Retro Gay Cinema: Gay Movies Worth Watching Again

Gay Movies

Cruising stars Al Pacino as a leather-clad undercover cop… who’s not a member of the Village People

Just as your favorite TV series may be getting ready to take the summer off – or get canceled (goodbye, The New Normal) – entertainment buffs needn’t look too far to find a wealth of memorable gay movies that are well worth watching again and again. (Hello, Netflix!)

These films may not be perfect. In fact, some are downright offensive by today’s standards. But they are all in some way groundbreaking for their time period and considered in sequence they provide a record of mainstream culture’s changing attitudes towards gay men.

Feeling nostalgic? Can’t get enough body hair? Want to experience the celluloid life pre-Stonewall? Here’s our guide to some of the most notable (and gayest) old-school flicks from before the millennium.


Rope (1948)

While most films from the pre-Stonewall era only ever allude to gay life with a wink and nod, this thriller centers on two young men who strangle their classmate and stash his body in their apartment – before having the perfect dinner party. They didn’t call him Hitchcock for nothing. Bonus: It stars a very young (and gay) Farley Granger.

Alfred Hitchcok's Rope

Farley Granger (left) and John Dall in Rope.


Victim (1961)

In this wild ride of a movie, the closet opens up plenty of fear and loathing after a blackmailer threatens to expose a gay man’s deep, dark secrets. The film stars Dirk Bogarde, who also played another very frustrated gay man in the film adaptation of Thomas Mann’s bleak Death in Venice (1971).


Midnight Cowboy (1969)

Ogle Angelina Jolie’s daddy – Jon Voight – as he plays a naïve trick decked out as the ultimate urban cowboy. The movie captures the seedy side of Times Square, and features some interesting cameos – like underground New York legend and Warhol friend Sylvia Miles. It also comes with a brilliant soundtrack courtesy of A.M. radio superstar Harry Nilsson.


See Angelina’s Dad in Midnight Cowboy – an ode to the Times Square hustler


The Boys in the Band (1970)

There’s no shortage of drama when a (presumably) straight guy is invited to the gayest party in New York City. The legendary film is both beloved and hated by generations of gay men for its groundbreaking portrayal of sex, beauty and life, both in and out of the closet. Three words: big blonde hustler.



A Very Natural Thing (1974)

An ex-monk meet a man at a gay bar and an awakening ensues about what it means to be a religious teacher struggling with same-sex attraction and monogamy in New York City. This one features a gaggle of twenty-something gays sporting 70s coifs – both upstairs and down:


Cruising (1980)

Get down and dirty with the New York leather scene (pre-AIDS). Al Pacino – sporting plenty of S&M gear – plays a determined cop trying to catch a serial killer who’s murdering gay men in this gritty drama. Sure, the period piece is loaded with plenty of stereotypes, but it’s worth the glimpse into some of the most legendary (and now defunct) gay leather clubs of the era. Pacino gives very good eye candy.

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