Skip to main content

What to watch during Pride Month

To kick off Pride Month, we asked film studies professor Daniel Humphrey which movies he considers essential viewing. Happy watching, and Happy Pride!

by Heather Rodriguez ’04

June is LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) Pride Month—the month where members of the LGBT community take a stand against discrimination and violence and promote dignity, diversity, and equal rights. To kick off the month, we asked film studies professor Daniel Humphrey which movies he considers essential viewing, and here are his recommendations. Happy watching, and Happy Pride y’all!

1. The Killing of Sister George (Robert Aldrich, 1968)

Promo poster for The Killing of Sister George

“Arguably the first big budget English-language film about LGBTQ characters, The Killing of Sister George focuses on a lesbian soap opera actress faced with unemployment when her television character is killed off by the show’s producers. Controversial in its day for its queer theme, sexual frankness, and defiantly uningratiating main character, this feature remains a touchstone due to its courage, honesty, and celebration of an uncompromising and unapologetic protagonist.”

2. Desert Hearts (Donna Deitch, 1985)

Promo poster for Desert Hearts

“Maybe the best example of the ‘coming out’ subgenre of LGBTQ feature films that began to emerge in the 1980s, Desert Hearts was a low budget indie that delighted the lesbian community for its affirmative but hardly simplistic look at a middle age professor who gets a second lease on life when she falls in love with a younger woman in 1950s Nevada. It gets bonus points for making you feel like you’ve spent the summer on a dude ranch in the wild west.”

3. Law of Desire (Pedro Almodóvar, 1987)

Promo poster for Law of Desire

“Spanish auteur Pedro Almodóvar’s first masterpiece is a zany must-see-to-believe comic melodrama about a gay erotic filmmaker, his transgender actress sister, and the obsessive rich-boy stalker (played by future Hollywood heartthrob Antonio Banderas) who enters their lives. An unapologetically queer and sexy film that charms and scandalizes in equal measure.”

4. Edward II (Derek Jarman, 1991)

Promo poster for Edward II

“Before his untimely death due to HIV-related illness, Derek Jarman was considered the gay equivalent to the African-American Spike Lee: a hero to his community who made some of the most provocative and politically in-your-face films of his era. Edward II brings the queer content out of Christopher Marlow’s 16th Century tragedy (not that it was really hidden) and, in the process, turns a Renaissance drama into an inspiring anthem for the era of Act-Up and Queer Nation activism.”

5. The Kids are All Right (Lisa Cholodenko, 2010)

Promo poster for The Kids are All Right

“This comedic drama of lesbian moms, their two children, and the biological father who suddenly comes into their lives is a testament to unconventional families and the bonds of love that keep them together. Annette Benning, Julianne Moore, and Mark Ruffalo lead a first-rate cast.”

6. Tangerine (Sean Baker, 2015)

Promo poster for Tangerine

“A microbudget comedy following a pair of transgender besties one eventful, stressful Christmas Eve. This gritty-but-gentle humanistic comedy was hailed as an instant classic upon its release, and justifiably so. Consider it the transgender It’s a Wonderful Life.”

7. Moonlight (Barry Jenkins, 2016)

Promo poster for Moonlight

“A magical look at a Black boy growing up queer in a rough Miami neighborhood. This surprise Best Picture winner celebrates community, friendship, and the power of love among people often ignored in major Hollywood cinema.”

8. 1985 (Yen Tan, 2018)

Promo poster for 1985

“This heartbreaking new film by Texas filmmaker Yen Tan follows a Texas family during the Christmas holidays as an adult son returns from New York to belatedly tell his parents and younger brother that he is gay and has contracted AIDS. A gentle drama of small moments, the accumulative power of this feature, shot just up the road in Ft. Worth, is second to none.”