TV & Movies

12 Of The Best LGBT+ Films You Can Find Online

By Allira Sher - 15 Aug 2018


LGBT+ films and documentaries don't arrive in the cinemas as often as they should (to be fair, film festivals like MIFF and MGFF do an awesome job), but what about the rest of the year? Luckily, streaming services are picking up the slack. There's a huge range of excellent LGBT+ films on Netflix, Stan, ABC iView and SBS On Demand right now. Stuff you really, really need to watch. 

Here are our top picks. Grab some popcorn and enjoy. 

Handsome Devil

Damn, we loved this movie. Handsome Devil is an Irish production, and it's picked up just about every cinema award you can win in the Emerald Isle, including Best Irish Feature at the 2017 Dublin Film Critics' Circle. It's not so much a 'coming out' story as a story of friendship: Ned Roche is trying to fit in at a new boarding school, and makes friends with a fist-fighting rugby player. Keep an eye out for Michael McElhatton from Game Of Thrones and Andrew Scott from Sherlock too. 

Watch it on: Netflix

Beach Rats

Beach Rats picked up the Best Directing gong at Sundance in 2017, and Netflix was quick to pounce. It's a story about Frankie, a Brooklyn lad who's discovering his identity (and hiding it from others). Although he has a girlfriend, he also hooks up with men online. It's this compartmentalisation that's the real driving tension behind the flick, and the way it unravels is pretty gripping to watch. Director Eliza Hittman smashed it out of the park with this one. 

Watch it on: Netflix 

Closet Monster

Ever thought you'd see a pet rat voiced by Isabella Rossellini? Us neither. But that's exactly what Stephen Dunn dishes up in Closet Monster, a 2015 Canadian hit that won Best Canadian Feature at the Toronto Film Festival. It's a trippy and visceral coming of age drama, set mostly in the world of Oscar Madly (Connor Jessup). There's a few brutal scenes (including one with a pole we'd like to forget), but it's gripping stuff from start to finish. Highly recommend.

Watch it on: SBS On Demand

Moonlight

If you watch one thing on Stan this year, make it Moonlight. Barry Jenkins' coming of age triptych took out the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture—Drama, and the Oscar for Best Picture. It was nom'd and celebrated wherever people took movies seriously. It was also the first film with an all-black cast, the first LGBT+ film, and the second lowest-grossing film to win the Oscar for Best Picture. The film is based on Tarell Alvin McCraney's semi-autobiographical play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue. It's important. You should watch it.

Watch it on: Stan

Before Stonewall

An oldy, but definitely a goody (and who doesn’t like a black and white doco). Before Stonewall centres on the LGBT+ community prior to the 1969 Stonewall riots, an event that was pivotal to the homosexual rights movement. Through a series of interviews, this Emmy-winning doco from Greta Schiller highlights how social change began long before the riots. Celebrities and activists (including Allen Ginsberg) speak about what it was like to live with the constant fear of knowing you could be harassed for being gay, and the protests that occurred outside the White House in 1965 (when homosexuality was still seen as an illness). It’s spine-shivering stuff.

Watch it on: iTunesAmazon

Growing Up Coy

Here’s one to tug on the heartstrings. Growing up Coy invites you into the life of a 6-year-old transgender girl in Colorado who has been banned from using the girls’ bathroom at her school. Disgusted at such discrimination (and, come on, who wouldn’t be), Coy’s parents take action and hire a lawyer to pursue a civil rights case against the school.

Watch it on: Netflix

How to Survive a Plague

How to Survive A Plague by David France is a heroic telling of how Act-Up and other AIDS activists refused to accept the fatal consequences of AIDS. These guys (who were ignored by the entire nation and confronted with unimaginable shame and hatred) used scientific research to help develop drugs that turned HIV into a manageable disease. To this day, these heroes are responsible for saving more than 16 million lives.

Watch it on: AmazoniTunes

Duck Butter

Another amazing cast in this one. Duck Butter tells the story of two young women who hit it off...and then decide they want to know everything about one another. Best way? Spend 24-hours together and tell no lies. Obvs things don't work out quite as planned. But when you've got Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development), Laia Costa (Victoria), Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley) and Mae Whitman (Perks Of Being A Wallflower) in the same movie, you just sit back and enjoy the show. 

Watch it on: Netflix

Paris is Burning

Paris is Burning is a 1991 American documentary by Jennie Livingston. Filmed in the mid-1980s, it follows the lives of drag queens living in New York City, where mostly black and Latino gay men and trans women compete for the best fashion runway walk and model pose. The documentary touches on issues of identity and media bias, and surviving against prejudice with dignity. L.A. film critics named it the best documentary of the year, back in the day. Worth noting there is some controversy around this one: many have come out and labelled Jennie Livingston as voyeuristic. Make up your own minds. 

Watch it on: Netflix

The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson

From the same dude that brought you How to Survive a Plague comes another heart-wrenching doco—this one focusing on the trans activist Marsha P Johnson, whose body was found in the Hudson River in 1992. Suspected a suicide, but teeming with a whole bunch of suspicious details, this documentary focuses on archival footage of Marsha, a current-day investigation into her death and the wider problem of continued violence for the LGBT+ community.

Watch it on: Netflix

The Times of Harvey Milk

You might have seen the Sean Penn blockbuster, Milk, but we're gonna be contro and say the doco is even better. It follows Harvey Milk, one of the first openly gay politicians in public office. Milk’s prerogative was to spread the message of equality and gay rights to broader American audiences. Ultimately, he was shot by supervisor Dan White (who ended up serving only five years for the murder of two people). You know how this one’s going to end, but it’s still a wild, crazy ride.

Watch it on: Amazon & iTunes

Michael Lost & Found

This bite-sized documentary (perfect for watching on your lunch break) follows Benjie Nycum visiting his ex-partner of seven years, Michael Glatze, who now has a wife and works as a pastor that is ‘ex-gay’. This short story is based on the back of the theatrical James Franco film, I Am Michael (can we all take a moment to stop and appreciate the genius that is Franco?) Benjie felt that a lot of things were wrong, and he wanted to set the story straight. Spoiler: this bewildering flick will probably just leave you with a lot more questions then it does answers.

Watch it on: Netflix

Feel like diving into a documentary rabbit hole? Bring it on. Here are all the docos you should be watching right now. 

Image credit: Beach Rats 

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