Trembling Before G-d (2001)
While much is written about homosexuality and religion, little of it focuses on gays and lesbians trying to reconcile their faith with their sexuality. It’s what makes the documentary Trembling Before G-d all the more interesting, as not only does it look at this subject, but it manages to do it through the eyes of the normally relatively closed off world (to most people anyway) of Orthodox Jews. Often shot covertly because most participants were terrified of their community finding out about them, it’s a fascinating documentary look at a range of people, some of whom have almost completely shed their former orthodox lives, while other continue to try to live within the rules of the religion, even marrying when they know they’re living a lie.
Another Gay Movie (2006)
Although by no means a masterpiece, this one’s worth including purely because amongst the raft of gay rom-coms, dramas and comedies, this one tried something a little different, which was to take the American Pie style of film, gay it up, spoof it and take it to the extreme. The result is a bizarre mix of gross-out comedy, sex and silliness, about four gay teens desperate to lose their virginity, which is refreshing for just how unabashed it is. It certainly succeeded as it’s since spawned a sequel. Oh and if you want to see Graham Norton shitting on a glass table, this is the film for you!
Although it can’t be considered a massive hit, Weekend is one of the few British gay arthouse movies to really found a foothold with audiences. It’s also been suggested it shows a maturing of gay cinema and that perhaps the subgenre is growing up. While most LGBT films have been about issues of identity – coming out, dealing with homophobia, being gay in a predominantly straight society – Weekend focusses on the end result of all that, so that it’ two characters who find one another flirt and have sex over a single weekend aren’t dealing with identity, they’re just dealing with life, with gay life and culture as a backdrop to that. It’s surprisingly unusual and very well conceived, so that everything feels incredibly real. Whether it does show a maturing of gay films is yet to be seen though.
Eating Out 1-5 (2004-2011)
I’ve included the Eating Out movie not because they’re particularly amazing (although they’re a lot of fun), but because they show the immense growth of gay cinema over the last few years. In the 1990s the idea that you could make a quintet of movies that solely courted a gay audience would have been seen as laughable. However 2004’s rom-com Eating Out, about a straight guy who ends up dating a gay guy in an effort to get to his female friend (which isn’t as creepy as it sounds), led to sequel a couple of years later. Part three – which saw an almost complete cast change – came in 2009, before we got Eating Out 4 & 5 in 2011. The sexy, funny movies have proven extremely profitable, proving that gay cinema can be financially successful, although like mainstream entertainment, it helps if its got a very commercial tone.
A version of this article previously appeared on MovieMuser.co.uk