Most people would agree that growing up and dealing with all the hormones and emotions we start having for other people can be an emotional rollercoaster. The highs and lows of having a crush or falling in love for the first time can make us feel like nobody has ever felt as intensely as what we’re feeling. And then, if there’s any problem or conflict added to the mix to make things more complicated, the emotional rollercoaster can get even crazier.
That’s what happens with LGBT people as they grow up. They have to deal with everything straight people experience, while also coming to terms with the fact that their gender identity or sexual orientation is not accepted by mainstream society. The highs of love and passion are the same for everyone, but all the fear, shame, and rejection they can face throughout their lives is unique to the LGBT experience.
Image from The Way He Looks
This experience is the focus of the following movies on this list. They’re stories about characters who are exploring their sexuality but struggling to come out, so they definitely speak about the LGBT experience, but they are so good and so well made, that even the straightest viewer will be able to relate.
1. But I’m a Cheerleader (1999)
Starring a baby-faced Natasha Lyonne (from Orange Is The New Black) and featuring RuPaul as a coach that’s supposed to teach teenage boys how to be “manly,” But I’m A Cheerleader is a satirical comedy about a high school cheerleader who is sent to a gay conversion therapy camp, so she can stop being a lesbian. At first, she can’t understand how anyone could ever think she was a lesbian (Hello? She’s a cheerleader?), but as she goes through with the therapy and makes friends with the other people at the camp, she starts to realize that maybe she’s not as straight as she thought she was.
2. Pariah (2011)
Pariah is an indie drama about Alike, a teenage girl growing up in New York City who has known she was a lesbian for
many years, but hasn’t come out to her family because she fears they will reject her. She goes out to gay clubs, and even starts dating a girl, but her family’s strict, homophobic views keep her from opening up to them. Anyone who has ever had to hide a side of themselves from their family will immediately relate to her story.
3. Blue Is The Warmest Color (2013)
This movie is by far the sexiest one on the list, and it might be one of the most sexually-explicit movies of LGBT cinema. The story follows the life of Adele, a high school girl who has never been attracted to women. Until she spots a beautiful, blue-haired woman on the street. Their eyes meet, and the rest is history.
4. Beginners (2010)
Technically, this movie isn’t about coming out because the protagonist is straight, but the story is as much about him as it is about his father, an aging man who comes out of the closet after being diagnosed with terminal cancer. His son, played by Ewan Mcgregor, tells the story of his father’s last months on Earth, as he explores his long-hidden sexuality for the first time in his life. The man goes all out with parties, drugs, and sex, packing as many experiences as he can in the time he has left, teaching his son a thing or two about love.
5. The Way He Looks (2014)
This Brazilian movie, based on a short film called “I Don’t Want To Go Back Alone,” tells the story of Leonardo, a blind teenager who has never even kissed anyone. Everything changes when a new boy joins his school and becomes his friend. Their friendship gradually turns into something else, and the two boys get to experience all the beauty and the pain of our first love.
Whether you’re curious about LGBT cinema or you’re just looking for a love story, these films will make you feel all the feelings.
Cover image: still from Blue Is The Warmest Color