With the Oscars airing Sunday, and since we’ve already taken a look at some overlooked films and Oscar-winning roles, we’ve decided to highlight the contributions to the film industry: filmmakers, including producers and directors. Despite a long history of Hollywood homophobia, which has hit actors particularly hard, behind the lens our people have fared much better, and become some of the most creative and successful forces within the medium.
So who ranks among the best queer filmmakers? For our purposes, we’ve decided to focus on living artists as opposed to those of the past who made this list possible. Our apologies to the spirits of Vincente Minnelli, George Cukor, Tennessee Williams and John Schlesinger–they belong on a different list.
The artists featured here have all made incredible films that deserve an audience. For some of the best movies ever shot, look no further than the resumes of these fine brothers and sisters.
Chances are, you already know some of their work…
1. Bill Condon
Condon won a much-deserved Oscar for his script to Gods and Monsters, a movie about James Whale, the out-gay director of Frankenstein. Since then, he scored another nomination for his screenplay to Chicago before gracing us with films like Dreamgirls and Beauty and the Beast.
2. Scott Rudin
The notoriously volatile Rudin’s work spans serious dramas like The Hours to cult comedies like Clueless. With a career that includes forays into theatre, recording and television, Rudin also became one of the few EGOT winners, having picked up an Oscar for No Country for Old Men, an Emmy for the kiddie special He Makes Me Feel Like Dancin’, a Grammy for The Book of Mormon soundtrack and an impressive 15 Tony awards, most recently for the revival of Hello, Dolly!
3. Dee Rees
Rees scored her first Oscar nomination for the screenplay to Mudbound this year, a film that she also directed. Before that, Rees made an impression with the drama Pariah, and the biopic Bessie starring Queen Latifah and Mo’Nique. Now that Oscar has come calling (or at least flirting), count on her as a star on the rise, and a real Hollywood rarity: a bold, politically challenging filmmaker.
4. Christine Vachon
Much of the queer cinema to hit screens over the past two decades owe their existence, at least in part, to one woman: Christine Vachon. The driving force behind films like Velvet Goldmine, Hedwig & the Angry Inch, Camp, Party Monster and Boys Don’t Cry, Vachon sticks to indie cinema rather than big-budget fare. Despite her impressive resume, Vachon has yet to net an Oscar nomination. We feel confident the Academy will one day take notice.
5. Lee Daniels
Daniels continues to stack cash on his desk thanks to the success of his TV series Empire and its spin-off Star. When it comes to feature films, Daniels has also enjoyed wild success, directing films like Precious (for which he became only the second African-American ever nominated, a feat since topped) and The Butler, as well as producing titles like Monster’s Ball. With his next film slated as the long-awaited Richard Pryor biopic, Daniels can look forward to another breakthrough. No word yet on if the film will include Pryor’s recently-revealed affair with Marlon Brando, however. We hope it does.
6. Kim Pierce
Pierce exploded onto the cinema scene with her first feature as director, Boys Don’t Cry. Hailed as one of the best directorial debuts ever, the movie also scored Hillary Swank an Academy Award. Since then, Pierce has a choosey policy toward her outings, directing only two films: Stop Loss and the feminist remake of Carrie. Both scored positive reviews. With several projects listed in development—including a sex comedy produced by Judd Apatow, and a crime thriller—expect her name in lights again soon.
Though his real success has come on television, Berlanti has also earned distinction as a unique, talented filmmaker. His romantic comedy The Broken Hearts Club, which he wrote and directed, earned him wide acclaim for his loving depiction of gay life in LA among a group of softball players and their kind hearted coach, and continues to enjoy status as a latter-day queer classic. Perhaps the man behind the CW’s “Arrowverse” might find equally enormous success on the big screen as well. This year, he returns to directing with the much anticipated teen romance Love, Simon. Trade paper Variety has said of the upcoming film: “Simon is about to become the model for an entire demographic that has had to do without, until now.”
8. John Logan
With three Oscar nominations to his name, John Logan has enjoyed a good deal of critical and box office success, having penned the scripts to films like Gladiator, Sweeney Todd, Hugo, Alien: Covenant and Skyfall. One of the few screenwriters to enjoy steady employment for the better part of two decades, Logan has also found success on the small screen as creator of the cult series Penny Dreadful.
9. Todd Haynes
Indie darling Haynes has long avoided the trappings of mainstream Hollywood, focusing instead on more personal projects like Velvet Goldmine, Safe, Mildred Pierce and Carol. He earned an Oscar nomination for his script to Far From Heaven, though his direction actually has earned him more attention. Cinephiles often cite him as one of the most distinctive and unusual directors working today. That his movies often focus on queer themes is an added bonus.
10. Stephen Daldry
Bi British bloke Daldry has racked up four Oscar nominations to date, with three for directing. His films Billy Elliot, The Hours, and The Reader all became critical and commercial darlings, nabbing Oscars for actresses like Nicole Kidman and Kate Winslet. If his current resume doesn’t inspire excitement, his future projects should: the much anticipated adaptation of the musical Wicked, and a rumored Star Wars film focusing on the “lost” years of Obi-Wan Kenobi starring Ewan McGregor.
11. Gus Van Sant
The longtime trailblazer and noted director of My Own Private Idaho, Milk and Good Will Hunting has also made an impression as a producer, shepherding indie films like Kids and I Am Michael. Having explored both the art house circuit and big budget filmmaking, Van Sant continues to rack up the awards, nabbing a Palm D’Or at Cannes for his film Elephant as well as two Oscar nominations for directing. He returns to this big screen this year with the dark comedy Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot starring Joaquin Phoenix and Jonah Hill.
12: Pedro Almodovar
Born in Spain, Almodovar came to Hollywood with the hilariously titled Woman on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, which nabbed him an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language film. Though fluent in English, he prefers to make films in the Spanish language, as he did with Todo Sobre Mi Madre, the 1999 movie that earned Almodovar his first Oscar. On the heels of his success, he began delving increasingly into gay themes. Talk to Her (for which he won another Oscar), Bad Education, and The Skin I Live In all dealt with familiar issues. Unapologetic for his own flamboyant personality, he also notoriously refused to wrap up his Oscar speech until he’d thanked everyone he wanted to. Lucky for us, Almodovar has yet to run out of things to say.
13. Lilly & Lana Wachowski
The sisters Wachowski share distinction here, as the almost always collaborate on whatever project suits their fancy. The first gained notice for the lesbian noir thriller Bound, which gave the world a very hot sex scene starring Jennifer Tilly & Gina Gershon. They followed up with The Matrix trilogy, which cemented the Wachowskis’ reputation as two of the most successful filmmakers ever. Notoriously resistant to granting interviews, Lana came out at an HRC dinner as a champion of the trans community. They’ve since followed up with the criminally overlooked masterpiece Cloud Atlas, the interesting flop Jupiter Ascending and the cult TV series Sense8.