Pride Month Movie Guide – American Film Institute


Pride Month Movie Guide

In honor of Pride Month, AFI is celebrating iconic LGBTQ+ characters throughout cinematic history. We’re proud to highlight LGBTQ+ representation onscreen, ranging from queer-coded characters in classics such as MOROCCO and REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE to LGBTQ+ portrayals in contemporary films including MOONLIGHT, FRIDA and A FANTASTIC WOMAN. All of the films have been named to our AFI lists, honored with AFI AWARDS, screened at AFI FEST or selected for AFI Movie Club.


Pride Month Movie Guide - ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER – still image from film

While nearly all of Spanish auteur Pedro Almodóvar’s work centers queerness in some shape or form, ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER (1999) – which served as the Closing Night film at AFI FEST 1999 – is memorable for its loving rendering of Agrado (Antonia San Juan), a charismatic transgender woman and loyal friend. In Barcelona, Agrado reconnects with her old friend Manuela, providing her with unwavering support after she tragically loses her son in a terrible accident. In the film’s standout monologue, Agrado – in front of a live audience – showcases her strong sense of self, wryly listing off her gender-affirming surgeries and confiding that, “you are more authentic the more you resemble what you’ve dreamed of being.” Almodóvar ultimately challenges viewers to embrace a more inclusive view of womanhood. Read more about ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER.

THE BIRDCAGE – Armand and Albert Goldman 

Pride Month Movie Guide - THE BIRDCAGE – Armand and Albert Goldman - Still image from film

Based on the Franco-Italian film LA CAGE AUX FOLLES and adapted by Elaine May, THE BIRDCAGE (1996) spotlights the iconic and endearing gay couple Armand and Albert Goldman – played with poignancy and comedic perfection by Robin Williams and Nathan Lane. In order to please their son, the pair, who are the proud owners of a South Beach drag club called The Birdcage, decide to hide the true nature of their relationship from his future in-laws – the ultra-conservative Republican Senator Kevin Keeley (Gene Hackman) and his wife Louise (Dianne Wiest). The film, which was directed by AFI Life Achievement Award recipient Mike Nichols, was radical for the time in terms of portraying queer joy, particularly as the LGBTQ+ community was rebuilding itself following the height of the AIDS crisis. Visit the AFI Catalog to learn more about the AFI Movie Club selection THE BIRDCAGE.

BOYS DON’T CRY – Brandon Teena

Pride Month Movie Guide - BOYS DON’T CRY – Still image of Brandon Teena and Lana

In the pioneering film BOYS DON’T CRY (1999), director Kimberly Peirce sought to bring justice to the life and legacy of real-life transgender teenager Brandon Teena, who was assaulted and murdered in 1993 when his biological identity was uncovered. A truly harrowing and galvanizing film, BOYS DON’T CRY chronicles Teena’s search for love and self-acceptance on the plains of Nebraska before falling victim to a brutal hate crime. While cis actor Hilary Swank starred in the film as Teena – leaving room for much-needed progress in terms of prioritizing the casting of transgender actors – the film still marked one of the first mainstream Hollywood movies to center on and affirm a transgender character’s experiences. The film was selected for AFI Movie Club and BOYS DON’T CRY director Kimberly Peirce spoke to the AFI DWW+ Class of 2014 about breaking new ground. Learn more about BOYS DON’T CRY.

BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN – Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist 

Pride Month Movie Guide - BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN – Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist - still image from film

Some loves you just “can’t quit.” In 2005, director Ang Lee and screenwriters Diana Ossana and Larry McMurtry immortalized the beautiful connection forged between Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist, two Wyoming sheepherders who fall in love, in their film adaptation of Annie Proulx’s award-winning short story. Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal step into the boots of the two star-crossed cowboys in this romantic Western, lauded for its sensitive and complex portrayal of Ennis and Jack’s tender albeit tortured love affair, composed of stolen moments spanning 20 years. BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN (2005) represented a seismic shift in depictions and receptions of queer representation onscreen and was honored with three Academy Awards® as well as an AFI AWARD in 2005. Watch screenwriter Diana Ossana talk about discovering Proulx’s story which would eventually inspire BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN. Learn more about the film here.

BUT I’M A CHEERLEADER – Megan Bloomfield and Graham Eaton 

Pride Month Movie Guide - BUT I’M A CHEERLEADER – Megan Bloomfield and Graham Eaton - still image from film

A campy, satirical send-up of homophobia, heteronormativity and conversion therapy​, the cult classic BUT I’M A CHEERLEADER (1999) stars Natasha Lyonne as Megan Bloomfield, a cheerleader sent to “True Directions” to cure her from being gay – and while there, falls for her fellow camper Graham Eaton (Clea DuVall). The film marked the feature directorial debut of Jamie Babbit who served as a mentor and artist-in-residence for the 40th anniversary class of AFI DWW+ in 2014. Watch Natasha Lyonne talk about her friendship with Clea DuVall and being part of this influential and impactful film. Learn more about AFI Movie Club selection BUT I’M A CHEERLEADER.


Pride Month Movie Guide - CALL ME BY YOUR NAME – Elio Perlman

Luca Guadagnino’s CALL ME BY YOUR NAME (2017), adapted from the celebrated novel by André Aciman, is a passionate romance built on stolen glances, coded exchanges and erotic tension. This coming-of-age story is centered on the young protagonist Elio Perlman, played by Timothée Chalamet, in the throes of first love. Chalamet brings remarkable maturity to the role, imbuing Elio with curiosity, intellect, and a depth and certainty of feeling that belie his years. CALL ME BY YOUR NAME was honored with an AFI AWARD in 2017. Watch director Luca Guadagnino talk about the making of the film. Learn more about CALL ME BY YOUR NAME.

CAROL – Carol Aird and Therese Belivet

Pride Month Movie Guide - CAROL – Carol Aird and Therese Belivet

Adapted from Patricia Highsmith’s groundbreaking novel “The Price of Salt,” CAROL (2015) centers its poignant story around aspiring photographer Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) and the sophisticated and enigmatic Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett) who are drawn to each other after a chance meeting at a department store in 1950s New York. Directed by Todd Haynes and written by Phyllis Nagy, this tantalizing romantic drama explores the challenges Therese and Carol face as they fall in love while Carol undergoes a difficult divorce and protracted custody battle over her daughter ­– with the threat of her husband using her sexuality against her in court. The film, which was edited by Affonso Gonçalves (AFI Class of 1993), was honored with an AFI AWARD in 2015. Watch this exclusive AFI video of Todd Haynes and Rooney Mara talking about the film with AFI Fellows. Learn more about CAROL in the AFI Catalog.

DOG DAY AFTERNOON – Sonny Wortzik and Leon Shermer

Pride Month Movie Guide - DOG DAY AFTERNOON – Sonny Wortzik and Leon Shermer

“Attica! Attica!” As scorching day unravels into night in Gotham, the motive for Sonny’s (AFI Life Achievement Honoree Al Pacino) botched bank robbery and hostage-taking is revealed to be the funding of his partner Leon’s (John Cazale) gender-affirming surgery. Progressive in its portrayal of a queer main character, DOG DAY AFTERNOON (1975) landed on AFI’s 100 Years…100 Quotes list and AFI’s list of the greatest thrills in cinematic history, and earned six Academy Award® nominations, winning for Best Original Screenplay. From AFI’s Life Achievement Award Tribute to Al Pacino, watch ANGELS IN AMERICA actor Jeffrey Wright talk about how Pacino’s performance in the film inspired him. Learn more about DOG DAY AFTERNOON.


Pride Month Movie Guide - EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE – Joy Wang

While the mind-bending epic EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE (2022) is full of memorable characters, one of its most iconic is none other than Chinese American college student Joy Wang, who serves as the heart of the film. Creating two distinct yet intrinsically linked performances, Stephanie Hsu transforms from mild-mannered Joy who wants more than anything for her mother Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh) to accept her queer identity, to her audacious and destructive doppelgänger Jobu Tupaki, tapping into the impulsive and uninhibited side that Joy keeps suppressed. EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE garnered Hsu her first Academy Award® nomination and the film was also honored with an AFI AWARD in 2022, recognizing it as one of the best movies of the year. Learn more about the film here.


Pride Month Movie Guide - A FANTASTIC WOMAN – Marina Vidal

In this beautiful and illuminating story of love, loss and humanity, Marina (played with stoic sensitivity by actress Daniela Vega), a young transgender woman and aspiring singer, must pick up the pieces after her much older partner Orlando (Francisco Reyes) suffers an aneurysm and unexpectedly passes away. Directed by Sebastián Lelio, A FANTASTIC WOMAN (2017) follows Marina as she is subjected to ridicule from the doctors at the hospital, suspicion from the police and hostility from Orlando’s family. Nevertheless, Marina embodies a quiet determination and staunch resiliency to properly mourn her lost love and to pursue happiness and fulfillment even in a world that regards her as an outsider. Watch A FANTASTIC WOMAN co-writer and director Sebastián Lelio and star Daniela Vega speak at AFI FEST 2017 following a screening of the film.

FRIDA – Frida Kahlo

Pride Month Movie Guide - FRIDA – Frida Kahlo

Directed by Julie Taymor, FRIDA (2002) chronicles the extraordinary life of revolutionary bisexual Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. Starring Salma Hayek who spent eight years developing this passion project, the visually striking film focuses on the renowned surrealist painter who channeled the pain of a crippling injury and her tempestuous marriage with fellow artist Diego Rivera (Alfred Molina) into her provocative work. FRIDA was co-written by AFI Conservatory Screenwriting Discipline Head Anna Thomas and honored with an AFI AWARD in 2002 – recognizing it as one of the 10 outstanding films of the year. Learn more about FRIDA in the AFI Catalog.

THE HOURS – Virginia Woolf, Laura Brown, Clarissa Vaughan

Pride Month Movie Guide - THE HOURS – Virginia Woolf, Laura Brown, Clarissa Vaughan

Adapted from Michael Cunningham’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, THE HOURS (2002) traces the lives of three queer women – Virginia Woolf, Laura Brown and Clarissa Vaughan, living in different eras, but all united through their passion for a singular novel – with one writing “Mrs. Dalloway,” one reading it and one living it in real time. With powerhouse performances by this year’s AFI Life Achievement Award honoree Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore and AFI Life Achievement Award recipient Meryl Streep, the film features a trio of women surmounting depression, marital discord and the weight of others’ expectations as they search for a sense of belonging and fulfilment. The film was honored with an AFI AWARD in 2002, recognizing it as one of the best films of the year. Watch Moore and Kidman talk about their co-star, acting “phenom” Meryl Streep. Learn more about THE HOURS in the AFI Catalog.

LOVE, SIMON – Simon Spier 

Pride Month Movie Guide - LOVE, SIMON – Simon Spier - still image from film

Directed by Greg Berlanti, LOVE, SIMON (2018) explores the complexities that come with sexuality, identity and coming out. Starring Nick Robinson, the film tells the story of Simon Spier, a closeted, gay high school student whose struggle of not being able to be his true self to his friends and family is fully realized and compelling. Robinson’s performance manages to transform this standard teen romance into emotive and essential viewing. The film marked a cinematic milestone as the first mainstream teen romantic comedy to feature a gay protagonist released by a major American studio. Learn more about AFI Movie Club pick LOVE, SIMON.

MILK – Harvey Milk 

Pride Month Movie Guide - MILK – Harvey Milk

“You gotta give ’em hope.” A powerful and important film, MILK (2008) celebrates the life and legacy of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man elected to public office in California, whose crusade for justice, acceptance and equal rights challenged the rising homophobia in U.S. society head on. MILK was honored with an AFI AWARD in 2008 and Sean Penn won the Best Actor Oscar® for his portrayal of the trailblazing hero. In this exclusive AFI Archive video, executive producer Michael London talks about the making of the acclaimed film. Learn more about MILK in the AFI Catalog.


Pride Month Movie Guide - MOONLIGHT – Chiron

Based on Tarell Alvin McCraney’s unpublished semi-autobiographical play “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue,” MOONLIGHT (2016) follows Chiron, a young boy living in Miami, throughout three stages of his life – his pre-pubescent years as Little, his teenage years as Chiron and his adult years as Black. Written and directed by visionary filmmaker Barry Jenkins, MOONLIGHT is a coming-of-age story of extraordinary sensitivity and nuance in which Chiron must grapple with his own sexuality and determine for himself what it means to be gay while experiencing the dangers of a turbulent home life. MOONLIGHT was honored with a 2016 AFI AWARD and dubbed a “poetic tour de force.” Watch this exclusive AFI video with director Barry Jenkins talking about the unforgettable swimming scene. Learn more about MOONLIGHT in the AFI Catalog.

MOROCCO – Mademoiselle Amy Jolly 

Pride Month Movie Guide - MOROCCO – Mademoiselle Amy Jolly

While ostensibly Josef von Sternberg’s MOROCCO (1930) is a Classical Hollywood movie about seductive cabaret singer Mademoiselle Amy Jolly and French Foreign Legionnaire Tom Brown who fall in love during wartime, this pre-Code film has an underlying queer subtext with its star (bisexual actress Marlene Dietrich) crossdressing and flirting up a storm with both male and female audience members. In the film’s most iconic scene, Dietrich dons a top hat, white tie and tails and plants a kiss on a female patron – signifying the first instance in which a leading lady kissed another woman onscreen in a major motion picture. Although centered on a heterosexual love triangle, the film signals to its audience, and particularly the queer community, that sexuality is a spectrum and serves as a beacon of queer representation in the 1930s no less. MOROCCO was included on AFI’s 100 Years…100 Passions list of the greatest love stories of all time. Learn more about MOROCCO in the AFI Catalog.

MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO – Mike Waters and Scott Favor

Pride Month Movie Guide - MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO – Michael "Mikey" Waters and Scott Favor

An independent masterpiece from director Gus Van Sant, MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO (1991) follows two friends, Mike Waters and Scott Favor, played by River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves respectively, as they embark on a journey of personal discovery. The landmark New Queer Cinema film was a breakthrough feature for LGBTQ+ stories in mainstream culture and became an essential meditation on desire between men. Van Sant has shared his unique and thoughtful cinematic sensibilities with the next generation of storytellers through in-depth seminars at the AFI Conservatory. Watch the exclusive AFI conversation here. Learn more about AFI Movie Club selection MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO.

PARIAH – Alike

Pride Month Movie Guide - PARIAH – Alike ("Lee")

“I am not running, I am choosing…I am not broken, I am free.” The powerful feature directorial debut of Dee Rees, PARIAH (2011) follows the life of Alike “Lee” (Adepero Oduye), a young butch lesbian discovering her sexuality and asserting her identity as she deals with the pressures of her family and society’s expectations for her life. This beautifully rendered and empathetic coming-of-age story explicitly centers Black queerness as Lee navigates her burgeoning sexuality, her mother’s scornful disapproval and her desire to express herself through poetry. Watch director Dee Rees and editor and AFI Alum Mako Kamitsuna (AFI DWW Class of 2011) talk about making the film and learn more about the AFI Movie Club selection PARIAH in the AFI Catalog.

PHILADELPHIA – Andrew Beckett

Pride Month Movie Guide - PHILADELPHIA – Andrew Beckett

Among the first major motion pictures to address the AIDS epidemic head-on, PHILADELPHIA (1993) follows the story of gay attorney Andrew “Andy” Beckett who enlists lawyer Joe Miller (Denzel Washington) to help him sue his former employers for wrongful termination after they discover he has AIDS. Throughout this work of incredible power and empathy, Andy Beckett is a consistent symbol of justice and prejudice as well as vulnerability and strength. AFI named Andy Beckett as one of film’s greatest ever heroes and ranked PHILADELPHIA among cinema’s most inspiring films as well as “Streets of Philadelphia” by Bruce Springsteen as one of cinema’s most iconic songs. The film was directed by AFI DOCS Guggenheim Symposium honoree Jonathan Demme and starred two AFI Life Achievement Award recipients – Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington. Lean more about PHILADELPHIA in the AFI Catalog.

PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE – Marianne and Héloïse

Pride Month Movie Guide - PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE – Marianne and Héloïse - still image from film

A spark ignites between painter Marianne (Noémie Merlant) and her subject Héloïse (Adèle Haenel) after the former is commissioned to create a wedding portrait of the free-spirited French noblewoman in this luminous drama from Céline Sciamma. Forced to keep her identity as an artist secret so as not to upset Héloïse who dreads her impending marriage, Marianne must paint her from memory as the two gradually grow closer as walking companions, confidantes and ultimately lovers. The film screened to acclaim at AFI FEST 2019 and marks a mesmerizing exploration of forbidden passion, self-discovery and the inextinguishable power of the female gaze. Watch the director of PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE (2019) talk about directing with AFI Conservatory Fellows. Learn more about PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE.

REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE – John “Plato” Crawford

Pride Month Movie Guide - REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE – John “Plato” Crawford

While the classic film REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE (1955) is often recognized for the central romance between Jim Stark (James Dean) and Judy (Natalie Wood), the film is also seminal for Sal Mineo’s portrayal of John “Plato” Crawford who is portrayed as a troubled and thinly veiled gay teenager. Coming up against the Hays Code which barred any representation of homosexuality onscreen, director Nicholas Ray managed to provide clues to Plato’s identity with his longing and attachment for Jim clearly on display and a picture of Alan Ladd hanging in his school locker. Mineo, who was nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar®, was also notably one of the first openly queer actors in Hollywood. The iconic film was named to AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies list of the greatest American films of all time. Learn more about REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE.

SAVING FACE – Wilhelmina “Wil” Pang and Vivian Shing 

Pride Month Movie Guide - SAVING FACE – Wilhelmina Pang and Vivian Shing

SAVING FACE (2004), directed by Alice Wu and starring Michelle Krusiec (DWW Class of 2021-2022), follows Wilhelmina “Wil” Pang, a gay Chinese American surgeon whose life is upended when she finds herself juggling her unwed, pregnant mother unexpectedly moving in with her and a burgeoning relationship with dancer Vivian (Lynn Chen). Both young women struggle against the weight of parental expectations with Wil bucking against marrying a man and Vivian confronting her father’s desire for her to become a ballerina rather than pursue her passion for modern dance. This beautifully crafted film is not only a defining entry in the lesbian film canon, but also a heartfelt love story that subverts stereotypes about race, gender, sexuality and age. Watch director Alice Wu and star Michelle Krusiec talk about creating the character of Wil and learn more about the AFI Movie Club selection SAVING FACE in the AFI Catalog.

TANGERINE – Sin-Dee Rella and Alexandra

Pride Month Movie Guide - TANGERINE – Sin-Dee Rella and Alexandra

This breakout hit follows Sin-Dee Rella (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, nominated for Best Female Lead at Film Independent Spirit Awards) and her best friend Alexandra (Mya Taylor, nominated for Best Supporting Female at Film Independent Spirit Awards) – both transgender women and sex workers – on their uproarious odyssey across Los Angeles and through various subcultures to find Sin-Dee Rella’s cheating pimp boyfriend. During awards season in the year of its release, TANGERINE (2015) became the first-ever film backed by a movie distributor that launched an Oscar® campaign for a transgender actress. Watch an exclusive AFI video with the director about the making of the film. Learn more about AFI Movie Club pick TANGERINE (2015).


Pride Month Movie Guide - THE WATERMELON WOMAN – Cheryl

THE WATERMELON WOMAN (1996), the first theatrically released feature film directed by a Black lesbian and considered a landmark film in New Queer Cinema, follows aspiring filmmaker and video store clerk Cheryl – self-referentially portrayed by the film’s director and writer Cheryl Dunye – who embarks on a documentary project tracing the unwritten history of an unidentified Black actress spotted in a number of films from the ‘30s and ‘40s. In 2020, the groundbreaking film was honored in AFI FEST’s Cinema’s Legacy program and in 2021, the film was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” Learn more about THE WATERMELON WOMAN.

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Comments (1)

General Public Users, Do not delete

Blue is the Warmest Colour shoud be on this list!!!Happy Pride Month<3

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