After compiling a list of the most essential LGBT movies, The Advocate is pitting the top 32 entries against one another in a series of one-on-one face-offs. In this round, the show-stopping musical Desert Hearts, the pioneering lesbian romance set in 1950s Nevada, is up against Torch Song Trilogy, the story of a Jewish drag queen adapted from the play by Harvey Feinstein. Which film is more essential? Vote below, and check out our full list of the top 175 most essential LGBT movies at Advocate.com/top175.
Desert Hearts, 1985 (8 seed)
Donna Deitch's directorial debut is the first "real" lesbian film (an out lesbian, nobody dies, two women have sex). Based on lesbian author Jane Rule's novel, Desert of the Heart follows Vivian (Helen Shaver), a repressed divorcee waiting out the legal finalities in a ranch guesthouse in 1950s Nevada. Vivian is all class and repression, and the ranch owner warns her to stay away from her irrepressible lesbian daughter Cay (Patricia Charbonneau, wearing jean shorts and cowboy boots and a whole lot of lesbian lust). Turns out, that's who she's drawn to, and soon Cay is unrepressing Viv in the first real lesbian sex scene in a film. Their growing relationship played against the rocky red soil and rolling landscape doesn't necessarily have a future, but it's the sight of Vivian's slow but seismic sexual awakening that makes this film Deitch's valentine to the rest of us. --Diane Anderson-Minshall
Torch Song Trilogy, 1988 (25 seed)
This superlative early gay film was adapted from the three-part play of the same name by Harvey Feinstein, and centers around his character, Arnold, a shamelessly swishy Jewish drag performer who navigates New York's gay scene, finds love (with Matthew Broderick, at the height of his youthful fame), fights with his mom (Anne Bancroft), and adopts a teen. It's both hilarious and tragic; some moments are at once sad and sentimental and funny. --Diane Anderson-Minshall
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