Netflix’s LGTBQ category is pretty seriously lacking. Much of the content is pretty poorly made, and seems to be little more that quasi-arthouse erotica. I’d love to see them make a concerted effort to add in some of the New Queer Cinema classics; some more work from Gus van Sant, Ang Lee, Gregg Araki, Todd Haynes; and more global cinema options. And would it be too much to ask to get some John Waters?!
Another issue with Netflix’s category is that it doesn’t include a lot of LGBTQ content for streaming, so unless you’ve still got a DVD subscription, you’ll be missing out on a lot of content. I’ve dug through their catalogue, and below are the 10 best LGTBQ movies on Netflix, in no particular order.
Todd Haynes is a longtime favorite director whose career has stretched from the New Queer Cinema era to today. With a list of wonderfully-made, LGTBQ-friendly films over the years (Poison , Dottie Gets Spanked , Safe  Velvet Goldmine , Far from Heaven , I’m Not There ), Haynes ups the ante once again with his latest offering.
An adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Price of Salt, Carol is the story of a young department store clerk, Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara), who meets an older woman, Carol (Cate Blanchett), who is stuck in a loveless marriage. As their chance acquaintance blossoms into a love affair, they must navigate social norms of 1950s New York and Carol’s jealous husband. The film has beautiful and complex cinematography to match its poignant story and an incredible 95 metascore on MetaCritic.
Blue is the Warmest Color (trailer NSFW)
This intimate and deeply passionate film explores the budding sexuality of 15-year-old Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos) who is learning to accept herself in the face of prejudice from her peers. With the help of a new friend-turned-lover, Emma (Léa Seydoux), Adèle learns about the deep ties of a first love, and the heartbreaking loss of moving on from that love.
The film is beautifully shot, and renowned for its explicit and beautiful love scenes, but its moving story should not be dismissed because of this notoriety.
Paris is Burning
Given the recent rise and mainstreaming of the drag world in popular culture, it is only fitting to return to the groundbreaking documentary that details the 80s drag scene in New York City.
With deep pathos and a focus on class and race, as much as gender roles and sexuality, Paris is Burning is an incredible snapshot of defiance against norms, and the power of community.
God’s Own Country
God’s Own Country is the directorial debut for screenwriter Francis Lee, and he takes the opportunity to tell a brutal, touching story of two men’s (Josh O’Connor and Alec Secareanu) troubled love on a farm in the stark Yorkshire countryside.
The emotionless filming style works well to highlight the suppressed desires that burst forth from the desolate farmland, while the smallest gestures become immensely meaningful for family and neighbors alike. This movie is not for the faint of heart, as it depicts all the realities of farm life, including butchering.
Dallas Buyers Club
Winner of three Academy Awards for Best Actor (Matthew McConaughey), Best Supporting Actor (Jared Leto), and Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling (Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews) and with nominations for Best Picture, Best Screenplay, and Best Achievement in Film Editing, Dallas Buyers Club is tour de force of filmmaking prowess from Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallée.
The film tells the story of homophobic bigot Ron Woodroof (McConaughey) who is diagnosed with HIV and given only a one month prognosis. After a mission to find a way to prolong his life reveals the ravages of HIV/AIDS on the gay community, Woodruff begins a mission to obtain controversial-but-promising drugs to help himself and the community with whom he now finds himself aligned.
With a stunning performance by McConaughey in a role recognized for being physical demanding in the extreme, perhaps the biggest downside of the film is that it does not use any gay actors in the main roles, highlighting the continuing difficulty that Hollywood has in utilizing members of underrepresented communities to portray characters from those communities.
Sadly, this is the only Gus van Sant film currently on Netflix. They have picked a true winner, though, as Milk is at once an incredible political movie, biopic, period piece, and gay cinema landmark.
The touching, empowering, and tragic story of the political rise of Harvey Milk — and of an era — won an Oscar for Best Actor (Sean Penn) and Best Screenplay (Dustin Lance Black), along with earning six other nominations. Again, much like Dallas Buyers Club, the biggest downside of the film is that it does not use any gay actors in the main roles, highlighting the continuing difficulty that Hollywood has in utilizing members of underrepresented communities to portray characters from those communities.
John Waters: This Filthy World (preview very, very NSFW)
Even if you aren’t a huge fan of Waters’ movies (but, come on, how can you not be?) you may still want to check out this special. Listening to the man behind Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble, and Hairspray talk about his view of the world is a delight.
With anecdotes about filmmaking and wry observations about all manner of things, this filmed version of Water’s one-man show is great for laughs, and may make you want to watch (or rewatch) some of the works from his classic camp ouvre.
The Crying Game
The Crying Game is a perfect example of Netflix’s algorithms not really knowing what’s up. Why it isn’t classified in the LBGTQ section of the website is baffling, though the film has been met with accusations of transphobia in recent years. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a place on this list.
The film is an Oscar and BAFTA winner that details a complex story of a kidnapped NRA soldier and his navigation of a complicated love triangle. With strong acting and an incredible screenplay, the intersections of national politics and personal emotions come to a head in this nuanced modern classic.
The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson
In 1992, Marsha P. Johnson, a black transvestite and drag queen, activist, and Stonewall veteran died under mysterious circumstances. This documentary uncovers new details surround her death, while also offering a look at the politics and emotions of the NYC drag scene between Stonewall and the early 90s.
The film is not without some meta drama, as director David France is a white, cis- male and has been accused of privileged access and stealing information and material from non-white, trans filmmakers. Nevertheless, the film is an important piece in preserving the history of the unfolding NYC gay scene, despite the fact that it never comes to solve the murder that is the focus of its investigation.
Y Tu Mamá También (2001)
One of the best films on Netflix and a personal favorite of mine, the inclusion on this list might be a slight stretch given the company it keeps. However, among the many threads that weave this incredible story is the one that sees two best friends dealing with the ramifications of their physical one-night stand.
Alfonso Cuarón’s masterpiece, Y Tu Mamá También, is a meditation on life and death, love and loss, the politics of globalization, and the corruption of the ruling class — and on filmmaking itself.
Utilizing documentary-like voiceovers to deepen both the personal and political background of the characters and the world, the movie challenges standard narrative structures while also weaving a beautiful and heartbreaking story of personal growth. High school friends (Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal) befriend an older woman (Ana López Mercado) and take an unforgettable trip to the beach to try to seduce her.
With a blend of bildungsroman, American road movie, and political commentary, Y Tu Mamá También presents an erotic, timeless, unforgettable story that is a definite must-see.
(The video and sound quality of the trailer linked above is absolutely not indicative of the film itself.)
Those are my picks of the best LGBTQ movies on Netflix.
Let me know in the comments below if I’ve missed any of your favorites.