Lesbian filmmaker Alice Wu’s Netflix movie The Half of It—about an introverted, bookish Chinese-American teen, Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis), who helps a jock (Daniel Diemer) woo a girl (Alexxis Lemire) whom she also falls in love with—premieres May 1, kicking off a fantastic month for queer Asian representation on the screen (at home, of course).
Premiering May 11, the five-part PBS series Asian Americans boasts LGBTQ intersectionality with segments featuring activist and journalist Helen Zia, whose same-sex marriage was one of California’s first, and Margaret Cho. May 7 also sees Criterion Channel’s mini-retrospective of queer Malaysian director Tsai Ming-liang’s work.
Let’s not forget the diverse slate of queer Asian and Asian-American movies streaming right now, beginning with these 10 gems.
Happy Together (1997)
Late queer Hong Kong icon Leslie Cheung (there’s a cafe in Chengdu dedicated to him!) and Tony Leung star as a dysfunctional gay couple in Argentina in director Wong Kar-Wai’s stunningly beautiful (and sometimes drama-filled) cinematic poem. Once you’ve seen Happy Together, you’ll never forget it. (Streaming on Criterion Channel)
Asian-American director Quentin Lee follows up his 15-year anniversary edition of Ethan Mao with this remastered 18th anniversary edition of 2002’s Drift, a Sliding Doors-style tale of an Los Angeles couple (R.T. Lee and Greyson Dane) and the three possible directions their lives could take when one falls for a college student (Jonathan Roessler). (Streaming on Amazon)
The Gathering a.k.a Arisan! (2003)
One of only a few Indonesian films boasting positive LGBTQ representation, this Sex and The City-esque dramedy about a clique of well-heeled Jakartans includes a sweet, blossoming romance between an architect (Tora Sudiro) just coming to grips with his sexuality and a movie producer (Surya Saputra). Bonus: You can binge-watch it on Netflix with its sequel, Arisan 2 . (Streaming on Netflix)
Saving Face (2005)
Alice Wu’s GLAAD Award-nominated directorial debut follows a closeted Asian-American surgeon (Michelle Krusiec), whose relationship with a ballerina (Lynn Chen) is complicated when her widowed, disapproving mother (Joan Chen) shows up, pregnant, with her own secret. Fun fact: Will Smith was a producer! (Streaming on Amazon)
I Don’t Want To Sleep Alone (2006)
Taiwan-based queer director Tsai Ming-Liang returned to his home country of Malaysia for this atmospheric, tender work starring his muse Lee Kang-sheng as the victim of a beating who’s nursed back to health by an immigrant worker (Norman Atun). Kang-sheng also stars in the 1997 film The River as a teen whose closeted queerness manifests as an agonizing neck pain while his father frequents gay saunas on the DL. It’s as audacious as it sounds. (Streaming on Criterion Channel)
Yes or No (2010)
“Toms,” short for masculine-appearing tomboy lesbians, are a cultural phenomenon in Thailand (and much of Asia). When femme college student Pie (Sucharat Manaying) meets her Tom roomie Kim (Suppanad Jittaleela), it ain’t long before “no” becomes “yes.” Binge it with fellow romantic dramedy sequels Yes or No 2 and Yes or No 2.5. (Streaming on Netflix)
Writer-director Sudhanshu Saria’s bittersweet gay romantic drama, shot in secrecy while homosexuality was still illegal in India, involves a road trip for reunited childhood friends Jai (Shiv Pandit) and Sahil (Dhruv Ganesh). While on their journey, mutual attraction bubbles to the surface and causes drama—especially when Sahil’s boyfriend, Alex (Siddharth Menon), enters the picture. (Streaming on Netflix)
Although South Korea’s best LGBTQ titles are sadly absent from mainstream U.S. streaming services (you can, however, see the moving, way-queer historical drama The King And The Clown for free here), give this tale of the relationship between two theater actors (Park Sung-woong and Oh Seung-hoon), and how their careers are threatened when one decides to make it public, a watch. (Streaming on Amazon)
Present Perfect (2017)
Fresh off a painful breakup, Toey (Tonawanik Adisorn) leaves Thailand to stay in the quiet, nature-filled Japanese town of Higashikawa to nurse his wounds and avoid any other Thai people. However, coincidence leads to a new neighbor from Thailand, Oat (Maroukasonti Kritsana), seeking a last bit of freedom before marrying a woman back home. The continuation of their story, Present Still Perfect, is being released this year. (Streaming on Amazon)
Ek Ladki ko Dekha Toh aisa Laga (2019)
This jubilant Bollywood rom-com includes India superstar Anil Kapoor (Slumdog Millionaire, M:I Ghost Protocol) and follows a closeted Punjabi lesbian, Sweety (Anil’s daughter, Sonam Kapoor Ahuja), who agrees to marry playwright Sahil (Rajkummar Rao) to appease her family despite being in love with another woman (Regina Cassandra). The title translates to “How I Felt When I Saw That Girl.” (Streaming on Netflix)
Main image: The stars of Happy Together (1997).