It’s Pride Month which means every straight publication is publishing or republishing a list of queer movies to help you celebrate. “16 LGBTQ Movies to Watch This Pride Month,” Time Magazine suggests. “LGBT Film List for Pride Month,” Harpers Bazaar adds. But while they’re winning SEO battles recommending Brokeback Mountain, whomst is thinking of the straights??
Here at Autostraddle, we cover queer movies all year-round. Whether in our exhaustive 200 Lesbian+ Movies list or more esoteric guides, we don’t need Pride Month to inspire enthusiasm for gay cinema. That’s why this month, I thought we’d fill in the straight gap while our hetero friends are busy with the queers. I present to you: The Top 10 Straight Movies of the Past 10 Years.
Author’s Note: Since straight-made queer lists include films with minor queer characters, my generous rule here is if a film has at least one straight protagonist it’s eligible. This is not a joke. These are genuinely my ten favorite straight movies of the past ten years.
Certain Women (dir. Kelly Reichardt)
Everything Everywhere All At Once (dir. Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert)
Happy Hour (dir. Ryūsuke Hamaguchi)
If Beale Street Could Talk (dir. Barry Jenkins)
Mad Max: Fury Road (dir. George Miller)
Minari (dir. Lee Isaac Chung)
Never Rarely Sometimes Always (dir. Eliza Hittman)
The Pink Cloud (dir. Iuli Gerbase)
Shoplifters (dir. Hirokazu Kore-eda)
Toni Erdmann (dir. Maren Ade)
Uncut Gems (dir. Josh & Benny Safdie)
Us (dir. Jordan Peele)
10. Before Midnight (dir. Richard Linklater)
One of the greatest straight love stories in cinema history, Richard Linklater’s Before Trilogy found melancholy in its conclusion. While Before Sunrise portrayed two straight strangers falling in love and Before Sunset found romance in second chances, this last entry is more concerned with the challenges that arise after the magic. Before Midnight may not appear as romantic, but it ultimately reaches a sweet acceptance. Not all love is meant to last forever. Sometimes love that does last is still hard. But even amidst the greatest challenges, there’s still beauty in straight love.
9. Widows (dir. Steve McQueen)
A reoccurring theme in straight cinema is hetero women cleaning up the messes of hetero men. Never was this done better than in Steve McQueen’s post-Oscar win feature Widows. Viola Davis leads a truly iconic cast in this heist movie about a group of women joining forces to pay off the debt left by their thief husbands. A remake of a British miniseries, McQueen transports the story to Chicago where he infuses the tale with explorations of race and local politics. While many of the cast members are not straight themselves, they do an excellent job portraying their characters — finding humanity beyond their sexuality.
8. As I Open My Eyes (dir. Leyla Bouzid)
This French-Tunisian co-production begins like so many France-set political coming-of-age tales. Farah is a singer in a secret relationship with a male member of her band. She’s feisty, stubborn, horny, and defies her parents who want her to study medicine. But this film takes place in Tunisia in the summer of 2010 and as it continues, director and co-writer Leyla Bouzid gives that familiar arthouse tale a postcolonial edge. Through Farah’s straight coming-of-age, Bouzid shows the difference between navel-gazing teen rebellion and real social rebellion. It’s a difficult film that finds beauty in music and in the youthful ability to fight for lost causes. Anchored by a stellar lead performance from Baya Medhaffar, As I Open My Eyes is one of the most under-celebrated films — straight or gay — in recent cinema.
7. Lemonade (dir. Beyoncé and others)
While undoubtedly one of the most accomplished contemporary straight musicians and businesswomen, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter deserves just as much praise as a filmmaker. Building on the achievements of her self-titled visual album, Lemonade is a cohesive, collaborative music film that explores Black heterosexual womanhood and Black heterosexual relationships. The famously private artist uses the challenges of her public marriage in a work centered on betrayal, anger, hurt, and, ultimately, forgiveness. With the words of Warsan Shire and artistic references ranging from Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust to the video art of Pipilotti Rist, Beyoncé showcases the variety of great art made by straight women who are married to or have been married to men.
6. Señoritas (dir. Lina Rodríguez)
Lina Rodríguez has been dismissively referred to as the Colombian Lena Dunham. But while they may share a focus on straight characters, it’d be more accurate to compare her to the non-straight Chantal Akerman. With long takes and a grounded setting, Lina Rodríguez lets her characters live in real time. Her debut feature, Señoritas, follows a young woman named Alejandra as she goes about her daily life in Bogota. She helps her mom cook, she makes out with boys, and, of course, she masturbates. It’s normal to want to find comparisons for cinema this formally unique, but the fact is Rodríguez’s cinema is entirely her own. There is no film — straight or gay — quite like Señoritas.
5. Mudbound (dir. Dee Rees)
While some people may take issue with a queer filmmaker telling a straight story, Dee Rees’ masterpiece epic Mudbound is proof that sometimes it’s possible. Based on the book by Hilary Jordan, Rees’ film follows two heterosexual male veterans — one Black and one white — returning to their families in rural Mississippi after World War II. With a talented ensemble cast, including an Oscar nominated turn from Mary J. Blige, Rees creates a painful and powerful American story. And while I’m here to discuss straight achievements, I still have to mention the truly incredible cinematography from Rachel Morrison. (While nominated for an Oscar, she ultimately lost to Roger Deakins, only the 119th man to win the award.)
4. Magic Mike XXL (dir. Gregory Jacobs)
Many stories of heterosexual masculinity show it to be a toxic pursuit, but this surprising sequel demonstrates the ways it can be used for good. A road movie, a love story, a tale of friendship, a modern day Old Hollywood musical, Magic Mike XXL is the film we hoped the first one would be and more. While passing off directing duties to his fellow straight man and long-time AD Gregory Jacobs, heterosexual auteur Steven Soderbergh stayed on the project as DP and editor splashing his style all over the affair. Jada Pinkett Smith, Elizabeth Banks, Donald Glover, and Amber Heard join our main cast of dancer bros and the result is a smart and delightful burst of sex and charm. By the time the film builds to its big final number, even the gayest audience member might wonder if they’re a little bit straight.
3. Lady Bird (dir. Greta Gerwig)
A dazzling portrait of a white heterosexual girl’s coming-of-age, Greta Gerwig’s solo directorial debut gave us a straight character anyone can root for. Quoted, memed, written about, and referenced to death, Gerwig’s film continues to charm due to its relatable nesting doll of love stories.
Saoirse Ronan’s Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson has two romances — one with Lucas Hedges and the other with straight actor Timothée Chalamet. But the real love story is between her and her best friend Julie played by Beanie Feldstein. Except the actual real love story is between her and her mother — a standout performance from Laurie Metcalf in a film full of standout performances. Except ultimately it’s not that either. Ultimately, it’s a love story between Lady Bird and her hometown of Sacramento, a place she can’t wait to leave yet can’t help but love. It is all of these love stories, each told with nuance and attention to detail. To quote the film, “Don’t you think maybe they are the same thing? Love and attention?”
2. American Honey (dir. Andrea Arnold)
Her recent television work may have focused on people with more privilege — I Love Dick, Transparent, Big Little Lies — but Andrea Arnold’s films have long centered tales of lower and lower-middle class heterosexuals. In an industry that’s nearly impossible to enter without economic privilege, Arnold is one of the few auteurs to share the background of her characters. This is felt in work that’s grounded in economic struggle but disinterested in the trauma porn of more voyeuristic artists. Never is this more true than in the beautiful masterpiece, American Honey.
In her debut performance, Sasha Lane bravely explores the psyche of a heterosexual character, portraying Star, a teenage girl who gets involved with a traveling magazine sales crew. Not only is American Honey an audacious work of cinema, it also understands that rumored heterosexual Rihanna’s “We Found Love” is the greatest song of all time.
1. In Between (dir. Maysaloun Hamoud)
While Maysaloun Hamoud’s masterful debut tells the story of a lesbian DJ we can all relate to, its straight storylines hold equal power. Leila, Nour, and the aforementioned DJ, Salma, are three very different Palestinian women navigating life in occupied Tel Aviv. Leila is progressive and Nour is traditional, but they both face oppression in their heterosexual relationships. Layer this on top of the oppression they face as Palestinians, and they are both experiencing untenable situations. As the years pass since In Between’s release, its relevance only grows. Not only does the occupation of Palestine continue to result in inequity and violence by Israel, but, more broadly, so many of us are facing increased — and intersecting — oppression from our own fascist governments and conservative societies. This is not a hopeful film, but I find hope within it all the same. There may not be easy answers for any of us, but there is community and solidarity. These three women support one another — religious or not religious, straight or gay. They take care of each other in an impossible world.
The best heterosexual cinema is not heterosexual at all. The year is 2022 and our best films understand that queerness is everywhere, even in straight stories. Most of us — no matter our gender or sexuality — have some identity that’s currently under attack. Now more than ever we need solidarity. Now more than ever we need straight films like In Between. [#64 on our All-Time Lesbian Movie List 😉]