Must Watch LGBTQ Sport Films
There’s no shortage of movies to watch on any given day, however there are some that we absolutely have to suggest you watch to help celebrate IDAHOBIT, this Sunday 17 May 2020.
In the spirit of the IDAHOBIT being on the 17th of May, we explore 17 LGBTQ and sport related movies that will pull your heart strings, make you yell profanities at the TV screen, and allow you to escape for the shortest of times to remember what it was like to play sport, pre COVID-19.
So grab some popcorn, a cup of tea, sit back and enjoy!
1. Personal Best
Personal Best is a 1982 American drama film written, produced, and directed by Robert Towne. The movie stars Mariel Hemingway and real-life track star Patrice Donnelly, along with Scott Glenn as the coach of the track team. Chris Cahill is a young track-and-field athlete who competes unsuccessfully in the 1976 U.S. Olympic trials. She meets a more experienced competitor, Tory Skinner, and their friendship evolves into a romantic relationship. The two are part of a group of women trying to qualify for the American track-and-field team bound for the 1980 Olympic Games. Despite their commitment to their training regimen, their dreams are thwarted when the United States announces its boycott of the Games for political reasons, leaving them with only the informal “personal best” marks they achieved during training to connote their achievements.
2. Handsome Devil
Handsome Devil is a 2016 Irish comedy-drama film directed by John Butler. It was screened in the Contemporary World Cinema section at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival. It centres around an ostracised teenager (Fionn O’Shea) at an elite, rugby-obsessed, all-boys boarding school in Ireland modelled on Castleknock and Blackrock, whose new roommate (Nicholas Galitzine) is the school’s new rugby star-player. The two form an unlikely friendship until it is tested by those around them. The film features themes of gay subtext, while examining the hypocrisy and snobbery of the Irish private school system. Handsome Devil received critical acclaim, winning the award for Best Irish Feature of 2017 from the Dublin Film Critics’ Circle; four nominations at the 2018 Irish Film and Television Academy (IFTA) Awards, including Best Feature Film; and the Best Single Drama Award at the annual Celtic Media Festival in 2018.
3. F(l)ag Football
F(l)ag Football is a 2015 American documentary film on the National Gay Flag Football League directed by Seth Greenleaf. It documents the training of players on the NGFFL’s New York Warriors team as they prepare for the Gay Bowl. The documentary explores masculinity in sports. The documentary stars, Wade Davis, team captain of the New York Warriors, Cyd Zeigler, co-founder of the NGFFL, Brenton Metzler, and Jared Garduno.
4. Alone in the Game
From Creator and Executive Producer, David McFarland comes ‘Alone In The Game‘ a feature-length documentary that follows a group of elite athletes and iconic figures from the biggest stages in sport, including the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, MLS, and NCAA, among others, to explore the ongoing struggles LGBT athletes are facing at the professional, collegiate and Olympic levels. An exploration of the big business of sports exposes a culture of exclusion, bigotry and discrimination which keeps these athletes in the closet and living in silence. Subjects include three closeted athletes who share their personal journeys, as well as NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, former ESPN President John Skipper, NBA center Jason Collins, NFL linemen Ryan O’Callaghan, MLS Cup champion Robbie Rogers, and Olympic medalists Gus Kenworthy and Megan Rapinoe.
5. Guys and Balls
Guys and Balls (German: Männer wie wir, literally Men like us, UK title: Balls) is a 2004 sports comedy/romance film by German American director Sherry Hormann about a gay goalkeeper who assembles a gay-only soccer team to play against his ex-team, which fired him due to being gay. A battle for gay rights is fought on a small-time football field in this comedy drama from Germany. Ecki (Maximilian Brückner) is a talented soccer goalie who plays with a semi-pro team in a small German town, but he finds himself on the outs with his teammates when he fails to block a kick that costs the team the league championship. Ecki’s relationship with the team goes from bad to worse when they discover he’s gay, and they give him his walking papers. Furious, Ecki challenges his former team to a special match in which they’ll face off against an all-gay team he’ll assemble for the occasion. The homophobic team agrees to the match, but Ecki soon discovers finding ten capable gay footballers is no easy task, and making them into a competitive team is even harder.
6. OUT in the line-up
OUT in the line-up follows the story of two gay surfers who unite to bring this issue out into the open. Together they embark on a global journey to hear the perspectives of people from all corners of the surfing community including former world champion Cori Schumacher, big wave rider Keala Kennelly and former US Congressman Barney Frank. As their journey unfolds, they uncover a culture of fear, secrecy and exclusion but are also inspired to affect change by connecting people, provoking discussion and looking to surfing’s grassroots values of freedom of spirit and love for the ocean.
7. Beautiful Boxer
Beautiful Boxer (Thai: บิวตี้ฟูล บ๊อกเซอร์) is a Thai biographical sports film by Singapore-based director Ekachai Uekrongtham. It tells the life story of Parinya Charoenphol, a famous kathoey (trans woman), Muay Thai fighter, actress and model. Starting off as a young priest at a Buddhist temple, Toom eventually joined a Muay Thai fighting camp and earned enough money to support her family and get gender confirmation surgery before she jump-kicked her way into the Asian international spotlight. She was portrayed by male kickboxer Asanee Suwan.
8. The Broken Hearts Club
The Broken Hearts Club is a 2000 American romantic comedy-drama film written and directed by Greg Berlanti. It follows the lives of a group of gay friends in West Hollywood, centered on a restaurant owned by the fatherly Jack (John Mahoney) and the softball team he sponsors. The friends rely on each other for friendship and support as they search for love, deal with loss, and discover themselves. The Broken Hearts Club was Berlanti’s first feature film, based around his circle of friends at the time. The movie was met with generally favorable reviews from critics, receiving praise from the LGBTQ community. The film focuses on “the universal themes of romance, acceptance and family”, as opposed to AIDS, coming out, and sex, which are more controversial and stereotypical topics commonly covered in LGBT films of this time.
Morgan is a 2012 film directed by Michael Akers, produced by Michael D. A young, paralyzed, gay athlete attempts to live his life in a situation far from desirable. After an accident leaves him paralyzed from the waist down, Morgan Oliver (played by Leo Minaya), is first seen wallowing in a state of depression, drowning his sorrows in beer as he watches bicycle racing (the sport that at once defined his sense of purpose and drove him to his catalytic accident) on television. He meets Dean Kagan (played by Jack Kesy) who helps him through the way and a romantic relationship develops between the two. Once Morgan knows about the New York Haven Cycle Race, he decides to take part in the race with the help of Kagan and sponsorship from Tread Bike Shop.
10. Breakfast with Scot
Breakfast with Scot is a 2007 Canadian comedy film. It is adapted from the novel by Tufts University professor Michael Downing. Eric McNally (Tom Cavanagh) is a gay retired hockey player turned television sportscaster who lives with his partner Sam (Ben Shenkman), a sports lawyer. When Sam unexpectedly becomes the legal guardian of his brother’s stepson, Scot (Noah Bernett), their lives are turned upside down as the demands of being a parent — as well as the boy’s preference for clothing and hobbies which suggest that he may also be gay — begin to intrude on Eric’s desire to remain closeted at work. Eric’s unwillingness to accept the situation eventually fades as Scot teaches Eric about loving your true self.
11. The Pass
The Pass is a 2016 film starring Russell Tovey and Arinze Kene. It was directed by Ben A. Williams, based on a play by John Donnelly. Nineteen-year-olds Jason and Ade have been in the Academy of a famous London football club since they were eight years old. It’s the night before their first-ever game for the first team — a Champions League match — and they’re in a hotel room in Romania. They should be sleeping, but they’re over-excited. They skip, fight, mock each other, prepare their kit, watch a teammate’s sex tape. And then, out of nowhere, one of them kisses the other. The impact of this ‘pass’ reverberates through the next ten years of their lives — a decade of fame and failure, secrets and lies, in a sporting world where image is everything. The film was nominated at the 2017 BAFTA Awards, in the category of Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer for John Donnelly (writing) and Ben Williams (direction).
Shelter is a 2007 American romantic drama film produced by JD Disalvatore and directed and written by Jonah Markowitz. Love brings together two men who aren’t sure where to fit a relationship into their lives in this romantic drama. Living in the oceanfront working-class community of San Pedro, Zach (Trevor Wright) is a young man in his early twenties who has been forced into the role of emotional anchor for his dysfunctional family; his mother his dead, his father is too ill to work, his sister Jeannie (Tina Holmes) is too busy partying to look after her five-year-old son Cody (Jackson Wurth), and Zach is the only one with the wherewithal to hold down a job and keep the rent paid. While hanging out with his surfing buddy Gabe (Ross Thomas), Zach meets Gabe’s brother, the struggling gay writer Shaun (Brad Rowe), who has taken a break from Tinseltown while rebounding from a dysfunctional relationship. Shaun goes surfing with Zach one day, and the two discover they’re powerfully attracted to one another, and a flirtation turns into a love affair. As Shaun has to explain to his girlfriend why he no longer wants to be with her, Zach tries to make Jeannie and his father understand why he’s come out of the closet.
13. Game Face
Game Face shows the quest to self-realization of LGBTQ athletes and the acceptance in society. This documentary tells the parallel story of Fallon Fox, MMA’s first transgender pro fighter, and Terrence Clemens, a college basketball player in Oklahoma who happens to be gay. The film follows both athletes during their coming out process, and sheds light on the obstacles LGBTQ sports players deal with throughout their career. Former NBA star Jason Collins shines as a mentor for Terrence in this inspiring documentary.
14. Forbidden Games
Justin Fashanu rose to fame in 1980 after scoring the goal of the season against Liverpool, leading a generation of black footballers through the English league. Abandoned as a child and raised by a white foster family in the UK, he faced plenty of uphill battles. But despite bigotry and bullying from unruly football fans during the Thatcher era, Fashanu blazed his own trail by also becoming the first openly gay athlete on the pitch. He had the talent, swagger and charisma to become one of the most celebrated athletes Britain had ever seen. Through unprecedented access to coaches, teammates and family, filmmakers Adam Darke and Jon Carey unpack one of the most fascinating and ultimately tragic sports stories you’ll ever see. Forbidden Games not only explores Fashanu’s battle with issues of race and sexuality in professional sports, but also the understanding that not everyone is ready for the spotlight.
15. Man Made
Man Made takes us into the heart of transgender male (FTM) culture, revealing unexpected truths about gender, masculinity, humanity and love. Four trans men (who like the film’s director were born and raised female), take a variety of life paths toward stepping on stage at Trans FitCon, the only all-transgender bodybuilding competition in the world (held in Atlanta, GA). Man Made is a character-driven, intimate, and riveting verité-style competition film, but also a unique social justice narrative. It speaks to the ways in which we all choose to define and reshape ourselves, both figuratively and literally. The strength on display in Man Made transcends the physical: Rese is a young father struggling with periods of homelessness; Dominic seeks out his family of origin, confronting an alternate history for himself; Kennie admits to himself and his loved ones who he is for the first time in his life; and Mason, a loving husband who struggles with mental illness, works daily to be the man he’s always wanted to be-on both the inside and out. Follow these subjects’ emotional and physical journeys as they navigate lives as the men they are, despite very real risks inherent in the current social and political climate. For the men of Man Made, it’s not about winning-it’s about being seen.
16. Back on Board: Greg Louganis
An intimate portrait of an American legend, Back on Board: Greg Louganis, is a feature-length documentary that tells the life story of this four-time Olympic Champion as he returns to diving after a long period of absence. Back on Board explores the captivating, compelling, and complicated life of an Olympic star whose athletic talent sparked a worldwide fascination with diving. Part biography, part social exploration – this film reveals Louganis’ evolution from childhood diving prodigy to Olympic champion, and from pioneering openly gay athlete with HIV to a sometimes forgotten sports icon. Back on Board is an engrossing story about an American legend.
17. The Ice King
The Ice King is the searing documentary of a lost cultural icon, a story of art, sport, sexuality, and rebellion. Including incredible unseen footage of some of his most remarkable performances and with access to Curry’s letters, archive interviews, and interviews with his family, friends and collaborators, this is a portrait of the man who turned ice-skating from a dated sport into an exalted art form. After winning gold at the Winter Olympics for a rebelliously balletic routine, Curry saw the world’s stages sheeted with ice. Audiences and reviewers alike were enthralled by his genius. But Curry’s story is about more than skating. On the night of the final, Curry became the first openly gay Olympian at a time when homosexuality was barely legal. From bullying and prejudice, to relief in the gay underworld, to his untimely death from AIDS, Curry’s story dovetails with the experiences of a generation. Tortured by demons, Curry was forever on the run. Never owning a home, he lived on the favours of those who loved him. The only place he found true freedom was the ice.
The International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia and Transphobia was created in 2004 to draw the attention to the violence and discrimination experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex people and all other people with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities or expressions, and sex characteristics.
The date of May 17th was specifically chosen to commemorate the World Health Organization’s decision in 1990 to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder.
The day represents a major global annual landmark to draw the attention of decision makers, the media, the public, corporations, opinion leaders, local authorities, etc. to the alarming situation faced by people with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities or expressions, and sex characteristics. It is also one of the biggest days of significance supported by Australian sporting organisations.