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The 13 Best American Gay Movies You Should Already Have Seen By Now!

The 13 Best American Gay Movies You Should Already Have Seen By Now!

In the realm of cinematic storytelling, the narratives that explore LGBTQ+ identities and experiences stand as profound testaments to love, struggle, and the human spirit. Among these, the best American gay movies emerge as powerful mirrors reflecting the intricate journey of individuals grappling with their sexual orientation amidst the complexities of American society.

These films, encompassing everything from tender coming-of-age tales to stirring dramas that confront social and political issues, weave a rich and vibrant tapestry. They illuminate the depth and breadth of gay cinema in the United States, showcasing not just stories of struggle, but also of triumph, resilience, and the enduring power of love.

As we journey through the best American gay movies, we embark on a cinematic road trip, traversing the diverse American landscape. From the progressive streets of Portland to the artistic heart of Provincetown, from the sun-kissed warmth of Phoenix to the majestic, snow-capped vistas of Aspen, and along the bustling, sunlit beaches of Long Beach, each film offers a unique glimpse into the varied facets of LGBTQ+ life in America.

Delving into these stories, we find characters who break free from the confines of stereotypes and narratives that boldly challenge societal norms. These best American gay movies take us from the vibrant chaos of New York City to the serene, hidden corners of rural America, painting a rich mosaic of experiences. They capture the multifaceted reality of being gay in the United States, bringing to life stories that resonate with authenticity, courage, and an unyielding quest for identity.

In this exploration of the best American gay movies, we are not merely spectators; we are invited to engage with stories that resonate with emotive power and profound insight. These films are a celebration of the human heart in all its forms, reminding us of the universal quest for acceptance, connection, and the freedom to be oneself.

Best American Gay Movies

Wondering where to watch? It depends on where you live in the world and which streaming services you have. We link to the streaming service we watch on in each case - be it Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apply TV+, or elsewhere.

You can get one month free of Amazon Pride (or a 6-month trial for students) of Amazon Prime and also get immediate access to FREE Two Day shipping, Amazon Video, and Music. While you won't be charged for your free trial, you'll be upgraded to a paid membership plan automatically at the end of the trial period - though if you have already binged all these, you could just cancel before the trial ends.

Apple TV+ also has a one-week trial, and Hulu has a one-month trial (which can be bundled with Disney!). Another option might be using a VPN to access Netflix titles locked to other regions. Netflix is now available in more than 190 countries worldwide and each country has a different library and availability. US Netflix is (understandably) one of the best. 

While we wish everything could just be in one place - for now, it seems these are the best streaming platforms to watch on.

Philadelphia (1993)

Philadelphia, a 1993 film directed by Jonathan Demme, stands as a significant work in his illustrious career. Demme, known for his diverse filmography, from The Silence of the Lambs to Rachel Getting Married, showcased his versatility by taking on the poignant subject matter of HIV/AIDS discrimination in this drama.

The film revolves around Andrew Beckett (played by Tom Hanks), a talented lawyer who is fired from his firm after his employers discover he has AIDS. Seeking justice, Beckett hires Joe Miller (Denzel Washington), an initially homophobic attorney, to represent him in a wrongful termination lawsuit. As the case progresses, their relationship evolves, highlighting the profound impact of empathy and understanding.

Philadelphia offers an intimate portrayal of a man’s journey battling both a fatal illness and societal prejudice. Set in the titular city, the film captures Philadelphia’s urban landscape, mirroring the characters’ emotional struggles against the backdrop of the legal battle and the disease’s stigma.

Whether for its stellar performances, gripping narrative, or its role in advocating for LGBTQ+ rights, Philadelphia is a film worth experiencing, inviting audiences to confront uncomfortable truths while celebrating the resilience of the human spirit.

Imagine Me & You (2005)

Imagine Me & You is a romantic comedy film released in 2005, directed by Ol Parker. Parker, a British filmmaker and screenwriter, is known for his ability to craft heartwarming and emotionally resonant stories. His career has been marked by a penchant for exploring relationships in unique and thoughtful ways, and Imagine Me & You is no exception.

The film’s plot revolves around a woman named Rachel (played by Piper Perabo), who is newly married to Heck (Matthew Goode). However, when she meets Luce (Lena Headey), the florist hired for her wedding, Rachel’s life takes an unexpected turn as she finds herself falling in love with Luce. The film delicately navigates the complexities of love, friendship, and self-discovery.

At its core, Imagine Me & You explores themes of sexual orientation and the fluidity of love. The film portrays the burgeoning attraction between Rachel and Luce with sensitivity and authenticity, highlighting the challenges and triumphs that come with embracing one’s true self.

Imagine Me & You is a must-watch for its genuine portrayal of love’s transformative power and its portrayal of LGBTQ+ themes. With its engaging storyline, endearing characters, and skilled direction, the film resonates with audiences seeking a heartwarming and relatable romantic comedy that goes beyond conventional narratives. 

Boy Erased (2018)

Boy Erased (2018), directed by Joel Edgerton, is a thought-provoking film that delves into the challenges faced by LGBTQ+ individuals within the context of conversion therapy. Edgerton, known for his versatility as both an actor and filmmaker, brings his directorial acumen to this poignant narrative.

The film revolves around Jared Eamons (Lucas Hedges), a young man from a conservative Southern family who grapples with his sexual identity. When his parents (Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe) discover his homosexuality, they send him to a conversion therapy program, seeking to change his orientation. The film confronts the emotional turmoil experienced by Jared and his fellow attendees as they navigate the psychological and moral implications of the treatment.

Boy Erased not only addresses the psychological distress caused by conversion therapy but also explores the broader theme of self-discovery and acceptance. Set in a small Southern town, the film expertly portrays the conservative values and societal pressures that contribute to the conflict faced by LGBTQ+ individuals.

This powerful film sheds light on the experiences of those subjected to conversion therapy, highlighting the struggles they endure in their quest for self-acceptance. With a stellar cast and a sensitive approach to its subject matter, Boy Erased resonates as a moving and relevant narrative that encourages empathy and understanding. Watching this film offers viewers an opportunity to reflect on the importance of compassion, tolerance, and the right to be one’s authentic self.

Giant Little Ones (2018)

Giant Little Ones is a 2018 coming-of-age drama directed by Keith Behrman. Behrman, a Canadian filmmaker, is recognized for his sensitive approach to themes of identity and self-discovery. His previous works, including Flower & Garnet and The Rhyming Season, garnered critical acclaim for their emotional depth and authentic portrayals of human relationships.

The film centers around the lives of two high school friends, Franky Winter and Ballas Kohl, whose close bond is tested when an unexpected incident changes the course of their friendship. As the narrative unfolds, it delves into complex themes of sexuality, acceptance, and the fluidity of adolescent relationships. Giant Little Ones adeptly navigates the challenges of growing up, addressing issues of bullying, peer pressure, and societal expectations.

Set in a small Canadian town, the film masterfully captures the intimate atmosphere and unique dynamics of its setting. Through its cinematography and storytelling, it highlights the influence of environment on personal development and choices. The town becomes a backdrop that reflects the characters’ internal struggles, amplifying the emotional resonance of the narrative.

For those seeking a thought-provoking and heartfelt cinematic experience, Giant Little Ones is a compelling choice. The film’s genuine performances, insightful storytelling, and exploration of relevant themes make it a must-watch. Giant Little Ones serves as a reminder of the importance of empathy, understanding, and the power of self-acceptance, making it a valuable addition to any film enthusiast’s watchlist.

Edge of Seventeen (1998)

Edge of Seventeen is a 1998 coming-of-age film directed by David Moreton. Moreton’s career has been marked by a focus on LGBTQ+ themes, often exploring the experiences of queer individuals in their journey towards self-discovery.

Set in Sandusky, Ohio, during the 1980s, the film follows the life of Eric Hunter, a young man in his late teens who finds himself grappling with the complexities of adolescence, friendship, and sexuality.

The plot centers on Eric’s emotional and romantic turmoil as he navigates his feelings for his best friend, his coming out process, and the challenges of forging connections in a conservative small-town environment. The film not only explores his sexual awakening but also depicts the broader societal attitudes towards homosexuality during that era.

Edge of Seventeen is a poignant depiction of self-discovery, friendship, and the challenges faced by those who deviate from societal norms. Its exploration of the emotional rollercoaster that comes with adolescence and the delicate process of revealing one’s true self makes it a relatable and touching film for audiences of all backgrounds.

Through its engaging narrative and compelling characters, the film offers viewers an opportunity to reflect on their own journeys of identity and acceptance, making it a must-watch for those seeking insightful, resonant cinema.

From Zero to I Love You (2019)

From Zero to I Love You is a 2019 romantic drama directed by Doug Spearman. Spearman, known for his background as an actor and his work in LGBTQ-themed projects, brings his unique perspective to this film. His previous involvement in projects like Hot Guys with Guns showcases his proficiency in exploring complex human relationships.

The film revolves around Pete Logsdon, a successful gay writer, and his seemingly perfect life with his wife and daughter. However, Pete’s life takes an unexpected turn when he meets Jack, a free-spirited photographer. Their connection challenges Pete’s beliefs and choices, leading him on a journey of self-discovery, love, and acceptance.

From Zero to I Love You is an underappreciated film. It challenges conventional notions of love and relationships while celebrating the courage to embrace one’s true self. Whether you are drawn to LGBTQ cinema or simply appreciate a heartfelt story, this film offers a journey of emotional depth and resonance that is both enriching and entertaining.

Keep the Lights On (2012)

Keep the Lights On is a 2012 film directed by Ira Sachs, an American filmmaker known for his intimate and poignant portrayals of human relationships. Sachs, recognized for his distinct style and empathetic storytelling, explores complex emotions in his works, often shedding light on the struggles of personal connections.

The film revolves around the passionate yet tumultuous relationship between Erik, a documentary filmmaker, and Paul, a lawyer. As their love deepens, they grapple with issues of addiction, secrecy, and infidelity. The narrative unfolds over a decade, offering an intimate look into the highs and lows of their connection.

Set in New York City, the film skillfully incorporates the urban landscape as a backdrop that mirrors the characters’ emotional journeys. The city’s energy and diversity serve as a fitting reflection of the dynamic and multifaceted nature of Erik and Paul’s relationship.

Viewers should watch Keep the Lights On for its raw portrayal of love and its complexities. With its captivating performances and genuine storytelling, the film offers a poignant exploration of human connection, leaving a lasting impression on those who engage with its narrative.

The Wise Kids (2011)

The Wise Kids, a 2011 independent drama film directed by Stephen Cone, is a poignant exploration of adolescence, faith, and identity. Cone, known for his sensitivity in handling complex themes, has developed a notable career within the indie film circuit.

Set in a small South Carolina town, the film revolves around three teenagers – Brea, Laura, and Tim – as they navigate the challenging transition from high school to adulthood. The narrative delves into their experiences within a conservative Christian community, where expectations, doubts, and desires clash. The film astutely portrays the tension between individual growth and societal conformity, capturing the internal struggles of the characters with authenticity.

Notably, The Wise Kids tackles gay themes with a subtle yet powerful approach. Tim’s journey of self-discovery as a gay young man within the confines of his religious upbringing is both touching and relatable. Cone handles this narrative arc with grace, highlighting the complexity of reconciling personal identity with deeply ingrained beliefs.

The Wise Kids offers a thought-provoking exploration of faith, identity, and sexuality. The film’s emotional resonance and well-crafted characters provide a window into the challenges faced by young individuals striving to define themselves within the confines of tradition. Cone’s direction, coupled with a sincere script, creates a captivating experience that invites reflection on the complexities of youth and the human spirit.

All Over the Guy (2001)

All Over the Guy (2001) is a romantic comedy film directed by Julie Davis. Davis, known for her unique perspective on relationships, gained recognition through her debut feature I Love You, Don’t Touch Me! The film stars Dan Bucatinsky and Richard Ruccolo in the lead roles.

The plot follows Eli (Bucatinsky) and Tom (Ruccolo), both living in Los Angeles, who are set up on a blind date by their best friends. Despite their initial awkward encounter, they find themselves entangled in a complex web of miscommunications, insecurities, and personal baggage. As their relationship unfolds, the film delves into both humorous and poignant explorations of love, commitment, and the challenges of modern relationships.

All Over the Guy stands as an endearing and thought-provoking exploration of love in its various forms. With witty dialogue, strong performances, and a balanced blend of humor and emotional depth, the film captivates its audience. For those seeking a romantic comedy that transcends conventions and embraces the complexities of human connection, All Over the Guy is the perfect movie night choice.

The Birdcage (1996)

The Birdcage (1996), directed by Mike Nichols, stands as a delightful comedy that skillfully navigates issues of identity, societal norms, and acceptance. Nichols, known for his versatile career in both film and theater, had previously directed iconic works such as The Graduate and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

The film centers on Armand Goldman (played by Robin Williams), owner of a drag nightclub in South Beach, Miami. Armand and his partner Albert (Nathan Lane) find themselves in a convoluted situation when their son announces his engagement to the daughter of a conservative senator. In an effort to impress the in-laws, they must camouflage their flamboyant lifestyle, leading to a series of hilarious misunderstandings and chaotic scenarios.

The Birdcage excels in its portrayal of the clash between traditional values and modern attitudes, all while embracing the power of love and genuine connections. With a stellar ensemble cast, including Gene Hackman and Dianne Wiest, the film delivers memorable performances that contribute to its charm.

Ultimately, The Birdcage serves as a heartwarming and thought-provoking experience, advocating for the embrace of diversity and individuality. Its witty script, impeccable direction, and insightful themes make it a must-watch for anyone seeking laughter intertwined with meaningful messages.

Carol (2015)

Directed by Todd Haynes, known for his adeptness in exploring complex human emotions, Carol stands as a masterpiece in his career. Haynes has a distinctive touch in portraying intricate relationships, as evident in his previous works such as Far from Heaven and I’m Not There.

The film revolves around the magnetic encounter between Therese Belivet (played by Rooney Mara), a young aspiring photographer, and Carol Aird (played by Cate Blanchett), an elegant and enigmatic older woman. Set in the 1950s, the plot follows their evolving connection, which transcends societal norms and expectations. The film artfully delves into their emotional journey as they navigate through a world that is unaccepting of their same-sex attraction.

Carol is set against the backdrop of New York City and its suburbs, capturing the era’s atmosphere with meticulous attention to detail. The city’s glamour and the distinct aura of the 1950s are effectively woven into the narrative, adding depth to the characters’ experiences.

At its core, Carol is a poignant exploration of love that defies societal conventions. The film’s portrayal of the central relationship is both tender and profound. The movie sensitively navigates the characters’ struggles with their identities, while also highlighting the societal pressure they confront.

For those seeking a captivating and emotionally resonant cinematic experience, Carol delivers on all fronts. Its impeccable direction, remarkable performances, and skillful handling of LGBTQ+ themes make it a must-watch. This film provides a poignant reminder of the power of love to endure, even in the face of adversity.

The Half of It (2020)

Directed by Alice Wu, known for her unique storytelling style, The Half of It (2020) is a poignant and thought-provoking coming-of-age film that explores the complexities of identity, friendship, and love. Wu, with her background in computer science and her previous directorial work Saving Face (2004), brings a fresh perspective to storytelling.

The film centers around Ellie Chu, a shy and introverted high school student in the fictional town of Squahamish, who makes money by writing essays for her classmates. When a jock named Paul approaches her for help in writing love letters to Aster, a girl they both secretly love, it sets off a series of unexpected events. As Ellie assists Paul in his romantic pursuit, she forms a deep connection with Aster, blurring the lines between friendship and romantic attraction.

The film’s exploration of the lesbian experience is expertly woven into the narrative. It delves into the struggles of self-discovery and acceptance, especially in a small conservative town. The setting of Squahamish plays a crucial role in the story, highlighting the challenges of being different in a close-knit community.

The Half of It is a must-watch for its heartfelt performances, particularly by Leah Lewis as Ellie, and its genuine portrayal of LGBTQ+ experiences. The film’s nuanced take on relationships, identity, and the power of connection resonates universally, making it a film that leaves a lasting impact on its audience.

Whether you’re a fan of coming-of-age tales, intricate character studies, or simply appreciate beautifully crafted cinema, The Half of It offers an enriching and emotionally rewarding experience.

But I’m a Cheerleader (1999)

But I’m a Cheerleader, a 1999 film directed by Jamie Babbit, is a satirical take on conversion therapy and societal expectations, wrapped in the guise of a colorful and quirky comedy. Babbit, known for her work on television shows like Gilmore Girls and Ugly Betty, brings her distinctive touch to this film, showcasing her knack for blending humor and social commentary.

The film follows Megan, a high school cheerleader portrayed by Natasha Lyonne, who is sent to a conversion therapy camp by her concerned parents. As she navigates through the camp’s absurd and exaggerated methods to cure her homosexuality, Megan forms unexpected connections with other camp attendees.

Set in a world of vibrant pastels and kitschy aesthetics, the film is a tongue-in-cheek critique of gender norms and sexual identity, all while embracing its campy style. The suburban setting, reminiscent of 1950s Americana, serves as a stark contrast to the characters’ complex and diverse sexual orientations.

But I’m a Cheerleader stands out for its unapologetic approach to addressing serious issues through comedy. It’s a reminder of the progress made in LGBTQ+ representation and the challenges that still persist. The film’s boldness, coupled with its memorable performances and distinctive visuals, make it a must-watch for those seeking both laughter and contemplation. Whether one identifies with the LGBTQ+ community or not, the film’s message of acceptance and self-discovery resonates universally.