the smartest scripts ever, by any metric.
5. God’s Own Country (2017)
The most underrated–or at least the most under-seen–film on this list, Francis Lee‘s quiet, optimistic stunner about the healing powers of a love between two farmhands is something like perfection. Set in the filmmaker’s native Yorkshire, God’s Own Country has a uniquely tactile quality about it, and lead actors Josh O’Connor and Alec Secareanu don’t hit a false note.
The emotional arc and through-line here is as simple and clear as it is effective. It all sneaks up on you, then knocks the stuffing out of you. Best of luck not sobbing uncontrollably.
Related: Parade‘s Review of God’s Own Country
4. Call Me By Your Name (2017)
An emotionally ripe experience for the senses, Call Me By Your Name was nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor for Timothée Chalamet‘s star-making breakthrough. James Ivory‘s Oscar-winning script makes heavy cuts from the last chunk of André Aciman‘s sexy, enthralling novel. These cuts are right for the screen, though. Ivory keeps a wistful, moving monologue near the end intact, and the film’s final moments and last shot are already iconic.
Related: Parade‘s Review of Call Me By Your Name
3. Weekend (2011)
With only three feature films (including Lean on Pete and 45 Years under his belt, British writer/director Andrew Haigh has one of the most distinct and endearing styles of any auteur working today. His films are glacially paced and almost aggressively subtle—and in that, they’re uncommonly full of discovery and truth. Weekend, starring Tom Cullen and Chris New as lovers who have a one-night stand that becomes something more, is a delicate masterpiece. The actors embody the characters and rich dialogue so completely you could forget you aren’t watching real life from the outset.
Related: Andrew Haigh Talks Lean on Pete, Possibly Reviving Looking on Netflix
2. Carol (2015)
Based on the 1952 novel The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith, what is arguably the best film of Todd Haynes‘s illustrious career to date tells the story of forbidden love between a young photographer (Rooney Mara) and an older woman (Cate Blanchett) going through a rough divorce. This is an utterly riveting, even exhausting watch, as the lovers must overcome disheartening, dehumanizing adversity. The hopeful ending is hard-won and deeply gratifying.
Mara won Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival, but was submitted for Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars. Carol was nominated for six Academy Awards total, surprisingly shut out of Best Picture and Best Director categories.
1. Moonlight (2016)
By the end of Moonlight‘s unforgettable three acts, we’ve witnessed nothing less than the birth and salvation of a human soul.
Defiantly eschewing sentimentality and hand-holding, director and screenwriter Barry Jenkins tells this story of light and love in seemingly hopeless circumstances with broad strokes, gritty reality, and some of the most intoxicating audiovisual loveliness on record.
Moonlight won three Academy Awards, including a Best Picture victory in one of the biggest live-television blunders of all time. Moonlight will stand alongside the likes of Casablanca, The Godfather and select others as a Best Picture winner for the ages.
Honorable Mention: Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)
It feels like a stretch to call it a romance, but the status of John Cameron Mitchell‘s hilarious, touching rock musical as a queer landmark, not to mention its sheer greatness, mean Hedwig can’t go unmentioned. Mitchell’s controversial and envelope-pushing relationship study Shortbus is another one to seek out.
Other highly recommended honorable mentions include: Disobedience (2018), Trick (1999), Paris 05:59: Théo and Hugo (2016), My Beautiful Laundrette (1985) and Bound (1996).
What’s your favorite LGBTQ romance film of all time? Think we missed one here? Let us know in the comments. Happy Pride!
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