What Are The Top Indie Gay Movies To Watch?

Are you on the lookout for some top gay indie movies that will knock your socks off and blow your mind? There are tons out there, but how do you find them all? We have collected up a whole list of the very best movies to leave you amazed and admiring – so let’s look through them.

The best indie movies include things like The Watermelon, But I’m A Cheerleader, 120 BPM, My Own Private Idaho, A Single Man, A Fantastic Woman, And Then We Danced, Passages, and Benediction.

Watching gay indie movies is a fabulous way to learn more about the LGBTQ+ world, see some great representation, and connect with people from this community. With that in mind, let’s plunge straight in and figure these movies out!

1) The Watermelon

A masterpiece that explores the origins of LGBTQ+, and how we can reclaim history and rediscover who we are and who we have been, this movie has captured the imagination of many. It takes the historical record that has been suppressed and pulls it back into the light, examining, exploring, and celebrating.

The film follows a fictionalized version of Cheryl Dunye as she uncovers the story of “The Watermelon Woman.” This refers to a Black lesbian who was an actress in the 1930s and 1940s – and it does so in a beautiful, touching way that highlights the value of cultural inheritance, and helps viewers realize just how much we lose when we lose our history. 

It also manages to incorporate humor, creating a fascinating watch that people all over the world have loved.

2) But I’m A Cheerleader

This lesbian satire follows the story of a gay teenager whose parents have sent her to gay conversion therapy. Megan Bloomfield is the popular, stereotypical high school cheerleader… but she’s also a lesbian. She uses the conversion therapy as an opportunity to embrace her sexuality and celebrate who she truly is – in a move all the viewers can get behind wholeheartedly.

The film received mixed reviews when it came out in the 1990s, but has developed a cult following, and still appeals to many audiences today. It handles difficult topics gracefully, exploring the meaning of self, gender roles, sexuality, and social conformity. It also helps to raise awareness about the dangers and the harmfulness of conversion therapy.

All of these things have given it long-standing popularity within the LGBTQ+ community, although it still receives mixed reviews and has been criticized for being too broad and sweeping. It’s well worth considering, but it does seem to be one of those films that you will either love or hate!

3) 120 BPM

This phenomenal AIDS-focused drama has received a huge amount of praise since its 2017 release because it chooses to take a look at the HIV epidemic – something few films are brave enough to cover. It is a fantastic watch, and enormously informative if you want to know more about this epidemic and the impact it had upon its sufferers.

It manages to balance very skillfully two threads: the strong, well-crafted love story at its core, and the overarching activist meetings that had such an impact on the LGBTQ+ community. It explores both aspects, from the close-and-personal to the wide-reaching, and it does so with beautiful cleverness and grace.

This is a very hard-hitting movie and has been much admired. It’s well worth a watch if you are up for something powerful and you want to know more about what LGBTQ+ people suffered during the HIV epidemic. 

With a great cast, a compelling story, and strong direction, this wipes the floor with many other modern movies, and is a demonstration of how multiple threads can be explored when handled with care – a move we applaud!

4) My Own Private Idaho

An extraordinary story of two friends, Mike Waters and Scott Favor, living on the streets and fighting for their survival, this movie has captured the imagination of thousands. It explores all kinds of different themes, including the challenges of narcolepsy, which Waters suffers from.

The two characters represent very different stories. Waters is desperate to find his biological mother and see Italy, and is the younger, more naive of the duo. Favor is streetwise and smart, and is a rebellious soul trying to walk away from his rich family and what is expected of him.

The story takes a sad turn when Favor turns his back on Waters and joins mainstream society. Being an indie movie, the film feels no need to conform to Hollywood expectations in terms of plot arc or characters; it drifts in a beautiful, unique way through the story, exploring the things that it wishes to explore, and telling us the things it wishes to tell.

Many people have enjoyed My Own Private Idaho, and although it came out in 1992, it’s well worth watching, especially if you’re a fan of Keanu Reeve and River Phoenix!

5) A Single Man

Step back into 1962 with A Single Man, a film based on the novel by Christopher Isherwood. This film focuses on Colin Firth as George Falconer, an English professor teaching in an LA college. He’s at a crisis point in his life; his partner of 16 years (Jim) was killed in a car accident 8 months ago, and Jim’s family wants nothing to do with George – even so far as not wanting to tell him of Jim’s death.

George is preparing to commit suicide, and we watch him make his preparations, delivering powerful soliloquies about Jim and their life together. It’s a heavy start! However, George’s day turns things around; he meets various different people who shift his perspective and alter his plans.

The range he meets is beautiful, and a reminder that everybody is important in this world. He sees Charley, a best friend from England (who also happens to be in love with him, despite his sexuality); he sees one of his students called Kenny Potter; and he meets Carlos, a Spanish immigrant new to LA. It’s an eclectic mix, but each brings their own value, and together, change his plans.

A Single Man invites us to remember the beauty of life, and the importance that we each have on this planet. It’s a reminder of how harsh life can be at times, but also what value it has to offer. When you watch George re-discover the meaning and connections that drive him away from his decision… it really hits hard.

This certainly isn’t the most cheerful film on the list, but it’s very much worth a watch, and you’ll find yourself clinging to every word spoken and every move George makes. Colin Firth did this film proud!

6) A Fantastic Woman

Do you love a film that really studies its characters and gives you the deepest look into their lives? This Oscar-winning movie could be for you. It has a lot of similarities to A Single Man, as the subject is deep in the throes of despair over a past partner – this time, an older boyfriend.

However, A Fantastic Woman is focused on a transgender woman, and it’s an extraordinary take. For audiences, it is very refreshing to see transgender individuals get this level of representation and focus, and to see the heart and soul that has been put into this film.

Astonishingly, this film also had a direct impact on the pro-trans legislation that was passed in Chile, where the filmmaker Sebastián Lelio is from. That alone is enough to make us love it; when we see films changing the world around us, it’s a reminder of the power a truly good film can have – and this one does not disappoint.

Anybody who supports LGBTQ+ rights should consider watching this; although heavy, it is decidedly beautiful, and will transport you to another world as you delve into the heart and soul of the main character.

7) And Then We Danced

Not many of us need a reminder that anti-queer prejudice is still alive and powerful in today’s world – but nonetheless, this movie is worth a watch. It follows the coming of age story of a couple in Tbilisi, Georgia, where a national ballet dancer is about to have his life changed forever.

This film explores a delicious subversion of gender roles; we see Merab, who believes in traditional masculinity and holds firm to his gender roles, lose his poise when a new dancer arrives – Irakli. He is a phenomenal dancer and has the rebellious nature necessary to distract Merab.

The story spirals into a passionate rivalry… and of course, something more. Merab’s world is changed forever, and we will have to wait and see what happens – will he stay with his dance partner Mary, or will he take up a new path and launch into a life with Merab?

This movie is a phenomenal watch, and it helps to unveil the beauty of Tbilisi, Georgia, as well as of the characters. If you love an artistic film and you want to fall deeply into the heart of Georgian culture and the breathtaking beauty of their national dances, this is certainly one that should be on your watch list. We couldn’t recommend it more highly!

8) Passages

If you’d like to watch a more recent film, Passages is a 2023 release that has been capturing audience imaginations since it came out. It focuses on the character of Tomas and his husband, exploring a long-term gay relationship, and what happens when it is challenged by the beautiful Agathe.

Agathe sets the men’s world on fire and drives them apart, exploring the power and fragility of relationships, the vulnerability of the couple, and the dangers of affairs. The film is complex and sexy, very dramatic, and gripping. You’ll be at the edge of your seat, watching the characters as they move around each other, wary and uncertain.

The film got great approval ratings on Rotten Tomatoes and audiences have praised the actors’ performances, the characters’ depth, and the narrative arc. It is a beautiful watch, captivating and achingly human.

9) Benediction

A masterpiece in filmmaking, Benediction follows the story of the war hero and famous poet, Siegfried Sassoon. Sassoon has enjoyed fame throughout the ages for his strong stance against the war, for his extraordinary bravery during the war, and for his struggles with his own sexuality at a time when being gay was unthinkable for many.

The film skilfully and beautifully handles Sassoon’s approach to the world, exploring his relationships, examining his stance, and opening up his life. This is the last work of Terence Davies, and many have said that it feels appropriate as his final piece; it’s deeply realized, skilled, and enormously emotive for audiences everywhere.

It explores many different dynamics, including mental health (Sassoon spent time in a psychiatric hospital during the war as a result of his anti-war activism), queerness, societal expectations, identity, and more.

This is a moving watch to add to your list, and very worth seeing. It also got excellent reviews on Rotten Tomatoes; no surprise given how profound it manages to be.

Conclusion

There are many gay indie movies out there, with a huge amount to offer to audiences across the world – and a lot are better at representing and exploring the stories of queer individuals than mainstream Hollywood, which seems to struggle. Hopefully, this list has given you some ideas for your next watch; there are plenty here to choose from!

Gay Worlley

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