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40 essential LGBTQ films to stream this Pride Month

Submitted by Mashable on May 27, 2022 - 6:00pm

Composite image of LGBTQ movie characters

Mashable is celebrating Pride Month by exploring the modern LGBTQ world, from the people who make up the community to the spaces where they congregate, both online and off.


Pride is a time in which everyone under the LGBTQ umbrella is encouraged to come out and wave their flag in spectacular parades. But for every wild night out, we might need a cozy night in, perhaps with a movie that keeps the party going?

Many a streaming service will make a rainbow show of their LGBTQ titles in June. Let us be your guide through the essentials, highlighting movies across Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video, HBO Max, Kanopy, and beyond.

Whether you're in the mood for a thigh-slapping comedy, a heart-wrenching drama, a pulse-pounding romance, a mind-expanding documentary, or spine-tingling horror, we've got you covered.

Here is a sensational selection of LGBTQ movies to watch this Pride and beyond.

1. Before Stonewall (1984)

Filmmakers Greta Schiller and Robert Rosenberg did a public service in their creation of the seminal documentary Before Stonewall. An educational yet humorous work that provides essential context to the LGBTQ community's long-fought campaign for civil rights, this is a great starting place for anyone eager to better appreciate just how far acceptance has come and how far it still has to go. —Alison Foreman, Entertainment Reporter

How to watch: Before Stonewall is available for rent or purchase on Amazon Prime Video and iTunes.

2. Swan Song (2021)

Udo Kier in a disco in "Swan Song."


Credit: Chris Stephens / Magnolia Pictures

Inspired by the real-life "Liberace of Sandusky, [Ohio]," Swan Song stars heralded character actor Udo Kier as a Mr. Pat, a retired and unapologetically flamboyant hairdresser out to secure his legacy with one last hurrah of a hairdo. Striding back into his old haunts to reconcile with his past, this wickedly funny hero finds new friends, old foes, and the glory of a mint-green vintage suit. With a fine wit, bold style, and a big heart, writer/director Todd Stephens's film pays dazzling tribute to a generation of gay men who were decimated by AIDS and societal indifference. Swirling together rage and gratitude into an intoxicating cocktail, Kier gives the best performance of his long and storied career. —Kristy Puchko, Deputy Entertainment Reporter*

How to watch: Swan Song is now streaming on Hulu.

3. Moonlight (2016)

Director Barry Jenkins' Academy Award-winning Best Picture may use some of the formulaic components seen in other coming-of-age stories, but it imbues them with such immense inventiveness and originality that to compare Moonlight to anything else feels like an insult. This film has rightly been called some of the most impactful filmmaking in history, a perennial meditation on abuse, regret, pain, and acceptance. —A.F.

How to watch: Moonlight is streaming on Showtime and Kanopy, and available for rent or purchase on Amazon Prime Video and iTunes.

4. Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)

Hedwig and the Angry Inch is always best enjoyed on the stage. But when a visit to the theater isn't an option, director and star John Cameron Mitchell's screen adaptation more than does the trick. In this musical dramedy, Stephen Trask's spectacular songs once again come to life as the titular and iconic East German rock singer explores revenge, betrayal, and acceptance. —A.F.

How to watch: Hedwig and the Angry Inch is available for rent or purchase on Amazon Prime Video and iTunes.

5. The Fear Street Trilogy (2021)

Kiana Madeira and Olivia Scott Welch in "Fear Street: Part One: 1994"


Credit: Netflix

A stellar example of queer horror hit in three parts in 2021, when R.L. Stine's beloved YA book series inspired a slasher trilogy that centered on a lesbian couple. Kiana Madeira and Olivia Scott Welch are suffering the standard torments of teendom, when the local legend of a vicious witch upends their lives — and may end them! Director Leigh Janiak ushers audiences through three eras of terror, chasing her heroes through shopping malls, summer camps, and colonial forests to unearth the dark truth of Shadyside. —K.P.

How to watch: Fear Street: Part One: 1994 is streaming on Netflix.

How to watch: Fear Street: Part Two: 1978 is streaming on Netflix.

How to watch: Fear Street: Part Three: 1666 is streaming on Netflix.

6. The Watermelon Woman (1996)

Director Cheryl Dunye's cinematic debut brings utter fearlessness to righting wrongs. In this romantic comedy, Dunye plays a pseudo-autobiographical version of herself intent on giving credit to the Black actors and filmmakers that came before her but were too often left unnamed in their works. Widely regarded as the first feature-length film directed by an openly lesbian Black woman, The Watermelon Woman remains a triumph 24 years later. —A.F.

How to watch: The Watermelon Woman is streaming on Showtime and is available for rent or purchase on iTunes.

7. My Beautiful Laundrette (1985)

In this charming, sexy, and silly comedy from Stephen Frears, Gordon Warnecke and Daniel Day-Lewis play childhood friends-turned-lovers struggling to make the most of their meager means. When the pair take over a laundromat together, they must face the normal pitfalls of operating a business as well as battle the political climate surrounding immigrants in '80s Great Britain. —A.F.

How to watch: My Beautiful Laundrette is available on Pluto TV.

8. Rift (2017)

Want something uniquely chilling? Then check out this 2017 Icelandic thriller set in a frigid and frightful landscape. Written and directed by Erlingur Thoroddsen, Rift follows a man (Björn Stefánsson) to a remote cabin, where he hopes to help his distraught ex-boyfriend (Sigurður Þór Óskarsson) and maybe find some closure over their breakup. However, their reunion is rattled by a series of strange events that suggest they aren’t alone. Something is in the darkness, watching and waiting. This fantastic film lures you in with beautiful vistas and a slow-burn pace, then spirals into scares sure to linger like a cold shiver down your spine. —K.P.*

How to watch: Rift is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

9. Carol (2016)

Based on Patricia Highsmith's groundbreaking 1952 novel, Todd Haynes' Carol brings the lives of Carol Aird and Therese Belivet to the screen through actors Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. This masterful rendition of a Christmas-set romance will pull at your heartstrings in all of the right ways, permanently nestling into a corner of your soul. —A.F.

How to watch: Carol is streaming on Tubi, and Pluto TV and available for rent or purchase on Amazon Prime Video and iTunes.

10. Benedetta (2021)

Virginie Efira as a nun in "Benedetta"


Credit: IFC Films

When you hear that the director of Showgirls made a movie about lesbian nuns, you might suspect Benedetta to be outlandishly raunchy and ferociously campy, reveling in the trashy tropes. However, Paul Verhoeven brings exquisite artistry to this stranger-than-fiction tale, delivering a biopic full of outrageous moments with a sophisticated yet wicked wit. Virginie Efira stars as 17th-century Italian nun Benedetta Carlini, who rose eyebrows in her convent not only because of the miracles she seemed to perform but also because of her romance with a fellow sister (Daphne Patakia). —K.P.

How to watch: Benedetta is now streaming on Hulu.

11. Weekend (2011)

Tom Cullen and Chris New redefine the chance encounter in director Andrew Haigh's Weekend. Told over the course of a 48-hour period, this stirring, passionate romance considers the impacts strangers can have on one another — even when their time together is cut all too short. —A.F.

How to watch: Weekend is streaming on the Criterion Channel and available for rent or purchase on Amazon Prime Video and iTunes.

12. Tongues Untied (1989)

Artist Marlon Riggs' experimental film Tongues Untied addresses the onslaught of racist and homophobic prejudices Black gay men have been forced to endure and navigate for decades. Combining documentary footage with scripted personal accounts, this 55-minute film remains an impactful and relevant point of reference in intersectional LGBTQ activism. —A.F.

How to watch: Tongues Untied is streaming on Kanopy.

13. Love, Simon (2018)

Folks looking for a heartwarming, sweet, and goofy romp to accompany the perfect at-home Pride celebration can stop their search. Love, Simon, starring the always charming Nick Robinson, broke ground as the first major studio film to focus on a gay teen romance. Delightful as it is important, this movie combines the best of rom-coms and coming out stories to check every box on a movie lover's list. —A.F.

How to watch: Love, Simon is available for rent or purchase on Amazon Prime Video, iTunes, YouTube, and Google Play.

14. Shiva Baby (2021)

Rachel Sennott holds a bagel in "Shiva Baby."


Credit: Utopia

Here’s a nightmare scenario: You’re a young, bi Jewish woman (Rachel Sennott) who just finished hooking up with one of your sex-work clients — he’s rich and cute and, hey, maybe you kinda like him. You show up at the shiva your parents dragged you to, and oh fuck, Sugar Daddy walks in…with a hot wife…holding a newborn baby. And he knows your parents. Oh, and your ex-girlfriend, who’s been a total flake lately, is there too. Emma Seligman’s debut feature is like the Jewish comedic version of Trey Edward Schults’ Krisha, only it finds the humor (and the suffocating anxiety) in the chaos. Even better, it’s only an hour and 17 minutes. — Oliver Whitney, Freelance Reporter*

How to watch: Shiva Baby is now streaming on HBO Max.

15. Happy Together (1997)

Directed by Wong Kar-wai, this nail-biting romantic saga depicts a tumultuous relationship on the brink of collapse. The film's leads, Leslie Cheung and Tony Leung Chiu-wai, explore passion and its limitations as Happy Together provides a unique, if not jarring, glimpse into affairs of the heart. —A.F.

How to watch: Happy Together is streaming on HBO Max and Kanopy.

16. But I'm a Cheerleader (2000)

Natasha Lyonne stars as a cheerleader forced to attend a conversion therapy camp in what may very well be the greatest lesbian fairytale of all time. Directed by Jamie Babbit, But I'm a Cheerleader was met with lukewarm reviews in 2000 but has since garnered a well-deserved cult following. Come for the promise of RuPaul trying to pretend he's straight; stay for a first kiss scene featuring Clea DuVall that will knock your pom-poms off. —A.F.

How to watch: But I'm a Cheerleader is streaming on Tubi, and Pluto TV, and is available for rent or purchase on Amazon Prime Video and iTunes.

17. Wig (2019)

One of the most iconic events of New York City Pride, Wigstock has taken many forms over the years. Watch as director Chris Moukarbel follows present-day queens as they attempt to revitalize the festival made popular by legends, like Lady Bunny, in 2018. —A.F.

How to watch: Wig is available to stream on HBO Max.

18. Velvet Goldmine (1998)

Jonathan Rhys Meyers in "Velvet Goldmine"


Credit: Peter Mountain / Zenith / Killer / Kobal / Shutterstock

Another glittering gift from Todd Haynes, this '70s-set drama plays like fan fiction, penned about queer icons like David Bowie, Lou Reed, and Oscar Wilde. Jonathan Rhys Meyers stars as a glam rock star who wins the heart of a headstrong American punk (Ewan McGregor), a glitzy party girl (Toni Collette), and the devotion of a young teen coming into his own (Christian Bale). Stuffed with incredible music, scintillating spectacle, and unapologetically queer lust, Velvet Goldmine is beautiful and bold even before you realize Haynes mopped its narrative structure from Citizen Kane. —K.P.

How to watch: Velvet Goldmine is now streaming on Prime Video.

19. Paris Is Burning (1990)

It's the film you knew had to be on this list. Director Jennie Livingston's unparalleled documentary Paris Is Burning captures the New York City drag ball culture of the late '80s with style, grace, and intelligence. It's a powerful reflection on wealth disparity, race discrimination, and stigma surrounding the LGBTQ community — a must-see if there's ever been one. —A.F.

How to watch: Paris Is Burning is now streaming on the Criterion Channel and available for rent or purchase on iTunes.

20. Brokeback Mountain (2005)

Jake Gyllenhaal and the late Heath Ledger shepherd a nuanced narrative of passion, fear, romance, and shame in director Ang Lee's tale of star-crossed lovers in rural Wyoming and Texas. A timeless reflection on what it takes to unite who you are expected to be with who you really are, Brokeback Mountain can be a little sappy — but its faultless message always lands. —A.F.

How to watch: Brokeback Mountain is streaming on Peacock and available for rent or purchase on Amazon Prime Video and iTunes.

21. How to Survive a Plague (2012)

Reporter David France looks back on the HIV/AIDS epidemic in this riveting, comprehensive documentary. Weaving hundreds of hours of archival footage into a cohesive narrative on the LGBTQ community's fight against biased healthcare practices, How to Survive a Plague bottles what it means to make societal change happen before it's too late. —A.F.

How to watch: How to Survive a Plague is available for rent or purchase on Amazon Prime Video.

22. Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)

 Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel in "Portrait of a Lady on Fire"


Credit: Neon

Writer-director Céline Sciamma will blow you away with this historical French drama. Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel lead as a painter and her unwilling subject whose intimate time together begins a secret romance that threatens to unravel them both. Painful and poetic, Portrait of a Lady on Fire is the under-appreciated watch you need to make time for. —A.F.

How to watch: Portrait of a Lady on Fire is streaming on Hulu and available for rent or purchase on Amazon Prime Video and iTunes.

23. The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)

Few things are as unspeakably fun as The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Terence Stamp, Hugo Weaving, and Guy Pearce star as drag performers traveling the Australian outback in this heartfelt comedy packed with iconic one-liners and costume changes. (It should be noted that this film contains some outdated, racist portrayals of non-white characters. Many argue the film remains a historic text for the changes it brought about in mainstream acceptance of LGBTQ art.) —A.F.

How to watch: The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is available for rent or purchase on Amazon Prime Video, iTunes, YouTube, and Google Play.

24. Upstairs Inferno (2015)

Documentarian Robert L. Camina remembers the catastrophic fire that took the lives of 32 people at New Orleans gay bar UpStairs Lounge on June 24, 1973. Witnesses to the tragedy reflect on the lives lost, the expected arsonist behind the attack, and the city's lacking response to community devastation. This is a heartbreaking but essential chapter in any LGBTQ history book. —A.F.

How to watch: Upstairs Inferno is available for rent or purchase on Amazon Prime Video.

25. Kiki (2016)

There has never been a better time to revisit Sara Jordenö's breathtaking Kiki. Centered on the drag and ballroom scene of New York City and those communities' roles in rebuffing systemic intersectional bias, this documentary is an inspiring reminder that joy and love can bring about lasting change — but not without profound struggle. —A.F.

How to watch: Kiki is available for rent or purchase on Amazon Prime and iTunes.

26. Pariah (2011)

Adepero Oduye in "Pariah"


Credit: Chicken and Egg / MBK / Northstar / Kobal / Shutterstock

Adepero Oduye devastates in this coming-of-age story. A cinematic journey that leaps from the screen straight to your soul, Pariah follows a 17-year-old Black girl as she fights to accept her lesbian identity and reconcile her sexual orientation with her family's vision of the future. —A.F.

How to watch: Pariah is streaming on HBO Max and is available for rent or purchase on Amazon Prime Video and iTunes.

27. Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street (2019)

Queer horror is a genre full of cringeworthy moves. But fans of the much-maligned A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge came to embrace its quirky dance number and its groundbreaking scream queen, Mark Patton. Teaming with documentarians Tyler Jensen and Roman Chimienti, this fascinating leading man steps back into the spotlight to share his story as a closeted gay actor who survived public mockery and the AIDS crisis to find a love and community that takes pride in him. —K.P.

How to watch: Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street is now streaming on AMC+.

28. The Favourite (2018)

Only star Olivia Colman walked away with an Oscar for her work on The Favourite, but the 2018 historical black comedy more than earned its fair share of praise. Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, this Best Picture nominee tells the story of two courtiers, played by Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone, vying for the favor of Queen Anne (Colman). An excellent argument against aristocracies — and owning too many rabbits — this darkly hilarious and queer romp is well worth a watch. —A.F.

How to watch: The Favourite is available for rent or purchase on Amazon Prime Video, iTunes, YouTube, and Google Play.

29. We Were Here (2011)

Director David Weissman's documentary We Were Here transports viewers back to the San Francisco LGBTQ scene of the '80s and '90s as interview subjects relive their struggle to contend with the unfathomable HIV/AIDS crisis. A testament to the strength of the human spirit and the power of community, this is a history lesson worth paying attention to. —A.F.

How to watch: We Were Here is streaming on Amazon Prime and Kanopy, and available for rent or purchase on iTunes.

30. Call Me By Your Name (2017)

Timothée Chalamet leads in director Luca Guadagnino's stunning coming-of-age romance. Winner of Best Adapted Screenplay at the 90th Academy Awards, Call Me By Your Name approaches its starring couple with tenderness, understanding, and unshakable warmth. This is the perfect pick for a cozy-yet-ethereal night in. —A.F.

How to watch: Call Me By Your Name is available for rent or purchase on Amazon Prime Video and iTunes.

31. Tomboy (2011)

Another installment from writer-director Céline Sciamma. Tomboy paints a staggering portrait of a gender non-conforming child grappling with societal expectations in a new environment. Full of hope but grounded in its true-to-life performances, this film exists as a testament to becoming who you really are at any age. Then-10-year-old Zoé Héran positively dazzles with her lead role. —A.F.

How to watch: Tomboy is steaming on Kanopy.

32. A Fantastic Woman (2017)

Daniela Vega in "A Fantastic Woman"


Credit: Sony Classics / TIFF

Winner of Best Foreign Language Film at the 90th Academy Awards, director Sebastián Lelio's A Fantastic Woman is a tragedy and triumph for the ages. Daniela Vega plays a woman who loses her partner unexpectedly. Amidst her grief, she must contend with her late partner's family and their transphobia. This film offers exquisite cognizance of the pain prejudice can add to existing loss. —A.F.

How to watch: A Fantastic Woman is available for rent or purchase on Amazon Prime Video and iTunes.

33. My Own Private Idaho (1991)

Keanu Reeves and the late River Phoenix star in this 20th-century retelling of Shakespeare's Henry IV and Henry V. Director Gus Van Sant guides his leads through a tense, melancholy exploration of intimacy, power, and uncertainty that never fails to deliver poignant reflection despite its adventure-fueled storyline. Oh, and the pair's chemistry is...searing. A.F.

How to watch: My Own Private Idaho is available for rent or purchase on Amazon Prime Video, iTunes, and Google Play.

34. The Half of It (2020)

The infamous taco sausage (center), pictured here with Ellie, Paul (Daniel Diemer), and Edwin (Collin Chou).


Credit: KC Bailey / Netflix

Since arriving on Netflix last year, The Half of It has quietly built a following of young queer people enchanted by its presentation of coming out. Starring Leah Lewis as Ellie Chiu, an introverted Chinese-American high schooler, this romantic comedy is yet another retelling of the 1897 play Cyrano de Bergerac, but with an intense honesty to its subject that makes it stand out. —A.F.

How to watch: The Half of It is streaming on Netflix.

35. A(sexual) (2011)

Director Angela Tucker's debut documentary offers a thorough, albeit imperfect, examination of what it means to be asexual in our often sex- and romance-obsessed culture. A(sexual) offers profound insight into what it means for asexual people to fight for their right to not partake in normalized relationship rituals and define their own spaces within the LGBTQ community. —A.F.

How to watch: A(sexual) is available for rent or purchase on Amazon Prime Video, iTunes, YouTube, and Google Play

36. Milk (2008)

In director Gus Van Sant's astounding biopic, Sean Penn stars as activist and politician Harvey Milk. The first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California, Milk progressed the rights of LGBTQ Americans by unprecedented leaps and bounds. Milk honors that legacy with its heartfelt imagining of an icon. Penn won Best Actor for his portrayal of Milk at the 81st Academy Awards. —A.F.

How to watch: Milk is streaming on Peacock and available for rent or purchase on Amazon Prime Video and iTunes.

37. Tangerine (2015)

Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, James Ransone, Mya Taylor in "Tangerine"


Credit: Augustas Quirk / Magnolia / Duplass Brothers Prods / Kobal / Shutterstock

Director Sean Baker's low-budget tour de force follows transgender sex worker Sin-Dee Rella (played by the effervescent Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) as she seeks to enact revenge on the man who cheated on her and the cisgender woman he cheated with. Bittersweet and hysterical, Tangerine is a one-of-a-kind viewing experience you'll cherish forever. —A.F.

How to watch: Tangerine is streaming on Kanopy, Amazon Prime Video, and Magnolia Selects and is available for rent or purchase on iTunes.

38. The Birdcage (1996)

In the wake of an unexpected wedding, The Birdcage chronicles the chaotic blending of two very different families. Along the way, Nathan Lane dons full drag, Robin Williams dances his pleated pants off, and Gene Hackman brings remarkable depth to his straight-man role. This is the perfect pick if you want something light and fun to watch with your chosen family. —A.F.

How to watch: The Birdcage is streaming on Peacock and available for rent or purchase on Amazon Prime Video and iTunes.

39. Rafiki (2018)

Starring Samantha Mugatsia and Sheila Munyiva as burgeoning lovers, Rafiki was banned in Kenya "due to its homosexual theme and clear intent to promote lesbianism in Kenya contrary to the law." As a result, of course, much of the rest of the queer world embraced it as a symbol against censorship. Director Wanuri Kahiu treats those viewers to a positively enchanting romance, one that only emphasizes the need for LGBTQ equality everywhere. —A.F.

How to watch: Rafiki is streaming on Kanopy and is available for rent or purchase on Amazon Prime and iTunes.

40. Welcome to Chechnya (2020)

The third film from Academy Award-nominated documentarian David France, Welcome to Chechnya takes viewers on a guerilla-style investigation into the anti-gay purges that still plague the constituent republic of Russia. 

Not only does the explosive project detail the abhorrent policies created by Vladimir Putin and Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov to criminalize homosexuality, it also delves into the insidious culture the government has instilled in its citizens to encourage hate crimes. It’s a painful watch that demands attention from viewers, focusing in large part on the courageous efforts of underground networks working to help LGBTQ people escape the region. —A.F.*

How to watch: Welcome to Chechnya is streaming on HBO Max.

Asterisks (*) indicate the write-up comes from a previous Mashable list.

UPDATE: June 3, 2021, 1:37 p.m. PDT We celebrate every Pride by watching the all-time greats of LGBTQ film, but we've gone ahead and updated this to add a few titles, make sure you've got the right streaming links, and comb out all those social distancing jokes from 2020. Enjoy!

UPDATE: May. 27, 2022, 2:57 p.m. EDT This list has been updated with active links and additional movie recommendations.

Related Video: 10 essential LGBTQ films to stream this Pride Month