While equal representation is still an issue, these films represent a positive step forward.
But I’m A Cheerleader (1999)
What it's about: Megan (Natasha Lyonne) is an all-American girl. She excels in school, cheerleading, and even has a handsome football-playing boyfriend. Despite this, her friends and family suspect she is a lesbian and send her to a “sexual redirection” school where she is forced to reevaluate her sexuality.
“My self-acceptance process was very similar to Megan's – from 'well doesn't everyone have these thoughts' right up to 'no, it's time to be authentic because the lying is killing me'. I also lacked self-awareness, and like Megan, I had other people telling me I was gay before I really came to that solid conclusion myself. Additionally it shows how not everyone fits into the stereotypical LGBT community, and that's okay.” – reprobatemu13
Prayers For Bobby (2009)
What it's about: The true story of Mary Griffith, a gay rights crusader, whose teenage son, Bobby, committed suicide due to religious intolerance.
“Prayers for Bobby is pretty accurate at portraying how hard it is to be a homosexual person when certain people in your life are constantly condemning people just like you. Whether you're out, or still in the closet and suffering on your own, every negative comment made by people you love breaks down your spirit. The film portrayed that beautifully and it absolutely broke my heart, especially because I can relate so closely to Bobby.” – Marisela Castro, Facebook.
Daniel Sladek Entertainment
Almost Adults (2016)
What it's about: Two best friends transition into adulthood. Mackenzie (Elise Bauman) embraces her newfound sexuality, while Cassie (Natasha Negovanlis) ends a long-term relationship with her boyfriend. Both struggle to keep their friendship together as they begin growing apart.
“I love Almost Adults because it’s not a whole thing where Mackenzie discovers she’s gay, has a mental breakdown, and then has to find herself. It’s about two best friends and how fragile and important that relationship is, and I think that is such an excellent example of real life. Plus it shows how different the coming out process is for everyone.” – briannarose15
Imagine Me & You (2005)
What it's about: A newlywed bride (Piper Perabo) falls in love with another woman (Lena Headey), forcing her to not only question her own sexuality but to choose between her stable relationship and exhilarating new romance.
“Imagine Me & You was the first lesbian movie with a happily ever after that showed me I could have it too.” – rachellei
Blue Is The Warmest Colour (2013)
What it's about: 15-year-old Adèle's (Adèle Exarchopoulos) life is changed when she meets Emma (Léa Seydoux), a young woman with blue hair. Together they explore social acceptance, sexuality, love, and loss.
“My period of coming out was as equally murky, confusing, and dreamy as Adèle's experience was. I really related to the ending as well – the way she is still sort of living a question.” – madkz
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
What it's about: While traveling home, newly-engaged Brad (Barry Bostwick) and Janet (Susan Sarandon) stumble across the castle of Dr Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry), a transvestite alien from the planet Transsexual in the galaxy of Transylvania. What follows next is a story of creation, love, hate, adventure, and most of all, sex.
“The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and in particular Tim Curry as Dr Frank-N-Furter, helped me set myself free. He taught me to stop dreaming, and to start living.” – Irving Zarate
20th Century Fox
What it's about: When his dreams of going to art school are sidelined by family obligations, a young man (Trevor Wright) finds comfort with his best friend's brother (Brad Rowe).
“Shelter is an amazing coming of age movie that’s not your run-of-the-mill gay film. It gets me every time.” – seanog
Paris Is Burning (1990)
What it's about: A chronicle of New York's drag scene in the 1980s focusing on balls, voguing, and the African-American, Latino, gay, and transgender communities that were involved.
“Although this documentary was made back in the '80s, Paris Is Burning shows you that the struggles we face have not changed. It's a movie that reminds us of our history and shows us what must not be forgotten for the sake of the LGBT community as a whole, and for the sake of black and other non-white LGBT individuals.” – andiec47e4e8ac3
What it's about: An African-American teenager (Adeoeri Oduye) must choose between the life she wants and the path her parents have picked out for her.
“Pariah is an accurate representation on showing what it's like to come out to controlling, religious parents.”– janehutchins
Chicken And Egg Pictures
4th Man Out (2015)
What it's about: A car mechanic (Evan Todd) in a small, working class town comes out of the closet to his unsuspecting best friends.
“I felt like 4th Man Out was definitely realistic. I mean you have a gay guy crushing on his straight friend (we've all been there) and it touches base on what actually happens when you come out.” – edp41e75564b
Angels in America (2003)
What it's about: Set in 1985, the film revolves around six intersectional stories based in New York. At its core, it tells the story of Prior Walter (Justin Kirk), a gay man living with AIDS who is visited by an angel.
“Angels in America is one of the most honest, intersectional, and beautiful portrayals of the AIDS crisis and the contradictions between sexuality and religion that I have ever seen. I can't think of many other representations of gay men in film or television that portray them as full, complicated, nuanced people whose sexual orientation doesn't completely define them.” – torih14
Closet Monster (2015)
What it's about: Taught from a young age that being gay is something to be feared or, at the very least, concealed and repressed, Closest Monster follows the story of a young boy coming to terms with both his traumatic childhood and sexuality.
“I remember seeing Closet Monster and feeling as if I was almost on screen myself. I identified with the main protagonist and his struggle with accepting that being gay isn’t something to hide or punish yourself for, but to simply accept.” – jadeno
Jenny’s Wedding (2015)
What it's about: When Jenny (Katherine Heigl) decides to marry a woman (Alexis Bledel), her conventional family must either accept who she is or risk losing her forever.
“It’s a beautiful coming out story that really comforted me and very much normalised a lesbian relationship.” – Cam Witt
The Broken Hearts Club: A Romantic Comedy (2000)
What it's about: The film follows a group of gay men, their lovers and friends, and the struggles they face while living in West Hollywood.
“It was so refreshing to see a movie about a group of gay men that weren’t all hard body, straight-acting, underwear models. The men in this movie have insecurities about their appearance, commitment issues, and more.” – rjj4a672e16d
Sony Pictures Entertainment
The Birdcage (1996)
What it's about: A gay cabaret owner (Robin Williams) and his drag queen partner (Nathan Lane) agree to put up a false straight front so that their son can introduce them to his fiancé's moralistic family.
“As a child it portrayed what it unfortunately would be like as an adult trying to mask your flamboyant homosexuality for the straight world. But Lane and Williams hilariously prove that being someone else is never as good as being yourself.” – j441150a0f
Nichols Film Company
The Watermelon Woman (1996)
What it's about: An aspiring black lesbian filmmaker (Cherly Dunyne) researches an obscure 1930s black actress known as the Watermelon Woman.
“I owe a lot to the The Watermelon Woman. It was instrumental in its portrayal of different types of female queerness. It allowed me to realise that I didn't have to fit myself into any stereotypical lesbian role, and that I could be whomever I wanted to be and still be queer.” – aemoccia
First Run Features
Running With Scissors (2006)
What it's about: The film narrates the memoir of Augusten Burroughs (Joseph Cross), a young gay child who is handed off to his mother's therapist, Dr Finch (Brian Cox) and his bizarre extended family.
“I came from a pretty messed up family and I could really relate to Augusten. It made me feel more normal knowing not only that it was okay to be gay, but that other LGBT folks could still succeed and find happiness in life despite coming from messed up families.” – portlandzombie13
Plan B Entertainment/Ryan Murphy Productions
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010)
What it's about: In order to win Ramona Flower's (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) heart, Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) must defeat her seven evil exes.
“Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is probably the best in terms of its portrayal of Wallace. I’ve never related to a character more and, while it may not be a serious movie, if Wallace isn’t an accurate representation of me and half the LGBT peeps I know, then goddamn.” – SunsetGirl
Show Me Love (1998)
What it's about: Two girls, Agnes (Rebecka Liljeberg) and Elin (Alexandra Dahlström), attend school in the small town of Åmål in Sweden. Agnes is in love with Elin, but can't find any way to express it. That is until Elin kisses her at a party, transforming their relationship.
“I grew up being in love with Elin and Agnes, and their relationship. It's such a beautiful and unique film because it doesn't focus on the stigma and taboo of homosexuality, but rather just on the spontaneous love between two teenage girls. For once it's actually just a genuine, uncomplicated, and sweet love story.” – Aemiliahnt
Kapoor & Sons (2016)
What it's about: A story revolving around two estranged brothers who return to their dysfunctional family after their grandfather suffers a heart attack.
“Kapoor & Sons explored the challenges of being a gay South Asian son to a narcissistic and racist mother, as well as the struggles of being in an interracial gay relationship. The film spoke a lot to me and reminded me of my own screwed up family dynamic.” – a4344f99e8
What's it about: While attending Cambridge, Maurice Hall (James Wilby) befriends the wealthy Clive Durham (Hugh Grant). When Clive confesses his feelings of love to Maurice, the two become involved in a secretive relationship to avoid tarnishing Clive's reputations.
“It was the first movie I ever saw that showed being gay in a non-comedic, positive way. Growing up in a very religious family, Maurice's view of how repressed homosexuality can affect people meant a lot to me.” – tomb4adc7727a
Merchant Ivory Productions
What it's about: A closeted gay teen (Paul Iacono) wants to join the popular girls' clique, but his scheme backfires when his best friend (Michale J. Willett) is forced out of the closet instead.
“G.B.F always spoke to me because I hated being called the 'gay friend'. Why can't I just be your friend?” – dylanb4dfeace14
What it's about: Sieger (Gijs Blom), a 15-year-old teen athlete, explores love, loneliness, and his own sexuality when he finds himself falling for his relay race teammate.
“Boys is truly a breath of fresh air after all the flimsy overly-stereotyped gay characters mainstream media has given us. The actors have such good chemistry and really give depth to the beautiful and honest characters.” – Jacob Anderson
Pupkin Film/ NTR
Water Lilies (2007)
What it's about: Set over the course of a single summer, the film tracks the sexual awakenings of three 15-year-old female friends who cross paths at the local pool's synchronised swimming team.
“Water Lilies is a really beautiful story of a one-sided high school lesbian crush. It’s a rare find because most lesbian stories found in film are too embedded with the male gaze (see: Blue Is The Warmest Color) to feel genuine, and instead come across as an objectification of female sexuality.” – Lougdouble
What it's about: Based on a true story, the film depicts a group of lesbian and gay activists lending their support to striking coal miners in 1984 Wales.
“It's a beautiful film about how the LGBT community in London helped raise funds for the miners' strike of 1984. Heartfelt and honest, especially considering that this is when the LGBT society was rocked by the AIDS crisis.” – d463fa89e2
Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.