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Seven Underrated LGBTQ Films to Watch During Pride Month

Here are seven LGBTQ+ films you may have overlooked for your viewing pleasure.

Alec Secareanu and Josh O'Connor in God's Own Country (2017) / Credit: Joshua James Richards.
Credit: Joshua James Richards.

Finally, it is June. The month where companies, for thirty days, change to rainbow corporate logos, and parades of drag queens line the streets of every major city: PRIDE MONTH. Most LGBTQ+ cinema fans have seen the standards like But I’m A Cheerleader and Paris is Burning. Not to mention the contemporary hits too like Portrait of a Lady on Fire and Call Me By Your Name. Instead, let’s explore Derek Jarman and Gregg Araki’s classics, international hits, and even some new stuff.

Why Does Pride Month Matter So Much?

Pride films are so important. The fastest way to incite change is to see versions of yourself and those like you onscreen. This is a time when we all need to remember our history, both real and onscreen. The first brick at Pride was thrown by a Black trans woman. LGBTQ+ films were being made before Red, White, and Royal Blue. Both are true and deserve daily recognition. Happy Pride, everyone. It’s time to do our research!

1) Benjamin (2018)

Colin Morgan and Phénix Brossard in Benjamin (2018) / Credit: David Pimm.
Colin Morgan and Phénix Brossard in Benjamin (2018) / Credit: David Pimm.

I had to kick off the list with one of my all-time favorite films. Director Simon Amstell’s sort-of-autobiographical feature starring Colin Morgan as the titular Benjamin is a charmingly dark comedy about how hard it is to be young. And how bad the film industry sucks. It is a bit of a meta-film about a gay man making his second indie film, made by a gay man making his second indie film.

“Sorry, I’m a child of divorce.”

“Me too.”

“And you’re vegan? This is a dream.”

Benjamin and Noah in Benjamin (2018)

In the film, Benjamin fumbles his way into a relationship with a French musician called Noah. The only problem is that Benjamin is a mess and is not particularly successful at maintaining a balance between his career, social life and relationships. This film will make you cringe hard in recognition and nod your head in understanding.

2) Funeral Parade of Roses (1969)

Andy Warhol’s avant-garde BS has nothing on this. Part documentary, part avant-garde 1960s culture portrait, and part horror film, Funeral Parade of Roses follows Eddie (Pîtâ). Eddie is transgender woman working as a host in Japan in the late 60s. It mirrors stories like Sunset Boulevard and the Oedipus myth in the most deeply uncomfortable ways possible.

Pîtâ in Funeral Parade of Roses (1969) / Credit: Tatsuo Suzuki.
Pîtâ in Funeral Parade of Roses (1969) / Credit: Tatsuo Suzuki.

Funeral Parade of Roses is a collage on youth, distress, abandonment, the horrors of aging, and being the version of you that you deserve to be. This is one of the most insane movies I have ever seen. It champions starkly contemporary philosophies in spite of its age. It will also take at least twelve hours of video essays and YouTube rabbit holes to comprehend in its entirety.

3) Show Me Love (1998)

A complete tone shift from Funeral Parade of Roses is Show Me Love (AKA original Swedish title Fucking Åmål). It is a quirky AND precocious teen comedy about gay girls paving their own way in an often narrow-minded town called Åmål.

Alexandra Dahlström and Rebecka Liljeberg in Show Me Love (1998) / Credit: Ulf Brantås.
Alexandra Dahlström and Rebecka Liljeberg in Show Me Love (1998) / Credit: Ulf Brantås.

Sixteen-year-old Agnes’ parents throw her a birthday party, but Agnes does not have many friends in town. The only guest to show up is Agnes’ crush from school, Elin. Elin is a wild child with a bad reputation. She is also willing to try anything once, like kissing a girl. Threats of self-harm ensue?

Agnes and Elin get into wonderful trouble together and stumble their way through a school full of children who hate them both for different reasons.

Show Me Love is a wickedly charming lesbian dramedy for young and older people alike. It is full of yearning, miscommunications, right-place-wrong-time, fake dating, and all the tropes the masses seem to love.

4) Close (2022)

Close is a curious choice. It stands on the line between friendship, sexuality, and masculinity. While it is about young children and suicide, it is nothing like Show Me Love. A24’s recent hit out of Belgium follows young boys Leo and Remi as they enter a new grade. Their friendship changes. Changing standards for boys their age and bullying begin to create cracks in their bond.

Eden Dambrine and Gustav De Waele in Close (2022) / Credit: Frank van den Eeden.
Eden Dambrine and Gustav De Waele in Close (2022) / Credit: Frank van den Eeden.

One of the boys takes his life, and the other must reassemble his own without his best friend.

Close is painfully difficult to watch. It is one of A24’s most gorgeous projects to date, but it is a tough watch for what many of us recognize in it. It is a delicate reminder to hold onto what is precious to you.

5) Orlando (1992)

Tilda Swinton in Orlando (1992) / Credit: Aleksey Rodionov.
Tilda Swinton in Orlando (1992) / Credit: Aleksey Rodionov.

Adapted from Virginia Woolf’s classic genre and gender-defying novel, Orlando remains relevant all these generations later.

Queen Elizabeth I (played by a man) makes a nobleman named Orlando (Tilda Swinton) vow never to grow old. Orlando progresses through time, history, and gender. Throughout his existence, the only thing with any fluidity is his gender presentation. The male-to-female spectrum is irrelevant to a being; time means nothing to him.

Every frame of Orlando is packed with lyrical and visual beauty. It is a meditative film that is surely unforgettable.

6) Totally F—ed Up (1993)

Listen UP! This film is mandatory viewing for young LGBTQ+ folks of every demographic. Totally F***ed Up is the first in a trilogy of films loving referred to as the Teen Apocalypse Trilogy. The director of the whole trilogy, Gregg Araki, is known for films across genres like stoner comedies, gay dramas, Asian-identity stories, music videos and even directing a few episodes of Riverdale. He is basically the king of Pride Month cinema.

“Let me tell you what the problem with the stupid fucking world is. All the stupid people are breeding like mad having tens and tens of kids, while the cool people aren’t having any! So, the population just keeps getting stupider and stupider! I mean, it’s no wonder the whole world’s going down the toilet.”

Patricia in Totally F***ed Up (1993)

The film (as well as all entries in the trilogy) stars James Duval as Andy, a down-on-his-luck gay teen living in L.A. in the early 90s. He loves Michael Stipe of R.E.M., he has a fantastic support network of close friends, and he is also violently depressed. Andy just cannot seem to figure out how his life is supposed to work.

James Duval in Totally F***ed Up (1993) / Credit: Gregg Araki.
James Duval in Totally F***ed Up (1993) / Credit: Gregg Araki.

One of the things that makes this film so powerful is the tight ensemble cast. Totally F***ed Up features a team of young queer folks from every background getting by. Their chemistry and accurate representation of intersectional queer friend groups is an exciting and unique vision of how we can all try to love each other a little better. Totally F***ed Up and the other two entries (Doom Generation and Nowhere) in Gregg Araki’s trilogy should be viewed as quickly as possible.

7) Jubilee (1978)

Speaking of amazing ensemble casts, let’s look at this Pride Month classic. Director Derek Jarman, god of gay filmmaking, tackles time travel, the apocalypse, punk rock, and Elizabethan text work. Jubilee features a large portion of the cast from the super gay film The Rocky Horror Picture Show, with the added bonus of gay British rocker Adam Ant.

Jack Birkett, Jordan, and Jenny Runacre in Jubilee (1978) / Credit: Peter Middleton.
Jack Birkett, Jordan, and Jenny Runacre in Jubilee (1978) / Credit: Peter Middleton.

Queen Elizabeth–do all gay movies feature her?–time travels to evil future punk rock England during what may be the apocalypse. She falls in with a group of anti-government homosexuals involved in every subversive culture imaginable. Janky Princess Diana is there. So are some of Shakespeare’s queerest characters. It is an acid-trip nightmare through British history, from Her Majesty in her glory to the Sex Pistols’ thoughts on her.

Pride Month is a Celebration… And…

Pride month is at once beautiful and painful and funny. I hope these films add something different to the usual stream of gay romcoms and lesbian period dramas sprinkled over your cornflakes this June. Use some of these flicks to challenge yourself and learn more about your history and the history of those you love this month.

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twenty-three year old lover of film, books and rock n roll

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