15 LGBTQ+ movie characters played by LGBTQ+ actors

Audiences can revel in the increased representation of LGBTQ+ characters on-screen by celebrating the performances of queer actors in these roles.

Kitana Kiki Rodriguez looking towards the right, Cheryl Dunye with sunglasses looking at the camera, and Officer Specter looking at the screen. These are some of 15 LGBTQ+ movie characters played by LGBTQ+ actors.
Image: Screenshot via Instagram @queer.cinema.archive, Screenshot via Instagram @watermelonwomanfilm, Screenshot via Instagram @disney

Dreading the aimless search through streaming services for a movie worth watching From comedy to tragedy or indie to Hollywood, the increasing presence of LGBTQ+ movie characters comes from audience demand for more representation on the big screen. We all enjoy quality performances by actors who inspire on and off the screen, so we’ve compiled for your attention 15 films featuring LGBTQ+ actors in the roles of LGBTQ+ characters.

Adele Haenel in Portrait of a Lady on Fire

In the 2019 French historical romantic drama Portrait of a Lady on Fire, actress Adele Haenel plays Heloise, an aristocratic bride-to-be. This critically acclaimed and award-winning film about a passionate lesbian love story revolves around an affair between Heloise and a painter, Marianne, hired to illustrate the aristocrat’s elusive nature in a portrait.

Adele Haenel came out as a lesbian during an acceptance speech for the Céasar awards in 2014 mentioning her relationship with the film’s director Céline Sciamma. 

Sasha Lane in The Miseducation of Cameron Post

The 2018 drama The Miseducation of Cameron Post centres on a young woman’s experiences at a conversion therapy camp for teenagers. In the film, Sasha Lane plays Jane Fonda, a free-spirited teen who befriends the main character.

Openly bisexual, Lane first publicly discussed her sexuality in the context of her career after the film’s debut. In the interview press notes, Lane says “the story really hit home for me, coming from a household where my brother’s gay and I’m gay.” Connecting the oppression her character experienced in the film to her own childhood in Texas, Lane’s performance in The Miseducation is not one to miss.

Cheryl Dunye in The Watermelon Woman 

A landmark in New Queer Cinema, the 1996 American romantic comedy and drama The Watermelon Woman was written, directed, and edited by Cheryl Dunye. Dunye plays a young lesbian film creator who aspires to document the life of a Black actress from the 1930’s who typically played roles centred on the stereotype of the “mammy.”

Openly lesbian, Dunye uses her work in screenwriting to explore sexuality, race, gender and the intersectional experience of Black lesbians.

Nina Moran in Skate Kitchen

A 2018 teen drama, Skate Kitchen explores the real story of a group of female skaters based in New York who calls themselves “Skate Kitchen.” The group, including Nina Moran playing her character named Kurt, act as fictional versions of themselves in this honest depiction of young female friendships challenging norms. Moran identifies as queer.

Trace Lysette in Hustlers

In this 2019 comedy-drama, Lysette plays Tracey in the film Hustlers. Following a crew of New York City strippers from a popular nightclub who make a business stealing money from drugged stock traders and CEOs.

Lysette came out publicly as a Trans woman in her role as Shea on the Amazon series Transparent. An activist herself, Lysette and other Trans actors and actresses filmed a letter to Hollywood in 2017 petitioning for more and improved roles for Transgender people on screens.

Lena Waithe in Onward

In Disney’s first Pixar film featuring an openly LGBTQ+ animated character, Waithe voices a cyclops police office named Officer Specter. Officer Specter is the first character to have uttered the phrase “I’m gay” on Disney Channel.

Waithe, openly gay herself, is the first Black woman to win the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series in 2017 for an episode in the series Master of None, which was loosely based on her experience of coming out to her mother.

Kitana Kiki Rodriguez in Tangerine 

Tangerine, a 2015 comedy-drama follows a Transgender sex worker who discovers her boyfriend and pimp has been cheating on her. The film, shot with three iPhone 5S smartphones, features Rodriguez in the main role of Mya Taylor.

Rodriguez, a Trans woman, received a 2016 Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Female Lead.

Kiersey Clemons in Hearts Beat Loud

A 2018 comedy-drama music film, Hearts Beat Loud follows a Brooklyn record store owner who tries to convince his daughter to start a band when a song they recorded goes viral. The daughter, Sam, is played by queer actress Kiersey Clemons.

Ian McKellen in Gods and Monsters

In this 1998 drama, McKellen acts out the partly fictionalised last days of the classic film director ,James Whale. Openly gay, McKellen has championed LGBTQ+ social movements worldwide.

Kate McKinnon in Bombshell

In Bombshell, McKinnon plays Jess Carr, a closeted liberal gay woman working at Fox News. The 2019 drama is based on true accounts of the women who exposed CEO Roger Ailes for sexual harassment.

McKinnon, openly gay, has played lesbian characters in skits on Saturday Night Live. Speaking of the importance of LGBTQ+ representation on-screen, McKinnon highlighted the role that other openly gay public figures have had in her coming out.

Lucas Hedges and Troye Sivan in Boy Erased

The 2018 biographical drama Boy Erased features two LBGTQ+ movie characters who identify themselves as on the LGBTQ+ spectrum. Hedges plays gay writer Jared Eamons as he experiences  ‘conversion therapy’ at the Love In Action assessment program in Tennessee.

Sivan, an openly gay singer, plays Gary, a gay boy forced to go to the same camp.

Clea DuVall in The Intervention

The Intervention is a 2016 comedy-drama that follows the chaos of a weekend getaway for four couples of whom one pair receives an intervention in their marriage. Written and directed by DuVall herself, she plays the openly gay character, Jessie, in the film. In an interview for the Film Independent, DuVall says she wrote Jessie as gay because she wanted to normalise gay relationships and feature “a gay couple in a movie where it’s not about them being gay.”

DuVall has played LGBTQ+ movie characters in other productions such as But I’m a Cheerleader and The Handmaid’s Tale.

Andrew Scott in Pride

This heartwarming 2014 film is based on a true story of queer activists raising money to help families affected by the British miners’ strike. Known from Sherlock and Fleabag, Scott plays Gethin Roberts, one half of an older gay couple who own the bookshop used as headquarters for group meetings. Scott, openly gay, first commented on his sexuality in 2013.

Jonathan Groff in Looking

Although not a movie, the HBO comedy-drama series Looking, can’t be missed. The show stars Groff, an openly gay actor, and follows the lives of three gay men in modern-day San Francisco. Also featured in Frozen, Hamilton, and Mind-Hunter, Groff was showered with praise for his performance as Patrick Murray in the HBO series.

Groff came out during the National Equality March in October 2009 when asked by a Broadway.com reporter.

Tessa Thompson in Thor: Ragnorok 

Lastly, the 2017 superhero Marvel Studios film left the sexual orientation of Valkyrie, played by Thompson, unconfirmed with a scene of her entering another woman’s bedroom cut short. However, Thompson has confirmed that her character is queer and this will be a part of the next movie Thor: Love and Thunder. A well-praised actress, Thompson has stated publicly that she is attracted to both men and women.

While we excitedly await more LGBTQ+ representation in upcoming films, now is about the time to grab your favourite snacks and enjoy LGBTQ+ movie characters played by LGBTQ+ actors.

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