LGBTQIA+ movies have a history of being dark and often deprived of happy endings. While the community has undergone (and continues to undergo) deeply entrenched struggle and pain, there’s no reason why the joy of LGBTQIA+ love shouldn’t be represented on screen as well. These 7 films don’t put all the focus on heavy themes common in LGBTQIA+ films, nor do they fetishize queer love to cater to heterosexual audiences. Instead, they portray relationships for all that they are: raw, emotional, sometimes ridiculously funny, and simply full of love. Grab the popcorn and hit the lights!
1. D.E.B.S. (2004)
A secret agent falls in love with the notorious bandit she is ordered to pursue. Hilarious, cheesy and charming, this is definitely a feel-good movie that will have you rooting for the unlikely duo from the get-go.
2. Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)
At the turn of the 18th century, a painter named Marianne arrives on a remote island off the coast of France to paint the portrait of Héloïse, a young woman who has just left the convent to be married. Héloïse is a reluctant bride and refuses to be painted, so Marianne must observe and paint her in secret. The love that develops between the two is deep, moving, and profoundly powerful.
3. The Way He Looks (2014)
Independence weighs heavily on the mind of Leo, a blind teenager who lives in São Paulo. He considers joining a transfer program overseas, but his life is suddenly turned upside down by Gabriel, a new boy in class whose affection for Leo is undeniable.
4. The Birdcage (1996)
In this laugh-out-loud comedy, a gay cabaret owner (played by none other than Robin Williams) and his partner (a fierce and flamboyant drag queen) pretend to be a straight couple so their son can introduce them to his fiancée's conservative parents.
5. Romeos (2011)
Lukas, a 20-year old transitioning from male to female, is introduced to the gay scene in Cologne by his best friend, Ine. As he becomes more interested in Max, things become more complicated than they seem.
6. Kiss Me (2011)
Mia Sundström is set to be married to her fiancé, but her attraction to her soon-to-be stepmother’s daughter, Frida, puts a bit of a wrench in her plans. After a steamy night together on a weekend getaway, Mia and Frida must go their separate ways — but it’s up to them if they will sacrifice everything they have to rekindle their bond.
7. Ponyboi (2019)
Ponyboi is the first narrative film by and starring an out intersex individual. Ponyboi is an intersex sex worker looking for love and to escape from his unfulfilling life in New Jersey. When the man of his dreams (literally) visits him one night, Ponyboi discovers his self-worth. The film is only 19 minutes long, and it does touch on the struggle associated with seeking a life unbound by societal binaries, but it’s well worth the watch.
8. Center of My World (2016)
Phil returns to high school after summer, navigating the ups and downs of life as a teenager — family issues, friendship dramas, and intense love affairs. As his friend and family issues intensify, so does his relationship with his classmate Nicholas, which leaves him wondering how Nicholas really feels about him.
9. How I Felt When I Saw That Girl (2019)
In this Bollywood dramedy, Sweety Chaudhary meets Kuhu, a woman whose original intent is to introduce Sweety to her brother. The plan is quickly cast aside when it becomes clear that Sweety and Kuhu are drawn to each other. While the movie largely centers around Sahil, a failing playwright who tries to win Sweety’s affections, and discusses some hardships surrounding Sweety’s coming out, it’s Bollywood’s first attempt at portraying happy LGBTQIA+ love on screen — complete with the classic, song-filled happy ending. .
10. A Fantastic Woman (2017)
This movie does get heavy, but A Fantastic Woman chronicles the love between Marina Vidal, a transgender woman (played by trans actress Daniela Vega) and her older partner, Orlando. After Orlando’s sudden death, Marina must come to terms with her grief and Orlando’s unaccepting family.