Wilde Thing

Sex, scandal and Rupert Everett: Why we’re Wilde for these 5 scintillating movies about Oscar

The Happy Prince

Rupert Everett has gone all-in.

Known for his scene-stealing turn opposite Julia Roberts in My Best Friend’s Wedding, and for appearing in the stinker The Next Best Thing with Madonna, the actor has toiled in relative obscurity in recent years, taking on roles that granted him little notice, a development he has sometimes blamed on homophobia and his status as one of Hollywood’s highest profile gay men.

But now Everett is about to star in perhaps his highest profile role yet, ironically, about a very, very high profile gay man: The Happy Prince, a biography of Oscar Wilde that Everett wrote, directed and stars in.

Related: Dear Rupert Everett: We love you, but your movie with Madonna sucked

For the uninitiated, Wilde remains one of the great figures of English Literature, and one of the first queer icons. Wilde lived as an out gay man in 19th century England, working as a playwright and author. He even took on a long-term boyfriend in Lord Alfred Douglas, and the two often appeared together in public. Wilde’s relationship with Douglas became his eventual downfall, as British courts convicted him of gross indecency during a time when homosexuality was criminalized. After a two-year prison stint, Wilde fell into ill health. He died three years after his release.

To warm up for The Happy Prince, and to honor Wilde as a man who lived an authentic life at a time when no gay person could (and Everett for being so unapologetic a century later), we’ve put together this modest screening list of the essential Wilde-related films.

Some deal with Wilde’s life, while others adapt his iconic works. Either way, get cozy, and prepare for some great gay wit.

The Happy Prince opens October 10.

1. The Picture of Dorian Gray

Classic Hollywood heavy-hitters Donna Reed, Peter Lawford and George Sanders head up this early adaptation of Wilde’s only novel, though the film really belongs to 20-year-old Angela Lansbury. For once Lansbury got the part of the pretty young girl, and an Oscar nomination to boot. A flop in its time, the early horror picture has since earned status as a classic, and one of the best-ever adaptations of Wilde’s cheeky creeper.

Streams on YouTube, iTunes, Amazon & Vudu.

2. Wilde

Stephen Fry gave one of the most overlooked performances in history with this indie gem from 1997. A biopic of its titular figure, the movie also features a very young Jude Law as Wilde’s boyfriend, Lord Alfred Douglas. Fry, better known as a comedian and essayist, gives a sublime performance that captures Wilde’s unyielding wit, and the heartbreak that overshadowed his life.

Streams on Vudu.

Related: Rupert Everett Is Oscar Wilde, AKA The Gayest Story Ever Told

3. The Trials of Oscar Wilde

Oscar winner Peter Finch took on the role of Wilde—with full homosexuality and effeminacy left intact—in this 1960 drama. That alone would make this film an anomaly, given the era, though it benefits all the more from a committed performance by Finch, and from John Frasier, who plays Alfred Douglas as the spoiled, unthinking twerp he actually was.

Streams on YouTube.

4. Velvet Goldmine

Ok, so at first glance, Todd Haynes’ Velvet Goldmine has more to do with David Bowie than Oscar Wilde. Wilde though, becomes a motif throughout, with Haynes likening the rocker persona of the cross-dressing Bryan Slade (a super hot and ever-bitchy Jonathan Rhys-Meyers). Wilde seems to have inspired Slade to take on his space alien double identity as a way of becoming a pop idol: living fabulously, flamboyantly, and without apology for queerness. Trust us, see the movie.

Streams on YouTube, iTunes, Amazon & Vudu.

5. The Importance of Being Earnest

Director Oliver Parker put Rupert Everett to good use in another Wilde project, this one based on his much-beloved play. Everett joins Colin Firth, Reese Witherspoon, Judi Dench and Tom Wilkinson in a comedy of errors about mistaken identity, and young couples in love.

Streams on YouTube, iTunes, Amazon & Vudu.

The Happy Prince opens October 10.