In the past decade, Hollywood has been more than inclusive for the LGBTQ+ community. Movies with positive representation are getting more reception and not just from the members of the community. If you are looking for such awesome movies to watch, then here are some hidden gems from Netflix.
The Half of It
Take a typical teen rom-com and turn every single trope on its head. The Half of It is the lesbian coming-of-age rom-com we’ve been waiting for. The movie makes you think you are watching one thing until it completely flips the narrative on its head. Most movies go something like this: Girl helps boy woo (or win back) another girl, but they fall in love instead. But what if that girl falls in love with the girl she’s supposed to be wooing? Lots of drama, that’s what. Don’t worry, it’s the good kind. The film stars Leah Lewis (Nancy Drew) as the band geek Ellie Chu, Alexxis Lemire as the preacher’s daughter Aster Flores, and Daniel Diemer as the soft-spoken jock Paul Munsky. One of the most moving scenes in the film comes when Ellie’s dad confesses his parenting insecurities to Paul in Chinese. Although the football star does not speak the language, he lets him talk uninterrupted, understanding his intent. That’s just one example of how this movie gives viewers what they didn’t know they wanted in an intriguing and memorable way. The Half of It is basically the modern-day Footloose – complete with small-town judgments and little old ladies gasping at the audacity of “the youths” during church pronouncements. With a dash of gay and tons of literary references, this is a must-watch.
The Boys in the Band
The Boys in the Band was originally an Off-Broadway play in 1968 before Ryan Murphy produced the 2020 film. An early positive example (and realistic representation) of gay representation, The Boys in the Band offers the story of gay men celebrating a birthday party in New York City, and was written by gay playwright Mart Crowley just one year before the Stonewall riots. When the play was revived on Broadway for its 50th anniversary, every role was played by a prominent gay actor – all of whom reprised their roles in the Netflix adaptation. It stars Magic Mike’s Matt Bomer (Donald), The Big Bang Theory’s Jim Parsons (Michael), Star Trek’s Zachary Quinto (Harold), and Teen Wolf’s Charlie Carver (Cowboy). An ex-college roommate who is homophobic and likely closeted shows up to Howard’s gay party, and Michael tries (and fails) to hide the group’s homosexuality, causing an unhealthy dose of hostility and violence. Michael’s past sends him on a bender, leaving him without sobriety as he struggles with his sexuality. Drama ensues when Michael makes everyone at the party play a twisted game of calling their greatest loves and confessing their feelings – forcing everyone to confront messy truths about themselves.
With dark wit, comedy, and terrific acting, the period piece tackles everything from internalized homophobia, racism, a warped society, and the timeless nature of gay culture.
It is refreshing to see a gay lead in a movie that is not about a character coming out. Hollywood has developed a habit of focusing on LGBTQ+ stories that center directly on a character’s queerness – usually centering on a tragic coming-out story. The story centers around David (Jesse Plemons from The Irishman), who is dealing with the impending death of his mother (Molly Shannon). Despite the dark plot, Shannon brings light to her character by making viewers fall in love with her laughter and positivity that shines through even the tensest moments. Yet, she punches through the comedy with some heartbreaking scenes of despair. Viewers will experience every emotion listed on their doctor’s feelings chart, but they’ll never be angry about it. There are also some comedic cameos from actors like Nicole Byers, Zach Woods, and Josie Totah that parallel the darker themes with some of the absurdity that comes with people’s reactions to someone else’s bad news. There is room for LGBTQ+ characters in all genres, not just those that center around their sexuality, and the Adam and Naomi Scott produced film makes a lot of progress in normalizing LGBTQ+ characters in all kinds of films. In a side story, David’s father’s (Bradley Whitford) longstanding struggle for acceptance since his son came out a decade ago is explored. The story is more focused on David’s relationship with his mom and her struggles than on his sexuality.
The Netflix original documentary Disclosure tells the story of Hollywood’s sketchy history of trans representation as narrated by Hollywood’s most influential trans members. In the movie, it’s explored how toxic film and TV portrayals affect the way the world views the trans community – and how they viewed themselves. The documentary features Hollywood favorites like Laverne Cox, Chaz Bono, Candis Cayne, Rain Valdez, and Brian Michael Smith telling their own stories. Many people see little to no trans representation because Hollywood constantly portrays drag queens and the trans community as killers, sex workers, or the butt of the joke. The documentary adds a vital, heartbreaking, and heartwarming element to the story. No matter whether you know someone who is transgender, are LGBTQ+ yourself or have never met a trans person, the film is an enlightening watch that will probably teach you something you didn’t know about the community and their history.
Recently, there have been a number of coming-of-age LGBTQ+ films, but none have focused quite so much on the drag scene as Freak Show. In the wake of his mother’s alcoholism, gay high schooler Billy Bloom feels like his life is coming to an end when he is sent to live with his estranged father. He has to fit into a small town ruled by small-minded bullies with phobic mindsets – including his father. He wears dresses and wigs while shining a light on drag culture and embracing gender nonconformity in the film.Teen Wolf alum Ian Nelson expertly plays Mark “Flip” Kelly – the artistic jock with a softer side who needs a push to defy the expectations placed on him. Billy helps Flip let go of the idea that he needs approval from the world to be himself, but their friendship does not come without its hiccups.Even among an incredible cast that includes Laverne Cox, Bett Midler (Hocus Pocus), and Larry Pine (House of Cards), Alex Lawther’s stellar performance as Billy stands out. Unlike many feel-good stories in the same category, Freak Show shows its leads as flawed and human. Occasionally, the main characters resort to hurtful insults out of anger out of selfishness and privilege. Although Billy’s high school wardrobe may not be very realistic, the film doesn’t paint the characters in glitter to make them seem perfect. Glitter is thrown on them because everything should sparkle.