Flatpack Festival
Film for all the senses

Six of the Best... Queer Cinema

Amy Smart
Monday 22nd February, 2021 Posted by Amy Smart

February marks LGBT history month, an annual month-long observance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history, and the history of gay rights and related civil rights movements. To celebrate I’ve put together a list of queer film recommendations to get you through those long lockdown nights - all but one passes the Bechdel Test (yay!) and they all pass the Russo Test, obvs. (I’ve also included a few fun bonus films that didn’t quite make my top 6, just in case you’re more in the mood for a happy ending...)

Stranger By the Lake

(dir: Alain Guiraudie, France 2013)
One hot summer at a cruising spot for men, tucked away on the shores of a lake somewhere in France, Franck (Pierre Deladonchamps) falls in love with Michel (Christophe Paou), an attractive and very dangerous man. Stranger By the Lake is a smart, sexy and haunting thriller that manages to shock you with its direct, erotic charge and plenty of full frontal nudity. Going into it I assumed that the homosexuality would be incidental but it's an integral part of the story and the film is all the better for it. Director Alain Guiraudie moves between scenes of beauty, menace, and intense passion, slowly building a tension that leaves you uneasily contemplating what might be around the corner. The location is gorgeous, with most of the film’s soundtrack devoted to ambient sounds, intensifying the action and drawing us into a world where the hot sun beating down on even hotter bodies is enough to make anyone go a bit crazy.
Available on BFI Player

The Duke of Burgundy

(dir: Peter Strickland, UK 2014)
The Duke of Burgundy is a gorgeous, perfectly paced drama that’s lit like a 1970s softcore porno. Set in a female-only household, two lovers, entomologist Cynthia (Sidse Babett Knudsen) and her maid Evelyn (Chiara D’Annna), engage in a dominant-submissive sadomasochistic relationship that makes Fifty Shades look like a rom-com. At times dream-like (with hints of David Lynch or Dario Argento), Strickland gives us something unique, a complex, smartly written and very human story that explores the dominant/submissive relationship between two women and how they are each affected by it. Nothing is quite as it seems and the way the themes are explored is a delight to watch, including a twist that I most definitely did not see coming. While perhaps not everyone’s cup of tea, this film will certainly stay with you for a bit after the credits have rolled.
Available on BFI Player


(dir: Sean Baker, USA 2015)
After hearing that her boyfriend/pimp cheated on her while she was in jail, sex worker Sin-Dee and her BFF Alexandra go on a mission to track him down and teach him and his new lover a lesson. Shot on an iPhone (a fact that filmmaker Sean Baker managed to keep under his hat until the world premiere) this is a thoroughly entertaining, expertly made film about two transgender women unlike anything else you’ve ever seen. There’s a whiff of John Waters as we follow the drama through Tinseltown and become acquainted with the various characters, many of whom are real people living and working in LA (including the two fierce leads played by transgender actors Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor). The nails may be fake but the women are real and the authentic casting makes Tangerine all the more sweet.
Available on Amazon Prime


(dir: Sebastian Lelio, UK 2017)
Returning home following the death of her father, old tensions resurface when Ronit (Rachel Weisz) is reunited with former lover Esti (Rachel McAdams), who is now married to their childhood friend Dovid (Alessandro Nivola). There are a lot of things to celebrate in this quiet drama about two Jewish women navigating their love for each other within an Orthodox community. This is a film about faith, about the past, about the desire for community, and the desire to escape. Let’s face it though, this is also the film where Rachel Weisz spits in Rachel McAdams’ mouth. And it’s hot. Really hot. Saliva aside, it’s also director Sebastian Lelio’s first English language feature following on from his Oscar winning trans drama, A Fantastic Woman, which is also well worth a look.
Available on Amazon Prime


(dir: Wanuri Kahiu, Kenya 2018)
Tensions run high when Kena (Samantha Mugatsia) and Ziki (Sheila Munyiva) start a same-sex love affair in a place where it is definitely not ok to be gay. Homosexuality is still illegal in the African nation, and when the girls are caught in the act they are confronted by an angry mob - tension, heartache and international travel ensues. The fictional discrimination on screen shone a harsh spotlight on the reality queer people in Kenya face when the Kenya Film Classification Board banned its release because of its homosexual content. Director Wanuri Kahiu sued the Kenyan government to get the film released so it could be submitted as the country’s entry for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, and the ban was lifted long enough for Rafiki to become the second highest-grossing Kenyan film of all time.
Available on BFI Player

Portrait of a Lady on Fire

(dir: Céline Sciamma, France 2019)
This was one of my favourite films of 2020. Céline Sciamma's stunning Cannes prize-winner is a compelling vision of the power of desire. Set in late 18th century France, portrait-painter Marianne (Noémie Merlant) is hired by a wealthy countess to paint a portrait of her reclusive daughter Héloïse (Adèle Haenel) for the purpose of bagging her a husband. But things soon get messy between the painter and her subject as they begin to fall in love. There’s just so much to love about this film, the precise use of music and sound transports us to 18th century Brittany, the cinematography gives us so much colour and light every frame could be hung in a gallery and the performances from the two leads are mesmerising. The final shot, a long close-up of Haenel in profile, is why I go to the cinema. P.S. Whilst you’re checking out Céline Sciamma I also highly recommend her 2011 film Tomboy.
Available on MUBI

Here come the happy endings...

Imagine Me & You

(dir: Ol Parker, UK 2005)
Before directing camp classic Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, Ol Parker penned a lesbian rom-com with a bunch of famous faces and a cute ending and it’s really rather good. We get to see a softer side of Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) as adorable florist Luce who falls for a bride (Piper Perabo) on her wedding day. Drama!
Available on skystore


(dir: Eric Lavaine, France 2006)
Not your average ghost story. A young couple move into their new house not knowing that it used to be a gay nightclub that was destroyed in a fire years earlier, so now of course the house is haunted by the ghosts of five gay guys. Bit like Queer Eye but with less makeovers.
Available on Amazon Prime

The Slope

(dir: Desiree Akhavan, USA 2010)
Before Desiree Akhavan was churning out bangers like Appropriate Behaviour and The Miseducation of Cameron Post she made a web series set in the hipster neighbourhood of Park Slope, Brooklyn featuring ‘superficial, homophobic lesbians’ and it’s guaranteed to make you laugh.
Available on Vimeo


(dir: Darren Stein, USA 2013)
When a young gay teen is accidentally outed at school he suddenly becomes the hottest, must-have mean-girl accessory, a gay best friend. This US teen comedy is sweet, funny and also features lesbian icon Natasha Lyonne (But I’m A Cheerleader, Orange is the New Black). Think Mean Girls meets Clueless but gayer.
Available on Amazon Prime

Join our mailing list

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required