One of the biggest takeaways from Filmland in 2018 was just how much of a great year it was for LGBTQ+ cinema. After all, 2018 will go down in history as the year Love, Simon — the first studio teen comedy to be told from a queer point of view — was released. Not only was Love, Simon one of the year’s best movies, it was also a massive cultural moment that transcended cinema by inspiring countless young people around the world to come out for the first time and embrace who they are. This is a prime example of the power of movies and why stories that promote representation and inclusion are important
Of course, there were several great LGBTQ+ movies last year spanning several genres and portraying a diverse range of themes, characters, and stories. And the trend looks to be continuing this year, with a number of upcoming releases that could make 2019 a monumental year for LGBTQ+ cinema in its own right. Here’s hoping that more than one captures the social imagination the same way Love, Simon did.
With this in mind, I’ve compiled a list of 17 movies that are worth keeping an eye out for. This list also includes everything from rom-coms to slashers, once again showing that LGBTQ+ movies come in various forms and encompass a nice range of styles. By the end of the year, I hope there have been more than 17 great movies that fit the criteria, but for now here’s a bunch that look interesting that we can all look forward to.
Anatol Schuster’s coming-of-age tale is described by IMDB as “a cinematic poem on the freedom of love and the purity of the heart.” That sounds pretty beautiful, deep and moving. In this one, we meet two teenage girls, Manja (Paula Hüttisch) and Louk (Lara Feith), as they evade hunters, overcome grief, and embark on a curious, romantic journey together. Release Date: TBD.
Inspired by the life of fossil hunter Mary Anning, who’s been credited for making key scientific discoveries in the Jurassic marine fossil beds in the English Channel, Ammonite stars Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan as a pair of women who develop an intense relationship upon meeting. The movie is also being directed by Francis Lee, who garnered critical acclaim for the gay romance drama God’s Own Country. Release Date: TBD.
Here we have a literary adaptation based on Sofi Oksanen’s novel of the same title. Directed by Katja Gauriloff, Baby Janes follows the eponymous character (Roosa Söderholm) and her lover, Piki (Maria Ylipää), as they explore their passion for each other after meeting at a gay bar.
This movie will likely be high on the radar of our own Meg Shields, who’s written extensively about nuns for this very website in the past. Based on the real-life events depicted in Judith C. Brown’s book Immodest Acts, Paul Verhoeven’s next opus is about a nun (Virginie Efira) in 17th-century Italy who experiences disturbing religious and erotic visions. When fellow nun Bartolomea Crivelli (Daphne Patakia) tries to help her deal with her troubles, a romantic relationship develops between the sisters. Release Date: TBD.
Inspired by the true story of Nora Monsecour, a transgender female dancer from Belgium, Lukas Dhont’s feature-length debut follows a teenage girl’s journey as she pursues a career as a ballerina. Despite overall positive reviews from critics and audiences following its Cannes premiere last year, Girl has garnered some controversy and criticism because the director and leading star (Victor Polster) aren’t transgender. I suspect similar conversations will arise when the film finally hits our screens. Release Date: January 18th (Netflix).
Clea Duvall looks set to continue the recent trend of rom-coms which focus on representation by directing one of her own. Furthermore, hers will add some festive flavor to the genre. Starring Kristen Stewart, Happiest Season follows a lesbian couple as they prepare for the holiday season and a family get-together. All seems jolly until it’s discovered that one of them hasn’t come out to her conservative family, which poses a problem for her partner’s marriage proposal plans. Lesbians haven’t prominently featured in studio rom-coms, so Happiest Season will mark a welcome breath of fresh air. Release Date: TBD.
After her partner is sent to prison for committing fraud, Chela (Ana Brun) starts driving a taxi in order to cope with her financial woes. She used to be a wealthy heiress to a fortune, but now she’s broke. However, it’s not all doom and gloom as she meets and subsequently develops a bond with a much younger woman (Ana Ivanova), which encourages her to break out of her shell and undergo a midlife personal revolution. The Heiresses won 31 awards during its festival run, so expect director Marcelo Martinessi’s feature-length debut to arrive on a wave of positive buzz. Release Date: Jan. 16.
Knife + Heart
Yann Gonzalez is no stranger to making movies with a strong sexual component. For instance, his previous feature, You and the Night, is an erotic thriller that revolves around orgy enthusiasts. Knife + Heart continues his fascination with sex cultures by rooting its story in the world of 1970s gay porn. In the movie, a killer is on the loose and picking off members of a film production. And while that synopsis sounds dark, in the hands of Gonzalez the movie will undoubtedly be very stylish, quite kinky, and sexually empowering. The film also features an original score by M83, which is worth the price of a ticket alone when the movie finally hits screens sometime this year. Release Date: TBD.
Based on the true story of controversial photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, Ondi Timoner’s biopic stars Matt Smith in the titular role and chronicles the life and career of a man whose work sparked outrage in the ’80s due to its provocative homoerotic nature and portrayals of BDSM culture. Such a figure deserves his own biopic. Release Date: March 1st.
Portrait Of A Lady On Fire
Set in 18th-century France, Celine Sciamma‘s period drama centers around Marianne (Noémie Merlant), a painter who is commissioned to do the wedding portrait of Héloïse (Adèle Haenel), a young lady who has just left a convent and is reluctant to get married. As the pair get to know each other more, intimacy and attraction blossoms. Sciamma is no stranger to lesbian love stories either, having previously helmed 2007’s Water Lilies. Release Date: TBD.
The importance of this film cannot be understated. It’s really quite groundbreaking. Previously banned in its native Kenya — a country where homosexuality is a criminal offense — the film is quite ballsy as it deals with themes considered taboo by the country’s government and sections of society. The premise, however, is far from transgressive. What we have here is a simple drama about two women who find love and solace in each other’s presence. Unfortunately, some cultures look down on natural, consensual relationships, but movies can help shift perceptions and hopefully this is one of many flicks which spark social change down the line. Release Date: April 19th.
Elton John’s biopic doesn’t look like your run-of-the-mill rags to riches story, but that’s what makes it so exciting. Judging by the trailer, the movie appears to be leaning into fantasy territory and it’s all very fascinating. Still, any movie about Elton John should be magical, and Taron Egerton looks like he was born to play the iconic rocker. Furthermore, the real-life singer has given his blessing for his story to be told authentically — warts and all — so don’t expect a sugar-coated career overview here. Do, however, expect some excellent musical numbers. Release Date: May 31th.
The latest from prolific French director Christophe Honore, Sorry Angel is set in ’90s Paris and explores the love story between a hopeful college student and a pessimistic 40-year-old writer who’s been diagnosed with AIDS. Make sure you stock up on tissues for this one, because festival reviews suggest the experience will be emotional. Release Date: February 15th.
Tell It To The Bees
Based on Fiona Shaw’s same-titled novel and directed by Annabel Jankel, this is a period tale of forbidden romance and the subsequent stigmatization from a society that wasn’t comfortable with same-sex relationships. The story follows a single mother (Holliday Grainger) and her child’s doctor (Anna Paquin) as they fall in love in 1950s Britain. Of course, when word of their relationship gets out, they must face the judgment of the local townsfolk, who aren’t exactly what you’d call open-minded. Release Date: TBD.
Vita and Virginia
Adapted from Eileen Atkins’ 1992 play of the same name, Chanya Button’s drama tells the story of the real-life love affair between socialite Vita Sackville-West (Gemma Arterton) and iconic author Virginia Woolf (Elizabeth Debicki). The pair’s relationship also inspired Woolf’s Orlando, which is widely regarded as a feminist classic in literature circles. Therefore, I have no doubt in my mind that this movie could be one of the year’s best romantic romps if it lives up to the love story that inspired its creation. Release Date: TBD.
What If It’s Us
Love, Simon was a revolutionary movie presented as a crowd-pleasing romantic comedy. The film also opened the door for similar movies to follow suit and conquer Hollywood. And what better way to keep this momentum going than by making another movie based on a book that was co-penned by Becky Albertalli, the author who wrote the novel that Love, Simon was adapted from? What If It’s Us is another upbeat story about two teenage boys who fall in love, and we need more movies that present same-sex relationships in a sweet-natured light. Release Date: TBD.
Wild Nights With Emily
In addition to her unparalleled legacy as an influential poet, it is also believed that Emily Dickinson was a recluse. In this reimagined dramatization of her life, though, she’s an outgoing lesbian who embarked on a love affair with her sister-in-law. Sure, maybe the “facts” here are questionable at best, but Madeleine Olnek’s upcoming comedy does sound quite entertaining. Molly Shannon stars as the famous poet and alleged homewrecker, while Amy Seimetz plays her lover. Release Date: TBD.