If being a teenager is already hard, imagine being a teenager and queer. The experience of moving from childhood to adult life can be beautiful, but it can also be very painful.
For decades, cinema has been dedicated to reflecting the anguish of the adolescent with stories of disappointments, platonic loves, and dramas that are life in high school. However, up until relatively recently, gay ten movies have been almost non-existent. Thankfully today within the teen genre, LGBT characters have been gaining ground, in many cases starring in their own stories.
These films have helped and will continue to help, many young people to navigate the complicated experience that being a queer teenager can entail. This list of films is ideal for those looking to reminisce about their young years, but it also packs some great films that could be very helpful for young and queer teenagers who are feeling lonely.
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.
In this article we will cover...
- The Curiosity Of Chance (2006)
- Pariah (2011)
- But I’m a Cheerleader (1999)
- Closet Monster (2015)
- The Edge Of Seventeen (2017)
- Lost And Delirious (2001)
- Handsome Devil (2016)
- Geography Club (2013)
- G.B.F. (2013)
- The Way He Looks [Hoje Eu Quero Voltar Sozinho] (2014)
- Beach Rats (2017)
- Summer of 85 [Été 85] (2020)
- Being 17 [Quand on a 17 ans] (2016)
The Curiosity of Chance, by Russell P. Marleau, takes place in Europe in the 1980s. It tells the story of Chance Marquis (Tad Hilgenbrink) a flamboyant gay teenager who has just been transferred to a new school, where he is soon met by the hatred and bigotry of homophobic students.
Yet not everything is bad: through the school newspaper he meets an introverted photographer and an aggressive tennis player who will become his friends. What’s more, Chance also meets his neighbor, a boy obsessed with sports, who will want to be his friend and perhaps something more, if he can overcome societal pressures. The film sees Chance meeting a group of drag queens who will encourage him to participate in a beginner’s show, but trouble arises when a photo of his performance is distributed throughout the school, causing Chance to become a laughing stock. It will be then that the young man will have to make a decision and face his fears in order to accept himself.
The movie wouldn’t be the same without the brilliant performance by Tad Hilgenbrink, who knocks it out of the park with his performance as Chance. The character, while eccentric, will manage to get through to the most closed of watchers with his honesty and charm. It’s a shame that this little movie hasn’t had much attention from the general public, since it’s one of the best gay teen movies ever. A perfect watch for any young man having to deal with the challenge of coming out of the closet.
Pariah, by Dee Rees, tells the story of Alike, a gay Black teenager trying to come to terms with her own sexuality. She is a straight-A student, raised by Arthur (Charles Parnell), a doting cop, and Audrey (Kim Wayans), a churchgoing mom.
It’s clear that both parents know their daughter is gay, but they never acknowledged it in hopes that their daughter would “outgrow” and “correct” her lifestyle (a common misconception that blames gay people for something that they can’t control and isn’t even bad in the first place). Situations like this are not uncommon in many families and apply not only to homosexuality but to any area where a teenager has entered a moment of her life whose parents choose to remain blind about.
One day Alike’s closest friend is Laura (Pernell Walker), who is a lesbian. Her mother knows about Laura’s sexuality and wants Alike to stop seeing her. Yet her mother doesn’t forbid her from seeing Bina (Aasha Davis), the daughter of one of her friends from her church. Which is ironic, since Laura has never made a pass with Alike, but Bina wants to make out with her and Alike finally acts on her sexual feelings. Pariah is a mesmerizing movie and the part of Alike is played by Adepero Oduye, whose performance is so natural and moving that she truly brings the character to life.
But I’m a Cheerleader, directed by Jamie Babbit, is a romantic comedy with a satirical twist. The film’s protagonist, Megan, is played by a young Natasha Lyonne, who would go on to have a strong lesbian role again years later in the popular LGBT Netflix series Orange Is the New Black.
She’s the perfect American girl: a blonde cheerleader, a good student, and a Catholic. But she also just happens to be a lesbian, although she still doesn’t know it. When her family, friends, and her boyfriend find out, they send her to a “rehabilitation center” for gay people called True Directions. The thing is, it’s precisely there where she will fall in love with another girl.
Under this premise, the film develops a poignant critique of society, particularly that one permeated by Catholicism and conservative ideas regarding sexuality. But the story not only points to criticism of homosexual discrimination but also looks at gender stereotypes. If there is something striking in this film, it is the sets and costumes made up of garish pinks and blues that ridicule gender impositions. The acting by those in the “rehabilitation center” truly shows that anyone who thinks treating people this way, trying to change the way they are, is truly crazy.
Closet Monster, by Stephen Dunn, is a small Canadian film that tells the story of a boy who leaves his life behind trying to escape the monsters behind him. But, as you may imagine, the hurt he suffered as a child is stuck with him and he will have to face his inner monsters if he ever wants to be happy. While not very known in the mainstream, his film has had much praise by queer communities, as well as critics, even winning Best Canadian Film at the 2015 Toronto Film Festival.
The protagonist, Connor Jessup, is the fundamental axis of this film. Played by Oscar Madly, this fascinating character manages to capture our attention and reel us into his intriguing inner world. He manages to make the role his own, molds it at his whim, and captivates us with his interpretative strength. But he’s not alone: his friends, Aliocha Schneider and Sofia Banzhaf, represent the two personalities that live inside him. The first is the sexually liberated side, the one that does not have to ask for forgiveness, the one that can live as he wants.
The latter is the one who longs to leave her home, discover herself, create her own personality, and move forward in life. This small film tells its story in a refreshing and mind-bending way.
The Edge of Seventeen is the feature debut of director Kelly Fremon Craig. The film offers a fun, intelligent, and touching youth story that, although it does not come to revolutionize the already known formula of coming of age stories, gives it a twist full of freshness thanks to the incredible performance of its main actress Hailee Steinfeld.
The film starts with Nadine (Steinfield) running desperately through the halls of the high school until she reaches the classroom where her teacher, Mr. Bruner (played by the great Woody Harrelson), can be found. She confesses that she is determined to commit suicide. Her teacher takes the news with sarcasm and irony and manages to reassure the stunned protagonist. From there, the film goes back in time to learn details of Nadine’s childhood, her relationship with her parents and her brother, her friendship with her only friend Krista, and Nadine’s constant insecurity ever since she was a girl.
It is a story with a lot of heart that delves into themes that are a little darker or more serious than what is normally presented in this type of film. The film explores issues such as the loss of a loved one, depression, and lack of self-esteem in a fresh way. The Edge of Seventeen is a youthful journey of self-discovery that will make you laugh as well as remind you of the worst parts of being a teenager. It has all the necessary ingredients to become one of the best gay teen movies of all time while still representing the voice of the current generation.
Lost And Delirious, by Léa Pool, tells the story of three teenagers who study at a Catholic girls boarding school for the children of wealthy families. The main focus of the film is directed toward Mary Bradford (Mischa Barton), whose nickname is “Mouse”.
She arrives at this new school filled with doubt, sad about the people she was forced to leave behind (and who left her behind): she feels like her father is abandoning her for her new wife. However, the school isn’t so unpleasant. On the contrary, she is received quite well by her new roommates, the complicated and rebellious Paulie (Piper Perabo), and the beautiful and sympathetic Tory (Jessica Pare). Yet quite quickly Mouse realizes that something strange is happening: seeing the way Paulie and Tory treat each other, she realizes that they are more than friends.
The film sees Mouse witnessing their love affair and being there for them as they face the social pressures against them having a lesbian relationship. The relationship between Paulie and Tory goes further, which surprises Mouse at first but ends up becoming a witness and silent accomplice of this strange relationship. As the movie goes on, the love affair grows in intensity and in complications. After a particularly hard fight, Paulie is venting while Mouse stays by her side, wondering about herself and trying to understand what is happening and how it affects her.
It’s a film about the obstacles faced by any young woman who tries to open up to the decision to be a lesbian and how it can be painful not to have real support to face heartbreak and feeling unloved in a period as difficult as adolescence.
Handsome Devil, by John Butler, tells the story of a teenager who stands out amongst the others while living in an Irish boarding school obsessed with rugby. In that school, which seems to be populated only by athletes, there is a student, Ned (), who does not fit that description of a teenage athlete. Victim of bullying and homophobic attacks, he has become closed off in order to protect himself from everyone else.
One day, a boy named Conor arrives at the school. While he’s one of the athletes, he doesn’t carry any prejudice with him. As he approaches Ned, he learns that Conor is also going through the same thing as Ned, in that they both are dealing with being gay. While Ned is clear about who he is, Conor has to learn to live as a homosexual in an environment, sports, which is not exactly easy for someone like him. Handsome Devil is a charming movie and one of the better romantic teen movies in recent years.
Geography Club, by Gary and Edmund Entin, is a comedy film based on the best-selling book of the same name by Brent Hartinger. While the film has been compared to The Breakfast Club, it bears to say that it approaches its subject in a much more modern way, featuring one of the most realistic depictions of gay teenagers in a comedy film ever. The story shows how a school can be broken apart by homophobia, dividing its students between those who accept the LGBT community and those who don’t. The film deals with touchy subjects but manages to do so without ever losing its humor.
The titular geography club is composed of several queer teens who try to find their place in the world: Russell is still dating girls while having a secret relationship with football quarterback Kevin, who will do anything to keep his football teammates from finding out about him; Min and Therese tell everyone that they are very good friends, but they are much more than that; And then there’s Ike, who can’t figure out who he is or who he wants to be.
Finding the truth too hard to hide, they all decide to form the Geography Club, thinking no one else in their right mind would want to join. However, their secrets may soon be discovered and they may have to face the decision to reveal who they really are.
G.B.F. is an independent comedy film directed by Darren Stein. All hell breaks loose at a suburban high school when the three most popular girls fight over who gets to have a G.B.F. (a gay best friend).
The film tells the story of Tanner (Michel J. Willett) and Brent (Paul Iacono), two closeted best friends. While Brent craves attention, Tanner would rather stay unseen and comfortable. Despite his friend’s reservations, Brent will go along with his master plan: he believes that by publicly coming out, he could become the new “accessory” to one of the popular girls.
But things don’t go as planned and it’s Tanner who comes out of the closet because of a mistake by Brent. So, the three most popular girls in school begin a social war in order to figure out who will get to have the gay best friend. Meanwhile, Tanner will have to choose between popularity and the friends he’s leaving behind.
The Way He Looks is the feature debut of Brazilian filmmaker Daniel Ribeiro. Based on the plot of this previous project (a short film by the same name), it tells a naturalistic, beautiful, and subtle story about love and diversity among the youth of Brazil.
Leo (Ghillerme Lobo) is a handsome, energetic, and optimistic teenage boy who likes to spend his time with his best friend Giovanna (Tess Amorim). The biggest obstacle he has encountered throughout his life is his blindness, which despite his difficulties does not prevent him from doing the things he loves most: traveling, meeting new people, or having fun. There is one thing he hasn’t done: he still hasn’t kissed anyone.
Leo’s life is turned upside down when a new student named Gabriel (Fábio Audi) arrives in his class, and they are assigned a paper about Spartan society that they must do in pairs. This arrival gives Leo the chance to meet someone new: due to certain social prejudices, he did not have, apart from Giovanna, too many friends at school. From the beginning, the story injects the viewer with a legion of new emotions, humor, and discoveries typical of the passage from childhood to adulthood, from social interaction to the deepest and most personal fantasies.
It’s a touching story that manages to capture what’s unique and what’s beautiful about this time in everyone’s lives.
The story of Beach Rats goes as follows: Frankie (Harris Dickinson) lives in suburban Brooklyn with his mother (Kate Hodge) and his younger sister (Nicole Flyus). His father is in the final stages of cancer, but he does not seem to care. Frankie spends the night in his room entering gay dating chats and one of the few things he prides himself on is taking care of his statuesque body.
His group of friends is quite pathetic and his activities include some robberies to raise the money needed for joints and pills. In the middle of the beach season in Coney Island, he meets Simone (Madeline Weinstein), an attractive and overwhelming girl with whom he will stumble into an affective relationship, but will continue with short-lived dates with men much more mature than him.
The second film by Eliza Hittman, Beach Rats won her the award for Best Direction at the Sundance Film Festival, among many others. The film is a sensitive look at the contradictions of a 19-year-old in search of his identity. It’s a disturbing, uncomfortable, and fascinating film about intimate contradictions, existential crisis, lack of communication, desires, and the search for sexual identity in a world many times hostile. A beautiful film that doesn’t talk down to its viewer.
Summer of 85, by François Ozon, is a romance film set in Le Tréport, a small French town on the Norman coast.
At the end of the course Alexis (Félix Lefebvre), a teenager who is almost 16 years old, has to decide whether to continue studying or to look for a job. Meanwhile, by chance, he meets 18-year-old David (Benjamin Voisin). The two of them quickly become friends, but just as quickly they realize that their feelings call for something more. Yet, from the very beginning, we know this story can’t end well. From the first minute we are told that David has died and Alexis is declaring in a court of law about his death. As he tells his story, the film flashes back to the beautiful countryside and to the story described earlier.
Only at the very end will the viewer know what exactly happened. It’s a nostalgic and painful journey to the memory of those fleeting loves that are extinguished with the same intensity with which they sprout, but that is a fundamental part of our formation and individual growth thanks to the mark they have left in the depths of our hearts. Summer of 85 is a beautiful film that tells a youthful romance with the aesthetics and melodies of the eighties.
Filled with nostalgia, this is one of the best gay teen movies that is sure to put a tear in your eye.
The story of Being 17, by André Techiné,begins with Damien (Kacey Mottet Klein), the son of a soldier who lives in a barracks in the south-west of France with his mother Marianne (Sandrine Kiberlain), a doctor, while his father is abroad on a military mission. Damien is gay, and at school, he has to deal with bullying from Thomas (Corentin Fila) every day. However, when Thomas’s mother falls ill, and Marianne decides to take the boy into her house, the violence and aversion they feel for each other will turn living together into a problem that is difficult to solve.
It’s truly outstanding how, while Techiné is now over seventy years old, he managed to tell one of the most compelling stories about teenage romance ever to be put to film. Being 17 is a great portrait of the processes of accepting one’s own sexuality and becoming an adult. An essential step in life that Téchiné deals with is marvelous simplicity and tact.
It truly is one of the best gay ten films made from the heart and for the heart.