For change to happen, it has to start from somewhere, and sometimes that somewhere is cinema. Long before Oberfell v. Hodgesthe landmark Supreme Court case that legalized same-sex marriage in the United States, queer representation in movie theaters helped highlight the importance of understanding that “love is love” and that it is limitless.
Films have the ability to have an impact and perhaps change the ideologies of a community. A 2012 survey conducted by an independent polling firm to the Hollywood Reporter said how queer portrayal on screen has increased support for same-sex marriage so that film has the power to change the mainstream, and there have been several standout plays that have positively influenced society. As Valentine’s Day approaches, here are some of the most romantic gay movies about men that deserve more cheers.
9 Love, Simon
A modern love story that revolves around a teenager who struggles to accept his own identity. Love, Simon is a film that simply does the viewer good. While the movie follows the trope of a closeted young boy trying to find his secret lover, it does so in a way that is able to give people hope and is subtle enough to even sway naysayers. Interestingly, this 2018 film is well known for “being the first gay teen romance-focused movie released by a major studio.” So, it’s no surprise that a spin-off TV series called Love, Victor was released by Hulu.
Set in the early 1900s, Mauritius is a film that is sure to evoke a lot of emotions in the viewer. With James Wilby taking on the lead role, we see the protagonist trying to navigate his love life in a conservative Edwardian society. Which makes Mauritius exceptional is the way the film has captured the pain of trying to maintain a facade of decorum under rigid social conventions that are contrary to one’s feelings and emotions. As indicated by Guy Lodge for The Guardian, Mauritius is a film “underrated in 1987 and underseen today”, and therefore deserves far more appreciation than is given.
seven The way he looks
This film by Daniel Ribeiro is based on his 2010 short film I don’t want to go home alone which he had hoped would help fund a feature release. Fortunately, Ribeiro was able to pull off his plan, because The way he looks is a truly touching film that explores the story of a blind teenager struggling to be independent. The uniqueness of this film lies in the way Ribeiro navigates the relationship between the two protagonists, Leonardo (played by Ghilherme Lobo) and Gabriel (played by Fábio Audi). With a friendship that blossoms into a relationship, the bond between these two characters is both charming and beautiful.
6 Free fall
From a rocky start to clashing identities, and an ending that is sure to leave audiences in tears, Free fall is a German film that follows a protagonist’s shocking awakening and his attempts to untangle his now complicated life. This film certainly brings the pain as well as the excitement of forbidden love. Marc Borgmann, played by Hanno Koffler, trying to suppress his true identity for the sake of his family while exploring his true identity is a sure tearjerker. Free fall shows what it’s like to live in a world where you’re forced to make tough decisions because of the prejudices of others.
5 Happy together
Unlike most gay films that begin with a protagonist struggling to come to terms with their identity, this particular film tries to depart from that trope and focuses on the complications and challenges found in any relationship. Happy together follows the story of a gay couple trying to navigate life in a foreign place, encountering the difficulties of feeling alienated in a community that doesn’t feel like home (something that many gay people, especially in Asia , can identify). This Hong Kong romantic drama directed by the great Wong Kar-wai, which also received the Best Director Award at the 1997 Cannes Film Festivalis an undisputed winner as it takes an innovative approach to gay films, using the director’s signature romantic and woozy style.
4 Brokeback Mountain
Brokeback Mountain is a film based on The short story of the same name by Annie Proulx, and fundamentally changed the Hollywood landscape when it comes to gay love stories. Starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal as Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist respectively, this neo-Western romantic drama follows the tragic story of two men who realize their affection for each other following a an encounter during their work as shepherds. While the film initially presents itself as a film focused on curiosity and the excitement of discovering a romantic relationship, it then shows the brutal reality that gay men have had to face in a society that adamantly denies their right to love. Brokeback Mountain is definitely a revelation.
3 call me by your name
This Luca Guadagnino film is a screen adaptation of André Aciman’s award-winning 2007 novel of the same name. Set in the countryside of northern Italy in 1983, it follows the beautiful love story of Elio Perlman, played by Timothée Chalamet, and Oliver. call me by your name delves deeply into the idea and fascination of love through the cast’s marvelous performance that does Aciman’s story justice. What makes this particular film important is that it focuses on the excitement, thrill, and absolute bliss of love. As the story ends with a heartbreaking scene, brilliantly performed by Chalamet, call me by your name is a must-watch and was a surprising hit for all audiences.
2 The boys in the group
“If the situation of the homosexual is ever to be understood by the public, it will be thanks to the breakthrough of this human and moving image”, declares a TIME magazine article from 1970. The boys in the group was adapted for the screen from the play by Mart Crowley and laid the groundwork for queer representation in films by being the first American film to explicitly focus on gay characters. The boys in the group is a raw, real-life portrayal of what it was like to be gay in 1968 New York – alienated, alone, and struggling for happiness. The characters try to use their happy personalities to distract themselves from this harsh reality, which only makes the film more emotional. It’s definitely a remarkable piece that changed the world of Hollywood for the better.
This Oscar-winning film is also considered one of the best films of the 21st century. Separated into three sections based on the life of the protagonist, Chiron, played by Trevante Rhodes, Ashton Sanders and Alex Hibbert, Moonlight explores hugely important topics including black masculinity, sexuality, social misconceptions, child domestic abuse, and race-based social segregation. This film from A24 manages to question aspects of society while remaining an extremely beautiful, artistic and entertaining masterpiece.
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