And what a queer year it was!
By Ben Travers and Jude Dry
Dec 15, 2022 2:00 pm
Taika Waititi and Rhys Darby in “Our Flag Means Death”
Aaron Epstein / HBO Max
When looking through a given year’s best movies and shows, it’s helpful for a writer to find connections among the prominent picks. Perhaps this was a year where studio fare stood tall, or indie darlings broke big. Maybe 2022 saw an uptick in stories about burgeoning fascism or very good donkeys. Heck, even taking note of broader trends — like the potential resurgence of theatrical motion pictures or the possible end of streaming content boom — can give a list a sense of purpose or clarity.
But when it comes to our picks for the best LGBTQ movies and shows in 2022, what’s refreshing to notice is the lack of commonalities. Comedies like “Bros” and “Fire Island” were given major release platforms courtesy of Universal and Searchlight, respectively. Dramatic fare like “Benediction” and “The Inspection” rode festival buzz and critical praise to leave their mark. This year’s top awards contenders are queer, as well, from “Tár” to “Everything Everywhere All at Once” — two films that defy tidy labels and demand repeated excavations.
TV is similarly comprehensive. Two of the medium’s top genres — medical dramas and true crime mysteries — were turned on their heads with “This Is Going To Hurt” and “The Staircase,” respectively. “Harley Quinn” continues to redefine the Joker’s former sidekick as a supervillain all her own, and “A League of Their Own” took the classic film and ran with it, creating new characters, fresh plotlines, and making gay subtext plain, bold text. Speaking of bold, “P-Valley” is like nothing else on television — including its first season — and “Our Flag Means Death” courted a legion of devout followers with its surprising central romance.
Gay movies and queer shows still featured plenty of closeted characters and painful coming-out arcs, but the best of these did so with nuance and compassion, finding ways to connect with empathetic audiences while challenging them anew. Plenty of LGBTQ-centric film and TV also reveled in joy and fun, knowing audiences need both (and plenty of it). Below, IndieWire’s best of 2022 list is stacked with viewing experiences for every mood, occasion, and sensibility. For some, the only shared resemblance is their queer subject matter — and sometimes, that in and of itself is a theme to cherish.
Ali Foreman, Marcus Jones, Proma Khosla, Ryan Lattanzio, Sarah Shachat, and Brian Welk contributed to this list.
“All the Beauty and the Bloodshed”
If nothing else, it’s great that more and younger people can see Nan Goldin’s work in “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed.” The grace and depth of her compositions are so arresting it feels equally like her queer subjects are looking at us as we’re looking at them, and that sort of a held gaze across time and culture is powerful. It is powerful to be reminded how ordinary and radical a bunch of lovely trans folks having a picnic in the park is, to hear and see and feel how the AIDS epidemic looked and felt to the people most of the American political establishment was hoping would just die off and to connect that to the appalling lack of urgency and compassion we’ve shown in addressing the opioid crisis.
But the way that director Laura Poitras and her editing team structure Nan’s own story throughout the documentary, moving back and forth between her activism to hold the Sackler family meaningfully accountable and the life experiences that shaped her development as an artist, is one giant revolving carousel of Nan Goldin photographs. This is a documentary that wouldn’t look the way it does or move the way it does for any other subject, and the result doesn’t feel merely intimate or truthful. It feels as poetic and powerful as Goldin herself. —Sarah Shachat
From painting working-class portraits to sketching urbane artistic figures like Emily Dickinson, English filmmaker Terence Davies has long been public about his discomfort with being gay and his feelings of banality toward life in general. He’s not an especially hopeful storyteller, but his pessimism and insatiable hunger for redemption find their purest expression in “Benediction.”(Video) Best Gay TV Shows Released in 2022
This riotously funny and deeply despairing portrait of World War I-era English poet Siegfried Sassoon (Jack Lowden) follows him from the fringes of the Bright Young Things, into middle age, and up until his death in 1967, Catholic and bereft. (In later years, Peter Capaldi takes over.) He outlived many of his peers but left a legacy in words and in lovers — including the poet Wilfred Owen, socialite flaneur Stephen Tennant, Welsh musician Ivor Novello, and actor Glen Byam Shaw.
Anchored by an elegant performance from Lowden as a young Siegfried, it’s not a biopic so much as a melancholy what-might-have-been-but-never-will-be melodrama that freely plucks incidents from the poet’s life and plays around with them in time — and it’s filled with silver-tongued zingers and maxims that only Davies could devise.
The filmmaker’s protagonists are almost always stand-ins for himself, and he’s not the least bit shy about acknowledging as much. But that doesn’t mean he’s necessarily working out his issues. As Sassoon says in this gorgeous, ruminative emotional epic, “The moment passes, but the hole remains.” —Ryan Lattanzio
Billy Eichner’s “Bros” had to carry the unfortunate burden of history. Being the first theatrically released, studio rom-com featuring an entirely LGBTQ cast was a very specific pedigree that ultimately did it no favors at the box office, topping out at just $14.7 million worldwide. And when it tanked, suddenly the man behind “Difficult People” and “Billy on the Street” had to deal with trolls who suggested that maybe his movie would’ve been a hit if it starred Dan Levy instead.
But those who waited to stream it missed out on one of the funniest and most quotable movies of the year, a sophisticated and smart extension of the pop culture irreverence from the guy known for shouting about Debra Messing on NYC streets. Eichner’s writing is fearless in calling out “Bohemian Rhapsody” for sanitizing a gay icon or “The Hangover” for casual homophobia. It stages hilarious and honest gay sex scenes that deserve to be enjoyed with a crowd. But it also grapples honestly with the many facets of what it is to be a gay man in 2022 rather than merely fête them, painting both of its white male leads as flawed and complex while offering opportunities for its diverse cast to shine. Whether “Bros” was historic is another conversation, but it’s a charming and funny crowd-pleaser that should still stand the test of time. —Brian Welk
This juicy dark comedy is a feminist satire inspired by “Strangers on a Train,” the Alfred Hitchcock film based on lesbian writer Patricia Highsmith’s novel. The romp stars Camila Mendes (“Riverdale”) and Maya Hawke (“Stranger Things”) as two unlikely allies in a battle for high school justice, with Hawke as the loner queer who must infiltrate the popular crowd. Touching lightly on class awareness and gender politics, the girls are firmly in control of this candy-coated world — though only one can come out on top. As their Machiavellian quest for revenge leads to some unlikely revelations, the self-righteous antiheroines prove that boys aren’t the only toxic ones. It’s all part of the sickly fun and games of this quippy romp through the steely cunning of that universally feared group: teenage girls. —Jude Dry
“Everything Everywhere All At Once”
“Everything Everywhere All At Once” couldn’t possibly be about one thing or the title would serve as false advertising, but there’s something both wonderfully subversive and true about a movie where every possible version of a character across universes includes one involving a queer romance with Jamie Lee Curtis. It is the film’s approach to Joy (Stephanie Hsu), though, that is at the center of “Everything Everywhere’s” big, weird, wonderfully handmade heart. Through her, the movie gets to do more than tell a coming-out-to-extended-family queer story or a cultural-clash, quest-for-intergenerational-understanding queer story. We get to see the whole of Joy, from her Elvis-suit-wearing, pig-toting badassery to her completely ordinary emotional breakdown in a parking lot, and therefore see all the ways her story, and queer experience, cannot be defined by tropes. She gets to play with them a bit, and that’s fun. The Daniels really did make a movie to prove that if you don’t bury your gays you can save the universe(s), and there’s nothing in the world more joyful than that. —SS
A harmonious trio of talent — Joel Kim Booster, Bowen Yang, and Andrew Ahn — collided in a dazzling disco ball of glory to deliver one of the year’s most infectiously delightful films. An ensemble comedy brimming with sexy romance, lovable characters, and inside jokes (that still let you in), “Fire Island” is the kind of movie we feared couldn’t get made anymore. An avowed fan of “Clueless” and everything Jane Austen, screenwriter and star Booster transplants the societal intrigue of “Pride and Prejudice” onto the strict social hierarchy of New York’s revered gay beach destination. His witty adaptation finds the perfect modern equivalents, as Lizzie becomes an avowed bachelor who prizes casual sex over love, and Wickham a toxic revenge porn scammer.
The fiery ensemble keeps the comedy front and center, while “Spa Night” filmmaker Andrew Ahn smooths out the emotional beats with a painterly finesse. Well on its way to iconic status, he shot a brilliant sunset scene from a distance, showing the group of friends in shadowy silhouettes. Left to ring out against this pretty backdrop, their vivacious banter echoes into the waiting ocean, sending precious zingers to the birds and babes. —JD
If any season of television has ever embodied the “Be Gay, Do Crimes” meme, it’s “Harley Quinn” Season 3. There’s a whole montage kicked off by supervillains Harley Quinn (Kaley Cuoco) and Poison Ivy (Lake Bell) breaking into the Fortress of Solitude to watch fan porn of themselves in the season premiere (#Harlivy, #EatBangKillTour2022). Justin Halpern, Dean Lorey, and Patrick Schumacker’s wonderfully demented DC comedy proves that watching a couple grow together is just as much fun as watching them get together. While this season does mine conflict from the ways that Harley and Ivy clash in a relationship, the tension almost always comes out of the good and/or bad things they want for each other. Seeing them join together to foil the exasperatingly idiotic and idiotically exasperating forces of social order remains the show’s central pleasure — now, just with a lot more female pleasure. Good for them! —SS
With one Emmy-winning season under its belt and two more slated for the future, Alice Oseman’s “Heartstopper” is full of hope. Cut from the same cloth as “Sex Education” and “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” the series charts the highs and lows of Charlie’s (Joe Locke) crush on classmate Nick (Kit Connor). Each episode carries a charged, one-word title that will send flutterings through the heart of the most removed viewer: “Meet,” “Kiss,” “Friend,” and so on. A vibrant soundtrack and hints of animation pay homage to Oseman’s original webcomic and graphic novel while illustrating the phantasmagoria of teen love through remarkably endearing characters. “Heartstopper” features closeted and out characters, queer and transgender, questioning and confident, all offering each other hope and support in Oseman’s colorful world. —Proma Khosla
Deceptively simple in its title and structure, “High School” is a clever, caring expansion of singer-songwriters Tegan and Sara’s 2019 memoir of the same name. Railey and Seazynn Gilliland play the sisters in their pre-fame adolescence, as they’re just learning to play music — and just learning who they are, both individually and together. That’s what makes the parallel halves of each episode so powerful; typically, episodes start with one of the sisters before jumping to the other’s perspective midway through. As Tegan and Sara come of age independently, their fractured bond becomes an overarching negotiation for the season.(Video) 50+ New Gay Movies of 2022
But “High School” (from co-showrunners Laura Kittrell and Clea DuVall) also doesn’t limit itself to Tegan and Sara. Cobie Smulders gets her own compelling, complex arc as their mother, Simone, while Kyle Bornheimer’s step-dad-in-waiting, Patrick, has his own priorities to tend to. Friends and friends who want to be more than friends get their own time, too, as “High School” builds an inclusive, enthralling world from two well-realized memories. —Ben Travers
The revelation of Elegance Bratton’s “The Inspection” isn’t solely in seeing the abuse or neglect of a gay man in the military during the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell era but within the deeply personal and autobiographical lens given to his story. “The Inspection” is not a broad indictment of the Marines but a nuanced character study about the internal struggle of living up to the world’s expectations in a system designed to stifle that growth. And it’s a story Bratton alone could tell, having lived it himself. “If I die in this uniform, I’m a hero, I’m somebody, not just another homeless f—t,” the film’s lead Ellis says via a tender and intense performance from Jeremy Pope.
Bratton’s film is punishing but also surprisingly artful, including a moment where a hazy purple filter suddenly transforms a drab barracks shower into a steamy bathhouse and offers a glimpse into his forbidden urges before that too turns tragic. But the real X-factor of “The Inspection” lies in Gabrielle Union’s ruthless and cutting performance as Bratton’s forever disapproving mother. Her screen time may be brief, but she lends the film devastating emotional honesty that should resonate universally. —Brian Welk
“A League of Their Own”
Typically, it takes passion to reinvent a beloved classic — not just remaking it (and hitting the beloved beats again with an updated cast) or continuing it (by extending the story with the same characters everyone already loves), but reinventing. That’s what Abbi Jacobson and Will Graham did with “A League of Their Own,” the Prime Video series inspired by Penny Marshall’s classic film, yet in no way restricted by it.
For one, this “A League of Their Own” is out and proud, following a bevy of queer baseball players chasing their dreams on and off the diamond. Set in the 1940s, where women playing sports was already too radical for many Americans, the series follows Carson Shaw (Jacobson) as she flees her home in Idaho for a shot at professional baseball. She soon meets her future teammates, including an enticing hitter Greta (D’Arcy Carden), who ushers Carson into an unknown world of speakeasys, sexuality, and pride.
But Carson’s story is essentially one-half of “League.” The other is carred by Max (breakout Chanté Adams), an incredible pitcher who’s written off for her gender and racial identity. She tries to work her way up through the opportunities available to her, showing off her stuff at company games and coerced try-outs, but Max, too, discovers more than baseball along the way.
In its first season, “A League of Their Own” made time for joy, laughter, and excitement along with the honest hardships faced by the aspiring ballplayers. In doing so, it stands out from its predecessor, as well as the rest of TV. Here’s hoping for another nine innings. —BT
“A jack-o’-lantern. A bat. A question mark.” That is the essence of “Los Espookys”: a keyed-in horror comedy queered not just by its openly LGBTQ leads, but also by its spider-like exploration of contemporary culture and campy self-assurednes. In the Season 2 finale, the titular clique of oddball horror providers, who co-creator and star Julia Torres described as a sort of “reverse Scooby-Doo” gang to IndieWire, are tasked with creating a solar eclipse. Yep. It’s an outrageous task that win, lose, or draw was always sure to help the lovable pals become closer in the end. At least the latest (and sadly last) episode of since-canceled “Los Espookys” really nailed what made this little queer-for-fear horror family feel special. —Alison Foreman
“Our Flag Means Death”
The thing that has made “Our Flag Means Death” such an enduring delight (and constant fan-art generator) is its perfect understanding of shipping — and not the 18th century nautical transport kind. The HBO comedy presents itself first as kind of a workplace sitcom on a pirate ship, but morphs into one of the best slow-burn romances put to screen this year. The tenderness of the queer relationships on the show gives all the silly piratical faffing about an underlying warmth and heart. It’s an inspired move by creator David Jenkins to take the real story of a rich nitwit named Stede Bonnet who bought himself a pirate ship and in this fictional version have Blackbeard (Taika Waititi) and Stede (Rhys Darby) fall in love with each other. But there’s also Jim (Vico Ortiz) and Olu (Samson Kayo)! Lucius (Nathan Foad) and Black Pete (Matthew Maher)! A touch, a hug, a glance towards where a companion should be and isn’t: the show puts its full cinematic weight behind the simple pleasures and building-blocks of the romance genre and to see that focus and care directed to multiple, diversely queer couples in a single half-hour comedy is a little bit bonkers and altogether wonderful. —SS
In its long-awaited second season, the striking Starz drama penned by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Katori Hall leaned harder into romance with surprisingly tender results. Not only are viewers seeing a complex queer relationship between nonbinary strip club entrepreneur Uncle Clifford (Nicco Annan) and rapper Lil Murda (J. Alphonse Nicholson) — who clearly love each other, but are unsure of what it could mean for the rising trap star’s career to be out — but their story allows the ambitious headliner of the Pynk, Mercedes (Brandee Brown), to release some tension via a fruitful arrangement between her and a wealthy couple. And this is all in the backdrop of one of the best depictions of a post-COVID America, hitting on both the tragedy and ingenuity that spurred out of the global pandemic. —Marcus Jones
“Peter von Kant”
François Ozon has made his best film in years with “Peter von Kant,” one that will be seen by few but relished by all who do. The movie is both a response to and a sort-of remake of workaholic, died-as-he-lived German filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s “The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant,” about a sadistic fashion designer’s taste for demeaning those who try to love her. Here, Ozon has gender-flipped that lead, centering his movie on a megalomaniacal film director (Denis Menochet, who has a physical resemblance to Fassbinder at least in this movie) who vampirically sucks the joie de vivre up out of anyone in his fray, from his uncannily devoted assistant Karl (Stefan Crepon) to the beautiful boy he loves and is determined to make a star (Khalil Ben Gharbia).
This entire 80-minute movie takes place inside Peter von Kant’s apartment, where he’s visited by the likes of legendary diva singer Sidonie (Isabelle Adjani, herself a legendary diva) and his estranged mother (played by Schygulla, one of the Fassbinder women who also starred in “Bitter Tears”). Gay enough for you? “Peter von Kant” is both an agonized cry from a director’s soul and an answer to Ozon’s own obsession with Fassbinder, which dates back to the French director’s debut feature, “Water Drops on Burning Rocks,” itself an adaptation of a Fassbinder play. —RL(Video) Top 10 Gay TV Series to Watch Right Now
There are days when Hollywood bemoans the difficulty of minority representation and then there are days when a show like “Sort Of” comes your way — confident, stylish, and stirring, making authenticity look easy. Star and co-creator Bilal Baig plays Sabi, a non-binary Pakistani-Canadian millennial, all of which are based in the star’s personal experience. Sabi searches for hope and meaning like so many millennial TV heroes before them, supported by best friend 7ven (Amanda Cordner), tested by sister Aqsa (Supinder Wraich), and tolerated by mother Raffo (Ellora Patnaik). The series speaks to challenges faced by gender non-conforming individuals, the queer community at large, Muslims in North America, and children of immigrants — sometimes concurrently, sometimes separate, and never feeling the slightest bit pedantic. The award-winning first season even prompted the Canadian Screen Awards to dispense with gendered acting categories for future seasons when Baig did not submit for consideration. From a groundbreaking premise to thoughtful execution, every aspect of “Sort Of” underscores the importance of telling stories like Sabi’s — with creators like Baig at the forefront. —PK
When seasoned true crime fans learned audiences would be forced to entertain a scripted take on “The Staircase” in 2022, many winced. The murder of Kathleen Peterson on December 9, 2001 was brutal. Her husband Michael Peterson was accused of beating her to death in a high-profile North Carolina trial, now notorious for its homophobia (Peterson identified as bisexual) and outrageous legal and expert witness malpractice.
The caseis thoroughly examined in Jean-Xavier de Lestrade’s unscripted series of the same name. That project was followed by a Netflix-made expansion in 2018, and in turn has appeared in countless copycat podcasts, books, and internet communities. But the intimacy achieved Lestrade’s original work smells of a deeper story, expertly explored in creator Antonio Campos’ dramatization starring Toni Collette and Colin Firth among others. It’s a keen look at crime documentary that dares to ask: when does a documentary subject become a muse? And how can filmmakers be manipulated? —Alison Foreman
There is everything and nothing distinctly queer about Lydia Tár, the meticulously chic, ruthlessly ambitious, hypnotically self-possessed orchestra conductor played by Cate Blanchett in Todd Field’s monumental third film. A scathing sendup of the intellectual elite that both satirizes and indulges our loftiest cultural ambitions, “Tár” is a 158-minute whirlwind that pulls you deeper into Lydia’s riveting orbit the more reprehensible she becomes. Styling herself like Celine Sciamma in impeccable bespoke suits and unfussy straight hair, Lydia is the fantasy of a power lesbian, masking her toxic masculinity with an underhanded gentility.
Lydia conducts circles around everyone in her life, though even the most besotted women understand their roles better than the obsequious men who fawn over her as she stabs them in the back. German actress Nina Hoss plays the knowing partner with a steely reserve, and “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” stunner Noémie Merlant brings a quiet electricity to their scenes, as she observes Lydia with a cool but doting intensity. But it’s Blanchett’s film to carry, and while “Carol” fans may whither at her chilliness, there’s no denying the red-hot appeal of a brilliant woman who knows what she wants — and will stop at nothing to get it. —JD
The boyish pop star Troye Sivan makes a charismatic leading man in this entertaining and poignant debut feature from comedy writer Jared Frieder. The singer plays Caleb, a young queer man navigating the murky liminal space between a possible HIV exposure and his final test results. The film takes place during the uncertain three-month period, hence the title, in which he reluctantly attends group therapy, meets a nice boy, and confronts his religious mother (Amy Landecker) about abandoning him. In a gift to queer cinephiles, the great Ellen Burstyn plays Caleb’s grandmother, enjoying a sweet romance and a few touching scenes. Frieder’s clever structure builds to a natural crescendo, but wisely leaves Caleb’s fate uncertain. It’s a powerful rebuke of HIV stigma and a fresh snapshot of contemporary queer life. —JD
“This Is Going To Hurt”
Adam is struggling to wake up. Questions spread across his groggy face — Where am I? How did I end up here? What time is it? — and Ben Whishaw’s telling expression provides each answer. He’s in his car. He fell asleep before he could drive home from the hospital, where he works, and it’s now time to start his next shift.
Set in 2006, long before the pandemic put a spotlight on the emotional and physical exhaustion facing medical professionals, “This Is Going to Hurt” puts a human face on the multifaceted pain that stems from a work/life balance that’s way out of whack. Given how much information is conveyed in the opening shots, viewers almost don’t need to see Adam go about the daily grind — helping a pregnant woman reach the delivery room without collapsing, performing C-sections, and all the while advising his trainee, Shruti (Ambika Mod) — but creator and writer Adam Kay piles on the burdens anyway.
By the time Adam gets to leave the hospital, all you want for him is a good night’s sleep. But his live-in boyfriend wants to go out. His friends expect him to do the things friends do. His parents have their own ideas of what Adam should be doing and how he should behave, and they don’t include him marrying a man. Adam’s anxiety over how others respond to his sexuality is subtly yet strongly depicted at work, as well. Can he come out to his older, fuddy-duddy boss, or will his sexuality restrict his career trajectory? Will Mr. Lockhart (Alex Jennings) pass him up for a promotion because he’d rather go to dinners with a straight couple, or because hospital donors may not open their checkbooks for an openly gay OB/GYN? And what about his patients?
Adam’s time-off is already clouded by the wearying demands of his job, as well as the haunting memories of mistakes made and patients that couldn’t be saved. “This Is Going To Hurt” emphasizes how the effects impact every facet of his life, especially his romantic dreams and personal identity. How much is too much to give? How much pain can be tolerated? How much should be? One way or another, it’s time to wake up. —BT
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This Article is related to: Television and tagged Everything Everywhere All at Once, LGBTQ, Our Flag Means Death, Year in Review 2022