There’s no doubt that the Black gay influence on Film & TV spans decades. But our stories are often subplots or rarely seen on the big screen. While we begin to make strides in visibility, we felt now was a good time to provide a curated list of must-see Black gay movies.
While this list of black gay movies isn’t all-encompassing, it is our hope that you’ll discover a new gem or two, all the while remembering those iconic moments brought to you by the hands of some fantastic Black LGBT creators.
The Skinny (2012)
Writer/Director: Patrik-Ian Polk
“The Skinny” focuses on a group of affluent Black LGBT friends who reunite ahead of New York’s annual pride. What this movie does so boldly is catered to its target audience: Black gay men. It’s unapologetic in its narrative, dialogue, and themes. Polk’s cinematography allows us to be fully seen and ensures our stories are being told authentically. There’s love, there’s heartache, there’s sex, and there’s all the chaos that comes in our friendship groups. But what matters most is that we can see this type of story be told from the pen and eyes of a queer Black creator who has pushed the narrative in the Black gay movie space since he’s been in the industry.
Writer: Tarell Alvin McCraney
The critically acclaimed movie “Moonlight” shifted how Black gay movies are received. With the master director, Barry Jenkins, at the helm and co-writing this film, this coming-of-age story shows the many stages at which a young boy finds his place in the world. This movie is not only shot beautifully but there’s a fragility that’s taken with the story that elevates the heart and attachment to its central characters. I remember watching this movie and sinking deep into my seat, eyes watering. It was the first time I felt like a young, Black, gay boy was on the big screen enduring the complex journeys I, too, faced while figuring life out. So, grab some popcorn and tissue and prepare for a magical journey that’s sure to leave you fully satisfied.
Naz & Maalik (2015)
Writer/Director: Jay Dockendorf
Hungry to find a movie one evening, I stumbled across the gem that is “Naz & Maalik”. This Black gay romantic movie follows two Muslim men living their life in New York. Their budding romance intersects with religious themes, bringing chaos, drama, and uncertainty into their bond. For me, it was the smooth ways in which they existed day-to-day that resonated most. While finding the perfect moments to steal together and fall into deeply intimate and authentic moments. It’s a Black gay love story thrust forward on the strength of connection and friendship, which, for so many queer men, is almost a rite of passage as we figure this thing called life out.
Tongues United (1989)
Director: Marlon Riggs
One of the most intentional and realistic depictions of the Black gay man and his existence is captured in “Tongues Untied.” Falling in just short of an hour, this documentary, which poetically summarizes, sometimes in silence, how we as Black gay men attempt to fit into a structure that aims to isolate us. While the conversations may not strike you as new, the imagery combined with the directness at which we’re seen is worth the journey, even in documentary form. This is a pivotal Black gay movie everyone should see.
Paris is Burning (1990)
Director: Jennie Livingston
One of the most iconic entries on this list is the fan-favourite, “Paris is Burning.” For many of us, this was the first time we were introduced to the ballroom culture. This documentary eloquently gives a voice to Black and Hispanic members of our communities, celebrating the contribution to shade, tea spilling, and fierceness that still resonates today. It also gives us insight into a community of people who knew what it meant to have chosen family. A great, fun, safe time, all the while leaning into the things that make us different, being our biggest strength in life.
Holiday Heart (2000)
Director: Robert Townsend
One of the warmest, heart-tugging Black gay mobies you’ll come across on this list is “Holiday Heart.” A fan favourite for sure, this movie follows a drag queen who takes in a struggling mom and her daughter. Things go left when the mom’s drug addiction gets the best of her, all the while leaving her elementary-aged daughter’s stability and future in question. What makes this movie so magical is that it’s all about community and rallying in the name of love. And sure, sexuality is a part of the story, but the strength and love, even when at their lowest, rises and makes this movie a must-see.
Writer/Director: Patrik-Ian Polk
Set against the church’s strict confines, “Blackbird” is a coming-of-age story about a young man on the cusp of adulthood who fights against the expectations of his family and the innate desires of his heart. Rooted in generational religion, this movie may be triggering for those who haven’t had that spiritual reckoning yet. But it’s necessary. The central themes of identity will forever resonate in our community. Still, often, we become who people expect us to be, not who we want to be. Black gay movies like these remind us all, there’s still work to do, especially as we reconcile religion and identity.
Brother to Brother (2004)
Writer/Director: Rodney Evans
While period pieces aren’t my thing, “Brother to Brother” strikes a different chord for me. With the 1920s creative explosion as a plot device, this movie follows a Black gay writer who has been put out of his home due to his sexuality in modern times. Things are significantly heightened when you throw in a white love interest for our main character. This movie beautifully allows the wisdom of generations before to intersect with modern-day themes. There are unforgettable moments where we enjoy the reflections of pivotal friendships from some of Black history’s finest contributors. It really reminds us all that we’re in this thing together. The things that mattered a century ago are still similar fights we experience today and are an important element to Black gay movies.
I Am Not Your Negro (2016)
Writer: James Baldwin/Chris Bergoch
You had me at James Baldwin. The documentary “I Am Not Your Negro,” may have been released in recent years, but the original inspiration is by the iconic literary figure, James Baldwin, based on an unfinished manuscript. Fewer people have led such bold lives as Baldwin, so it was only fitting to celebrate his voice by referencing this documentary. With moving narration and real-time references, we’re able to recount a time in history with central Black figures from the depth that is James Baldwin. Coming in just under two hours, be prepared to experience a recount of some of the most pivotal moments in race relations, all the while being reminded that, while time has passed, we’ve still got so far to go.
Co-Writer/Director: Sean Baker
One of the funniest Black gay movies on this list, “Tangerine,” is an endearing look at the other side of sex-work: the love story. After finishing her jail sentence, a trans sex worker learns that her boyfriend, who is also her pimp, has been not only cheating but with a cis-gendered woman. She goes on a quest to confront them, all the while hoping she’s done in time to support her friend at a performance. And while this isn’t necessarily groundbreaking cinematography, what we do get with this movie is an honest look, through comedy and some of the most interesting circumstances, of a story that deserves to be heard.
Are there any black gay movies we’ve missed from our list? Is your absolute favourite US-based flick not included in our rundown of the best in this category? Let us know in the comments below. Include a paragraph or two to say why this black gay movie is in your must-see top ten, and we’ll even add it to our list.
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