Hollywood has made billions by marginalizing the LGBTQ community through tragic storylines and stereotypical characters. Even when things began to improve with films like Carol and Call Me By Your Name, concerns were still raised by queer audiences who felt that their stories weren’t being told with authenticity.
In a perfect world, anyone should be able to play the part that’s right for them, but we’re not in a perfect world just yet. Queer actors are still sidelined in favor of their straight counterparts and it’s more vital than ever that the LGBTQ community plays a role in telling our own stories.
Amidst the controversy faced by Scarlett Johansson and Jack Whitehall this year, progress is slowly being made by a number of films that have started to cast queer actors in queer roles. As #20GayTeen draws to a close, INTO is celebrating 10 of the very best LGBTQ performances by out movie actors in 2018. Let’s just hope that next year’s list will be twice as long.
Cory Michael Smith in 1985
Best known for playing the Riddler on Gotham, Cory Michael Smith dials down his supervillain persona here to tell the story of a young man hit hard by the AIDS epidemic, conveying the pain of an entire generation through his quiet but no less haunting performance.
Gina Rodriguez in Annihilation
With the character of Anya Thorensen, Rodriguez hones the funny bone she developed on Jane The Virgin to create a swaggering action star who provides dark moments of comic relief. Unrecognizable from her role as Jane, the sexually fluid star annihilates competition from other worthy performers like Natalie Portman and Tessa Thompson.
Zachary Booth in The Revival
Zachary Booth is perhaps best known to queer audiences for his turn in Keep The Lights On, but here he transforms what could have been a rather one-dimensional role into something with genuine substance, forcing us to care about his meth-using drifter and what lies in store for the doomed relationship he shares with a repressed gay preacher.
Daniela Vega in A Fantastic Woman
Although A Fantastic Woman first became prominent on the festival circuit last year, it was officially released in 2018, which means that we can still sing the praises of this truly fantastic lady once again. Daniela Vega’s star-making turn in the lead proves exactly why it’s so important to cast trans actors in trans roles and honestly, it’s impossible to imagine anyone else inhabit Marina’s skin in the way she does.
Matt Bomer in Papi Chulo
Although it’s easy to dismiss Matt Bomer as just a set of perfect teeth and abs, the Magic Mike star has quietly given us impressive performance after performance in the last few years, culminating with this heartbreaking turn in Papi Chulo. Both awkward and sweet in equal measure, Bomer puts his heart on his sleeve here in a role that will disarm even the most cynical of critics.
Rupert Everett in The Happy Prince
Talented, misunderstood, just a tad unbalanced… Oscar Wilde and Rupert Everett share plenty in common, so it’s no wonder that Everett plays the controversial writer so well in his directorial debut. Whatever you think of the film itself, it’s impossible to deny how committed Everett is to the role, elevating what could have been a rather average biopic into something worthy of Wilde himself.
Alia Shawkat in Duck Butter
The basic premise of Duck Butter revolves around a 24-hour sex experiment that could have just been a messy tangle of limbs and not much else. Fortunately, Shawkat channels the star charisma she developed on Arrested Development to create a fully rounded character in Naima, a role she helped create as a co-writer on the script too.
Lucas Hedges in Boy Erased
While the name of the film might suggest otherwise, it’s almost impossible to erase Lucas Hedges and his performance from your mind. His face fills up the screen throughout, barely containing the rage and self-contempt that torment those who are forced to hate the very thing that defines them. Although director Joel Edgerton is straight, Hedges channels his own sexual fluidity to bring some much-needed authenticity to the story of Jared Eamons as he learns to accept himself for who he is.
Ellen Page in My Days of Mercy
Criminally overlooked by distributors, My Days of Mercy includes a career-best performance from Ellen Page that deserves to be seen by wider audiences and no, not just because of the salacious sex scenes either. It’s been a while since we’ve seen the Oscar-nominated actress commit so fully to a role, and she’s never felt more natural on screen.
Janne Puustinen and Boodi Kabbani in A Moment In The Reeds
Sure, we‘re cheating a bit here, but the relationship shared by Puustinen and Kabbani in this Weekend-inspired gem is absolutely key to the film’s success and it’s impossible to imagine one without the other. Both performers worked alongside queer director Mikko Makela to create their characters together, developing powerful back stories that draw upon their own personal experiences. While Puustinen imbues his part with a quiet yet endearing intensity, Kabbani officially made history by becoming the first out Syrian actor to play a queer Syrian character in cinema. After the credits have rolled, you’ll find that just a moment in the reeds with these two still isn’t enough.
Read More in Culture
The Latest on INTO
Subscribe to get a twice-weekly dose of queer news, updates, and insights from the INTO team.
in Your Inbox