April 22, 2019 | 59° F

In light of GAYPril, films that pave way for LGBT+ representation

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In a society that’s becoming more open and progressive, it’s important to keep up with current issues that are changing the way individuals are portrayed in modern-day entertainment. It’s been a long time coming, but Hollywood has recently opened up to giving LGBT+ characters the recognition and representation they deserve. Stories about self-discovery and queer love are dramatically shaking up Hollywood cinema, and it is inspiring to see how far entertainment has come. It is not often we see LGBT+ characters headlining the biggest budget films, so it is highly encouraged to check out the movies below for some inspiration and knowledge about life outside of mainstream Hollywood.  

The Celluloid Closet 

Speaking of Hollywood, this 1995 documentary features various men and women connected to the Hollywood industry. By discussing their own kinds of personal experiences within the industry, we get a glimpse at what production is really like. Stereotyping played a huge role in many films, and writer Vito Russo wanted to show how there were various screen depictions in Hollywood movies. As a documentary, it provides the usual interviews and archival film footage, but it is important to realize that how we see ourselves projected on the screen matters a great deal. To some, it may feel like this is the movie that represents them the best, but also the worst considering the downfalls of their portrayal. If anyone has an open mind or is in the LGBT+ community, this documentary is worth checking out. 


“Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes …” By the time the musical "Rent" made its Broadway debut, it was already one of the most loved rock musicals out there. The show focuses on a single year in the lives of a group of struggling artists and activists living in New York’s Alphabet City. In a time when a diagnosis of HIV felt like a death sentence, the young, impoverished, sexually-diverse artists still attempted to make way for themselves, even through crime and distress. "Rent" is the epitome of the misrepresentation of HIV and LGBT+ in mainstream entertainment, so if you are willing to shed a few tears and laughs, it’s worth the watch. 

The Birdcage

If you are looking for a comedy, this 1996 movie stars Robin Williams, Gene Hackman, Nathan Lane and Dianne Wiest. An openly gay owner of a drag club called The Birdcage and his partner Albert, who plays “Starina,” the main club attraction, live together in an apartment above. It is not until their heterosexual son comes home to announce the news of his engagement and that the wife’s parents don’t know his soon to be son-in-law has gay parents, that there is comedic chaos. This movie is something you don’t see every day, and it takes the concepts of sexuality and the art of drag into something unique and laughable. 


Academy award winner Sean Penn plays the role of Harvey Milk, who was the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California, as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. This is a revolutionary movie because it is based on gay rights and how Milk was an activist and politician. This is a valuable movie to watch and listen to because Milk changed the very nature of what it means to be a fighter for human rights and why it is so important to stand up for what you believe in. 


This emotionally and visually gorgeous movie won the Academy Award for Best Picture and several other awards, including Oscars and a Golden Globe. A coming-of-age film that pinpoints the three stages of life: youth, adolescence and adult life, explores the difficulties that come along with it. From sexuality to identity and overall emotions, the movie is about growing up poor, Black and gay. It shows how the strongest people can be the most vulnerable and sheds a light on the LGBT+ community. “I think it's important people see themselves in film, but it’s even more important they see people they maybe don’t know as well," said film director Barry Jenkins.

Call Me by Your Name 

In a more recent film, characters Elio and Oliver (played by Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer, respectively) live in northern Italy where Elio begins to experiment and find his identity. In a desire to find out his true feelings, Elio yearns for Oliver’s love while having another relationship with a young woman on the side. Yet, throughout the film, Elio seems to always come back to Oliver, thinking about him day and night. As they grow closer and discover how strong their bond is, Oliver reminds Elio that their kind of love is rare. This movie illuminates the fear and uncertainty that LGBT+ people have and that it is okay to find pleasure in other’s comfort. 

Elizabeth Leoce

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