On June 28, 1969, a police raid on a New York City gay bar called the Stonewall Inn sparked a riot that changed the world. By standing up to injustice, the Stonewall patrons rose up to become a symbol of pride that galvanized the modern LGBT movement. Each June, parades around the world celebrate the indomitable spirit of that night with drag queens, marching bands, and rainbow banners.
Since its inception, Focus Features has been on the forefront of expressing that spirit with powerful, diverse stories of LGBT people––from its groundbreaking love story Brokeback Mountain to its marriage-defining comedy The Kids Are All Right to its historical trans drama The Danish Girl. For Pride Month—and as part of our 15th Anniversary--we are taking a certain amount of pride in five films that are now an essential part of LGBT history.
Brokeback Mountain changes the landscape of gay films.
In Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain, two cowboys—Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal)—are hired to herd sheep up to Brokeback Mountain. By the end of that summer, the two men discover a love that changes their lives––and the rest of the world. The movie quickly became a cultural phenomenon, showing up on magazine covers and being discussed on TV talk shows, as well as becoming the recipient of eight Academy Award nominations. The Guardian proclaimed this universal love story as “the most important film to come out of America in years.”
The Kids Are All Right advances marriage equality with comedy.
In Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids Are All Right, Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore) are a married lesbian couple raising two teenagers--Laser (Josh Hutcherson) and Joni (Mia Wasikowska)––whose lives are thrown into turmoil by the appearance of their sperm donor dad (Mark Ruffalo). Released five years before Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court case that legalized gay marriage in all 50 states, The Kids Are All Right provides a star-studded and hilarious case study for what really defines family. As New York Magazine suggests, the film’s “portrait of gay parenting is fearless enough to be hugely entertaining.”
Pariah brings poetry to teenage lives too often forgotten.
By telling a simple story beautifully and honestly, Dee Rees’ Pariah proved revolutionary. Struggling to define her destiny as a daughter, poet, African American woman, and lesbian, a Brooklyn teen named Alike (Adepero Oduye) finds a freedom that is inspiring for all. “Pariah leaves you aching, not only because of the story it tells," notes Mother Jones. “But because it whispers softly of all the stories that haven’t been told.”
Milk makes gay stories part of our national history.
Shining a light on one of the most significant moments—and men--of recent history, Gus Van Sant’s Milk is about the rise and tragic death of San Francisco’s gay city supervisor Harvey Milk. Anchored by Sean Penn's Academy Award-winning performance as the title character, the film highlights how essential gays and lesbians are to the American story––then and now. The Washington Post explains “What makes Milk extraordinary isn't just that it's a nuanced, stirring portrait of one of the 20th century's most pivotal figures, but also that it's a nuanced, stirring portrait of the thousands of people he energized.”
The Danish Girl brings to life a history-making trans figure.
Academy Award-winning director Tom Hooper explains that he was moved to make The Danish Girl “because so few people have ever heard of Lili Elbe…this pioneer who should be more widely known has been marginalized by history.” Eddie Redmayne plays the title character, who sought reassignment surgery to transition in 1930, long before either culture or medicine was capable of fully addressing Lili’s needs. Thanks to its high-wattage talent, ThinkProgress points out, The Danish Girl would “become one of the most widely viewed films about a transgender character ever released.”