Another day, another nutty tweet, more Putin enabling, another two years of the Trump-GOP dumpster fire, barring any miracles from Robert Muller (Bob, if you’re reading this, we’re sending our love). It just seems to drag on and on.
Two years of resisting the forces of oppression can get exhausting, especially when there are most likely two more even worse ones to follow. Why not take some time out to rest and catch a movie, then?
These 10 amazing flicks that focus on the ongoing struggle and history of equality. You may watch these on the couch but they will inspire you back onto the streets.
Grab the popcorn and the Kleenex, pour a stiff drink and get prepared: you’ll need them all at some point.
Director Rob Campillo’s semi-autobiographical story about living as a gay man during the AIDS crisis in France will flare tempers even as it invites tears. Campillo made the film as a sort of personal catharsis for having survived AIDS while so many others close to him did not, and as a message to younger generations: never forget what befell your community…and never let it happen again.
2. How to Survive a Plague
For more gut-wrenching memories of the specter of AIDS and the government inaction that invited an epidemic, look no further than How to Survive a Plague. David France’s epic chronicle of the crisis in New York and the rise of ACT UP leaves viewers stunned and enraged. With indispensable interviews with key activists and witnesses, raw archival footage and a sense of righteous anger, How to Survive a Plague is one of the best docs about the AIDS crisis. Have Kleenex on hand: footage of gay men casting the ashes of their dead friends and lovers on the White House lawn makes us bawl every time.
3. When We Rise
Oscar-winning writer of Milk Dustin Lance Black penned this mini-series which traces the development of the civil rights struggle from its origins under Harvey Milk through the dark days of the AIDS crisis, and into the era of marriage equality. Though sanitized in places (thank you, network TV), the miniseries still paints an epic and thoughtful picture of the growth of the community and fight for equal rights that Black continues to this day with his screenwriting and daddy activism.
Also known as the musical of the protest era, Hair only briefly touches on LGBTQ rights by featuring a bisexual character. In a sense, that’s a critique: the hippie/peace movement still had a hostility toward queer people–a hypocrisy which helped doom it. That said though, Hair depicts a special moment in American history when youth rebelled against a warmongering establishment, and life became something to treasure as never before. The film, from two time Oscar-winner Milos Forman captures that era beautifully thanks to some glorious music that will still make audiences want to sing in the streets.
5. The Celluloid Closet
Protest takes many different forms, including the artistic kind. The Celluloid Closet examines the expunging of LGBTQ people from the movies and the artist that rebelled against that censorship. With interviews from stars like Shirley MacLaine and Tom Hanks, writers like Gore Vidal and Barry Sandler, and acclaimed directors like John Schlesinger and Gus Van Sant, The Celluloid Closet uncovers how filmmakers have helped change the perception of the community, sometimes by just showing that it exists.
6. Whose Streets?
The shooting of unarmed Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO , incited riots in the streets and helped launch the worldwide Black Lives Matter movement. Whose Streets? examines the community organizers that helped start the movement, including the LGBTQ activists who helped start a national conversation about police brutality.
7. Stonewall Uprising
The Stonewall Riots have become the stuff of legend, even if details of the actual riots get lost in most retellings. PBS sets the record straight (as it were) in Stonewall Uprising, an in-depth documentary on the factors that led to the riots as recounted by witnesses and participants. Learn why the gay rights movement started when it did, and how the struggle still goes on, to this day.
8. The Laramie Project
The brutal murder of Matthew Shepard rocked the world in 1998. The Laramie Project reconstructs and dramatizes the aftermath of Shepard’s murder, as experienced by the community of Laramie, Wyoming, and the queer rights activists who channeled their rage into protest. With an all-star cast featuring Peter Fonda, Joshua Jackson, Laura Linney, Christina Ricci and Ben Foster, The Laramie Project captures the spirit and sadness of protest with a simple reminder: lives hang in the balance.
9. The Times of Harvey Milk
Sean Penn made The Times of Harvey Milk required viewing and he was rewarded with an Oscar. But he no doubt did his research by watching the documentary version of the story, produced just six years after the assassination of Milk and San Francisco Mayor George Moscone. A portrait of a shewed, goofy, committed man emerges, which should inspire audiences everywhere to follow Milk’s example: leading by kindness.
10. The Normal Heart
Larry Kramer’s dramatization of the rise of the AIDS crisis and the transformation of the community packs an emotional wallop, even at its most soapy. That said, the film channels the rage and sadness of the AIDS crisis into a call to action. A cast of Hollywood heavy hitters brings the story to vivid life, including Alfred Molina, Matt Bomer, Jim Parsons and Julia Roberts. The center of it all, though, hangs on Mark Ruffalo as the fictional activist Ned Weeks (a thinly-veiled analog of Kramer himself). In short, Ruffalo gives his best performance as a man trying to find hope while surrounded by decimation.