Happy New Year, Fellas! 2019 was another incredible 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, Rocketman, burning out your fuse up there alone). Check out our Top 10 Gay Movies of 2019 below and make sure to pick up your copies on DVD and Blu-ray at TLAgay.com!
Editor’s Note: We limited our considerations to titles that we have available currently on our site (including pre-orders). So, while films like Portrait of a Lady on Fire and This is Not Berlin may be phenomenal, they don’t qualify for this particular list as they haven’t been announced yet for DVD, Blu-ray or VOD.
45 Days Away from You
After a recent breakup with “a man who shall not be named,” young bachelor Rafael finds his romantic life spinning out of control. With a change of scenery in order, he sets out on journey of self-discovery – an adventure that will take him from Brazil to England, Portugal and Argentina. Along the way, he seeks the counsel of his nearest and dearest friends. There’s Julia, an amorous single actress trying to land her breakthrough role; Fabio, Rafael’s straight-boy buddy, who is trying to maintain a long-distance relationship; and Mayara, a dear friend who gave up a promising career in favor of marriage. Over the course of his 45-day trip, Rafael grows closer to the people in his life who really matter and learns that all it takes to mend a broken heart is time… and the support of a few good friends.
As flashy and colorful as it’s subject, this rollicking musical biopic chronicles the early life and career of Reginald Dwight, better known to the world as Elton John (played by total cutie-pie Taron Egerton in a performance which, if we’re being honest, blows Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury out of the water). Visually stunning performances of some of Elton’s best-loved songs are used to tell the story of a rise to rock and roll greatness that includes addiction, depression and complex personal and professional relationships. And unlike some recent musician biopics, Rocketman doesn’t try to downplay Elton John’s sexuality. Big portions of the film focus on his tumultuous affair with talent manager John Reid (played by “Game of Thrones” star Richard Madden) and his deep, abiding affection for lyricist, partner and best friend Bernie Taupin (played by Jamie Bell).
Sauvage/Wild, filmmaker Camille Vidal-Naquet‘s riveting and vibrant erotic journey of a 22-year-old male prostitute named Leo, features a stunning performance from Felix Maritaud (BPM, Boys, Knife+Heart). Leo trades in love as much as lust and wanders through his life without rules or restrictions. Through a series of encounters that offer a glimpse into the complicated and visceral world of male sex work, Leo finds himself searching for affection anywhere he can get it – whether it’s the unrequited love for his hustler friend Ahd (Eric Bernard) or in the arms of an older, vulnerable client. Will Leo choose his freedom and the dangers that come with it, or the comforts of a stable relationship? After all, in this unpredictable world, who knows where he’ll end up?
From notoriously upsetting director Gaspar Noe (Irreversible, Enter the Void, Love) comes a hypnotic, hallucinatory, and ultimately hair-raising depiction of a party that descends into delirium over the course of one wintry night. In Climax, a troupe of young dancers gathers in a remote and empty school building to rehearse. Following an unforgettable opening performance lit by virtuoso cinematographer Benoît Debie and shot by Noé himself, the troupe begins an all-night celebration that turns nightmarish as the dancers discover they’ve been pounding cups of sangria laced with potent LSD. Tracking their journey from jubilation to chaos and full-fledged anarchy, Noé observes crushes, rivalries, and violence amid a collective psychedelic meltdown. Starring Sofia Boutella and a cast of professional dancers, Climax is Noé’s most brazen, unforgettable and visionary statement yet.
Drafted during Apartheid by the South African Army, Johan Niemand’s love for Boy George and Depeche Mode lands him a spot in the SADF Choir called the ‘Canaries.’ Against a landscape where law and religion oppress individuality, Johan and the Canaries have to survive military training and go on a nationwide tour, entertaining people whilst fortifying belief in the military effort and promoting the cause of both Church and State. Then an unexpected romance on the battlefield forces Johan to reckon with his long-repressed sexual identity. Examining the effects of nationalism on the soul, while also exploring the tender brotherhood among misfits, this musical comedy revels in the discovery of finding your voice and learning to fly.
Paris, 1993. Jacques (Stranger by the Lake star Pierre Deladonchamps) is a semi-renowned writer and single father in his thirties. While on a work trip to Brittany, he meets Arthur (Vincent Lacoste), an aspiring filmmaker in his early twenties, who is experiencing a sexual awakening and eager to get out of his parochial life. Arthur becomes instantly smitten with the older man. From writer-director Christophe Honore comes a mature and deeply emotional reflection on love, loss, youth and aging. In its inter-generational snapshot of cruising, courtship and casual sex, Sorry Angel balances hope for the future with agony over the past in an unforgettable drama about finding the courage to love in the moment, no matter how turbulent.
The Blonde One
In the suburbs of Buenos Aires, Gabriel has just moved in with his colleague, Juan. Shy and reserved, Gabriel is reluctant to follow Juan’s wandering hands and meaningful looks. With a revolving door of beauties streaming out of Juan’s bedroom, his machismo seems firmly in place. However, the attraction between the two men is undeniable. What starts out as a sexual relationship based on convenience of location soon develops into the engrossing evolution of a tender and intimate relationship, which is as sweet as it is heartbreaking. But, as reality begins to set in on their homemaking fantasy, something needs to give… or does it? Written and directed by Marco Berger (Plan B, Absent, Taekwondo, Hawaii, Sexual Tension: Volatile), The Blonde One is one of the year’s sexiest and most romantic gay movies.
Easily one of the year’s most acclaimed gay films, this sexually explicit throwback thriller from visionary writer-director Yann Gonzalez is an absolute must-see! Vanessa Paradis is incredible as Anne, a savvy French woman who produces third-rate gay porn. After her editor and lover Lois (Kate Moran) leaves her, she tries to win her back by shooting her most ambitious film yet – with the help of her trusted, flaming sidekick Archibald (Nicolas Maury). But when one of her actors is brutally murdered, Anne gets caught up in a strange investigation that turns her life upside-down. Shot on 35mm and featuring a killer retro score from the band M83, Knife+Heart is an ultra-stylish and blood-soaked ode to 1970s-era Brian De Palma, Dario Argento and William Friedkin.
End of the Century
In his excellent debut feature, writer-director Lucio Castro offers both a sun-soaked European travelogue and an epic, decades-spanning romance. When Ocho (Juan Barberini), a 30-something Argentine poet on vacation in Barcelona, spots Javi (Ramón Pujol), a Spaniard from Berlin, from the balcony of his Airbnb, the attraction is subtle but persistent. After a missed connection on the beach, a third chance encounter escalates to a seemingly random hookup. But are these two merely beautiful strangers in a foreign city or are they part of each other’s histories—and maybe even their destinies? Castro deliberately unfolds mystery after mystery, leading the audience on a journey of discovery as the two leading men discover themselves and each other. With sumptuous cinematography and tangible chemistry between the actors, End of the Century is a love story that echoes across time. Winner of Best Film at the Buenos Aires Film Festival and Best First Film at the Frameline: San Francisco LGBTQ Film Festival.
Pain and Glory
In maverick filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar’s Pain and Glory, Antonio Banderas plays Salvador Mallo, a film director in physical decline who reflects on his past as his present comes crashing down around him. Some of these reflections are in the flesh, others remembered: his childhood in the ‘60s, when he emigrated with his parents to a village in Valencia in search of prosperity; his first adult love in the Madrid of the ‘80s; the pain of the breakup of that love while it was still alive and intense; writing as the only therapy to forget the unforgettable; the early discovery of cinema; and the void, the infinite void created by the incapacity to keep on making films. Pain and Glory talks about creation, about the difficulty of separating it from one’s own life and about the passions that give it meaning and hope. In recovering his past, Salvador finds the urgent need to recount it, and in that need he also finds his salvation.