The fall season is upon us and that means all the big movies (i.e., Oscar hopefuls) are coming out in the next few months. While the SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes are preventing actors and writers from promoting their work, audiences can still catch some amazing films and performances by, for and about LGBTQ+ lives.
Here is a rundown of the most anticipated queer films coming to a theater (or streaming service) near you between now and the end of the year. While several of this season’s releases have Philadelphia connections, a few films may not play in the city’s market. (Release dates are also subject to change.)
“Strange Way of Life” (Oct. 4 in NY/LA; expands Oct. 6)
Pedro Almodóvar’s satisfying 30-minute short film has gay cowboys Silva (Pedro Pascal) and Jake (Ethan Hawke), now a sheriff, rekindling their past romance. But both are also in pursuit of Joe (George Steane), Silva’s son, who is wanted for murder. Sexual tension, bloodshed and destiny ensue. The film will screen with “The Human Voice,” Almodóvar’s 2020 short featuring Tilda Swinton as a woman on the verge that is equally fabulous.
“Dicks: The Musical” (Oct. 6, limited release; expands Oct. 20)
While the title may suggest singing penises, this raucous comedy by Larry Charles (“Borat”) has God (Bowen Yang) recounting the story of identical twins Craig (Joel Sharp) and Trevor (Aaron Jackson) swapping places to reunite their parents Evelyn (Megan Mullally) and the closeted Harris (Nathan Lane). Megan Thee Stallion co-stars.
“The Persian Version” (Oct. 20 in NY/LA; expands Nov. 3)
Written and directed by bisexual filmmaker Maryam Keshavarz, this vibrant comedy-drama, which won an audience award at Sundance, has Leila (Layla Mohammadi), recounting her complicated relationship with her mother, Shirin (Niousha Noor), who has trouble accepting that Leila is gay. Keshavarz’s high-energy style makes all the drama about identity and belonging, while feeling displaced between two cultures, go down smoothly.
“Nyad” (Oct. 20 in theaters; Nov. 3 on Netflix)
Documentarians Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi helm their first feature film, based on the true story of the 60-year-old lesbian, Diana Nyad (Annette Bening), who swims from Cuba to Florida. Out actress Jodie Foster co-stars as Diana’s friend and coach.
“Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project” (Nov. 3 in NY; Philadelphia TBD)
The great Nikki Giovanni reads her poems and speaks truth to power in this inspiring, if hagiographic, documentary. Giovanni talks about her family, civil rights and “going to Mars.” (she thinks a Black woman should be first to check out the red planet). Giovannni is also seen with her spouse, Virginia Fowler. Several segments are set and shot in Philadelphia.
“Orlando: My Political Biography” (Nov. 10 in NY; Philadelphia TBD)
This experimental documentary, by Paul B. Preciado features nearly two dozen trans people discussing their lives and experiences while selections from Virginia Woolf’s inspirational novel are read.
“Rustin” (Nov. 3 in select theaters; Nov. 17 on Netflix)
Buoyed by an outstanding performance by out gay actor and native Philadelphian Coleman Domingo in the title role, “Rustin” illustrates the force of nature that was out gay activist Bayard Rustin. This emotional biopic focuses mainly on Rustin’s efforts to organize the largest peaceful protest, the 1963 March on Washington, and his fraught interactions with Ray Wilkins (Chris Rock) and Adam Clayton Powell (Jeffrey Wright), as well as his friendship with Martin Luther King Jr. (Aml Ameen). His personal life is addressed in his relationship with both Tom (Gus Halper), a young white man, and Elias Taylor (Johnny Ramey), a married closeted man. This galvanizing film shows the value of owning your power.
“May December” (Nov. 17 in theaters)
Out gay director Todd Haynes directs this story of Elizabeth (Natalie Portman), an actress who will soon be portraying Gracie (Julianne Moore) in a film about Gracie’s scandalous relationship with Joe (Charles Melton), one of her students, from 20 years ago.
“Maestro” (Nov. 22 in select theaters; Dec. 20 on Netflix)
Philly native Bradley Cooper’s sophomore effort as a director is a biopic of gay conductor Leonard Bernstein (also portrayed by Cooper) that focuses on his 30-year relationship with Felicia Montealegre (Carey Mulligan) while the media has focused on Cooper’s prosthetic nose. Out actors Matt Bomer and Michael Urie co-star as David Oppenheimer and Jerome Robbins, respectively.
“Saltburn” (Nov. 24 in theaters)
Emerald Fennell’s sophomore effort as a director is a nifty and nasty film in the vein of “The Talented Mr. Ripley” about Oliver Quick (Barry Keogan) who befriends the dreamy Felix (Jacob Elordi) at Oxford. When Felix invites Oliver to stay at his family’s estate, Saltburn, for the summer, Felix’s gay cousin Farleigh (Archie Madekwe) thinks Oliver has something either sexual or sinister — possibly both — in mind. For anyone who wants to drink Elordi’s dirty bathwater, this film is a must.
“Poor Things” (Dec. 8 in theaters)
There is minimal queer content in Yorgos Lanthimos’ latest — and arguably greatest — film about Bella Baxter (Emma Stone in an extraordinary performance), a woman reanimated from the dead by God(win) (Willem Dafoe). When Duncan Wedderburn (Mark Ruffalo, who is hilarious in the role) takes Bella out into the world, she eventually meets Harry Astley (out gay actor Jerrod Carmichael) who introduces her to philosophy. As Bella’s feminist adventures continue, she enjoys some same-sex pleasures. The costumes are fabulous, and the visuals are eye-popping. This is an astonishing film, not to be missed.
“All of Us Strangers” (Dec. 22 in theaters)
Out gay filmmaker Andrew Haigh’s (“Weekend,” “Looking”) latest contemplative drama has Adam (out gay actor Andrew Scott) beginning a relationship with Harry (Paul Mescal), while also magically visiting his late parents (Jamie Bell and Claire Foy) who are living in his suburban childhood home. (They are the age they were when they died.) Adam talks with both his lover and his parents about his life, and being gay, and how the world has improved for the queer community. Scott gives a terrific, melancholic performance but this film will polarize audiences.
“The Color Purple” (Dec. 25 in theaters)
A musical adaptation of Alice Walker’s bestselling novel, directed by Blitz Bazawule, comes to the big screen with Fantasia Barrino in her big-screen debut as Celie. Coleman Domingo plays Celie’s abuser, Mister, and Taraji P. Henson is Shug Avery, who has a relationship with Celie. H.E.R., Halle Bailey, Corey Hawkins and Aunjanue Ellis round out the all-star cast.