God’s Own Country: LGBTQI movies with happy endings
In the past decade or so, you may have noticed a recurring storytelling trope in movies featuring LGBTQI characters: unhappy and often morbid endings. You know the sort of movies we’re talking about – the kind of major award-baiting efforts in which LGBTQI characters die under tragic circumstances or are murdered for their identity.
It’s happened in gay narratives like Brokeback Mountain, A Single Man, and Prayers For Bobby and in transgender stories like Boys Don’t Cry, The Danish Girl, and Dallas Buyers Club. Using A Single Man for reference, The Guardian once perfectly encapsulated the preposterous nature of the trope, stating “Colin Firth simply drops dead for no reason.
Presumably overwhelmed by sheer homosexuality, his heart can no longer keep beating. Beware, non-heterosexuals: Sudden Gay Death Syndrome can strike anywhere.”
However, it’s not always death that comes knocking to spoil the party – sometimes an unhappy ending in an LGBTQI narrative can arrive courtesy of a character relinquishing their newfound sexuality or accepting the world as an unchangeable pit of misery they’re doomed to suffer within.
Happy endings for queer characters are few and far between in Hollywood. That’s why it’s worth celebrating the LGBTQI movies that don’t rely on death and devastation for the climax of the narrative.
Being part of the great queer spectrum doesn’t have to be doom & gloom. As these movies prove, it can actually be a vibrant, ecstatic experience and result in exuberant, fulfilling romances and lives. Who knew?! Here are ten of the very best LGBTQI movies with happy endings you should watch instead of one of those queer-killing cuts.
God’s Own Country (2017)
Francis Lee’s breathtaking romantic drama follows a troubled farmer (Josh O’Connor) whose world is changed by a Romanian migrant worker (Alec Secareanu). Set against the stunning backdrop of Yorkshire, England the movie is hopeful & warm and will leave you feeling seriously fuzzy inside.
But I’m a Cheerleader (1999)
There are few teen movies with an ending quite as sublime as when Megan (Natasha Lyonne) declares her undying love for Graham (Clea DuVall). Sweeter than a candy-coloured pom-pom, the moment is stupendously swoonworthy and made all the more powerful for how it saves Graham from being forced to live life as a heterosexual.
Kiss Me (2011)
If you’re sick of seeing lesbian movies where one of the women returns to her straight partner, then you need to see Alexandra-Therese Keining’s Kiss Me. The Swedish drama follows a soon-to-be engaged woman (Ruth Vega Fernandez) indulging in a complicated lesbian love affair. Thankfully, the movie subverts every tiresome trope possible about such a story to deliver a euphoric, spontaneous ending.
The Birdcage (1996)
Starz (On Demand)
Mike Nichols’s queer farce is a vastly underrated comedic gem. Starring Robin Williams (Good Morning, Vietnam) & Nathan Lane (The Producers) as a married couple trying to play it straight to impress the parents of their soon-to-be-married son, the movie is an uproarious treat from start to finish. It also ends with a heartwarming message of acceptance (and a rousing musical performance featuring Gene Hackman in drag).
Granted, Barry Jenkins’s Oscar-winning drama features its fair share of heartbreak and tragedy, but seeing Chiron (Trevante Rhodes) and Kevin (André Holland) find both each other and themselves by the finale is about as uplifting a closer as you can get.
The Handmaiden (2016)
Full of deception and bracing plot twists, Park-Chan Wook’s The Handmaiden isn’t your average love story but it is an epic one. Lady Hideko (Kim Min-hee) & Sook-hee (Kim Tae-ri) enjoy one of the most compelling & complex love stories of recent cinema, made all the more powerful by an uplifting, beautiful finale.
The Way He Looks (2014)
Following a romance between two teenagers – one of whom happens to be blind – Daniel Ribeiro’s Brazilian romance will make your heart burst with joy. Especially because the central relationship ends with a feelgood resolution sure to make you weak with glee (and there’s no murder or death in sight).
Starring Hugh Grant (Love Actually) & James Wilby (Gosford Park), James Ivory’s whimsical adaptation of E. M. Forster’s subversive literary classic is proudly romantic and abundant with joy. When the original novel was written in 1914, Forster purposefully included a happy ending for his gay couple as a statement against the British laws that at the time condemned homosexuality.
To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar (1995)
There are few things in this life as relentlessly jubilant as seeing Wesley Snipes (Blade), John Leguizamo (Moulin Rouge!), and Patrick Swayze (Dirty Dancing) play three traveling drag queens teaching a small town some damn manners. Beeban Kidron’s campy, cult classic might not be as queer to the core as some of the other films on this list, but it is just as happy and full of pride.
This true story about London-based gay activists who lend their support to help striking Welsh miners in the Summer of 1984 offers complex characters and numerous profound statements about identity, unity, and acceptance. If you’re not sobbing with joy by the end, you’re clearly dead inside.