23 LGBTQ+ Films and Documentaries that Transport Us Around the World

23 LGBTQ+ Films and Documentaries that Transport Us Around the World

We’ve picked out the films and documentaries that offer a window into the experiences of LGBTQ+ people and communities around the world. Expect cult 90s comedy, Oscar-winning flicks by Black filmmakers and gender-queer movies that have sparked the legal reform of trans rights.

travel is an antidote to prejudice, it can be hard for us
to fully understand what it means to be part of the LGBTQ+
community in the world’s many corners. Queer culture isn’t one size
fits all.

Turning to the silver screen, we’ve picked out the films and
documentaries that offer a window into hedonistic gay cruises
around Europe, the subculture of trans sex workers in LA and a WLW
relationship in an African country where homosexuality is still a
criminal offence.

As we virtually hop between continents, cultures and genders,
you can expect to bawl at Oscar-winning flicks by Black filmmakers,
be moved by the movies that sparked protests in their hometowns,
applaud Bollywood’s first lesbian romcom and howl at the cult 90s
comedies that are best taken with a pinch of salt. Grab the

Queer culture: the best LGBTQ+ films around the world

A Fantastic Woman (2018)

Santiago, Chile

The 2018 Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film follows
trans woman Marina (played by Daniella Vega, the Academy Awards’
first transgender presenter) as she fights for her rights following
the death of her boyfriend Orlando. The award win helped LGBTQ+
activists reignite Chile’s discussions around trans rights, which
led to the passing of a bill in September 2018 that lets trans
citizens change their name and gender on official records.

The Handmaiden (2016)

South Korea

Sarah Waters’ historic novel Fingersmith is the go-to title for
lovers of LGBTQ+ fiction. This film adaptation plucks the story
from Victorian England and drops it in Japanese-occupied South
Korea in the 30s, amping up the lusty, psychological-thriller vibes
the process. Film locations include Japan’s Mie Prefecture as well
as Pyeongchang and Nagoya in South Korea.

The Wound (2017)

Eastern Cape, South Africa

This film kicks off with ulwaluko, the ritualistic,
coming-of-age circumcision of a teenage boy in South Africa’s Xhosa
community. Yet at the emotional heart of The Wound (or “Inxeba” in
Xhosa) is a closeted gay romance bewteen protagonist Xolani and
Vija. When the film was released in 2017, members of the cast and
crew received death threats and were forced into hiding, while
screenings in the Eastern Cape were cancelled due to protests and

Paris is Burning (1990)

New York City, US

We don’t like to throw the word iconic about, but this is it.
Seven years in the making, Paris is Burning launches viewers into
Harlem’s ball scene of the 80s, introducing us to “vogueing” and
“shade” as well as the houses – many of them Black or Latinx – that
would go on to influence the worlds of dance, fashion and, most
recently, hit-series Pose. Like this? Watch Pariah (2011), a drama
that probes into Brooklyn’s sex-positive Black lesbian

Pain and Glory (2019)


One of Spain’s most successful filmmakers, Pedro Almadóvar has a
catalogue of movies peppered with gay characters and storylines.
Making its mark on the awards circuit, his most recent flick, Pain
and Glory, starring Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz, follows an
ageing film director who reflects on his life in the face of
chronic illness and creative block.

God’s Own Country (2017)

Yorkshire, UK

The life of Johnny, a young sheep farmer in Yorkshire, is
transformed when he falls in love with Gheorghe, a dark-haired
Romanian migrant worker who’s helping out during lambing season.
Think of it as England’s answer to Brokeback Mountain. It’s a tale
that tugs between tough and tender, much like the rugged, romantic
moors of West Yorkshire – filming took place in Silsden, Haworth
and Otley. If you enjoyed this, venture farther north to rural
Scotland with post-war lesbian drama Tell it to the Bees.

Moonlight (2016)

Liberty City, Miami, US

Moonlight needs little introduction. The first LGBTQ+ film to
win Best Picture at the Academy Awards (yes after that mix-up with
La La Land), it takes us through three life chapters of Chiron, a
Black gay man, as he grows up in one of Miami’s most impoverished

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)

Brittany, France

Céline Sciamma’s simmering lesbian romance ranks among the
best-reviewed movies in recent years. Set on a windswept island in
the 18th century (filming took place in Brittany’s
Saint-Pierre-Quiberon), it charts the love affair between painter
Marianne and her subject, the soon-to-be-married Héloïse. Like
this? Keep your eye out for upcoming Ammonite, which revolves
around a romantic relationship between English palaeontologist Mary
Anning (Kate Winslet) and Charlotte Murchison (Saoirse Ronan) in
19th-century Lyme Regis.

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)

New South Wales and beyond, Australia

Homosexual acts were only deemed legal throughout Australia in
1994, the same year that Stephan Elliott’s The Adventures of
Priscilla, Queen of the Desert followed a lovably flamboyant trio
made up of two drag queens and a trans woman as they kicked up dust
across the outback.

Rafiki (2018)

Nairobi, Kenya

Set against the vibrant hubbub of Nairobi, Rafiki (Swahili for
‘”friend”) puts a positive spin on a romance between two young
women, Kena and Ziki. It would become the first Kenyan film to be
shown at Cannes, but screenings were initially banned in Kenya,
where same-sex acts are considered a criminal offence.

To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar (1995)


If The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert had you
howling, this cult classic about three New York drag queens and
their misadventures on a cross-country road trip to LA will be
right up your street. For a more sultry jaunt across the US, watch
Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara act out Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Price of Salt in the
2016 film adaptation, Carol.

Jonathan (2016)


It would be remiss not to mention Mädchen in Uniform; released
in 1931 it was among the first films to feature a radical lesbian
romance (between a student and teacher, no less) and was
subsequently banned by the Nazi regime. Yet we want to spotlight
the more recent Jonathan for its alternative perspective on the
coming-out narrative. Set in rural Germany – note the gorgeous
scenes by the North Sea – it traces the relationship between
emotionally volatile Jonathan and his dying father, who has kept
his sexuality a secret for decades.

Who’s Gonna Love Me Now? (2016)

London, UK/ Israel

Tackling issues of loneliness, self-esteem and acceptance, this
documentary introduces us to Saar, who’s HIV positive and seeking a
sense of belonging in the London Gay Men’s Chorus. On a trip to
visit his Jewish Orthodox family in Israel, he grapples with
cultural stereotypes as well as his own religious beliefs. Got your
attention? Watch the 2019 documentary Gay Chorus Deep South, in
which the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus tours the American Deep
South in the wake of the 2016 election.

The Summer of Sangailė (2015)


Consider this heady story of first love as the lesbian answer to
Call Me By Your Name, albeit set in Eastern Europe rather than the
rolling hills of Northern Italy. It’s that kind of retro-filtered
portrayal of a summer romance that doesn’t require too much brain
power to watch, but has you head over heels with its hazy,
sun-saturated rendering of rural Lithuania.

Dream Boat (2017)


All aboard for a week-long hedonistic gay cruise from Lisbon to
the Canary Islands. This 2017 documentary centres on five men: a
Palestinian from Belgium, a Dubai-based Indian man, a
wheelchair-user from France, a Polish man from the UK and an
Austrian living with HIV. On their quest for onboard romance, they
dive into issues such as loneliness, body fascism and finding

Viva (2015)

Havana, Cuba

If your idea of drag is death drops on RuPaul’s Drag Race, you
should carve out a little time to watch Viva, an ode to Cuba’s
dazzling underground queer performance scene and the prejudices its
community faces. Is it the most gripping movie ever? Probably not.
Did it make us start lusting after a trip to Havana?

Martyr (2018)


Immersing viewers in the struggles of an impoverished
neighbourhood and its craggy, sun-bleached coast, Martyr revolves
around down-and-out Hassane, who takes a fatal dive into the ocean,
and how his tight-knit group of male friends and family cope with
his death. It’s haunting, heartfelt and frustratingly hopeless, and
a moving image of modern-day Beirut.

Desert Hearts (1985)

Reno, Nevada, US

For too long, lesbian narratives tended to end in tragedy. Enter
Desert Hearts, Donna Deitch’s seminal 80s film adaptation of the
tale of a professor who travels to Reno for a quickie divorce and
falls for a younger woman. Thirty years after its release, it
became the first movie to headline the OutWest Film Fest.

Funeral Parade of Roses (1969)

Tokyo, Japan

A modern Japanese take on the traditional, tragic Oedipus Rex
storyline, this arthouse film (reported to have inspired Stanley
Kubrick’s adaptation of A Clockwork Orange) spirits us to the
underground gay scene of 60s Tokyo. The use of “roses” (or “bara”
in Japanese) in the title is a play on words that has a similar
connotation to “pansy” in English slang.

And Then We Danced (2019)

Tbilisi, Georgia

Since 2014, discrimination based on sexual orientation has been
outlawed in Georgia, but social attitudes towards the LGBTQ+
community remain conservative; the city’s first official Pride
march, organised for June 2019, was cancelled because of threats of
violence from the far right. It’s against this backdrop that And
Then We Danced, the story of a secret love affair between two male
dancers, was released. It received a 15-minute standing ovation at
the Cannes Film Festival; in Tbilisi, violent protests broke out
during the screening.

Tangerine (2015)

West Hollywood, California, US

Filmed using an iPhone 5S, this comedy-drama follows trans woman
and sex worker Sin-Dee who, having just finished a 28-day prison
sentence, travels around West Hollywood and Santa Monica Boulevard
on Christmas Eve to confront her cheating boyfriend and pimp. Among
the first major films to cast two Black trans actresses in leading
roles, Tangerine offers a glimpse into LA’s trans street culture
that’s rarely captured. If you’re a fan of this try Mala Mala, a
documentary exposing the struggles of trans sex workers in Puerto

Happy Together (1997)

Hong Kong/ Argentina

This bittersweet romance (the title is ironic, FYI) spirits us
from the urban thrum of Hong Kong to the roar of Iguazú Falls and
Argentina’s vibrant capital of Buenos Aires. Along the way, we
follow boyfriends Leslie Cheung and Tony Leung who are travelling
in one last-ditch attempt to revive a can’t-live-without-you kind
of love.

Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga (2019)

Mumbai, India

Several movies have sought to shed light on the life of India’s queer community including Kapoor & Sons
and, most recently, Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan. Ek Ladki Ko Dekha
Toh Aisa Laga (or “How I Felt When I Saw that Girl”) was the first
mainstream LGBTQ+ movie to be released since the decriminalisation
of homosexual acts in India in 2018. It also marks the first time a
Bollywood romcom has had a lesbian woman as its protagonist.

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