The 20 Most Exciting LGBTQ Movies of 2021

From lusty dramedies to eye-opening docs, these forthcoming queer films are worth tracking down.

Representation matters, and that’s why stories about people from all over the queer spectrum will appear in several movies this year. There’s an emotional drama about Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci as longtime lovers on a road trip. There’s also a provocative film based on a true story about a nun who has an affair with another woman. And look out for documentaries on queer rocker Little Richard, trans jazz musician Billy Tipton, trans opera star Lucia Lucas, and gay dance icon Alvin Ailey, among others.

Below, read up on 20 of the most highly anticipated LGBTQ movies of 2021. Release dates are to be announced unless otherwise noted.

  1. In this romantic comedy written and directed by Mike Mosallam, a white American named Kal (Michael Cassidy) and a Lebanese-American named Mo (Haaz Sleiman) fall in love in West Hollywood and learn to adjust to their cultural differences. Their courtship begins during Ramadan, a Muslim tradition of fasting and abstaining from sex for a month.

    Out January 22 on digital and VOD

  2. After being threatened by a thug, a seductive transgender entertainer named Nomi (Nomi Ruiz) is rescued by a retired Muay Thai fighter named Nick (Nick Sasso, who also directed this action drama). The two go on the run together and become close.

    Out January 29 on digital and VOD and in select theaters

  3. Get your tissues ready for writer-director Harry Macqueen’s tear-jerking drama about longtime partners Tusker (Stanley Tucci) and Sam (Colin Firth), who go on a road trip across England after Tusker is diagnosed with early onset dementia.

    In theaters January 29; out February 16 on digital and VOD

  4. This French-language dramedy is France’s official 2021 Academy Awards selection for Best International Feature Film. The movie is a love story between two closeted senior citizens and neighbors — Nina (Barbara Sukowa) and Madeleine (Martine Chevallier) — whose long-term relationship is disrupted when an unexpected event threatens to tear them apart. It’s the feature-film directorial debut from Filippo Meneghetti.

    Out February 5 in select U.S. theaters and on digital and VOD

  5. In this Tribeca Film Festival award-winning drama from director Ann Kerrigan, Troy (Steve Zahn) and his trans son Joe (Sasha Knight) hide out in the Montana wilderness together after Troy’s estranged wife Sally (Jillian Bell) refuses to accept Joe’s trans identity.

    Out February 12 on digital and VOD

  6. In 1850s Schoharie County, New York, two farmers’ wives — Abigail (Katherine Waterston) and Tallie (Vanessa Kirby) — have a romance with each other while unhappily married to their husbands. Bleecker Street will release the Mona Fastvold-directed movie, which has made the rounds at film festivals such as Venice and Sundance.

    In theaters February 12; Out on digital and VOD March 2

  7. Wojnarowicz

    Step into the mind of gay artist-activist David Wojnarowicz in this World of Wonder documentary from director Chris McKim, which had its world premiere at DOC NYC in 2020. Wojnarowicz was a multitalented, New York City-based entertainer who died of AIDS in 1992, and he was an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ rights and HIV health care.

    In theaters March 19

  8. Lucia Lucas, the first openly transgender female baritone to perform a principal role in an opera on an American stage, gets the spotlight in this Shout! Studios documentary directed by James Kicklighter.

    Out June 1 on digital and VOD

  9. Based on a true story, this drama follows two Mexican lovers — Iván (Armando Espitia) and Gerardo (Christian Vázquez) — whose decades-long romance is tested when one of them moves to New York City to pursue his dream of becoming a chef.

    In theaters June 25

  10. The story of transgender jazz musician Billy Tipton, who passed away in 1989, comes to life this documentary from directors Aisling Chin-Yee and Chase Joynt.

    In theaters July 16

  11. Jack Mitchell

    Alvin Ailey (pictured above), who died in 1989, was a legendary pioneer who became the one of the first gay African Americans to start a major dance company. The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Ailey School continue his legacy. This documentary, directed by Jamila Wignot and premiering at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, tells Ailey’s story.

    In select theaters July 23; opens nationwide August 6

  12. Directed by Ebs Burnough, this documentary about celebrated gay author Truman Capote uses narration from uncovered tapes of interviews that The Paris Review co-founder George Plimpton conducted with Capote’s friends and associates after his 1984 death from liver disease.

    In theaters September 10

  13. What’s a gay teenage boy to do when he wants to be a drag queen? This cinematic version of the hit British stage musical of the same name tells the story of Jamie New (Max Harwood), who gets pushback for wanting to express his fabulousness at his school’s prom and in everyday life. Inspired by a true story, the film is directed by Jonathan Butterell and will be released by Amazon Studios.

    Out September 17 on Amazon Prime Video

  14. My Name Is Pauli Murray

    Pauli Murray Foundation

    Oscar-nominated RBG directors Julie Cohen and Betsy West helmed this documentary about queer activist Anna Pauline “Pauli” Murray (pictured above), who died in 1985. Murray had the unusual distinction of being a lawyer, an Episcopal priest, and a feminist.

    In theaters September 17; out October 1 on Amazon Prime Video

  15. Eternals

    Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney

    The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first gay couple and first gay kiss appear in this Chloé Zhao-directed action-adventure movie, which features cosmic-powered superhero Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry) and his husband (Haaz Sleiman).

    In theaters November 5

  16. Aaron J. Thornton/FilmMagic

    This Netflix drama from director Andrew Dosunmu and writer Lena Waithe (pictured above) stars Gracie Marie Bradley as the titular character, an up-and-coming singer who has a romance with her butch best friend, Jasmine (Aleyse Shannon).

    Release date TBA

  17. Benedetta

    Courtesy of SPS Productions and Topkapi Films

    Inspired by a true story and set in 17th-century Italy, this drama from director Paul Verhoeven is about a lesbian Catholic nun named Benedetta Carlini (Virginie Efira), a religious mystic who begins having erotic visions and has an affair with another nun named Bartolomea (Daphne Patakia).

    Release date TBA

  18. Courtesy of Sundance Institute

    This animated film (directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen) tells the true story of Amin, a gay man who immigrated to Denmark from Afghanistan as an unaccompanied minor. He’s about to get married to his longtime boyfriend, but a secret from his past could upend his life. Flee will have its world premiere at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.

    Release date TBA

  19. Little Richard: I Am Everything

    STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP via Getty Images

    Directed by Lisa Cortés, this documentary about openly queer rock pioneer Little Richard (pictured above), who died in 2020, will include the participation of his family members and friends. Oscar-nominated filmmaker Dee Rees (Mudbound) is one of the producers.

    Release date TBA

  20. Ma Belle, My Beauty

    Lauren Guiteras

    How’s this for drama? Bertie (Idella Johnson) and Lane (Hannah Pepper-Cunningham) were lovers in a polyamorous relationship with Fred (Lucien Guignard) until Lane “ghosted” the other two. Bertie and Fred are now married to each other, and Lane shows up for a surprise reunion in southern France. Written and directed by Marion Hill, the movie is premiering at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.

    Release date TBA

Writer and editor whose work has appeared in AXS.com, Examiner.com, Lifetime, People, and Billboard.