It’s Pride Month, and that means dusting off your movie shelves, breaking out the flags, and spending some time with media that was made by and/or for you. At the Fandomentals, we put together a list of essential movies for anyone celebrating Pride. Ranging from contemporary to documentary, to foreign films, here are eight movies to get you in the celebratory spirit.
There is a beauty and a melancholy to Carol that stays with you long after seeing it. Todd Haynes imbues every frame of the movie with a sense of longing. Adapted from the Patricia Highsmith novel The Price Of Salt Haynes and his screenwriter Phyllis Nagay, allow Carol (Cate Blanchett) and Therese (Rooney Mara) to speak in coded language that left many straight audiences feeling cold.
Cold? How do you not feel something when Terese and Carol take off on a road trip during the Christmas Holidays as Bing Crosby “Silver Bells” plays. How does your heart not break when Carol tells off her husband Arch (Kyle Chandler) toward the end? Finally, how do you not almost squeal with glee at the last shot? Carol is like a warm blanket for the soul. It’s lovely inside and out.
There are few films that I would call truly poetic. Barry Jenkins’s story about a young gay black man Chiron in three stages of his life is one of them. Much like Carol, there’s a feeling of Jenkins putting his arm around you and pulling you in for a hug.
There is something deeply haunting about the way Jenkins and his camera man James Laxton frame their characters. There’s soothing tone to the whole film even when there are great vibrant emotional outbursts. A deeply emotional, layered, and effective tale of a coming of age film.
Sean Baker famously shot Tangerine on an iPhone. Yet it never once doesn’t feel like a film. Inventive in style while almost classical in structure Tangerine has a boundless energy. This is due in no small part to its two main characters Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) and Alexandra (Mya Taylor), two trans-prostitutes on Santa Monica Blvd.
Tangerine is a masterpiece of storytelling from the top down. Rodriguez and Taylor, themselves trans bring a rawness and a liveliness to their performances as two best friends as well as a tenderness that comes from a shared experience. This criminally under-seen movie deserves to be watched every month but especially during Pride month.
The Handmaiden (2016)
Rarely has a movie about a conwoman falling for her mark (or would it be a mark falling for her conwoman?) been so lusciously, merrily, audaciously, told as The Handmaiden. This is one of those movies where talking about the characters and what they do requires graphs and charts, and yet it’s also one of the most fun times I had at the movies that year. You wouldn’t think the director of Old Boy would be the go to for sapphic intrigue; but you would be wrong.
The sex scenes between Ladye Hideko (Min-hee Kim) and Sook-Hee (Tae-ri Kim) are stunning, sometimes over the top, and perversely cinematic. A tale of love, deception, revenge, redemption and ben-wa balls, this movie is just a blast on every level. Park allows the relationship to blossom realistically with great patience mixed with visual verve. Times flies when two South Korean women fall in love, plot to kill the master of the house, double cross the young man behind it all, and flee for their lives to live happily ever after.
Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures (2016)
This documentary from HBO Pictures isn’t the standard feel good, rah-rah fare that one might expect for a list of Pride Films. But our history and where we come from are vital to who we are today. Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures details the life of Robert Mapplethorpe, the gone-to-soon visionary photographer known as much for his nude work and series of erotic flowers, as he was for the depth of emotion he was able to evoke from many who saw his work. He turned his camera to what many would consider controversial, and in his illustrious shining a flash on nudity, BDSM, and more, managed to normalize it in a way few have been able to since.
But as mentioned, we lost him too soon at just 42. Another casualty of the AIDS epidemic, Mapplethorpe stands as a stark reminder of every light and source of endless potential our community lost in one of the most tragic, and still recent chapters of our collective past.
Other People (2016)
Geez, I keep choosing tragic stories. Fair warning, mothers dying in a film is my weak spot trope. I will sob myself silly. To this day I can’t think about The Land Before Time without tearing up. Great, there I go. The reason I include Other People on this list is due to Jesse Plemons and Molly Shannon’s transcendent performances. This movie has more heart than you can fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool with, and they anchor the tragedy with deft humor and tenderness.
And if for nothing else, watching a gay child have such a deep, emotional connection with their parent is still nothing short of ground-breaking. We’ll always need more of that.
Paris is Burning (1990)
I love me some documentaries. Sue me. If you’re ever going to watch a single documentary detailing a LGBT community and culture, make sure it’s Paris is Burning.
This Jennie Livingston directed film details the New York City ball culture from the mid to late 1980’s. Through her examination of the colorful and complex underground of dance and community, Livingston shines a light on the cross web of identities who found a home in the Golden Age of Ball. From the trans, LatinX, African-American, and gay persons who defined a generation that chose to celebrate life with a gutsy defiance in the face of systematic oppression, poverty, the AIDS epidemic, and personal tragedy, Paris is Burning shows the LGBT community at its best and most diverse.
Also, you know. They gave the world the gift of vogueing. It would sure as shit be nice if the world had the decency to acknowledge that it didn’t start with Madonna.
This film narrowly missed our list of favorite wlw films on Ladies First. Since then, I took a couple of hours to go back and rewatch this movie and I’m kinda kicking myself I didn’t find a spot for it. One of the earliest films from the Wachowski sisters, Bound is a ballsy mashup of pulpy noir with SO MUCH lady loving. Not just the sex scenes, which were revolutionary at the time. No, the relationship between Gina Gershon’s Corky and Jennifer Tilly’s Violet transcends its pulpy origins and gifts its audience with something rarely witnessed. Two women who game the system, call the shots, and walk away from the wreckage whole and with each other.
If that’s not a cause for celebration, I don’t know what is.
Did your favorite not make the list? Let us know what film you consider a must watch event for Pride!