Arts·Here & Queer

The 13 best queer films of 2023

From Passages to Dicks to Bottoms, a countdown of the year's greatest LGBTQ cinema.

From Passages to Dicks to Bottoms, a countdown of the year's greatest LGBTQ cinema

A collage of films represented in this list of The Best 13 Queer Films of 2023.
(Courtesy)

Here & Queer is an interview series hosted by Peter Knegt that celebrates and amplifies the work of LGBTQ artists through unfiltered conversations. This is a special year end edition counting down the best queer films of 2023.

When history looks back at the movies of 2023, it is inevitable that the word that will dominate that conversation is, of course, "Barbenheimer." Which technically is not a word but a portmanteau. But my point is that while that will be very well deserved, may I also suggest one more word — a real word, even — to join that conversation? Queer. Because I'm not sure I've ever witnessed a year quite so rich in queer cinema. And that gave me a lot of hope, which obviously hope was not easy to come by in 2023.  So I would like to celebrate this by doing what we do at the end of a year: I've made a list. 

If you are asking yourself why 13 and not 10 like every other list, may I just quickly state the obvious: the concept of a top 10 list is inherently straight. A top 13? That seems like the clear queer alternative. I mean, 13 is a very queer number: is it lucky or is it evil? I ask that question about myself every day. Also, it just so happens that 13 is the exactly the number of genuinely great LGBTQ films that were released in 2023.

13. Eileen

Two women dance in a bar.
Anne Hathaway (left) and Thomasin McKenzie in a scene from Eileen. (Jeong Park)

I don't want to tell you too much about this film because there's a real sharp turn but what I can safely tell you is that Anne Hathaway and Thomasin Mackenzie are absolutely serving in it as two women who meet cute at a prison in the 1960s. If you loved Todd Haynes's Carol but also wished it was more sinister and unhinged, this is the film for you!

12. The Stroll

A still from The Stroll by Kristen Lovell and Zackary Drucker, an official selection of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.
A still from Kristen Lovell and Zackary Drucker's The Stroll. (Sundance Institute)

The history of New York City's Meatpacking District is told through the voices of the transgender women of colour who lived it in Kristen Lovell and Zackary Drucker's incredibly illuminating documentary. We're shown how before the neighbourbood became gentrified by the Samantha Joneses of this world, trans women of colour lived, worked, loved and died on its streets. What culminates is one of the many films this year that felt like essential new entries in the burgeoning canon of trans cinema. For more on The Stroll, watch Kristen Lovell's episode of Here & Queer.

11. Of An Age

Actors Elia Anton and Thom Green embrace over a night sky in a scene from the film Of An Age.
Elia Anton (left) and Thom Green in a scene from the film Of An Age. (Focus Features)

Macedonian-Australian filmmaker Goran Stolevski is one of the most exciting new queer voices in world cinema, and his second feature Of An Age continued to prove that. Set in the summer of 1999, it follows an intense 24 hour romance between a closeted teenager and the older brother of his ballroom dance partner. It's a sweet and sexy and deeply romantic ode to what it feels like not just to fall in love for the first time but to be seen for the first time. For more on Of An Age, read my interview with Goran Stolevski

10. Orlando: My Political Biography

A scene from Paul B. Preciado's film Orlando: My Political Biography.
A scene from Paul B. Preciado's film Orlando: My Political Biography. (Films We Like)

Esteemed queer philosopher Paul B. Preciado made his first film this year with Orlando: My Political Biography… and what a bold and inventive blurring of reality and fiction it was.  Inspired by Virginia Woolf's 94 year old novel Orlando, Preciado brings together 26 trans and non-binary people, aged 8 to 70, to reflect on their identities as each trade places as  the title character. The film feels like a manifesto for our times. For more on Orlando: My Political Biography, watch Paul B. Preciado's episode of Here & Queer.

9. Dicks: The Musical

Performers Josh Sharp and Aaron Jackson with Bowen Yang in a scene from Dicks: The Musical.
Josh Sharp (left) and Aaron Jackson (right) with Bowen Yang in a scene from Dicks: The Musical. (A24)

Imagine The Parent Trap but as a musical with… flying vaginas, sewer boys and Bowen Yang playing god. That is in essence, Dicks: The Musical… a film unlike anything you'll see this year (or any year, really), and delivers us two major queer voices in its writers and stars Josh Sharp and Aaron Jackson. It is also certainly not for everyone. But for those who have the taste for Dicks? Lube up! For more on Dicks, read my interview with Sharp and Jackson.

8. Bottoms

Two young women, dressed as highschoolers, talk with another woman holding a tablet.
Actor Ayo Edebiri, writer and director Emma Seligman and actor and writer Rachel Sennott on the set of Bottoms. (Patti Perret/Orion Releasing)

Do you know what comes after Dicks? Bottoms. Sorry, send me to jail for that. But seriously, these two films were collectively my Barbenheimer, with Bottoms being the Heimer. It was the queer high school comedy I have been waiting for and it was delivered to us by a great queer Canadian, no less: director Emma Seligman. Asburb and audacious and wildly unapologetic, this movie needs to be played regularly in rep cinemas until the end of time. Better yet, we need Dicks/Bottoms double features until the end of time.

7. Mutt

Lio Mehiel appears in a still from Mutt by Vuk Lunulov-Klotz, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.
Lio Mehiel in Mutt by Vuk Lunulov-Klotz. (Sundance Institute)


Okay so not only is this my favourite debut film from a queer director this year, but Mutt also features my favourite debut performance from a queer actor. Director Vuk Lungulov-Klotz and star Lío Mehiel come together in this film to offer us a really visceral window into a day in the life of a trans man, and what it feels for him to move through life in the midst of his transition. For more on Mutt, watch Vuk Lungulov-Klotz's episode of Here & Queer.

6. Rotting in the Sun

Jordan Firstman (left) and Sebastián Silva in Rotting in the Sun.
Jordan Firstman (left) and Sebastián Silva in Rotting in the Sun. (MUBI)

So if this list was solely ranked by the amount of onscreen penises or graphic gay sex, there would be no doubt #1 would be bestowed upon Sebastián Silva's Rotting in the Sun. But this movie is also much more than just the sum of all its penises. It's a biting satire of class, queer culture and filmmaking itself, and features one of the best comedic performances of the year from social media star Jordan Firstman.

5. Monster

Two children run into the forest in a scene from Monster.
A scene from Monster. (Gaga/Toho)

So this intensely compassionate movie — which won the Queer Palm for best LGBTQ film at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival — demands a lot of us. Directed by legendary Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda, it is also best going into it knowing as little as possible about what's to come. Because watching this film kinda feels like putting together an intricate, beautiful and very queer puzzle, and the emotional payoff when you finally put that puzzle together is… astounding. 

4. Anatomy of a Fall

A woman standing in front of a window looks beyond the frame.
Sandra Hüller in a scene from Anatomy of a Fall. (Neon/The Associated Press)

So French filmmaker Justine Triet's Anatomy of a Fall made it very clear this year that the time has come for us to ascend Sandra Huller to a very special status among actresses that gay men around the world worship. I'm talking Cate Blanchett level. Because she is so unbelievably good as a bisexual woman on trial for the death of her husband in this movie. A movie that is just so masterful and riveting and intelligent I still haven't quite gotten over it. 

3. Passages

A still from Passages by Ira Sachs, an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.
Ben Whishaw (left) and Franz Rogowski in Ira Sachs's film Passages, which is an early contender for best queer film of 2023. (Sundance Institute)

I trust few filmmakers to examine our sexual and emotional impulses as much as I do Ira Sachs, who gave us something so special this year with Passages. I felt so upended by this film, which follows a filmmaker who leaves his husband for a woman. I was honestly kinda frightened in how much it nails selfishness I've experienced in myself and others. And at the same time it is also somehow…so hot. 

2. All of Us Strangers

Andrew Scott (left) and Paul Mescal in All of Us Strangers.
Andrew Scott (left) and Paul Mescal in All of Us Strangers. (Searchlight)

Okay, so do I even talk about this movie without crumbling into myself? Let me try: All of Us Strangers is writer and director Andrew Haigh basically giving us the ultimate cinematic expression of gay devastation. It says so much in such an achingly beautiful way, in large part thanks performances by Andrew Scott and Paul Mescal that just annihilated me. And oh, have I mentioned that it is kind of about ghosts? And with that I have already said too much. For more on All of Us Strangers, read my interview with Scott and Mescal.

1. May December

Natalie Portman (left) and Julianne Moore in May December.
Natalie Portman (left) and Julianne Moore in May December. (Netflix)

We have finally arrived at the greatest queer film of 2023, and I suspect some of you may be asking: why is this movie about a bunch of seemingly straight people the #1 queer film of the year. Well, first and foremost it is a film by Todd Haynes, perhaps the greatest queer filmmaker of our time. It also just feels undeniably queer in so many ways, from its general sensibility to its themes of interchanging identities to the fact that at one point the camera zooms in on Julianne Moore saying "I don't think we have enough hot dogs." It's also just such an intricate and hilarious masterwork of tonal manipulation that could have only been pulled off by Haynes and thus only by a queer filmmaker. 

And there you have it, the 13 best queer films of 2023. Please feel free to disagree with me all you want in the comments of the YouTube video (and in case you're curious, yes, I have seen Saltburn, Maestro, The Color Purple, Rustin and Nyad: they aren't here because of varying degrees me thinking they were not deserving to be!). I welcome it, as I do another year of great queer cinema.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Peter Knegt (he/him) is a writer, producer and host for CBC Arts. He writes the LGBTQ-culture column Queeries (winner of the Digital Publishing Award for best digital column in Canada) and hosts and produces the talk series Here & Queer. He's also spearheaded the launch and production of series Canada's a Drag, variety special Queer Pride Inside, and interactive projects Superqueeroes and The 2010s: The Decade Canadian Artists Stopped Saying Sorry. Collectively, these projects have won Knegt four Canadian Screen Awards. Beyond CBC, Knegt is also the filmmaker of numerous short films, the author of the book About Canada: Queer Rights and the host of the monthly film series Queer Cinema Club at Toronto's Paradise Theatre. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter with the same obvious handle: @peterknegt.

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