PRIDE MONTH: AWFJ’s One-A-Day LBGTQ+ Watch List – Compiled by Loren King and Leslie Combemale

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There are as many kinds of LGBTQ+ films as there are LGBTQ+ people. In recent years especially, films in all genres —historical dramas, romcoms, experimental, documentaries— from filmmakers around the world have offered powerful and diverse perspectives on the queer experience. For each day of Pride Month in June, the AWFJ presents a sampling of 30 films that range in subject matter and storytelling style as they illuminate LGBTQ+ lives, past and present. At one time, it would have been difficult to come up with a list of 30 such films. Now, thanks to independent creative voices, increased access to global cinema, and film writers who discover and share their knowledge and enthusiasm for such work, the difficulty, happily, is limiting such a list.
Happy Pride! — Loren King



Jen Rainin and Rivkah Beth Medow’s documentary goes beyond examining the history of Curve Magazine, which was founded by Franco Stevens under the name Deneuve in the early 1990s. It follows the progress of the lesbian movement over the last 30 years, and considers where it is headed in the future. Read full reviews


Francis Lee’s romantic, historical drama stars Kate Winslet as real-life, self-taught British paleontologist Mary Anning who lived and worked on the coast of England in the 1840s, combing the shore for fossils that her elderly mother (Gemma Jones, excellent) sells to tourists in the little shop where they also live. Enter Charlotte Murchison (Saoirse Ronan), bringing light and life into Mary’s calcified world. Read full reviews.

Greta Schiller’s landmark 1984 documentary chronicles the making of a gay and lesbian community through the recollections of gay men and women who paved the road to Stonewall by simply living their lives and loving the people they loved, despite draconian laws that ensured that they could be refused employment or fired from their jobs, denied the right to rent apartments and thrown in jail simply for simply being who they were. Read full review.

A documentary about acceptance and identity, Stéphanie Lamorré’s film centers on Niantic Narragansett tribal member Sherenté Harris, a two-spirit gender-fluid teen who competes in fancy shawl dancing at pow wows. Harris is wise beyond their years, and fearlessly commits to making change from inside their community, so that other two-spirits can live authentically. Read full reviews.

Director Marielle Heller, working with a smart script by Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty, based on Lee Israel’s confessional memoir, is highlighted by Melissa McCarthy’s Oscar nominated performance as struggling writer Israel who turned to forging celebrity letters to pay the rent. She enlists her fellow gay social outcast and drinking buddy Jack Hock (Richard E. Grant, also Oscar-nominated) to front the letters for her. Lee and Jack are a self-centered, alcoholic odd couple and McCarthy and Grant play them as fully human, without sentiment or cliche. Read full reviews.
CAROL (2018)

Todd Haynes’s 1952-set film, from Phyllis Nagy’s script adapted from the classic Patricia Highsmith novel, features luminous lead performances from Rooney Mara as Therese Belivet and Cate Blanchett as Carol Aird as they meet and fall in love. The film clicks on all cylinders —Haynes’ sensitive direction; Ed Lachman’s cinematography; Carter Burwell’s score— as it captures the melancholy, the longing, the joy and anticipation, the despair and finally, hope of love stepping from the shadows. Read full review.
COWBOYS (2021)

Writer/director Anna Kerrigan’s film is set in the open spaces of Montana where the natural beauty is countered by the characters’ hardscrabble lives. Steve Zahn is Troy, a manic depressive screw up with a huge heart and Jillian Bell is his exasperated wife, a bowling alley waitress and the mother of young Jo (the terrific Sasha Knight) who, in a moving scene, declares to her loving dad that she is a boy. The family drama is handled with tenderness and realism and the solid cast infuses it with authenticity and humanity. Read full reviews

An indigenous film that premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival, Fancy Dance is directed and co-written by queer indigenous filmmaker Erica Tremblay, and centers on Jax (Lily Gladstone) who is trying to balance the search for her missing sister with caring for her niece. The film examines the Missing and Murdered Indigenous issue through a narrative as tragic as it is in real life. Read full review.

Trans performer Daniela Vega, the first openly transgender actress and model in Chile, stars in this Oscar-nominated film, which is a modern twist on the 50s Douglas Sirk or Joan Crawford centered on a woman in torment. Vega plays Marina, who must navigate the unexpectedly loss her longtime lover. Read full reviews.

FLEE (2021)

A Best Documentary Feature, Best Animated Feature, and Best International Feature Oscar nominee, director and co-writer Jonas Power Rasmussen’s doc about an Afghan refugee, and his arduous journey getting to Denmark, captures the resilience, patience, and optimism of one man. A cathartic experience, the film is based on real-life interviews of a gay man who faces danger in his homeland and ultimately finds peace in a new country. Read full review.
In director and co-writer Chase Joynt’s uniquely structured hybrid documentary Framing Agnes, he uses the framework of a black and white 60s talk show to bring case file transcripts from a 1950s gender clinic to life. Actors perform word for word from study transcripts, bringing visibility and voice to transgender subjects’ daily challenges, struggles, and frustrations from the time. Read full review.


A love letter to the complicated, driven, inspired playwright and lyricist Howard Ashman, whose body of work included Little Shop of Horrors, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin. Writer/director/producer Don Hahn’s film is an intimate portrait of a man who was lost to AIDS before his time, revealing a sometimes difficult but always inspired artist who brought the world a great deal of joy through his work. Read full review.

Raoul Peck’s documentary focuses on James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript Remember This House, a treatment about the murder of Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, and Martin Luther King. Baldwin’s words, read my Samuel L. Jackson, are woven together with archival clips of Baldwin’s speeches, tv appearances, and interviews. Read full reviews.

Credit for such an honest, down to earth portrait of a character who happens to be transgender belongs entirely to Isabel Sandoval who wrote, directed and stars as Olivia, a live-in Filipino caregiver who struggles to navigate a path to US citizenship. Her life becomes further complicated when she meets the troubled but kind Alex (Eamon Farren). The film becomes a tentative romance between two marginalized people who manage to find common language in intimacy and loneliness. Read full reviews.


Queer Palm and César-winning filmmaker Sébastien Lifshitz offers this life-affirming documentary about 7-year-old Sasha, whose gender identity differs from the gender assigned her at birth. Sasha’s family accepts her and fights for her rights in rural Northeastern France. This kid is the sweetest, cutest little girl you can imagine, and only someone with a heart of stone would be left unmoved by her experience. Read full review.

Producer/director Lisa Cortes chronicles music maker and pop cultural icon Richard Wayne Penniman’s evolution into his Little Richard persona as the fearless challenger of conservative cultural conventions and oft outrageous style-setter. The film also tackles the topic of the origins of rock ‘n’ roll in Black and queer culture. That’s a subject that’s particularly timely today, as we reconsider and expand our understanding of history. Read full review.

Queer African American filmmaker Daresha Kai profiles fierce moms of the LGBTQ+ community who call themselves mama bears, in this documentary that shows a small fraction of the over 40,000 women declaring themselves supporters of LGBTQ+ rights. These moms are Christian, and have made a dramatic shift in their lives to become the ally their kids need. Read full review.

Barry Jenkins’s luminous and plaintive Moonlight isn’t just a good film. It’s not even “just” a great one. It’s perfect in a way that too few films are. It’s about a young boy growing into a young man in a rough Miami neighborhood between the 1990s and today. He is black, he is poor, and he is gay. There are only a small, finite number of people who might watch this movie who could honestly say, “Gee, he’s just like me.” And yet Moonlight makes his experience feel universal and unforgettable. Read full review.

Directors Aisling Chin-Yee and Chase Joynt work to repair the damage caused by media misrepresentation of American jazz musician and trans cultural icon Billy Tipton. Speaking to the transmasculine experience are interviewees legal scholar Jameson Green, musicologist Stephan Pennington, author Thomas Page McBee, and professor and cultural theorist C. Riley Snorton. Read full review.

Director Gina Prince-Bythewood adapts Greg Rucka’s graphic novels about a squad of immortal mercenaries who fight for the good of humanity. Two of the immortals are badasses Charlize Theron and Kiki Layne, which is cool enough, but two others on the team, Joe and Nicky, are lovers who have loved for over a thousand years, and the representation of their beautiful relationship is something never captured before in an action flick. Read full reviews.
PASSING (2021)

For her impressive debut, director Rebecca Hall has skillfully adapted Nella Larsen’s 1920s novel about childhood friends Clare (Ruth Negga) and Irene (Tessa Thompson), both biracial and light skinned, who grew up together in Chicago. They meet again by chance years later, on a sweltering afternoon in New York City. Shot in black and white that is, so effectively, mostly shades of gray, “Passing” 2021 is a powerful period drama that delicately imagines the interior lives of two women as they grapple with issues of race, identity and belonging. Read full reviews.

French writer-director Céline Sciamma’s sumptuous romance set in France in1760 stars Noémi Merlant as a painter commissioned to create a wedding portrait of an upper class young woman (Adèle Haenel) who’s fresh out of a convent and unhappily betrothed to an Italian she’s never met. What follows is a textured, complex but engaging tale of friendship, romance, class differences and how women navigated love and lust under a strict patriarchy. Read full reviews.
THE QUEEN (2019)

Before queer was cool, or even fully legal in the US, first-time director Frank Simon created The Queen, a 1968 groundbreaking documentary chronicling one of the original and quintessential competitive drag events in history, the 1967 Miss All-American Camp Beauty Pageant. This film is a priceless cinematic artifact of LGBT and film history. Read full review.
RAFIKI (2019)

Filmmaker Wanuri Kahiu’s film was banned in her own country, for what it said was “legitimizing lesbianism”. She brought a suit that led to the Kenyan Supreme Court granting a one week showing, during which the film outgrossed blockbusters like Black Panther. Rafiki is a beautiful, joyful coming-of-age story about embracing identity, and worth seeking out. Read full review.

This intimate documentary chronicles the loving life partnership between Terry Donahue and Pat Henschel that began in the very closeted 1940s and endured for the next 70 years. As they built careers and created a rewarding and self-reliant life with their chosen family, the film reveals important issues faced by many elderly LGBTQs. Read full reviews
TAR (2022)

Cate Blanchett delivers a powerhouse performance as an acclaimed concert conductor/composer in Todd Fields’ revelatory Tar. Dutifully attended by her assistant, Francesca (Noemie Merlant), an aspiring conductor whom she mentors, Tar identifies as “a U-Haul lesbian.” She lives in a Berlin apartment with her partner Sharon (Nina Hoss), concertmaster and first violinist; they share an adopted daughter. In developing this project, actor-turned-writer/director Todd Fields (In the Bedroom, Little Children) focuses on the concept of power and what having it does to a proven predator, touching on identity politics and cancel culture. Read full reviews.

At this scary moment during which ultraconservative Americans in positions of power have our civil and constitutional rights in their crosshairs, it is vital that we remember the battles of the past as guideposts to help us secure our future. In To a More Perfect Union: U.S. v. Windsor, documentary producer and director Donna Vaccaro takes us back to 2013, when the U.S. Supreme Court declared the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional, paving the way for legal same-sex marriage in all 50 states. Read full review.
TWO OF US (2021)

Director Filippo Meneghetti effectively uses silence, literal and metaphorical, in this tender depiction of the emotional cost of hiding a loving relationship. Barbara Sukowa plays Nina Dorn, aging beautifully and naturally in a quiet Paris apartment building with her longtime lover Madeleine “Mado” Girard (Martine Chevallier) until their lives are upended by a crisis.The film delivers a refreshing portrait of enduring sexual love between women of a certain age. Read full reviews


David France’s award-winning documentary exposes the dangers and oppression of the LGBTQ+ community in that part of the world. Sometimes difficult to watch, the film features footage of brutal attacks filmed in secret, as well as members of the underground dedicated to getting those at risk out of the country. Read full review

Abigail’s journal begins on Jan. 1, 1856: “With little pride and less hope, we begin a new year.” Her soft, plain voice, intoning her written words aloud, drives The World to Come as surely as the hand-lettered dates on its pages. The film is beautiful, sad, historical, and hopeful. As the title suggests, Heaven, the world to come, holds hope for women like Abigail. She milks the cows, kneads the biscuits, feeds the chickens, knits. Grieving the loss of her daughter to diphtheria, she withholds herself from her dominant husband’s desires. Read full review.


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Loren King

Loren King's features and film reviews appear regularly in the Boston Globe, Boston Spirit magazine and the Provincetown Banner. She writes Scene Here, a localfilm column, in the Boston Sunday Globe. A member of the Boston Society of Film Critics since 2002, she served as its president for five years.