20 Best Queer Films of 2023

Updated June 17, 2024 • Staff

It's 2023, and representation has never been more diverse and abundant in cinema. This year alone, we've seen tropes be subverted (as in Cassandro, the story of the first out wrestler) and genres reimagined (as in the lesbian horror film Bad Things). The fluidity of love is examined painfully in Ira Sachs' Passages, while longing has never felt more tender in the much-celebrated All of Us Strangers. And more optimistically, comedies like Bottoms and Red, White & Royal Blue offer a light-hearted take on the unique LGBTQ+ experience. This is all to say that we're spoiled for choice, so in this list, we try to narrow down your options to only the best the year has to offer so far. Below is a hopefully helpful guide on the very best queer films of 2023 and where you can stream them right now. 

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20.

Red, White & Royal Blue (2023)

The Red, White & Royal Blue film adaptation might feel familiar to some viewers, albeit with a gay twist. A rivals to hidden lovers relationship that shifted because of increased exposure to each other via PR outings is exactly the type of plot seen in romance comedies like the second Princess Diaries. However, this film keeps these tropes fresh through careful reimagining and through excellent casting. While some moments in the book are skipped or sped through, director Matthew Lopez keeps the attention where it needs to be, specifically on the US president’s son Alex (Taylor Zakhar Perez) and the UK’s Prince Henry (Nicholas Galitzine). The moments they share may not be totally relatable – after all, most teenage romances aren’t matters of state – but it’s easy to root for them when the film drives home what’s at stake for the two, as well as what’s at stake for gay couples when considering coming out.

Our staff rating: 7.3/10
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Actor: Clifton Collins Jr., Nicholas Galitzine, Rachel Hilson, Taylor Zakhar Perez, Uma Thurman
Director: Matthew López
Rating: R
19.

Bottoms (2023)

The sooner you accept that Bottoms is not, in fact, rooted in reality in any way, the easier it should become to get on its wavelength for its uniquely absurd brand of comedy. This is ostensibly a satire, though it isn't totally clear what exactly the film is trying to comment on. And its loosely defined world makes it challenging to get emotionally invested in any of the characters' failures or victories. But it does—more than any comedy we'll probably get in a while—capture this feeling of high school being its own heightened, insulated world, where the class system of strict high school stereotypes clashes with the unchecked id and ego of teenagers who think they're more grown-up than they really are.

Director and co-writer Emma Seligman gives this movie a certain sheen that you rarely find in comedies this lowbrow (care of lush cinematography by Maria Rusche, and a bumping electronic score by Leo Birenberg and pop star Charli XCX). This contrast between polished exteriors and unapologetically raunchy content makes the jokes all the more startling—which are delivered by a cast clearly having great fun. Rachel Sennott and Ayo Edebiri stick to their cringe-comedy skill set to great effect, while Ruby Cruz and Havana Rose Liu shine with deceptively tricky material, and Nicholas Galitzine gets to be a himbo for the ages.

Our staff rating: 7.3/10
Genre: Comedy
Actor: Alyssa Matthews, Ayo Edebiri, Bruno Rose, Cameron Stout, Dagmara Domińczyk, Havana Rose Liu, Kaia Gerber, Krystal Alayne Chambers, Liz Elkins Newcomer, Marshawn Lynch, Miles Fowler, Nicholas Galitzine, Punkie Johnson, Rachel Sennott, Ruby Cruz, Ted Ferguson, Toby Nichols, Virginia Tucker, Wayne Pére, Zamani Wilder
Director: Emma Seligman
Rating: R

Free Watching Options:

Watch Bottoms (2023) on Fubo for free
18.

Cassandro (2023)

As biopics go, Cassandro skews towards the conventional. It follows a template familiar to anyone who has seen a life-story movie about the underdog climbing up the ranks thanks to their unmatchable heart and talent. But it’s also a template that’s elevated by Bernal’s wonderful performance and Roger Ross Williams’ careful and naturalistic direction. Save for a few melodramatic moments, many parts of Cassandro feel fresh and authentic, not least of which is Saúl's heartwarming relationship with his mother Yocasta (Perla De La Rosa). It’s unapologetic joy is another element that sets it apart: instead of being punished for his flamboyance and cheer, Saúl is rewarded for it. This seems like a rare triumph in LGBTQ+ stories, and on that merit alone Cassandro deserves to be seen. 

Our staff rating: 7.4/10
Genre: Drama
Actor: Bad Bunny, El Hijo del Santo, Gael García Bernal, Joaquín Cosío, Julieta Ortiz, Leonardo Alonso, Mark Vasconcellos, Perla de la Rosa, Raúl Castillo, Roberta Colindrez, Yavor Vesselinov
Director: Roger Ross Williams
Rating: R

Free Watching Options:

Watch Cassandro (2023) on Amazon Prime for free
17.

Huesera: The Bone Woman (2023)

Huesera: The Bone Woman might not be the scariest film horror fans would see, but it does strike at the heart of the scary experience of motherhood. Through eerie sounds of breaking bones and weirdly contorted hands at the edge of beds, the film depicts new mother Valeria being haunted by the titular spirit, despite her prayer to the Virgin Mary. Valeria pleads for her husband and family to listen, though each time she does becomes proof of her faults as a mother. The terror in newcomer Natalia Solián’s face makes it all feel believable, but it’s the folk-inspired imagery of first-time feature director Michelle Garza Cervera that turns this film into a feminist masterpiece.

Our staff rating: 7.6/10
Genre: Drama, Horror, Mystery
Actor: Aida López, Alfonso Dosal, Emilram Cossío, Enoc Leaño, Gina Morett, Martha Claudia Moreno, Mayra Batalla, Mercedes Hernández, Natalia Solián, Pablo Guisa Koestinger, Samantha Castillo, Sonia Couoh
Director: Michelle Garza Cervera
Rating: NR
16.

Shortcomings (2023)

It’s always tricky translating literature to screen. In Shortcomings’ case, it struggles to make its Berkeley and New York settings appear more lived-in than just a few postcard-like frames. You could also tell that the conversations it stirs up about things like representation and mixed-race relationships began in the early aughts, when the novel it was adapted from was first released. But those lapses are small and forgivable in the face of a lovely ensemble cast and a whipsmart script. It also takes a special kind of skill to make a character as fiercely unlikeable as Ben (Min) watchable, to hold up a mirror to the audience and make them stay. Thankfully, it's a skill that Tomine and first-time director Randall Park display with such grace. Ben, Alice (Sherry Cola), and Miko (Ally Maki) are flawed and often pathetic, but they’re also honest reflections of who we become when the demands of self-preservation and romantic openness clash. It’s a little unnerving to hear them verbalize what we've always feared about ourselves, but it’s also exhilarating, not to mention comforting, knowing that we're not alone in feeling this way. Shortcomings works because it doesn't confine itself to genre: it's a character study first, and a romantic comedy second.

Our staff rating: 7.6/10
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Actor: Adam Enright, Adrian Tomine, Ally Maki, Boran Anh, Debby Ryan, George Deihl Jr., Jacob Batalon, Jess Nahikian, Justin H. Min, Melanie J. Newby, Mike Cabellon, Nikhaar Kishnani, Randall Park, Ronny Chieng, Scott Seiss, Sheldon Best, Sherry Cola, Sonoya Mizuno, Stephanie Hsu, Tavi Gevinson, Theo Iyer, Timothy Simons
Director: Randall Park
Rating: R
15.

Blue Jean (2023)

Led by Rosy McEwen's commanding performance brimming with fear and self-loathing, Blue Jean pours all of the anguish and defiance felt by the LGBTQ+ community under Margaret Thatcher's administration into a single character. Writer-director Georgia Oakley keeps her plot light, but through conversations with other beautifully portrayed queer women (especially those played by Kerrie Hayes and Lucy Halliday), she piles on one conflicted emotion after another about what this lesbian woman's responsibility is toward herself and her community when they find themselves threatened. But even as the film takes a definite stance, it validates every response as authentic—borne out of a need to protect the people whom one loves.

Our staff rating: 7.7/10
Genre: Drama
Actor: Amy Booth-Steel, Aoife Kennan, Becky Lindsay, Deka Walmsley, Edmund Wiseman, Farrah Cave, Gavin Kitchen, Kate Soulsby, Kerrie Hayes, Lainey Shaw, Lucy Halliday, Lydia Page, Rosy McEwen, Scott Turnbull, Stacy Abalogun
Director: Georgia Oakley

Free Watching Options:

Watch Blue Jean (2023) on Hulu for free
14.

Wham! (2023)

For a short while in the ‘80s, the pop scene benefited from the sheer musical joy created by George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley, known together as Wham! With confectionary hits like “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” and “Last Christmas,” the  British duo sang about the escapism that a generation desperately sought out. Their songs were dismissed by pundits as shallow (“How can the country be in love with these two idiots?”), but as young people flocked to their concerts in droves, it was clear that Wham! struck a chord with the worn-out youth. 

They were no Beatles or Bowie, not heavyweight enough to make a lasting impression in our collective pop culture memory, but theirs is a story rich with meaningful lessons. Wham!, the film, is as much about the personal lives of the duo as it is about the difficulty of making it as independent artists; about the saving grace of music; and about the importance of authenticity. 

Our staff rating: 7.7/10
Genre: Documentary, Music
Actor: Andrew Ridgeley, Aretha Franklin, Bono, Boy George, David Bowie, Elton John, Freddie Mercury, George Michael, Helen DeMacque, Jerry Wexler, Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, Sting, Terry Wogan, Tony Hadley
Director: Chris Smith
Rating: NR
13.

Passages (2023)

A great example of frank, emotionally honest filmmaking with three totally vulnerable lead performances, Passages takes a subject that can so easily be reduced into clichés—infidelity—and approaches it with a genuine sense of melancholy. It can still be frustrating to watch fully developed adults refuse to communicate more clearly about their feelings, but director and co-writer Ira Sachs also understands the nuanced gender dynamic that informs some of these bad decisions. Tomas understands that his commitment to Martin may not give him the "easy" satisfaction of a traditional romance, but there is also a sense that his attraction to Agathe (supposedly the first time he's truly fallen for a woman) might be more of an impulsive attempt to settle for something safer, something that he has more control over.

Ben Whishaw is reliably sympathetic as Martin, and Adèle Exarchopoulos carries herself with the unembellished authenticity that many of the best French actors do. And Franz Rogowski makes Tomas both entirely pathetic and still so very heartbreaking in the predicament he's put himself into. There are no cheap histrionics or outbursts of emotion here—just performers living fully within each moment and selling us on the situation they're in.

Our staff rating: 7.7/10
Genre: Drama, Romance
Actor: Adèle Exarchopoulos, Arcadi Radeff, Ben Whishaw, Caroline Chaniolleau, Erwan Kepoa Falé, Franz Rogowski, Olivier Rabourdin, Radostina Rogliano, Théo Cholbi, Thibault Carterot, William Nadylam
Director: Ira Sachs
Rating: NR
12.

Nyad (2023)

After winning Oscars for their documentary work, filmmakers Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin make their narrative feature debut with Nyad. The move to narrative fiction isn’t a monumental jump for the director duo, whose cinematic documentaries (among them Free Solo and The Rescue) play like nerve-shredding action thrillers and intense human dramas. Nor does Nyad’s subject — another extreme feat of human daring and endurance — make this feel a million miles away from their most famous works.

The most obvious departures from the directors’ documentary strengths — Nyad’s flashbacks and hallucination scenes, for example — do sometimes highlight their newness to narrative filmmaking, however. These scenes feel shallow and therefore disconnected from the movie’s otherwise deeper treatment of its subject, just as the performances dip into outsized cliches at times. Mostly, though, Nyad manages to float above the trap of trying too hard to be an inspirational sports drama thanks to its confrontation of Diana’s prickly personality. This flips the film’s perspective onto that of Diana’s team (including her coach and former girlfriend, played by Jodie Foster), who ultimately suffer the consequences of her stubbornness. That refusal to submit to hagiographic impulses gives the film a documentary-like edge of truth, making the rousing moments here feel genuinely earned.

Our staff rating: 7.7/10
Genre: Drama, History
Actor: Anna Harriette Pittman, Anne Marie Kempf, Annette Bening, Belle Darling, Carolyn McCormick, Diana Nyad, Elizabeth Chahin, Ellen DeGeneres, Eric T. Miller, Erica Cho, Ethan Jones Romero, Garland Scott, Grace Subervi, Harraka Eliana, Iván Oleaga, Jeena Yi, Jodie Foster, John Bartlett, John F. Kennedy, Johnny Solo, Karly Rothenberg, Kate McKinnon, Katherine Klosterman, Lilo Grunwald, Luke Cosgrove, Marcus Young, Melissa R. Stubbs, Nadia Lorencz, Orpha Salimata, Pearl Darling, Rhys Ifans, Samantha Gordon, Sophia Hernandez, Stephen Schnetzer, Tisola Logan, Toussaint Merionne
Director: Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin
Rating: PG-13
11.

Kokomo City (2023)

The idea of representation in movies is often limited to superficial gestures of putting on screen people who look a certain way. Kokomo City is a reminder of cinema's possibilities when one really tries to queer filmmaking itself, with genuine queer voices driving a production. This documentary is messy and incredibly playful in its style—in ways that might read to some as lacking cohesiveness, or as tonally inconsistent. But the way director D. Smith is able to capture the dynamic energy of a series of conversations makes these powerful, funny, tragic anecdotes and dialogues feel truly grounded in people's everyday experiences, and makes the plea for protection of trans lives all the more urgent.

Throughout Kokomo City, this collection of individuals goes off on various tangents that never become difficult to follow. They speak about the nature of sex work, hidden desires felt by traditionally masculine male clients, and various degrees of acceptance within the Black community. And between these statements alternating from impassioned to emotional to humorously candid, Smith injects cheeky cutaway footage, layers text on screen, and plays an eclectic rotation of music throughout. It's about as real and as three-dimensional as these trans lives have ever been shown on screen.

Our staff rating: 7.8/10
Genre: Documentary
Actor: Daniella Carter, Dominique Silver, Koko Da Doll, Liyah Mitchell, XoTommy
Director: D. Smith
Rating: R

Free Watching Options:

Watch Kokomo City (2023) on Fubo for free

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