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Gay Cinema - Out of the Archive

Here are the pioneers, the iconoclasts, the brave - from landmark portraits of LGBT life preserved by the BFI National Archive to gay classics that blazed their own trail around the world.

Representation of LGBT characters in film and TV is a contentious subject, interwoven with the fight for equality which gathered pace through the latter half of the 20th century. If lesbians and gay men had cause for concern about how their lives were depicted on screen, bisexual and transgender representation was almost non existent. There have been glimmers of hope: the landmark features of the 60s, the ‘New Queer Cinema’ of the early 90s; the pioneering TV plays of the 70s, and the tabloid-bating serials which saw in the new Millennium.

This collection offers a chance to look back, to revisit and discover - not just the icons of gay cinema but the lesser-known treasures. Many of these shorts and features were made with the backing of the BFI Production Board, which championed gay filmmakers throughout the 80s and 90s.

"Understand that sexuality is as wide as the sea. Understand that your morality is not law. Understand that we are you."

Derek Jarman

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Gay Cinema - Out of the Archive

RECOMMENDED

View Baby
Baby
Watch from £0.85 11 mins

Baby 2000 15

A teenager (Ben Whishaw) pays a sexually charged visit to the swimming pool.

11 mins United Kingdom Director. Wiz

View 3 Steps to Heaven
3 Steps to Heaven
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3 Steps to Heaven 1995

Edgy mixture of black comedy and urban drama about a woman uncovering the hidden truths about her dead lover.

87 mins United Kingdom Director. Constantine Giannaris

View Dream A40
Dream A40

Dream A40 1965 12

A young gay couple’s relationship is put to the test as a road trip takes a sinister turn in Lloyd Reckord's daring underground short.

16 mins United Kingdom Director. Lloyd Reckord

View Nighthawks
Nighthawks
HD

Nighthawks 1978 15

A schoolteacher juggles everyday life with nights spent cruising for Mr Right in this fascinating landmark in British gay cinema.

United Kingdom Director. Ron Peck

View Relax
Relax

Relax 1991 15

A gay man awaits the results of an HIV test, drifting into moments of fantasy as he copes with his fears and memories.

22 mins United Kingdom Director. Christopher Newby

View Rosebud
Rosebud

Rosebud 1991 15

A lesbian couple arouse the interest of their new neighbour in this erotic tale of voyeurism, power dressing and fantasy.

13 mins United Kingdom Director. Cheryl Farthing

View Scrubbers
Scrubbers
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HD

Scrubbers 1982 15

The borstal drama – billed as the female Scum – features Amanda York and Kathy Burke as inmates of a ruthless women’s prison.

93 mins United Kingdom Director. Mai Zetterling

View Caravaggio
Caravaggio
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HD

Caravaggio 1986 18

Derek Jarman’s unique biopic of the 17th century Italian artist Michelangelo da Caravaggio is a powerful meditation on sexuality, criminality and art.

92 mins United Kingdom Director. Derek Jarman

View Caught Looking
Caught Looking

Caught Looking 1991 18

Years before Grindr, a gay man turns to virtual reality to satisfy his sexual fantasies in this strangely prophetic short film.

35 mins United Kingdom Director. Constantine Giannaris

View The Chocolate Acrobat
The Chocolate Acrobat
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The Chocolate Acrobat 1995

An elderly woman in a care home strikes up a sensual, nostalgic relationship with a young nurse.

37 mins United Kingdom Director. Tessa Sheridan

View Young Soul Rebels
Young Soul Rebels

Young Soul Rebels 1991 18

The Queen's Silver Jubilee beats to the sounds of Funkadelic, Sylvester and the O'Jays in Isaac Julien’s feature debut.

105 mins United Kingdom Director. Isaac Julien

View A Bit of Scarlet
A Bit of Scarlet
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A Bit of Scarlet 1996

Mapping how British film and TV depicts the gay and lesbian lifestyle, Andrea Weiss raids the archives for her funny and persuasive documentary.

74 mins United Kingdom Director. Andrea Weiss

View Pink Narcissus
Pink Narcissus

Pink Narcissus 1971 18

With its highly charged hallucinogenic quality, its atmosphere of lush decadence, and its explicit erotic power, Pink Narcissus is a landmark of gay cinema.

64 mins USA Director. James Bidgood

View Alfalfa
Alfalfa
Watch for free 8 mins

Alfalfa 1987

The queer alphabet - from AC/DC to Zipper.

8 mins United Kingdom Director. Richard Kwietniowski

View The Angelic Conversation
The Angelic Conversation
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The Angelic Conversation 1985 PG

The Angelic Conversation sees Derek Jarman conjure an evocative and radical visualisation of Shakespeare’s love poems. With narration by Judi Dench and music by Coil.

81 mins United Kingdom Director. Derek Jarman

View Before Stonewall
Before Stonewall

Before Stonewall 1984 15

Documenting the testimonies from those who dared to challenge the world and helped create the modern gay community.

83 mins USA Director. Greta Schiller

View Duffer
Duffer
HD

Duffer 1971 15

A bizarre study of obsession focusing on a teenage boy who is torn between the charms of a fleshly female prostitute and the sadism of an older man.

75 mins United Kingdom Director. Joseph Despins, William Dumaresq

View A Friend of Dorothy
A Friend of Dorothy

A Friend of Dorothy 1995 18

A gay man studying in New York develops a crush on his male roommate in this cute and breezy short.

32 mins USA

View The Fruit Machine
The Fruit Machine

The Fruit Machine 1988 15

Berated by his father for his camp behaviour, Eddie runs away from his Liverpool home and joins his friend Michael, a streetwise hustler who is also on the run.

102 mins United Kingdom

View The Lay of the Land
The Lay of the Land

The Lay of the Land 1998 15

A man with a history of gay-bashing enters a smoky bar and strikes up a conversation with a drag queen in this dark short.

13 mins United Kingdom Director. Fraser Macdonald

View Andy Serkis on Love is the Devil
Andy Serkis on Love is the Devil
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Andy Serkis on Love is the Devil 2013

Actor Andy Serkis introduces a screening of the film that inspired his passion for cinema, John Maybury's Love is the Devil.

United Kingdom

View Love is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon
Love is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon
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HD

Love is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon 1998 18

Derek Jacobi and Daniel Craig star as artist Francis Bacon and his muse George Dyer in John Maybury’s darkly exquisite biopic.

86 mins United Kingdom Director. John Maybury

View Madagascar Skin
Madagascar Skin
Watch from £2.13 91 mins

Madagascar Skin 1995 15

John Hannah stars as a painfully shy gay man who escapes the city in Chris Newby’s extraordinary second feature.

91 mins United Kingdom

View Nighthawks II: Strip Jack Naked
Nighthawks II: Strip Jack Naked

Nighthawks II: Strip Jack Naked 1991 18

Ron Peck’s experimental follow up to the groundbreaking Nighthawks is both a making-of documentary and a deeply personal film memoir.

91 mins United Kingdom Director. Ron Peck

View North of Vortex
North of Vortex

North of Vortex 1992 18

A gay poet, a bisexual sailor and a straight waitress embark on a trip through an American desert landscape in this languid, woozy road movie.

55 mins United Kingdom Director. Constantine Giannaris

View Ostia
Ostia

Ostia 1987 18

Ostia is a fascinating short film directed by Julian Cole and starring Derek Jarman, which reconstructs the events leading up to the murder of Pier Paolo Pasolini.

United Kingdom Director. Julian Cole

View Portrait of David Hockney
Portrait of David Hockney
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Portrait of David Hockney 1972

Filmed at the time Hockney was painting Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy, this compelling study concentrates on the textures and light which surround the artist in his home and studio.

United Kingdom Director. David Pearce

View Orlando
Orlando
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HD

Orlando 1992 PG

Tilda Swinton stars in Sally Potter's dazzling interpretation of Virginia Woolf's novel.

93 mins United Kingdom Director. Sally Potter

View Prick Up Your Ears
Prick Up Your Ears
HD

Prick Up Your Ears 1987 15

A celebration of outrageous British playwright Joe Orton’s irreverent and charismatic talent, starring Gary Oldman and Alfred Molina.

109 mins United Kingdom Director. Stephen Frears

View Children
Children

Children 1976 15

The first part of Terence Davies' formidable Trilogy explores the effects of violence on a Liverpool schoolboy, told in a series of flashbacks.

46 mins United Kingdom Director. Terence Davies

View Madonna and Child
Madonna and Child

Madonna and Child 1980

Autobiography as art: the centrepiece of Terence Davies' devastating Liverpool-set Trilogy focuses on his fictional alter-ego in middle age.

30 mins United Kingdom Director. Terence Davies

View Death and Transfiguration
Death and Transfiguration

Death and Transfiguration 1983 15

The Terence Davies Trilogy reaches its astonishing climax as tortured Liverpool clerk Robert Tucker prepares to meet his maker.

26 mins United Kingdom Director. Terence Davies

View Sebastiane
Sebastiane
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Sebastiane 1976 18

A distinctly bold and sensual reclaiming of gay history, Jarman here tells the sexually intense story of the 4th-century martyr.

85 mins United Kingdom Director. Derek Jarman

View Vapors
Vapors

Vapors 1965 15

Set in a New York bathhouse, this gritty but sensitive portrayal of pre-Stonewall gay life, chronicles an awkward encounter between two equally inexperienced strangers.

USA Director. Andy Milligan

View Victim
Victim
HD

Victim 1961 PG

This thought-provoking classic stars Dirk Bogarde as a homosexual lawyer who risks his career to hunt down a blackmailer.

100 mins United Kingdom Director. Basil Dearden

View What Can I Do with a Male Nude?
What Can I Do with a Male Nude?

What Can I Do with a Male Nude? 1985 15

Ron Peck tests the thin line between pornography and art with his amusing rumination on the difficulties of showing the naked male form.

United Kingdom Director. Ron Peck

View B.D. Women
B.D. Women

B.D. Women 1994

Sassy, stylised documentary exploring the hidden histories of black lesbians.

20 mins United Kingdom Director. Inge Blackman

View The Homecoming A Short Film about Ajamu
The Homecoming  A Short Film about Ajamu
Watch for free 17 mins

The Homecoming A Short Film about Ajamu 1995

Black gay photographer Ajamu prepares to leave Brixton for an exhibition of his work in his hometown, Huddersfield.

17 mins United Kingdom Director. Topher Campbell

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