Screening Room

Poets, witches, psychics and rugby: Anti-bullying movies for this Coming Out Day

Garrett-Clayton & Johnny-James Fiore in Reach

Hey, what queer person reading this right now didn’t have to deal with bullying growing up? For that matter, what member of the community today doesn’t have to deal with bullying from a certain whackado in the White House?

In honor of Coming Out Day–and for some cathartic pushback against the world’s bullies–have a look at these fun movies about school bullies who get a hearty dose of comeuppance. They run the gamut of the genre spectrum from sweet to scary, and in any case, have some popcorn on hand. Each one of them gets wild.

Carrie

No, not the original classic. Queer director Kim Peirce gave Carrie the update treatment in 2013, which included turning up the volume on some of the lesbian subtext of the original. Chloe Grace Moritz and Julianne Moore star in a movie less about the creepiness of femininity than the power of it, and the destructive nature of bullying and religious fanaticism. Let the debate rage on as to whether the world needed a Carrie remake, but at least this one is pretty good.

Mean Girls

The cult classic which catapulted Lindsay Lohan to fame, and foretold the success of actors like Rachel McAdams and Amanda Seyfried remains a terrific comedy and an interesting meditation on school bullying among women…and their gay besties. Daniel Franzese, as the flamboyant gay boy Damien, remains one of movie’s highlights.

Thirteen

While not especially queer, Thriteen does play into a certain degree of sexual fluidity. Evan Rachel Wood stars as Tracy, a young teenager who falls in with Evie (Nikki Reed), the most popular girl in school—and one of the most distrubed. As their friendship develops, the two descend into a world of drugs, stealing and sex, with Evie manipulating Tracy to get her way. That eventually translates into a sexual exploration between the two, which raises more questions that either girl (or the movie) can answer. Thirteen also features explosive performances by Wood, Reed and Holly Hunter, as Tracy’s recovering alcoholic mom.

Bully

And speaking of the sobering…Bully is not for the faint of heart. Director Larry Clark, who caused a major cinematic scandal with his movie Kids, and follows up with this equally horrific outing about a group of Florida teenagers who plot to kill the school bully, Bobby (played by Nick Stahl at his creepy hottest). Bully hints that Bobby’s loathsome actions—which include rape, physical abuse and forcing his friend (played by the late Brad Renfro) to dance in his underwear at a gay club—might all stem from living in the closet. That said, we don’t see the film or the character as homophobic, so much as pathetic: either he’s gay and destroyed himself with self-loathing, or he’s just a hetero nutbag. We’ll let you decide. Added bonus: Daniel Franziese has an early role as the nerdy Derek, who also becomes the target of Bobby’s abuse.

Handsome Devil

We love writer/director John Butler, whose film Handsome Devil ranks as one of the best movies about coming out in high school in recent years. The film concerns two roommates at an Irish boarding school—one a jock, the other a musician—and the unlikely friendship that develops between the two. As one boy helps another understand he is gay, the two push back against a climate of homophobia and bullying with alternately hilarious and tragic results. Like all of Butler’s work, Handsome Devil mediates on bonding and affection between men, which makes it a delight to watch.

Reach

Actor Garret Clayton came out to coincide with the film Reach in which he and actor Jordan Doww star as a pair of former best friends driven apart by a mysterious incident involving their parents. Clayton, as the bullied Steven, finds refuge in his friendship with the bohemian Clarence (Johnny James Fiore) and discovers a way to stand up to his former friend. Reach has the emotional intelligence to know that bullying rarely starts with one person, and that even the worst bullies are often victims themselves.

The Craft

Out-gay director Andrew Fleming caused a pop culture earthquake by bringing goth culture into the mainstream with The Craft. The film follows the trope of the new girl in school (Robin Tunney) who falls in with a group of fellow bullied misfits (Fairuza Balk, Neve Campbell and Rachel True). When the four begin to study witchcraft, they discover incredible supernatural powers—enough so to push back against their bullies…and risk becoming just as loathsome. More than 20 years after its release, The Craft still qualifies as magnificent fun thanks to Fleming’s deft direction, and an outstanding performance by Balk as the mentally unbalanced witch Nancy.