Friday, January 2, 2015

Geeks on Film: 5 Gay Men Discuss Their 10 Favorite Gay Movies

One of my favorite things to do is talk movies with friends. For whatever reason, I am really adverse to using the term BEST. There is no such thing as a best or worst movie. It's all so entirely subjective. So, instead, I invited four pals, all well versed in movies, but all from entirely different backgrounds, to share with us their ten favorite gay movies and why the movie means something to them. Hopefully, between the five of us, there will be a movie or two that might be worth checking out! Please tell us if we left something off that is really worth mentioning!

Matthew Rettenmund
Acclaimed novelist and pop-culture historian. Among his many accomplishments, Matthew was the founder of Popstar! Magazine back in 1998 and was Editor in Chief of the publication until 2012. He wrote the novel turned movie Boy Culture. And, he is well known for his books such as Encyclopedia Madonnica and Hillary Duff: All Access.

1) Parting Glances
A heart-breaking romance, but not the one you think, set in '80s NYC that perfectly captures the place and time, using AIDS in the telling of a larger story in an unaffected way that suggested empathy instead of sympathy. Steve Buscemi's break-out role, and he's never been better.

2) My Beautiful Laundrette
Madly romantic and quaintly humorous British love story that tackles race, class and sexual identity all at once.

3) Paris Is Burning
A deceptively slight documentary that presents gay and trans people as they struggle to self-actualize and even to survive. Painfully honest piece with real flashes of black humor.

4) The Boys in the Band
Often derided for being dated, I think the only truly dated aspect is the use of credit as a character flaw.
Face it—everyone knows or has been one of these guys: a vicious queen, an even more vicious queen, a non confrontational good-time guy, a slut, a jealous hubby, a flamboyant cut-up, a closet case. Their interaction is brilliantly compelling.

5) My Own Private Idaho
An emotionally raw performance from River Phoenix uplifts a sad, sweeping story of unrequited love and unrealized potential.

6) A Single Man
An exquisite-looking period piece as thoughtful as it is stylish that presents one gay man's life a few decades before it would have been a lot easier.

7) Head On
I'm not a fan of grotesquely anti-gay gay films (Cruising comes to mind), nor do I dismiss out of hand gay films with negative portrayals. This shocking film about a sex addict and his relentless desire to self-destruct blew me away.

8) Victim
Inarguably important in the gay canon, a very early film on gay issues (the first English film to use the word "homosexual") that portrays the utter fear and paranoia rampant in gay circles pre-Stonewall. Dirk Bogarde was fearless to star in this

9) Bound
A hilarious and sexy lesbian drama that surprises at every turn, with great chemistry between Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly.

10) Maurice
A guilty pleasure, this lush period romance would have thrilled its author, who labored over it and then could never publish it in his lifetime. The scene where Scudder comes up that ladder is a boner for the ages.


Greg Fox
Creator of long running, syndicated LGBT comic Kyle's Bed & Breakfast. Greg Fox began making comics at 12 years old, publishing his first strip at age 14 and continuing to illustrate and write comic strips through high school and college. He received a B.A. from Geneseo College in upstate New York. His illustration work has appeared in comic books for such companies as Revolutionary Comics, Triumphant Comics, and Marvel Comics.

**In no particular order...**
1) Torch Song Trilogy
This was probably the first "gay movie" I ever saw, and it was kind of earthshaking for me, at the time, to see all of that "gay life" going on onscreen. Sharply written and well-acted. The scenes of Harvey Fierstein going up against his mother, (Anne Bancroft), are truly remarkable.

2) Love! Valour! Compassion! 
Spectacular cast makes this Broadway play-turned movie come to life. John Glover, especially, (Lex Luthor's father from Smallville), plays a double role here, (as very different twin brothers), and really steals the show. And it's wonderful seeing Jason Alexander, (Seinfeld), breaking the boundaries of George Costanza.

3) Make the Yuletide Gay
Finally a gay Christmas movie! So cute and funny and warm.... and the mother in this, (Kelly Keaton), owns the screen in every scene she's in!

4) Redwoods 
A quiet, romantic film that's just kind of heart wrenching & sweet. The two male leads have amazing chemistry, and it's beautifully filmed in California redwood country.

5) Yossi & Jagger 
Another heart wrenching drama, this one set in wartime between 2 Israeli soldiers. It all feels very real and edgy and important, somehow. A sequel has been made, but I haven't seen it yet.

6) Big Eden 
Lovely film set in gorgeous western mountain country. The cinematography alone is so breathtaking.... certainly one of the most beautifully filmed, high-budget looking LGBT films I have ever seen. Thankfully, it's also got a great, romantic story and wonderful, wacky cast of characters to really make this a stellar film.

7) Parting Glances 
I did not see this when it first was released in the 1980s, but apparently it was one of the first quality, authentic LGBT films to ever be made. It still holds up today... a smart script and tight story about a gay couple on the edge of breaking up, led by two great actors, (disclaimer: I may have a bit of a bias here, being that I know one of the lead actors, John Bolger, who happens to live here in my town!). And Steve Buscemi does a terrific job in one of his first film roles.

8) The Sum of Us 
Part of the thrill of this Australian film is seeing a very young Russell Crowe in one of his first film roles playing a gay character. The dynamic between him & his father, (Jack Thompson), is nicely played. The film takes a bit of an unexpected dark turn towards the end, making it not quite the feel-good comedy it starts out as. 

Nick Scotti in Kiss Me Guido
This felt important to me at the time, as I believe it was one of the first mainstream gay romantic comedy dramas, featuring big-time actors, (Kevin Kline, Tom Selleck), playing gay roles. Mainstream it may be, but it is genuinely funny and sharply written, with great performances, (Joan Cusack is hysterical). throughout. (Another disclaimer: I have a special connection with this film as it was shot on location here in my hometown of Northport, so I may be a bit biased about this one, too!).

10) Kiss Me, Guido  
Maybe it's the fact that I'm part Italian-American, (my mother's family, obviously not the Fox family!), and I'm from New York, that this film really hit home for me. Yes, it's a bit silly and broadly played.... but it's also wildly funny and has some sharp, incisive moments throughout. Sadly, this movie is STILL not available on DVD, making it a hard one to see if you haven't already seen it. But I think it's worth the effort, if you can find a VHS copy, (and it you happen to have a VCR!).


Bryan Pittard
Bryan Pittard is the creator and host of Flame ON!, a gay and geeky podcast that comes out every other Friday, available on iTunes, SoundCloud, and When he’s not podcasting, he’s helping his partner Pat with Bears in the City events around Orlando, or practicing his theremin.

1) The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
What is now a classic gay movie and stage musical was once, to me, just a fabulous gay indie film starring Superman’s General Zod (Terrance Stamp), The Matrix’s Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving), and a hot Alex from The Time Machine (Guy Pearce). Take these awesome Aussies, mix in some killer drag, a touch of Abba, and a poignant plot and you’ve got a timeless classic that stands head over heals above the rest!

2) Angels in America
To this day, I get chills hearing Thomas Newman’s lush oboe part of the opening theme to the movie adaptation of Angels in America, Tony Kushner’s fantasy on gay life in the 80’s around the advent of AIDS in the United States. While the rest of the score is equally lovely, they are exceeded by the brilliant acting from Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson, Justin Kirk, and Al Pacino.

3) Another Gay Movie
Inspired heavily by the raunchy American Pie movies, Another Gay Movie sought to lampoon previous queer movies and archetypes with its own irreverent brand of sex romp. Featuring ridiculous performances by Scott Thompson from The Kids in the Hall and the elfish, British talk show host Graham Norton, this movie is a gloriously inappropriate way to celebrate gay youth and all of its misadventures.

4) But I’m a Cheerleader
If you like Ru Paul but haven’t seen But I’m a Cheerleader, you’re missing out on this darkly satirical look at gay conversion therapy. Mama Ru is featured in her boy drag as one of the camp’s chief counselors, shepherding young Natasha Lyonne (Orange is the New Black), Clea DuVall (American Horror Story), and Michelle Williams (Dawson’s Creek) through the hilarious and twisted camp program.

5) Pageant
Thanks in no small part to the documentary Pageant and watching countless hours of Ru Paul’s Drag Race, I have come to greatly appreciate the craft of being a drag queen. This documentary features the road for 3 up-and-coming pageant queens to claim the title of Miss Gay America, and pulls few punches depicting the agony and the ecstasy of being a drag queen in the cut-throat pageant world.

6) Jeffrey
We all know how fabulous Patrick Stewart is as Captain Picard, Professor Xavier, and palling around with his heterosexual life partner Ian McKellen, but did you know he was also fabulous playing an older gay man in 1995’s Jeffrey? This movie was one of the more successful early attempts at a mainstream gay romantic comedy starring Wing’s Steven Weber as the eponymous main character and tells a lovely if just a little idealized tale of finding love as a gay man.

7) Bear City
After years of watching queer movies about twinks, drag queens, and silver foxes, we finally got a movie for the bears! Bear City is a delightful romp through the bear community of New York City, with an honest yet endearing story of bears, chasers, and otters as they live and love and yes, cause a bit of drama with each other.

8) Beautiful Thing
One of the first queer movies I ever saw was the British drama Beautiful Thing, a story of two gay teens falling in love in working class London in the 90’s. Featuring music from Mama Cass Elliot, this is the coming-of-age, queer love story that all adolescents should watch to learn that life can not only get better, but also it can also be beautiful.

9) Love! Valour! Compassion!
Love! Valour! Compassion! by Terrence McNally is a hilarious and powerful play about gay men and their relationships, and the film adaptation with Jason Alexander (Seinfeld) and John Glover (Smallville), among many others, captures the joy of the show perfectly.

10) Shortbus
John Cameron Mitchell’s unique and controversial follow-up to Hedwig and the Angry Inch was the movie Shortbus, an anthology of stories about sex and sexuality in and around the bohemian club of the same name. With the actors in this film all actually having sex with each other on film, what starts out as titillation quickly turns into sentiment, exploring the boundaries between love and sex and all points in between. Also, after watching this movie, you’ll never be able to hear “The Star Spangled Banner” again without thinking dirty thoughts.


Robert Patterson
An avid film lover, Robert enjoys the very best of movies by going to the Sundance Film Festival every year, to the worst of movies – who doesn’t like a double feature of Baby Geniuses and Showgirls? While his day-job has him overseeing a nonprofit organization focusing on children and families, he loves to travel and you will likely find him following Madonna around on tour. He’s a devoted set-jetter - finding and visiting locations and documenting for the world to see in his blog at

1) Longtime Companion 
The first film to come to mind when I was coming up with this list, Longtime Companion came at a turning point for me personally as well as the time for AIDS awareness in the nation. Add a gay “Jake Ryan” and you can do no wrong! The final image of the film captured for the posters and marketing is heartbreakingly memorable.

2) Parting Glances 
One of the first gay-themed movies I rented on VHS (!) back in the day, I felt like I caught a glimpse of what life was like for a NYC gay. Irresistibly cute Adam Nathan and an early appearance by Steve Buscemi made this one a keeper.

3) Brokeback Mountain 
As I’ve included this one not because it was personally meaningful to me, although who couldn’t forget the first tent scene, but for its resonance through our culture at the time. They don’t call it the Brokeback Effect for nothing.

As an avid film-lover, I was absolutely smitten with this Lily Tomlin-narrated journey of gays hiding in plain sight in the cinema. At times it is hilarious to hear how they got around the censors, other times it is sickening and a reminder that many films still tiptoe carefully around the subject.

5) Mysterious Skin
Picking up Scott Heim’s masterpiece of a book on a whim, I was infatuated with this story of two boys’ journey in a small Kansas town. I thought it would be unfilmable, but Gregg Araki created his best work yet and made me a Joseph Gordon-Levitt lover for life. I actually visited locations for this movie for my blog!

6) Doing Time on Maple Drive
This one is likely forgotten by many, but I vividly remember watching this in my college dorm room knowing my parents were watching it at home as I had recently came out to them. It was all too easy to see myself in this story, a rarity for me.

7) Far From Heaven
Oh how Julianne Moore shines in this movie! Todd Haynes creates a mesmerizing world of the downlow life in the 1950s where Dennis Quaid just can’t say no to men and Julianne can’t say no to Dennis Haysbert.

8) Cruising
Another early VHS-rental, this dark film showed the seedier side of gay underground culture in 1980 New York City. This would push any self-respecting preppy kid back in the closet. My naïveté kept me from knowing what was even happening screen some of the time, but there some things you just can’t unsee!

9) Jeffrey
Perpetuating that all men in New York are gay, Jeffrey was a reminder that we are here for each other, fun and love. Sigourney Weaver commands the screen in her short scene as a new age self-help guru, I could rewatch it all day.

10) Common Threads 
Stories From The Quilt: Another benchmark for the gay community, I remembering seeing this film in my documentary class and being flabbergasted by Bryant Gumbel’s change in tone in two different news clips. In the first clip he is almost smiling as he introduced a story on a disease affecting gay men. A few years later, he takes an opposite and somber tone when he relays that AIDS is affecting women and straight men at alarming rates.


Lee's Picks!
As the head writer for AdamMaleBlog, I get to chime in, too!

1) Get Real
Wow. This UK based movie is really touching to me as it is perhaps the most realistic depiction of growing up gay in middle class society. There is no major drama happening in this movie. No one dies. No rampant drug use or personal tragedy to overcome. Just a tale of two young men coming to terms with their homosexuality and making mistakes along the way.

Another great UK movie about growing up gay. Jamie and Ste are lower income working class teens coping with family problems and their burgeoning relationship. This movie does a great job showing how parenting can really affect the lives of children and how children can affect the lives of their parents. This is a must watch.

My favorite of all the 80s movies made about the AIDS epidemic, back before there were effective treatments. This movie hits you like a kick in the guts as you watch all of the characters you have come to love slowly die off. 

Aussie film staring a young Russel Crowe as a gay man whose charming father is ardently trying to help him date. Dad suffers and unfortunate stroke and the movie takes a sad turn. But, overall, one of the most sweet and well made movies about gay dating as an adult.

Way back when Daniel Day Lewis was a smokin' hot young man. This movie tackles a boat load of important social issues all while being wonderfully entertaining. 

I was kind of expecting Pedro Almodovar movies to be all over this list. The incredible Gael Garcia Bernal is at his very best in this film as he plays an out of work actor hoping to land the role of a lifetime. The plot of this movie gets quite complex as it deals with murder, sexual abuse, and betrayal, but I do not want to accidentally give any spoilers. You must watch this film.
Why more people aren't hip to this amazing movie is beyond me. It follows the life of Zac, a young gay man dealing with homophobia while growing up with four brothers and a conservative father in Quebec during the 1960s and 1970s. It's brilliant!


What John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask accomplished with Hedwig is astonishing. You really feel for Hedwig as she completes her journey from gullible young man, to angry, control freak rocker, and finally to becoming a complete human being in the end. This movie allows you to despise the protagonists behavior while still wanting to love them. 

One of my favorite Merchant Ivory adaptations of an EM Forrester novel. Being homosexual in England in the early 1900s can get you sent to jail. So, we watch the lives of two young men who clearly are in love, but one is entirely too scared to act on it as it might ruin his station in life. Meanwhile, he is forced to look on in jealousy as the other finds a meaningful relationship. It's great acting all the way around.

I had trouble deciding whether or not to include this movie because the ending seemed like such a Hollywood cop-out to me. When you watch, you will see what I mean. But the acting job by Nicholas Hoult and Colin Firth are so transcendent, you can get over the annoying contrivances and forced plot line.

A Single Man

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  1. Some really wonderful films. There are one or two on here I still haven't seen so I'll have to try and track them down.

    With comment on titles not on other lists my top 10 would be:

    1. The Trip (2002)-Sweet low budget love story that spans a couple of decades in the stormy relationship of its lead pair, an out and proud free spirit and a closeted conservative.

    2. Latter Days (2003)-Another opposite attracts love story between an L.A. party boy and a Mormon missionary. Added bonuses Jacqueline Bisset as the wise boss of the party boy and Mary Kay Place as the Mormon's mother.

    3. Torch Song Trilogy

    4. Shelter-(2007) Family drama of a young artist who has had to put his plans aside to help his irresponsible sister, a single mom, raise her son. He drifts in the trap until the brother of his best friend returns to town and sparks fly.

    5. An Early Frost-First TV movie dealing with AIDS with an amazing cast. Wonderfully done and beautifully acted.

    6. Trick-The search for a place for a couple of guys who picked each other up to complete the act leads to the discovery of deeper feelings on both sides all in a single night.

    7. Longtime Companion

    8. Beautiful Thing

    9. It's My Party-A man who is told he's about to enter the end stage of an AIDS related brain illness decides to commit suicide rather than waste away. Before he does that he throws one last party to say goodbye and tie up loose ends. Eric Roberts playing the lead has never been better and a cavalcade of recognizable faces pass through including Olivia Newton John, Margaret Cho, Roddy McDowell and in a beautiful performance as Roberts mother Lee Grant.

    10. The Sum of Us

    Just below-Make the Yuletide Gay-I agree Kelly Keaton steals every scene she's in and Alison Arngrim is a hoot as the neighbor.

    Brokeback Mountain-A masterpiece but too brutal to revisit often.

  2. I was surprised to not see "Shelter" on anyone's list. One of my all time favorite films. Also, "Touch of Pink" is another film that stays with me and I like to watch over and over.

  3. Two movies I watched as a young man, at home with my parents sleeping in the night, were very strong influences on me at the time . An Early Frost and Doing Time on Maple Drive ...the second one was the hardest for me because it was my life at the time .....hiding my true feelings because my parents made it clear that feeling that way was WRONG.

  4. I love posts like these - they make me look at making my own list. For the most part I agree with so many of the options, but there are ones that were left out which are musts for me - so I pulled my Top 10 together.

    1. Priest - Being a very active Catholic at the time this came out - I was fascinated with the fact it was forbidden to watch and then had to see it. All it made me feel was that this is not only a movie that should be seen but taught to show what true compassion is.

    2. Priscilla Queen of the Desert - truly taught me what being fabulous would be all about.

    3. Bareback Mountian - the love story between these men blew me away.

    4. The Sum of Us - first introduction to Russell Crowe and how supportive we all hoped our families would be.

    5. Longtime Companion - growing up in Nebraska - this allowed me to see sections of that gay community and what they were dealing with away from my own sheltered existence.

    6. 24th Day - thriller with a strong impact

    7. Yossi and Jagger - another love story

    8. The Big Gay Musical - thoroughly enjoyed the campiness of this musical

    9. Get Real - good movie of dealing with high school

    10. Breakfast With Scot - sweet movie

  5. Great lists. Honorable mentions: Before Night Falls, Milk, Trick, Latter Days, Heights, and The Deep End (the last two were more family dramas with gay characters, but both were great!)

  6. I would add some recent ones: "Weekend", "Keep the Lights On", "Love is Strange", "Stranger by the Lake", "Lilting" and "Pride" as well as a couple of films from Asia: "No Regret" (Korea), "Happy Together" (HK), But this is a wonderful and diverse list!

  7. My list would have to include "Trick," "Edge of Seventeen," "It's My Party," and "Latter Days," which were all omitted by the gentlemen in the article.