Towner Cinema – Queer ’90s Gems

Posted on 19/02/2021

When I sat down to start writing a list of my favourite queer films, I realised that almost all of them are from the ’90s, not surprising given it was the decade that gave us New Queer Cinema. A movement that didn’t so much see filmmakers working under a shared aesthetic but rather, was identified by the ways in which filmmakers “queer existing narratives, subvert expectations and foreground queerness” (Sam Moore, British Film Institute).

The decade saw releases from queer cinema heavy-hitters Pedro Almodovar (All About My Mother, 1999), Derek Jarman (Edward II, 1991) and Todd Haynes (Safe, 1995). But for me, it’s all about the cult classics, trashy teen movies, and schlocky genre films. 

Some of these films can be a little tricky to get hold of but I’ve added a link where films are available to buy digitally or stream online.

Nowhere (Gregg Araki, 1997)

The Doom Generation (Gregg Araki, 1995) / Nowhere (Gregg Araki, 1997)

Gregg Araki’s characters cruise around LA exploring their sexuality, as concerned with who’s making out with who as they are by alien abductions. There’s a manic energy to these films that I love, with colours, costumes and set designs turned up to 11 to reflect the characters’ inner teenage turmoil.


My Own Private Idaho (Gus Van Sant, 1991)

My Own Private Idaho (Gus Van Sant, 1991)

Young love is doomed in Gus Van Sant’s queer classic, based on Shakespeare’s Henry plays. River Phoenix actually rewrote one of the film’s key scenes, where his character professes his love to Keanu Reeves’, to make the film’s queerness more explicit.

But I’m A Cheerleader (Jamie Babbit, 1999)

But I’m A Cheerleader (Jamie Babbit, 1999) / The Watermelon Woman (Cheryl Dunye, 1996) / Go Fish (Rose Troche, 1994) / High Art (Lisa Cholodenko, 1998) / Nitrate Kisses (Barbara Hammer, 1992)

Lesbian romance had a real moment during the decade – encompassing everything from campy rom-com (But I’m A Cheerleader) to serious drama (High Art) to documentary (Nitrate Kisses), all directed by women.


Set It Off (F. Gary Gray, 1996)

Bound (the Wachowski sisters, 1996) / Set It Off (F. Gary Gray, 1996)

Even the gangster genre got the queer treatment. For me, both Bound and Set It Off are pretty perfect films – and really, what more could you ask for this LGBTQ+ History Month than a superbly paced lesbian heist movie?


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