10 Essential Films That Portray The The Struggle For Acceptance And Equality

HBO’s A Normal Heart was the latest in a number of powerful films that depict the LGBT community’s ongoing struggle for acceptance and equality. There have been many others over the years. We’ve compiled just a few of our favorites for you to add to your list of must-see movies.

Check out these 10 great gay films.

Southern Comfort

This 2001 documentary chronicles the final year in the life of Robert Eads, a transgender man living in the Deep South. At the beginning of the film, Eads has already been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and has been rejected for treatment by over 20 doctors, who all fear that helping a transman could hurt their reputations. By the time Eads finds a doctor willing to help, the cancer has become too advanced to save him. Eads’ final mission in life is to attend the next Southern Comfort conference, an annual meeting held in Atlanta for transgender people. Southern Comfort received widespread critical acclaim and won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival and First Prize at the Seattle International Film Festival, among other awards.

The Case Against 8

HBO’s The Cast Against 8 offers an in-depth peek at the historic federal lawsuit filed to overturn Proposition 8, which banned marriage for same-sex couples in California. The documentary features exclusive behind-the-scenes footage of both the powerhouse legal team of David Boies and Ted Olson, who previously faced off as opposing counsel in Bush v. Gore, along with the four plaintiffs in the suit, and offers a powerful account of the journey that took the fight for marriage equality all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Prayers For Bobby

We can hardly believe we’re actually recommending a Lifetime Original Movie, but 2009’s Prayers For Bobby is a genuinely moving film. It’s based on the true story of Bobby Griffith, a young man who killed himself in 1983 because of his mother’s oppressive homophobic religious beliefs. As a result, she became a vocal advocate and champion for LGBT rights. The film stars Sigourney Weaver and was nominated for a slew of awards, including two Primetime Emmys, a Golden Globe, a SAG Award and a GLAAD Media Award.

A Silverlake Life: The View From Here

Winner of over 10 international awards including the Prix Italia and the Sundance Grand Jury Prize, this 1993 video diary offers a candid glimpse into the lives of two men dying of AIDS in Los Angeles. Shot with a hand-held video camera, the film documents the final months of Tom Joslin and Mark Massi’s lives. It’s incredibly difficult to watch, but the film’s emotional impact is both profound and lasting, offering a bittersweet reminder of the strength of the human spirit.

Valentine Road

This 2013 documentary recounts the sad story of Larry King, the California middle school student who was shot and killed for asking another boy to be his Valentine in 2008. The film examines both Larry and his murderer’s home lives, what prompted the killing, and how their community has coped, and in some cases not coped, with such an extreme act of violence.

The Times of Harvey Milk

Before 2008’s Milk, there was 1984’s The Times of Harvey Milk, an Academy Award-winning documentary about the late LGBT rights activist and first openly gay person ever to be elected to public office. The film was digitally restored and re-released on DVD in 2011, and in 2012, it was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry

Angels in America

Perhaps the mother of all movies about the AIDS epidemic, Tony Kushner’s epic Angels in America centers around six different New Yorkers whose lives intersect during the height of the AIDS crisis in the mid-1980s. The miniseries, which is adapted from Kushner’s award-winning play, stars an impressive roster of talent including Meryl Streep, Al Pacino, Emma Thompson, Mary Louise-Parker and Patrick Wilson, among others.

Small Town Gay Bar

This 2006 documentary from out filmmaker Malcolm Ingram looks at two gay bars in two rural Mississippi, and the bigotry and oppression many of the bar’s patrons face on a regular basis. The film also examines the barbaric murder of Scotty Joe Weaver, the 18-year-old gay man who was beaten, stabbed, strangled, and burned to death in Bay Minette, Alabama in 2004, and the dangers of being openly gay in the rural south.

Me @ The Zoo

Love him or hate him, there’s no denying Chris Crocker‘s ability to keep himself in the spotlight. Me @ The Zoo looks at his as a young gay man living in Tennessee, his struggles with being bullied in school, his strained relationship with his mother, and how he used the internet to escape the oppressive small town where he grew up. As polarizing and, frankly, annoying as Crocker can be, Me @ The Zoo offers a fascinating and surprising portrait one of the internet’s biggest gay stars.

Paris Is Burning

An absolute must-see, this 1990 documentary explores New York’s drag and ball culture and the voguing phenomenon made famous by Madonna a few years later. The film shows how urban gay and trans youth used dance and the nightlife as method of coping with their daily hardships. The film was a huge hit upon its release, garnering several awards from film festivals across the globe.

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  • Ihadtosayit

    Marlon Riggs’ essay film Tongues United gives voice to communities of black gay men, presenting their cultures and perspectives on the world as they confront racism, homophobia, and marginalization. It broke new artistic ground by mixing poetry (by Essex Hemphill and other artists), music, performance and Riggs’ autobiographical revelations. The film was embraced by black gay audiences for its authentic representation of style, and culture, as well its fierce response to oppression. It opened up opportunities for dialogue among and across communities.

  • molalx

    Also “Word is Out” (1977); “Tongues Untied” (1989); “Paragraph 175” (2000);
    Great job guys!

  • Ihadtosayit

    Situated in various locations throughout the City of Angels, Jonathan Menendez’s braided documentary Gay Latino Los Angeles presents the frank, compelling testimonials of three Latino twenty-somethings from different backgrounds and charts their self-discovery and growth over a two-year period. Alex is a Mexican hipster whose hopes for an education and a better life in the U.S. are compromised by his undocumented status. Brian is a Salvadoran who—though educated at UC Berkeley—lacks confidence to enter the workplace even as he yearns to better the world through engaged activism. And Carlos is a Chicano homeboy from South LA whose party lifestyle is self-destructive compensation for not being able to fully come out of the closet. Menendez nests these three testimonials within imagery of an Indigenous tradition that asserts that the search for identity among gay Latinos will lead to the recovery of a rich, neglected history specific to the region.

  • Ihadtosayit

    In a time when Islam is under tremendous attack from within and without, “A Jihad for Love” is a daring documentary filmed in twelve countries and nine languages. Muslim gay filmmaker Parvez Sharma has gone where the silence is loudest, filming with great risk in nations where government permission to make this film was not an option.

    “A Jihad for Love” is Mr. Sharma’s debut and is the world’s first feature documentary to explore the complex global intersections between Islam and homosexuality.

  • alexfromlx

    @Ihadtosayit: hehehe on the same wavelength! :)

  • skylerbound

    Can’t embedd. But Yeah The Celluloid Closest and Before Stonewall AND After Stonewalls are also essential viewing as well

  • Mezaien

    What a great movies I will try to see them all. PS, Christianity is a mental illness Christian, are mentally ill.

  • Ihadtosayit

    The place of gay and lesbian congregation and clergy within various Christian denominations has become an increasingly controversial issue in recent decades, and many conservative Christian leaders have justified church polices which limit the participation of homosexuals in the church (as well as support of legislation against gay marriage or civil rights for gays) by citing certain passages of the Holy Bible. But what do these passages really mean? How accurate is their translation from the original holy texts? And have they been used outside of proper context to justify a political agenda that runs counter to Christian ideals of acceptance and forgiveness? ‘For The Bible Tells Me So’ is a documentary, which looks at the ongoing battle of gays and lesbians to celebrate their faith without denying their sexual preferences. The film includes interviews with a number of conservative Christian families as well as V. Gene Robinson, who became the first officially ordained Anglican bishop; political activist and spiritual leader Bishop Desmond Tutu; and Chrissy Gephardt, the openly lesbian daughter of Congressman Dick Gephardt. For The Bible Tells Me So was directed by Daniel Karslake, longtime producer of the PBS news and public affairs series In The Life.

    See the ENTIRE VIDEO here:

  • Ihadtosayit

    Flag Wars is a 2003 American documentary film about the conflict between two communities during the gentrification of a Columbus, Ohio neighborhood. Filmed in a cinéma vérité style, the film is an account of the tension between the two historically oppressed communities of African-Americans and gays in Columbus’ Olde Towne East neighborhood.

  • Ihadtosayit

    “Out Late” is an inspirational and moving documentary about five individuals who made the courageous and life altering decision to come out as lesbian, gay, or transgender, after the age of 55.

    Why did they wait until their 50’s, 60’s, or 70’s to come out? And what was the turning point that caused each of them to openly declare their sexuality? From Canada to Florida, to Kansas, we explore what ultimately led these dynamic individuals to make the liberating choice to live openly and honestly amongst their family, friends and community, perhaps for the first time in their lives.

  • Ihadtosayit

    This long, hard look into the masculine physical ideal that many gay men pursue piles on the chiseled bodies and probes topics including plastic surgery, steroids, the gay porn industry, circuit parties, and the pros and cons of living one’s life as eye candy.

  • Ihadtosayit

    Trembling Before G-d is an 2001 American documentary film about gay and lesbian Orthodox Jews trying to reconcile their sexuality with their faith. It was directed by Sandi Simcha DuBowski, an American who wanted to compare Orthodox Jewish attitudes to homosexuality with his own upbringing as a gay Conservative Jew.

  • KDub

    Looks like Graham has been upstaged. lol

    @Mezaien: You sound just like the homophobes that say homosexuality is a mental illness. Hypocrite much?

  • lhpr

    Sex IS… (1993) a film by Marc Huestis and Lawrence Helman

  • ingyaom

    Don’t forget about “Beautiful Thing”.

  • Jenni Olson

    What a great piece! And how wonderful to see all the contributions here. And let me just add — LOVE FREE OR DIE, the amazing portrait of Bishop Gene Robinson.

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