Beyond “Brokeback”: Obscure Gay Movies

Wearing your copy of Brokeback Mountain down to the bare nubbins from so many viewings? Finding yourself mouthing the words to the non-musical Glee scenes? Then chances are you could use some new gay movies and shows to check out. To that end, we’ve compiled a list of obscure, forgotten, or underappreciated gay and gay-interest entertainments that you might want to track down. We’ve also given handy comparisons to more popular works so you know what to expect. Happy viewing!

If you liked Oz, then you should check out…


Fortune and Men’s Eyes (1971)

Based on the groundbreaking play of the same name, this film about power and passion in prison unfortunately translated to screen as more than a bit homophobic (unlike a notorious Hollywood stage run featuring graphic sex scenes between Sal Mineo and a young Don Johnson – do yourself a favor and Google that one). Yes, it’s a prison movie and there are horrible things that happen, including rape – but it’s still worth seeing for the fabulously over-the-top Queenie (Michael Greer) and for some seriously WTF moments.

If you liked Rent, then you should check out…


Falsettos  (1992)

When William Finn and James Lapine’s groundbreaking musical opened on Broadway in 1992, it was one-of-a-kind: the story of a gay man who comes out to his wife and son and deals with love and loss in the early years of the AIDS epidemic. Pithy, funny (with songs like “Four Jews in a Room Bitching”), and extremely moving, the music and lyrics still hold up today. Do yourself a favor and pick up the original cast recording, or try to find a local production near you.

If you liked Brokeback Mountain, then you should check out…


Ode to Billy Joe (1976)

One of the few movies based on a song, Ode to Billy Joe was a surprise to many for its portrayal of a young man tormented by his sexual identity. Robby Benson brought the doomed character from Bobbie Gentry’s haunting hit song to life on the screen, and it was pretty bold for the filmmakers to make Billy’s being gay the key to the song’s mystery. Of course, it wasn’t the happiest story, but we all know Hollywood loves a doomed gay romance…

If you liked The Rocky Horror Picture Show, then you should check out…


The Phantom of the Paradise (1974)

Two years before his megahit Carrie (and a year before the movie version of cult stage phenomenon Rocky Horror hit theaters), Brian De Palma delivered Phantom, a glam rock opera unlike no other. While its Faustian love story is decidedly more hetero than Rocky Horror’s, the film does feature an iconic performance by frequent De Palma collaborator Garrit Graham as Beef, a testosterone-fueled rock god who’s actually a flaming sissy off-stage. Watch for De Palma’s campy sendup of the classic Psycho shower scene, years before he would reinvent the moment in his sleaze classic Dressed to Kill.

If you like Glee, then you should check out…


Popular (1999-2001)

A decade before Glee blew the doors off the high school closet, Ryan Murphy delivered the deranged teen dramedy Popular. Infused with an insanely gay sensibility for an ostensibly straight show, the series also tackled gay subject matter and featured a host of camptastic guest stars (including Rupaul as Sweet Honey Child, the long-lost father of Southern-fried fame whore Mary Cherry).

If you like Rupaul’s Drag Race, you should check out…


The $1.98 Beauty Show (1978-1980)

Speaking of Ru, his glorious sendup of both reality shows and beauty pageants owes a bit to the Chuck Barris-created $1.98 Beauty Show, which featured confetti queen Rip Taylor putting a group of normal gals through the paces of a traditional beauty pageant, with a decidedly camp twist: the winners walked away with a crown, a bouquet of vegetables, exactly $1.98… and our hearts.

If you liked American Beauty, you should check out…


Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967)

In the prime of her “batshit housewife” phase, Elizabeth Taylor appeared in this completely insane drama from director John Huston that had her married to a closeted gay soldier (Marlon Brando) who lusted after another military guy who liked riding horseback in the nude (Robert Forster) when he wasn’t boffing Taylor. There’s tons of over-the-top domestic cruelty (including Brando at the business end of that riding crop), and – much like Beauty – the film ends in tragedy.

If you liked Hedwig and Velvet Goldmine, you should check out…


Brothers of the Head (2005)

You know what Todd Haynes’ brilliant tribute to glam rock was missing? Conjoined twins! Another rags-to-riches rock story, Brothers (based on the novel by Brian Aldiss) heaps on overtones of gay incest as the punk-rock Howe twins scream and preen their way to the top of the charts.

If you liked Behinnd the Candelabra, you should check out…


The Everlasting Secret Family (1988)

I have to admit that I only saw this Australian curiosity once, about 20 years ago. But as I recall, its basic setup – where young hot guys are taken in by a secret society of wealthy, powerful gay men – bears remarkable similarity to the true-life tale of Liberace and Scott. Fewer sequins, more delightful accents.

If you liked Gods and Monsters, you should check out…


Love and Death on Long Island (1997)

While it might not have the extra draw of being a biopic of gay! gay! Hollywood, the disarming indie Love and Death on Long Island has many similarities. For one, it is also about an older gay man idolizing and coveting a young hunk (in this case it’s Jason Priestley). And for another, it stars John Hurt, who is as close as you can get to Ian McKellan without actually cloning him.

In the unlikely event you liked I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, you should check out…


The Gay Deceivers (1969)

Of course, if you liked I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry you probably wouldn’t be reading this site, but let’s look past that. Like Chuck and Larry, The Gay Deceivers has two straight dudes pretending to be gay to reap the benefits – in this case it’s avoiding the draft. They then of course come under the scrutiny of the most insanely flaming characters in the history of the moving picture (Michael Greer is again involved). Like Chuck & Larry, the humor is very hit-or-miss in terms of its offensiveness, but this one also features a truly bizarre twist ending.

This is of course just the tip of the iceberg. What are some of your favorite obscure gay finds?

In 2003, Brian launched the world's first website devoted to horror film from a gay perspective (, mining an untapped (and occasionally unintentional) source of entertainment and bringing together a huge and colorful population of gay horror fans and filmmakers. When he's not pulling skeletons out of closets, Brian writes reviews for horror megasite, general film site, and can be found on the ever-informative Brian is also a filmmaker, having produced, written, and directed two shorts (the dark romantic comedy An Apple a Day and the eerie suspense piece Two Story House) that have played at film festivals worldwide and left audiences generally uneasy. A born-and-bred Midwesterner, Brian studied Mass Media and Film at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. (I know – crazy, right?) before fleeing the district for the warm and occasionally stinky shores of NYC. Brian is a proud member of the Online Film Critics Society, loving husband to illustrator Andy Swist, and benevolent overlord of their two cats.