It's nuts to think we've already waved goodbye to 2019, a year that was chock-full of LGBTQ storylines in film. But here we are, with Sundance around the corner and a brand-new slate of queer movies and LGBTQ characters on the horizon.
Ryan Murphy’s first made-for-Netflix flicks, Sean Hayes playing a woman, and St. Vincent and Carrie Brownstein's very meta satire are just a few of the big-screen offerings that'll have us talking in the coming months. Here, we present the queer-centric films we're most excited for in 2020. (Note: All release dates are forthcoming.)
In 1840s England, fossil hunter Mary Anning (Kate Winslet) is living by the sea and selling her discoveries to tourists to support herself and her ailing mother. Her life changes when rich visitor Roderick Murchison (James McArdle) asks her to look after his wife, Charlotte Murchison (Saoirse Ronan), and the two women end up falling for each other. Written and directed by Francis Lee, Ammonite is inspired by real events and will have a select run in arthouse cinemas.
The Boys in the Band
Acclaimed producers Ryan Murphy and David Stone have teamed up again with director Joe Mantello to adapt their Tony-winning Broadway revival of The Boys in the Band into a Netflix movie. The cast members from the 2018 play—including Matt Bomer, Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, Andrew Rannells, Charlie Carver, Brian Hutchison, Michael Benjamin Washington, Robin de Jesús, and Tuc Watkins—have reunited for the drama, about a group of gay friends who gather for a birthday party—and proceed to dish out the bitchery.
Bully. Coward. Victim. The Story of Roy Cohn
Directed by Ivy Meeropol, this is the second documentary in two years about disbarred attorney Roy Cohn (a former mentor-cum-fixer for Donald Trump). The difference between it and Matt Tyrnauer’s 2019 documentary Where’s My Roy Cohn? is that it digs deeper into Cohn’s closeted gay life. Viewers will get firsthand accounts of how Cohn (who died of complications from AIDS in 1986, at the age of 59) led a double life in New York City and the gay haven of Provincetown, in Massachusetts. HBO’s Bully. Coward. Victim. The Story of Roy Cohn, which had its world premiere at the New York Film Festival, also touches on Meeropol’s tragic family connection to Cohn: Her paternal grandparents were Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were executed in 1953 for espionage, during the Cold War witch hunt led by U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy and his protégé Cohn.
The Capote Tapes
The life story of celebrated gay author Truman Capote is told with a unique twist in this documentary directed by Ebs Burnough. Much of the narration comes from uncovered tapes of interviews that The Paris Review co-founder George Plimpton conducted with Capote’s friends and associates after his 1984 death from liver disease. As they share their perspectives, we learn about his rise to the upper echelons of New York society and his downward spiral as a hedonistic Studio 54–loving partier. Greenwich Films will offer a limited U.S. theatrical release of the movie, which made the festival rounds at Toronto and DOC NYC in 2019.
In this emotionally tense drama, Karen (Otmara Marrero) is a 29-year-old reeling from a bitter split from her older, affluent ex-girlfriend. Her next move? To break into her ex’s remote Oregon lake house to get their old dog, which Karen thinks she should have. While staying in the empty house, she meets a mysterious teenager, Lana (Euphoria's Sydney Sweeney), who lives nearby. As they inch toward seducing each other, Lana’s mind games make Karen question who’s really in control. The feature-film debut of writer-director Lara Jean Gallagher, Clementine had its world premiere at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival. Oscilloscope is planning a theatrical release in select U.S. cities.
Disclosure: Trans Lives on Screen
Featuring more than 100 years of footage, Sam Feder and Amy Scholder's documentary explores the history of transgender people and cross-dressers as portrayed in movies and on television. Laverne Cox, Mj Rodriguez, Chaz Bono, and Strong Island director Yance Ford give interviews in what amounts to an examination of how to rectify the prejudices and misconceptions surrounding trans people on screen. The movie will make its world premiere at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.
I Carry You With Me
Based on a true story, I Carry You With Me is about two Mexican lovers, Iván (Armando Espitia) and Gerardo (Christian Vázquez), whose decades-long romance is tested when one of them moves to New York to pursue his dream of becoming a chef. Award-winning filmmaker Heidi Ewing, who’s known for the documentaries Jesus Camp and Freakonomics, makes her first foray into narrative feature directing with the film, which will debut at Sundance before it hits U.S. theaters.
Will & Grace scene-stealer Sean Hayes co-wrote and stars in this comedy, in which he plays the title character, who's going through a midlife crisis. Susan is unemployed, totally single, and having problems with her family. Can she get it together and turn her life around? Directed by Nick Peet and also starring Allison Janney, Matthew Broderick, Margo Martindale, and Jim Rash, the film will be released in North America by Shout! Studios.
Maurice Hines: Bring Them Back
In this excellent documentary, Tony-nominated actor, singer, choreographer, and director Maurice Hines Jr. dishes about his fascinating, lifelong career in showbiz and about being a gay man who’s never been in the closet. Hines, who is now in his 70s, gets emotional discussing his often-rocky relationship with his more famous younger brother, entertainer Gregory Hines, who died of cancer in 2003, while his close friends (including Debbie Allen and Chita Rivera) and family members reflect on his legacy. Directed by John Carluccio, Maurice Hines: Bring Them Back won the Metropolis Competition at the DOC NYC in 2019; as part of the prize, the movie will have a one-week run this year at New York's IFC Center.
Nomad: In the Footsteps of Bruce Chatwin
With Nomad, Oscar-nominated German filmmaker Werner Herzog has made one of his most personal statements yet. The director was a close friend of British writer and adventurer Bruce Chatwin, who was openly bisexual and died of AIDS-related complications in 1989, at the age of 48. In the documentary, Herzog straps on a beloved rucksack that Chatwin previously used for his travels and retraces his steps through several important locations from Chatwin’s life. Chatwin’s widow, Elizabeth, reveals that the couple had an open marriage, and that she didn’t mind if Bruce brought home his lovers. Music Box Films, which acquired Nomad after its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, will release the movie in select U.S. cinemas.
The Nowhere Inn
Queer musicians Annie Clark (a.k.a. St. Vincent) and Carrie Brownstein (Sleater-Kinney co-founder and former Portlandia star) team up for this movie-within-a-movie satire in which Clark, playing a version of herself, sets out to make a documentary about herself and enlists the help of a friend (Brownstein, also playing a version of herself) to direct it. Not surprisingly, shit hits the fan. Clark and Brownstein wrote The Nowhere Inn, which is directed by Bill Benz and will have its world premiere at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.
Oliver Sacks: His Own Life
This Ric Burns–directed documentary is a comprehensive biography of British intellectual Oliver Sacks, who died in 2015. Sacks had many professions: He was a neurologist, a professor, a science historian, an author, and (in his younger days) a champion bodybuilder. He was also a recovering drug addict and a deeply closeted gay man who didn’t publicly address his sexuality until he wrote his 2015 memoir, On the Move: A Life. Zeitgeist Films, in association with Kino Lorber, will give the movie a limited U.S. release before PBS airs it as part of the American Masters series.
Ryan Murphy's other upcoming movie adaptation of a Broadway show is The Prom, a musical boasting an even bigger star-studded cast ready to descend upon Netflix. Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, James Corden, Kerry Washington, Keegan-Michael Key, and Murphy fave Andrew Rannells star in the story about a group of former musical-theater heavyweights who stage a comeback by rallying behind lesbian student Emma (Jo Ellen Pellman), a high schooler who wants to go to her prom with her girlfriend Alyssa (Ariana DeBose), the daughter of the school’s Parent Teacher Association chief.
Writer-director James Sweeney stars as Todd, an obsessive-compulsive gay 20-something who starts to wonder if he might be straight. His fear of being alone leads him to form a neurotic and talkative friendship with an aspiring actress named Rory (Katie Findlay), who has her own issues when it comes to love. Audiences first got to see the comedy at Frameline and Outfest in 2019, and Strand Releasing will distribute it in U.S. theaters this year.
Riz (Geetanjali Thapa) is a young queer woman who has left behind a life of poverty and crime in India to start over as a hard-working, live-in maid in a dumpy motel in America. Her plans to keep her record clean go awry when she forms a bond with her rowdy roommate and fellow maid Dallas (Olivia DeJonge), who abuses drugs and stans Dolly Parton. Cynthia Nixon co-stars as the motel’s no-nonsense manager, who’s also the mother of Dallas’ drug-dealing boyfriend. The first feature film from director Sonejuhi Sinha, Stray Dolls had its world premiere at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival. Samuel Goldwyn Films will release it in select U.S. theaters.
The Thing About Harry
Freeform’s first Valentine’s Day–themed movie shows what happens when two good-looking gay guys who used to be enemies in high school reunite and start to think they could end up as more than friends. The two might-be lovers are smart and funny Sam (Jake Borelli), who’s been out of the closet since high school, and recently out athletic playboy Harry (Niko Terho). Their relationship changes after they share a car ride on their way back to their small Missouri hometown for a mutual friend’s Valentine’s Day engagement party. The cast also includes Queer Eye’s Karamo, GLOW’s Britt Baron, and former Queer as Folk-er Peter Paige, who also directs.
To the Stars
Set in an early-1960s conservative small town in Oklahoma, To the Stars is a coming-of-age teen lesbian drama about opposites who attract. Shy, nerdy Iris (Kara Hayward) is bullied at school, but she finds comfort in her friendship with uninhibited newcomer Maggie (Liana Liberato). When the town finds out the reason why Maggie moved away from her previous hometown, however, their relationship is put to the test. Directed by Martha Stevens, To the Stars played Sundance, Outfest, and Newfest last year, and Samuel Goldwyn Films will release it in select U.S. theaters.
Two of Us
This French-language dramedy tells the love story of two closeted senior citizens and neighbors, Nina (Barbara Sukowa) and Madeleine (Martine Chevallier), whose long-term relationship is disrupted when an unexpected event threatens to tear them apart. The feature-film directorial debut of Filippo Meneghetti will get a limited U.S. release by Magnolia Pictures.
Set in 1973, Uncle Frank follows Frank Bledsoe (Paul Bettany) and his niece Beth (Sophia Lillis) on a road trip from New York City to the South Carolina town of Creekville as they prepare to attend the funeral of the family patriarch. Along the way, they are unexpectedly joined by Frank’s lover Wally (Peter Macdissi), which leads to some awkward encounters. The film, which will premiere at Sundance, is the first from gay writer, director, and producer Alan Ball (Six Feet Under, True Blood) to hit theaters since 2007’s Towelhead.
Welcome to Chechnya
The stirring investigative documentary shows the undercover work of activists fighting homophobia in the Russian republic of Chechnya, which openly persecutes members of the LGBTQ community. Directed by David France (How to Survive a Plague, The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson), it will have its world premiere at Sundance before premiering on HBO in June.
Main image: Katie Findlay (left) and James Sweeney in Straight Up.