The pioneers of the movement served as a major source of inspiration for many of the fascinating new voices. After Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and the AIDS crisis, it must have been incredibly encouraging to see such daring, exciting works of queer cinema accepted by the mainstream – and many of those works still hold up today. But for the first time, queer cinema was on the verge of mainstream acceptance when in 1992, B. Ruby Rich wrote an essay about a burgeoning movement in independent film, which she dubbed “New Queer Cinema.” See the 90s queer films listed below. These films set new standards for LGBT cinema and were ahead of their time.
1. Orlando (1992)
Director – Sally Potter
Nobleman Orlando receives the family home in 1600 as a result of Queen Elizabeth I’s directive that he never change. Orlando seeks consolation in the arts after a terrible relationship with the Russian princess Sasha before being named ambassador to Constantinople in 1700, when war is raging. Then, as the centuries pass, Orlando returns home after being startled to discover that she has changed into a woman.
2. The Watermelon Woman (1996)
Director- Cheryl Dunye
Cheryl, a young Black lesbian who lives in Philadelphia with her closest friend Tamara, works there and is preoccupied with making a film about her search for the Watermelon Woman, a Black Philadelphia actress who starred in films during the 1930s. Following several clues, Cheryl learns the real name and stage name of the Watermelon Woman and deduces that the actress had a protracted relationship with Martha Page, a White woman and one of Hollywood’s few female directors. She starts dating Diana, who is also White, as she learns about these things. Cheryl and Tamara’s friendship is put under stress by the affair. Cheryl comes to new understandings as a result of additional learning.
3. My Private Idaho (1991)
Director- Gus Van Sant
Character study with a surreal theme that centres on the friendship of two male hustlers in Portland, Oregon, named Mike and Scott. They abuse narcotics, make their living off the streets, and prostitute themselves to both men and women. In addition to being shy and queer, Mike also has narcolepsy. His obsession with discovering his long-lost mother stems from being abandoned as a child. The son of a powerful family, Scott is a renegade who mostly leads this life to humiliate his father. Scott, who continues to assert his straight identity and claims that his crazy existence on the streets is merely transitory, is the person Mike is in love with. Scott picks up a stunning girl along the road as they journey from Portland to Idaho to Italy in search of Mike’s mother.
4. Poison (1991)
Director- Todd Haynes
About outsiders, sex, and violence, three stories are intercut. Richie kills his father in “Hero” when he is only 7 years old and takes off on a plane. Following the incident, a documentary in corny, obscene colours inquires about Richie’s character and the circumstances behind the shooting. In the silent film “Horror,” a scientist drinks the elixir of human sexuality, turns into a festering killer who spreads the disease, and a female coworker who falls in love with him tries to help—at her own risk. At “Homo,” a prisoner in Fontenal draws close to a prisoner he knew at Baton Juvenile Institute years earlier and whose humiliations he saw. Apart from the vivid flashbacks, this novel is portrayed in a dark setting.
5. Tongues Untied (1989)
Director- Marlon Riggs
With the help of other homosexual Black men, particularly poet Essex Hemphill, Marlon Riggs praises Black men loving Black men as a revolutionary act. The movie cuts between footage of Hemphill reading poetry, Riggs telling his childhood tale, men engaging in social intercourse and dancing, and various comedic riffs, such as a visit to the “Institute of Snap!thology” where men learn how to snap their fingers in various ways, including the sling, point, and diva snaps. Archival footage of the civil rights movement is shown next to footage of Black men walking in a gay pride parade as the movie comes to a conclusion with obituaries for AIDS deaths.
6. Paris Is Burning (1990)
Director- Jennie Livingston
The real lives of poor Black and Latino LGBT people are depicted in this documentary of the 1980s New York LGBT scene. It introduces the ballrooms, the categories, the houses, the voguing, and the dreams and ambitions of these people who are routinely left out of society as they struggle to win the right to be and to reinvent themselves in a setting dominated by straight and white people. They use the balls to showcase their inventiveness, have a good time with their friends and family, shine, and get their names known in the ballroom world.
7. It Is Not the Homosexual Who Is Perverse, But the Society in Which He Lives (1971)
Director- Rosa von Praunheim
Young gay man from the countryside who moved to the city named Daniel switches between several gay subcultures. His journey starts on the streets of Berlin, when the reticent brunette Daniel meets the gregarious blonde Clemens, who invites him over for coffee and offers him a place to stay. The moment Daniel moves in with Clemens, he feels as though he has found the love of his life. The two attempt to emulate the marriage and way of life of the bourgeois. A wealthy older guy approaches Daniel after four tedious months and persuades him to move into his villa. There, he meets a group of older gay men who fawn over him and are arrogant in their admiration of great art and classical music.
8. Pink Flamingos (1972)
Director- John Waters
Divine, the filthiest lady alive, lives in a trailer in the woods with her egg-craving mother Edie, her crazy hippy son Crackers, and her travelling friend Cotton under the moniker Babs Johnson. Connie and Raymond Marble are an envious couple who kidnap and pregnant female hitchhikers in order to sell their children to lesbian couples. They then use the proceeds to buy heroin that is sold in schools. For the contest to determine who is The Filthiest Person Alive, they pay Cookie to spy on Divine and have sex with Crackers. Connie and Raymond Marble find out why Divine holds this title when the competition starts.
9. The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972)
Director- Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Successful fashion designer Petra von Kant is conceited, corrosive, and smug. She recently filed for divorce from the husband she no longer adored. She and Marlene have been in a reasonably content S and M relationship up until recently (her secretary, maid, and co-designer). Petra abuses her. Here comes Karin, a stunning 23-year-old who aspires to be a model. Karin is welcomed to move in once she falls in love with her. The remainder of the movie focuses on this affair’s feelings and fallout. Fassbinder uses protracted single camera shots and intense concentration to deliver his story in a succession of five or six lengthy scenes.
10. Je Tu Il Elle (1974)
Director- Chantal Akerman
A woman attempts to deal with a breakup for more than a month by eating only powered sugar, repainting her room twice, moving the furniture, and writing and rewriting a letter to her partner in which she clarifies everything she said. She scatters the pages across the ground. She reclines and watches. After eating all of her sugar, she finally decides to go. She flags down a truck, and the driver picks her up and they travel through the night stopping at pubs and diners. She agrees when he requests a manual task. He discusses his spouse, kids, and sexual life. When she gets to the woman who is her lover’s apartment, she is told she must leave. When she claims to be hungry, her lover feeds her and lets her spend the night. They get intimate.
These 10 New Queer Cinema Films prove that film industry is only just getting started. The narratives and messages of these films are sure to entertain you, as well as make you think.