By no means is this an exhaustive list, but I do think each one of these movies has something important to say about very relevant topics, and all of them are beautifully composed. If you think I missed an important one, post it in the comments!
- But I’m a Cheerleader (1999)
- Water Lilies (2007)
- Velvet Goldmine (1998)
- Pariah (2011)
- Benedetta (2021)
- Days (2021)
10. Shiva Baby (2020)
At a shiva (funeral), a young Jewish woman finds herself in the same room as her sugar daddy, his wife and child, and her much more successful ex-girlfriend. Along with this already-awkward scenario, Danielle faces countless friends and family members interrogating her about school, her post-graduation plans and her appearance. Emma Seligman’s given us a funny, awkward, and at times claustrophobia-inducing look at a variety of issues, now available on HBO Max!
9. Tangerine (2015)
Director Sean Baker’s known for research-intensive deep-dives that expose audiences to the nuances of marginalized communities, and that’s no different in this chronicle of a trans woman’s quest for revenge against her cheating boyfriend. Famous for being filmed entirely on an iPhone 5s, this heartfelt look at friendship and love takes viewers through the lives of trans sex workers on the intersection of Santa Monica and Highland Avenue. It’s funny, punchy, tender when it needs to be; and it’s streaming on Prime Video!
8. Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022)
This is definitely one of my Movie of The Year candidates. In a lot of ways, this film is about Evelyn working through her homophobia to better understand her daughter, but it’s also about so much more: class, memory, love, etc. It’s a wild-ride of a movie, but is so effective because, for all the bells and whistles, it stays centered around a strong emotional core—largely thanks to the actors’ performances and the way it handles characters so tenderly. Watch it on Prime Video!
7. Happy Together (1997)
Perhaps most known for his moody, tone-heavy portrayals of doomed love, Wong Kar Wai’s look at a gay couple’s time in Argentina is guaranteed to pull on the heartstrings. His skills at shot composition are accentuated by Christopher Doyle’s amazingly-lit cinematography and some wildly unique editing. Stream this must-watch on HBO Max!
6. Matthias and Maxime (2019)
Xavier Dolan’s delicate look at two friends becoming lovers is one of my favorite watches so far this year. The music is fantastic, helping viewers sink into each scene. Considered alongside its eye-popping use of color and lighting, there's very little this movie leaves audiences wanting. It’s so well written, and—along with Dolan's trans-centric epic, Lawrence Anyways (2012)—is now streaming on MUBI. Watch it while you can!
5. Moneyboys (2021)
The neon-drenched feature-length debut of director C.B. Yi takes viewers on a tour of Taiwan’s seedy underbelly as we follow Fei, a sex worker trying to navigate his family, his job and his love life as the past crashes into the present. I really loved the cinematography of this movie; in terms of the camera work there were plenty of scenes that were almost a kind of nod towards slow cinema. Softhearted, brutal and unquestionably human, you have to stream this on MUBI!
4. Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)
This exploration of desire, memory and the gaze by Céline Sciamma is one of the best period pieces I’ve ever seen. Set in late 18th century France, we follow Marianne as she remembers being contracted to paint Héloïse’s portrait for a potential suitor, starting a forbidden romance that will leave audiences breathless. From cinematography to music and the wonderful acting, there’s no reason you shouldn’t stream this on Hulu!
3. Moonlight (2016)
Barry Jenkins’ stunning coming-of-age drama remains one of the most beautiful cinematic achievements ever captured on film. Following Chiron’s maturation process (and all the losses, friendships and loves that come with it), viewers are sure to have a watching experience unlike anything they’ve ever seen. Stream it on Hulu, Prime Video or Showtime while you can!
2. Great Freedom (2022)
Diving into an often-overlooked aspect of history, Sebastian Meise’s latest film follows Hans, a man in West Germany who spends decades in and out of prison just for being gay. With some of the best shot composition I’ve seen this year, along with the lighting’s warm honey tones and cold blue hues helping set an immersive atmosphere, this unforgettable look at history, the governing of bodies and human connection is now streaming on MUBI. Watch it ASAP!
1. The Handmaiden (2016)
Park Chan-wook is more known for his violent revenge stories that hurl audiences toward unforgettable endings, and while there’s less blood here, this is maybe one of his most impactful films. The costuming, the cinematography and the amazing writing are brought to life by some of the best acting you’re bound to see. What a movie; catch it on Prime Video!