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    The Year in Queer Cinema, 2023

    By Gary M. Kramer–

    Looking back at the year in queer film, there were some outstanding LGBTQ films—as well as some duds. Here is a rundown, in alphabetical order, of twenty films that made strong impressions in 2023.


    Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, set in 1987 El Paso, had Aristotle aka Ari (Max Pelayo) meeting Dante (Reese Gonzales) and developing a close friendship that becomes a kind of bromance. Director Aitch Alberto’s sensitivity is in every frame as the film traces the emotional ups and downs of these teens’ relationship in ways that are poignant without being cloying. As this wonderful film delivers all the feels in its conclusion, it is hard not to cry happy tears.

    The Blue Caftan was an exquisite slow-burn romantic drama from Morocco about Halim (Saleh Bakri), a tailor who works painstakingly by hand. When he starts training Youssef (Ayoub Missioui), a handsome new apprentice, the looks they exchange smolder with desire. However, Halim also has deep affection for his ailing wife, Mina (Lubna Azabal), forcing the trio to navigate their desires. 

    The intimate, engaging character study, Blue Jean, probes the personal and professional crises of Jean (Rosy McEwen), a closeted lesbian in Newcastle, England, in 1988, who does not want to call attention to her sexuality. But when her student, Lois (Lucy Halliday), catches sight of Jean at the lesbian bar, Jean worries that her life and career may be in jeopardy.


    Bottoms featured two lesbians, PJ (Rachel Sennott) and Josie (Ayo Edebiri), who start a fight club at their high school in order to meet girls. Despite its crudity, Bottoms was surprisingly sweet.

    Cassandro, set in the world of lucha libre, was an exciting and moving story of queer empowerment based on the life of the gay wrestler Saúl Armendáriz. Saúl (Gael García Bernal, in an incredibly charismatic performance) creates the flamboyant Cassandro and finds unexpected success in the ring.

    Dicks: The Musical was gleefully, irrepressibly irreverent as twins Craig (Josh Sharp) and Trevor (Aaron Jackson) meet for the first time and conspire to get their divorced parents, Evelyn (Megan Mullally) and the gay Harris (Nathan Lane), back together.

    Every Body was a commendable introduction to the intersex community as this documentary profiles Alicia Roth Weigel (she/they), (Sean) Saifa Wall (he/him), and River Gallo (they/them). Each subject recounts their experiences and their advocacy to end the practice of genital surgery without consent. 

    Set in 1970s Rome, L’Immensità has Clara (Penélope Cruz, divine) navigating life with her three children. The eldest, Adriana (Luana Giuliani), is dressing and identifying as Andrew and his behavior prompts whispers and disapproval. However, Andrew finds his strength in asserting his masculinity without shame or fear. 

    Pakistani director/cowriter Saim Sadiq’s extraordinary feature debut, Joyland, has Haider (Ali Junejo) getting a job dancing for the transgender exotic dancer, Biba (Alina Khan). Haider is attracted to Biba, but he is married to Mumtaz (Rasti Farooq), and struggles with his desires. 


    Joy Ride had Audrey (Ashley Park) and her friends, Lolo (bisexual actress/comedian Sherry Cola), Deadeye (non-binary actor Sabrina Wu), and Kat (Stephanie Hsu), finding trouble when they go to Asia to locate the adopted Audrey’s birth mother. 

    Kokomo City

    Kokomo City was a fabulous, compassionate documentary directed by trans filmmaker D. Smith (her debut) about four Black transwomen spilling the tea about their experiences and observations about sex work, race, gender, masculinity, and much more.

    Little Richard: I Am Everything was a glorious documentary about the legendary musician that featured fantastic archival clips and interview footage, providing an appropriate and affectionate showcase for Little Richard’s legacy.

    Monica provided an excellent showcase for trans actress Traci Lysette as the title character, a young woman who has returned home to care for her dying mother, Eugenia (Patricia Clarkson), who abandoned her years ago.

    Trans writer/director Vuk Lungulov-Klotz’s made an auspicious debut with his sensitive, moody drama, Mutt,about an emotional 24 hours in the life of Feña (Lîo Mehiel), a Latinx transman in New York City.

    Out gay writer/director Goran Stolevski’s Of an Age was a shattering, slow-burn romantic drama brimming with gay longing and desire as Kol (Elias Anton) and Adam (Thom Green) connect on a car ride through furtive glances and unspoken desires.

    Passages was a compelling drama by director/cowriter Ira Sachs about Tomas (Franz Rogowski), a self-involved filmmaker whose marriage to Martin (Ben Whishaw) may be over after Tomas falls for Agathe (Adèle Exarchopoulos). Thisis a shrewd and exacting study of amour fou.  

    The Persian Version, directed by bisexual filmmaker Maryam Keshavarz, was a vibrant comedy-drama about the bisexual Leila (Layla Mohammadi) and her complicated relationship with her mother, Shirin (Niousha Noor).

    The Persian Version

    The charming gay romance Red, White, and Royal Blue, adapted from queer writer Casey McQuiston’s irresistible bestseller, chronicles the secret enemies-to-lovers affair that develops between Alex Claremont-Diaz (Taylor Zakhar Perez), the First Son of President Ellen Claremont (Uma Thurman), and Prince Henry (Nicholas Galitzine), of Britain’s royal family. 


    Buoyed by an outstanding performance by out gay actor Coleman Domingo in the title role, the galvanizing Rustin illustrates the force of nature that was out gay activist Bayard Rustin, who organized the largest peaceful protest of the 1963 March on Washington.


    Out gay filmmaker Carter Smith’s Swallowed has Ben (out actor Cooper Koch) and his buddy Dom (newcomer Jose Colon) involved in smuggling “bugs” across the Canadian border. But things go sideways. It would ruin the thrills of Swallowed to reveal more, but this thriller contains some really squirm-inducing scenes, which is why it is so good.

    © 2023 Gary M. Kramer

    Gary M. Kramer is the author of “Independent Queer Cinema: Reviews and Interviews,” and the co-editor of “Directory of World Cinema: Argentina.” He teaches Short Attention Span Cinema at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute and is the moderator for Cinema Salon, a weekly film discussion group. Follow him on Twitter @garymkramer

    Published on December 21, 2023