When the Supreme Court announced their 2015 decision guaranteeing the right of same-sex couples to marry, the hashtag #LoveWins exploded on social media and started appearing on banners and bumper stickers everywhere. As much as Pride celebrates LGBTQ+ identity, it also reaffirms the right to love who you love. For Pride Month, we want to salute the power of love by spotlighting extraordinary LGBTQ+ romances, which are as rich, diverse, and remarkable as the communities they represent.
1) Brokeback Mountain | Love is a force of nature
When it premiered in 2005, Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain became a classic American love story overnight. “Brokeback Mountain is that rare thing, a big Hollywood weeper with a beautiful ache at its center,” wrote Entertainment Weekly. “It’s a modern-age Western that turns into a quietly revolutionary love story.” Its simple story of two cowhands—Ennis del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal)—who meet in the summer of 1963 herding sheep in Wyoming and find a love that lasts for the rest of their lives has touched nearly everyone who has seen it. Vanity Fair, Eonline, and Good Housekeeping have all put it near the top of their lists of best romantic films of all time. It’s unapologetic endorsement of love is in many ways what makes it both a classic and groundbreaking. Jake Gyllenhaal recounts how when people used to joke about it being a gay cowboy film, Heath Ledger would respond simply, “No. This is about love.”
2) Pariah | Pang of first love
In Dee Rees’ Pariah, Alike (Adepero Oduye), an African American teen living in Brooklyn, struggles to understand how she fits into the world around her. “She knows she loves women. That's not her struggle,” explains Rees. “Her struggle's more how to be in the world." Not completely comfortable with her best friend Laura's (Pernell Walker) more in-your-face style, Alike hopes she has met her match with a fellow student, Bina (Aasha Davis). When her evening of passion with Bina, however, turns out to just be a one-night stand, Alike is not heartbroken. In a poem, she writes, "I am broken/I am open/I am broken open." For Indiewire, Pariah is “a film with a universal sensitivity that relates the pangs of first love, the desirous ache of adolescent sexuality and the excitement of not just discovering yourself but finding those kindred spirits with whom you can share your life.”
3) Beginners | At long last love
In Beginners, Mike Mills captures the experience of coming out and finding love as an older gay man. In the film, Oliver (Ewan McGregor) learns how to love again from his father, Hal (Christopher Plummer), a character that was based on Mills' own father who came out at age 75. “I couldn’t have made this film,” explains Mills, “if I didn’t feel like I was making it out of love and real curiosity about my dad and real admiration for his coming out.” During production, however, Mills encouraged Plummer not to imitate his father, but to become the character—"Inhabit that guy’s problems. You’re 75, you want to have sex, it’s not easy for older gay men.” Plummer went on to deliver an Oscar®-winning performance that fully embraces the character’s humanity and, as Rolling Stone notes, "the passion and compassion that blend in Hal’s love affair with the much younger Andy (Goran Visnjic).”
4) My Summer of Love | Young passion
Few films capture the dizzying, intoxicating experience of young love as magically as Pawel Pawlikowski’s My Summer of Love. When the posh Tamsin (Emily Blunt) meets the working-class Mona (Natalie Press) one summer, a powerful attraction develops. Set against the lush landscape of England’s Yorkshire countryside, the two women create their own world, one in which everything else fades away. “Their relationship moves from the sisterly to the sexual and beyond, into the kind of feverish, all-consuming intimacy that makes everything else seem insubstantial,” notes The New York Times. While their passion may disappear by the summer’s end, their romance remains unforgettable. “Watching them fall for each other is enough to bring a smile to the face of even the most jaded,” exclaims AfterEllen.
5) The Kids Are All Right | Making love last
While some great love stories explode with passion, others, like Lisa Cholodenko's comedy The Kids Are All Right, explore the day-to-day work of staying together. The movie champions “the simple yet incomprehensibly fraught act of moving through time with the person you love,” explains Slate. Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore) have a happy home, successful careers, and two amazing children—Laser (Josh Hutcherson) and Joni (Mia Wasikowska). When the kids bring their sperm-donor dad (Mark Ruffalo) home to meet their two moms, however, everything goes south. In the end, Nic and Jules re-discover their love for each other in their willingness not to give up. For Cholodenko, a relationship like theirs is “messy, and it gets broken, and you have to glue it back together.”