If there’s one takeaway from the LGBTQ narrative films that came into the world and across our screens this year, it’s the sheer variety of the stories there are to tell.
From real-world historical biopics and inspirational sports dramas, to tender love stories and raunchy comedies, there really was something for everyone this year. Captivating characters, fearless performances and narrative tapestries that defy convention and troublesome tropes all reigned supreme. As such, here are some of the best we got.
All of Us Strangers
A new movie from the director of “Weekend” starring the Hot Priest from “Fleabag” and everyone’s favorite internet boyfriend should be enough to catch the interest of anyone listening — and “All of Us Strangers” lives up to that potential and then some. This equal parts sexy and emotionally devastating romance stars Andrew Scott as an isolated writer who, while beginning a relationship with a fun-loving neighbor (Paul Mescal), confronts the ghosts of his past and hard truths about his parents (played by Claire Foy and Jamie Bell). Filmmaker Andrew Haigh has said his loose adaptation of Taichi Yamada’s 1987 novel “Strangers” incorporates some of his own biography and it’s evident how everyone involved laid their heart on the line to bring this story to life.
Playing a queer P.E. school teacher in 1980s Newcastle during Margaret Thatcher’s efforts to criminalize the “promotion of homosexuality,” actress Rosy McEwen is absolutely one of the year’s most exciting discoveries. Already the winner of the British Independent Film Award for her riveting performance as Jean, a character who gets swept up in controversy after one of her students threatens to out her, there’s certainly more good to come for this most-watchable British up-and-comer.
“Bottoms” is not your parents’ teen romp. More “Wet Hot American Summer” than “Sixteen Candles,” writer-director Emma Seligman’s second feature is a fearlessly absurd sex comedy that’s at once violent, cringey and heartfelt, and feels boundary pushing. Refreshingly, it doesn’t spend a minute second-guessing its tone and what it is, and a stellar ensemble cast led by cowriter Rachel Sennott and Ayo Edebiri elevates it to being among the year’s very best.
Dicks: The Musical
You’ve never seen anything like “Dicks: The Musical” and that’s just what writers and stars Josh Sharp and Aaron Jackson intended when creating the stage show on which it’s based, “F–king Identical Twins.” Helmed by “Borat” director and all-around comedy legend Larry Charles, and assisted with wacky, scene-stealing performances from Nathan Lane and Megan Mullally, this A24 spin on “The Parent Trap” is a hard-R raunch-fest of a musical with surprisingly catchy earworms, including one from none other than costar Megan Thee Stallion.
Trace Lysette is rightfully nominated for Best Lead Performance going into the 2024 Independent Spirit Awards for her startling, emotional turn in writer-director Andrea Pallaoro’s indie drama, “Monica.” Anyone watching Lysette’s career since breaking out on “Transparent” knows she’s a gifted actress. With “Monica,” which she also executive produced, the story of a trans woman returning home to take care of her estranged, dying mother (played by Patricia Clarkson, no less) gives her the kind of deserving material that demands attention.
“Nyad” might not break the inspiring true story mold in its depiction of Diana Nyad’s athletic triumph as she trains, fails, and ultimately accomplishes her lifelong dream of swimming 110 miles from Cuba to Florida. But for what it lacks in narrative ingenuity it makes up for in astounding, lived-in performances from two of our greats: Annette Bening as Diana Nyad herself and Jodie Foster as her best friend and trainer Bonnie Stoll.
Of an Age
“Of an Age” is the year’s most under-appreciated gem, an achingly tender story of a young man’s first love and the intricacies of his own self-discovery in a conservative Australian town. Led by writer-director Goran Stolevski, Elias Anton and Thom Green play the would-be lovers hindered by circumstance and perfectly encapsulate queer love’s fleeting nature.
Rotting in the Sun
One word of advice for watching “Rotting in the Sun”? Go into it blind. What begins as a low-fi, sex-filled romp as writer-director Sebastián Silva (here playing a version of himself) connects with social media influencer Jordan Firstman (again, playing himself) to get out of a creative rut takes such an unexpected, thrilling turn midway through that audiences should buckle up and enjoy the ride. Watching it for the first time was one of the year’s best filmgoing surprises.
If it wasn’t already clear that out-and-proud “Euphoria” actor Colman Domingo was a star, “Rustin” (and his equally impressive supporting turn in “The Color Purple”) absolutely close the case. Shining a light on the little-known, openly gay Civil Rights leader and mastermind of Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic march on Washington, George C. Wolfe’s Bayard Rustin biopic features one of the year’s best ensembles, too.