Okay, they’re only really the “top” fourteen in that they’re some of our personal favorites of all time. And those that are too recent to truly be considered classic right now, will be in time. If you’re looking for a great romance to curl up on the couch and watch with a Valentine’s date, here are fourteen memorable LGBT love stories worth seeing any day of the year. Presented in alphabetical order:
Beautiful Thing – The heart swelling music of Mama Cass provides a perfect framework for this touching story of two working class teens on the outskirts of London who fall in love despite their difficult family situations. England has produced much of the best and most daring LGBT cinema, as fans of Maurice, My Beautiful Laundrette, and Tipping the Velvet can also attest.
Better than Chocolate – You’ll get two love stories for the price of one in this story of a young Vancouver lesbian named Maggie whose love life is almost derailed by the arrival of her recently divorced mother. The film also features Maggie’s level-headed, transgender friend Judy finding love with the politically-passionate, bookstore running Francis.
Big Eden – This warm and unpretentious film managed to fly under many people’s radars when it was released in 2002, but definitely still worth seeing ten years later. Ellen’s Arye Gross stars as a New Yorker who moves back home to Montana to take care of an ailing grandfather, and finds old feelings rekindled for a high school friend while also catching the eye of the shy Native American man who owns the local general store.
Bound – Before they made their mark with the Matrix films, the Wachowski siblings crafted this neo-noir thriller remembered as much for turning Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly into lesbian icons as it is for its twisty plot. Sex educator Susie Bright was employed to choreograph the love scenes and help ensure this film about an affair between a mob wife and a female ex-con didn’t just end up a straight male fantasy.
Brokeback Mountain – One of the most successful and acclaimed LGBT themed films of all times is also one of the best love stories ever made. The film’s restrained script, sweeping vistas, and pitch perfect performances from Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal as herders turned fleeting lovers is destined to remain a classic film romance.
But I’m a Cheerleader – You might expect not to find a touching love story in a comedic, candy-colored film set in an “ex-gay camp,” but the relationship that develops between two teenage girls (played by Natasha Lyonne and Clea Duval) whose parents want them “cured” has been beloved by fans for over a decade.
Desert Hearts – When this film was released in 1985, it was a revelation for many LGBT audiences looking for a lesbian film without vampires (see: The Hunger) or a main character being killed off. Helen Shaver stars as a Columbia English professor who moves to a small Nevada town while her divorce is finalized, where she falls in love with a local sculptress named Cay and finds her self-repression challenged.
Different for Girls – Transgender characters have only been featured in lead roles in a handful of films, and even fewer have depicted them in love stories. The charming British film Different for Girls stands out for that very reason, and it depicts the burgeoning relationship between a transgender woman and a former classmate (Rupert Graves) with honesty, humor, and a non-tragic ending to boot.
Fire – This 1996 film about two married women who fall in love with one another was banned in India, the country in which the story is set. The film was part of acclaimed director Deepa Mehta’s Earth/Water/Fire trilogy, and features a slow buildup to a shockingly dramatic (and satisfying) ending.
The Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls in Love – Die-hard fans of The L Word may recognize this as the film that launched Laurel Holloman’s career, and it also remains a much-cherished portrayal of the flush of first love between two high school girls from opposite sides of the tracks.
Jeffrey – The HIV/AIDS crisis of the 80’s eventually begot the high sexual anxiety of the 90’s, as encapsulated by this cameo-laden gay romantic comedy starring Steven Weber as the title character; a man who has sworn off sex rather than risk becoming HIV positive. Of course that’s when he meets the handsome and HIV positive Steve, who challenges Jeffrey’s personal fears with the promise of happiness.
Looking for Langston – Definitely one for true LGBT cinephiles, Isaac Julien’s seminal film isn’t a love story in the strictest sense, but relies on ephemeral and dreamlike imagery to create a poetic portrait of 1920s Harlem’s black LGBT community. However, the longing depicted between writer Langston Hughes and a man named “Beauty” coupled with the film’s striking cinematography could make this a perfect mood setter. You can see a (NSFW) clip here.
Shelter - A young artist and surfer falls for his best friend’s charismatic older brother in this earnest romance characterized by a laid back rhythm that evokes the southern California beach culture amidst which much of the film is set.
Weekend – Film website Rotten Tomatoes rated Weekend the best reviewed romance of 2011, and with good reason. Andrew Haigh’s realistic, smart, and poignant film follows two men over the course of several days as a chance encounters deepens into an emotional connection neither of them expects.
So what is your favorite LGBT romance? One of the above or something else entirely? Let us know in the comments and be sure to vote for your favorite!