Here is a list of five of my favorite LGBTG+ documentaries that are also quite iconic and well known. These documentaries are also the ones to start with in terms of LGBTQ+ content.
This movie covers the New York ballroom scene. Paris Is Burning is a 1990 movie which is about the New York scene, the balls, and the houses back then. It looked quite seriously at the intersections between race and sexuality and poverty. It had very frank interviews of people across the whole community including different ages and different genders.
Just like Paris Is Burning, this movie also covers the New York ballroom scene. This movie has been described as the spiritual child of Paris Is Burning, but with a little more of a hopeful note. It shows the legacy of the balls from the 80s and the 90s but also how LGBTQ+ youth of color are still using the art form in the community today.
This movie focuses on the activists that were fighting to bring awareness about the dangers of AIDS. This was the filmmaker’s first movie. He was a journalist who had covered the AIDS epidemic in the LGBTQ+ community for a long time and then subsequently wrote a book. This movie also has had massive critical acclaim. It is a recent film but it does look much older because it has archive footage and interviews from that time, so it has a 90s feel to it.
This movie is actually from the same producer as How to Survive a Plague but looks at a very different topic. Namely, as the title suggests, what does it mean to sound gay? Can you sound gay? And also, what does that tell us about things like nature versus nurture, internalized homophobia, gay subculture, and so on. This one is a really interesting mix of lightheartedness and humor, while also talking about topics that are a little bit heavier.
This one is a landmark documentary, that is very comprehensive about the portrayal of the LGBTQ+ people on screen. It covers over a hundred films. It has interviews and it has a ton of footage from those films. It is just sweeping brilliant. It was released at a time when these conversations were starting to pick up about representation. It basically just blew the doors open on all of these stereotypes and tropes that created the LGBTQ+ representation that they were having at the time.