Five essential queer movies as chosen by LGBT filmmakers

Celebrate the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK with these great films.

As told to

Thomas Curry

It’s now 50 years since the Sexual Offences Act was passed in England and Wales. One of the first major legislative victories for LGBT activists, the bill decriminalised same-sex acts between men in private. Though it would be more than a decade before the law was ratified in Scotland in 1980 and Northern Ireland in 1982 – and while it made no mention of lesbian, bisexual or transgender rights – it was a pivotal moment in the fight for LGBT equality. To mark the occasion we asked some of our favourite filmmakers, directors and curators to select an LGBT film that they consider essential viewing.

Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

“Not many people consider Dog Day Afternoon an LGBT film but it most certainly is. It’s a marvel on many levels, however it is Sidney Lumet’s subversive politics and sensitive portrayal of a trans character (and the man who loves her) that makes this 45-year-old movie more relevant than ever before.” – Sean Baker, director of Tangerine

Fucking Åmål (1998)

“The film I always go back to is Lucas Moodysson’s Fucking Åmål (Show Me Love in the English release) from 1998. It won the Teddy Award too, in 1999. It’s a vérité-style film about two girls growing up in a small town in Sweden, and they end up falling in love. I grew up in a small town like that, and it was the first film I saw that in some way mirrored my experience. I remember leaving the theatre really surprised and happy. Around the same time, I saw this film called Je Tu Il Elle by Chantal Akerman, from 1974 – a lesbian break up story. Those two films, one funny and pleasurable and the other one complicated and experimental, defines me in my early twenties.” – Sara Jordenö, director of Kiki

Stranger by the Lake (2013)

This beautiful art thriller is one of my most favourite films. Sexy and darkly funny, Alain captures how it feels to experience danger alongside desire, a struggle queer people know all too well. The sound, cinematography and tone inspired and influenced me as an artist; it’s the kind of movie that lingers with you long after the credits roll.” – Ingrid Jungermann, director of Women Who Kill

Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971)

“From a queer British cinema perspective, John Schlesinger’s Sunday Bloody Sunday is the next logical step after Dirk Bogarde’s landmark appearance in Victim a full decade earlier. I love how Penelope Gilliatt’s script doggedly refuses to problematise either the homosexuality of Peter Finch’s middle-aged Jewish doctor, the bisexuality of Murray Head’s handsome young artist, or the age gap. Theirs was the first truly passionate, big-screen gay kiss: a genuine watershed moment. Together with Glenda Jackson’s fiercely intelligent divorcee, they’re embroiled in a precarious love triangle, and the film’s nuanced dissection of human relationships – regardless of gender – still feels like a breath of fresh air.” – Simon McCallum, curator of the BFI’s LGBT50 programme

Stud Life (2012)

“There are few queer films that feel as real. It has subtle loving friendships in it, unselfconscious sexiness, truly intersectional diversity and that great queer tradition, humour in the face of prejudice.” – Daisy Asquith, director of Queerama

Published 27 Jul 2017

Tags: LGBT Queer Cinema Sidney Lumet

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