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Top 50 Most Important Gay Films of All-Time

Which gay movies deserve a bigger audience?

Outmagazine asked its favorite directors, entertainers, and artists – including Dustin Lance Black, Lee Daniels, John Waters, and Margaret Cho – to help compile a list of 50 Essential Gay Films.

Some of my faves like Maurice, Parting Glances, Torch Song Trilogy, Another Country, and My Beautiful Laundrette got mentions as did such classics as Midnight Cowboy, Some Like It Hot, Tootsie, Personal Best, Spartacus, Dog Day Afternoon, Cabaret, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Some of the selections I was not very familiar with (The Last of Sheila, The House of Yes, The Angelic Conversation, Outrageous!) which will make my next Netflix order very interesting!

To see the complete list and trailers/clips, go to

Margaret Cho’s pick is Velvet Goldmine. Here’s why: An amazingly beautiful film all about the ’70s versus the ’80s, glam versus new wave, Bowie versus Iggy, gay versus straight versus in between, loving your rock idols and then sleeping with them. It has incredible fashion, a killer soundtrack, romantic love scenes between Christian Bale, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, and Ewan McGregor, and the legendary and gorgeous Toni Colette fag-hagging it up as a faux Angela Bowie. Truly one of the finest films ever made.

Novelist Dale Peck chose the superb Parting Glances which I love so much. Dale writes: A quiet but unsettling story of a Manhattan gay couple at a crossroads in their relationship. Janet Maslin at The New York Times, as perceptive then as she is today, dismissed the film as “a parade of homosexual stereotypes,” but gay viewers knew better, seeing not stereotypes but human beings who have fallen into social roles not always comfortable, let alone ennobling, that best suit their personalities. Domesticity weighs differently on the two men: Michael, slight and bookish, spends much of his time caring for his ex-lover Nick (Steve Buscemi in his first feature turn). Sloe-eyed Robert, by contrast, has maneuvered a two-year transfer to Africa, to escape both his relationship jitters as well as the epidemic. The irony of running to Africa to get away from AIDS is one that history has made only more pointed.

The movie takes place on Robert’s last day in the city: a morning run, a morning fuck; a visit to Nick by Michael; a goodbye dinner with Robert’s boss; an evening fuck; a going-away party thrown by Michael’s friend Joan; a visit to a nightclub that lasts until the wee hours of the morning. As the movie progresses, its world and, as a consequence, its themes expand with startling rapidly. Michael is pursued by an adorable Columbia freshman; Robert’s boss turns out to be closeted and something of a pedophile; a German performance artist speaks to Nick of the profound aesthetic possibilities of AIDS. There are bodies, lisps, beats, operatic hallucinations, covert coupling (heterosexual as it turns out), and drugs (but only of the recreational variety: this was 1986, after all). Through it all there is New York: glamorous and dirty, erudite and slutty, in sickness and in health.

Tim Gunn of Project Runway fame chose 1984′s Another Country: “I’m an Anglophile at heart, so give me an English period piece and, by definition, I’m all aswoon. Set in an English public school (think Eton or Harrow) in the 1930s, Another Country stars Rupert Everett as Guy Burgess, a gay teen coming to terms with his sexuality. The object of his affection is Cary Elwes, whose initial oblivion and subtle wandering eye drive Burgess to distraction. And there is a profound and relevant correlation to today’s tumultuous times: We see two other classmates engaged in a passionate kiss and stumbled upon by a professor. For one of the two young men, humiliation and fear of retribution drive him to suicide by hanging. Burgess, too, suffers: In a formal ceremony, he’s flogged by his peers for his homosexual dalliances. The societal perception of homosexuality is one of two parallel themes in the film, the other being Burgess’s eventual betrayal of his country as a spy for the U.S.S.R. This evolution in his character is at least in part propelled by his friendship with a Marxist classmate played by Colin Firth, but also fueled by his rejection by the elite class with whom he wants so desperately to belong.”

Dustin Lance Black, Oscar-winning screenwriter for Milk selected 1971′s Pink Narcissus: “Some call this film “overappreciated,” but I fell under its spell shortly after starting pre-production on Milk. Gus Van Sant popped it in his DVD player and asked what I thought—I believe, with regard to how we might shoot Milk.

Although the production date says 1971, the film was actually shot between 1963 and 1970 on 8-millimeter, with a vivid, psychedelic color palette, and staged almost entirely inside Bidgood’s own tiny New York apartment on intricate, handcrafted sets.

For me, the film is as important a work of art as it is a historical signpost of the pre-Stonewall, pre–gay lib, cine-homo state of mind. It’s a picture of what Milk himself might have been searching for during his late night strolls through the West Village in the late ’60s.

As for plot or structure, don’t hold your breath. This film was about style, tone, and the poetry of once forbidden sexual fantasies. Where there is story, we have a beautiful young prostitute (played by real-life teen runaway Bobby Kendall) who, alone in his apartment, plays out phallus-filled fantasies of himself as a Roman slave, an emperor, and the master of a harem of striking, sometimes belly-dancing men. There’s also a urinal and a leather queen, but I’ll save those details for the cinephiles dogged enough to track the film down.

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