Who wants to watch an out and proud German rowing team half-naked for 98 minutes? You? Seven great gay films you’ve probably never heard of
So you’ve seen Brokeback Mountain 27 times, but your appetite for seeing some man-on-man action not necessarily housed on Xtube is still yet to be satiated? Well, pull out the popcorn and put an evening aside, for there is a largely unknown trove of gay movies out there ready for your viewing pleasure.
Here are seven lesser-known gay films to titillate your senses and give you a few nights off from the Hollywood machine.
1. Beautiful Thing, 1996
Incredibly ahead of its time, this British coming of age film is set in working class London and tells the story of Jamie and Ste, two teenage classmates and neighbours who, after a few awkward sleepovers quickly discover theirs is a connection that is far from platonic. The ensuing adolescent love affair is adorable, but restrained enough to steer clear of the cringe worthy sop so often pumped out in the teen romcom genre.
2. Stranger by the Lake (l’Inconnu du Lac), 2013
A French murder mystery set on a gay nudist beach is a winning combination and leaves little to the imagination. Stranger by the Lake is as gripping and suspenseful as it is provocative and explicit. The vintage porn star look of the antagonist makes for good eye candy and was intentional, no doubt, to appeal to the broader gay dollar beyond the art house-circuit.
3. Far from Heaven, 2002
Proving mainstream Hollywood had its finger in the rainbow pie pre Jake Gyllenhaal playing a seemingly self-lubricating power bottom (word to the wise, even if you’re on PrEP, always use lube, and if you’re not, condoms and lube will make for a much safer screw than just impaling straight in!), Far from Heaven is an aesthetic delight starring Julianne Moore and Dennis Quaid as Cathy and Raymond – the perfect 1950s couple living in wealthy Connecticut in their perfect white gabled house with their two perfect children.
It’s soon apparent Raymond is getting some toy boy action on the side though, which subsequently leads to a failed attempt at conversion therapy when he’s found out. The cinematography is beautiful and shot in a style deliberately imitating that of 1950s cinema, and the taboo themes of the era are approached respectfully and with style.
4. Boys (Jongens), 2014
This coming-of-age love story would seem a rather easy ride to self-discovery and sexual identity in the grand scheme of gay cinema were it not for the fact it takes place in the Netherlands, arguably the most LGBTI rights-progressive nation in the world. Teenagers Sieger and Marc meet at their local athletics club, and after their first kiss in a romantic and secluded river, their journey to self-acceptance isn’t without confusion and even a few episodes of internalised-homophobia.
What’s refreshing though is the notable absence of homophobia surrounding the two boys in their familial and social milieus. They are able to discover and accept their sexualities without external prejudice, if only this were the norm rather than the exception in every gay teenager’s story.
5. The Sum of Us, 1994
Believe it or not, in the same year Australia reached the peak in its AIDS epidemic and arguably the peak in a new wave of AIDS-related mass homophobia, Russell Crowe starred as a young gay man in a delightful film on his adopted home shore called The Sum of Us. Jeff (Crowe) lives with his father Harry (Jack Thompson), who is completely comfortable with and supportive of his son’s sexuality. The two men are both searching for love when tragedy strikes their family unit; their close father-son bond though sees them overcome adversity.
Apart from being a great piece of Australian cinema, it’s refreshing to see such a positive relationship between an openly gay son and his straight father depicted in 1994. It was a commercial success too.
6. Summer Storm (Sommersturm), 2004
A co-ed teen German rowing team goes on training camp for a week and the boys eagerly await another – all-female – team from Berlin. Without explanation, the Berliner girls decide to dog the extended sojourn. In any case, the “Queerstrokes”, a gay adolescent rowing team arrive in their place. And so the rowing camp quickly turns camp as Christmas, this is one rowing movie that gives good stroke.
7. Lilting, 2014
This beautiful cross-cultural tale tells of a Cambodian mother in London grieving the loss of her son. She meets his lover of four years, Richard, and while the two do not share a language, they bond in shared grief. Richard is played by Ben Whishaw, better known for his role as the new Q in James Bond movies,as Sebastian in Brideshead Revisited and as Danny, the unsuspecting lover of Alex, an MI6 spy in London Spy.
Five other great gay movies you may not know about