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Top 10 LGBTQ+ Films of the 2000s

Top 10 LGBTQ+ Films of the 2000’s

A Subjective List

While there seems to be a plethora of queer films to choose from, the list of films felt too sparse. Even slimmer is the amount of LGBTQ+ films that don’t center around gay white men. Queer stories have been expanding and growing as time goes on, but lesbian stories, especially lesbians of color, always take the backseat when it comes to film representation. Films of queer white men always get more attention than their counterparts, a trend that we can hopefully leave in the 2000s someday.

The following list holds ten of the best queer films of the 2000s. A majority of these came out within the last decade, a comforting reminder that the film industry is expanding its representation. The treatment of these films, especially in award shows, is a whole separate issue. As an audience member, all that can be done is to support these films in order to encourage those in the industry to keep making these real and beautiful stories.

10. Love, Simon 

Top 10 LGBTQ+ Films of the 2000’s

Based on the novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, Love, Simon is a 2018 teen film that centers around high schooler Simon Spier. Simon is in the closet, despite having a loving family and tight-knit friend group. One of his friends, Abby, tells Simon about a student who anonymously came out online, with the screen name “Blue.” Simon, using the screen name “Jacques,” starts to email this anonymous student and the two grow close and share their experiences with each other. Unfortunately, these emails are found out by a guy in their grade named Martin, who is borderline obsessed with Abby. 

Martin threatens to show everyone the emails unless Simon helps him date Abby. With as many misunderstandings one can expect from a teen melodrama, the film helps Simon navigate his own feelings and the struggles that come with coming out to loved ones. The film also shows just how hard it is to be yourself in an environment like high school, where everything feels so cut-throat and judgemental. A standout scene in the film is Jennifer Garner’s show-stopping speech to Simon, who plays his mother. When Simon comes out to her, her reaction and words are so comforting and genuine, making it the most recognizable and memorable scene in the film. 

9. Blue

Top 10 LGBTQ+ Films of the 2000’s

Definitely the least recognized on this list, the 2002 film Blue is a heartwarming romantic drama directed by Hiroshi Ando. Set in Japan, the film focuses on the relationship between Kayako Kirisihima and Masami Endō as they go to school together. Kirishima, an introverted girl who feels isolated from everyone else, becomes fascinated by Endō, who is ostracized from everyone else for being held back a year. As Kirishima learns more about Endō, the two grow closer and become more than friends. Kirishima tries to discover who she is and how she wants her future to look while also keeping Endō by her side, who has a tendency to disappear.

The film is heartwarming, as it deals with the ordeals of growing up and deciding a future for yourself, adolescence, first love, and the melodrama that comes along with it. Kirishima is an endearing protagonist, and Endō is intriguing and mysterious throughout the film, until Kirishima is able to break through that intrigue. 

8. Booksmart

Top 10 LGBTQ+ Films of the 2000’s

Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut Booksmart is a quirky, hilarious coming-of-age story about two best friends as they graduate from high school. Amy and Molly are both headed for Ivy League schools, and it is on the last day of school that they realize they wasted their time studying while everyone else around them had fun. Upon this realization, they have a whirlwind of a night while trying to go to the end-of-the-year party that everyone else in their class is attending. Amy has a crush on a girl named Ryan, and pursues her throughout the film in her charming, awkward way. Amy’s parents also hilariously think Amy and Molly are secretly dating, with Amy being a lesbian and their friendship being extremely close and codependent. The film is refreshing, has a cameo from Jason Sudekis, and deals with growing up and the fear of the future. Booksmart also has a great soundtrack, and Amy’s romantic pursuits stand out as some of the best parts of the film.

7. Rocketman 

Top 10 LGBTQ+ Films of the 2000’s

This musical and colorful biopic of Elton John definitely had to be included, as Elton John is a legendary queer icon for the ages. With Taron Egerton playing Elton John, the film is a celebration of Elton John while also acknowledging the struggles he faced as a British gay man growing up in the 50’s as Reginald Dwight. While Elton’s romance with John Reid is a portion of the film, Elton’s identity as a gay man is a central focus. Elton deals with isolation from his family, addiction, all accompanied by his fabulous discography sung and performed by Taron Egerton. While the film does deal with heavy topics, the film is enjoyable and rewatchable, all helped by the music, costuming, and acting. The film was definitely overshadowed by Bohemian Rhapsody’s success in the biopic genre, but Rocketman is a faithful and loving celebration of Elton, overseen by the man himself in production.

6. Jennifer’s Body 

Top 10 LGBTQ+ Films of the 2000’s

A much more fun and less somber entry on this list is Jennifer’s Body, written by Diablo Cody, who also wrote the acclaimed coming-of-age comedy Juno. With more of a queer subplot than a focus, the film has been held up as a feminist cult classic. The film follows Amanda Seyfried’s character Anita, or “Needy,” as her best friend Jennifer (Megan Fox) becomes a cannibalistic demon who feeds on teenage boys. Needy and Jennifer’s codependence and closeness is joked about in the film, and despite Needy having a boyfriend, the two have a steamy kiss and passionate fight that gives this film the queer label. Jennifer also teases Needy on how they used to play “boyfriend and girlfriend” together when they were younger.

Jennifer becoming a cannibalistic man-eater is feminist enough, but what led to her becoming a demon and the revenge that is exacted on her behalf propels it to be so empowering and iconic. Megan Fox has described her character as a “lesbian, man-eating cheerleader” and her chemistry with Needy in the film really sells that. The film is fun, flirty, and self-aware while also feeling too mature and subversive to be written off as a “chick flick.” It also has a great soundtrack. 

5. Disobedience 

Top 10 LGBTQ+ Films of the 2000’s

A queer film that definitely lacks attention and notice is Disobedience, released in 2017 starring Rachel McAdams and Rachel Weisz. Taking place in North London in an Orthodox Jewish community, Rachel Weisz’ character Ronit leaves her photography job in New York to go back to London upon her father’s death, who was the Rav, a religious leader, of the community. Ronit returns to the childhood community that cast her out in pure queer fashion, being unabashedly herself. Upon returning, she reunites with Rachel McAdams’ character, Esti. She is shocked to find that Esti married their best friend Dovid, who is stepping up to fill the Rav’s shoes as the religious leader in the community. 

Esti and Ronit’s history comes back to them, as they were lovers in their youth before Ronit left to save herself from being married off and having to conform with Orthodox culture. Their romance rekindled, Ronit explains herself to Esti on why she had to leave, and deals with the damage of her departure. She also deals with the loss of her father, mourning their tattered relationship and seeing just how much he meant to others in the community. It’s an emotional watch, but a rewarding one. 

4. Moonlight 

Top 10 LGBTQ+ Films of the 2000’s

Lauded by The New York Times and The Guardian as “one of the best films of the 21st century,” Moonlight has been showered with praise since its release. Winning the Golden Globe for Best Picture, this raw and emotional film follows Chiron as he navigates life growing up as a gay black man in Miami at the peak of the crack epidemic. Similar to Brokeback Mountain, the film follows Chiron and his connection with a classmate, Kevin, as the two grow up. 

While the film does tell a queer love story, the film deals with a mixture of themes. Identity, the lack of a father figure and the ramifications of that, isolation, sexuality, addiction, and blackness. This film utilizes the cliches of how blackness has been represented in film, and goes against them, while also framing them in an arthouse film manner that it had not experienced before. Moonlight is definitely more than a queer tear-jerker, with a tender and hopeful message amongst all the pain. 

3. Portrait of a Lady on Fire 

Top 10 LGBTQ+ Films of the 2000’s

The plot of this film reveals itself to be quite simple: Marianne, a painter, must paint a wedding portrait of the elusive and stubborn Héloïse. Set in the eighteenth century, taking place on the French peninsula of Brittany, the story takes place in total isolation and freedom from the rest of the world. For a great chunk of the film, there are only three characters, all women. Sophie, the young housemaid who is tasked to look after Héloïse, is there as Marianne and Héloïse’s relationship deepens. The main conflict is the wedding portrait itself, as Héloïse does not want this portrait to be finished. Once finished, the portrait will be sent to the man she is intended to marry, a rich stranger whom she has never met. Marianne struggles between completing her job and not betraying Héloïse’s trust. 

Directed and written by Céline Sciamma, a feminist and a lesbian, the film operates under the female gaze rather than the male gaze. It is a breath of fresh air to know that such a tender story was written by a woman whose films constantly touch upon femininity, sexuality, and gender identity. The film won the Queer Palm at the Cannes Film Festival, along with Best Screenplay. While the film was only nominated for big awards at the Golden Globes and Oscars, Parasite director Bong Joon-ho celebrated Céline with his Oscars in hand and said, “You should be holding this.” 

2. The Handmaiden

Top 10 LGBTQ+ Films of the 2000’s 

Set in a Japan-occupied Korea in the 1900’s, this steamy 2016 lesbian thriller makes for a satisfying watch every time with plot twists and swindling with two stellar lead actresses. Directed by acclaimed director Park Chan-wook, inspired by Sarah Waters’ novel Fingersmith, this film not only paints a historically accurate setting, but a touching love story that one can rewatch again and again. Sook-hee and a con man plan to steal the inheritance of the rich Lady Hideko, who lives with her controlling and rich uncle in Japan. In order to do this, the con man plays the role of a count and tries to seduce Lady Hideko, while Sook-hee must encourage her to marry him. After the potential marriage, the two planned on sending Hideko to an asylum while they took her inheritance money. This plan falls apart as soon as Hideko and Sook-hee meet, who have an undeniable connection and tricks up both their sleeves. 

The film came out in a time before Parasite lifted up and opened the door for films not in the English language, and had the film come out afterwards, it would have received the attention it deserved. Despite being a hidden gem, the film is well-loved by critics and has heaps of praise from all over the film industry.

1. Brokeback Mountain

Top 10 LGBTQ+ Films of the 2000’s

Released in 2005, the film starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger won the Oscar for Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Original Score. Based on the 1997 short story written by Annie Proulx, the film is a raw portrayal of the struggles and hatred gay men face from society and from within themselves. The film is way more than what it has been dubbed by the internet and others, “the gay cowboy movie.”  Heath Ledger plays Ennis Del Mar, the stoic family man from Wyoming, and Jake Gyllenhaal plays Jack Twist, the lighthearted bull rider. The two meet on a summer job they both take to make some extra money: herding sheep on Brokeback Mountain. In contrast with how the two act in front of their boss and in the public eye, alone on the mountain together they begin a romance that spans over twenty years. 

Not only does the film’s story make the film standout, it also made a significant impact on the positive reception of LGBTQ+ stories being told. Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal’s commitment to the seriousness of the roles, with Heath Ledger declining to tell jokes about their characters at the Oscars, and their passionate defense of the film against stigma and homophobic criticism. The film’s soundtrack also adds to the drama and anguish, with Gustavo Santaolalla creating an atmosphere of lone guitar strings and sparse chords. Gustavo also created the iconic soundtrack for the video game and HBO miniseries The Last of Us.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire Official Trailer

Source: Dead Talk Live

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Madelyn Whelan attends Merrimack College and studies English with a concentration in creative writing, with a minor in interdisciplinary film studies. She wants to be an author, focusing on fiction and poetry. After graduation, she wants to go on to get her master’s degree in creative writing.