Circus of Books. Credit: Netflix.

Uplifting LGBTQ Films to Watch Year-Round

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If you’re looking for some pride programming right now, there are many, many options to choose from. Here are a few favorites you might want to consider.

This year, pride month has taken on a more urgent and universal tone with everything else going on in the world — most recently with Monday’s decision by the Supreme Court to protect LGBTQ workers from discrimination.

Given the current mood, I’m going with films that will leave you in a positive place at the end. As worthy as they are, we’ll save the more tragic classics like “Brokeback Mountain,” “Gods and Monsters,” “Boys Don’t Cry,” “Longtime Companion,” “Milk” and “120 BPM” for another day.

Bound (1996) (HBO Max, Crackle, Amazon Prime, YouTube, iTunes)

Still from "Bound."

Before upending modern sci-fi and action cinema with “The Matrix,” the Wachowskis delivered a jaw-dropping debut with this riveting, ultra-stylish heist thriller. Recently released con Gina Gershon finds her gig doing repairs at an apartment building complicated by a fling with Jennifer Tilly, who comes up with a plan to rip off her mobster boyfriend — which turns out to be way more dangerous than it seemed.

Carol (2015) (Vudu, Amazon Prime, iTunes)

Still from "Carol."

Todd Haynes, one of America’s great trailblazing gay directors, has many major films under his belt, including “Far from Heaven” and “Velvet Goldmine.” When exploring his work, however, the best place to start may be this razor-sharp Oscar-nominated romance starring a married Cate Blanchett pursuing department store employee Rooney Mara. The film is based on a novel by legendary mystery writer Patricia Highsmith.

Circus of Books (2020) (Netflix)

Ad for "Circus of Books."

If you ever doubted truth was stranger than fiction, take a look at this documentary about the family behind WeHo’s most important bookstore — and adult entertainment purveyor — on Santa Monica Boulevard before it closed last year.

The Jewish couple who steered this ship through the advent of the AIDS era, marriage equality and much more inspired their daughter, Rachel Mason, to make this freewheeling film, which also poses some profound questions about reconciling your faith with the world around you.

God’s Own Country (2017) (iTunes, YouTube, Amazon Prime)

Still from "God's Own Country."

“Call Me by Your Name” may have gotten the awards glory among gay films from 2017 — and indeed, it’s a terrific film — but some more love should really go to this deeply affecting love story from the same time. Deeply repressed living with his family on a Yorkshire farm, young Josh O’Connor experiences a profound awakening with the arrival of a new worker emigrated from Romania. This film doesn’t flinch from the harsher aspects of daily farm life, but it’s worth discovering and will leave you feeling truly uplifted by the end.

The Handmaiden (2016) (iTunes, Vudu, Amazon Prime)

Still from "The Handmaiden."

Acclaimed South Korean director Park Chan-wook (“Oldboy”) delivered one of his best films with this diabolically clever thriller about a Japanese heiress who takes on a new handmaiden in her home, unaware that a cunning scheme is afoot to steal her wealth. That’s just the beginning of this twisty gem as it turns into an unorthodox, nail-biting love story.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001) (Hulu, iTunes, Amazon Prime)

Still from "Hedwig and the Angry Inch."

Director, writer and star John Cameron Mitchell turned his outrageously flashy stage hit into an equally enjoyable musical film with this hard-rocking saga about a German singer whose fame and happiness are thwarted by an ill-advised romance and an unsuccessful sex change. Heck, pair this one up with “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and prepare for more earworms than your mind can handle.

Love, Simon (2018) (Amazon Prime, iTunes, Google Play, YouTube)

Still from "Love, Simon."

The wave of young adult adaptations kicked off by Harry Potter years ago can still produce some real surprises, and none were bigger than this sweet, charming and often very funny dramedy about a closeted high school teen who tries to discover the identity of his online romantic crush at school. Catching this in the theatre was an unforgettably giddy experience, but you’ll still have a great time with it at home, too.

Moonlight (2016) (Netflix, Vudu, iTunes)

Still from "Moonlight."

The importance of Barry Jenkins’ profound snapshot of a Black gay youth’s coming of age is hard to overstate, even if its best picture win at the Oscars was marred by the most notorious snafu in awards history. Three different actors perfectly play the protagonist, Chiron, at different stages of his life in Miami, though Mahershala Ali nearly walks away with the film as an unforgettable father figure.

Pride (2014) (Amazon Prime, Vudu, iTunes, Google Play, YouTube)

Still from "Pride."

This true story about the intersection of striking miners in a Welsh village and a burgeoning gay activist movement is an inspiring snapshot of the power of people unifying together in one voice. Filled with perfectly etched characters, the film is also a fine history lesson about the challenges faced by any number of disenfranchised communities at the height of the Thatcher era.

The Wedding Banquet (1993) (Vudu, Pluto TV)

Still from "The Wedding Banquet."

One of the truly great discoveries of the ’90s arthouse renaissance was this delightful culture clash comedy from Ang Lee, making a terrific international breakthrough long before his big hits like “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” “Life of Pi,” “Sense and Sensibility” and “Brokeback Mountain.” Here we have a snappy comedy of errors as a gay Taiwanese man arranges a phony engagement to please his hands-on parents — only to escalate to an actual wedding, much to the irritation of his actual partner.

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