We may not have had a film as insightful or impactful as Moonlight this year, but a few gay films in 2017 came close.
While there’s always room to grow with regards to the diverse representation of gay men in film, let’s take a moment to praise some of this year’s films that have had a meaningful impact on gays and the larger LGBTQ community as a whole.
Here they are, our 10 favorite gay films of 2017, presented in alphabetical order:
1. After Louie
The story of After Louie focuses on an artist and former AIDS activist (Alan Cumming) who is disillusioned with the world around him until he develops an unexpected relationship with a younger man. While not the most subtle at times, the film nevertheless shows some of the intergenerational differences between gay men who grew up during the AIDS epidemic and those who came of age in the time of PrEP and gay apps.
2. Beach Rats
This indie film is a coming-of-age drama set in Brooklyn’s South Shore neighborhoods. The movie is shot beautifully, and there are a number of scenes where you can’t help but feel the pain of Frankie (Harris Dickinson). Making the film different, Frankie’s confusion extends far beyond his ‘coming out’ process. As many queer people know, coming out as gay, bi or trans is just the beginning of a lifelong sexual identity journey.
3. BPM (Beats Per Minute)
BPM (Beats Per Minute) is a French drama directed by Robin Campillo. It’s set in France during the 1990s, drawing from Campillo’s and co-screenwriter Philippe Mangeot’s personal experiences during the AIDS epidemic. The film premiered at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, where it won critical acclaim and multiple awards, including the Queer Palm, which Hornet sponsored.
4. Call Me By Your Name
Timothée Chalamet’s performance as Elio, a 17-year-old who falls for an older man (Armie Hammer), is raw, realistic and beautiful. (While Hammer may be getting most of the press, Chalamet is undoubtedly the film’s star.) It’s been buzzed about since Sundance and recently received three Golden Globes noms, and its final scene — in which Chalamet stares into a fire — evokes a myriad of conflicting emotions and is one of the most beautiful, heart-wrenching moments among the year’s gay films.
5. Freak Show
Here’s a film with an empowering message: wave your freak flag proudly. The film stars Alex Lawther as Billy Bloom, whose all-around fabulousness doesn’t wow his new peers once he’s transplanted to a Southern red state. But being the courageous young man that he is, Billy decides to take a stand by running for homecoming queen at his new school. The film is based on a novel of the same name by James St. James, whose Disco Bloodbath was famously turned into beloved New York club kids murder drama Party Monster.
6. God’s Own Country
With a whopping 99% on Rotten Tomatoes, God’s Own Country is a must-see, receiving nothing but acclaim from reviewers. Johnny Saxby (Josh O’Connor) works long hours on the remote Yorkshire family farm, quelling his pain with drinking and casual gay sex. Then a Romanian migrant worker (Alec Secareanu) arrives to pitch in on the farm. The two fall for each other, though Johnny is unsure how to handle the highs and lows that come from a real, emotional relationship. The film has been heavily compared to Brokeback Mountain, though as we previously remarked, it “travels a significantly different and more wildly erotic path.”
7. The Shape of Water
While it’s a bit of a stretch to call Guillermo del Toro’s latest a “gay film,” The Shape of Water is a gorgeously shot, fantastical work that (perhaps heavy-handedly) tackles the concept of ‘otherness.’ The film, which we referred to as “a whimsical love story that doubles as a ‘f*ck you’ to Trump supporters,” is — like most of the director’s work — a fable, this one recalling Beauty and the Beast albeit with a touch of spy thriller intrigue. Supporting actor Richard Jenkins has received deserved buzz for his portrayal of protagonist Elisa’s gay next-door neighbor.
8. Susanne Bartsch: On Top
On Top documents the life of the New York nightlife empress and was the opening night film of this year’s NewFest, NYC’s annual presentation of acclaimed gay films. The doc illustrates how the city’s gay nightlife scene isn’t simply fun for queer folks, though the spaces Bartsch creates allow queer people to explore themselves, their sexuality and the way they express themselves.
9. Tom of Finland
If you admire his artwork, appreciate the muscular male aesthetic or simply want to see a great gay film, you need to see Tom of Finland. Based on the famed gay artist’s life story, the biopic follows Touko Laaksonen after his return from fighting in World War II. Laaksonen becomes known for his homoerotic drawings of muscular men, risking prison time by pursuing his passion and eventually becoming one of the most iconic gay artists of the 20th century. Check out our exclusive interview with the film’s star, Pekka Strang, here.
10. The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin
Exploring yet another larger-than-life gay icon, this documentary is devoted to famed author Armistead Maupin, whose Tales of the City — first a column in the San Francisco Chronicle, then a series of novels and later a TV miniseries — brilliantly documented ’70s and ’80s queer life in the Bay Area. Viewers follow the trajectory of Maupin’s career and personal life, from a Vietnam vet and closeted conservative to one of the queer community’s most famous chroniclers.