As great strides are made by the LGBTQ+ movement, the media is sure to follow in its footsteps. The movement’s growing popularity has piqued the interest of filmmakers and production companies alike, resulting in a surge of LGBTQ+ leads who each have a unique story to tell.
The last three years have produced an extensive list of highly-rated films based on the lives of LGBTQ+ characters. Whether you are a part of the LGBTQ+ community or simply an ally, the following seven films received fantastic reviews for their groundbreaking content anyone can enjoy.
Directed by Barry Jenkins, “Moonlight” premiered in the U.S. in November 2016. The movie grossed over $27 million at the box office, making over $400,000 its opening weekend.
“Moonlight” follows Chiron, a gay African American, through his development and the discovery of his sexuality. The movie is split into three time periods: Chiron’s boyhood, adolescence and adult life. Chiron faces numerous obstacles growing up in a crime-ridden neighborhood of Miami. These struggles include bullying, exposure to drugs and gang violence.
With a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 98%, “Moonlight” is nothing to scoff at. The movie received overwhelmingly positive reviews on every platform, earning it the reputation of a work of cinematic genius.
Critics raved over the controversial topics present in the film and the way they were addressed. Matthew Lucas, a writer with “The Dispatch”, was impressed by Jenkins’ ability to arrange several contrasting issues in a perfectly spun web.
“Moonlight” addresses the difficulties of growing up in a low-income neighborhood while falling within the LGBTQ+ community. The stigma toward men, especially POC men, showing vulnerability is addressed in the film as well, making “Moonlight” a cautionary tale of toxic masculinity.
“Call Me by Your Name” premiered January 2017 and was directed by Luca Guadagnino. The film grossed over $18 million at the box office and surpassed a cool $40 million in cumulative worldwide gross.
Set in the Italian countryside, the main character, Elio, completes a journey from boy to manhood. Enamored with his father’s grad assistant, Oliver, Elio navigates his sexuality through a summer long experience that includes both Oliver and a female love interest.
“Call Me by Your Name” received a rating of 95% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is quite the achievement. The film also received a flood of positive reviews praising its rawness and the chemistry between the actors.
Film critic Chris Vognar described “Call Me by Your Name” as “a piercing glimpse of a young man’s bright, confounding first love, the kind of love that brings disorientation and rhapsody.” With a dreamy setting and plot, paired with an exponentially dreamier cast, Guadagnino set “Call Me by Your Name” up for success.
The message that everyone is deserving of unconditional love tugs on the heartstrings of many in the LGBTQ+ community — as does the concept that it is not only okay to be confused about one’s sexuality, but it is normal and natural to question oneself. “Call Me by Your Name” provides its audience with a sense of reassurance and a case of the warm fuzzies.
3. Love, Simon
Grossing an impressive $40 million at the box office, “Love, Simon” quickly became one of director Greg Berlanti’s best-known works. The film community was abuzz preceding the movie’s release in March 2018.
A closeted Simon tries his best to navigate high school while keeping his sexuality under wraps. Once Simon’s love interest comes into the picture, he struggles to find the proper balance between keeping his darkest secret and caring for his friends. Following the whirlwind of an unfortunate series of events, Simon learns that staying true to oneself was the missing piece.
“Love, Simon” received the admirable rating of 92% on Rotten Tomatoes. Some critics believed that Simon’s character was underdeveloped and made a few confusing choices in the film. But with a clear message and a strong cast, most reviews raved about the authenticity of the film’s plot.
“Little White Lies” journalist Elena Lazic perfectly relayed the over-arching opinion of film critics, claiming that, “Despite … strangely misjudged moments, ‘Love, Simon’ succeeds in navigating most of the pitfalls of the gay coming-of-age narrative and is ultimately moving and genuine.”
In advisement to other young members of the LGBTQ+ community, “Love, Simon” emphasizes that self-acceptance is the first step in finding happiness. Those who matter will love you for who you are.
Director Bryan Singer’s long-awaited film “Bohemian Rhapsody,” premiered in November 2018. Singer’s film weighed in as the highest-grossing film out of these seven choices, earning over $215 million at the box office.
This biopic follows Freddie Mercury along his rise to fame, with the majority of the film centered around his involvement with music group Queen. Throughout “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Mercury’s sexuality is explored in small doses, hinting at but never confirming his orientation. The film also briefly touches on the singer’s fatal battle with AIDS.
Earning a shocking rating of only 61% on Rotten Tomatoes, “Bohemian Rhapsody” received vastly mixed reviews. Many critics expressed their disappointment on the focus of “Queen” rather than on Mercury himself.
Film critic Andrew Kendall seemed to sympathize with this sentiment. Kendall claims, “To its benefit, and its detriment, Bohemian Rhapsody is emphatically rooted in Freddie not as a man but Freddie as myth.”
Despite the mixed reviews, “Bohemian Rhapsody” certainly covered all of its bases. Touching on Mercury’s hinted struggle with his bisexuality as well as his drinking problem allowed for the representation of several different groups. And of course, his battle with AIDS still spreads awareness of the disease, an important part of the film’s agenda.
5. Boy Erased
“Boy Erased” first premiered in Australia in November 2018. Since reaching the U.S., director Joel Edgerton’s film grossed just under $7 million at the box office.
Edgerton’s film strays from traditional chronological organization, revealing plot points both in the present and through flashbacks. After being forcibly outed to his deeply religious parents, Jared is sent to a conversion camp against his will. Jared, along with the other victims of the camp, bring awareness to conversion camps’ inhumane practices.
Even though technically the film is a flop, as it earned over $3,000 less than the amount that went into making of the film, “Boy Erased” received a respectable rating of 81% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Most of the complaints that critics expressed had to do with the lack of emotional unrest the movie caused viewers. Film critic Sandra Hall has a dissenting opinion that, “It’s a slow build to a Lord of the Flies scenario and a predictably tragic climax with a touch of gothic horror, but everything else about the film is imbued with such restraint that it’s all too believable.”
Without giving away too many spoilers, “Boy Erased” shares a touching message with members of the LGBTQ+ community. Jared finds that he is happiest when he is unapologetically himself in contrast with other characters in the film. In the end, even his father accepts his sexuality once Jared accepts himself.
The long-awaited film “Booksmart” premiered in May, but originally screened at SXSW, causing an uproar in the LGBTQ+ community. Olivia Wilde’s first film was spot on, having grossed $20 million so far.
“Booksmart” features two best friends whose goal is to raise hell on their last day of high school. The zany pair, Amy, a recently de-closeted know-it-all, and Molly, an adventurous and passionate nerd, want to make the most of their last night of high school. Once they had followed the rules religiously, but now they want to break as many as possible.
Wilde’s break-out film as a director was rated a delightful 97% on Rotten Tomatoes. Critics wrote amazing reviews, impressed by her natural talent and her representation of the LGBTQ+ community.
Erin Keane of “Salon Magazine” could not agree more, adding that “‘Booksmart’ puts a fresh spin on the coming-of-age night-of comedy because it’s focused on two girls, one of whom is also queer.”
The fact that LGBTQ+ characters are presented so casually helps normalize differences in sexuality. In this way, “Booksmart” is a truly groundbreaking film, and one backed by the support of the entirety of the LGBTQ+ community.
The final film is Dexter Fletcher’s highly anticipated “Rocketman” that premiered in late May. Grossing over $77 million, this biopic-turned-musical made waves in both the LGBTQ+ and film communities.
The audience has the opportunity to follow Elton John through his breakout years in “Rocketman,” but the struggles he faced as a bulimic, LGBTQ+ man and former addict are not ignored in the film. By highlighting instead of glamorizing John’s struggles, Fletcher was careful to maintain the integrity of the film, and the reviews reflect that.
“Rocketman” was rated an outstanding 98% on Rotten Tomatoes, but still seemed to receive somewhat mixed reviews. While many critics appreciated that the more controversial issues were addressed head-on, others found that there wasn’t enough of a balance between the positive and the negative aspects of John as a character.
Film critic Nathaniel Rogers even pointed out the predictable plot and the tired narrative, but believed that, “Still, it’s a grand entertainment despite the traditional rise to fame – get messed up on drugs narrative.” Is this a compliment or a critique? This double-sidedness seems to be a common theme amongst reviews.
Fletcher’s film not only addresses the struggles of LGBTQ+, but also the struggles of addiction and eating disorders. In “Rocketman,” the audience is exposed to situations they would have never experienced otherwise, making the film a unique piece of cinema.