LGBT Documentaries

Is LGBT history something you would like to learn more about?

Below are 10 notable documentaries about LGBT history that we will be viewing this summer with our interns for continuing education. If you’re interested in learning more yourself, a brief description has been listed next to a diverse handful of documentaries on LGBT history that we feel are worth checking out. If you’re a heterosexual Christian that is seeking to build bridges with those in the LGBT community, documentaries are a great way to dip your toe in the water and start to educate yourself about the LGBT community.

*Descriptions for each documentary below are from and do not reflect the views of The Marin Foundation.

1) Before Stonewall – ‘The award winning film Before Stonewall pries open the closet door, setting free the dramatic story of the sometimes horrifying public and private existences experienced by gay and lesbian Americans since the 1920s. Revealing and often humorous, this widely acclaimed film relives the emotionally-charged sparking of today’s gay rights movement, from the events that led to the fevered 1969 riots to many other milestones in the brave fight for acceptance.’ ~Amazon Product Description (Available on Netflix)


2) After Stonewall – ‘After Stonewall, the sequel to Before Stonewall, chronicles the history of lesbian and gay life from the riots at Stonewall to the end of the century. It captures the hard work, struggles, tragic defeats and exciting victories experienced since them. It explores how AIDS literally changed the direction of the movement. Narrated by Melissa Etheridge.’ ~Amazon Product Description (Available on Netflix)


3) Stonewall Uprising – ‘Stonewall Uprising explores the dramatic event that launched a worldwide rights movement. When police raided a Mafia-run gay bar in Greenwich Village the Stonewall Inn on June 28 1969 gay men and women did something they had not done before: they fought back. As the streets of New York erupted into violent protests and street demonstrations the collective anger announced that the gay rights movement had arrived.’ ~Amazon Product Description (Free online video)


4) We Were Here – ‘David Weissman s critically-acclaimed 2012 Independent Spirit Award nominee, We Were Here is the first documentary to take a deep and reflective look back at the arrival and impact of AIDS in San Francisco. It explores how the City s inhabitants were affected by, and how they responded to, that calamitous epidemic. Though a San Francisco-based story, We Were Here extends beyond San Francisco and beyond AIDS itself. It speaks to our capacity as individuals to rise to the occasion, and to the incredible power of a community coming together with love, compassion, and determination.’ ~Amazon Product Description (Available on Netflix & Amazon Instant Video)


5) Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin – ‘Five years in the making and the winner of more than 25 awards and honors, Brother Outsider  illuminates the life and work of Bayard Rustin, who has been described as “the unknown hero” of the civil rights movement. A tireless crusader for justice, a disciple of Gandhi’s teachings and an advisor to Martin Luther King Jr., Bayard Rustin was the lead organizer of the 1963 March on Washington.’ ~Amazon Product Description (Netflix)


6) The Celluloid Closet – ‘This entertaining and often hilarious look at homosexuality in the cinema features film clips, interviews and fascinating revelations. Among the films featured are Spartacus, The Boys in the Band, The Children’s Hour, Philadelphia, Tea and Sympathy and many others. Lily Tomlin narrates, while Harvey Fierstein, Tom Hanks, Susan Sarandon, Gore Vidal and others comment on the films.’ ~Amazon Product Description


7) How to Survive a Plague – ‘Nominated for an Academy Award® for Best Documentary and featured on over 15 top-ten lists, How to Survive a Plague is the story of the brave young men and women who successfully reversed the tide of an epidemic, demanded the attention of a fearful nation, and stopped AIDS from becoming a death sentence. This improbable group of activists bucked oppression and infiltrated government agencies and the pharmaceutical industry, helping to identify promising new medication and treatments and move them through trials and into drugstores in record time. In the process, they saved their own lives and ended the darkest days of a veritable plague, while virtually emptying AIDS wards in American hospitals.’ ~Amazon Product Description – (Netflix and Amazon Instant Video)


8) Coming Out Under Fire – ‘Based on the ground-breaking book by Allan Bérubé, this internationally acclaimed film uncovers the World War II origins of military regulations that labeled homosexuals as mentally ill and sex perverts. Nine gay and lesbian veterans recount how they joined the patriotic war against fascism in the 1940s only to find themselves fighting two battles: one for their country and another for their right serve. Warm and humorous stories of finding each other and talks of first love and deep friendships are shattered as gay service members become targets of witch hunts, dehumanizing interrogations, imprisonment and involuntary psychiatric treatments.’ ~Amazon Product Description


9) Paris is Burning – ‘An unblinking behind the scenes story of fashion obsessed New Yorkers who created “voguing” and drag balls, and turned these raucous celebrations into a powerful expression of personal pride. The world within a world is instantly familiar, filled with ambitions, desires and yearnings that reflect America itself. Paris is Burning is an intimate portrait of one urban community, a world in which the allure of high fashion, status and wealth becomes an affirmation of love, acceptance and joy.’ ~Amazon Product Description – (Netflix and Amazon Instant Video)


10) Screaming Queens – ‘Emmy Award-winning Screaming Queens tells the little-known story of the first known act of collective, violent resistance to the social oppression of queer people in the United States – a 1966 riot in San Francisco’s impoverished Tenderloin neighborhood, three years before the famous gay riot at New York’s Stonewall Inn.’ ~Amazon Product Description – (Amazon Instant Video)


Other LGBT documentaries about history and other topics have been included below. They are listed in no particular order and it is not a comprehensive list.

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  • sheila0405

    I’ve watched several of the documentaries you listed. “We Were Here” is the one I would most highly recommend, especially for my fellow straight believers who are “getting their feet wet” on LGBT issues. Absolutely heartbreaking. A truly moving and beautiful movie about life, love, and relationships. There are some I have not seen, so thanks for the list.