Happy New Year! 2020 was, as we all know, a difficult year (to say the least). To all of our essential workers on the front lines, THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE. You deserve a spot in the history books for your heroism. Those of us fortunate enough to spend the year sheltering at home had A LOT of time to watch movies. One of the silver linings of the year is that, even with theaters closed and Hollywood in a panic, there was a pretty decent spate of new indie films… and films centered around gay men in particular.
Check out our Top 20 Gay Movies of 2020 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 currently available to order on our site (including pre-orders). So, while certain film exclusive to subscription services may be masterpieces, they don’t qualify for this particular list as they haven’t been announced yet for DVD, Blu-ray or non-exclusive VOD.
20. Are We Lost Forever
Are We Lost Forever follows two young men who may have come to the end of their long-term relationship. For Hampus (Jonathan Andersson), breaking up with Adrian (Bjorn Elgerd) is a good thing. He’s happy to veer away from the destructive path that their relationship had been taking. For Adrian, it’s quite the opposite. He’s devastated to lose his lover and will stop at nothing to win him back. The fallout of their break-up is divided into stages of desperate attempts to reunite, as well as rebounds that sometimes push them further apart and sometimes bring them closer together. This feature-length debut from award-winning short film director David Fardmar is a poignant, sexy and bittersweet romantic drama.
19. Dating Amber
Set-in Ireland during the mid-1990s, this poignant, honest and very funny new comedy follows Eddie and Amber (Fionn O’Shea and Lola Petticrew), two high school kids who decide to stage a relationship in order to stop everyone from constantly speculating about their sexuality. Eddie is keen to follow his father into the military, while Amber dreams of moving to the liberal hub of London. However, their ideal arrangement begins to fall apart, forcing Eddie deeper into denial as Amber realizes that a perilous future awaits her best friend unless she intervenes. Dating Amber is a charming and deeply touching love letter to all those kids who grew up in a small town and who needed to escape in order to be themselves.
18. Young Hunter
A tense new thriller from acclaimed writer-director Marco Berger, Young Hunter follows Ezequiel (Juan Pablo Cestaro), a fifteen year old boy on the cusp of his sexual awakening. While his parents are away, he meets a handsome, slightly older guy named Mono (Lautaro Rodríguez) and quickly starts a relationship. Mono invites him to his cousin’s villa to spend a weekend together, but while returning from the trip Mono seemingly disappears, no longer responding to texts. Ezequiel is surprised and confused until Chino (Juan Barberini), Mono’s cousin, sends him a hidden camera video of their sexual encounter, blackmailing him into participating in an increasingly dangerous criminal conspiracy. Against his own will, Ezequiel must decide whether to come clean or turn from prey to hunter.
17. 15 Years
Yoav (Oded Leopold), a successful architect, has everything he’s ever wanted: Dan (Udi Persi), his lover of fifteen years – a younger lawyer who adores him; and his best friend, Alma (Ruti Asarsai) – a successful artist, who is like a mother and a sister to him. However, when Alma announces she is pregnant, it ignites Dan’s desire to become a father himself. But Dan’s parental urges have the opposite effect on Yoav, who is haunted by long buried demons. Yoav’s tight grasp on his life begins to come apart, leading to self-destructive behavior that threatens to destroy his life with Dan, unravel his friendship with Alma, and cost him everything. Sexy and thoughtful with great acting and gorgeous cinematography, 15 Years is a must-see.
16. Bad Education
Frank Tassone (Hugh Jackman), a deeply closeted Long Island school superintendent, and Pam Gluckin (Allison Janney), his assistant, are credited with bringing their district unprecedented prestige – and consistently-rising property values. Frank is a master of positive messaging, whether before an audience of community leaders or in an office with a concerned student or parent. That changes when a student reporter (Geraldine Viswanathan) uncovers an embezzlement scheme of epic proportions, threatening everything Frank has built – as well as a new secret romance with a former student (Rafael Casal) – prompting Frank to devise an elaborate cover-up. Based on a true story, this pitch-black new comedy from acclaimed Thoroughbreds director Cory Finley is hilarious, devastating and positively riveting.
15. The Prince
An adults-only proposition, The Prince is an absolutely explosive new homoerotic drama set in a repressive 1970s Chilean prison. During a night of heavy drinking, Jaime (Juan Carlos Maldonado), a hot-tempered narcissist, suddenly stabs his best friend. He is sent to jail for murder. There, alone and afraid, he comes under the protection of a tough older inmate known as “The Stallion.” The unlikely pair begin a clandestine romance, but violent power struggles soon threaten their bond. Easily one of the year’s hottest and most sexually explicit gay movies, this searing story of “survival at all costs” takes its inspiration from Jean Genet’s Un Chant d’amour and Fassbinder’s Querelle. The film offers a deeply affecting exploration of masculine aggression, conflicting loyalties and pent-up sexual desires.
14. Kill the Monsters
When young, pretty, and charmingly aloof Frankie (Jack Ball) falls mysteriously ill, his older and wiser partners – overthinking, practical Patrick (played by writer-director Ryan Lonergan), and impulsive, fiery Sutton (Garrett McKechnie) – agree that it’s time to head West, begin new adventures, and seek holistic treatment. From here, the highs and lows of the trio’s journey mirror key points in United States history – from hot sex in their luxurious New York City apartment through a road trip that results in a civil war and possible breakup to an all-out poker war involving scheming, sophisticated, and calculating German and Russian lesbians. Don’t miss this sexy, funny, touching and expertly-crafted black and white indie gem.
13. Temblores (Tremors)
In this deeply personal follow-up to his landmark debut Ixcanul, writer-director Jayro Bustamante sets his sights on an individual caught between two seeming irreconcilable worlds. When handsome and charismatic Pablo (Juan Pablo Olyslager) arrives at his affluent family’s house, everyone is eagerly awaiting the return of their beloved son, devoted father and caring husband. A seemingly exemplary pillar of Guatemala City’s Evangelical Christian community, Pablo’s announcement that he intends to leave his wife for another man sends shock waves through the family. As Pablo tries to acclimate to his new life in the city’s gay subculture with the liberated Francisco (Mauricio Armas Zebadúa), his ultra-religious family members do everything in their power to get their prodigal son back on track, no matter the cost.
12. A Skeleton in the Closet
When Manuel (Facundo Gambande) returns to his hometown on the occasion of his parents’ wedding anniversary, he has a bit of an ulterior motive. He’s planning to ask for money so that he can move to Denmark with his boyfriend. The last time he saw his family, he came out of the closet – and things have been tense ever since. When his boyfriend suddenly dumps him, Manuel finds himself diving head-first into an existential crisis. Now more in need of his family’s love and support than ever, an unexpected opportunity to reconnect presents itself. Featuring a terrifically endearing lead performance, A Skeleton in the Closet is a tender and heartfelt Argentinian family comedy-drama that you don’t want to miss.
A Skeleton in the Closet is available to pre-order now on DVD. The film will be released on January 12th.
11. Straight Up
Todd (writer-director-star James Sweeney) is a hyper-articulate, obsessive compulsive gay twenty-something whose fear of dying alone leads him to a baffling conclusion… maybe he’s not really so gay after all?! When he meets Rory (Katie Findlay), an equally whip-smart struggling actress with her own set of insecurities, the two forge an unusual new relationship that is all talk, no sex. Now it’s just a matter of how long it will work! Straight Up is a razor-sharp rom-com that’s equal parts classic Hollywood and distinctly 21st century – exploring how elastic our definitions of love and sexuality can get. The Los Angeles Times called it “a sweet, funny and thoroughly winning romantic comedy” (and we enthusiastically agree).
Kit (Crazy Rich Asians and Last Christmas star Henry Golding) returns to Ho Chi Minh City for the first time since he was six years old when his family fled the country in the aftermath of the Vietnam-American war. There he meets Lee (David Tran), his estranged second cousin, Linh (Molly Harris), a young Vietnamese student, and arranges an online date that turns into something more with Lewis (Parker Sawyers, who starred as a young Barack Obama in Southside with You), an American clothing designer. Struggling to make sense of himself in a city he’s no longer familiar with, he embarks on a personal journey across the country that opens up the possibility for friendship, love and happiness.
Monsoon is available to pre-order now on DVD and Blu-ray. The film will be released on January 12th.
09. Dry Wind
A gloriously erotic new film from Brazilian director Daniel Nolasco (Mr. Leather), Dry Wind follows factory worker Sandro (Leandro Faria Lelo) as he escapes his rural boredom via secret trysts with his co-worker Ricardo (Allan Jacinto Santana) – and through elaborate sexual fantasies that would make Tom of Finland himself blush. Though his sex life is in full swing, Sandro shies away from any emotional attachment, preferring to imagine worlds of anonymity, leather and unbridled fetish-play – which Nolasco brings to stunning life in color-drenched widescreen glory. When a new arrival to town (Rafael Teóphilo) – a certified hunk straight out of Sandro’s dreams – sets his sights on Ricardo, Sandro finds himself brimming with jealousy and fearing exclusion from the kind of romance he never thought he wanted.
08. The Strong Ones
Based on the original short film San Cristóbal, which won the coveted Teddy Award at the 2015 Berlin International Film Festival, The Strong Ones follows the intimate and romantic saga of two beautiful Chilean men on very different life paths. Lucas (Samuel Gonzalez), an architect, travels to visit his sister, who lives in a remote town in Southern Chile. Beside the ocean, shrouded in the wintery mist, he meets Antonio (Antonio Altamirano), a boatswain on a local fishing boat. When an intense romance blossoms between them, their strength, independence, and adulthood become immovable, just like the ebb and flow of the tide. Confidently directed by Omar Zúñiga Hidalgo, The Strong Ones took home both the Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize at Outfest this past year.
British comedian Simon Amstell wrote and directed this charmingly offbeat gay romantic comedy about a filmmaker juggling the excitement of his upcoming film premiere with the fear and awkwardness of a burgeoning romance. Always ready with a self-defensive quip, indie film director Benjamin (Colin Morgan) nervously prepares for the premiere of his sophomore feature when he meets and falls for hard for Noah (Phenix Brossard), a young French musician. Will Benjamin’s insecurities and anxieties get in the way of success and happiness? Will his film be a critics-savaging disaster and he, a one-hit wonder? Benjamin is a charming, laugh-out-loud look at one man’s land mined road to success and love.
Winner of the prestigious Queer Lion Award at the 2019 Venice Film Festival, José is a critically acclaimed new religious family drama and romance from director Li Cheng. Jose (Enrique Salanic) lives with his mother (Ana Cecilia Mota) in Guatemala City, where, dominated by conservative Catholic and Evangelical Christian religion, living one’s life as an openly gay man is hard for José to imagine. His mother has never had a husband and is determined to hold on to him. Jose fills his free time with dating apps, but when he meets attractive and gentle Luis (Manolo Herrera), they pursue an unexpected relationship with more emotion than José has ever felt. He is thrust into new passion, pain and self-reflection that push him to rethink his life. Don’t miss this deeply moving new drama.
05. Song Lang
Set in a richly imagined 1980s Saigon, Song Lang is both a gritty underworld noir and an operatic romance. An unlikely bond develops between hunky, brooding Dung (Lien Binh Phat), a tough debt collector for a ruthless loan shark, and Linh Phung (popular V-pop singer Isaac), a charismatic young opera singer. The two meet when Dung comes to forcefully collect a debt from the struggling opera troupe. But when their paths cross again, a deep friendship develops, awakening romantic feelings in both men. Making his feature-length debut, Vietnamese director Leon Le serves up a uniquely lush melodrama, teasing a smoldering relationship between two apparent opposites set against the backdrop of a gorgeous art form as it fades out of fashion.
04. Breaking Fast
Set against the twinkling lights of West Hollywood, Breaking Fast is a delightful new culture-clash romantic comedy that follows Mo (Haaz Sleiman), a practicing Muslim still reeling from heartbreak. When an All-American guy named Kal (Michael Cassidy) offers to join him in his nightly Iftars – the traditional meal eaten by Muslims during Ramadan – meal after meal, the two start to discover they have more in common than meets the eye. The two soon start to fall in love over all the things that they have in common and – more importantly – the things they don’t. A total feel-good flick, Breaking Fast has earned raved reviews from critics. Film Threat called it “as near a perfect film as one can ask for.” This is Film said it’s “quite possibly one of the most engaging rom-coms in recent memory.”
03. No Hard Feelings
Parvis (Benjamin Radjaipour), the son of exiled Iranians, copes with life in his small hometown by indulging himself with pop culture, Grindr dates and raves. After being caught shoplifting, he is sentenced to community service at a refugee shelter where he meets siblings Banafshe (Banafshe Hourmazdi) and Amon (Eidin Jalali), who have recently fled Iran. As a romantic attraction between Parvis and Amon grows, the fragile relationship between the three is put to the test. They find and lose each other throughout a summer of fleeting youth, an intense first love, an attempt at a joint future and the stark realization that, in Germany, they are not entirely equal. A critically-acclaimed new romantic drama, No Hard Feelings won the coveted Teddy Award for Best Queer Feature Film.
No Hard Feelings is available now on VOD and available to pre-order on DVD. The DVD will be available December 29th.
02. Welcome to Chechnya
With searing urgency, Welcome to Chechnya shadows a group of activists who risk unimaginable peril to confront the ongoing anti-LGBTQ purge raging in the repressive and closed Russian republic. Since 2017, Chechnya’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, has waged a depraved operation to “cleanse the blood” of LGBTQ Chechens, overseeing a campaign to detain, torture and execute them. Operating without the sanction of the Kremlin, activists take matters into their own hands. In this riveting new doc, acclaimed director David France (who also helmed the justly celebrated docs How to Survive a Plague and The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson) uses a remarkable hands-on approach to expose this atrocity and tell the story of an extraordinary group of people literally putting their lives on the line to confront evil.
Welcome to Chechnya is available to pre-order now on DVD. The film will be released on January 19th.
01. And Then We Danced
Merab (Levan Gelbakhiani) is a skilled dancer at the National Georgian Assembly, but is criticized for being “too soft.” His life is turned upside down with the arrival of Irakli (Bachi Valishvili), sparking both a strong rivalry and romantic desire between the two men. This breathtaking film sets up a passionate tale of love amid the confines of modern youth culture in a highly conservative society. Through the hauntingly beautiful dance and music of Georgian culture, And Then We Danced becomes one big performance of incredibly crafted choreography. Director Levan Akin crafts a refreshing take on the queer coming-of-age story. Easily one of the year’s most beloved and critically-acclaimed gay films, we can’t recommend And Then We Danced more highly.