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The best LGBTQ movies on Netflix

Whether you want to laugh or cry, you'll find the perfect movie.

 

Nico Lang

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Posted on Jun 19, 2016   Updated on Jun 6, 2022, 2:49 pm CDT

In the last few years, more and more LGBTQ movies and documentaries are premiering on independent streaming platforms like Netflix. Queer creators have adapted famous plays to screen, told queer romance stories, and of course, plenty of coming-of-age stories. Some stories revolve around queer experiences, and some just tell everyday stories about queer people.

Netflix has also hosted some of the best documentaries made by and about LGBTQ people. Whether the service is shining a light on the queers of yore or looking at queer identity in the modern-day, Netflix has plenty of queer stories to celebrate.

Check out the best LGBTQ movies on Netflix

1) The best snapshot of gay history: The Boys in the Band

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A birthday get-together changes tone when Michael invites an old, straight friend along. After drinks, tensions come to a head. Each partygoer is confronted with the shame that hangs over gay men of the time, whether in or out of the closet.

This poignant, character-rich adaptation of a Tony-award-winning play tells the story of a group of gay men in late-60s Manhattan. The film, produced by Ryan Murphy, stars a full cast of openly gay actors. Each star turns in a memorable performance in one of the best LGBTQ movies on Netflix.


2) The LGBTQ movie on Netflix with a heartfelt performance: Duck Butter

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Naima is an actor who’s struggling to make an intimate connection with her character. When she meets the whimsical Sergio in a gay bar, the two decide to do an extreme intimacy course. They agree to spend 24 hours together and to have sex every hour. In fact, that portion of the film really was filmed in just 24 hours!

The two characters experience incredible closeness and bonding, but that kind of intensity takes a toll. Alia Shawkat from Arrested Development plays Naima, and the openly bi actress also co-wrote the script. It’s an interesting premise and wonderfully performed, even if the story just kind of ends after their 24-hours are up.


3) The best laugh-cry LGBTQ movie on Netflix: Other People

This film is the semi-autobiographical story of SNL writer Chris Kelly’s life. David is a struggling comedy writer who’s forced back to Sacramento in order to take care of his dying mother, Joanna (Molly Shannon). His father still refuses to accept his sexuality, even though David has been out of the closet for years.

Delivering laughs and tears in equal, heavy measure, Molly Shannon’s performance steals the show. Visiting a childhood home and dysfunctional family is a common motif in movies. Thankfully, Other People‘s clever and queer framing certainly feels fresh. It certainly qualifies it as one of the best LGBTQ movies on Netflix.


4) The best heartfelt LGBTQ movie: The Prom

Self-centered Broadway thespians, Dee Dee Allen and Barry Glickman have failed at their most recent attempt at stardom. As their most recent broadway show, Eleanor has flopped, they’ve come up with a foolproof plan to earn some positive publicity. What do they do? They find a cause they believe in.

Emma, a high-school student from Edgewater, Indiana, has just come out of the closet. All she wants is to take her girlfriend to prom. But thanks to the small minds in the small town, intolerance seems to be standing in the way. Can these failed stars make matters right?


5) Best young love story: Handsome Devil (2017)

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This 2016 Irish dramedy tells the story of Ned, a high schooler who prefers music to rugby—an obsession shared by all of his classmates. When he’s bunked up with the school’s star rugby player, he’s surprised when the two form a bond.

Andrew Scott of Fleabag fame co-stars as the progressive teacher helping Ned navigate his traditional boys’ school. The puppy-love plot isn’t especially revolutionary, but this LGBTQ movie on Netflix is certain to lift your spirits.


6) The best LGBTQ underdog story: Alaska is a Drag

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Leo lives in Alaska and works in a fish cannery with his sister. Growing up in a conservative town, he learned how to fight to avoid being picked on because he’s gay. One day, his ability to defend himself attracts the attention of a local boxing coach.

But the arrival of a new sparring partner causes Leo and Tristen to face the reason they came to Alaska. Leo’s dream is to become a drag superstar, but can this fish-out-of-water sprout wings to fly?


7) The best LGBTQ movie about a piece of history: The Danish Girl

Einar Wegener and his wife Gerda (Alicia Vikander) are a happily married artist couple living in 1926 Denmark. One day, Einar poses for a portrait of Gerda while wearing a dress which opens the floodgate to her deepest desire—to be the woman she knows she is. Einar becomes Lili.

At first, she and Gerda try to have her situation “cured” but this leads nowhere. Until it brings her to undergo the first ever sex-change operation.


8) The best LGBTQ movie on Netflix about friendship: The Half of It

This warm-hearted teen drama by Alice Wu is an adorable tale of friendship. Meet Ellie (Leah Lewis), a shy, academically-inclined teen lesbian who earns extra cash by writing essays for her classmates. When she meets Paul (Daniel Diemer), he asks for her help writing love letters to another girl in her class.

The film is loosely inspired by the tale of Cyrano de Bergerac. When Ellie develops feelings for Paul’s crush, their unlikely friendship is put to the test.


9) The best LGBTQ movie for questioning queers: Alex Strangelove

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Netflix’s Alex Strangelove is an earnest coming-of-age story about Alex Truelove. Alex nervously plans to lose his virginity to his girlfriend– right up until he meets a handsome gay guy at a party.

Set in a modern high school where teens identify as gay, bi-sexual, and genderqueer, Alex grapples with the reality that he might not be straight. Based on director Craig Johnson’s own coming-out experience, Strangelove is one of the best LGBT movies on Netflix.—Tess Cagle


10) The prettiest LGBTQ movie on Netflix: Elisa & Marcela

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This erotic drama tells the story of Elisa and Marcela, Spain’s first recorded same-sex marriage in 1901. Shot in stunning black-and-white, the film is stunning to watch, even if the story itself doesn’t quite capture intimacy.

The plot is pretty predictable, and the sex scenes are overly long and uncomfortable, verging on softcore porn. If you’re in the mood for something that’s just really pretty, this may be your LGBTQ movie on Netflix. Otherwise, it may fall short of your expectations.

11) A Top LGBTQ Movie From Taiwan: Your Name Engraved Herein

In 1987, Taiwan is liberated from martial law. A-Han, a shy boy, meets a bohemian boy named Birdy. Enjoying their adventures together, they share many secrets and develop a relationship beyond friendship. Then the school starts recruiting girls. Birdy tries to distract himself by dating a girl, breaking A-Han’s heart. However, A-Han cannot face how he feels about Birdy and often goes to the priest to confess his real feelings. As the relationship between the two young boys becomes more confusing and also due to the misunderstanding of Birdy’s plan, they keep some distance from each other. After they graduate, they slowly drift apart. Thirty years later, when the trio meets again, how will they face each other with their complicated feelings? —IMDb


The Best LGBTQ Documentaries on Netflix

1) The best LGBTQ documentary about trans representation: Disclosure

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This critically-acclaimed documentary features trans performers speaking about their experience working in the film industry. Disclosure is a must-see LGBTQ movie on Netflix, with guests like Laverne Cox (Orange Is the New Black), Mj Rodriguez (Pose), Elliot Fletcher (Y: The Last Man), and Lilly Wachowski (The Matrix trilogy). Guests on the show discuss historical portrayals of trans people, and why proper trans representation is pivotal for acceptance.


2) The most feel-good LGBTQ documentary: Circus of Books

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Lift your spirits with this feel-good documentary about a gay bookstore run by the straight married couple Karen & Barry Mason. The shop opened in 1960s West Hollywood, and unintentionally became first a cruising spot, and then a safe haven for local gays. Featuring interviews from the family, patrons, and former employees like Alaska (RuPaul’s Drag Race), prepare for happy tears when you watch.


3) The best historical LGBTQ documentary: The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson

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Netflix’s The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson explores the tragic death of the legendary gay rights activist and icon. Director David France explores the lingering impact of Marsha’s life through interviews with those who were closest to her.

The documentary also explores her death, which was officially ruled a suicide, despite the likelihood that she was murdered. Check out exclusive footage of Marsha and first-hand accounts of her life in this LGBTQ documentary on Netflix.


4) The best LGBTQ documentary that’s actually a love story: A Secret Love

Released in 2020, this heartwarming documentary charts the lives of an elderly lesbian couple, Terry Donahue and Pat Henschel. The two kept their relationship a secret for six decades. A Secret Love received glowing reviews, praised for its personal and sensitive depiction of a life lived in the closet. – GBW


5) The best LGBTQ documentary for art-lovers: Laerte-se

In Laert-se, comic strips depict the inner workings of a Brazilian cartoonist as she comes to terms with her gender identity. The device serves two purposes: informing the audience of artist Laerte Coutinho’s thoughts, and acting as a way to tell this searing, real story in a straightforward manner.

Coutinho is initially hesitant to be intimately honest with documentarian Eliane Brum, but the more she opens up, the more the artwork exposes her thoughts and desires. The end result is a compelling, in-depth look at Coutinho’s transformation. —Dan Marcus


6) The best queer triumph documentary: Tig

2014 was a breakout year for Tig Notaro. During a performance at New York City’s Town Hall, the lesbian comic came out as a breast cancer survivor. In a career-making set, Notaro performed shirtless, baring her double mastectomy for the world to see.

After the act generated massive buzz, she would do it again—this time on her HBO standup special, Boyish Girl Interrupted. This acclaimed documentary examines the comedian’s life during her treatment, recovery, and attempt to have a child.  —N.L.


7) The best vintage LGBTQ documentary on Netflix: The Queen

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This documentary follows the 1967 Miss All-America Camp Beauty Contest in New York. Competing queens talk about their sex and gender identity, military draft rules, and the backstage drama that comes with any pageant. Their stories are cut with footage from the pageant, where queens strut in an attempt to bring home the crown.


8) The most compelling LGBTQ documentary on Netflix: Pray Away

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Ryan Murphy and Jason Blum bring us a powerful look into the shame surrounding gay conversion therapy. This heart-wrenching documentary explores the long-term effects of programs that attempt to “correct” homosexuality. Away gives survivors an opportunity to share their experiences in the hopes of preventing future trauma and denial.


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*First Published: Jun 19, 2016, 9:00 am CDT