Gay Sex Scenes That Made Movie History

Once upon a time, there were no gay and lesbian sections in the video stores, no queer film festivals, no debates over whether or not showing gay men having sex was good for the gay community’s image. There were definitely no major theatrical releases of big-budget films in which gay men had sex, and certainly no one ever dreamed a film like that could ever be nominated for an Oscar.

Here, AfterElton.com takes a look back at the most important and groundbreaking gay male sex scenes in films. These are films that for the most part had a major American theatrical release, even if it was of limited scope, with a few groundbreaking foreign, art house and GLBT film festival movies included as well. These criteria are admittedly somewhat subjective, so if you feel we’ve missed a film that broke new ground with its use of sex between men, let us know.

The Golden Age

In the mid-’80s a kind of sea change hit American theaters. Far from being art house and gay film festival exceptions, foreign films with gay male protagonists and overt depictions of gay male sexuality began filling theaters in cities across the United States, earning rave reviews and doing well at the box office.

This “golden age” had its roots in the post-Code, post-Stonewall days of the ’60s, when a number of films with gay male sex scenes were made. And prior to the late ’80s, when the AIDS epidemic and the changing political scene sent many gay films back into the film festival closet, we saw a high watermark in terms of gay sex on screen.


Another Country
(1984)
The two lovers at the center of this lyrical and ultimately unsettling film are not shown in an explicit sex scene. Instead, their own delicately constructed romance is interwoven with the discovery of a sexual encounter between two other boys at the same British boarding school in the 1930s, and its aftermath.

While Another Country is loosely based on the Guy Burgess spy case that was more accurately recounted in John Schlesinger’s 1983 BBC film An Englishman Abroad, it’s primarily the love story of Burgess, played by a painfully young Rupert Everett, and James Harcourt, played by a dewy-lipped, even younger Cary Elwes. The film was shot at Cambridge, Oxford and Princess Diana’s childhood home, Althorp Hall, because Eton, which Burgess attended, refused permission.

Rupert Everett (left) and Cary Elwes

The sexual encounter between the two boys is intercut with Bennett’s dreamy glances at Harcourt during a school assembly, and ultimately with one gentle cuddle in the moonlight, during which Bennett presses a kiss into Harcourt’s hair. However romantic the relationship is, it doesn’t protect them from the heightened scrutiny on homosexual experimentation among the students resulting from the suicide of one of the boys discovered having sex in a gymnasium changing room.

Another Country opened in the United States to critical acclaim and was nominated for a Golden Palm at Cannes in 1984. Most significantly, it marked the beginning of what became a golden age of gay male films, many British, which appeared in the next few years. (1984 also marked the commercial release of Italy’s Ernesto, which was made in 1979 and had a film festival run in 1980.)

Hotness: 3
Romance: 10
Significance: 10

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