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The Pride of Sundance: 400 LGBTQ+ Films from Festival History to Watch This June (and Beyond!)


[Pictured: Fancy Dance]

By John Cooper

John Cooper is the emeritus director of the Sundance Film Festival, a role he stepped into this summer after serving as Festival director from 2010 to 2020. He originally joined Sundance Institute in 1989.

PS: The Sundance Institute is now on Letterboxd! Check out this list there and give us a follow.

LGBTQ+ films have been a staple of the Sundance Film Festival for decades - since the Institute's inception back in the early 1980s, actually. But why?

The answer may not be what you think. Although it was a founding goal of Sundance Institute to be inclusive on every level of support for artists, the actual practice of showing diverse work has been a very organic and natural progression. When I think back to the original concept for both the Institute's labs and the Festival itself, as laid out by our founder Robert Redford, the idea was to support the most original and interesting work possible.

It is understandable that examples of these films usually came from other cultures, other belief systems, other points of view - the stories not being represented in mainstream Hollywood films. They found a home at Sundance, not just because they represented the others, but because they were, by nature, good and fresh and exciting. In turn, as the Festival grew, we discovered there was an audience hungry for them.

In the late '80s and early '90s, during the earliest years of the of the Institute, we saw titles like Parting Glances by Bill Sherwood, Longtime Companion by Norman Ren , Desert Hearts by Donna Deitch, even Hairspray, which was not considered a gay film but was obviously infused with John Waters' queer point of view, pop up on the Festival slate. Famous British experimental filmmaker Derek Jarman came to Sundance in 1992 with Edward II, the same year Gregg Araki brought the The Living End to Park City.

It was educator and film academic B. Ruby Rich who coined the name New Queer Cinema as she moderated a panel at the 1992 Festival under the cheeky title Barbed Wire Kisses. After that, it was evident that a new energy from the independent film world had ignited, and those anomalies were becoming a formidable new wave.

In the years that followed - all the way up to the present, in fact - most of the best queer films had their world premieres in Park City. What once was specific to an artful counterculture developed into films that spanned all genres and styles. Queer films peppered every category and section of the Festival. We were seeing a reinvention or reclaiming of romances, thrillers, family dramas, short films, and, of course, the classic coming-of-age stories. Today's acceptance of LGBTQ+ themes has changed and matured with most recent titles premiering like Call Me by Your Name, Pariah, and The Miseducation of Cameron Post.

This leading edge was not just reserved for fiction: Documentaries as well sprang up with previously unheard storylines, covering everything from activism to AIDS to alternative families. From The Times of Harvey Milk (1985), Absolutely Positive (1991), Paris Is Burning (1991), and Silverlake Life: The View from Here (1993) to more recent titles like Larry Kramer: In Love and Anger (2015), This Is Not Berlin (2019), and Disclosure: Trans Lives on Screen (2020), the Festival has exposed factions of different lifestyles and cultures yet unseen by most of America.

The history of Sundance's work nurturing and presenting stories from and about the queer community is deep and resonant. This June during Pride Month, I am proud to look back at the legacy of support for queer work from Sundance Institute and the Sundance Film Festival. I am proud of the Institute's leadership and staff, who have made it all possible for decades. Let's respect the past as we lust for a better, more equitable future.

Below, see a long list of LGBTQ+ feature films that have screened at the Sundance Film Festival since its inception in 1985. As you scroll through, you'll find links to where you can stream each project in the U.S. (when available).


Before Stonewall (Greta Schiller, Robert Rosenberg) [WATCH]

The Times of Harvey Milk (Rob Epstein) [WATCH]

1986Parting Glances (Bill Sherwood) [WATCH]

Desert Hearts (Donna Deitch) [WATCH]

Going Down (Haydn Keenan) [WATCH]


Anne Trister (L a Pool)

Beyond Therapy (Robert Altman) [WATCH]

Waiting for the Moon (Jill Godmilow)

Working Girls (Lizzie Borden)


Chuck Solomon: Coming of Age (Marc Huestis)

Nobody's Wife (Mar a Luisa Bemberg)

Signed: Lino Brocka (Christian Blackwood) [WATCH]


Apartment Zero (Martin Donovan)


Identity Crisis (Melvin Van Peebles) [WATCH]

Longtime Companion (Norman Ren )

Metamorphosis: Man into Woman (Lisa Leeman)


Absolutely Positive (Peter Adair) [WATCH]

City of Hope (John Sayles) [WATCH]

The Enchantment (Nagasaki Shunichi)

Love Lies (Arturo Ripstein)

Paris Is Burning (Jennie Livingston) [WATCH]

Poison (Todd Haynes) [WATCH]


Caravaggio (Derek Jarman) [WATCH]

Distant Voices, Still Lives (Terence Davies) [WATCH]

Edward II (Derek Jarman) [WATCH]

The Hours and Times (Christopher M nch) [WATCH]

The Living End (Gregg Araki) [WATCH]

Swoon (Tom Kalin) [WATCH]

Vegas in Space (Phillip R. Ford) [WATCH]

Where Are We?: Our Trip through America (Jeffrey Friedman, Rob Epstein)

Young Soul Rebels (Isaac Julien)


Inside Monkey Zetterland (Jefery Levy)

Naked in New York (Daniel Algrant)

Nitrate Kisses (Barbara Hammer)

Orlando (Sally Potter) [WATCH]

Silverlake Life: The View from Here (Peter Friedman, Tom Joslin)

Three of Hearts (Yurek Bogayevicz) [WATCH]


Cancer in Two Voices (Lucy Massie Phenix)

Closing Numbers (Stephen Whittaker) [WATCH]

Coming Out Under Fire (Arthur Dong) [WATCH]

Fast Trip, Long Drop (Gregg Bordowitz)

Go Fish (Rose Troche) [WATCH]

Grief (Ric
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