The end of June is always a bit of a sad time. The nights come quicker, the days get hotter, and corporate recognition of queer people is packed up for next year until magically become profitable again. In sobering times like these, sometimes the only thing to do is sit down in your room and watch queer people live, laugh, love, and if they’re lucky, make it to their own happy ending. With that in mind, here are five queer-centric films immediately available on streaming services to cure your post-June blues.
The Handmaiden (available for free on Amazon Prime, $0.99 to rent on regular amazon, in Korean and Japanese with subtitles)
Park Chan-wook’s sumptuous period drama really does have it all. Intrigue, Costume porn, borderline actual porn, rebellion against the patriarchy, it’s all here. Loosely based on Sarah Waters’ Victorian bodice-ripper Fingersmith—itself already a classic of lesbian literature—Park transports the drama to Japan-occupied Korea, where a humble thief (Kim Tae-ri, in a wonderfully sincere performance) teams up with a slimy con man (Ha Jung-Woo, delightfully loathsome) to seduce an heiress (Kim Min-hee, a revelation in a difficult performance) out of her fortune. While I would be remiss to spoil the various ways in which this premise does not go according to plan, the journey leading up to the reveal is one of the sexiest, most unpredictable, and grippingly entertaining pieces of cinema in recent memory.
Watch it if: You like your period dramas interspersed with erotic asphyxiation and lots of twists and turns.
Stranger by the Lake (Available on Netflix, in French with subtitles)
On the slightly less prideful but much more gay sex-y end of the spectrum is Alain Guiraudie’s tale of gay
cruising, erotic obsession, and just a little bit of murder, Stranger by the Lake. Packed with naked French guys and unsimulated blowjobs, don’t mistake Guiraudie’s frank depictions of gay lust as mere male gayze in action. Stranger by the Lake is a fascinating, terrifying slow burn of a thriller about a sweet but hapless cruiser (Pierre Deladonchamps) who unfortunately gets tangled up with an impossibly handsome potential murderer (Christophe Paou, filling both the sexy and scary requirements of his role with delight). Lurid in the best way, Stranger by the Lake certainly isn’t the film you show to you show to your straight friends, but it’s an engaging watch whether or not you’re actually watching for the plot.
Watch it if: You wish gay love stories had more graphic sex and eerily beautiful shots of murder.
Paris is Burning (Available on Netflix)
Before you tell me that you’ve seen it already, I’ve met too many young gays in college who have never even heard of this seminal classic of queer cinema to leave it off the list. This dazzling exploration of the Harlem ball scene of the late ‘80s has been on Netflix since the dawn of time, and is both a moving celebration of the art of drag and families it creates and a sobering reminder of the ways that straight people use and abuse (but mostly abuse) queer culture for their own gains. It’s quotable, hopeful, mournful, glamourous, and one of the greatest snapshots of our communities bravest warriors. Intimate in ways few documentaries of any subject manage to achieve, Paris is Burning should absolutely be required viewing for queer people of all ages and genders.
Watch it if: You like your history lessons entertaining and covered in glitter.
Laurence Anyways (Free on Amazon Prime, $3.99 on Amazon regular, in French with subtitles)
Xavier Dolan’s exhilarating, daring epic saga of a transwoman’s (Melvin Poupaud) tempestuous relationship with her girlfriend (Suzanne Clément) over the course of ten years is likely the most ambitious, difficult film in his already ambitious, difficult career. It’s hard to fit the nearly three hour long film, grandiose in scale but painfully small and human in execution, into a small recommendation, especially since it more than once stumbles in its attempt to cover so much ground. And for all of its flaws (not the least of which being the casting of cis male Poupaud in the leading role) there is no other film on this list that feels like such a complete picture of the daily life, love, and even the failures of queer people. Complicated, haunting, and ultimately rewarding, Laurence Anyways is the kind of strange, flawed film that should be made more nowadays.
Watch it if: You weren’t immediately intimidated by its three hour long runtime.
The Way He Looks (Available on Netflix, in Portuguese with subtitles)
One of the biggest pitfalls of queer-centric films is the feeling that they have to Mean Something Important. Too many feel like they try to encompass too much or veer toward the dark and heavy in order to be worthwhile. To wit, the final film on this list is in many ways the smallest but also probably the most enjoyable. Daniel Ribeiro’s script is exactly the kind of low-key, unpretentious gay romance the genre has been missing. The story of a blind teenager (Ghilherme Lobo) whose life gets an unexpected jolt when he develops a crush on a handsome new student (Fabio Audi), The Way He Looks is the kind of coming-of-age romance that everybody of any gender or sexuality should be able fawn over.
Watch it if: You just want to feel good about life.