10 Gay Documentaries Everyone Should See

May 28, 2008 at 7:13 am 14 comments

As an antidote to the straight-washed version of history foisted on us by traditional media and educational institutions, I present to you 10 Gay Documentaries Everyone Should See. These ten films only begin to scratch the surface of the rich and amazing history of LGBT people. Find out more at the GLBT Historical Society.

Also check out 10 Films Every Gay Boy Should See and 10 Books Every Gay Boy Should Read.

If you have other suggestions of gay documentaries that people should see, leave the titles in the comments section.

1. Before Stonewall – shows that gay history did not begin with the Stonewall Riots, but in fact existed far before it. Through the use of archival footage and interviews, the film shows vividly what life was like when gays were forced to hide their sexuality for fear of reprisals.

2. After Stonewall – documents the progress and challenges facing the gay community since the Stonewall Riots. Like Before Stonewall, the film weaves together archival footage and interviews and chronicles key events from 1970 to the end of the 20th century, including sexual liberation, conflicts with the feminist movement, AIDS and political organization.

3. The Life and Times of Harvey Milk – details the life of the heroic Harvey Milk who became the first openly gay member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Milk was assassinated along with Mayor George Moscone by anti-gay conservative Dan White. White was sentenced to a mere seven year prisoned sentence after claiming to have consumed a large quantity of Twinkies and other junk food. The mild sentence led to the White Night Riots.

4. Gay Sex in the 70s – is a fascinating look at gay life in NYC after the Stonewall riots in the period often referred to as the golden era of gay sexual liberation before the AIDS epidemic unleashed its hellacious fury on gay men.

5. Paris is Burning – shows that as fabulous as Madonna is, she did not invent vogueing. Vogueing and the gay ball scene has a long proud history in the Black and Latino gay communities and the groundbreaking documentary Paris is Burning brings that history to light in all its feathered and sequined glory.

6. The Celluloid Closet – unearths the queer subtext in Hollywood films and traces the history of lesbian and gay characters in popular movies. The film is based on the book by Vito Russo and shows how Hollywood has sought to benefit from gay creativity while attempting to shove us in a gilded closet.

7. Paragraph 175 – shows the vicious persecution of gay men by the Nazis during World War II. At the time of the making of the film only a handful of gay survivors were still alive to share their stories.

8. For the Bible Tells Me So – examines the ways in which right-wing extremists have distorted and misused biblical scripture to justify their hatred of and deny basic civil rights to LGBT people.

9. TransGeneration – is an eight part series that follows a year in the lives of four transgender college students.

10. Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt – is the Academy award winning story of the first decade of the AIDS epidemic through the use of personal reminiscences, archival footage and interviews with politicians, health professional and people living with AIDS.


Entry filed under: Advocacy, Education, Entertainment, HIV/AIDS, LGBT, Movies, Politics, Pop Culture, Uncategorized, Video, YouTube. Tags: , , , , .

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14 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Gay Docs Are Fab! / Queerty  |  May 28, 2008 at 9:32 am

    […] here’s a rundown of “ten gay documentaries everyone should see” – or face the queer consequences. The list includes fan favorites like For The Bible Tells Me So, […]

  • 2. AE  |  May 28, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    I love this list, especially Celluloid Closet and For the Bible Tells Me So…

    Coincidentally, one of the kids profiled in For the Bible Tells Me So, Jacob Reitan, is making news this week. He and a group of his peers at Harvard tried to enlist in the military at a recruitment station despite their open homosexuality…

    I wrote a little bit about the story here:


  • 3. Keith  |  May 29, 2008 at 6:54 am

    How about the documentary, “Lesbian Grandmothers from Mars”?

  • 4. Michael Crawford  |  May 30, 2008 at 11:27 am


    Jacob is an amazing activist. I knew him a bit during my time at HRC.

  • 5. Michael Crawford  |  May 30, 2008 at 11:28 am


    Lesbian Grandmothers from Mars is a great choice. The film was smart, funny and touching.

  • 6. Miss Vicki  |  May 30, 2008 at 5:05 pm

    you betcha Gay History began long before Stonewall.

    let us not forget ‘Ruth Ellis’ and her partner ‘Babe’.

    Ruth Ellis as you well know was our oldest out ever known black lesbian, who lived to be 103 yrs old. She started ‘The Gay Spot’ inside her home.

    She was the ‘first woman in america’ that owned a printing company and there is the ‘Ruth Ellis Center’ in Detroit Michigan in honor of her. They feed clothe shelter offer many services to the LGBT community.

    I love your blog and this post that I discovered at The Bilerico Project! You started if off in the greatest direction paying homage to lesbians of color – we are so often forgotten about.

    Thanks Mr. Mike! Have a Flawless Weekend!

  • 7. Bostonian Queer in Dallas  |  May 31, 2008 at 4:29 am

    RE: Bible shit…they next time someone quotes Leviticus…here’s a nifty little tool to use on them…the word in Hebrew for ABOMINATION is “schicksa”….New York Jewish men often refer to Gentile girlfriends as Schicksas….Oy he married a Schicksa. This word appears in the Torah a few times and translates as “abomination”. So…the next time someone quotes Leviticus against man lying with man, ask if their wife is Gentile…the answer will probably be yes…and merely point out that the wife or girlfriend is also an “abomination”.

  • 8. Michael Crawford  |  May 31, 2008 at 6:18 am

    Thanks Miss Vicki. Ruth Ellis was a pretty amazing woman. Lesbians of color have done a tremendous amount to build the LGBT community and our movement for civil rights and have not gotten the recognition they deserve.

  • 9. Wari  |  June 28, 2008 at 5:42 pm

    How can anyone forget “The Boys In The Band”?

    Shame on you!

  • 10. Wari  |  June 28, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    But is nice to see my circle of friends are still remembered. There will never be another generation like the “Paris is Burning” generation. Most are gone to HIV. We thought we’d never get it. It was an “old, white queens” disease and we were neither.

    So many dead. So many lessons lost, and so many ways of being gay buried in the ground. It’s amazing Willi Ninja lasted as long as he did. It’s a strange Pride weekend without her in NYC.


  • 11. Michael Crawford  |  June 28, 2008 at 6:42 pm


    The Boys in the Band was a fictional film. This is a list of documentaries.

    The good thing, though, is that we are seeing such an increase in LGBT related films. I hope that the trend continues and that we get more openly gay characters in more films and on television.

  • […] See also 10 Gay Documentaries Everyone Should See. […]

  • 13. Dave Marquez  |  May 27, 2009 at 5:12 am

    The documentary about Harvey Milk that you reference is called THE TIMES OF HARVEY MILK and it certainly deserves it’s place on this list. Thank you for compiling this resource.

  • 14. Inukumaru  |  May 29, 2009 at 8:05 pm

    This gay novel has pretty extreme views about religion and being gay all done in a sci-fi style sory, the writer was even almost killed when this book was first published. After being banned in his own country it is now available.
    check the plot – As predicted by Isaac Newton the second coming happened and as the world waited to see what was about to happen an appointed man was sent to meet God, hours later God had vanished and the man came out immortal; no apocalypse, no destruction and no salvation. This gave birth to a chain of holy wars that almost chattered Earth’s civilizations and so giving birth to a mass colonization of planets to ensure peace by separation. Thousands of years later all was at peace by until Endings were born; humans connected to their planets in such a way that they are capable of destroying them should they wish it. Now Earth’s Ending has been born and the day to pass judgment draws near.
    it can be found here


    Apart from that it is very hard to find


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