There’s been a lot of talk about the film Love, Simon recently. If you’ve been living under a rock, Love, Simon is a story of a closeted teenage boy who exchanges anonymous emails with another closeted teenage boy at his school. It’s heartwarming and lovely and everything that moviegoers just love to cry at.
It’s great that a film with a gay protagonist has created this much support and this much conversation. The problem is that there’s something fundamentally wrong with the conversation we’re having. In the marketing of this film – and the numerous think-pieces written about it – you’d be forgiven for thinking that this was the first film about LGBTQ+ teens to have existed, ever. And it’s not. Not even close. Yes, Love, Simon is a step forward as it is *takes a deep breath* the first LGBTQ+ teen romcom released by a major studio, but that’s quite a niche accolade. It’s important and great and it’s a good thing it exists, but it’s not as groundbreaking as the hype would have you believe.
And that’s a good thing! It’s great that there are loads of LGBTQ+ teen films out there already; it’s just important that, when talking about the progress we are making with Love, Simon, we don’t ignore them. For one thing, it erases the queer filmmakers who have been doing the work and creating these stories for decades, when big studios wouldn’t have dreamed of picking them up. For another, if LGBTQ+ teens are hearing that this is the only LGBTQ+ film for them that’s ever been made, then they’re potentially not going to look out for other media sources that will resonate more, or give them something else they need (Simon is, gay or not, an upper-middle class, white, cisgender, masculine-presenting man, and his story will not necessarily be the same as a straight trans teen or a gay teen of colour, etc).
We need more diverse stories, and it is a good thing that a major distributor picked up a story about a gay teenager. However, this is just one tiny piece of an enormous patch of culture. We need more people, LGBTQ+ or otherwise, to watch queer stories. We need them to become just as valid and celebrated as stories about cisgender straight people. So, if you liked Love, Simon, why not watch one of the many LGBTQ+ teen films that already exist? To help you get started, I’ve put together a list of 62 films specifically about LGBTQ+ teenagers and young people. As well as romcoms, there are raucous comedies, sweet romances, indie dramas, even a horror or two. Basically, if you like films, there’ll be at least something here for you.
If you’re looking for a sweet love story
1 The Way He Looks
Brazilian film based on a fantastic short of the same name. It tells the story of a blind gay teenager who falls for the new boy at school, much to the frustration of his best friend. It is tender, warm, romantic and everything you’d want from a love story.
2 Princess Cyd
A teen girl goes to visit her aunt for the summer and starts a relationship with a cute barista. Although this is technically a “coming-out movie”, Cyd discovering her sexuality isn’t a traumatic or fraught process – which is brilliantly refreshing. Sometimes, it feels hard to find a teenage girl who isn’t written as a bitchy popular girl or verbose adult in an adolescent body, but Princess Cyd finds a perfect balance to create a central character who is messy and complex and real.
When a young man puts aside his art-school dreams to look after his nephew, it seems like his life will be consumed by his role as a guardian. However, when a friend’s brother comes back to town, a romance blossoms between the two and an unlikely family begins.
If you’re looking for something to cry to
Did everyone just forget about this? A coming-of-age drama which won an Oscar for Best Film, this is a work of art which explores race, masculinity and the struggle to find your own identity.
If you’re looking for something to laugh to
5 Handsome Devil
A comedy about a boy at an Irish boarding school who is forced to share a room with a lad on the rugby team. It’s a classic take on the unlikely friendship trope, and has the elusive inclusion of both teen and adult gay characters in the lead and supporting roles.
6 Get Real
Chock full of gay-film tropes (many of which it probably started in the first place), this classic 90s comedy includes closeted-jock love interests and cruising spots as part of the furniture. Underneath it all, however, is a very real demonstration of how damaging the closet can be.
7 But I’m A Cheerleader
Cult comedy film about a cheerleader who goes to gay conversion therapy. It stars Natasha Lyonne (of Orange Is The New Black fame) and Clea Duvall as the central couple, and has cemented them as queer icons ever since.
If you’re looking for something that’s trashy (in the best possible way)
8 Geography Club
Teens in an American high school start a Geography Club as cover for an LGBTQ+ society because, they reason, no one would actually want to join a Geography Club, so their secret will be safe! But, do they really want to keep it a secret when other students in the school might need it, too?
This bright and colourful teen comedy centres around the problematic idea of the “gay best friend”, and the way it dehumanises the boys assigned the label. Expect classic teen tropes like queen bees, make-overs and a finale at prom.
10 Another Gay Movie
An outrageous romcom about four gay friends who vow to lose their virginity before going to college at the end of the summer. This is the ultimate campy and raunchy gay movie.
If you’re looking for a cult classic
11 My Own Private Idaho
An absolute cult classic among queer audiences, this is loosely based on Shakespeare’s Henry VI and V, and stars River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves. It follows the lives of two teen hustlers, Mike and Scott, as they travel across America and to Italy in search of Mike’s mother.
12 The Incredibly True Adventure Of Two Girls In Love
Two very different high-school girls (a tomboy with bad grades, and a popular and wealthy only child) fall in love in an intolerant town.
13 Beautiful Thing
Originally only made for TV, this film was so popular that it was later released in cinemas. The ending of this movie about two boys growing up on a council estate in south London will make you melt every time.
If you’re looking for something hard-hitting
14 My Brother The Devil
This crime drama tells the story of two sons of Egyptian immigrants coming of age in east London. One brother begins to explore his sexuality while trying to leave the life of gang violence they are enmeshed in.
15 Dream Boy
A Southern Gothic drama following two teenage boys who fall in love in the rural South in the 1970s. Based on a novel of the same name, the film deals with issues including abuse, assault and violence.
16 Mysterious Skin
Two boys – one a street hustler and the other obsessed with alien abductions – find each other while searching for answers about their past. This is a seriously heavy film that deals with dark themes, but the script and performances are stunning.
17 Boys Don’t Cry
Based on the tragic true story of Brandon Teena, a trans man who was murdered in 1993, this devastating film explores themes of gender, class and violence.
If you’re looking for an award-winner
A coming-of-age film by Dee Rees, full of first love and poetry, about an African-American teenage girl embracing her lesbian identity. It centres queer friendship, which is so often ignored in favour of the “only gay in the village” trope, and found family.
19 Naz & Maalik
Two closeted Muslim teens living in Brooklyn struggle to conceal their secretive relationship – while the tension between them attracts the unwanted suspicion of an FBI agent.
If you want something feel good
Pride is one of of my favourite movies – I pretty much go through the entire range of human emotions while watching it, and cry every time (mostly from sheer joy). It tells the real-life story of LGSM (Lesbians and Gays Support The Miners), who raised and donated money to striking mining families in Wales. It’s a classic tale of unlikely friendship and solidarity, and will make you absolutely rejoice at the human capacity for love and compassion.
21 Leave It On The Floor
A “supersized musical” about a gay boy who finds his chosen family in the LA ballroom world after leaving an unwelcoming home. If you think the “ballroom world” refers to what they do on Strictly Come Dancing, I’d also urge you to watch the documentary Paris Is Burning to find out about this amazing subsection of LGBTQ+ culture.
If you’re looking for something experimental
22 Totally F***ed Up
A film following six queer teens. The filmmaker himself described it as “kinda twisted cross between avant-garde experimental cinema and a queer John Hughes flick”, so prepare for a wild ride!
23 Were The World Mine
What is it with LGBTQ+ people and Shakespeare? Maybe it’s the genderbending, the high drama and the iconic love stories that we want to make our own? Were The World Mine channels A Midsummer Night's Dream, as a gay teen uses a magic flower to turn everyone in a homophobic town gay.
If you’re looking for a foreign-language film
24 Summer Storm
Taking place during a week of training for a rowing competition (I know), a team of boys is disappointed when the team of girls they were supposed to be camping with is replaced by a gay youth rowing team. However, the proximity to such out and proud peers forces one rower to think about his own sexuality.
Wealthy Iranian siblings go down two opposing paths as the daughter begins a lesbian relationship and the son is drawn to religious fundamentalism.
If you're looking for a genre film
Norwegian supernatural drama about a girl with repressed telekinetic powers, which are triggered when she falls in love with a female classmate.
An action comedy parodying Charlie’s Angels that is complicated by a romance between one of the heroes and the villain, who are both women. It is a seriously wild and campy ride.
If you’re looking for trans and intersex representation
28 Boy Meets Girl
One of the very few films about young LGBTQ+ people that represents the trans part of that acronym – in both the lead character and the actress who plays her – Boy Meets Girl is a romantic-comedy drama about a young trans woman looking for love while pursuing her dream of being a fashion designer.
The story of an intersex teenager from Argentina that explores the assumptions and roles we place on gender and sexuality, and how breaking free of that binary can be a liberating truth.
30 Gun Hill Road
A man returns home after three years in prison and finds out his child is a trans woman in the process of coming out and transitioning.
And here are plenty more to look up and love
33 Show Me Love
36 All Over Me
42 Yes Or No
43 Love Of Siam
48 Young & Wild
49 Being 17
51 Beach Rats
53 The Wound
56 Fair Haven
60 Freak Show