Paris is Burning. Filmed over multiple years in the 1980s, this documentary depicts the New York City dance culture of various groups, including gay and transgender. With a cast of over-the-top characters and harrowing confessions, this movie is both subversive and culturally important. So much so that in 2016, the Library of Congress selected it for preservation for its cultural significance. 1990. 78 minutes.
Tangerine. Shot entirely on the iPhone, this independent comedy-drama follows a trans sex worker who discovers their lover is cheating on them. With its finger on the pulse of modern queer humor and slang, this borderline-mumblecore is as entertaining as it is educational. Filmed guerilla-style throughout Hollywood and Santa Monica Boulevard, it shows just about anyone can make a movie these days, so long as they have a good idea. 2015. 88 minutes.
Funeral Parade of Roses. One of the wackiest, wildest and most psychologically-thrilling movies ever made, this stands as a pinnacle of Japanese New Wave cinema. Following the gay counterculture of 1960s Tokyo, this experimental retelling of Oedipus Rex was a major influence on Stanley Kubrick, particularly when he made A Clockwork Orange. It's experimental, surreal and all-around a movie to remember. 1969. 107 minutes.
Moonlight. An intimate look at a gay black boy's life in three chapters: first as a kid, then as a teen and finally as an adult. The progression of the main character is beautiful and difficult, but it's the side characters moving throughout and leaving their impressions on his life that make this movie very special. This film is equal parts delicate and powerful, and absolutely deserving of its Best Picture award. 2016. 111 minutes.
Call Me by Your Name. In a sense this is a white Moonlight, in that it follows the coming-of-age of a gay boy with delicacy and distress. Both were beautifully directed and featured breakout roles by their lead actors. This film, however, has much more of a European flair, taking place in Italy and being dominated by classical music and architecture. Plus, Sufjan Stevens' poignant musical contributions simply put this movie on another level. 2017. 132 minutes.
Different from the Others (Anders als die Andern). As long as we're talking about queer films from the past and present, we might as well talk about the very first one. Ninety-nine years ago, this movie was made to combat Germany's "Paragraph 175" law which made homosexuality illegal. This movie tells the story of a gay violinist and his lover and their struggles to keep their relationship a secret. The film was released to both praise and scorn, but is now seen as an important piece of cinema history. It's nice to know that even a century ago, movies could hold lines such as, "Love for one of the same sex is no less pure or noble than for one of the opposite... Those that say otherwise come only from ignorance." 1919. 50 minutes.