10. Monster (2003, Jenkins)
It may seem a little off to start this list with a film about a serial killer, as that may not be considered an especially positive portrayal of a lesbian. But I think the film handles that particular aspect of Aileen Wuornos very well, as merely incidental and not directly related to her mental instability, and just in general, the film actually paints a fairly sympathetic portrait of her character (almost to a fault, honestly). The most important thing about the entire movie, though, as far as I’m concerned, is that it boasts an incredible scene of Wuornos and Christina Ricci’s character discovering their lust for one another in a roller rink, set to Journey’s epic Don’t Stop Believin’, which is easily one of the most romantic love scenes ever put to film. Click here to watch the scene on youtube.
9. Mysterious Skin (2004, Araki)
Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a gay prostitute and Brady Corbet plays an asexual who believes he was abducted by aliens as a child, and their stories eventually converge, and it’s revealed that they shared something deeply traumatic in their childhood. Araki tones down the camp value and the ultra-hip, slangy, bordering-on-painful dialogue that is a trademark of his earlier works (which, don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of) to deliver an effective and disturbing story about the darker sides of human sexuality.
8. The Brotherhood 2: Young Warlocks (2001, DeCoteau)
There are movies with gay subtext, and then there are David DeCoteau movies. The gay content of his films rarely qualify as actual text, but they hover so fucking close to it that they instead play out as a mockery of the entire concept of subtext. In the first Brotherhood movie, a hunky guy at a new college is trying to fit in, and possibly score a date with a popular girl, so he gets involved with a fraternity who turn out to be vampires, and they initiate him by, essentially, taking off their shirts and rubbing him down. I think there’s a girl present somewhere in the room, but it hardly matters. The second one is roughly the same story, but this time the guys are witches, and the lead also has to deal with some homoerotic bullies who attack him in the shower, and write “pussy” on his back with an arrow pointing to his asshole. And this time, there’s no girl present during the initiation scene, which takes place in a pool, and involves licking each other’s faces and pouring champagne over each other’s chests.
7. Mulholland Dr. (2001, Lynch)
David Lynch’s semi-coherent tale of a woman (Naomi Watts), who has a fling with a movie star (Laura Elena Harring), which means nothing to Harring, but which Watts fantasizes into something far more substantial, with disastrous results. The majority of the film’s running time takes place within Watts’ dreamy subconscious, and is a hopeful fantasy that slowly dissolves into a nightmare, stemming entirely out of her sexual longing for Harring. It’s an extremely depressing and original take on unrequited gay desire, and one of Lynch’s most beautiful films.
6. In A Year Of 13 Moons (1978, Fassbinder)
Fassbinder is very hit-or-miss for me. So far, it’s been mostly misses, but I’ve still got a long way to go in his extensive filmography, which I’m still eager to explore thanks to the one direct fucking hit. In a Year of 13 Moons, like Mulholland Dr., is another depressing movie about unrequited gay desire. Volker Spengler plays a man who falls in love with a straight friend, who makes a throwaway comment that maybe things would be different if Spengler were a woman. Spengler takes the comment to heart, and actually performs the sex change, only to be rejected. Years later, she continues to live out her life as a woman, perpetually searching for love and happiness. A heartbreaking story flawlessly communicated through Volker Spengler’s phenomenal performance.
5. Women in Revolt (1971, Morrissey)
Starring three of Warhol’s greatest drag Superstars, Women In Revolt features Candy Darling as a rich heiress who is having an affair with her brother and trying to make it big in show business, Holly Woodlawn (one of the greatest actresses of all time) as a poor nymphomaniac who uses men for money but is actually more interested in women, and Jackie Curtis as a middle-class virgin still trying to figure out her own needs. Believing the three of them are all being abused and exploited by men, Jackie tries to rally them together into a group called P.I.G. (Politically Involved Girls), in this ridiculous, offensive, and hilarious satire on the women’s liberation movement. An underrated gem in Paul Morrissey’s always incredible filmography.
4. Killer Condom (1996, Walz)
This film is notable, firstly, because it takes place in New York City, but is spoken entirely in German, and the lead character is supposed to be Italian. But perhaps more importantly, this film is notable because as far as I know, it is the very first overtly gay horror movie. Many people may be thrown off by the cheesy title, and although it is quite literally about condoms with teeth that bite off men’s dicks, usually causing them to bleed to death, it actually plays out fairly straight-laced (for lack of a better term), with minimal campiness. There’s no hammy overacting or bad slapstick here. It’s a regular detective story, clearly rooted in film-noir, with a sharp comic sensibility, and a lead character (a tough, chubbier Dirty Harry type) who happens to be gay. The killer condoms seem to strike exclusively at a seedy hotel frequented by various sexual deviants, and the detective takes a special interest in the case when he has a personal encounter with one, while in a room with a male hustler. It all ends with a heartfelt speech about being yourself, and a happy ending for the lovestruck detective and the hustler.
3. Fright Night (1985, Holland)
I think there are a lot of horror films with some gay subtext, and aside from David DeCoteau’s work, there is one movie where the subtext is the most blatant. And that movie is A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge. Unfortunately, Freddy’s Revenge is not very good. But luckily, there is another option, where the subtext is not only blatant, but it’s also a really fucking good movie. And that would be Fright Night. I won’t get into the details of the movie’s gayness (if you’re interested, I recommend this excellent article on the subject, but you can trust that the movie is dripping with it, and you should also trust that the movie is an amazingly fun time, with a perfect amount of camp and gore, and a charming turn from Chris Sarandon. A true 80’s classic, this is my favorite vampire movie of all time.
2. Fucking Åmål/Show Me Love
I’ve mostly listed horror movies, depressing stories, and dark comedies, but every so often, I can appreciate something light-hearted about adorable Swedish girls. Fucking Åmål, known in the U.S. as Show Me Love, tells the story of Agnes, an awkward teenage girl who falls in love with a seemingly straight popular girl. They are both unsatisfied with their life and the small town they live in, and bravely ignoring any social or familial turmoil it may cause, they form a friendship, which slowly develops into something more. Starkly realistic, with insanely endearing characters, this one is guaranteed to charm the shit out of absolutely anyone.
1. Desperate Living (1977, Waters)
All of John Waters’ films have a gay sensibility to them, and if I were less strict with myself, my Top 3 would’ve also included Pink Flamingos and Female Trouble. But although those films do deal with queer subjects (in Pink Flamingos, the Marbles sell babies to lesbian couples, and in Female Trouble, Aunt Ida (Edith Massey) has an amazing speech about hetero-inferiority), and they do star a drag queen (although she’s playing a female character in the reality of the films), Desperate Living is the only one that is actually about homosexual characters. After killing her husband, the mentally ill Peggy Gravel (Mink Stole) and her obese maid (Jean Hill) flee the scene, and end up in the decrepit fairy tale town of Mortville, where they rent a room from a butch dyke and her lipstick girlfriend. Even without Divine, this movie is overflowing with intensely over-the-top performances, particularly from the stellar Mink Stole and Susan Lowe. Edith Massey and Mary Vivian Pearce are impeccable, as always, and Dreamland newcomer Jean Hill also astonishes. The scene where she seduces Mink Stole is positively mind-blowing. This is one of the most creative and hilarious movies ever made, and it is the best, most perfect specimen of Queer Cinema that could ever exist.
Honorable Mentions: The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Brüno, Milk, Bad Education (and most other Almodóvar), But I’m a Cheerleader, Rope, Queen Christina, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Dog Day Afternoon, Cruising
And my least favorite gay movie of all time: Top Gun.
To read more of Austin’s writings, almost always about movies, visit his website at www.placentaovaries.net.