Everyone needs a bit of gayness in their lives (seriously), and what better to find it than through the magic of cinema? Even better, why not find said gayness within a fine documentary about the real-life struggles of men and women.
The docs we’ve listed here all score well on the RottenTomatoes review aggregator. Granted, the so-called Tomatometer is not entirely accurate but it almost always steers us right.
The 10 films listed here all earn their runtime with stories harrowing, moving, infuriating and always fabulous.
1. Gay Sex in the 70s – RT 71%
For many gay people, the 1970s seems like a lost paradise of liberation, disco, parties and, well frankly, sex. Anyone wishing to find the truth behind the legend should look no further than this doc, which pulls back the darkroom curtain. Veterans of the era recount some of their most outrageous and hot stories of free love, gay lib, and the edge of disaster.
Gay Sex in the 70s streams on Amazon and iTunes.
2. Strike a Pose – 94%
So, just what did happen to those dancers that surrounded Madonna in the documentary Truth or Dare? Strike a Pose knows, and not all the answers are pretty. A bold and gritty showbiz story, the film traces the evolution of gay life from the height of the AIDS crisis to present day, and the cruel life on the wicked stage.
Strike a Pose streams on Netflix and iTunes.
3. Gayby Baby – 86%
With more and gayer couples—both in the US and abroad—becoming parents, the topic of parenting will dominate conversations in the future. This Aussie documentary knows that, comes to the fore by tracking four kids raised by gay parents over a three year period. Charming, funny and moving, it’s a must-see…so much so that the Australian government has now mandated showings in schools.
Gayby Baby streams on Netflix, Amazon, iTunes, YouTube and Vudu.
4. Deep Water: The Real Story – N/A
Get ready to get pissed. A wave of hate crimes swept over Sydney, Australia in the 1980s & ’90s resulting in the violent murders of at least 30 gay men. Worse, the police actively refused to investigate the crimes, or in some cases, even actively concealed them, even in the wake of violent gangs hunting down gay people in the city. Now, thanks to two documentarians and angry family members, the truth about the Sydney gay panic has come to light. Deep Water: The Real Story (not to be confused with the excellent Aussie miniseries of the same name), will leave viewers enraged.
Deep Water: The Real Story streams on Amazon.
5. Who’s Going to Love Me Now – RT 100%
Who’s Going to Love Me Now journeys abroad to tell the story of Saar, an Israeli living in London struggling with his religious roots, and with contracting HIV. A bittersweet documentary about prejudices of all kinds, the movie ultimately becomes an argument for (and tale of) forgiveness, accompanied by a soundtrack from the London Gay Men’s Chorus.
Who’s Going to Love Me Now streams on Netflix.
Related: “Strike A Pose” Reveals The Fascinating Personal Stories Of Madonna’s ‘Blond Ambition’ Dancers
6. Paris is Burning – RT 100%
The seminal documentary on the New York Drag Ball scene remains a classic of documentary and queer cinema, and, given the popularity of RuPaul’s Drag Race and the underground ball scene itself, might play even more relevant today than when it debuted 20 years ago.
Paris is Burning streams on Netflix.
7. Freedom to Marry – RT 94%
Needless to say, the marriage equality movement represents the biggest struggle for gay rights in American history. Freedom to Marry traces the progress of the marriage equality movement, focusing on the parties that actually got the issue before the Supreme Court. The film’s storybook happy ending plays with irony when viewed in the Trump era, serving as a reminder that fighting to protect rights is just as important as fighting for them.
Freedom to Marry streams on Netflix, Amazon, iTunes and YouTube.
8. I am Divine – RT 96%
Director Jeffery Schwarz spotlights the famed character and drag queen in this somewhat ironic biopic. The story of a femme, fat boy who grew up to eat real dog feces on camera and become an international superstar, I am Divne, like its subject, will invite laughter and cheers, and should be seen to be believed.
I am Divine streams on YouTube, iTunes, Vudu, and Amazon.
9. Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine – RT 100%
The brutal murder of Matthew Shepard in 1998 shocked the nation and brought new attention to the issue of gay bashing and hate crimes. But who was the young man who became a martyr for the cause? Directed by Shepard’s real-life friend Michelle Josue, Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine recounts the life and love of its subject as it tries to recreate the circumstances that led to his death. Spoiler alert: Shepard was not the meth-cooking pimp a certain crackpot author has made him out to be.
Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine streams on YouTube, iTunes, Vudu, and Amazon.
10. The New Black – RT 85%
The issue of queer rights remains a hotbutton issue within communities of faith, particularly for African-Americans. The New Black documents the conversation within that community in Maryland, and how a group long tasked with fighting for civil rights reacts to a new struggle for equality. The film also exposes the sinister agenda of the right wing to turn black people against gay people in hopes of political gain. Balanced with both sides of the debate, The New Black ultimately raises questions about the nature of freedom, and the responsibilities it entails.
The New Black streams on YouTube, iTunes, Vudu, and Amazon.
I want to see gay sex in the seventies and deep water.
Deep Water is very good. It really tore the lid of what really happened and the corruption at the time. As someone who was a victim of one of these bashings during that era I found it very confronting to watch but I am glad the truth is out there and being recognised.
Here is a link to the SBS Australia website but not sure if you will be able to access it fro the US
I’ve seen Gay Sex in the 70s, Paris Is Burning (about 35 times or more), The New Black, Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine, and just recently, Strike a Pose. The story of those former Madonna dancers is so tragic. All are excellent and worth seeing. I just I Am Divine and the other films on my list.
That last line got mangled somehow. Should say: I’m looking forward to adding I Am Divine and the other films to my to-see list.
Needless to say there’s nothing wrong with assimilation but, no, marriage equality is not the biggest struggle in gay American history. Those would be decriminilization, being removed from the DSM and the end of sodomy laws. These effect all gay people and so by definition would be the biggest.
I remember watching Paris is Burning when it first came out. That film just made me so sad. The hopelessness, coupled with the joy the dancers felt, really hit me. I didn’t know what to feel when I was through.
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