The end of a decade is a time of reflection for many and the film, music and entertainment blogging community is certainly doing that. We add yet another list to the ever-growing pile and celebrate the best queer films of the past decade.
Stranger by the Lake (2013 – France)
Dir: Alain Guiraudie
A hazy and picturesque French cruising spot soon becomes the site of brutal murders, where Franck (Pierre Deladonchamps) falls in love with Michel (Christophe Paou), an attractive and possibly dangerous man. Combining the potential dangers of cruising with highly eroticised direction from Guiraudie makes Stranger by the Lake feel like a queer Brian DePalma film – and we certainly need more of those.
Mario (2018, Switzerland)
Dir: Marcel Gisler
Marcel Gisler’s Mario tackles a little explored issue in cinema – homophobia in the world of football. It arrived at an incredibly timely period, both Pride month and the World Cup in Russia – further increasing its prescient necessity, Mario is a gorgeously crafted feature that puts a tender human love story at the heart of the issue, performed with complex emotive turns from Max Hubacher and Aaron Altaras.
Call Me By Your Name (2017, Italy)
Dir: Luca Guadagnino
Luca Guadagnino continues to operate at a 100% success rate thanks to his elegant coming of age picture, Call Me By Your Name. Note perfect performances from Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet, sumptuous visuals by Guadagnino, and James Ivory’s tender screenplay – all add up to create a breathtaking cinematic experience.
Pride (2014, UK)
Dir: Matthew Warchus
Pride feels like an effortless watch – it is charming, fun and packs a strong emotional punch without relying on schmaltz and clichés. This tale of people joining together to fight social and political injustice is an outstanding feel good experience that truly inspires.
Gods Own Country (2018, UK)
Dir: Francis Lee
Francis Lee’s naturalistic drama God’s Own Country is one of the most assured debut features of the decade. This is a film filled with unspoken sentimentality that quietly touches an emotional nerve thanks to its authentic performances (from Alec Secareanu and Josh O’Connor), evocative rural cinematography and a simmering, intelligently crafted narrative.
Carol (2015, USA)
Dir: Todd Haynes
Haynes crafts this tale of unspoken desire, broken social convention, and the beauty of authentic love in the style of a Douglas Sirk melodrama. The result is a watch with a stirring visual magnificence and the emotional impact of a wrecking ball channelled in gorgeous performances from Blanchett and Mara.
Knife + Heart (2019, France)
Dir: Yann Gonzalez
Vanessa Paradis leads Knife + Heart, an arthouse thriller set in the gay porn industry of 1970s France. Blending moments of taut suspense, neon-tinged horror, unsettling avant-garde imagery, and a surprisingly heartfelt narrative – co-writer, director Yann Gonzalez has crafted an intoxicating piece of queer cinema.
Love, Simon (2018, USA)
Dir: Greg Berlanti
A hugely important film, Love, Simon presented a queer coming out story in such a mainstream blasé manner making it a much needed milestone in widespread queer recognition. Geared at a teen audience, the heartwarming and kind-spirited tale was a tremendously positive coming out story that is so inspiring that it could ease a future generation of gaybies out of the closet. Nick Robinson’s idealistic performance and the sheer openness and acceptance brimming from this film make it one for the ages.
Postcards from London (2018, UK)
Dir: Steve McLean
After a stellar turn in Eliza Hittman’s gay-themed drama Beach Rats, Harris Dickinson leads Postcards from London – writer-director Steve McLean’s (Postcards from America) love-letter to the neon-lit streets of Soho. McLean’s film is part idealistic fantasy celebrating the aesthetics of some of the queer art world’s most iconic figures (Caravaggio, Francis Bacon, Lucien Freud) and part tribute to the lost world of Soho’s educated rent boys and their post-coital witticisms – all set against a coming of age in the big city story.
Holding the Man (2015, Australia)
Dir: Neil Armfield
Neil Armfield’s Australian drama follows a queer love story from a couple starting from high school, through the gay rights movement, up to the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. Following these two protagonists through their journey together – thanks to investing performances from Ryan Corr and Craig Matthew Scott – helps ensure that this is a love story for the ages. Armfield’s sensitive, graceful direction takes us through several key moments in the lives of the collective queer community, heightening the emotional impact.
Tangerine (2015, USA)
Dir: Sean Baker
Feeling like a contemporary trash epic in the vein of the work of John Waters and Andy Warhol, Tangerine unfolds on screen with an explosive energy, vivid performances, and a wickedly amusing sense of humour.
Pasolini (2015, Italy)
Dir: Abel Ferrara
Pasolini is an astounding feat that daringly captures Italian political and social unrest with its depictions of a chaotic, animalistic sexuality and dreamlike exploration of the carnivalesque. Ferrara and Willem Dafoe capture a light at the heart of this period in their ambiguous exploration of Pasolini and his magnetism, incomparable cinematic aesthetic and his unnerving final moments.
Behind the Candelabra (2013, USA)
Dir: Steven Soderbergh
Behind the Candelabra sets out to capture the grit behind the rhinestones in what is essentially an old fashioned tale of Hollywood loneliness and despair. Writer Richard LaGravenese takes a simplistic approach structurally with Liberace and boyfriend Scott Thorson’s romantic encounters, vices, and relationship troubles represented as a series of inherently connected occurrences all respondent upon one another – which results in a traditional HBO style polish. However, Behind the Candelabra is filled with realistic hard-hitting emotion, camp humour, and Hollywood tragedy.
Beach Rats (2017, USA)
Dir: Eliza Hittman
This slow, empathetic character piece delves into the emotional turmoil of a young man questioning his sexuality in an environment of toxic masculinity. The second Harris Dickinson lead feature on this list showcases the complexity of his acting talents in this bracing, tragic performance.
Consequences (2019, Slovenia)
Dir: Darko Stante
This Slovenian drama made its UK debut in 2019 and left a strong impression on us. Tackling the concept of toxic masculinity in Eastern Europe, writer-director Darko Stante’s debut feature film is one of simmering aesthetic intensity and a subtly complex performance from Matej Zemljic.
The Ornithologist (2016, Portugal)
Dir: João Pedro Rodrigues
João Pedro Rodrigues’ The Ornithologist is a slow-burning mystery that follows Paul Hamy’s lost ornithologist in rural Portugal. This lyrical and often perplexing piece pairs Portugese folklore with Catholic history (events parallel the life of Saint Anthony of Padua). Saint Anthony is transformed into the stunning Paul Hamy and the trials he faces here are often completely chilling.
Sauvage (2018, France)
Dir: Camille Vidal-Naquet
This 2019 UK release cemented our love for Félix Maritaud, one of the most exciting actors in cinema at the moment. Camille Vidal-Naquet’s film glimpses non-judgmentally into the freedom and dangers of sex work, the sense of community and destruction that it can simultaneously bring. It’s an upfront, ferocious film with an unflinching turn from Maritaud.
Snails in the Rain (2013, Israel)
Dir: Yariv Mozer
The setting of 1980s Tel Aviv makes a unique canvas for this gay-themed drama to unfold upon. Snails in the Rain follows a gorgeous linguistic student Boaz (Yoav Reuveni) who begins to receive male-written love letters that see him questioning his sexual identity. Mozer’s tale veers into an enthralling look at sexuality, packed with a Hitchcockian edge and oozing sensuality thanks to the aesthetically pleasing Reuveni.
Free Fall (2013, Germany)
Dir: Stephen Lacant
Marc and Kay are two men training to be police officers at a German academy who begin a relationship. However Marc is torn between his feelings for Kay (Sense8‘s Max Riemelt) and his wife and child at home. Director Stephen Lacant explores the difficulties with labelling sexual identity in this sincere and well-acted relationship drama.
Tom at the Farm (2013, Canada)
Dir: Xavier Dolan
Xavier Dolan’s finest film to date follows a young man grieving for the loss of his partner who meets his partner’s family – who are totally unaware of their late son’s sexuality. Dolan’s world is tentative and slow-burning in its exploration of grief, deceit and lust, making it one of the most engrossing psychodramas in recent years. The relationship between Tom (Dolan) and his late-partner’s straight brother Francis (the Adonis that is Pierre-Yves Cardinal) is utterly spellbinding.
The New Girlfriend (2014, France)
Dir: Francois Ozon
Acclaimed French auteur Ozon delivered this emotionally complex, psychosexual melodrama where a young widow begins cross-dressing in his wife’s clothes. Ozon crafted a watch stowed with complex narrative themes exploring gender identity, human sexuality, and the blurred lines between these two areas. Romain Duris’s performance is thrilling and there is gorgeous support from Raphael Personnaz and the excellent Anaïs Demoustier.
Beauty (2011, South Africa)
Dir: Oliver Hermanus
This South African drama follows a closeted middle-aged father who becomes obsessed with his son’s college friend. Hermanus’s direction is unrelentingly tense – especially when exploring the devastating and dark route that the film goes down. Exceptional performances packed with subtle emotion from Deon Lotz and Charlie Keegan help ensure that this is a watch that stays with you.