8 Best LGBTQ+ Documentaries to Watch

Queer and LGBTQ+ representation is lacking in mainstream media, but there are a few films that have been able to break through the barriers and tell important stories about queer people. Here’s 8 of the best documentaries that you can watch right now.

The lgbt documentaries 2021 is a list of 8 LGBTQ+ documentaries that are worth watching.

After the declaration of the Stonewall National Monument in 2016, the exterior of the Stonewall Inn, a significant site in several of the films on this list and in LGBTQ+ history, was photographed. Stonewall Inn 10 pride weekend 2016, photo by Rhododendrites, CC BY-SA 4.0

Despite the fact that much of our history has been erased through centuries of repression and persecution, LGBTQ+ people have always lived and have made significant contributions to human history, even during those times of erasure.

Documentarians have tried to extract tales of humanity and resistance from statistics, archives, and oral histories, revealing who we are and who we may be in a broad range of films throughout the last several decades. The LGBTQ+ films listed here, although not comprehensive, offer a peek into our common past as well as the continuing struggle to be ourselves and love one another.

Please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please (2020)

 

History may help you learn about yourself, but what if you don’t recognize yourself in it? P.S. Burn This Letter Please, by Michael Seligman and Jennifer Tiexiera, explores this fundamental issue by unpacking a hidden 60-year-old collection of letters for and by males who dressed as women in New York City long before huge drag balls and families were a thing.

The resultant documentary is a love letter to the tenacious spirit of gay people — both those like Daphne whose records have survived and the millions who we may never know — and is driven by a remarkable mix of personal stories and pictures.

Paris is on fire (1990)

 

The highly acclaimed film Paris is Burning, described by the National Film Registry as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically important,” follows the lives and aspirations of Black and Latin LGBTQ+ individuals in New York’s drag scene in the 1980s.

The documentary examines race, class, and sexuality against the background of the AIDS pandemic, with director Jennie Livingston allowing individuals to talk — and dance — for themselves via intercuts of interviews and drag performances.

The film’s enduring influence can be seen in programs like RuPaul’s Drag Race and subsequent documentaries like Sara Jordenö and Twiggy Pucci Garçon’s Kiki (2016), which is generally regarded to be its unofficial successor.

An Unspoken Love (2020)

 

Pat Henschel and Terry Donahue’s love was kept secret from friends and family for the greater part of seven decades in Netflix’s A Secret Love. The fact that the documentary was directed by Terry’s nephew, Chris Bolan, adds to the poignancy of the film, which chronicles a lifetime of profound commitment — from falling in love in their early 20s to growing old together and eventually coming out to their family. Their semi-closeted existence is different from the ones portrayed in the other films on our list, yet it’s no less compelling and a testimony to everlasting love.

Marsha P. Johnson’s Death and Life (2017)

 

David France’s The Murder and Life of Marsha P. Johnson, perhaps one of Netflix’s finest documentaries, focuses on the trans icon regarded as “the Rosa Parks of the LGBTQ community” and the unanswered mysteries surrounding her death in 1992.

Despite the fact that Marsha P. Johnson’s death was initially deemed a suicide by authorities, the quest for justice for her and so many other murdered trans people continues. It’s a sobering look at the continuing fight for equal rights, as well as a sad inquiry into her death and a celebration of her beautiful and all-too-brief life.

How to Stay Alive During a Plague (2012)

 

Director David France made his directorial debut with How to Survive a Plague before The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson. Prior to that, he worked as a journalist documenting the beginning of the AIDS pandemic, when he met many of the individuals depicted in this remarkable film.

It recounts the narrative of Act Up and TAG (Treatment Action Group), two organizations of first-generation AIDS activists who took it upon themselves to care for and fight for HIV-positive people when the government and pharmaceutical corporations refused. Doug Gould, France’s late boyfriend, died of AIDS-related pneumonia in 1992, and the film is dedicated to him.

Prior to Stonewall (1984)

 

The Stonewall Riots of 1969 are widely regarded as a watershed moment for LGBTQ+ rights in the United States. However, Before Stonewall by Greta Schiller and Robert Rosenberg recounts the history of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community all the way back to Harlem clubs in the 1920s.

This Emmy-winning documentary, which is also on the National Film Registry, shines light on lesser-known aspects of history and is a carefully researched homage to our gay forefathers who flourished in the face of censorship and prejudice.

The View from Here in Silverlake (1993)

 

Silverlake Life: The View from Here received the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Picture Festival in 1993 and went on to win a Peabody Award in 1994, yet it’s still a little-known film. The documentary is an unflinchingly honest look at living with AIDS, written and directed by long-time companions Tom Joslin and Mark Massi.

It’s also a touching story of two individuals who decided to face their sickness together. Tom documents their lives post-diagnosis — endless doctor’s appointments, grocery shopping, dancing in the living room — with an obsession that occasionally irritates Mark, who later in the film, before Tom’s friend and former student, Peter Friedman, finishes it, takes on the camera in an act of love and grief.

The outcome is a sad and heartbreaking picture that is uncompromising and sharply focused. Joslin replies to the camera, and to us, all these years later, “What a way to live.” “Wow, what a way to go.”

Enlightenment (2020)

 

Disclosure is a critical examination at transness as portrayed on film, from the early days of cinema to today’s popular TV programs, directed by Sam Feder and executive produced by Laverne Cox. The film is a direct examination of the enormous impact of the tales we tell on the very real lives of trans people, including interviews with Cox, Lilly Wachowski, Yance Ford, and Chaz Bono, among others.

It’s important watching the films above this coming LGBTQ+ History Month, and every month, as a reminder of how far we’ve gone as a community and how far we still have to go. Which LGBTQ+ documentary is your personal favorite?

The queer documentaries are a list of 8 great movies that focus on LGBTQ+ topics. These movies are perfect for anyone who wants to learn more about the community.

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