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French films have always been out there. From classic black and white movies to the New Wave movement in the mid-20th-century, movies from France have always pushed boundaries and set new standards. Even today, the French remain so creative that many of their films create such an impact, particularly, their gay movies. From same sex to non-binary couples, French filmmakers have told compelling cinematic stories that tug at everyone's heartstrings, whether you're part of the LGBTQ+ community or not. Who could ever forget movies like 'Blue is the Warmest Color,' 'Call Me By Your Name,' and many more?
Un Chant d’Amour (1950)
If the 1950 film, 'Un Chant d’Amour,' wasn't banned nor suffered so many cut scenes, it'd probably be up there among the sexiest French films of all time. French writer Jean Genet wrote and directed this 26-minute movie set in a men's prison, where inmates grapple with their sexual desires and passionate emotions. Do note that this was released in 1950, a time when France was just recuperating after World War II. Audiences weren't so progressive then so it was only natural that a lot of cinemas throughout the country banned it from public screening.
Source: Leo Tuzzo YouTube Channel
La Cage aux Folles (1978)
Even before the Drag Race phenomenon, drag was already a fixture in comedic cinema. The 1978 French film, 'La Cage aux Folles,' was one of the first to show it. Italian actor Ugo Tognazzi stars as Renato Baldi, the manager of a Saint Tropez nightclub that features drag queen entertainers. One of its main stars, Albin Mougeotte (played by Michel Serrault), or 'Zaza Napoli' is also his lover. When Renato's son Laurent (played by Rémi Laurent), arranged for his fiancee and her parents to meet his family, a hilarious comedy ensues! Most notable, Hollywood remade this French queer film in 1996, entitled 'The Birdcage' starring Robin Williams, Nathan Lane, Gene Hackman, and more.
Source: MGM YouTube Channel
Beau Travail (1999)
Claire Denis's 'Beau Travail' is among the most memorable French gay films of all time. And for various reasons! The first is that it's one of the first queer movies directed by a female director. Set in a French military garrison somewhere in Africa, it tells the story of Adjudant-Chef Galoup (played by Denis Lavant), who serves in the French Foreign Legion. When Gilles Sentain (played by Grégoire Colin) joins his section, he immediately feels a mix of emotions. Both his inferiority complex and suppressed homosexual feelings take hold of him, eventually leading him to torture Sentain in the process.
Source: Film at Lincoln Center Soon YouTube Channel
Les Invisibles (2012)
Undoubtedly one of the most riveting queer films to ever come out of France, 'Les Invisibles' tells the story of gay men and women who openly lived out their lives in a time when society shunned homosexuality. The plot teeters between their willingness to express their love for the same sex and their desire to still fit in among normal society. And at a time when most gay films, be they from France or Hollywood, focused on young love, 'Les Invisibles' dared to put old men and women front and center.
Source: Unifrance YouTube Channel
Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013)
Perhaps, among young audiences today, they likely regard 'Blue Is the Warmest Color' as the most impactful French gay film out there. Not only did it win the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2013, but it also became one of the most successful French films at the time. The movie tells the story of Adèle (played by Adèle Exarchopoulos), a 15-year-old high school student growing up in a conservative family. When she meets the blue-haired art student, Emma (played by Léa Seydoux), she starts to question her sexual orientation and identity. Both women embark on a tempestuous relationship they won't soon forget!
Source: Sundance Now YouTube Channel
Call Me By Your Name (2017)
Although 'Call Me By Your Name' is set in Italy and was made in Hollywood, the participation of French filmmakers and actors has led many to regard it as a French gay film. It tells the story of Elio (played by Timothée Chalamet), a Jewish Italian-French 17-year-old who lives with his parents in Northern Italy. One summer, their family decides to host an American graduate student, Oliver (played by Armie Hammer), who's 24 years old; seven years his junior. Despite the age gap and plenty of other societal differences, the two embark on a sexual love affair that changes their lives forever!
Source: Sony Pictures Classics YouTube Channel
Portrait of A Young Lady in Fire (2019)
Finally, there's the 'Portrait of A Young Lady in Fire,' one of the most successful French films of 2019. Having premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, it eventually became one of the most memorable LGBTQ+ movies to have come out of the iconic event. And later on, it received countless accolades and nominations. The film's plot centers on Marianne (played by Noémie Merlant), a female painter in 18th-century France. Having been commissioned by a noble family to paint the portrait of their daughter, Héloïse (played by Adèle Haenel), she spends some time—and eventually falls in love—with her subject on a remote island in Brittany.
Source: NEON YouTube Channel
French gay films continue to push boundaries, set new standards, and captivate audiences all over the world. They're artistic, riveting, and inspiring—constant reminders of how important it is to let people love who they love and live out truths!