Around the World in 30 Movies for Pride Month
Updated: Jun 2
Happy Pride Month everybody! Combining two of my favourite things, travel and Queer cinema, I'm spotlighting 30 amazing movies from 30 different countries for a world tour of LGBTQ+ cinema.
I’ve tried to keep it diverse, but there’s no specific formula here. These are just films I've seen and loved, with a focus on some lesser-known gems that might not stand out as you trawl through your favourite streaming service. Also, while I see a lot, I’ve by no means seen everything, so, if you have other favourites that absolutely need to be seen, drop them in the comments section below.
For finding obscure films, I recommend (and no I was not paid) checking out www.filmaffinity.com, where you can look up where and how they're available in your country.
Happy viewing, and happy Pride month everyone!
Canada Closet Monster (Stephen Dunn, 2015)
Set in Newfoundland and Labrador, this is a story by, for, and about film and fantasy geeks, and it has all the trimmings you’d expect from that, including a talking hamster named Buffy voiced by Isabella Rossellini.
United States 1985 (Yen Tan, 2018) Queer movies from the US? I don't know. Are there any? Okay, I just picked my favourite US film of recent years, which is Yen Tan’s gorgeous B&W family drama set in the titular year, starring Gotham’s Cory Michael Smith.
4 Moons (Sergio Tovar Velarde, 2014) For all the great films that have come from Mexico in recent years, this anthology of four stories about gay men at different stages of life remains my favourite. Don’t ask me to pick a favourite from the four stories, which are all equally essential.
Cuba The Last Match (Antonio Hens, 2014) This blink and you miss it indie explores the places where queerness, marriage, money, tourism, homophobia, and football intersect in Cuba. As with most things Cuba, it’s not an easy ride, but it’s a rewarding one.
Chile A Fantastic Woman (Sebastián Lelio, 2017) Chile’s Best International Film Oscar winner explores Trans identity through the eyes of Marina, played by the stunningly talented Daniela Vega. It changed views of Trans narratives in cinema, and views of acceptable behaviour to recover a stolen dog.
Argentina Burnt Money (Marcelo Piñeyro, 2000) Argentina puts out a lot of great LGBTQ+ films, yet I keep coming back to this tale of criminal lovers on the lam for its thrills, its sensuality, its nuance, and its top-notch performances in demanding roles.
Brazil Dry Wind (Daniel Nolasco, 2020) How do you get away with unsimulated sex on film? Put it in a damn good movie layered with a wide variety of feelings told through some of the richest visuals you’ll see in independent cinema.
Iceland Rift (Erlingur Thoroddsen, 2017) This gorgeous slow-burner leaves a lot open to interpretation as it explores the perils of caring too much about your ex. Don’t expect easy answers, but the search for them is deeply satisfying.
Thelma (Joachim Trier, 2017) Before one of my favourite films of the past year, The Worst Person in the World, Joachim Trier released this strange little slice of lesbian psych horror. ‘Nordic Carrie’ sells it short, but it’s an accurate take all the same.
Denmark Flee (Jonas Poher Rasmussen, 2021) With Oscar nominations for Best Animated Feature and Best International Film, Flee uses animation to explore the gay refugee experience without compromising its subject’s anonymity. It’s innovative, often harrowing, beautiful, and ultimately uplifting.
Ireland Handsome Devil (John Butler, 2016) Immensely likable artsy loner/star athlete teen romance featuring Andrew Scott as a sympathetic teacher.
United Kingdom Clapham Junction (Adrian Shergold, 2007) The UK’s produced no shortage of great LGBTQ+ films, but this made-for-TV sleeper can be one of the tougher ones to watch as it explores homophobia in an ‘equal’ UK through intersecting stories.
Portugal The Ornithologist (João Pedro Rodrigues, 2016) One of the weirdest entries on this list, this fantastical journey through Portugal’s wilderness explores gay desire through a truly original lens.
Spain Animals (Marçal Forés, 2012) There’s more to Spanish Queer cinema than Almodóvar (yes, I know!), and this strange little film about a young man and his talking teddy bear is one of my favourite niche discoveries.
France Eastern Boys (Robin Campillo, 2013) While Campillo has since eclipsed it with his activism drama 120BPM, Eastern Boys is still perhaps his most compelling story, as a home invasion and robbery begins an unlikely friendship between a middle-aged Frenchman and a young Ukrainian hustler.
Belgium Girl (Lukas Dhont, 2018) A 15yo Trans girl peruses her dream of becoming a professional ballerina in this Un Certain Regard and Queer Palm winner from Cannes. A sweet story, well told with some great performances.
Germany Center of My World (Jakob M. Erwa, 2016) I love a good bisexual love triangle, and here, one emerges between three richly written young characters, delivering all the feels.
Switzerland The Circle (Stefan Haupt, 2014) This docudrama offers a fascinating glimpse of early LGBTQ+ activism in Europe, blending compelling drama with interviews with its subjects.
Austria The Ground Beneath Her Feet (Marie Kreutzer, 2019) Slow burn lesbian thriller demands your attention from start to finish, and it’s well worth the effort.
Poland Operation Hyacinth (Piotr Domalewski, 2021) An exciting dark mystery set in communist Warsaw and its rarely explored gay underworld.
Estonia Firebird (Peeter Rebane, 2021) This year's critical and audience fave. A romantic air force drama set in the last days of the Soviet Union with mesmerizing performances from its unreasonably attractive leads.
Georgia And Then We Danced (Levan Akin, 2019) The incredible world of Georgian traditional dance opens up in this Swedish co-production that’s as visually stunning as it is moving.
AFRICA AND THE MIDDLE EAST
Israel Out in the Dark (Michael Mayer, 2012) Razor-sharp thriller explores some of the nuances of Palestinian life and Palestinian/Israeli love in the ‘bubble’ of Tel Aviv.
Saudi Arabia A Sinner in Mecca (Parvez Sharma, 2015) Not a Saudi film per se, but I'm counting it. It's not an easy watch, but one of the bravest documentaries you’ll ever see, as gay Muslim filmmaker Sharma documents his Haaj.
Rwanda Neptune Frost (Anisia Uzeyman, Saul Williams, 2022) As political as it is surreally beautiful, this wildly original sci-fi musical doesn’t care if you understand every detail. It’s hard not to get swept up in the point.
Kenya Rafiki (Wanuri Kahiu, 2018) Unbanned in Kenya for one week to allow Oscar consideration, this lesbian romance now holds the box office record for any domestic film in a single week in Kenya. It’s a well-deserved title in a country where attitudes are rapidly changing.
ASIA AND THE PACIFIC
India Cobalt Blue (Sachin Kundalkar, 2022) A brother and sister become infatuated with a handsome houseguest in this love letter to literature. It reminds me how much India respects its writers while being a rich, character-driven story.
South Korea The Handmaiden (Park Chan-wook, 2016) Taut lesbian thriller with plenty of twists and turns aplenty that’s a must for fans of the genre, queer drama, and the director alike.
Japan Big Bang Love, Juvenile A (Takashi Miike, 2006) Takashi Miike’s conjured up several interesting additions to the canon of Japanese LGBTQ+ cinema, and this moving gay prison romance is a visual feast of dreams and desires. It’s also remarkably tame by Miike standards if you’re looking for a soft introduction.
Australia The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (Stephan Elliot, 1994) Sure, there’s plenty of Australian Queer cinema beyond Priscilla, but let’s be honest. It’s the favourite, the standby, the icon that never gets old and imprinted gay Sydney. If you’ve not seen it, there’s a major hole in your Queer cultural education to fill immediately. If you have, it’s never a bad movie to go back to.