To kick off Pride Month, this list celebrates ten of the best portrayals of LGBTQ+ characters in the recent decade. While there have been great portrayals beforehand, this decade has made some admirable progressive strides. For instance, transgender actors are gaining traction, while portrayals of queer people of color continue to grow more prominent.
There is still progress to be made, since the conversation surrounding straight actors playing gay roles carries on. Plus, the LGBTQ+ community still doesn’t have a Marvel or DC superhero to represent them, outright. A lack queer representation is a problem that can’t be fixed overnight, but some of these performances provide indications of more inclusion in the future.
20Emma Stone as Billie Jean King in “Battle of the Sexes” (2017)
19dir. Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
After winning an Oscar for “La La Land,” Emma Stone delivered yet another great performance as tennis legend Billie Jean King. Even in her silence, Stone is able to express King’s desire to prove herself. The way she portrays King’s lesbianism is quite honest, as well. During a particularly intimate scene where King receives a haircut from the woman who would become her partner, Stone’s eyes convey the internalized turning point for King.
18Kim Min-Hee as Lady Hideko in “The Handmaiden” (2016)
17dir. Park Chan-Wook
“The Handmaiden” may be a dual act about Sook-hee (Kim Tae-ri) and Lady Hideko (Kim Min-Hee), the heiress whom she serves, but between both actresses, Kim Min-Hee has the trickier role to handle. Since the film begins with Sook-hee’s point of view, it’s initially unclear what Hideko’s true intentions are or whether she’s aware of Sook-hee’s plan to scheme against her. During the first act, Kim Min-Hee portrays Lady Hideko with a mix of allure and frigidity. She possesses an aura that keeps Sook-hee fascinated by her while still keeping her at a substantial distance before their romance takes its course.
16Thure Lindhardt as Erik in “Keep the Lights On” (2012)
15dir. Ira Sachs
A person can tell how in love they are with someone by the pain they feel over watching them suffer. In “Keep the Lights On,” Thure Lindhardt perfectly illustrates that type of pain. As Erik, a filmmaker whose partner succumbs to drug addiction, Lindhardt is heartbreaking without begging for audiences’ sympathy. The chemistry he has with his co-star Zachary Booth is warm, making the slow destruction of their relationship all the more devastating.
14Daniela Vega as Marina in “A Fantastic Woman” (2017)
13dir. Sebastian Lelio
In 2017, “A Fantastic Woman” became the first Chilean film to win the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. At its center is a commanding performance from trans actress Daniela Vega. Vega is quietly captivating as Marina, an aspiring singer who faces bigotry from the family of her recently deceased lover. She might not have received the Best Actress nomination she was in contention for, but her performance is still an amazing feat and an indication of her star quality which more directors should utilize.
12Pierre Deladonchamps as Franck in “Stranger by the Lake” (2014)
11dir. Alain Guiraudie
The erotic French thriller “Stranger by the Lake” sees lead actor Pierre Deladonchamps deliver a performance as a particular type of anti-hero. Deladonchamps is wonderfully analytical as Franck, a man who falls for the murderous Michel (Christophe Paou). Through his expressive face, he presents Franck’s skepticism as he pursues carnal inklings. Franck may be anxious over the danger he’s flirting with, but he continuously gives into the temptation.
10Mya Taylor as Alexandra in “Tangerine” (2015)
9dir. Sean Baker
Mya Taylor’s work in “Tangerine” is a textbook, “star is born” performance. After being plucked from obscurity, Taylor lit up the screen as the sharp-tongued sex worker Alexandra despite having no previous acting experience. It’s a magnetic performance that blends effortless comedic timing and tenuous dramatic depth. If it were a just world, Taylor would be everywhere after the buzz of “Tangerine.” Yet, it’s still remains a strong reminder of her camera friendly presence.
8Chris New as Glen and Tom Cullen as Russell in “Weekend” (2011)
7dir. Andrew Haigh
Out of all the films on this list depicting romantic duos, “Weekend” has arguably the most inseparable one. The demure nature of Russell (Tom Cullen) compliments the outgoing flamboyance of Glen (Chris New) wonderfully. Also, as the two men get to know each other during one weekend, they find themselves fixing each other’s weaknesses. Because their chemistry is intoxicating, heartfelt, and playful all at once, one could hardly want this weekend to end.
6Ashton Sanders as Teenage Chiron in “Moonlight” (2016)
5dir. Barry Jenkins
Since Ashton Sanders plays the protagonist, Chiron, in the second act of “Moonlight,” he acts as a combination between how Chiron was portrayed in the first act and who he becomes in the third. Sanders presents the character as the shy, reclusive youth he was introduced as while hinting as the internalized struggles of masculinity that will follow him into adulthood. It’s a terrifically sequential performance that still remains effective when separating it from the other two acts of the picture.
4Cate Blanchett as Carol Aird in “Carol” (2015)
3dir. Todd Haynes
“Carol” is easily one of Cate Blanchett’s best performances to date, which is a true testament of its impact. As the titular character, Blanchett is utterly bewitching, draped in the costumes by Sandy Powell capturing Carol’s otherworldly nature. Even the film’s lunch scene where Carol meets Therese (Rooney Mara) is an acting masterclass because of the clues Carol drops to hint at her affections. Both fragile and intoxicating, Carol Aird is wonderfully complicated and brought to life by an actress whose specialty is three-dimensional portraits.
2Timothee Chalamet as Elio in “Call Me By Your Name” (2017)
1dir. Luca Guadagnino
At just 22 years old, Timothee Chalamet gave a performance of grand eloquence in “Call Me By Your Name” as the precocious Elio. Once Elio falls for Oliver (Armie Hammer) over the course of one summer, Chalamet brilliantly maps out his assurance and curiosity that morph into desolation. Eventually, Elio’s feelings of heartbreak and exhilaration become captured in the film’s final shot. As a result of that image, along with every one that Chalamet appears in, his performance is one that will have a strong place in film history.
Which LGBTQ+ performance from this decade is a favorite of yours? Please share your thoughts in the comments section!
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