Whether you’re an ally or member of the queer community, these films offer compelling and heartfelt stories that celebrate love in all its forms.
LGBTQ+ cinema has come a long way over the past few years. Members of the community continue to carve a space for more diverse queer narratives across different types of media. From best-selling books to award-winning films, there’s a growing list of stories that shed light on all forms of love.
It’s important to have narratives that highlight the struggles of the LGBTQ+ community, but the queer experience isn’t constantly rife with tragedy or conflict. It also has its fair share of joy and precious moments. Queer people deserve to see themselves in sappy rom-coms or uplifting coming-of-age films—that’s a part of the journey to equality as much anything else.
Whether you’re an ally looking to learn more about these experiences, or a member of the community who’s in the mood for feel-good films that resonate, there’s something for everyone.
The six movies listed below only scratch the surface of amazing and diverse LGBTQ+ media, but they’re a pretty good place to start:
Billie and Emma (2018)
Billie and Emma is the work of queer Filipina filmmaker, Samantha Lee. Set in the 1990s, this coming-of-age film centers around two highschool girls—the movie’s titular characters.
The story starts when musically-inclined and rebellious Billie (played by Zar Donato) moves to a Catholic girls school in rural St. Isidro. It’s here where she gets to know Emma (Gabby Padilla), the star student and resident popular girl.
The two eventually develop romantic feelings for each other while working on a school project. However, things start to get complicated when Emma finds out that she’s pregnant with the baby of her boyfriend, Miguel.
Beyond exploring a believable and tender queer romance, the film also touches upon the importance of agency and self-discovery. Its stars are members of the LGBTQ+ community, which adds a layer of authenticity to the story. It takes its subject matter seriously, but manages to maintain a comedic and lighthearted tone all throughout its runtime.
Ang Huling Cha-Cha Ni Anita (2013)
Another lighthearted and proudly-Filipino film you can add to your to-watch list is Ang Huling Cha-Cha Ni Anita. Directed by Sigrid Andrea P. Bernardo, the movie focuses on a woman named Anita, who reminisces about her early teenage years.
At 12, Anita (played by 13-year-old Teri Malvar) is a classic tomboy. Her journey of self-discovery starts when a lady named Pilar (played by Angel Aquino) arrives in her small town. Anita develops a crush on the older woman, and her budding feelings are depicted through amusing daydream sequences.
The film explores the joys and struggles of a young girl grappling with her sexuality in a small religious town. It also captures the nostalgia of a childhood spent in the countryside and the thrill of a first crush in a realistic and genuinely tender way.
Saving Face (2004)
Alice Wu is the only filmmaker who released an LGBTQ+ rom-com starring two Asian women in the early 2000s. Aptly titled Saving Face, the movie takes place in New York City and tells the story of workaholic Chinese-American surgeon, Dr. Wilhelmina “Wil” Pang (played by Michelle Krusiec).
Wil is a closeted lesbian, but her traditional mother (Joan Chen) and grandparents aren’t aware of it. As such, her well-meaning family attempts to set her up with available bachelors during different community gatherings. In one of these events, Wil encounters the confident and graceful Vivian Shing (Lynn Chen). The two hit it off and start dating, but Wil struggles to be honest about their relationship with her family.
Wil’s mother, Hwei, also faces challenges of her own. In a shocking twist, she’s kicked out of her parents’ home after they discover she’s pregnant out of wedlock.
The film not only explores the sweet and snarky relationship between two queer women, but also gives viewers a glimpse into Chinese-American culture. Wil’s relationship with her mother is the film’s beating heart, as the two come to realize that they have more in common than they thought.
Overall, the movie is a touching piece on family and queer love, as well as tradition and acceptance. The best part? It ends on a refreshingly happy note.
Fire Island (2022)
Do you adore Pride and Prejudice, but wish there was a modern and queer spin to the timeless classic? Look no further, because Andrew Ahn’s rom-com Fire Island is all of that and more.
At first glance, one might not recognize the film as a loose adaptation of Jane Austen’s beloved romance. It’s a lot more modern, for one thing. Still, its fresh interpretations are funny and relevant, making it a welcome addition to the LGBTQ+ film library.
The movie centers around a group of queer friends who take their annual trip to Fire Island Pines—a gay paradise filled with good memories. Their recent trip takes an interesting turn with the introduction of two rich men: Will (based on Fitzwilliam Darcy and played by Conrad Ricamora) and Charlie (based on Charles Bingley and played by James Scully).
Conflicts ensue, but friendship and love prevail. Much like the Austen source material, the movie is filled with misunderstandings that lead to self-reflection and great character development.
The film’s main character, Noah (based on Elizabeth Bennet and played by Joel Kim Booster), shares an undeniable chemistry with the reserved Will. Their banter feels natural and their dynamic stays true to the literary characters they’re based on.
More than just romance, the film fleshes out its multicultural cast of queer characters. It also depicts the importance of one’s chosen family—that is, the people who love and accept you for who you are, even when they’re not blood related.
Love, Simon (2018)
Based on Becky Albertalli’s best-selling novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, Greg Berlanti’s Love, Simon is an earnest story about secret penpals, self-acceptance, and the importance of compassion amid discrimination.
Filled with a diverse cast of characters, the film focuses on Simon Spier (played by Nick Robinson). Simon is a closeted gay teenager who’s still grappling with his identity. Throughout the movie, he writes emails to an anonymous gay student under the pseudonym “Blue” (Keiynan Lonsdale). Their feelings for one another blossom through these epistolary exchanges.
However, after committing a series of hurtful acts in a desperate attempt to prevent him and Blue from being outed, Simon must learn to face the consequences with honesty and compassion. Though the movie has its more poignant scenes, it still gives its queer characters a fitting happy ending.
Anything’s Possible (2022)
Those looking for a cute romance starring a transgender lead can turn to Billy Porter’s debut film Anything’s Possible. The movie itself is incredibly modern, and will likely resonate with Gen-Z audiences.
It centers around a trans high school girl named Kelsa (played by Eva Reign) as she navigates the complex world of senior high school. The plot starts when Kelsa meets a sweet and artsy boy named Khal (Abubakr Ali). The two begin a heartwarming friendship that develops naturally and beautifully.
Khal eventually gets the courage to ask Kelsa out, but their relationship comes with challenges like school rumors and discrimination. It’s not every day where audiences get a rom-com centered on a transgender woman, let alone one that examines the nuances of her experience with sensitivity and care.
The movie’s touching story showcases the worthwhile rewards of loving another person and oneself, no matter who you are.
Banner photo via Instagram @billieandemma.