It’s an incredible time be a queer cinephile. Hollywood may be slowing its progress in queer storytelling but there have never been more — or better — independent and international films. That’s why any list of the best queer movies of 2023 is basically just a list of the best movies period.
This year I couldn’t contain the list to a top ten. Hell, I considered doing a top 50. There have been so many great queer films, a range of queer stories and queer storytelling.
Sports movies, romances, magical realist fantasies, broad comedies, horror movies, and films that defy categorization. If you’re willing to explore even just one level beyond the mainstream, the best queer movies of 2023 are waiting to entertain and challenge you.
Past years, I’ve tried to include mention of everything. This year that wasn’t possible. Instead I’m shouting out some worthy straight movies, an honorable mentions list that could’ve been even longer, picking the year’s best queer docs, and then getting to the main top 20 (okay it’s technically 21). If you’re fave isn’t here, maybe I haven’t seen it yet, or maybe it just didn’t make the cut!
What a joy that there are so many great queer movies to watch and discuss!
Best Straight* Movies of the Year:
Barbie (dir. Greta Gerwig)
The Boy and the Heron (dir. Hayao Miyazaki)
Killers of the Flower Moon (dir. Martin Scorsese)
Magic Mike’s Last Dance (dir. Steven Soderbergh)
Other People’s Children (dir. Rebecca Zlotowski)
Past Lives (dir. Celine Song)
Priscilla (dir. Sofia Coppola)
Return to Seoul (dir. Davy Chou)
Saint Omer (dir. Alice Diop)
*some of these movies have queer elements and I agonized over whether they were queer enough to be included in the main list, if you disagree with me especially on Barbie and Return to Seoul don’t worry I disagree with myself a little bit
14 More of the Best Queer Movies of 2023:
Biosphere (dir. Mel Eslyn)
Cassandro (dir. Roger Ross Williams)
Down Low (dir. Rightor Doyle)
Frybread Face and Me (dir. Billy Luther)
Jagged Mind (dir. Kelley Kali)
Knock at the Cabin (dir. M. Night Shyamalan)
Moving On (dir. Paul Weitz)
Nimona (dir. Troy Quane, Nick Bruno)
Perpetrator (dir. Jennifer Reeder)
Petit Mal (dir. Ruth Caudeli)
Punch (dir. Welby Ings)
Strange Way of Life (dir. Pedro Almodóvar)
Theater Camp (dir. Molly Gordon, Nick Lieberman)
Wingwomen (dir. Mélanie Laurent)
The Top Five Queer Documentaries of 2023:
Eldorado: Everything the Nazis Hate (dir. Benjamin Cantu)
Kokomo City (dir. D. Smith)
Little Richard: I Am Everything (dir. Lisa Cortés)
Queenmaker: The Making of an It Girl (dir. Zackary Drucker)
The Stroll (dir. Kristen Lovell, Zackary Drucker)
The Top 20 Best Queer Movies of 2023
20. Bottoms (dir. Emma Seligman)
The way Peter Bogdonavich riffed on screwball comedies in movies like What’s Up, Doc?, Emma Seligman’s Shiva Baby follow-up riffs on the teen comedies of the 90s and early 00s. It’s less spoof than it is an escalation of the genre to its natural conclusion. That conclusion? Super violent and super gay.
Bottoms is now available to rent
19. (tie) Saltburn (dir. Emerald Fennell)/The Origin of Evil (dir. Sébastien Marnier)
Ever since I declared Killing Eve season two better than season one, I was destined to defend Emerald Fennell’s imperfect cinema. Her work is like a double pop album or a third scoop of ice cream. It’s fun, it’s sweet, it’s too much, and not enough. Like Promising Young Woman, the depth of the film is in the feeling it inspires. The disgust is the point. The emptiness is the point.
Saltburn is now in theatres
If you didn’t like Saltburn, you may still like its twin sister. Replace horny classmate with horny estranged daughter and you get a decent summary of this delicious French thriller. There is no pompacity on display — just an ease of intelligence hidden within expert genre filmmaking.
The Origin of Evil is now available to rent
18. Rotting in the Sun (dir. Sebastián Silva)
Watch Sebastian Silva’s latest for viral internet comedian Jordan Firstman and you’ll be part of its best joke. Silva plays a fictionalized version of himself, a filmmaker who decides to go on vacation rather than killing himself only to be terrorized by a fictionalized version of Firstman. What begins as a lo-fi take on Adaptation spirals into its own unique concoction of misery and farce.
Rotting in the Sun is now streaming on MUBI
17. Blue Jean (dir. Georgia Oakley)
Queer people can exist in every shadow; not in every spotlight. Set in 1988, this debut feature follows a familiar story of a closeted teacher torn between her job and her life. Elevated by sharp writing and acting, the film also distinguishes itself with a willingness to hold conflicting truths, to push for moral courage while acknowledging its limitations.
Blue Jean is now streaming on Hulu
16. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (dir. Aitch Alberto)
When adolescents fall in love, they’re falling in love with themselves. Like all the best films about teenage romance, this long-awaited adaptation respects the connection of its leads while centering their individual growth. This is a beautifully crafted film about the way queer people shape each other’s lives — in love and beyond.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is now available to rent
15. All of Us Strangers (dir. Andrew Haigh)
In Andrew Haigh’s ghost story, death is a metaphor. Ostensibly about a middle aged gay man reconnecting with his dead parents and hooking up with his neighbor, the grief echoing through the film is something quieter than total loss. It’s a portrait of the isolation of queerness. There is so much potential for connection if one can ignore the blurred pane of heteronormativity.
All of Us Strangers opens in theatres on December 22
14. Mutt (dir. Vuk Lungulov-Klotz)
Cis people have been making bad trans movies for so long, it felt like only cis people could be human. If trans people wanted dimensionality on-screen, we would have to ignore our transness altogether. Well, this film is the counter argument. Just about everything its protagonist faces during his terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day intersects with being trans. And yet it still doesn’t define him. He’s allowed to be trans and allowed to just be.
Mutt is now streaming on Netflix
13. Joyland (dir. Saim Sadiq)
Alina Khan’s Biba towers over this film like her gargantuan cardboard cut-out towers over the film’s central household. She is at once separate from the family who lives there and the catalyst for their greatest triumphs and tragedies. For Biba, transness is one part of her identity. For the rest of the characters, it’s a symbol of a freedom they’ve been denied.
Joyland is now available to rent
12. NYAD (dir. Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi)
My favorite sports movies treat athletics like a compulsion. The feat Diana Nyad sets out to accomplish is impossible — and yet she can never give up. With rousing swimming sequences, and a complicated queer friendship that lets Jodie Foster go full dyke, this story is at once human and superhuman.
NYAD is now streaming on Netflix
11. The Five Devils (dir. Léa Mysius)
Magic smells, time travel, arson, ice cold swims, a high school dance team. A fantasy with the human specificity of a quiet drama, there is so much here to reflect upon. It’s a tribute to lives lived and unlived, and a welcome return to lesbian cinema for star Adèle Exarchopoulos.
The Five Devils is now streaming on MUBI
10. L’immensita (dir. Emanuele Crialese)
The first movie I’ve seen about a trans person who doesn’t know they’re trans, this is a film that could only be made by a trans filmmaker. After years of working while stealth, Emanuele Crialese has come out to tell his childhood and does so with detail and whimsy. It captures the magic of even the most confused youth.
L’immensita is now streaming on Prime
9. Bad Things (dir. Stewart Thorndike)
Even though I find many buzzed about contemporary horror titles to be self-important, narratively muddled, and thematically confused, horror remains my favorite genre because of films like Bad Things. Stewart Thorndike’s second film excels as a work of art, a work of reference, and a queer character dramedy all while being extremely scary. Patient in its craft, sharp in its writing, perfect in its casting, this is a film worthy of its genre’s history.
Bad Things is now streaming on Shudder
8. Showing Up (dir. Kelly Reichardt)
One of our great film artists making a movie about art-making. As patient and specific as we’ve come to expect from Kelly Reichardt but filled with humor, this is a film to sink into, to live within. Enjoy the experience and let its power surprise you. May our greatest ambitions be intrinsically linked to our humanity.
Showing Up is now streaming on Paramount+
7. Something You Said Last Night (dir. Luis De Filippis)
When I saw Luis De Filippis’ debut feature at TIFF in 2022, I knew something had shifted in trans cinema. Finally, here was an independent film — an excellent independent film — that approached character and story with a casual ease akin to decades of cis cinema. It’s not only that De Filippis is drawing from personal experience the cis voyeurs of the past lacked; it’s that the film feels personal to one artist’s singular voice, transness just one part of that. My hope for trans cinema is for more films like this, more films like Isabel Sandoval’s Lingua Franca, more films where brilliant trans artists are allowed to simply create their vision.
Something You Said Last Night is not currently available to stream
6. Passages (dir. Ira Sachs)
A hungry, horny treat where beautiful people wear beautiful clothes in beautiful apartments and then take off those clothes for desperate sex. Ira Sachs does not abandon the tenderness of his previous work so much as contrast it with a deliciously selfish bisexual terror. Franz Rogowski, Ben Whishaw, and Adèle Exarchopoulos are the reason moving images were invented.
Passages is now streaming on MUBI
5. The Cow Who Sang a Song Into the Future (dir. Francisca Alegria)
An ecological fantasia about our suffering world. This unique debut is experimental in narrative and form yet wholly accessible due to its attention to character and its immense watchability. I feel the urge to compare it to the work of Apichatpong Weerasethakul, an insufficient urge that nevertheless speaks to the film’s splendor. The future is dire, the future is hopeful, the future is trans.
The Cow Who Sang a Song Into the Future is now available to rent
4. Anatomy of a Fall (dir. Justine Triet)
Anatomy of a fall. Anatomy of a marriage. Anatomy of a broken justice system. Justine Triet’s Palme d’Or winner is a sticky character drama with a possibly murderess, certainly flawed bisexual main character. The nuanced script and powerhouse performance from Sandra Hüller make for a thrilling cinematic experience — one that gains new resonance every time a bisexual celebrity is found in a legal and media frenzy.
Anatomy of a Fall is now in theatres
3. How to Blow Up a Pipeline (dir. Daniel Goldhaber)
Can movies change the world? I don’t know, but I do think it’s better to have high-octane genre-filmmaking that’s queer, environmentalist, and anti-colonialist than the empire propaganda we usually get. Maybe it’s not fair to compare this indie shot on 16mm to blockbuster actions films, and yet it’s a testament to this film’s craft that the comparison feels apt. This is edge-of-your-seat, radical filmmaking with an expert script and wonderful performances to back it up. Can movies change the world? I don’t know, but ecoterrorism probably could.
How to Blow Up a Pipeline is now streaming on Hulu
2. May December (dir. Todd Haynes)
Before you tell me this film isn’t queer, I already wrote an essay about its queerness. A queer filmmaker does not always equal a queer film, but when it comes to Todd Haynes, it usually does. His queer sensibility is deeply felt in the film’s craft and in his approach to these characters — also the one explicitly queer character is integral to the film’s depth. Uncomfortable, upsetting, hilarious, and moving, there is so much movie in this one movie. With every watch, new layers are revealed like never-ending butterflies from never-ending chrysalides.
May December is now streaming on Netflix
1. Mars One (dir. Gabriel Martins)
My favorite film at Sundance in 2022 is now my favorite film of 2023. (Thanks to the always wonderful ARRAY!) I love it now as much as I loved it then. A rare film about a family that does right by every member, each starring in their own intersecting movie. Through the specific experience of a Black lower middle class family living through the early months of Bolsonaro’s presidency, Gabriel Martins has made a film about finding a way in an impossible world. In this difficult yet tender film, coming out to someone is a gift. To share your desires, your wants, your dreams is to let someone know you better. It’s an invitation to dream together.
Mars One is now streaming on Netflix
Want to weigh in on the best queer movies of 2023? Go to the Autostraddle Instagram where all weekend we’re conducting reader polls in our stories! Argue for your faves in the comments and the final results will be posted on Monday.