The Fifty Greatest Gay Movies!

When we here at AfterElton.com originally conceived the idea
to present our first annual poll of the best gay male movies of all time, we
wondered how many gay movies could possibly be considered “great.” Fifty seemed
like a nice solid number, but we weren’t quite sure. We opened the polls
anyway, and you voted.

For a grand total of 570 different movies.

At AfterElton.com, gay movies are much of what we do.
All day long, we watch them, think about them, and write about them. But even
we were surprised by the quality and diversity of the films selected in this
poll: big budget dramas, quirky indie darlings, romantic comedies, musicals, and
even a certain gay teen sex comedy.

In short, there are a lot of gay movies that are damn good!

Here are some interesting statistics. Except for two films, The Boys in the Band (1970) and The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975),
every movie on this list was produced in the 1980s or later. What’s this? Don’t
gay people like classic films? A more likely explanation, of course, is that
gay-related content rarely existed on film until the 1980s — and if it did, it
was almost invariably offensive.

Films from outside the U.S. including England, Spain, Australia, Canada and others occupied nearly 1/3 of the top 50 slots.
More dramas made the list (33) than comedies (17). So do gay
people prefer drama, or is it that most gay movies to date have tended to be
more serious?

What is a “gay movie” anyway? That was for you to
decide, but in every case, it was a film with at least one leading gay or
bisexual character.

And what makes a movie “great”? That’s ultimately a
subjective call, but we think it’s worth noting that almost every movie on
this list was new or different in some important way from all the gay films
before it. This seems to us to prove a lesson that Hollywood never seems to learn: audiences
like that which is fresh and original, not tired retreads of what was popular
in the years before.

While the list is very diverse when it comes to subject
matter, it’s a different story when discussing racial diversity. Of the top
twenty films, only Big Eden (2000) and My Beautiful Laundrette
(1985) include substantive roles for men of color – Eric Schweig plays the
Native American character Pike in Big Eden while Gordon Warnecke is Omar
in Laundrette.

Since this will be an annual poll, it should be fascinating to watch older movies fall off of the list and new ones climb on to it. No doubt some movies that received a great deal of press this year, and subsequently placed high on this list, will fade somewhat over time while new movies — the soon-to-be released Milk comes to mind — will no doubt make a big splash on next year’s list. Hopefully there will be a great deal of movement as gay cinema continues to grow and thrive.

Without further ado, we present AfterElton.com’s Fifty
Greatest Gay Movies!

1. Brokeback
Mountain
(2005)

Ferragamos or Birkenstocks? Mojitos or good ol’ beer? Gay
men don’t seem to agree on much. But by a wide margin of nearly two-to-one, you chose Brokeback Mountain as the greatest gay movie of
all time. And how could it be otherwise? “It’s not ‘gay,’” said some, trying to
broaden the film’s appeal, “it’s a ‘universal love story’!”

But is it really? Plenty of heterosexuals have had the
experience of hiding a love affair, but how many of them know what it’s like to
be forced by society to deny themselves the very possibility of love? This is the daring and fundamentally “gay”
question at the heart of Ang Lee’s 2005 masterpiece: can two men simply allow
themselves to love each other? And though the movie is set in the past, it is,
ultimately, the very choice that every gay man still must make.

Jake Gyllenhaal is flawless as Jack Twist in arguably the
movie’s most difficult role. But Heath Ledger’s heartbreaking portrayal of
Ennis Del Mar, a walking cautionary tale of homophobia’s logical end result, is
a revelation — a total acting transformation made all the more tragic by
Ledger’s death earlier this year. But the indignities and injustices that Jack
and Ennis faced did not end at Brokeback
Mountain
’s closing credits. Upon the film’s release, the movie’s makers and
fans were subjected to a six-month orgy of tasteless jokes from clueless
comedians and bile-filed commentary from right-wing pundits. All of this
negativity culminated when the movie, long considered the Oscar front-runner,
lost Best Picture to a fine but unremarkable movie called Crash, perhaps the most egregious upset in Oscar history and almost
certainly the result of lingering homophobia in Hollywood’s old guard.

But that fusillade of ridicule and outrage is already fading
into the gloom of a bigoted past while the movie’s artistry and quiet power
shines brighter than ever. Let’s face it: this isn’t just the greatest gay
movie of all time, it’s one of the greatest movies
ever.

 

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