It’s been about a year since Moonlight won Best Picture at the Oscars, and the effects of that historical moment have been palpable. Openly queer characters have popped up everywhere from romantic comedies to Marvel superhero spectaculars, and mainstream films with explicit gay sex and full-frontal male nudity have only drawn PG ratings. Even Disney joined the fray, debuting its first well-adjusted lesbian princess just before Tom Cruise and John Travolta jointly announced that they’ve been in a committed relationship since 2012. John Wick, Indiana Jones, and Harry Potter all retroactively came out as gay, and Harry Styles gleefully experimented with men in a 120-person orgy with all the extras from Dunkirk.
J/k. None of that happened, and queer representation in mainstream movies is practically where it was a year ago. However, there have still been a number of terrific (and terrible) LGBTQ films to grace our screens this year. Below, we’ve separated the tops from the bottoms.
Call Me by Your Name
Though knocked by some horny critics for not having enough wall-pounding bareback sex, Call Me by Your Name still succeeds at chronicling the thighs — sorry, highs — and lows of teenage Elio’s (Timothee Chalamet’s) first same-sex love affair. In doing so, it conjures a staggeringly poignant tale of guilt, denial, loss, and acceptance.
This movie didn’t make as much a splash in the States as it should have, considering its fresh combination of positive gay storytelling and sublime filmmaking. But this movie is without a doubt the Brokeback Mountain we deserve. Now, go find yourself a man who helps you build stone walls the way Gheorghe helps Johnny build stone walls: with tender looks and lots of surprise gay sex.
A Fantastic Woman
Featuring a stunning turn from newcomer Daniela Vega, A Fantastic Woman seeks to invite even the most calculating viewers to empathize with its trans protagonist as she fights for acceptance. Though at turns heartbreaking and brutally violent, A Fantastic Woman is ultimately a powerful tale of self-assertion and defiance.
This heart-pounding and very personal tale from writer-director Robin Campillo is a heady mixture of cerebral highs and devastating lows. It all comes together as a sturdy, frenetic thriller in which its protagonists — a.k.a. the members of Act Up in ‘90s Paris, France — are the action heroes of their time.
Battle of the Sexes
In addition to being a crowd-pleasing, terrifically-acted dramedy (emphasis on the drama), Battle of the Sexes features a number of themes that resonate with audiences of today. More importantly, it stars Emma Stone as the openly gay, fiercely feminist Billie Jean King.
This has an endless parade of shirtless macho guys and hot gay hookups … What more could you want? As it turns out: A touching coming-of-age story, a heart-rending portrayal of fraught sexual exploration, a nuanced performance from Harris Dickinson, and a bunch of shots of Coney Island.
Antonio Lopez 1970: Sex Fashion & Disco
The original stalwart of diversity in the fashion industry, Antonio Lopez is known to many as the charismatic, carefree designer who revolutionized fashion illustration on the covers of major fashion mags. This documentary, as helmed by James Crump, brings Lopez to luminous life through found footage and interviews with Lopez’s high-profile friends. Jessica Lange, Grace Jones, and Karl Lagerfeld all make appearances.
Tom of Finland
Tom of Finland is by no means a bad film, but it certainly is a disappointment. How could a film about one of queer history’s most counterculture illustrators be so bland and — even worse — tame? While its central love story is often touching, its meandering rendering of California’s ‘70s gay revolution feels more like a Wikipedia entry than a sexultation. And while its superficial explanations for Tom’s aesthetic are titillating, its underlying sense of urgency — which it so often hints at — never morphs into something greater.
While this reviewer only made it through ten minutes of Cherry Pop, we as a staff can confirm that this Bob the Drag Queen-starring “comedy” is an exercise in tired stereotypes, inept direction, terrible writing and overacting. If this movie could sashay away from Netflix immediately, the Internet would be a much safer place.