Cult Classic Films for the LGBTQ+ Community

Iconic Scene from ‘The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’ (Photo credit: Screenshot of video from Movieclips YouTube channel)


Over the years, there have been movies that became cult classics for the LGBT community.  Many of them revolve around the many different facets of the LGBTQ+ spectrum while others have an iconic actor beloved by the community and even others that just resonate for one reason or another. 

Mommie Dearest

The 1981 film starring Faye Dunaway as the iconic Joan Crawford is based upon the book of the same name by Christina Crawford, the adopted daughter of the iconic film star.  The film initially was a box office failure, but it became a cult classic because of Dunaway’s over the top performance of the legendary actress.   The scene in the film where Crawford goes apeshit crazy over finding wire hangers in the younger Crawford’s closet and screams, “NO WIRE HANGERS!!” has become a pop culture staple that has been referenced countless times over the almost 40 years since the film came out.  Dunaway’s portrayal of Crawford itself has drawn its fair share of homage by drag queens.

The iconic “No Wire Hangers” scene can be seen below or at


Anything Directed by John Waters

A gay icon himself, John Waters has made a name for himself by writing and directing high camp movies. Some notable films by Waters is Pink Flamingos, Serial Mom, Cry Baby, and Hairspray (which inspired the Broadway musical which in turn inspired the 2007 musical film).  While Pink Flamingos is considered quintessential for fans of the director, films like Hairspray, Cry Baby, and Serial Mom brought Waters into mainstream success.

The classic prank call scene from Serial Mom is below or can be viewed at


Steel Magnolias

The 1989 film adaptation of the Robert Harling play focused on the lives of six women in Louisiana.  It starred gay icon Dolly Parton as well as Sally Fields, Daryl Hannah, Olympia Dukakis, Shirley MacLaine and Julia Roberts, who became a star because of this film and her next role in Pretty Woman.  While Steel Magnolias only has a passing mention of gay men, there are no main LGBTQ+ characters.  The reasons why this film has become a favorite in the LGBTQ+ community largely because of the women that star in this film and because it is an all-around classic film.

The iconic cemetery scene can be found below or at

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, or Priscilla as it commonly referred to by anyone who is ever seen it, is the story of three drag queens who venture from Sydney, Australia to Alice Springs to perform at a casino.  Along their trip, the trio perform Gloria Gaynor’s hit, ‘I Will Survive’ with aborigines in the desert and cross paths with a mechanic whose Filipina wife shoots ping pong balls out her, well, you know where.   The film, which came out over 25 years ago, stars Hugo Weaving (best known as Agent Smith in The Matrix films and Elrond in the Lord of the Rings trilogy), Terence Stamp (General Zod in Superman the Movie and Superman II), and Guy Pearce (Aldrich Killian in Iron Man 3).  A year later, Universal Pictures released their own drag queen film, To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar starring Patrick Swayze, Wesley Snipes, and John Leguizamo as drag queens on a trip to a drag pageant in Hollywood.

The Birdcage

The 1996 Mike Nichols film based on the film, La Cage aux Folles is about a South Beach drag club owner (Robin Williams) and his drag diva partner (Nathan Lane) acting like a conservative heterosexual family when their son (Dan Futterman) gets engaged to a Republican U.S. senator’s daughter.  The dynamic between Williams and Lane makes the film a comedic classic.  

Sordid Lives

Based on the Del Shores play with the same name, Sordid Lives focuses on a family from small town in Texas brought together for the funeral of the family’s matriarch.  The film brings together an excellent ensemble cast playing some colorful characters like Brother Boy (played by Leslie Jordan), LaVonda (Ann Walker), Bitsy Mae (Olivia Newton-John), and Juanita (Sarah Hunley).  The film was preceded by a television series in 2008 by the same name that acted as a prequel to the film and then a sequel to the film, A Very Sordid Wedding, which took place 16 years after the first film.


Love, Simon

Based on the book, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, this 2018 film became the first gay teen movie released by a major film studio.  Directed by Greg Berlanti, who is best known for writing and producing shows ABC’s Brothers and Sisters, Dawson’s Creek, and the CW’s Arrowverse shows.  The film starred Nick Robinson as the title character, Simon, a high school student coming to terms with being gay and how he starts an email relationship with another closeted gay guy from his high school.  The film’s overall theme was “Everyone deserves a great love story” and it is executed very well.  Love, Simon also sought to challenge the heteronormative preconceptions of society with a great scene where the film’s other teens were shown coming out to their families as straight.

This is just a small sampling of films deemed to be cult classics among the LGBTQ+ community.  Obviously, there is a wide variety of movies that are considered to favorites among our tribe.  Do you agree with these picks? Is there a film you consider to be a LGBTQ classic? Let us know in the comments.


Writer’s Note: This is the opinion of one contributing writer and may not reflect the views of Instinct Magazine itself or fellow contributors.



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