Significant Gay Movies Since 2000

A non-Euro/Gringo-Cinephile-Establishment List

Note: In making this list of gay movies, I considered what was important to me, rather than what was important to the culture at large, not least because there are inevitably estadounidense biases, and often European ones as well, built-in to lists like these.

As a corrective to that, and in an effort at honesty, I’ve made this list personal. Also, for obvious reasons, this is a work in progress, until 2020 anyway, not least of which is my ongoing struggle to define what constitutes a gay film.

Please make suggestions for further viewing in the comments, or let me know if I’ve forgotten or overlooked something. I’d also love to hear what anyone thinks of any particular film. This is more a personal selection than it is an attempt to assess historical relevance.

Looking over my GTM list on Letterboxd, I realize that the bulk of the films that resonate strongly in my mind and therefore received the highest star ratings or at least the most confident ones, were, in fact, released before 2000.

It’s not that there have been no good gay-themed movies released since 2000, it’s that greatness for me is a function of time and an accumulation of experiences, not just of seeing films, but of thinking, writing, and talking about them.

I’ve lived with those older films for much longer.

That’s one reason why I don’t put much stock in ranked year-end lists, and especially not in Oscar nominations, which are primarily about career politics in Hollywood.

(And I don’t give a fuck.)

How can we know those films are great if we’ve only seen them once, or even twice, and if their memories are less than a year-old in our minds? Maybe others can figure things out that fast, but I can’t.

Still, making lists is a contribution to understanding what’s important to us, and the beginning of contextualizing and evaluating them, and so I think it’s worth doing.

The first block of films have had the most lasting impact on me, and the rest are listed in no particular order. I didn’t bother to set a numerical limit. I just chose until I was done, and I’m happy to entertain any addition to the canon. I’m ignorant of, just to name one area, of any experimental film work being done by or for gay men, so would love to fill in the blanks.

In the Family
Directed by Patrick Wang
USA, 2011

I didn’t have to think hard before putting Wang’s rigorous, disciplined but also emotional masterpiece at the top of the list. This film’s power doesn’t come primarily from its topicality — not marriage equality per se, bur rather its absence — but in the attention paid to the ordinary details in the daily life of a gay man (estadounidense Southern, and of Asian descent) and the white son of his dead lover, and to the way political realities play out through those details, within families, between friends and lovers, between individuals and institutions.

There’s no clearer, recent heir to Chantal Ackerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, although the odd and oblique framing tactics of Wang’s static shots are quite a bit different from Ackerman’s often planimetric ones, and Wang’s film manages a happy ending, of sorts, if a provisional one, a point that most seem to miss. It’s a freeze-frame for a reason.

So it’s baffling why In the Family was rejected by more than 15 different film festivals. Or maybe not so baffling if you understand something fundamental about the taste, vision, and sense of film history of our current cultural gatekeepers, and not just straight ones, who, while having put Ackerman’s film in the canon, never seem to have quite grasped its importance and implications.

In a cultural situation in which a modestly talented, juvenile filmmaker like Xavier Dolan (he’s a better actor than director) shares the spotlight with Jean Luc Godard, I supposed we shouldn’t be surprised that few people are allowed the opportunity to see In the Family.

El Tercero
Directed by Rodrigo Guerrero
Argentina, 2014

For some of the same reasons I admire In the Family,  I also love this minimalist and materialist study of an online seduction that moves into meatspace for more reasons than just to show a hot threeway, although that’s a significant achievement as well. The film focuses on the mundane social minutiae and lived-life details of three gay men in Córdoba, Argentina — an older couple and a young student — and executes that study via the seduction’s sexual dynamics as mediated through contemporary technological and physical-world apparatus, rituals and norms —things like webcams, elevators, dinner parties, and where to go on holiday.

I didn’t make clear in my rather academic analysis of the film that this attentive process is an act of valuation of particular Latin American gay-male social and sexual activities — a weighted consideration — and therefore not tangential to issues of representation, and implicitly political. I’d say it’s also at least as important and significant as, just to name, off the top of my head, scenes from the decidedly non-realist heterosexist canon, 1) the conversation between Travis and Jane in Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas; or 2) the relationship between Paul and Jeanne in Bernardo Bertolucci’s Last Tango in Paris. In the former, the obvious metaphorical device and psychobabble of Sam Shepard’s script left me bemused, skeptical and a bit bored. The scenario of the latter would have made more sense in a gay context. Good luck trying to convince, or even challenge, straight male cinephiles and critics of the implications of any of that. But this film is only as important if you judge gay life and sexuality to be as significant, as human, as straight life. But how many do.

For me, El Tercero stakes claim, not just to the normativity of gay-male sexual desire, but the ordinariness and necessity of objectification, as well as of male sexual vulgarity and experimentation, of cross-generational contact, of the importance of familial and national cultural contexts in negotiating domestic stability, of the range of strategies and tactics that gay men employ to find happiness. As such, underneath its quotidian calm (except for the sex scene!), it’s revolutionary.

Ronda nocturna
(Night Watch)

Directed by Edgardo Cozarinsky
Argentina, 2005

If I were to judge by blog comments, the gay male movie-going public seems tired of movies about male prostitutes, despite the fact if there’s any group that has more or less normalized sex work, it’s gay men. That normalization is one of our great and ancient contributions to human liberation, not something to marginalize, dismiss or condescend to from the marriage-equality heights. I realize that’s a minority opinion and an occasion for establishment fags to cast aspersions; or for hypocritical, homophobic law enforcement institutions to cast a very wide net.

So, it’s not surprising that filmmakers continue making movies about hustlers. Of the group of films addressing the subject, I can only recommend a few, and none of them have focused on the Czech Republic, where I have my most direct experience and credible judgment. Bodies Without Soul and Mandragora? Rather useless, rent-boy kitsch.

One I can recommend, from another hemisphere, is Edgardo Cozarinsky’s Night Watch, not least because the narrative follows a taxi boy, the Argentine compound noun meaning male escort, prostitute or street hustler, rather than an outside observer or a john. Victor might not be flush or the best-dressed, but he’s no victim or martyr. (The English phrase is used, perhaps because the Spanish equivalent would be puto, and that’s no good) Although I have limited experience in that geo-specific milieu (but do remember vividly a masterful seeing-to by a cute, stoic, double-coming, Paraguayo jock named Emmanuel) but can vouch for the authenticity of the setting, starting out on the corner of Santa Fe and Pueyrredón, at what used to be the center of gay-male sex procurement in Buenos Aires. On a weekend night in 2010, there could be more than 50 young guys cruising for clients in the 4-block area near that corner, and even more inside the hustler/stripper/drag bar, km Zero. Like most things fun and decadent in the real world, that’s mostly gone now. So take a sort of magical realist tour of the streets of Buenos Aires with a taxi boy on the evening of All Saints Day, and into the dawn of All Souls Day, and prepare for your mind to be blown.

La León
Directed by Santiago Otheguy
Argentina, 2007

Here’s another beautiful film, with perfect shot after perfect shot, that the cinephile intelligentsia as well as the Queerty/Backlot amateurs of the world have somehow avoided talking much about or listing. It can’t be because it’s in Spanish and from Argentina, because Lucrecia Martel (La Ciénaga, La mujer sin cabeza) and Lisandro Alonso (Jauja, which I haven’t seen yet; Los muertos and La libertad, which I have) have both received quite a bit of attention from the usual suspects. If I have any rivals in my admiration for Martel, I have yet to read them. I’m a bit cool to Alonso’s conceptions, however, as the ones I’ve seen seem more like the rubber-stamping of certain world art-film expectations than as unique contributions to contemplative cinema; and you can skip Fantasma completely, as it’s all concept. All of them seem (except for Jauja) rather thin to me, and the distanced anthropological eye of some parts of Los muertos and La libertad was more than a little off-putting.

So why the ignorance or misunderstanding of La León? Likely it has something to do with the politics of distribution which I have no knowledge of in this case, and of course, great films fall through the cracks all the time. Yet I suspect it’s just old-fashioned heterosexist bias on the part of many straight critics, and cultural glibness and superficiality on the part of gay ones. That IMDb commenter in the link is not the first gay male viewer who has professed to not understand what was going on in the film. Here in this post, I at least began to lay out what I thought was going on. But I’m baffled by anyone’s confusion of what seems to me a straightforward narrative. It’s not like we’re challenged by long shot-durations, as in both El Tercero and In the Family, or via odd, oblique camera angles, as in the latter. Apparently, though, shooting in black and white is offensive or confusing to some yahoos, er, people. Maybe if lead character Alvaro had been prettier or not poor, it would have struck a chord with American gays. Maybe if the film included a serial killer. That always seems to help. I don’t know, maybe it’s just too sad. For me, La león, for its beautiful glimpse into an out-of-time Argentine riverine culture alone, belongs on the short list of great Latin American films of the last decade, and not just of GTMs.

Inxeba
English title: The Wound
Directed by John Trengove
88 mins, South Africa, 2017

Inxeba is as close to a masterpiece as any new film I’ve seen on Netflix and the service should be applauded for picking it up. It seems to have baffled and befuddled a few of the usual Letterboxd morons, however.

Moonlight
Directed by Barry Jenkins
USA, 2016

Call Me By Your Name
Directed by Luca Guadagnino
Italy | France | Brazil | United States

Boys
Directed by Eyal Resh
USA, 2016

Alex and the Handyman
Directed by Nicholas Colia
USA, 2017

Trémulo
Directed by Roberto Fiesco
Mexico, 2015

Trage liefde
Directed by Boudewijn Koole
The Netherlands, 2007

A bastard son goes to great lengths to get to know his gay father. Sparse, but great jazz soundtrack.

Fifi az khoshhali zooze mikeshad
(Fifi Howls from Happiness)
Directed by Mitra Farahani
USA | Iran | France, 2013

O Fantasma
Directed by João Pedro Rodrigues
Portugal, 2000

The Mudge Boy
Directed by Michael Burke
USA,2003

I’m not sure Michael Burke’s odd and slightly off-kilter, anti-sentimental depiction of young, failed masculinity qualifies for most as a “gay movie,” but it sure got me thinking about Eve Sedgwick’s The Epistemology of the Closet.

Weekend
Directed by Andrew Haigh
USA, 2011

Animals
Directed by Marçal Forés
Spain, 2012

The Love of Siam
Directed by Chookiat Sakveerakul
Thailand, 2007

Glue
Directed by Alexis Dos Santos
Argentina, 2006

If Gus Van Sant had been born in Argentina, he might have made something like Glue, sometime between Mala Noche and My Own Private Idaho. Cinematographer Natasha Braier, who also shot The Rover, I just discovered, long after mentioning liking the photography of that Australian thriller/road movie from 2014, seems to improv right along with the young actors, whose sexual and social daring is reflected perfectly in the film’s luminous, metamorphosing style and form.

El Primo
Available on the omnibus, Tensión sexual: Volatíl
Directed by Marco Berger
Argentina, 2012

I might get some shit for not listing any of Marco Berger’s feature-length films, all of which I enjoyed to some degree (Hawaii deserves another watch) but none of which encapsulate so forcefully and fearlessly all of Berger’s sexual and visual obsessions than this short — the most important obsession being, the male bulge, which is presented here almost like a character of its own. Javier De Pietro, scruffy and grown up a bit since he played Berger’s horny, man-chasing, high-school nymph in Ausente (2011), lusts after his friend’s cousin, but is too scared to make a move, despite el primo offering himself and his basket up repeatedly in no uncertain terms. Hilarious, sexy, frustrating in the blue-balls sense, and kinda sad all the way through, the short’s final, cut-short shot is a brilliant, funny snap of a character afraid to take chances, even though what he wants has been right in front of his cute little face.

The Big House
Written and directed by Rachel Ward
Australia, 2001

This surprising and subtle short depicts the believably-scripted and nuanced love affair between a pair of cons in an Australian prison — one’s a lifer and one’s a young first-timer in for a petty crime. It’s funny, sweet but not cloying, and there’s barely any violence, which might help explain why it sank without a trace for so long. You can watch it on Vimeo, and yes it’s directed by that Rachel Ward.

Before Night Falls
Directed by Julian Schnabel
USA, 2000

Lucky Blue
Directed by Håkon Liu
Sweden, 2007

I wrote a few words about this tender, goofy short here.

Jaurès
Directed by Vincent Dieutre
France, 2012

Brother to Brother
Directed by Rodney Evans
USA, 2004

The Nature of Nicholas
Directed by Jeff Erbach
Canada, 2002

Interior. Leather Bar.
Directed by James Franco and Travis Mathews
USA, 2013

Sal
Directed by James Franco
USA, 2013

The Broken Tower
Directed by James Franco
USA, 2011
My thoughts here.

David
Directed by Roberto Fiesco
Mexico, 2005
Watch it in low quality here.

Soy tan feliz
Directed by Vladimir Durán
Argentina | Colombia, 2011
Watch it here.

Blokes
Directed by Marialy Rivas
Chile, 2010

Ssang-hwa-jeom
(Frozen Flower)

Directed by Ha Yoo
Korea, 2008

Brokeback Mountain
Directed by Ang Lee
USA, 2005

Milk
Directed by Gus Van Sant
USA, 2008

Rabioso sol, rabioso cielo
(Raging Sun, Raging Sky)
Mexico, 2008
Mil nubes de paz cercan el cielo, amor, jamás acabarás de ser amor
(A Thousand Clouds of Peace)
Mexico, 2003
El cielo dividido
(Broken Sky)
Mexico, 2006
All directed by Julián Hernández

Shelter
Directed by Jonah Markowitz
USA, 2007

Benjamin Smoke
Directed by Jem Cohen
USA, 2000

The Graffiti Artist
Directed by James Bolton
USA, 2004

How to Survive A Plague
Directed by David France
USA, 2012

We Were Here
Directed by David Weissman and Bill Weber
USA, 2011

United in Anger: A History of ACT UP
Directed by Jim Hubbard
USA, 2012

Dare
Directed by Adam Salky
USA, 2005 & 2009

Behind the Candelabra
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
USA, 2013

The Normal Heart
Directed by Ryan Murphy
USA, 2014

Les témoins
(The Witnesses)
Directed by André Téchiné
France, 2007

Presque Rién
(Come Undone)
Directed by Sébastien Lifshitz
France, 2000

Wild Side
Directed by Sébastien Lifshitz
France | Belgium | UK, 2004

Love Is Strange
Directed by Ira Sachs
USA, 2014

Mysterious Skin
Directed by Gregg Araki
USA, 2004

Perhaps because Araki worked off someone else’s material (Scott Heim’s eponymous novel) and therefore had at least a skeleton to hang his visual ideas and conceits on and around, putting his own adolescent ones on the backburner, this is the only Araki film after his funny, low-fi proto-slacker film, The Long Weekend (O’Despair), that I can get behind with any enthusiasm. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has never been better.

Chuck and Buck
Directed by Miguel Arteta
USA, 2000

Benny’s Gym
Directed by Lisa Marie Gamlem
Norway, 2007

Doorman
Directed by Etienne Kallos
USA, 2006

Praia do Futuro
Directed by Karim Aïnouz
Brazil | Germany, 2014

Tatuagem
(Tattoo)
Directed by Hilton Lacerda
Brazil, 2013

Eastern Boys
Directed by Robin Campillo
France, 2013

Eu Não Quero Voltar Sozinho
(I Don’t Want to Go Back Alone)
Directed by Daniel Ribeiro
Brazil, 2010

Lilting
Directed by Hong Khaou
UK, 2014

Last Summer
Directed by Mark Thiedeman
USA, 2013

Strapped
Directed by Joseph Graham
USA, 2010

Einayim Petukhoth
(Eyes Wide Open)

Directed by Haim Tabakman
Israel | Germany | France, 2009

Avant que j’oublie
(Before I Forget)
Directed by Jacques Nolot
France, 2007

Yossi
Directed by Eytan Fox
Israel, 2012

Velociraptor
Directed by Chucho E. Quintero
Mexico, 2014

Private Romeo
Directed by Alan Brown
USA, 2011

Peyote
Directed by Omar Flores Sarabia
Mexico, 2013

Protect Me From What I Want
Written and directed by Dominic Leclerc
UK, 2009

Brotherly
Directed by J.C. Oliva
11 min, USA, 2008.

En forelskelse
Directed by Christian Tafdrup
39 min, Denmark, 2008

Atomes
Directed by Arnaud Dufeys
19 min, Belgium, 2012

Getting Go, the Go Doc Project
Directed by Cory Krueckeberg
91 min, USA, 2013

Freunde
Jan Krüger and Oliver Schwabe
21 min, Germany, 20011

O Porteiro do Dia
Directed by Fábio Leal
25min, Brazil, 2016

En Malas Compañias
English title: Doors Cut Down
Directed by Antonio Hens
18min, Spain, 2000

Writer/Director Hens’ hilarious short is honest enough to make his ultra-horny, toilet-cruising teenage character a bit of an asshole, if both charming and cute as hell. Rent it on Amazon using the link above, or cheaper on Vimeo.

Al otro lado
English title: The Other Side
Written and directed by Rodrigo Álvarez Flores
15min, México, 2017

This rather lovely, sad, and erotic short from México is the first film instance I can remember in which crossing the border to the USA is used as metaphor for sexual…I won’t say awakening or discovery, but a word more liberating and provisional in its implied goals perhaps — independence. The film progresses via one long, non-linear montage, with edits and cutaways achieved via physical metaphors for uncoverings, discoveries, and surprises. Dreams and wishes merge with reality so that we can’t always be sure what or when we’re watching,

Summary
The Best Gay Movies Since 2000
Article Name
The Best Gay Movies Since 2000
Description
The history of gay-themed cinema is rich, deep, and wide, although you wouldn't necessarily know that just by reading the usual lists we get online from the mainstream media. This list is an attempt to provide a broader, unique perspective, with particular care to include gay-themed documentaries and shorts, as well as non-English-language films which usually get short shrift from the usual suspects.
Author
Publisher Name
The Cinesexual
Publisher Logo