With the Black Lives Matter movement going strong, Pride should also be recognized as a dedication to the BIPOC who shaped the LGBTQ+ culture we celebrate and cherish today. While the history of the fight for Equality and the LGBTQ+ community is known to some, there are always more stories to tell and more work to be done. 

The struggle for positive and accurate queer representation in media has been a longstanding battle— harmful stereotypes, abstruse homophobia, and generalizations about trans or gender-nonconfirming groups have reared their ugly heads in television and film for decades. If we’ve learned anything about media consumption in the past twenty years, it’s that representation matters on all fronts. Although people like J.K. Rowling have yet to see the bigger picture, an uptick in queer-driven and created TV series, documentaries, and films has shed positive light on the need for LGBTQ+ voices to tell their stories. 

With new projects cropping up on dozens of streaming platforms faster than you can enter your password, some of the most worthy and watchable LGBTQ-focused shows and movies tend to fly under the radar. If you’re a strict cinephile and refuse to restrict yourself to streaming, check out our list of must-watch LGBTQ movies. Otherwise, here’s a list of the best LGBTQ-focused movies and shows you can stream right now. 

T.V. Shows

Pose

Seasons: 2
Starring: Mj Rodriguez, Billy Porter, Dominique Jackson
Streaming Platform: Netflix

Based on the revolutionary drag ball culture led by African-American and Latin-American LGBTQ+ communities in New York, Pose is a drama series following rivalry houses competing in underground ball competitions in the 1980s. Apart from voguing, categorical walks, and musical performances, the show serves as a social commentary on the treatment of queer, transgender, and gender-nonconforming people of color trying to survive the prejudices of an affluent, corporate-driven society. 

Looking

Seasons: 2 
Starring: Jonathan Groff, Murray Bartlett, Frankie J. Alvarez
Streaming Platform: HBO Max

Looking was the refreshing queer dramedy of the 2010s that may have been short lived but made a bold impact. The series follows the comradery of three openly gay friends and their experiences living in the historically queer epicenter of California— San Francisco. While romance, work, and friendship serve as the driving forces of the show, the depiction of community acceptance and modern love make Looking a short but sweet Pride month watch topped off nicely with a finale movie special. 

The L Word

Seasons: 6
Starring: Jennifer Beals, Leisha Hailey, Laurel Holloman
Streaming Platform: Hulu

The L Word was a pioneer of depicting lesbian characters on mainstream television. Following a group of lesbian and bisexual friends living in West Hollywood, the series kicked off to critical acclaim in the early 2000s and led to a string of spin-off projects as well as a highly anticipated sequel series in 2019— The L Word: Generation Q. Originally airing on Showtime, The L Word was a foundational show for the ever growing list of LGBTQ+ focused dramas and goes to show the significance of representation for womxn in the LGBTQ+ community.

We’re Here

Seasons: 1
Starring: Bob the Drag Queen, Eureka O’Hara, Shangela Laquifa Wadley
Streaming Platform: HBO Max

The power of drag performance is palpable when you’re in the room, but We’re Here proves that a first-hand experience can be life changing. The new HBO Max series (recently renewed for a second season) follows three iconic queens of Rupaul’s Drag Race fame as they travel to small towns across the country for a One Night Only drag show featuring locals who are coached by the queens themselves. From members of the LGBTQ+ community to open-minded allies, guests of the show share their life experiences with their drag mentors and convey just how impactful the LGBTQ+ culture can be.

Queer Eye

Seasons: 5
Starring: Karamo Brown, Jonathan Van Ness, Bobby Berk, Antoni Porowski, Tan France

In 2018 viewers were anxious to meet the new team of lifestyle specialists chosen for the reboot of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, a mid-2000s reality show starring five queer professionals determined to makeover the lives of Average Joe’s across America. Two years and five seasons later, Queer Eye is a cultural phenomenon and the new ‘Fab 5’ are proving the importance of self-improvement for a more fulfilling life. Straying from the original series strictly straight male guests, the revamped Netflix Original has kept their list of “heroes” (the uplifting nickname given to makeover subjects) diverse and continue to spread positivity across the globe— finish your binge watch with the four-part Queer Eye: We’re in Japan!

Movies

Tangerine (2015)

Director: Sean Baker
Starring: Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Mya Taylor, James Ransone
Streaming Platform: Hulu

A feat for both filmmaking and LGBTQ+ representation in mainstream media, Tangerine is an irresistible dramedy about love and friendship in the contemporary sex-work industry. Shot entirely on the iPhone 5S, the film follows the story of a transgender sex worker who learns that her boyfriend and client procurer has cheated on her with a cisgender woman. Starring two openly transgender actresses, Tangerine is a charming and authentic feature that critically served as a stepping stone for trans-visibility in cinema.

Moonlight (2016)

Director: Barry Jenkins
Starring: Trevante Rhodes, Ashton Sanders, Mahershala Ali
Streaming Platform: Netflix

The legacy of Moonlight may always gain the most attention for the infamous events of the 89th Academy Awards Best Picture mishap, but the historical and social relevance of the film are the chief reason to remember it as it should be: a masterpiece of the 21st century. Moonlight is the three part coming-of-age story of Chiron, a young Black man growing up in Miami. Depicting his life in three stages (childhood, adolescence, and adulthood), the film captures Chiron coming to terms with his sexuality and facing the expectations of Black masculinity while taking care of his mother, who struggles with drug addiction. It was both the first film with an all-Black cast and LGBTQ-related plot to win Best Picture. 

The Watermelon Woman (1996)

Director: Cheryl Dunye
Starring: Cheryl Dunye, Guinevere Turner
Streaming Platform: Amazon Prime

The Watermelon Woman was a landmark film for the development of queer, Black cinema. Cheryl Dunye made history as the first Black lesbian woman to direct a feature film and worked double-duty as the star, portraying a film-buff who does a deep dive into the life of an uncredited Black actress from the 1930s and invests in uncovering the details of “The Watermelon Woman’s” experiences being typecast in the early age of cinema. This largely autobiographical look at intersectionality in film is more topical than ever and a must-watch for Pride month. 

The Normal Heart (2013)

Director: Ryan Murphy
Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bomer, Jim Parsons
Streaming Platform: HBO Max

This dramatization of what took place in New York during the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis is based on an autobiographical 1985 play of the same name written by LGBTQ+ rights activist and playwright Larry Kramer in the aftermath of the plight. The Normal Heart depicts the fatal rise of the epidemic as the LGBTQ+ community struggled to organize support resources, advocate for a serious response from medical professionals, and cope with personal losses as a result of HIV/AIDS. 

The Half of It (2020)

Director: Alice Wu
Starring: Leah Lewis, Alexxis Lemire, Daniel Diemer
Streaming Platform: Netflix

Adolescent coming-of-age movies may be targeted towards Gen Z’s these days, but The Half of It is the age-old tale of deceit revitalized with an LGBTQ+ plotline. This Netflix Original tells the story of Ellie, an isolated Chinese-American teenager who agrees to help a witless jock garner the attention of his crush, Aster, in the form of love letters. In the midst of befriending her conspirator and developing feelings for Aster, Ellie finds herself in a complicated love triangle and must face the hardships of being both a lesbian and a provider for her widowed immigrant father. This is the second film from Alice Wu and comes 15 years after her debut film, which also featured a semi-autobiographical, Chinese-American lesbian character.

Documentaries

A Secret Love (2020)

Director: Chris Bolan
Streaming Platform: Netflix

This Netflix Original documentary tells the doting story of Terry Donahue, a former All-American Girls Professional Baseball League player, and her life partner Pat Henschel who kept their 72-year relationship a secret from their families. Feeling forced to keep their romance under wraps, Donahue and Henschel chronicle their life together beginning when they first met in 1947, their need to mask their romance as platonic, through the events that led to the making of the film by their great nephew Chris Bolan. 

Disclosure: Trans Lives on Screen (2020)

Director: Sam Feder
Streaming Platform: Netflix

Transgender people have conistently faced misrepresentation and discrimination in television and film, and Sam Feder’s documentary Disclosure: Trans Lives on Screen is dedicated to changing that. This documentary compiles testimonies from transgender actors, musicians, writers, and activists unpacking the harmful ways in which Hollywood has painted transgender people in mainstream media, and how their personal stories have affected those in the LGBTQ+ community. While the inclusion and respectful depiction of transgender people on screen is far from reconciled, this educational and encouraging doc is a step in the right direction.

I am Divine (2013)

Director: Jeffrey Schwarz
Streaming Platform: Netflix

John Waters has long been known for his dramatic and flamboyant creativity in filmmaking— but how many Cry-Baby fans know about the muse behind Waters’ trailblazing career? I am Divine is a portrait of Harris Glenn Milstead know professionally as “Divine”, the longtime collaborator and friend of Waters who became a reverent icon of drag performance and starred in a number of Waters’ films (most notably the 1988 feature Hairspray, in which Divine started the longstanding tradition of the main character’s mother being played by a man in drag). Known for her eccentric and obscene comedy skills, Divine has remained a cult figure for many in the LGBTQ+ community and seeing her legacy chronicled by her loved ones is nothing short of uplifting. 

The Times of Harvey Milk (1984)

Director: Robert Epstein
Streaming Platform: HBO Max

Though it was released only 6 years after the assassination of Harvey Milk, California’s first openly gay elected official, The Times of Harvey Milk is a prime example of the lasting impact a resonant documentary can have on its viewers. Outlining his rise from local activist to career politician, this look at the life of the man who would become a symbol of hope for gay political activism won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 1985. The mark left by Milk’s political career and personal values on the Castro District and the city of San Francisco remain just as evident now as they were shortly after his death.

Kiki (2016)

Director: Sara Jordeno
Streaming Platform: Hulu

The legacy of Paris is Burning, the 1990 documentary about the revolutionary drag ball competition culture of New York, is evident in this 2016 unofficial follow up to the film. Kiki is a contemporary look at the evergreen ballroom culture among African and Latin-American LGBTQ+ youth in New York, focusing on the persistent issues of homelessness, HIV/AIDS, sex work, and violence against members of their community. Testimonies from queer and transgender people of color are an insightful and educational glimpse at the evolution (or lack thereof) of problems facing underserved LGBTQ+ youths in the decades since they were first highlighted in Paris is Burning

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