Big List of Queer Frock Flicks for Pride Month!

19

Happy Pride y’all! For thems not in the know, June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Pride Month, with 2019 being the 50th annual celebration in the U.S. This dates back to the Stonewall Riots in 1969, when drag queens and transgender people lead a fight against a police raid of a gay bar in New York City. That kicked off the LGBTQ civil rights movement that has helped queer people gain a measure of freedom and security to be our authentic selves in public.

Obviously, our work isn’t done, and it’s still not safe for many LGBTQ people to be out where they live. The current U.S. administration is trying to push back legal gains (and the situation is even more dire in some countries), so we have to remain vigilant and vote for local, state, and national leaders and laws to help safeguard our rights.

One place that’s made amazing strides is film and TV representation. In historical media, LGBTQ characters were once completely ignored because the past was assumed to be heterosexual (and white, as we’ve mentioned in other posts). But actual research has turned up tons of evidence to the contrary, and filmmakers are starting to get the hint. The past year, in particular, has seen a range of frock flicks with queer storylines, including some high quality productions.

So here’s an attempt to catalog LGBTQ historical movies/TV series, plus ones with a major queer character and storyline. Not all of them are spectacularly good or happy for queer representation, but if you look through the production dates, you might get an idea of how far we’ve come!

I’ve listed them chronologically by historical setting, up to the 1960s or so, since that’s how we tag things here on the blog. Click any highlighted title for our review.

 

16th-Century to 18th-Century Queer Frock Flicks

The Favourite (2018)

Upstart Crow (2016-) — 1590s, Shakespearean sitcom

Caravaggio (1986) — 1610s, Italian painter Caravaggio

Orlando (1992) — 1600s-1880s, adapted from the novel by Virginia Wolfe

Juana Inés (2016) — 1650s, Mexican scholar & nun Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

Queen Christina (1933) — 1650s, Swedish Queen Christina

The Girl King (2015) — 1650s, Swedish Queen Christina

Stage Beauty (2004) — 1660s, British stage actors & Charles II’s court

Versailles (2015-2018) — 1660s-1670s, French court of Louis XIV

The Miniaturist (2018) — 1660s-1680s, adapted from the novel by Jessie Burton

The Favourite (2018) — 1700s, British Queen Anne & her court

Black Sails (2014-2017) — 1710s, pirate drama series

Outlander (2014-) — 1740s, adapted from the novels by Diana Gabaldon

Harlots (2017-) — 1760s, London brothels

Farewell, My Queen (2012) — 1780s, adapted from the novel by Chantal Thomas

 

19th-Century Queer Frock Flicks

Gentleman Jack (2019)

Taboo (2017-) — 1810s, British War of 1812 drama

This Charming Man: Beau Brummell (2008) — 1810s, British fashion-setter Beau Brummell & Lord Byron

The Secret Diaries of Anne Lister (2010) — 1810s-1830s, British land-owner Anne Lister

Gentleman Jack (2019) — 1830s, British land-owner Anne Lister

Albert Nobbs (2011) — 19th-century, based on a novella by George Moore

Desperate Remedies (1993) — 19th-century, New Zealand comedy

Olivia aka The Pit of Loneliness (1951) — 19th-century, adapted from the novel by Dorothy Bussy

The Sea Purple aka Viola di Mare (2009) — 19th-century, Italian romance

Wild Nights With Emily (2019) — 19th-century, American poet Emily Dickinson

Fingersmith (2005) — 1860s, adapted from the novel by Sarah Waters

Taboo aka Gohatto (1999) — 1860s, Japanese samurai

Affinity (2008) — 1870s, adapted from the novel by Sarah Waters

Total Eclipse (1995) — 1870s, French poets Paul Verlaine & Arthur Rimbaud

Tipping the Velvet (2002) — 1880s, adapted from the novel by Sarah Waters

Mystère à la Tour Eiffel (2017) — 1880s, French murder-mystery

Cynara: Poetry in Motion (1996) — 1880s, British artists

The Music Lovers (1970) — 1880s, Russian musician Pyotr Illych Tchaikovsky,

Wilde (1997) — 1880s-1890s, Irish writer Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde (1960) — 1890s, Irish writer Oscar Wilde

The Trials of Oscar Wilde (1960) — 1890s, Irish writer Oscar Wilde

The Happy Prince (2018) — 1890s-1900s, Irish writer Oscar Wilde

Lizzie (2018) — 1890s, American Lizzie Borden’s murder trial

Murdoch Mysteries (2008-) — 1890s, Canadian detective series

Penny Dreadful (2014-2016) — 1890s, British gothic horror

Colette (2018) — 1890s-1910s, French author Colette

Elisa y Marcela (2019) — 1890s-1920s, Spanish women Elisa Sánchez Loriga & Marcela Gracia Ibeas & their attempt at marriage

 

20th-Century Queer Frock Flicks

Bessie (Queen Latifah) & Lucille (Tika Sumpter).

Another Period (2015-2018) — 1900s, American reality TV parody

Daughters of the Dust (1991) — 1900s, African-American women & their families

Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) & (2018) — 1900s, adapted from the novel by Joan Lindsay

The Rainbow (1989) — 1900s, adapted from the novel by D. H. Lawrence

The Color Purple (1985) — 1900s-1940s, adapted from the novel by Alice Walker

Carrington (1995) — 1910s, British painter Dora Carrington & writer Lytton Strachey

Death in Venice (1971) — 1910s, adapted from the novel by Thomas Mann

Maurice (1987) — 1910s, adapted from the novel by E.M. Forster

Nijinsky (1980) — 1910s, Russian dancer Vaslav Nijinsky

Bessie (2015) — 1910s-1930s, African-American singer Bessie Smith

Lawrence of Arabia (1962) — 1910s-1930s, British diplomat T.E. Lawrence

Babylon Berlin (2017-) — 1920s, German underworld drama

Cable Girls aka Las Chicas del Cable (2017-) — 1920s, Spanish telephone operators

The Danish Girl (2015) — 1920s, Danish artist Lili Elbe

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (2012-2015) — 1920s, adapted from the detective series by Kerry Greenwood

Portrait of a Marriage (1990) — 1920s, British writers Vita Sackville-West & Violet Keppel

Vita & Virginia (August 30, 2019) — British writers Vita Sackville-West & Virginia Woolf

Women in Love (1969) — 1920s, adapted from the novel by D. H. Lawrence

Brideshead Revisited (1981) & (2008) — 1920s-1940s, adapted from the novel by Evelyn Waugh

Frida (2002) — 1920s-1940s, Mexican artist Frida Kahlo

Professor Martson and the Wonder Women (2017) — 1920s-1940s, American comic-book author Bill Martson, his wife Elizabeth, and their partner Olive Byrne

Another Country (1984) — 1930s, British spy Guy Bennett

Bent (1997) — 1930s, German concentration camp drama

Cabaret (1972) — 1930s, Weimar Republic musical drama

Christopher and His Kind (2011) — 1930s, British author Christopher Isherwood

De-Lovely (2004) — 1930s, American composer Cole Porter

The Handmaiden (2016) — 1930s, Korean version of Fingersmith

Henry & June (1990) — 1930s, American author Henry Miller, his wife June, & French writer Anaïs Nin

Suddenly, Last Summer (1959) — 1930s, adapted from the play by Tennessee Williams

Upstairs Downstairs (2010-2012) — 1930s, British upper-class family drama

Victor / Victoria (1982) — 1930s, American musical comedy

Waiting for the Moon (1987) — 1930s, American writer Gertrude Stein & her partner Alice B. Toklas

Farewell My Concubine (1993) — 1930s-1970s, Chinese performers in the Peking Opera

Aimee & Jaguar (1999) — 1940s, German World War II romance

Borstal Boy (2000) — 1940s, Irish poet Brendan Behan

Bomb Girls (2012-2014) — 1940s, Canadian women working at a World War II munitions factory

Entre Nous (1983) — 1940s, French World War II tragic romance

The Imitation Game (2014) — 1940s, British scientist Alan Turing

The Night Watch (2011) — 1940s, adapted from the novel by Sarah Waters

Another Way aka Egymásra Nézve (1982) — 1950s, Hungarian journalists in a political-romantic drama

Bletchley Circle: San Francisco (2019) – 1950s, British & American detectives

Breaking the Code (1996) — 1950s, British scientist Alan Turing

Carol (2015) — 1950s, adapted from the novel The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith

Daphne (2007) — 1950s, American author Daphne du Maurier

Ed Wood (1994) — 1950s, American director Ed Wood

Far From Heaven (2002) — 1950s, American melodrama

Gods and Monsters (1998) — 1950s, American film director James Whale

Masters of Sex (2013-2016) — 1950s, Americans Dr. William Howell Masters & researcher Virginia Ellis Johnson

Reaching for the Moon aka Flores Raras (2013) — 1950s, Brazilian architect Lota de Macedo Soares & American poet Elizabeth Bishop

Tell It to the Bees (2018) — 1950s, adapted from the novel by Fiona Shaw

Tom of Finland (2017) — 1950s, Finnish artist Touko Valio Laaksonen

The World Unseen (2007) — 1950s, adapted from the novel by Shamim Sarif

Call the Midwife (2012-) — 1950s-1960s, British nuns & midwives

A Single Man (2009) — 1960s, adapted from the novel by Christopher Isherwood

The Women of Brewster Place (1989) — 1960s, African-American women

Battle of the Sexes (2017) — 1970s, American tennis player Billie Jean King

Behind the Candelabra (2013) — 1970s, American musician Liberace

Milk (2008) — 1970s, American politician Harvey Milk

 

 

What queer-themed frock flicks would you add to the list? Any historical shows with LGBTQ characters or storylines missing?

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About the author

Trystan L. Bass

Twitter Website

A self-described ElderGoth, Trystan has been haunting the internet since the early 1990s. Always passionate about costume, from everyday office wear to outrageous twisted historical creations, she has maintained some of the earliest online costuming-focused resources on the web. Her costuming adventures are chronicled on her website, TrystanCraft. She also ran a popular fashion blog, This Is CorpGoth, dedicated to her “office drag.”

19 Responses

  1. Kelly

    Thanks for this list!

    I don’t remember any lgbt content in Babylon Berlin except a visit to a gay club by the two presumably straight leads. Which is disappointing because Weimar Berlin was basically the birthplace of various modern queer identities. granted I only got halfway through the second season.

    Reply
    • Kelly

      ETA: there’s also the female character that performs in make drag, she didn’t seem to be queer off stage or part of the Community of cross dressing afab people or butch lesbians that existed at that time and her only relationship is with a man.

      Reply
  2. Susan Pola Staples

    Disreguard response re Tipping the Velvet as I revisited the list and saw it. Mea culpe.

    And Victoria was not included. Lord Alfred and Drummond beat hunk footman and trapped duchess any day.😇😀

    Reply
  3. Lady Hermina De Pagan

    Holy Moley! You totally forgot one of the biggies. Madmen! From Sal to Bob, to Peggy’s lesbian flirtations, homosexuality and queer life was handled very matter of fact.

    Reply
  4. Kaylee

    Do we have to call them queer? Basically all of these films depict people who lived at a time when that was used as a slur against them. Wouldn’t it be better to just say “LGBT frock flicks”?

    Reply
    • Jackie

      Not particularly, as queer has been a reclaimed term by the community for decades and is also largely the preferred term in academic circles (“queer theory,” “queer studies,” “queer aesthetic,” “queer gothic,” “queer camp,” etc. etc.) both for its inclusiveness of all queer identities and because retroactively applying terms like “gay” or “homosexual” or “trans” onto historical periods and persons when those terms didn’t exist can be rather sticky. Queer (read: non-heteronormative/non-cisgender/non-gender binarist), conversely, functions as an abstracted umbrella.

      Queer is also a preferred term for many members of the community who don’t otherwise feel their identities neatly labelled/categorized (queer is my preferred term/identity tag) or who want to, again, reclaim the radical history and activism the word queer connotes (“We’re here, we’re queer”/”Not gay as in happy, but queer as in fuck you”).

      Also, frankly, “gay” has been/still is used as a slur, so that anti-“queer” argument doesn’t hold water for me. “Don’t use queer” is also a discourse that’s currently being perpetuated by folks like the Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists/TERFs (ie transphobic members of the queer community), acephobes, biphobes, and other queer exclusionists, so it sets my hackles up (obviously not accusing you of any of those attitudes, just giving some context as to why, as a queer person, I actually found a list of “queer” frock flicks pretty refreshing).

      Reply
      • Milla

        AMEN! Seconding this beautifully written response (count me in for someone else who identifies as queer– and besides, “gay” was the slur that I heard growing up!) and praise for this list!

        Reply
      • Trystan L. Bass

        Thank you! I was going to say that we’ve reclaimed “queer” & for that matter, in many of the historical periods depicted in these films, the words “lesbian” & “gay” just didn’t exist to describe same-sex desire.

        For example, Anne Lister didn’t describe herself as lesbian but she wrote extensively of her sexual affairs with other women. The word ‘lesbian’ didn’t mean female homosexual until 1870 & Lister died in 1840!

        Also, I use ‘queer’ & ‘LGBTQ’ interchangeably here on the blog to be inclusive bec. there are ppl with more identities than a specific word or letter can define.

        Reply
      • Liz

        While it is coded (we’ve come a fair piece since 1991) in that there’s no F/F kissing or sex, it’s definitely on my list. Mary Stuart Masterson’s character cross-dresses male and clearly identifies as not-cis-female, there is a suggestive-to-almost-there scene at a swimming hole, and the F/F couple end up living together and raising a child together.

        I’ve also read the book, which is NOT coded. It is blatant that This Is a Non-Hetero-Normative Romantic Relationship and That Is Fine.

        Reply
  5. LouisD

    And of course, Visconti’s « the damned » with its queer character and the infamous SA gay orgy, and « Ludwig » about the gay bavarian king

    Reply

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