Oh, to be young again. We’ve all been through those awkward years of growing up, and it can be especially difficult for those of us growing up queer. And though they used to be few in number, LGBTQ+ coming-of-age films have been there to help us remember that we’re all a bit strange when coming into our own.
Here are 25 LGBTQ+ coming-of-age films for you to enjoy, reminisce about, and share.
(Images courtesy of their respective studios)
This 2018 romantic comedy-drama follows Simon, a 17-year-old who has not yet come out to his friends or family and finds himself conversating online with an anonymous gay student who goes by the name "Blue.” However, one message gets into the wrong hands, which inevitably leads to him being outed to the whole school. Eventually receiving the support of his friends, Simon ends up getting a happy ending to his love story.
The story of Johnny, a young British farmer, and Jorge, a Romanian migrant worker, shows that queer love can be found in the most obscure places. The film is known for the juxtaposition of the decrepit setting and the couple’s budding romance. Jorge brings life to the farm and turns Johnny’s life around as their relationship develops throughout the film.
This movie takes place on the eve of graduation and follows friends and academic overachievers Amy and Molly on their mission to cram four years of fun into one wild night of partying. Molly supports Amy during this time as she pursues a girl she has liked throughout high school. The leads' chemistry as friends marked the 2019 film as a modern teen classic.
This coming-of-age movie starring Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer re-creates André Aciman’s novel of queer love story between a 17-year-old student and an older doctoral student who was hired as his father's research assistant. The chemistry between Hammer and Chalamet shows the passionate experience of a first love.
Based loosely on Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1 & 2, and Henry V plays, this movie shows the journey of gay hustlers Mike and Scott,and their search for Mike's mother. They bond throughout the obstacles they face, inevitably making them fall for one another. The flim is widely regarded a queer landmark in late-20th-century cinema for its honest storytelling and themes of love, maturity, and grief.
Pariah is centered around teenage Alike, who struggles to tell her family that she is a lesbian. The word “pariah” is defined as “an outcast,” which is symbolic of the isolation Alike feels in her effort to express herself in the movie. As Alike navigates her love life, her mom introduces her to Bina, the daughter of one of her church friends. Unbeknownst to the mother, the two girls end up falling for each other.
Three Months is described as “a coming-of-age comedy-drama that tells the story of Caleb [pop star Troye Sivan], a South Florida teen who loves his camera, his weed, and his grandmother.”
Right before he graduates high school, however, Caleb finds out that he’s been exposed to HIV. The film then follows Caleb in the three months he waits for test results to come back to see if he has HIV or not. Along the way, he finds love “in the most unlikely places.”
In a story of coping with trauma, the movie, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, follows two boys' path to adulthood after sharing the experience of being sexually abused as a child. UFO enthusiast Brian represses the memory and convinces himself he was a victim in an alien abduction, whereas Neil moves to New York to seek fulfillment as a gay sex worker. The deep themes of the film create a sentimental experience for viewers.
This film takes viewers on the journey of Adele, a highs chool student whose life changes when she meets Emma, an older art student. Emma, whose blue hair inspires the name of the film, helps Adele gain confidence as the two fall in love. Blue Is the Warmest Color has been an acclaimed LGBTQ+ coming-of-age movie for the tender and vulnerable moments the leads share.
The iconic film starring Natasha Lyonne and Clea DuVall is just a classic. The satirical comedy sees Lyonne as Megan, a cheerleader who is sent to a conversion therapy camp. She meets DuVall's character Graham while at the camp and they fall for each other. Funny and literally campy, But I'm a Cheerleader is a classic lesbian film for a reason.
The first LGBTQ+ film to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards, the film details the life of Chiron, a young Black man. While he faces the inherent challenges of growing up, the film shows how his relationship with sexuality and identity develops throughout his childhood, adolescence, and early adult life.
This French film directed by André Téchiné features the romantic relationship that blossoms between two 17-year-olds. What initally is a rivalry eventually turns into a romance between the boys, who at first try to ignore their chemistry until they finally accept their feelings for one another.
This coming-out story takes place in the 1960s in a Canadian Catholic family. In the movie, teenager Zachary Beaulieu initially tries to repress his sexuality in order to appease the traditionalist standards of his family. Zach’s life takes an unexpected turn of events that leads him to come to terms with his identity. In the end, this movie is a heartwarming story of a familial bond and acceptance.
Written and directed by queer creative Alice Wu, The Half of It is a story about a teenage girl who ends up writing letters for a boy to a girl both she and the boy end up liking. The film isn't just about this crush, though. It also delves into relationships with parents, religion, and ambitions.
Based on the 2003 novel by Brent Hartinger, the film follows high-schooler Russell as he navigates falling for the school's quarterback and then joining an LGBTQ+ support group at the school, which goes by the name Geography Club. The members learn to embrace their truths and eventually become a gay-straight alliance.
A musical comedy with an A-list ensemble cast, The Prom centers on a school's decision to cancel prom because a female student wants to bring her girlfriend. When former Broadway stars get wind of the cancellation, they decide it's their shot to revitalize their careers and make a change.
While this film isn't out yet, we're sure it will earn its place on this list. Heathers meets Strangers on a Train in Netflix’s new teen flick Do Revenge. As evidenced by the film’s first trailer, Stranger Things’ Maya Hawke and Riverdale’s Camila Mendes star in the movie that invokes Alfred Hitchcock’s great murder swap movie. The film also nods to classic teen girl films like Heathers (they play croquet in this movie!), Jawbreaker, Mean Girls, and even Clueless with the inclusion of an Emma-esque makeover.
Do Revenge drops on Netflix September 16.
A true queer classic. Directed by David Moreton, this movie is loosely based off of the coming-out experience of the screenwriter, Todd Stephens. 17-year-old, Eric, grows up in Ohio during the 1980s, in a time where queerness is stigmatized. The film takes viwers through his sexual awakening and how he learns to embrace himself throughout the film.