Screening Room

Ryan Phillippe naked, Divine on the lam: Our fave queer back-to-school flicks

The sound of the lockers slamming.  The sight of the varsity athletes sweating laps on the track. The hot new teacher…

Yes, a new school year approaches, no doubt leaving more than a few LGBTQ kids wishing the summer were truly endless, or at least for a movie or two to distract from the agony of school.

It’s also possible that more than few of you reading this also have a certain amount of nostalgia for those varsity years.

For anyone wanting to escape the pitfalls of the modern education system–or anyone who wants to relive them–we’ve done our homework and compiled a screening list of back-to-school movies with a beautiful streak of gayness.

For the record, we’ve eschewed the usual (and terrific) suspects like Mean Girls, Clueless or Love, Simon in favor of some overlooked titles that relish, subvert and even lampoon school days and the school daze. Besides, we’re still mad at Clueless for inflicting Stacey Dash on the world.

So, grab the oversalted popcorn, a juice box, and some cheap Vodka to spike it with and check out these fantastic schoolhouse movies with a queer twists.

1. The Opposite of Sex

Out-writer/director Don Roos penned this very dark comedy about a pregnant high school student who wreaks havoc on the lives of her gay brother, his boyfriend and his dead partner’s sister. Ya got all that? Loaded with acerbic wit, and featuring an excellent dramatic performance from Lisa Kudrow, as well as Christina Ricci’s Oscar-worthy turn in the lead, The Opposite of Sex keeps the laughs coming both from silliness and shock.

Streams on Amazon Prime, Vudu & iTunes.

2. Geography Club

This gem didn’t get enough notice back in 2013 when it played the festival circuit before landing on streaming services. Maybe the misleading title had something to do with it: Geography Club follows the creation of a gay student union in an upper-class high school. Scared of persecution, the group adopts the club moniker to veil its true nature. But how long can the gang stay hidden after two star closeted football players join? Much like Love, Simon, Geography Club examines how, even in an era of marriage equality and, well, Love, Simon, coming out can still intimidate a teenager.

Streams on Amazon and iTunes.

3. Saved!

Speaking of overlooked gems, for a movie that confronts they hypocrisies of Christian fundamentalists look no further than this wonderful title. Saved! stars Jenna Malone as a teenager who tries to cure her boyfriend’s homosexuality by having sex with him, and ends up pregnant instead. Featuring fine work from Malone, Macaulay Culkin, Patrick Fugit, Mary-Louise Parker and Mandy Moore (in her best performance), Saved! goes for the jugular of Bush-era “Christian” self-righteousness in the best way possible: with biting satire.

Streams on YouTube, Amazon, Vudu, and iTunes.

4. Cruel Intentions

Otherwise known as the movie to which millions of 90s kids discovered their sexuality, Cruel Intentions transplants the sleeping around-backstabbing of Les Dangerous Liasons to a private high school. Happily though, it still keeps the sex and the stabbing. Sarah Michelle Gellar and Ryan Phillippe (plus his chiseled, naked body at its most photogenic) lead a cast of stars-to-be including Reese Witherspoon, Selma Blair and Tara Reid, though our favorite has to be Joshua Jackson as Phillippe’s gay stoner bestie. Watch it with your legs uncrossed.

Streams on Netflix, YouTube, Amazon, Vudu and iTunes.

5. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

What other films have captured the introspection, confusion, and joy of being a teenager—gay or straight—better than The Perks of Being a Wallflower? As it happens, the movie explores the plight of both gay and straight teens who face the pains of growing up and discover the strength to survive in each other. It also helps that queer actor Ezra Miller, as the flamboyant gay teen Patrick—runs off with the movie.

Streams on YouTube, iTunes, Amazon & Vudu.

6. Female Trouble

Leave it to gay trashmaster John Waters to make the most depraved high school movie ever (sorry Heathers fans). Female Trouble features drag actor Divine as Dawn Davenport, a delinquent high school student on the lam. In a weird way though, for all its camp hilarity, Female Trouble also manages to affirm LGBTQ people too, courtesy of the character Ida who wishes her nephew Gator was gay (in 1974 no less). The movie’s funniest subplot comes from Ida’s repeated attempts to set Gator up with a series of flamboyant gay men. Besides, we know a few of you reading this still desperately crave a pair of cha-cha heels for Christmas. For those of you that have no idea what that statement means, go watch the movie.

Streams on Amazon & Vudu.

7. The Faculty

This horror-thriller, much like Cruel Intentions, became a surprise hit in the late 90s, thanks to another cast of stars in the making. Elijah Wood leads a cast that includes Josh Hartnett, Famke Janssen, Bebe Neuwirth, Salma Hayek and—of all people—Usher and Jon Stewart (yes, that Jon Stewart). Aliens invade a Midwestern high school, taking control of the teachers’ minds, and forcing a group of students to save the world. That includes a slightly goth lesbian named Stokes, played by out-actress Clea DuVall in one of her earliest performances.

Streams on YouTube, Amazon, Vudu & iTunes.

8. Carrie

Now wait a minute. Before you start grousing about remakes and how nobody could recreate the 1976 Brian DePalma original (which we love), consider that the 2013 film doesn’t try to do just that. Instead, out-lesbian director Kimberly Pierce (of Boys Don’t Cry fame) crafts a story less about women than the power of femininity, and the way a superficial culture tortures outsiders. That last notion should sound very familiar to queer people, and Pierce doesn’t shy away from using Carrie’s plight as a metaphor for that of a young queer person. Chloe Grace Moritz gives a mature, effective performance in the lead, though it should come as no surprise that Julianne Moore, as Carrie’s batsh@t crazy mom Margret, steals the movie.

Streams on Vudu, YouTube, Amazon & iTunes.

9. Lady Bird

Last year’s Best Picture/Director/Screenplay Oscar nominee didn’t get enough credit for examining our themes. Saoirse Ronan (also Oscar-nominated) plays the lead role of a woman who, early in the film, finds her boyfriend Danny (played by super cute Lucas Hedges) making out with another guy. One of the major plot elements becomes how Lady Bird helps Danny with his coming out and the intimidate relationship—which so many queer men know—that blossoms between a gay man and a straight woman learning how to love each other as friends. Thoughtful, sensitive and very funny, the Lady Bird/Danny friendship qualifies as one of the most real teen relationships in recent memory.

Streams on Amazon and YouTube.

10. First Period

Aw hell, we’ve mentioned First Period—the high-camp high school comedy about two lustful outcast girls played by men—before. That said, few movies have as much fun commiserating and making fun of the high school experience. Added bonus: the popular jock characters Dirk & Brett (played by Lance Bass’ husband, Michael Turchin & Leigh Wakeford, respectively) who have a habit of stripping, and who take more than a passing interest in one another.

Streams on Amazon, YouTube, Vudu & iTunes.

11. Handsome Devil

Hansome Devil concerns the rivalry at an Irish boys school between a pair of roommates–the introverted Connor (Nicholas Galitzine) and the burgeoning queer rebel Ned (Fionn O’Shea). Connor toils on the rugby filed while Ned plays his guitar and listens to Bowie. An unlikely bond forms between the two with arrival of a new, iconoclastic teacher, played by the film’s standout performer, Andrew Scott (best known as Moriarty on Sherlock). The movie gets a bit predictable from there on, but that doesn’t rob it of charm. Even as a preposterous fantasy, no doubt viewers will still sigh and wonder “if only” as the credits roll.

Streams on Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, Vudu and iTunes.