2017 was a great year for movies… and movies centered around gay men in particular. Not only was there a wealth of titles to choose from, but many of them rose above the gay movie niche and made a huge splash on the international film fest circuit. Some even broke through into the mainstream (looking at you, Call Me by Your Name). Check out our Top 15 Gay Movies of 2017 below and make sure to pick up your copies on DVD and Blu-ray at TLAgay.com! All but one of our top 15 are currently listed and we’ll be posting the final straggler (looking at you again, Call Me by Your Name) for pre-order as soon as it’s announced – most likely once it has finished making the award show rounds.
Director: Joe Ahearne
Lovers Marc and Fred (Tom Bateman and Sean Teale) initiated a major legal battle after they were refused a double bed at a remote Christian guest house. They came out of their court case victorious and now they’re back at the establishment to claim their conjugal rights. Triumph, however, quickly turns to terror when a scary Russian neo-Nazi also checks in. Their weekend of celebratory fun soon becomes a bloody battle for survival. B&B is a whip-smart and brutally funny dark comedy-thriller that has been earning rave reviews from critics – some of whom have even compared it to the work of Alfred Hitchcock. The Hollywood Outsiders, specifically, called it “a film Alfred Hitchcock would be proud of.” The Horror Society said it’s “frickin’ fantastic and a trailblazer for LGBT cinema.”
14. Dream Boat
Director: Tristan Ferland Milewski
Once a year, the Dream Boat sets sail – a cruise only for gay men. Far from their families and political restrictions, we follow five men from five countries on a quest for their dreams. The cruise promises seven days of sunshine, love and freedom – but on board are also their personal stories, their doubts and uncertainties. A stunningly beautiful documentary, Dream Boat keeps you riveted from start to finish. You feel like you’re really part of the cruise – and having a hell of a good time. Introducing charismatic figures from five different countries, the film offers unique insight into how openly gay men live in regions where homosexuality isn’t accepted. The Huffington Post called the film “true genius” and said the movie “shows us that each of us needs, craves and wants the same thing: Someone to love us for exactly who we are.”
13. Staying Vertical
Director: Alain Guiraudie
Filmmaker Leo is traveling through the south of France. During a scouting excursion he is seduced by Marie, a free-spirited and dynamic shepherdess. Nine months later she gives birth to their child. Suffering from post-natal depression and with no faith in Leo, who comes and goes without warning (and has sex with men… and pretty much anyone that will have him), Marie abandons both of them. Leo finds himself alone, with a baby to care for. It’s not easy, but deep down, he loves it. Through a series of unexpected and unusual encounters, struggling to find inspiration for his next film, Leo will do whatever it takes to stay standing. From Alain Guiraudie, the visionary director behind Stranger by the Lake, comes a surreal new comedy played with a straight face. This one is stranger and more impressionistic than his last masterpiece, but it’s a stand-out nonetheless.
12. Handsome Devil
Director: John Butler
With bright red hair, a smart mouth and a penchant for sexually-ambiguous pop music, Ned (Fionn O’Shea) has always been bait for the bullies at his rugby-obsessed Irish boarding school. Determined to keep a low profile and weather another year with minimal abuse, Ned is pleasantly surprised when he develops a special friendship with his dashing new roommate Conor (Nicholas Galitzine), a rugby virtuoso who shouldn’t have trouble fitting in, but harbors a few big secrets. Ned encourages Conor’s passion for music, but when their pursuits start to take Conor’s focus away from rugby, their friendship is discouraged by the administration. A funny and observant coming-of-age tale from Irish novelist and filmmaker John Butler, Handsome Devil offers a touching reminder about the importance of loyalty, bravery and making sure that your voice, no matter how different, is heard.
Director: Erlingur Thoroddsen
Though not for all tastes, the atmospheric dread that hangs over this heady, perplexing Icelandic horror-thriller lingers after the final credits roll. Paying homage to classic art-house horror staples like Robert Wise’s The Haunting and Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now, Rift is an enticing, well-acted and expertly-directed mystery-thriller from Iceland that will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Gunnar receives a strange phone call from his ex-boyfriend, Einar, months after they parted ways. Einar sounds distraught, like he’s about to do something terrible to himself, so Gunnar drives to the secluded cabin where Einar is holed up and soon discovers there is more going on than he imagined. As the two come to terms with their broken relationship, some other person seems to be lurking outside the cabin, wanting to get inside. Eerie and stylishly crafted, Rift has proven a big hit at film fests – not just LGBT festivals, but general horror film festivals as well, where it has earned rave reviews.
Director: Gudmundur Arnar Gudmundsson
It’s pure coincidence that the number 10 and 11 titles on this list both come from the same country. They’re both very different movies. In a remote fishing village in Iceland, teenage boys Thor and Christian experience a turbulent summer. As one of them tries to win the heart of a girl, the other discovers that he is harboring romantic feelings toward his best friend. When summer ends and the harsh nature of Iceland takes back its rights, it’s time to leave the playground and face adulthood for the first time. An absolutely gorgeous, profoundly emotional coming-of-age film, Heartstone has won the hearts of critics all over the world. The Playlist said it’s “beautifully shot, touchingly performed and delivered with a thrillingly atmospheric sense of place.” And Screen International said it’s “Affecting as well as perceptive in how it intimately depicts the blossoming of youth… just the right amount of confidence, compassion and clear-eyed style.”
Director: Jakob M. Erwa
After a summer away at camp, Phil returns home to find that his mother and twin sister aren’t speaking to one another. Not willing to confront his family during the last days of the summer holidays, Phil escapes to hang out with his best friend, Kat, eating ice cream and playing dress-up. As the school year begins, a new student arrives – the handsome and mysterious Nicholas. Smitten, Phil watches his crush as he runs around the track after school, and is thrilled when Nicholas returns his feelings. However, when first love’s volatility comes to light, Phil realizes he must deal with the problems of his past in order to deal with the issues of his present. A touching must-see, Center of My World was chosen as an Official Selection and won numerous “Best Feature Film” and “Best Director” awards at festivals around the globe.
From the directors behind The Adventures of Felix, comes a thoughtful and relentlessly sexy new romance. It’s after midnight in a Paris gay sex club when Théo and Hugo lock eyes across the crowded room – and their connection is electric. They make their way together and have passionate sex. Afterwards, they leave the club and explore the streets of Paris, drunk with the possibilities of love at first sight, as well as sobered by the risks of their passion. Opening with one of the most jaw-dropping gay sex scenes we’ve ever seen in a movie, the film plays out in real time and follows the connection that grows between these two men. Lead actors Geoffrey Couet and Francois Nambot, both relative newcomers, put everything on display – both emotionally and physically. Their primal sexual connection is palpable. Warning: As stated above, this film contains graphic sex and nudity (did we mention that?). Viewer discretion is advised.
07. The Wound
Director: John Trengove
Brimming with sex and violence, The Wound is an exploration of tradition and sexuality set amid South Africa’s Xhosa culture. Every year, the tribe’s young men participate in an ancient coming-of-age ritual. Xolani, a quiet and sensitive factory worker (played by openly gay musician Nakhane Touré), is assigned to guide Kwanda, a city boy from Johannesburg sent by his father to be toughened up. As Kwanda defiantly negotiates his queer identity within this masculine environment, he quickly recognizes the nature of Xolani’s relationship with fellow guide Vija. The three men commence a dangerous dance with each other and their own desires and, soon, the threat of exposure elevates the tension to breaking point. Don’t miss what is easily one of the most heartfelt and wildly unique gay films of the past year.
06. Beach Rats
Director: Eliza Hittman
On the outskirts of Brooklyn, Frankie (Harris Dickinson, who delivers a star-making performance), an aimless teenager, suffocates under the oppressive glare cast by his family and a toxic group of delinquent friends. Struggling with his own identity, Frankie begins to scour hookup sites for older men. When his chatting and webcamming intensify, he begins meeting men at a nearby cruising beach while simultaneously entering into a cautious relationship with a young woman. As Frankie struggles to reconcile his competing desires, his decisions leave him hurtling toward irreparable consequences. Beach Rats, an award-winning Sundance hit, is a powerful character study that is as visually stunning as it is evocative. Easily one of the year’s most acclaimed and high-profile gay films, it has earned astounding reviews from critics. The Village Voice said that it has “the burning urgency of a stick of dynamite with a lit fuse.”
05. Tom of Finland
Director: Dome Karukoski
The proudly erotic drawings of artist Touko Laaksonen, known to the world as Tom of Finland, shaped the fantasies of a generation of gay men, influencing art and fashion before crossing over into the wider cultural consciousness. But who was the man behind the leather? Dome Karukoski’s stirring biopic follows his life from the trenches of WWII and repressive Finnish society of the 1950s through his struggle to get his work published in California, where he and his art were finally embraced amid the sexual revolution of the 1970s. Tom’s story is one of love, courage and perseverance, mirroring the gay liberation movement for which his leather-clad studs served as a defiant emblem. Lead actor Pekka Strang is phenomenal in this positively riveting, unusually sexually explicit biopic – Finland’s official submission to the Academy Awards.
04. 4 Days in France
Director: Jerome Reybaud
Writer/director Jerome Reybaud’s remarkably accomplished feature debut is a sly and sophisticated take on gay romance in the 21st century. On a seemingly ordinary night in Paris, Pierre takes one last look his lover Paul’s sleeping body, then steals away into the early morning light. Where he’s headed, neither of them know. Pierre’s only guide is his Grindr app, which leads him on a series of encounters with an indelible cast of characters across the French countryside. Paul sets out after him, using his own phone to track Pierre’s movements in a strange and wonderful game of Grindr cat-and-mouse. 4 Days in France has been earning ecstatic reviews from critics. Slant Magazine called it “A kind of ode to cruising writ large,” and said “There’s something endearing, if not uncanny, about the way the film evokes universal truths about erotic wandering.”
Director: Francis Lee
Appearing on countless “Best of 2017” lists, God’s Own Country is one of the year’s most romantic and uplifting gay movies. Johnny Saxby (Josh O’Connor) works long hours on his family’s remote farm in the north of England. He numbs his daily frustration with nightly binge-drinking and casual sex. But when a handsome Romanian migrant worker (Alec Secareanu) arrives to take up temporary work on the family farm, Johnny suddenly finds himself dealing with emotions he has never felt before. As they begin working closely together, an intense relationship forms which could change Johnny’s life forever. The Village Voice said “In his debut feature, (Francis) Lee has crafted a mature love story centered on an immature man facing the fear of even admitting that he needs love at all. It’s a film to prize.”
Director: Robin Campillo
In Paris in the ealy 1990s, a group of activists goes to battle for those stricken with HIV/AIDS, taking on sluggish government agencies and major pharmaceutical companies in bold, invasive actions. The organization is ACT UP, and its members, many of them gay and HIV-positive, embrace their mission with a literal life-or-death urgency. Amid rallies, protests, fierce debates and ecstatic dance parties, the newcomer Nathan falls in love with Sean, the group’s radical firebrand, and their passion sparks against the shadow of mortality as the activists fight for a breakthrough. Winner of the coveted Queer Palm award the Cannes Film Festival, BPM (Beats Per Minute) is one of the most acclaimed gay films of the year. Vanity Fair called it their #1 film and it has earned a place on countless “Top Ten” lists.
01. Call Me by Your Name
Director: Luca Guadagnino
In the sweltering summer of 1983, in the north of Italy, Elio Perlman (Timothee Chalamet, in a star-making, award-worthy performance) is a 17-year-old American boy who spends his days in his family’s 17th century villa, lazily transcribing music and flirting with his friend Marzia (Esther Garrel). One day, Oliver (Armie Hammer), a 24-year-old graduate student working on his doctorate, arrives as the annual summer intern tasked with helping Elio’s father (Michael Stuhlbarg), an eminent professor specializing in Greco-Roman culture. Soon, Elio and Oliver embark on a cautious, but passionate summer romance that will alter their lives forever. One of the sexiest movies of the year – or maybe ever – Call Me by Your Name is an instant gay cinema classic that might even have a shot at major Oscar glory.