LGBTQ Pride Month

15 Great Movies That Depict The Older LGBTQ Experience

Add them to your list for Pride Month.

June is LGBTQ Pride Month, and it's as good a time as any to remember that the LGBTQ community includes people of all ages — and it's important for popular media to reflect that.

A 2014 study from Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) found that there were 3 million LGBT people over 55 in the United States, with that number expected to double in 20 years. These individuals often face issues such as financial instability, discrimination, and health care concerns. They're more likely to be single and childless, and 34 percent were reported to live alone. According to SAGE, some reported that they "struggle to find community in LGBT spaces, where youthfulness is revered and older people are less embraced." 

Older members of the community are also less likely to see themselves represented in film. A GLAAD study found that only 17.5 percent of major movies released in 2015 featured LGBT characters, so it follows that older LGBT characters are even more rare — especially considering how many fewer roles are available to older actors, particularly women, as they age.

While stories about LGBTQ youth are extremely important, we should be careful not to leave older generations out of the conversation. And while it may not be as common as it should, onscreen representation of older LGBTQ people does exist — in the form of acclaimed films in various genres, as well as insightful documentaries. These stories should be recognized, so while you're putting together your Pride Month viewing material, don't forget to include a few of the titles below.

1. Beginners

In 2011, Christopher Plummer became the oldest actor ever to win an Oscar for his role as a widower who comes out to his son (Ewan McGregor) as gay at age 75. The film is based on writer-director Mike Mills' own relationship with his gay father, who, like Plummers' character, died of cancer.

2. Paris is Burning

This cult classic documentary, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 1990, explores New York City's drag ball culture in the 1980s, and the Black and Latino communities that were a part of it. One of the people featured is older drag mother Dorian Corey, who defined "throwing shade" decades before the term made it to the mainstream.

3. Love is Strange

This heartwarming film tracks the ups and downs of a marriage between two men, played by Alfred Molina and John Lithgow, who seek the help of friends and family when Molina loses his Catholic school job because of their relationship. It has a 95 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, where the critics' consensus describes it as "a graceful tribute to the beauty of commitment in the face of adversity."

4. Cloudburst

Olympia Dukakis and Brenda Fricker play a lesbian couple who set out on a road trip to Canada to get married after Fricker's granddaughter puts her in a nursing home. Along the way, they pick up a hitchhiker. AfterEllen wrote of the film, "It's an epic tale of love and living life to the fullest, with a rare focus on the elderly queer community."

5. Before You Know It

This film was formerly referred to as Untitled Gay Retiree Documentary, which sums it up rather well. It focuses on the lives of three gay seniors navigating "life's challenging third act" and reminiscing about years past. "If you're not young, if you're not pretty, see ya. You become invisible," one of the subjects says in the trailer.

6. The Birdcage

This remake of the 1978 Franco-Italian comedy La Cage aux Folles stars Robin Williams and Nathan Lane as a longtime gay couple. When Williams' son announces his engagement to a woman with ultra-conservative parents, the couple goes to hilarious lengths to hide the truth.

7. Gen Silent

"The generation that fought the hardest to come out is going back in to survive," states the tagline for this sobering documentary, which explores the discrimination many LGBTQ elders experience in long-term health care facilities. "Talking with them helps me solve how to take the world they are handing me, keep making it better and pass it on to people who will come after me," filmmaker Stu Maddox told the Huffington Post.

8. Carrington

Emma Thompson stars as English painter Dora Carrington in this film, which follows her relationship with gay writer Lytton Strachey, played by Jonathan Pryce. The pair were part of the Bloomsbury Group, whose members also included Virginia Woolf and E.M. Forster. The film follows them from 1915 to 1932, when Strachey died at age 51.

9. Gerontophilia

This romantic comedy has been described as "a gay Harold and Maude." Its title comes from a term describing a sexual preference for the elderly. The main character is a young nursing home employee who forms a relationship with a resident.

10. Brother to Brother

This drama, which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in 2004, stars Anthony Mackie as a gay art student who befriends a homeless man (Roger Robinson) who turns out to be Bruce Nugent, a gay writer and painter who was an important figure in the Harlem Renaissance. The film features flashbacks to Nugent's life in the 1920s, as he and Mackie's character bond across generations over similar issues of racism and homophobia.

11. Freeheld

This film tells the true story of the late Laurel Hester (Julianne Moore), a police detective diagnosed with terminal cancer who fought for her domestic partner Stacie Andree (Ellen Page) to receive her pension benefits after her death. The film sheds light on issues that affect many same-sex couples, especially where one or more of the partners is older.

12. Laerte-Se

This documentary, which debuted on Netflix in May, focuses on Brazilian cartoonist Laerte Coutinho, known simply as Laerte, who came out as a transgender woman after living as a man for nearly 60 years. The film is in Portuguese with English subtitles.

13. Tab Hunter Confidential

Film historian Max Alvarez, who has begun a series of lectures at SAGE, told A Plus that this documentary about former movie star Tab Hunter is "an absolute must." In it, Hunter, now in his 80s, speaks about his experience as a closeted gay man in 1950s Hollywood.

14. Love is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon

Alvarez also recommends this "warts-and-all" drama about aging gay painter Francis Bacon, here played by Derek Jacobi. The British made-for-TV film also stars Daniel Craig and Tilda Swinton.

15. Forbidden Love: The Unashamed Stories of Lesbian Lives

Alvarez told A Plus that this 1992 Canadian documentary "features fascinating interviews with women who were part of the 1950s Toronto lesbian community," as well as "a droll reenactment of pulp lesbian fiction novels from the '50s."

A Plus is proud to have collaborated with Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) — the United States' largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older adults — for this story. Learn more about SAGE by visiting www.sageusa.org.

GET SOME POSITIVITY IN YOUR INBOX

Subscribe to our newsletter and get the latest news and exclusive updates.