10 movies you can stream today that’ll bring a tear to your eye for a thousand reasons.
Last week touched on some great uplifting movies for pride season, but of course, this month also commemorates the decades of struggle, turmoil and sacrifice faced by those who battled for equality. With that in mind, here are some additional recommendations featuring bittersweet or even downbeat stories that are well worth your time during this or any other month.
Blue is the Warmest Color (2013) (Netflix, Amazon Prime, iTunes)
A big winner at Cannes seven years ago, this romantic epic is, along with the more recent “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” one of the most astonishing lesbian love stories in recent cinematic memory. The American title — which has nothing to do with the original French one — refers to the hair color of breakthrough star Léa Seydoux, who embarks on a life-changing relationship with the more repressed Adèle Exarchopoulos.
Boys Don’t Cry (1999) (Hulu, Amazon Prime, iTunes, Vudu)
Arguably the most important film in trans history, Kimberly Pierce’s harrowing but unforgettable drama spotlights the real-life Brandon Teena, a Nebraska teenager whose first true love coincides with increasing persecution by a handful of locals. Hilary Swank stunned everyone with her award-winning performance, which will break your heart like you won’t believe.
The big studios had tried releasing gay love stories before — most notably with director Arthur Hiller’s “Making Love” — but none broke through like Ang Lee’s instant classic about two young men, Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, whose herding job sparks an enduring romance. Nobody who has ever seen this beautiful and sorrowful tale has ever forgotten it.
The Color Purple (1985) (Vudu, iTunes, Amazon Prime, Philo, YouTube)
Did you know this pioneering Black Hollywood classic also belongs to the LGBTQ canon? A lot of people who hadn’t read Alice Walker’s acclaimed source novel, which is most definitely a lesbian story, didn’t catch on when the movie came out and only featured a romantic kiss, but the same-sex undercurrents are still there. This beloved Steven Spielberg film is still an essential and often troubling depiction of a side of American life not depicted in major studio films at the time. And if anything, it plays even more powerfully today.
Dallas Buyers Club (2013) (iTunes, Amazon Prime, Vudu, Google Play)
Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto gleaned plenty of awards for this remarkable true story about the increasingly dangerous and high-stakes methods taken by Ron Woodroof as he set up an AIDS buyers club in Texas to acquire and sell medications, circumventing FDA restrictions in the ’80s. An emotional whirlwind, this movie is a reminder that great progress often has to be forged by force.
Happy Together (1997) (The Criterion Channel, Kanopy)
Proving gay couples can be just as dysfunctional as any other, this visually breathtaking drama from the great Wong Kar-wai depicts a couple — played by Hong Kong heartthrobs Leslie Cheung and Tony Leung — trying to salvage their relationship with a trip to Buenos Aires. Highly controversial at the time, the film has since earned its place as one of the director’s best works and as a key entry in international gay cinema.
A Single Man (2009) (Netflix, iTunes, Vudu, Amazon Prime, Google Play)
Colin Firth delivered one of the greatest performances of his career in this striking dramatic gem in which he plays a professor whose lover has just died. Set in L.A. during the early ’60s, “A Single Man” is a pitch-perfect directorial feature debut from none other than fashion designer Tom Ford, who followed this up with the far more unorthodox “Nocturnal Animals.”
The first significant theatrical release shot entirely on iPhones, this Hollywood-based tragicomic indie charts the daily life of Sin-Dee Rella, played by trans actress Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, who walks back into a very turbulent life out of prison. A sympathetic look at the mundane side of the sex trade profession, this film is also a sharp, well-acted character study with more than its share of humor as well.
The Times of Harvey Milk (1984) (HBO Max, iTunes, Amazon Prime, Vudu, YouTube)
Long before Sean Penn won his second Oscar for his depiction of Harvey Milk in Gus Van Sant’s “Milk,” audiences met the real-life gay political trailblazer in this powerful documentary by Rob Epstein — which ended up winning an Oscar for best documentary feature. As the first openly gay public official in California’s history, Milk has since become a major historical figure and a key name in modern civil rights.
Victim (1961) (HBO Max, iTunes, Amazon Prime)
One of the few films to incite actual societal changes, this barrier-breaking British thriller earned more than its share of controversy for the casting of matinee idol Dirk Bogarde as a closeted barrister grappling with a ring of blackmailers at the risk of being outed. A watershed release in many ways, this film played a significant role in changing the public’s perception and ending the government persecution of homosexual people.