“Angels in America”
This sweeping, breathtaking six-part HBO miniseries covers a number of important issues facing the LGBTQ+ community in the mid-1980s, including the rise of AIDS and lack of access to both knowledge and treatment regarding the HIV virus.
Based on the 1993 Tony Kushner play “Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes,” this series delves into the lives of gay individuals in New York City and examines how politics, social change, and the terrifying AIDS epidemic affects the LGBTQ+ community.
“Angels in America” garnered much critical acclaim, winning multiple Golden Globe and Emmy awards; it was the most-watched made-for-cable film in 2003.
“The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”
This 1994 Australian comedy-drama film follows the adventures of two drag queens and a transgender woman who attempt to cross the vast Australian Outback in a van named “Priscilla.” It became a surprise cult classic worldwide, especially in the LGBTQ+ community, for its positive and empathetic portrayal of queer and transgender characters.
The film was so popular that it was made into a Broadway musical and also referenced during the 2000 Sydney Olympics Closing Ceremony, where a replica tour bus was adorned with a giant stiletto heel during an Australian popular culture scene.
Set in Cuba, “Viva” is a 2015 Spanish-language Irish drama written by Mark O’Halloran and directed by Paddy Breathnach. It stars newcomer Hector Medina as Jesus, a young gay hairdresser who dreams of being a drag performer.
Jesus’s life is turned upside down when his father, who abandoned him in childhood, comes back to live with him and is blatantly intolerant of Jesus’s drag queen activities.
The clash between father and son is portrayed well; Jesus’s father must come to terms with his son’s sexuality. “Viva,” the Irish entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards, made the December shortlist of nine films but was ultimately not nominated.
Gay rights activist Harvey Milk is spotlighted in this 2008 biographical film, which follows the career of Milk as he becomes the first openly gay person to be elected to California public office.
The film stars Sean Penn as Milk and Josh Brolin as Milk’s assassin. Directed by Gus van Sant, “Milk” covered a number of important LGBTQ+ issues, as Harvey Milk fought for gay political rights against major opposition.
“Milk” ultimately received eight Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Best Actor in a Leading Role (Penn).
“But I’m a Cheerleader”
While this satirical 1999 romantic comedy looks campy on the outside, it covers some important LGBTQ+ issues. Natasha Lyonne plays a high school cheerleader who is sent to conversion therapy camp as a cure for her lesbianism. She eventually embraces her sexuality and falls in love with another camper.
The film explores gender and sexual identity within a given social construct (the strict rules of the camp) as well as within a larger society (the outside world, which is much more accepting of homosexuality).
What are your favorite films and plays that celebrate LGBTQ+ pride? Let us know in the comments below!
Learn more about filmmaking at the New York Film Academy.