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The Best LGBTQ Movies on Netflix (May 2021) | Digital Trends

If you’re looking for a great LGBTQ-themed movie, whether it’s one that will make you laugh, cry, or do a bit of both, Netflix has a wide selection from which to choose. The list ranges from groundbreaking movies like Brokeback Mountain to recent Oscar hits like Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and engaging and thought-provoking documentaries like Disclosure. Whether you’re in the mood for a heart-wrenching drama or a biographical movie, there’s something for everyone and every mood.

When you’re done going through this list, check out the best LGBTQ films to stream right now on multiple services, the best new movies to stream on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and HBO, and the best Netflix original series you can stream right now.

David Lee / Netflix

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020)

The multi-Oscar-nominated film based on the August Wilson play of the same name stars Viola Davis as the title character, a blues singer from the 1920s. Davis mesmerizingly transforms into the influential woman who was not only a talented singer but also an advocate for Black and LGBTQ+ rights, even if she wasn’t as overtly outspoken as others. Rainey made no apologies for her lifestyle, openly dating women at a time when the mere thought was taboo, particularly for a woman of color. While the movie is worth watching for the incredible performances alone, including the late Chadwick Boseman as the ambitious trumpeter Levee Green, it’s an important film that celebrates the LGBTQ+ community.

Rotten Tomatoes: 98%
Stars: Viola Davis, Chadwick Boseman, Glynn Turman, Colman Domingo, Michael Potts
Director: George C. Wolfe
Rating: R
Runtime: 94 minutes

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Brokeback Mountain on Netflix

Brokeback Mountain (2005)

In one of the late Heath Ledger’s most emotional performances, he and Jake Gyllenhaal play American cowboys fighting their feelings for one another. While they are both married to women, their chemistry and love for one another is undeniable, even if they refuse to admit it. The romantic drama follows the pair from the ’60s to the ’80s as they deal with their emotional and sexual relationship. The movie was far ahead of its time and is often considered a trailblazing LGBTQ+ film.

Rotten Tomatoes: 87%
Stars: Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Anna Hathaway, Michelle Williams
Director: Ang Lee
Rating: R
Runtime: 134 minutes

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Milk on Netflix

Milk (2008)

This biographical film tells the story of gay rights activist and politician Harvey Milk, who rose to fame as the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California. The film, which includes archival footage from the ’50s and ’60s, follows Milk’s life and achievements, including his work to defeat Proposition 6, which attempted to ban gays and lesbians from working in public schools in California, as well as his assassination. The movie received eight Oscar nominations and won Best Actor for Sean Penn and Best Original Screenplay for Dustin Lance Black.

Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Stars: Sean Pee, Emile Hirsch, Josh Brolin, Diego Luna, James Franco
Director: Gus Van Sant
Rating: R
Runtime: 128 minutes

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Disclosure on Netflix
Ara Benjamin / Netflix

Disclosure (2020)

This documentary takes a deep dive into the depiction of transgender people in Hollywood and how the stories told through film and television impact transgender people in real life, as well as how they shape and influence the overall cultural landscape. Disclosure features interviews with well-known transgender celebrities, such as Laverne Cox, Candis Cayne, Brian Michael Smith, Chaz Bono, and Lilly Wachowski. It has an almost perfect Rotten Tomatoes rating, with critics praising the documentary for shining a spotlight on the fact that we still have a long way to go for fair and honest representations of LGBTQ individuals on screen.

Rotten Tomatoes: 98%
Stars: Laverne Cox, Candis Cayne, Brian Michael Smith
Director: Sam Feder
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 100 minutes

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Holding The Man on Netflix

Holding the Man (2015)

Starting in the ’70s and fast-forwarding to the ’80s and ’90s through the film, this Australian romantic drama follows the love story of college students Tim and John who decide to run off together. Later, however, after both receive an HIV-positive diagnosis, it puts their love for one another to the test, and riddles one man with guilt. Meanwhile, despite staring down death, the pair must deal with loved ones still not being comfortable with their relationship. The deeply emotional story that critics call an “achingly beautiful portrayal of love and death” is based on the memoir by Australian actor, writer, and activist Timothy Conigrave.

Rotten Tomatoes: 81%
Stars: Ryan Corr, Craig Stott, Sarah Snook, Guy Pearce, Kerry Fox, Anthony LaPaglia, Geoffrey Rush
Director: Neil Armfield
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 128 minutes

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Straight Up on Netflix

Straight Up (2019)

James Sweeney both created and stars in this independent film about a 20-something young man who suffers from OCD and, because of his aversion to bodily fluids, has trouble engaging in romantic relationships. Fearing he might be alone forever, he experiments with dating women instead of men, and he meets Rory, who is as equally socially flawed as he is. While they embark on a romantic relationship, others question how real their love truly is, and whether it’s just a manifestation of Todd’s intrinsic homophobia. It’s a unique story about a young man and how his mental disorder influences the nature of his relationships. The movie was only put out for limited release and premiered at Outfest in 2019, but has received rave reviews.

Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Cast: Katie Findlay, James Sweeney, Dana Drori, James Scully, Tracie Thoms, Betsy Brandt, Randall Park
Director: James Sweeney
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 95 minutes

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The Boys in the Band on Netflix
Scott Everett White

The Boys in the Band (2020)

As important as the message this film portrays is the fact that the cast is made up entirely of openly gay actors. They play a group of gay friends who get together to celebrate a birthday in an Upper East Side Manhattan apartment. But things go awry when the host’s former college roommate, who happens to be straight, shows up uninvited. With an eclectic group of characters and personalities, the 1968-set, Ryan Murphy-produced drama explores the age-old issue of dealing with societal rejection and coming to terms with one’s truth and self-worth. The film is based on a Mart Crowley off-Broadway play from 1968, which was made into a movie in 1970 starring the same cast. The full cast of this new film played the same roles in a Broadway revival of the play in 2018 as well.

Rotten Tomatoes: 81%
Stars: Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, Matt Bomer, Andrew Rannells, Charlie Carver, Robin de Jesus, Brian Hutchison, Michael Benjamin Washington, Tuc Watkins
Director: Joe Mantello
Rating: R
Runtime: 122 minutes

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Your Name Engraved Herein on Netflix

Your Name Engraved Herein (2020)

Set in 1988, two young men who have survived martial law in Taiwan discover that they are in love. But they don’t act on it for fear of pressure from their respective families and outright homophobia. The romance film, which was originally titled The Name Engraved in Your Heart, demonstrates the all-too-familiar journey of two men destined to be together but having to deny their truths in light of social stigmas. The movie was actually inspired by real events. The fact that Taiwan was the first Asian country to legalize gay marriage makes this an important film for the LGBTQ community.

Rotten Tomatoes: Not yet reviewed
Cast: Jean-Francois Blanchard, Akira Chen, Edward Chen, David Hao-Chi Chiu, Leon Dai, Fabio Grangeon, Honduras, Mountain Kao, Lenny Li, and others
Director: Kuang-Hui Liu
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 118 minutes

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Circus of Books on Netflix

Circus of Books (2019)

This documentary by artist Rachel Mason is a riveting look at the popular and long-running bookstore and gay pornography shop, Circus of Books, in West Hollywood and in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles. The store was first established in the ’60s as Book Circus. Rachel’s parents, Karen and Barry Mason, who were working with Hustler publisher Larry Flynt at the time, took over the store in the early ’80s and renamed it Circus of Books. The straight, religious couple with kids, however, kept the nature of their work a secret from family and friends. The business went through many challenges, from being caught in an FBI sting during President Ronald Reagan’s crackdown on pornography, to gaining a reputation for attracting hustlers in the wee hours of the morning. The store served as a refuge for LGBTQ community members during the height of the AIDS crisis, and the film highlights Karen and Barry’s struggles with being so heavily immersed in LGBTQ culture at a time when it was not socially accepted. Rachel’s doc tells the fascinating story of the store’s historical significance for the LGBTQ community, her parents’ role as unintentional activists, and how the internet destroyed the business.

Rotten Tomatoes: 98%
Stars: Karen Mason, Barry Mason, Rachel Mason
Director: Rachel Mason
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 92 minutes

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Moonlight on Netflix

Moonlight (2016)

Follow the journey of a young Black man through different periods in his life — from being a young boy through becoming a grown man — as he tries to come to terms with his sexuality. Based on the unpublished semi-autobiographic play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney, the film earned Mahershala Ali an Academy Award for his supporting role, along with several other nominations and wins. It’s an eye-opening look at the physical and emotional abuse that LGBTQ people often go through on their journey to, and even after, discovering their identities.

Rotten Tomatoes: 98%
Stars: Trevante Rhodes, Andre Holland, Janelle Monae, Jharrel Jerome, Mahershala Ali
Director: Barry Jenkins
Rating: R
Runtime: 111 minutes

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The Danish Girl on Netflix
Focus Features

The Danish Girl (2015)

Loosely inspired by the real story of Danish painters Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener, and based on the novel of the same name by David Ebershoff, The Danish Girl is an intriguing look at Elbe’s journey as one of the first known recipients of sex reassignment surgery. While the historical accuracy of the time (the mid-1920s) left some unimpressed, along with the casting of the cisgender Eddie Redmayne in a transgender role, the performances by the lead stars catapulted the touching film to Academy Award status.

Rotten Tomatoes: 67%
Stars: Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Ben Whishaw, Sebastian Koch, Amber Heard, Matthias Schoenaerts
Director: Tom Hooper
Rating: R
Runtime: 119 minutes

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Girl, on Netflix

Girl (2018)

The story was inspired by Nora Monsecour, a trans female dancer who director Lukas Dhont met when he was a teenager. In the film, Lara (Victor Polster) is a 15-year-old trans girl, just like Monsecour, who aspires to be a professional ballerina. While she has support from some important people in her life as she deals with her gender dysphoria, attending a new school and going through puberty presents its own set of challenges. While the film received some criticism for portrayals of gender dysphoria and self-harm, Monsecour, who provided insight for the film, spoke out in support of it.

Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
Stars: Victor Polster, Arieh Worthalter, Katelijine Damen, Valentijin Dhaenens
Director: Lukas Dhont
Rating: R
Runtime: 106 minutes

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Tallulah on Netflix

Tallulah (2016)

Get ready to laugh with this film about Tallulah (Ellen Page), a young woman who ends up caring for a toddler whose mother, Carolyn (Tammy Blanchard), has no interest in raising. With nowhere else to go, Tallulah shacks up with her ex’s mother, Margo (the fantastic Allison Janney), and pretends the child is hers, and thus Margo’s granddaughter. The two women form an unlikely bond, revealing painful secrets as Tallulah tries to hide from both Carolyn and the police.

Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
Stars: Ellen Page, Allison Janney, Tammy Blanchard
Director: Sian Heder
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 111 minutes

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A Secret Love, on Netflix

A Secret Love (2020)

The newest film on this list, this documentary is already receiving tremendous praise after being released in April 2020. Produced by Glee and American Horror Story creator Ryan Murphy, A Secret Love tells the story of a pair of All-American Girls Professional Baseball League players who kept their romantic partnership a secret for almost seven decades. Based on the true story of director Chris Bolan’s two aunts, the tremendous sacrifice and weight the two women held on their shoulders for three-quarters of a century will both warm your heart for their intense dedication to one another and make you angry that they felt that couldn’t be freely and openly in love.

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Stars: Terry Donahue, Diana Bolen, Pat Henschel
Director: Chris Bolan
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 83 minutes

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I Am Divine, on Netflix

I Am Divine (2013)

Harris Glenn Milstead, best known by his stage name Divine, was an actor, singer, and drag performer. He was considered a trailblazer and was the muse of filmmaker John Waters, who cast him in many of his movies. Divine, who has become a cult figure among the LGBTQ community and was dubbed by People magazine as the Drag Queen of the Century in 1988, sadly passed away that same year at the age of 42. His bright and colorful persona has become the inspiration for many other characters, songs, and art. The film includes interviews with a number of people close to Divine, including Waters and the surviving members of the Dreamlanders, a group of regular performers who Waters used in his films.

Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Stars: Divine, John Waters, Tab Hunter, Ricki Lake, Mink Stole, and more
Director: Jeffrey Schwartz
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 90 minutes

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Dear Ex on Netflix

Dear Ex (2018)

This black comedy-drama from Taiwan is about Song, a teenager who discovers that his recently deceased father was living a secret life when, after his passing, a strange man named Jay shows up. Not only is Jay listed as the life insurance beneficiary on Song’s father’s will, but he was also apparently his lover. Now Song finds himself caught between his mother Liu, who must deal with the reality that her husband was unfaithful and a closeted homosexual, and the free-spirited Jay, who has turned their lives upside down. The film was selected for the International Feature Film category at the Academy Awards but was not nominated.

Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Stars: Roy Chiu, Ying-Xuan Hsieh, Spark Chen, Joseph Huang
Director: Mag Hsu, Hsu Chih-yen
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 100 minutes

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Alex Strangelove on Netflix

Alex Strangelove (2018)

This rom-com follows one seemingly straight teenager’s journey in exploring his sexuality. While still a virgin and with a girlfriend, Alex meets another openly gay teen who has a crush on him and begins to question if he might be bisexual. The film has been praised for taking a refreshing and progressive look at the topic of teen sexuality.

Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
Stars: Daniel Doheny, Antonio Marziale, Madeline Weinstein, Joanna Adler, William Ragsdale, Daniel Zolghadri
Director: Craig Johnson
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 99 minutes

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