2023 has been blessed with a host of fantastic portrayals of LGBTQ characters and stories in cinema and on streaming. From rom-coms and fantasy to biopics and documentaries, the year has seen tremendous representation, some breaking through into the mainstream.
Just like with our ranking of the best LGBTQ TV shows of 2023, the Attitude team also had a hard time picking just ten films to feature here.
Keep reading to find out the Attitude team’s favourite LGBTQ films which premiered in 2023.
10 – Nyad
This epic biopic tells the story of Diana Nyad, a world-famous swimmer who as well as other achievements, swam the more than 100-mile distance from Cuba to Florida in 2013. She was 64 at the time and it was her fifth attempt.
The film stars Annette Bening as Nyad and Jodie Foster as her friend and coach Bonnie Stoll. Both actresses earned Golden Globe nominations for their work in the film. A slightly controversial story (Nyad’s achievement has its critics and has not been formally ratified) the film tells a tale of the epic endurance and strength of a queer woman who refuses to let go of her dream.
Nyad is streaming on Netflix.
9 – Kokomo City
This unflinching documentary from director and producer D. Smith tells the story of the lives of four Black trans women who work as sex workers in New York City and Manhattan. It’s a tough, frank, and at times difficult watch given its subject matter and the adversity its subjects – Daniella Carter, Koko Da Doll, Liyah Mitchell, as well as Dominique Silver – go through. Sadly Koko lost her life in April.
Searing and provocative, Kokomo City won the Sundance Film Festival’s NEXT Innovator Award and NEXT Audience Award, as well as the Berlinale Panorama Audience Award. It also played at the 2023 BFI Flare LGBTQ Film Festival, where it earned standing ovations for its honest portrayal of the lives of Black trans women.
Kokomo City is available on several platforms including Apple TV+ and Prime Video.
8 – Strange Way of Life
This next entry caused quite a stir this year thanks to its two leading men. Pedro Pascal as well as Ethan Hawke play two cowboys who reunite after 25 years apart in this 30-minute short film from the mind of Pedro Almodóvar.
There’s an underlying level of tension as the two meet and engage in heated exchanges which make way for passionate intimate moments, handled brilliantly by its stars. “You never loved me, you never loved anyone in your life!” Pascal cries at Silva. It’s dramatic and bold, everything we want in a gay Western romance. The film premiered at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival in May.
Strange Way of Life is now available on Apple TV+ and Prime Video.
7 – Our Son
Billy Porter and Luke Evans play gay fathers struggling through a divorce in this emotional flick. Speaking to Attitude separately, Evans likened the film to 1979’s Kramer vs Kramer but “for the gay community,” while Porter described it as “an interracial queer love story.”
A moving portrayal of love, family, and marriage, the drama features outstanding and beautiful performances from its leading men as well as an ensemble cast including Andrew Rannells, Christopher Woodley, Robin Weigert, Kate Burton, and Phylicia Rashad. It also highlights a modern-day LGBTQ relationship for all its flaws.
Our Son is available digitally now.
6 – Saltburn
Barry Keoghan and Jacob Elordi lead this depiction of queer desire, something director Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman) shared with Attitude the film is “undeniably” about. A seemingly fresh-faced Oliver (Keoghan) arrives at Oxford where he then meets the enchanting Felix (Elordi) and becomes obsessed. Invited to Felix’s family estate, Saltburn, Oliver ingrains himself in his friend’s family and then drama ensues.
Featuring some rather graphic scenes that have turned the stomachs of some audiences, the film is brimming with homoeroticism as it explores themes of class and desire. Set in 2006/7 this psychological thriller is a reminder for many of that no-so-long-ago time. With a sublime cast including Rosamund Pike as surely a new queer icon and Robert E. Grant, you can easily “get lost in Saltburn.”
Saltburn is available to stream on Prime Video
5 – Rotting in the Sun
As we wrote in our interview with star Jordan Firstman, Rotting in the Sun will “go down in history for its hilariously casual – and indeed literal – representation of the activity,” meaning gay sex. There’s certainly plenty of it and we celebrate the authentic depictions of gay love as well as the satirical take on filmmaking and social media personalities.
We tried to write a better summary of the film but Firstman did a perfect job in the above interview: “It’s a meta-comedy about a depressed filmmaker who meets an annoying self-obsessed influencer, played by [Firstman]. Through events, they decide to work on a project together. Then one of them goes missing.”
Rotting In the Sun is streaming on Mubi.
4 – Rustin
Colman Domingo stars as the gay civil rights activist and organiser, Bayard Rustin, in this rousing biopic from Netflix. Directed by George C. Wolfe the film tells the gripping story of the man behind the 1964 March on Washington in the Civil Rights Movement. As well as Domingo, the film features amazing performances from the likes of Glynn Turman, Jeffrey Wright, and Audra McDonald.
With executive producers Barack and Michelle Obama supporting it, this film highlights an important figure in history who had an undeniable impact on an entire nation. The LGBTQ film also takes time to linger on Rustin’s identity as a gay man as well as a Black man, an area of representation still growing.
Rustin is available on Netflix.
In contrast to some LGBTQ films such as Rustin, 2023 has also been great for films such as Bottoms. The raunchy queer high-school comedy stars Rachel Sennott and Ayo Edebiri as PJ and Josie who set up a fight club to spark up romance in their lives. Of course, it wouldn’t be a teen-comedy if high school drama and shenanigans didn’t get in the way.
Speaking to Attitude ahead of the film’s theatrical release, creator Emma Seligman said she wanted to see ‘more flawed queer teens on screen and more flawed women of all ages and all sexualities on screen.” Cheers to that! We’re also hoping for more of Bottoms.
Bottoms is streaming on Prime Video.
2 – Red, White, and Royal Blue
Easily one of the films of the summer, Red, White, and Royal Blue captured audiences like few others this year. An adaptation of Casey McQuiston’s LGBTQ novel of the same name, it stars Nicholas Galitzine (also in Bottoms) as Prince Henry and Taylor Zakhar-Perz as Alex Claremont Diaz, the son of President Ellen Claremont. It’s an enemies-to-lovers flick that bounces between the UK and the US as the two men must fake a friendship to smooth over political issues of their own making.
Cheesy and also daft in the best way possible, the film was given an R-rating for its intimate moments. The film was also celebrated upon its release for its realistic portrayal of gay sex of which there were a few steamy scenes. Speaking exclusively to Attitude ahead of the film’s release, director Matthew López said: “Part of me was surprised at the R-rating and part of me wasn’t.” But he maintained that “No one asked me to change the movie in order to get a PG 13 rating. [I] probably wouldn’t if they’d asked so [I’m] glad they didn’t.”
Red, White, and Royal Blue is streaming on Prime Video now.
1 – All of Us Strangers
If you’ve been on social media at all lately, you’ve probably seen something about this next LGBTQ film. While not officially released in the UK until January 2024, All of Us Strangers received its worldwide premiere at the 50th Telluride Film Festival in August and has been a darling of the festival circuit since.
Starring Andrew Scott as the closed-off Adam and Paul Mescal as Adam’s mysterious neighbour Harry, All of Us Strangers tells a story of a gay man haunted by his past and unable to move on with his present and future as a result. While a relationship between Adam and Harry develops Adam is pulled home where he finds the ghosts of his parents, who appear as they did the day they died 30 years earlier. It has received glowing reviews across the board with particular praise for its leading men as well as their chemistry. It also stars Claire Foy and Jamie Bell.
All of Us Strangers is released in UK cinemas on 26 January 2024