The cast of 'Paris Is Burning' striking poses
(Janus Films)

10 Terrific Movies for Celebrating Pride in All Its Fabulous Complexity

It’s Pride Month! Hooray! How do we celebrate? By dancing on a float and drinking margs? Nah. By throwing both literal and metaphorical bricks at the system like our elders before us. And how better to unwind afterward? With these movies!

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Paris Is Burning

In 'Paris Is Burning,' a drag queen struts.
(Jennie Livingston)

Paris Is Burning is a documentary film that is hailed as one of the best the genre has ever produced. Its subjects? New York City ball culture in the late 80s and 90s. Pioneered by queer people of color, the ballroom scene inspired a cultural explosion whose reverberations can still be felt across pop culture consciousness today. The effect of ballroom on the entertainment industry cannot be overstated, and Paris Is Burning shows the origins of the scene and the legendary figures within it in stunning, tender detail.

Tangerine

Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor in 'Tangerine'
(Magnolia Pictures)

Directed by Sean Baker, the madman responsible for Red Rocket and The Florida Project comes a film that was shot entirely on three iPhone 5S’s. The plot centers around two Black trans sex workers attempting to survive and thrive on the streets of Los Angeles. It’s an unflinching look into both the gritty and the glorious moments of their lives. They hunt down cheating pimps, wrangle clients, stage performances in bars, and support one another through thick and thin. The beautiful friendship between these women is the shining jewel in the crown of this film.

Priscilla: Queen of the Desert

Three drag queens stand on top of Kings Canyon in 'The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert'.
(Roadshow Film Distributors)

Have you ever wanted to see Hugo Weaving (i.e. Elrond, leader of the Elves) in drag? Priscilla: Queen of the Desert will fulfill your every fantasy. Priscilla is a roadtrip comedy film about two drag queens and a trans woman who drive a bus named Priscilla: Queen of the Desert across the Australian Outback in order to perform an act at a faraway resort. On the way they perform hallucinatory musical numbers with aboriginal tribes, get totally lost in the wasteland, and read their detractors to absolute filth. It’s glorious, campy chaos with a sequined beating heart beneath.

Disclosure

Disclosure: Trans Lives on Screen (2020)
(Netflix)

Disclosure is a documentary about the history of transgender actors in film. It’s an unflinching look into the all too often ugly past portrayals of trans people, and the trailblazing performers who are breaking through the stigmas and earning success in the field. Featuring interviews with trans stars like Laverne Cox and Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, Disclosure is a hopeful look into an industry that is slowly but surely changing for the better.

Moonlight

Trevante Rhodes as Chiron in Moonlight
(A24)

Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight was a landmark moment for queer, Black and independent cinema. Beating out the Hollywood star grenade La La Land at the 89th Academy Awards (no matter what Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway would have you believe) Moonlight proved that finally, finally, the film industry was capable of changing the narratives it champions. The story revolves around the life of a queer Black man born in Miami, and shows his coming-of-age journey from a closeted kid to out-and-proud adult, along with the many struggles he faced along that long road.

Carol

Cate Blanchett smoking a cigarette in a wallpapered room in 'Carol'
(The Weinstein Company)

“Harold, they’re lesbians!” The movie that launched a thousand memes, Carol is one of the best sapphic love stories ever told. The plot centers on a young department store clerk who catches the eye of an erudite soon-to-be divorcee in the middle of the 20th century. The pair begin a slow-burn romance that they struggle to keep secret from a world that stigmatizes their existence. Like any good romance story, their true love’s course does not run smooth.

Nimona

Nimona, wearing large bat wings, rides on top of Ballister. There are spears pointed at them. Nimona is grinning, while Ballister looks scared.
(Netflix)

Based on a webcomic created by ND Stevenson, the mastermind behind Lumberjanes and She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, Nimona is an animated sci-fi/fantasy romp about a shapeshifter whose moral compass is as ever-changing as their body. Nimona the changling is a societal outcast due to their powers, and as a result, lives outside the reach of the law’s long arm. After meeting a disgraced knight attempting to clear his name from a crime he didn’t commit, Nimona declares themself to be the unwilling anti-hero’s sidekick. The result is a law-breaking adventure of chaos that somehow manages to zero in on the meaning of being a true hero.

Hairspray (John Waters’ version)

A man and a woman sit on a couch in "Hairspray", the man reads the paper while the woman eats.
(New Line Cinema)

Before there was the big-budget, watered-down musical, there was the Watered-up version. The most important filmmaker to ever come out of Baltimore, Maryland, John Waters became a leading light in the genre of camp films. Along with his genderqueer star actor Divine, the pair’s run on queer cinema became the stuff of legends, Hairspray itself making it to the Library of Congress. The plot of Hairspray remains relatively unchanged from the musical version, but the tone of the film is far darker. Naturally, Divine shines as Edna Turnblad, mother of the film’s heroine. After all, Divine originated the role.

Holy Mountain

A man in white sits flanked by two ghosts in "The Holy Mountain"
(ABKCO Films)

Holy Mountain is a surrealist Spanish-language film from director Alejandro Jodorowsky. The film’s hallucinatory plot draws on Christian theology as well as tarot and pagan folklore, but no one watches Holy Mountain for the plot anyway. Holy Mountain is a visual feast and masterclass in the art of camp. It is a jaw-dropping spectacle of a film, one to which audiences often show up decked out in costume. Holy Mountain is meant to be watched late at night while sipping acid-spiked sangria with friends, lovers, and perfect strangers alike.

Portrait of a Lady On Fire

Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel in portrait of a lady on fire
(A24)

Portrait of a Lady On Fire is proof that when you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back. If the “abyss” in question is the face of a beautiful French woman, that is. Portrait of a Lady On Fire is a film about seeing and being seen by the one you love in perfect totality. The plot centers around a painter who is hired to paint a portrait of a soon-to-be-married French noblewoman. Naturally, this involves the two staring at each other for extended periods during the act of painting, and the sapphic tension only grows and grows. As the title suggests, this film is a beautiful slow-burn love story.


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Jack Doyle
Jack Doyle (they/them) is actually nine choirs of biblically accurate angels crammed into one pair of $10 overalls. They have been writing articles for nerds on the internet for less than a year now. They really like anime. Like... REALLY like it. Like you know those annoying little kids that will only eat hotdogs and chicken fingers? They're like that... but with anime. It's starting to get sad.