What movies with lesbian, bisexual, queer, and trans women in them can a person find streaming on HBO Max? This is a question you might have, and good news, we are here to answer it.
Historically, HBO has been pretty good to the LGBTQ community, producing a lot of inclusive original content, but I also found its slate of non-HBO queer films to be surprisingly robust. That said, a handful of films on HBO when I started writing this post forty thousand years ago (October 2020) I was excited to see, like Personal Best and The Kids Are All Right, have since left. But listen: Desert Hearts!!!!!!!
This post was published in November 2020. Most recent update: 6/2/2021.
Bessie (2015, HBO Original)
This immediate classic and multiple-Emmy-winner co-written and directed by Dee Rees (Pariah, When We Rise, Mudbound) stars Queen Latifah as bisexual American blues singer Bessie Smith and features Mo-Nique as Ma Rainey. Gabby described this “badass bisexual biopic,” declaring, “this movie is well-done, like so well-done. The vaudeville stage moments and all of the singing in clubs and giant tent revivals are lively and beautiful. The black excellence in this film is something to behold and revel in. Everyone is gorgeous. The costumes, the wigs, the make-up, the dancing: all of it is authentic and just so much damn fun to watch.”
Best in Show (2000)
Christopher Guest’s mockumentary about showdogs presents Jane Lynch as trainer Christy Cummings, a competitive handler working for poodle-owning couple Sherri Ann and Leslie Ward Cabot. But there’s more going on between Sherri and Christy than meets the eye, if you know what I mean and I think you do!
Billie Jean King: Portrait of a Pioneer (2006, HBO Original)
Just a lil one-hour spot chronicling the life of the tennis legend who changed the American sports landscape in the 1970s, including “an intimate look at her private life, including her bisexuality.”
“There’s the gay that you know because the movie says it with their words,” Carmen wrote of the film she described as “the chaotic sparkly queer misandrist comic book movie of my dreams,” “and there’s the gay you know because you can see it with your eyes. Birds of Prey, with its neon pink and blue hues, glitter bomb grenades, pet hyenas in rhinestone collars, and car chases on roller skates, gives us both.”
Drew writes that this “cruel movie about cruel women” is worth it for its “camerawork, costume design, and incredible performances from Margit Carstensen, Hanna Schygulla, and Irm Hermann.”
This film is such a hidden gem! It’s an indie comedy starring a young Yara Shahidi as a master butter sculptor with ambitions of beating out the local favorite Bob Pickler (Ty Burrell) at the Iowa State Fair. Olivia Wilde plays Brooke, a bisexual sex worker who is a client of Bob’s (his wife is played by Jennifer Garner playing the part that Jennifer Garner always plays) but her storyline goes past this relationship! Carmen enjoyed it and perhaps so can you.
Carmen y Lola (2018)
Set in Madrid, this coming-of-age story finds 17-year-old Carmen falling for free-spirited artist Lola while fearing rejection from their conservative Roma community, who expect the young women to get married and have as many children as possible.
The Case Against 8 (2014)
This documentary follows the unlikely team that took the first federal marriage equality lawsuit to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Chasing Amy (1997)
Well-received critically by the mainstream and deeply loathed by many members of our queer community, this Kevin Smith comedy is about a male comic artist (Ben Affleck) who falls in love with another comic book artist, Alyssa (Joey Lauren Adams), who identifies as a lesbian. This does not entirely deter him! This film feels less offensive now than it did then when there was so little out there about lesbian and bisexual women, but still, like……. UGH WHY
Desert Hearts (1986)
“Donna Deitch’s lesbian love story is set in the ’50s and was filmed in the ’80s, and is still, in 2020, a radical piece of filmmaking,” wrote Heather in her review of this classic based on Jane Rule’s novel. “It basically has an all-women cast, and — much like Carol, which is what critics tend to compare it to for all the wrong reasons — it does not center the pleasures or preferences of men, ever.”
Famke Jansen plays the “life partner” of Lucy, one of the members of a family who is gathered to bid farewell to the family patriarch and also bicker with each other. Ray Romano stars. If you go into this expecting it to be really bad, it will seem fine.
Salma Hayek got an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of surrealist Mexica artist Frida Kahlo in this biopic mainly focused on her relationship with husband Diego Rivera. Bisexual Kahlo has many affairs with women including Josephine Baker (Karine Plantadit-Bageot) and Tina Modotti (Ashley Judd), who also had an affair with Diego!
Gia (1998, HBO Original)
An underrated film I have personally discussed so much on this website that it may have at some point crossed the line from underrated to overrated, Angelina Jolie plays the tragically beautiful (and very bisexual) titular figure Gia Marie Carangi, known as “world’s first supermodel.”
The Heiresses (Las Heredas) (2019)
Chela (Ana Brun) and Chiquita (Margarita Irun), descendants of formerly prominent families in Asunción, see their 30-year-relationship shaken up when they run out of heirlooms to sell and Chiquita is sent to prison for fraud, leaving Chela to start a car service business for wealthy older women. In doing so, she meets Angy, and develops a crush that throws everybody’s lives into TUMULT.
Bisexual writer/director/weirdo Miranda July’s third film is “a careful, long-game-playing meditation on how we can learn to parent ourselves when our own families refuse to do the job.” Starring Evan Rachel Wood, the film is both a “dreamy, golden-hour queer love story set amidst the friendly outlandishness of contemporary Los Angeles” and an “unsettling, fluorescent portrait of familial betrayal.”
The Laramie Project (2002, HBO Original)
Moises Kaufman’s 2000 play about the murder of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming was a piece of “verbatim theater,” drawing on hundreds of interviews his theater company conducted with Laramie residents and published news reports. HBO adapted the play into a grounded, emotional GLAAD-award-winning film in 2002, starring Christina Ricci, Laura Linney, Camryn Manheim, Joshua Jackson and Clea Duvall, among others.
Mulholland Drive (2001)
Drew called this twisty surrealist neo-noir thriller “a cinematic masterpiece and one of David Lynch’s finest works.” Naomi Watts plays Betty, an actress new to Los Angeles who is immediately drawn to and falls for an amnesiac woman recovering from a car crash.
Multiple Maniacs (1970)
“John Waters lives up to his title Pope of Trash with this raucous celebration of counter-culture deviancy,” writes Drew of this film that opens with “a group of cishet normals making their way through a free exhibit titled The Cavalcade of Perversions” followed by Divine robbing them all at gunpoint. “Waters starts his filmography with a statement and never lets up.”
The Out List (2013, HBO Original)
A cornucopia of famous LGBTQ+ people including Janet Mock, Suze Orman, Cynthia Nixon, Wanda Sykes and Ellen DeGeneres discuss the struggles of being “out”
Ready Player One (2018)
Based on Ernest Cline’s sci-fi novel, Ready Player One is set in a dystopian 2045 where humans escape the real world through the virtual world of OASIS, where they can adopt characters of their choice and compete for elusive escape from their bleak reality. Lena Waithe plays lead character Wade’s best friend, lesbian gamer Aech/Helen Harris, who Heather describes as “[weaving] a magic spell around that audience, ping-ponging them between flashes of awe and fits of giggles.”
Steven Universe: The Movie (2019)
Steven Universe and its epilogue series, Steven Universe Future is probably the most beloved queer animated series of all time. Created and showrun by non-binary queer writer/artist/musician Rebecca Sugar, the show follow Steven and his family of Crystal Gems as they seek to save the planet and keep Steven safe as he grows up and learns what it means that he is the vessel for his mom’s gem. One of his Gem parents, Garnet, is actually a married lesbian fusion between Ruby and Sapphire! They even get married near the end of the series, becoming the first children’s series to ever feature a gay wedding! Steven Universe: The Movie is a musical that takes place two years after the series finale, “Change Your Mind,” but before Future. It’s everything you love about Steven Universe, as a full-on teenager!
The Strange History of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (2011, HBO Original)
This documentary follows the infamous policy from its implementation through protests, debate, and eventual repeal.
This documentary focuses on Bindle & Keep, a Brooklyn-based custom-suit company who caters to queer, trans and gender-non-conforming humans, including a trans man preparing for his wedding and a law student struggling through job interviews.
Sunshine Cleaning (2009)
This comedy-drama follows 30-something single Mom Rose (Amy Adams) and her queer underachieving sister Norah (Emily Blunt) as they embark upon the industry of crime scene cleanup. Norah experiences a little subplot of her own involving the daughter of a woman who died in one of the houses she cleaned.
The Trans List (2016, HBO Original)
The same filmmaker who made “The Out List” made this little flick featuring interviews with high-profile trans Americans like Caitlyn Jenner, Buck Angel, Laverne Cox and Amos Mac.
Unpregnant (2020, HBO Original)
A charming little buddy comedy about a popular, successful high school girl who gets pregnant and must road trip from Missouri to New Mexico to get the abortion her boyfriend doesn’t want her to have. She recruits her former friend — weirdo lesbian Bailey (Barbie Ferreira) — to join her on this journey. Look out for a very charming Betty Who cameo!
Valentine Road (2013, HBO Original)
The tragic story of the murder of 15-year-old trans student Larry King by his classmate Brandon McInerny is the topic of this documentary, which loooks at the circumstances that led to the crime and its complicated and far-reaching aftermath.
V for Vendetta (2005)
V for Vendetta is a dystopian political action film from the Wachowskis starring Natalie Portman. In 2006, A*terE*len’s Sarah Warn called it “One of the most pro-gay films ever.”
Whoopi Goldberg Presents Moms Mabley (2013, HBO Original)
Iconic African-American standup comic Jackie “Moms” Mabley is honored in this documentary featuring performance footage as well as interviews with stars like Eddie Murphy, Joan Rivers, Sidney Poitier and Kathy Griffin. The film also gives space to Moms’ lesbianism — she was out to her friends and other entertainers during her career, but it was kept a secret from the public, who were drawn to her “frumpy mom in a housedress” persona.