Finding quality LGBTQ+ content is hard--finding it without having to subscribe to fifty different niche streaming services makes it even harder. Fortunately, thanks to the demand for affirming shows and movies, even the free services are curating LGBTQ+ related and created content. Free movies can be found across a variety of apps, but between Tubi TV, Crackle, and YouTube, some LGBTQ+ made gems and all time classics are waiting for your viewing pleasure. Here are ten of the very best currently available for the cost of pressing play.
A Man of No Importance (1994)
It’s still not easy to be out and proud, but compared to where we once were, we might as well be on another planet. Set in 1963 Dublin, Albert Finney plays a closeted bus conductor named Alfred Byrne who lives to put on amateur theatre productions of the plays of Oscar Wilde. Despite being well into his 60s, Albert spends the film struggling to come to terms with his true identity, navigating his desires to finally experience what he’s known all along, and the potential danger that comes with being out in a pre-Stonewall world, let alone the overwhelmingly Catholic country of Ireland. Baby queers, consider this your history homework.
Anyone But Me (2008-2012)
During the window after the debut of YouTube but before the popularity of Netflix’ streaming services, independent creatives were given the opportunity to produce films and shows for online consumption that would likely have been difficult to greenlight through the studio system. Considering LGBTQ+ representation is still extremely limited, there was an explosion of indie queer programming in the late 00s that helped shape the lives of a generation. Anyone But Me from Tina Cesa Ward and Susan Miller is one of those series. The series focuses on sixteen-year-old Vivian (Rachael Hip-Flores), a lesbian who moves out of New York City to Westchester and tries to maintain her relationship with her girlfriend Aster (Nicole Pacent) while starting in a new school, running into childhood friends, and adjusting to her new life out of the city.
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The intersectional feminist vampire movie of your dreams, Brad Michael Elmore’s Bit was a standout at festivals like Outfest, but was quietly released on major VOD platforms around the start of quarantine. Starring Nicole Maines (Supergirl) as Laurel, the story follows a young trans woman moving to Los Angeles, only to find herself in the throes of a cabal of vampires under the leadership of a woman named Duke. Unlike the vampires of yesteryear, these vampires revel in their monstrosity and target those who deserve to have their blood spilled for a change.
But I’m a Cheerleader (2001)
Stop whatever you're doing and put on Jamie Babbit's feature debut, But I'm a Cheerleader (also featured in our best free movies online story). Easily one of the most groundbreaking LGBTQ+ films ever made, Natasha Lyonne, Clea DuVall, Melanie Lynskey, Dante Basco, Eddie Cibrian, Cathy Moriarty, RuPaul, Mink Stole, Kip Pardue, Michelle Williams, and Bud Cort join forces in pink and blue to deliver a message about acceptance, the dangers of conversion therapy, and an appreciation of camp cinema. There are few films that should be required viewing for anyone who loves movies, but this is definitely one of them.
Brad (Anthony Rapp) is having a rough go of it. After he and his wife Marcia (De’Adre Aziza) lose their son, their lives begin to fall apart. Brad quickly finds solace in an online love connection with Yenny (Jimmy Brooks), a young Jamacian man. Brad’s first foray into the world of gay dating quickly turns to obsession, with the film playing out largely on smartphone and computer screens years before the pandemic made it cool. Bwoy isn’t afraid to tackle the difficult realities surrounding interracial relationships in the queer community, as well as the way people use the internet to manipulate the perception of those around them.
As we all know, there’s no such thing as a heterosexual vampire. A modern reimagining of the novella of the same name by Sheridan Le Fanu, Carmilla is a Canadian single frame web series co-created by Jordan Hall, Steph Ouaknine, and Jay Bennett starring Elise Bauman and Natasha Negovanlis produced by Kotex. In the series, the 330 year old Carmilla is a college student living on a campus with a serious missing girl problem. No one suspects Carmilla is responsible except for Carmilla’s roommate Laura. Fans watched season after season to see if Laura was going to rat out her vampire roommate or if they would--as plenty of fanfic writers hoped they would--fall in love. The series was so popular, it later lead to the creation of a movie in 2017.
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The Gay Deceivers (1969)
Decades before I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry made an offensively unfunny movie about straight men pretending to be gay in order to cheat the system, there was The Gay Deceivers. Danny and Elliot, are two friends who pretend to be a couple in order to dodge the draft, going as far as moving into a gay apartment building to throw the Army surveillance off their trail. It’s a camp classic with hilarious lines but more importantly, features an iconic performance from Michael Greer, one of the first openly gay actors to appear in major Hollywood films.
Based on the award winning short film of the same name, Gayby tells the story of a straight hot yoga instructor named Jenn and her best friend Matt, a gay comic-book writer. Now, single in their 30s and feeling like life is passing them by, the duo decide to fulfill a longstanding promise to have a child together and co-parent. The only catch? Jenn wants to have a baby the old fashioned way and the two must figure out a way to have sex despite Matt being gay. It’s a really sweet movie about the ways friendships and things like starting a family evolve as we grow older and well worth the watch.
From the brilliant mind behind Jawbreaker, Darren Stein’s 2013 foray back into teen movies follows two closeted teen named Tanner and Brent who attend a high school run by three women in charge of the powerful cliques. Brent devises a plan to come out at prom and solidify himself as the most popular boy at school, knowing that the latest trend for teen girls is to find themselves a G.B.F. or a gay best friend. However, Brent’s plan backfires when Tanner is inadvertently outed in front of the whole school, causing the three girls to fight for his hand in gay best friendship. If you’re a fan of edgy teen comedies, this is the one for you.
I Am Divine (2013)
Legendary drag performer and muse of filmmaker John Waters, I Am Divine is a documentary providing an intimate look at the career of Divine, and the personal life of Harris Glenn Milstead. Featuring interviews with Milstead’s family, John Waters, and many of the surviving Dreamlanders, I Am Divine is a moving celebration of one of drag’s most important and groundbreaking icons, and the undeniable queen of the midnight movie.
I Want What I Want (1972)
Trans representation in cinema is pretty damn terrible if we’re being honest, but there are a handful that rise above the top and offer a genuinely thoughtful approach to telling a trans story. Based on the book of the same name, I Want What I Want is an out of print movie lost to time and it’s a terrible shame because it is one of the most sincere presentations of a trans affirming film ever made. Yes, there are some aspects that haven’t aged well considering it’s nearly fifty years old, but even the decision to have a cis woman (Anne Heywood) play the trans woman lead is groundbreaking considering we’re still putting male actors in bad wigs and calling it “cinema” in 2021. With the constant debates surrounding physical vs. digital media, it’s important to remember films like I Want What I Want that would be completely wiped out of history if it were not for internet preservation as the film has been out of print since before many of us reading this were alive. This June, give yourself the gift of a piece of trans cinema history.
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