LGBTQI+ stories on screen have become more prevalent in recent years (and rightly so), giving a historically silenced community a proud voice. From confronting and necessary stories of hardship depicting the queer community’s history and current realities to ones of hope and joy which celebrate and normalise LGBTQI+ sexuality and relationships. Lucky for us, streaming platforms are now dedicating more of their libraries to sharing tales of romantic love, friendship, family, self-love, and community.
To help get in the spirit this Mardi Gras, here are 12 of the best movies and TV shows available to watch on Netflix now.
Moonlight tells a coming of age story in three parts: a boy (Little), a teenager (Chiron), and a man (Black), each navigating the inner confusions of sexuality and Black identity while living in the impoverished Miami suburb of Liberty City. Based on Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play, In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, Barry Jenkins’ Oscar-winning drama is a masterclass in visual storytelling, colour, and cinematography. Add on the film’s groundbreaking themes and its powerhouse performances (including Mahershala Ali nabbing his first Academy Award)–and you’ve got yourself an iconic, modern LGBTQI+ story and one of the 21st century’s best movies.
Call Me by Your Name
In the Northern Italian summer of 1983, Elio (Timothée Chalamet) meets and falls in love with his father’s research assistant (Armie Hammer). Telling an essential queer love story about friendship, intimacy, and sexual exploration, Call Me by Your Name manages to be funny, heart-warming, and tragic all at once. Not to mention that the entire film, shot in grainy 35mm film for that extra retro summer vibe, is an absolute visual delight. Bike riding scenes through the Italian countryside, historic architecture, Hammer drunkenly dancing in short shorts, and Chalamet speaking French and Italian, and playing the piano–enough said, just go and watch it.
After an affluent New York family is forced into bankruptcy, they have no choice but to move to a small country town named Schitt’s Creek–their last remaining asset. If you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple of years and haven’t binged this Canadian sitcom, stop everything and dial it up right now. Initially staying under the radar, Schitt’s Creek quickly became a worldwide phenomenon for its positivity and genuine hilarity—it racked up five Emmy wins for its final season. At the heart of the show is creator and actor Dan Levy, playing a pansexual character, David Rose. Not only is David’s relationship with Patrick one of the sweetest and most enjoyable on-screen partnerships ever depicted, the show’s decision to avoid bigotry and homophobia storylines is seen by many as an important step toward normalising LGBTQI+ romantic stories.
Please Like Me
In this semi-autobiographical television series, we find twenty-something Josh (Josh Thomas) realising and coming to terms with being gay after being dumped by his girlfriend. Through his first decade of adulthood, we follow Josh with the typical and atypical ups and downs of family, friends, and relationships. If we’ve ever had the perfect example of a comedian’s unique humour and eccentricities transferring perfectly onto the screen, it’s Josh Thomas creating Please Like Me. In the show, Thomas’ brand of awkward humour blends sadness and funny in a deeply personal way. The humour becomes an accessible gateway into otherwise difficult themes of trauma, mental health, and family crises. Last year, the Aussie comedian told The A.V. Club his intention in creating any content is to simply make something he thinks will be good. Well, in the wonderful comedy and drama of Please Like Me, we trust his judgement.
The Miseducation Of Cameron Post
After being caught making out with her best friend, another girl, in the back seat of a car, orphaned teenager Cameron (Chloë Grace Moretz) is sent to a Christian gay conversion camp by her conservative guardians. At the remote treatment centre, God’s Promise, Cameron fights against a conservative and misguided program of ‘re-education’ and the inner turmoil of self-hatred consistently enforced by her surroundings. Amidst the trying experience, Cameron befriends and finds solidarity with two fellow misfit residents of the boarding school. Set in 1993 Montana, this defiant and subversive coming-of-age story is based on the novel written by Emily M. Danforth, which was itself inspired by a young Tennessee boy sent to a similar camp in 2005. Written and directed by LGBTQI+ activist Desiree Akhavan, the film took out the U.S. Grand Jury Prize for Drama at the Sundance Film Festival.
After her estranged father’s sudden death, a woman (Rachel Weisz) returns home to the London Orthodox Jewish community that cast her out decades earlier for her attraction to a childhood friend (Rachel McAdams). Upon returning for the funeral, the long-suppressed passion between the two women is reignited. If that plot doesn’t already light a fire in your belly, then the tour de force performances put in by Weisz and McAdams should do it. Disobedience is Chilean director Sebastián Lelio’s immediate follow up to his Oscar-winning film, A Fantastic Woman, which follows the discrimination and chaos a transgender woman faces after the death of her boyfriend.
If you say you’ve never Googled ‘feel-good tv shows’–you’re either lying or not human. Well, one series is overtly making a case for itself in that necessary category, Netflix’s Feel Good. The semi-autobiographical comedy series follows Mae (played by Mae Martin, the show’s creator) as a Canadian stand-up comic and recovering addict living in London, meeting and starting a relationship with George (Charlotte Ritchie). The six-part series portraits the excitement and joy of a burgeoning relationship, the difficulties of addiction, and the personal dilemmas and complications of George’s struggle to reveal her new relationship to her friends and family. Not that the show needs it, but for some added comedy, the always enjoyable Lisa Kudrow stars as Linda, Mae’s mother.
In the mid-80s, amidst the politically conservative and homophobic norms of the Thatcher-era, a London-based gay and lesbian activist group (Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners) throw their support behind striking miners in a small south Welsh town. Based on a true story, Pride portraits the inspiring solidarity shown by two deeply marginalised groups in an unlikely environment. If a beautifully hopeful story and an all-star UK cast (including the likes of Bill Nighy, Andrew Scott, George MacKay and Dominic West) isn’t enough for you, then at least watch this movie for the absolutely fantastic cavalcade of Welsh accents. Like only certain period British films can, Pride finds the perfect balance of comedy and joy while effectively addressing more confronting themes.
What Keeps You Alive
Celebrating their first anniversary, married couple Jackie and Jules head out to Jackie’s family’s secluded cabin out in the woods. However, once they arrive, Jules soon realises her seemingly perfect wife has a dark side, a few unexpected and horrifying secrets, and, well, some blood lust. In the ideal horror backdrop of the isolated woods, the two women are pitted against each other. Surely, that’s enough for you to dial up this flick with the lights off and a large glass of wine. The premise of this brutal and psychologically thrilling Canadian horror is compelling enough, but we’re always stoked to see filmmakers taking the usual horror formula or villain and changing it up a bit.
I Am Not Okay With This
Sydney Novak is just a regular 17-year-old teenager, navigating the complexities of puberty, high school, family, and having a crush on her best friend, Dina. Just your typical coming-of-age queer story, right? Yes, other than the fact Sydney has also discovered her new superpowers. This is a story about feeling different from everybody else while growing up, but with a little extra juice. If you loved Netflix’s dark and quirky comedy-drama series, The End of the F***ing World, this show comes from the same director and co-developer, Jonathan Entwistle. Unfortunately, after being renewed for a second season due to its critical success, Netflix cancelled the show due to COVID-19. So, if you need something fun and quick to binge—this is it.
Your Name Engraved Herein
In 1987 Taiwan, after a decades-long martial law comes to an end, two young men, Jia-han and Birdy, fall in love while attending an all-male Catholic school. Despite their friendship and bond, the pair struggle amidst their conservative, patriarchal, and homophobic surroundings. As one of the only countries in the region which allows same-sex marriage (legalised in 2019), Taiwan filmmakers are taking advantage of telling queer stories through film. After making over $100 million at the domestic box office and receiving a personal endorsement from President Tsai Ing-wen, Your Name Engraved Herein officially became the most successful LGBTQI+ film ever screened in Taiwan.
The Half of It
As this list, streaming libraries, and the yearly slate of new movies all indicate, the film and tv industry loves to pump out high school, coming-of-age romances. Sometimes that means some gems slip through the cracks of popular consciousness. From writer/director Alice Wu, who previously explored the queer, Asian-American experience in her 2005 film, Saving Face, The Half of It is one such example. When shy straight-A student Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis) offers to help Paul (Daniel Diemer) write love letters to his crush, Aster (Alexxis Lemire), she is forced to hide her own hidden love for her female classmate. Based in a rural Washington State town, this tender film sophistically delves into sexuality, friendship, race, identity, and the intricacies of love.
Next up, bless your ears with these seven epic LGBTQI+ podcasts.
Image Credit: Netflix