It’s almost the weekend that all of us look forward to every year here in Sydney. Gay Christmas (aka Mardi Gras)! While there are many ways to get ready for the fabulous weekend, I think watching some films with unapologetically queer characters is the best way to go.
These movies are all about celebrating who you are and loving whoever the hell you want to.
I know it’s probably niche to watch movies to prepare for Mardi Gras but there is no better way to be proud of who you are than to see yourself represented in film.
This week’s Gizmodo Movie Night is all about hyping you up for the big weekend and filling you with LGBTQIA+ pride.
Queer films to watch this Mardi Gras
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)
It definitely is no secret how much I admire and adore this movie.
What more could you possibly want than three very unapologetically queer people travelling on an RV through Australia to perform drag in Alice Springs?
The answer is nothing. There is nothing better.
I think I watch this movie at least four times a year because it’s a celebration of being out and proud and truly not giving a fuck about what other people think of you.
Being released in 1994, when homophobia and transphobia were so rife in Australia (and the world, really) proves that this movie was definitely ahead of its time.
What’s more is that the inclusion of a remote Indigenous community being shown as thriving, happy and proud is something that was not seen in Australian media before.
Also having an Indigenous person dressed up in drag and performing to I Will Survive broke a lot of stereotypes about masculinity and queerness within Indigenous communities.
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is the perfect queer film to watch to prepare for this year’s Sydney Mardi Gras.
It’s camp, it’s funny, it’s Aussie, it’s beautiful.
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is available on Amazon Prime.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
This wouldn’t be a list of unapologetic queer films without having The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
From iconic songs to incredible dazzling costumes, Rocky Horror is a classic go-to movie for all audiences.
Like Priscilla, Rocky Horror was very, very ahead of the times in showcasing the queer spectrum of identity and sexuality. More than that, it showed the beauty of being different and a little bit of a freak.
A user called Bi Curious Dirt Bike Boi (fabulous name) commented on the trailer of the film saying, “The first movie that gave us permission to be weird”.
I couldn’t have said it any better.
Obviously, being released back in 1975 means it hasn’t necessarily aged well in regards to the language used around trans/gender non-conforming identities but the core message of being yourself still rings true.
The motto of the film being “Don’t dream it, be it,” is a simple yet powerful sentiment for queer people to have.
When I was a young kid who was terrified of being gay, I would always dream of a life where I could be unapologetically myself. As cheesy as it may sound, that simple motto (and the movie as a whole) helped me realise that instead of living in fear and dreaming about being myself, why don’t I just live the life I want to now?
This movie created a safe world for anyone and everyone to fit in and be their authentic selves.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show is currently streaming on Disney+.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)
John Cameron Mitchell’s film adaptation of his cult musical is probably one of the best queer films I’ve ever seen.
The rage and the punk in this movie encapsulates the queer experience perfectly.
The movie follows the turbulent life of gender-queer Hedwig who moves to America from Berlin and becomes a glam-rock diva sensation.
It’s gritty and grungy, which is exactly what the underground queer scene used to be like.
This movie gives people the space to explore their own identities by showing them the different spectrums of the queer community.
This movie is a resistance to the norm.
If you wanted an unapologetic queer character then Hedwig is for you.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch is currently streaming on Apple TV.
Everything Everywhere All at Once (2020)
This film of 2022 is also one that’s filled with so much queer celebration, love and acceptance.
It’s an incredibly powerful film and to see queer Asian representation is also important, we need to see more of it.
Apart from being a visually stunning film, Everything Everywhere All at Once is a kaleidoscope of colour, vibrancy and wonder. Many things I associate with the queer community.
Everything Everywhere All at Once is currently streaming on Binge.
Carol is utterly beautiful and heartbreaking in both the film and the novel of the same name.
Seriously, I cried when reading the book and again when I watched the movie. Yay for emotions!
Whilst Carol (Cate Blanchett, Aussie icon and legend) and Therese (Rooney Mara) aren’t necessarily overt in their displays of queerness, they show their love for one another in more nuanced ways.
I think the simplicity in their displays of affection and tenderness is incredibly unapologetic because despite knowing the risks of being together, they explored their love.
Being set in the 1950s, it’s remarkably brave for two women to break from the conventions that restrict them both and embark on a journey of self-expression.
We also don’t get many good lesbian films that aren’t filled with stereotypes or based on the hyper-sexualisation of women. This film was not made for the male gaze and that’s very refreshing.
Carol is currently streaming on Stan.
The Queen (1968)
This documentary is one of the best insights into the Ballroom scene in New York where queer people of all shapes and colours could be themselves.
We follow Flawless Sabrina (aka the Queen) who is preparing for the 1967 Miss All America Camp Beauty Contest at New York City’s Town Hall.
The documentary is filled with jealousy, beautiful costumes, hair and makeup, dancing and rivalry. It’s horribly camp.
Against the backdrop of a viciously homophobic, transphobic and racist society, these LGBTQIA+ icons would have rathered live their authentic lives than conform. Even if that ran the risk of being imprisoned, or worse. There is nothing more unapologetically queer than sticking the middle finger up to the laws that prohibited and denied their existence.
As queer people, our existence is resistance and rebellion and this documentary is a testament to that.
This is a raw portrayal of the world before RuPaul’s Drag Race, before the Stonewall riots and where queer people thrived despite being constantly persecuted.
My favourite line from this film is from the legendary Crystal LaBeija herself: “You deserve to have the best in life”.
The Queen is currently streaming on Netflix.
The Birdcage (1996)
I don’t think enough people know about The Birdcage or if they do, they don’t talk about it as much as they should.
Coming out (pun intended) towards the end of a decade of the HIV/AIDs epidemic where death and disease were all LGBTQIA+ people heard about, the film gave queer people the chance to laugh again.
This farcical and whimsical comedy is another one of my favourite movies because it’s wholesome to see queer men form a family unit, especially in the 90s when queer families were constantly under attack.
Comedic geniuses Robin Williams (Armand) and Nathan Lane (Albert/Starina) play lovers and owners of a drag nightclub whose son Val wants to marry the daughter of an incredibly conservative, right-wing politician.
To seem like the “normal” family in the eyes of the senator, Armand and Albert decide the best idea is to act straight, with Albert going full mother of the bride drag realness to act as Val’s biological mother.
As you can imagine, chaos and hilarity ensue.
In the end, the family realises that it’s better to be your true, unapologetically queer self instead of having to hide it.
This movie set me on my life’s mission to fool conservative homophobes into liking me.
The Birdcage is currently streaming on Prime Video.
The Favourite (2018)
Everyone’s favourite queen, Olivia Coleman, brings this queer historical dark comedy to life.
While it’s rather unexpected, the unapologetic queerness of Queen Anne and her ladies in waiting is so refreshing.
What I love most about The Favourite is that the queerness of Queen Anne is just a matter of fact and just something that exists. Rather than have it be a storyline or a joke.
It’s also a fun way to revitalise historical dramas/comedies that are far too heterosexual. Lovers of history will know that things were a little queerer than originally recorded.
The film made history as the first movie that focuses on queer women engaging in sex and absolutely loving it. The Favourite was nominated as the Best Picture at the Oscars, too.
Having a queer dark comedy is also something I would love to see more of.
The Favourite is currently streaming on Disney+.
I hope you all have a lovely time celebrating queerness this weekend, whether you’re attending Mardi Gras or not. I am honoured to be able to belong to such a beautiful community and see movies like the ones listed be so unapologetic in their exploration of queerness.
Always remember that you are worthy of love, no matter what others may make you believe. It is no one else’s business to dictate who you decide to love.
Go forth and be unapologetically queer, dear readers.
Gizmodo Movie Night is our fortnightly roundup of movie and TV recommendations for the weekend. If you’re ever stuck and looking for inspiration, check out our list and see what’s in store.
Stay tuned for the next edition of the column and check out our last one: Films that should have been nominated for an Oscar.
This article has been updated since it was first published.