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LGBT Britain

This colourful and challenging collection explores screen representations of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender lives over the past century.

British cinema boasts a long history of carefully coded queerness, but for much of the 20th century explicit depictions of gay life in drama or documentary were more or less taboo. Gay men were subject to vicious state-sanctioned persecution, while lesbians were socially ostracised and the transgender community ignored and misunderstood.

Cinematic and small-screen breakthroughs in the 1950s and 60s played their part in the public debate. Finally acting on the recommendations of the Wolfenden Committee a decade earlier, the 1967 Sexual Offences Act partially decriminalised male homosexuality in England and Wales, between two men over 21, in private. As those caveats suggest, the legislation remained problematic. But it was a step forward, paving the way for further battles - some yet to be won.

From early glimpses of 'queer' characters, this collection charts the path towards '67 and beyond, through responses to the AIDS crisis to diverse reflections on queer life today.

triangle triangle
LGBT Britain

RECOMMENDED

View Victim
Victim
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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's a Girl Like You ...
What's a Girl Like You ...
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What's a Girl Like You ... 1969

Scintillating look at the 1960s drag renaissance, with a visit to London's Royal Vauxhall Tavern.

52 mins Director. Charlie Squires

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 Gay Black Group
Gay Black Group
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Gay Black Group 1983

The Gay Black Group - reasserting culture and identity on two levels.

24 mins United Kingdom

View Homosexuals
Homosexuals
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Homosexuals 1964

Current affairs series This Week offers a non-judgmental report on homosexuality

25 mins United Kingdom Director. James Butler

View Lesbians
Lesbians
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Lesbians 1965

What is lesbianism? What causes it? ITV's This Week attempts to demystify lesbian sexuality.

25 mins United Kingdom Director. John Phillips

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View David is Homosexual
David is Homosexual
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David is Homosexual 1976

A lonely gay man discovers friends, love and activism in this educational film made by the Campaign for Homosexual Equality

38 mins United Kingdom Director. Wilf Avery

View Facing the Sun
Facing the Sun
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Facing the Sun 1980

Sao Paulo-set love triangle drama, featuring a rare TV depiction of bisexuality.

54 mins United Kingdom Director. Claude Whatham

View Illegal Tender
Illegal Tender
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Illegal Tender 1987

Queer psychedelic portrait of a young man’s desires in an industrial wasteland

14 mins United Kingdom Director. Paul Bettell

View Alfalfa
Alfalfa
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Alfalfa 1987

The queer alphabet - from AC/DC to Zipper.

8 mins United Kingdom Director. Richard Kwietniowski

View Surviving Sabu
Surviving Sabu
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Surviving Sabu 1997

A budding gay filmmaker clashes with his conservative Muslim father as they work on a film about iconic Indian star Sabu

15 mins United Kingdom Director. Ian Iqbal Rashid

View What Am I?
What Am I?
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What Am I? 1980

Living through a twilight world of fear and loneliness, beset by public ignorance, the often painful world of the transsexual.

26 mins United Kingdom

View Miss Norah Blaney
Miss Norah Blaney
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Miss Norah Blaney 1932

A risqué music hall ditty uncovers the pioneering gender-bending ways of those bright young things

9 mins United Kingdom

View The Important Thing Is Love
The Important Thing Is Love
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The Important Thing Is Love 1971

"I'm no man-hater": lesbian women discuss their lives, relationships and struggles against discrimination in this TV doc

50 mins United Kingdom Director. Robert Kitts

View Hints and Hobbies No.11
Hints and Hobbies No.11
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Hints and Hobbies No.11 1926

Jiu-jitsu for ladies, how to get ink off a white apron and other life essentials courtesy of the 'Hints and Hobbies' team.

14 mins United Kingdom

View How Percy Won the Beauty Competition
How Percy Won the Beauty Competition
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How Percy Won the Beauty Competition 1909

Percy drags up to scoop the top prize in this Edwardian short - but will he be found out?

6 mins United Kingdom

View A Couple of Beauties
A Couple of Beauties
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A Couple of Beauties 1972

Innuendo-laden crime caper, a star vehicle for Manchester-based drag queen Bunny Lewis

29 mins United Kingdom Director. Francis Searle

View Male Sexuality (Gay Life)
Male Sexuality (Gay Life)
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Male Sexuality (Gay Life) 1981

Gay men discuss sexuality, masculinity and relationships in a documentary filmed just before the outbreak of AIDS.

38 mins United Kingdom Director. Judy Jackson

View Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde
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Oscar Wilde 1960

Gripping TV recreation of Wilde's 1895 trial for gross indecency, starring Micheál MacLiammóir.

52 mins United Kingdom Director. Silvio Narizzano

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Sir Roger Casement
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Sir Roger Casement 1960

Peter Wyngarde plays the gay British diplomat turned Irish nationalist, executed for treason in 1916

52 mins Director. Cliff Owen

View Quentin Crisp
Quentin Crisp
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Quentin Crisp 1970

Join the original Naked Civil Servant in his London bedsit for a lesson on life, love and gender politics

30 mins United Kingdom Director. Denis Mitchell

View The Homecoming A Short Film about Ajamu
The Homecoming  A Short Film about Ajamu
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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

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 At Home with Larry Grayson
At Home with Larry Grayson
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At Home with Larry Grayson 1983

Affectionate tribute to the camp comedian Larry Grayson, with showbiz friends and highlights from his TV career

25 mins United Kingdom Director. Peter Swain, Daniel Wiles

View Eros Erosion
Eros Erosion
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Eros Erosion 1989

A meditation on transcience, trauma and taboo in the cruel wake of the AIDS epidemic

40 mins United Kingdom Director. Anna Thew

View Scarborough Ahoy!
Scarborough Ahoy!
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Scarborough Ahoy! 1994

A straight woman and a gay man cruise their way across North East England in this Tennessee Williams-inspired short.

33 mins United Kingdom Director. Tania Diez

View We Who Have Friends
We Who Have Friends
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We Who Have Friends 1969

A fascinating and important film on attitudes towards homosexuality, and what it was like to be gay, shortly after it was partially legalised.

49 mins United Kingdom Director. Richard Woolley, Richard Reisz

View Roll on Four O'Clock
Roll on Four O'Clock
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Roll on Four O'Clock 1970

Compelling play by the writer of Chariots of Fire, exposing homophobic bullying in a northern secondary modern.

57 mins United Kingdom Director. Roy Battersby

View London 1971
London 1971
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London 1971 1971

A gently meandering home movie tour of London, with rare shots of an early Gay Pride march.

15 mins United Kingdom Director. Phil Munnoch

View Aids: The Last Chance Part 2
Aids: The Last Chance  Part 2
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Aids: The Last Chance Part 2 1986

Government complacency is challenged in the second of a two-part This Week special on the spread of AIDS

27 mins United Kingdom

View Battling Bruisers Some Boxing Buffoonery
Battling Bruisers  Some Boxing Buffoonery
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Battling Bruisers Some Boxing Buffoonery 1925

Effeminate fisticuffs from the French in this boxing-themed send-up of foreign stereotypes.

19 mins United Kingdom Director. Adrian Brunel

View Tea Leaf
Tea Leaf
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Tea Leaf 1988

An intimate account of frustration and disarray in 1980s Britain from the point of view of a young woman.

20 mins United Kingdom Director. Ruth Novaczek

View Oxford Housing
Oxford Housing
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Oxford Housing 1982

Against the odds, same sex couples in Oxford get the right to register for council housing, but for how long?

5 mins United Kingdom

View Aids: The Victims
Aids: The Victims
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Aids: The Victims 1985

Two AIDS sufferers recount their experiences battling the disease and society's misconceptions.

26 mins

View 21st Century Nuns
21st Century Nuns
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21st Century Nuns 1994

Street protest tranvestite nuns perpetually indulge in this 1993 doc featuring Derek Jarman.

15 mins United Kingdom Director. Tom Stephan

View A Nosegay
A Nosegay
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A Nosegay 1986

A homoerotic homage to Genet and Lautréamont with an angel and a hermaphrodite.

15 mins United Kingdom Director. Maggie Jailler

View True Romance, Etc.
True Romance, Etc.
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True Romance, Etc. 1982

Hackney teenagers - black, white, gay and straight - talk sex, love and marriage in this compelling drama-documentary.

34 mins United Kingdom

View Eerie
Eerie
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Eerie 1992

A vertiginous lesbian kiss in a mountain cablecar inspired by German expressionism.

1 mins United Kingdom Director. Sandra Lahire

View Paralysis
Paralysis
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Paralysis 2016

Struggling with the pressures of homophobia when her partner is taken away by a hateful mother, a young gay woman struggles to cope with the traumas and anxieties of her life.

8 mins United Kingdom Director. Luke Prentice

View Heaven (Gay Life)
Heaven (Gay Life)
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Heaven (Gay Life) 1980

The LGBT current affairs series visits the new Heaven nightclub, contrasting it with other parts of London’s gay scene.

27 mins Director. Nigel Wattis

RENTAL TITLES

View Derek Jarman: Life As Art
Derek Jarman: Life As Art
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Derek Jarman: Life As Art 2004

Documentary on the life and work of experimental filmmaker, who died in 1994. Contributors including Tilda Swinton recall Jarman's peculiar genius.

70 mins United Kingdom Director. Andy Kimpton-nye

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 Jubilee
Jubilee
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Jubilee 1977 18

The mythological past and a soon-to-be bleak future converge on the sparse, grey streets of London in Jarman’s personal vision of the punk movement.

106 mins United Kingdom Director. Derek Jarman

View The Tempest
The Tempest
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HD

The Tempest 1979 15

Derek Jarman’s brooding and darkly symbolic third feature is considered by some to be the most evocative Shakespeare adaptation ever to reach the screen.

95 mins United Kingdom

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 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 Toyah Willcox on The Tempest
Toyah Willcox on The Tempest
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Toyah Willcox on The Tempest 2014

Toyah Willcox discusses working with Derek Jarman on The Tempest, in which she plays Miranda, and considers the director’s legacy.

9 mins United Kingdom

View Wittgenstein
Wittgenstein
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Wittgenstein 1993 18

Written for Channel 4 by radical literary theorist Terry Eagleton and directed by Derek Jarman, Wittgenstein is a bold, offbeat biography, exploring the politics and sexuality of the great, troubled philosopher.

72 mins United Kingdom Director. Derek Jarman

View Remembering Derek Jarman
Remembering Derek Jarman
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Remembering Derek Jarman 2014

Derek Jarman season curator Will Fowler interviews longtime Jarman associates James Mackay and Richard Heslop.

11 mins United Kingdom

View Tariq Ali Introduces Wittgenstein
Tariq Ali Introduces Wittgenstein
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Tariq Ali Introduces Wittgenstein 2014

Producer Tariq Ali talks about the making of Wittgenstein, Derek Jarman’s portrait of the renowned philosopher.

6 mins United Kingdom

View Derek Jarman in Conversation with Simon Field
Derek Jarman in Conversation with Simon Field
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Derek Jarman in Conversation with Simon Field 1989

A far reaching interview with multifaceted artist Derek Jarman, conducted in 1987 by producer and critic Simon Field as part of the ICA Guardian Conversations series.

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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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 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 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 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 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 Wild Flowers
Wild Flowers
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Wild Flowers 1989

Robert Smith's Wild Flowers is an exquisite drama set at the funeral for a daughter, where her mother remembers the passionate yet painful affair she once had with another woman in Scotland.

66 mins United Kingdom Director. Robert Smith

View Pride
Pride
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Pride 2014 15

The smash culture-clash comedy tells the incredible true story of how miners and a Gay Pride support group come together to fight a common cause.

119 mins United Kingdom Director. Matthew Warchus

View Pride stars and producer in conversation (Q&A)
Pride stars and producer in conversation (Q&A)
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Pride stars and producer in conversation (Q&A) 2014

Producer David Livingstone and actors Ben Schnetzer, Faye Marsay and Andrew Scott discuss the making of their gay activist comedy.

8 mins United Kingdom

View Weekend
Weekend
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HD

Weekend 2011 18

Andrew Haigh's internationally acclaimed tale of a brief encounter between two gay men.

96 mins United Kingdom Director. Andrew Haigh

View Baby
Baby
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Baby 2000 15

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

11 mins United Kingdom Director. Wiz

View Lilting
Lilting
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HD

Lilting 2013 15

Ben Whishaw stars in an intimate portrait of two strangers brought together by the common language of grief.

United Kingdom Director. Hong Khaou

View Greek Pete
Greek Pete
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Greek Pete 2009 18

Acclaimed filmmaker Andrew Haigh (45 Years) made his feature debut with this bold, sexually explicit drama-documentary about London rent boys.

70 mins United Kingdom Director. Andrew Haigh

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 Yellow Fever
Yellow Fever
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Yellow Fever 1998

A gay British-Chinese man refuses to date Chinese men. But then Jai Ming moves in next door.

25 mins United Kingdom Director. Raymond Yeung

View One in Five
One in Five
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One in Five 1982

Endearingly right-on concoction bringing together lesbians and gay men for dancing and debate at Heaven nightclub

60 mins United Kingdom Director. Ken Howard

View The Pass
The Pass
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HD

The Pass 2015 15

Russell Tovey stars as a Premier League footballer who shares a fumbled pass (of the sexual kind) with a teammate (Arinzé Kene), changing everything - both on and off the pitch.

88 mins United Kingdom Director. Ben A. Williams

View Chemsex
Chemsex
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Chemsex 2015 18

A hard-hitting and often graphic documentary about the 'chemsex' sub-scene in London’s gay community.

83 mins USA Director. Max Gogarty, William Fairman

View The Comedian
The Comedian
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HD

The Comedian 2012 15

Touching drama about a thirtysomething comedian looking for happiness.

78 mins United Kingdom

View Madagascar Skin
Madagascar Skin
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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 Dressed as a Girl
Dressed as a Girl
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Dressed as a Girl 2015 18

An in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at London’s finest drag performers. Warning: extreme use of make-up and glitter.

100 mins United Kingdom Director. Colin Rothbart

View A Boy Called Mary
A Boy Called Mary
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A Boy Called Mary 1986

The fabulous life and times of queer writer Kris Kirk, who became one of the UK’s most influential music journalists.

52 mins United Kingdom Director. Paul Oremland

View More than a Journey
More than a Journey
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More than a Journey 1986

From Sudan to the Greek islands via the East Midlands - a young gay woman seeks love, happiness and fulfilment

52 mins United Kingdom Director. Caroline Mylon

View Tall Dark Stranger
Tall Dark Stranger
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Tall Dark Stranger 1986

Are you ready to strut your stuff? Take a bracing, sexy cruise around the diverse 1980s gay scene.

48 mins United Kingdom Director. Paul Oremland

View Andy the Furniture Maker
Andy the Furniture Maker
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Andy the Furniture Maker 1986

How did a cute, gay Essex boy go from oyster fishing to becoming the toast of the London arts scene?

52 mins United Kingdom Director. Paul Oremland

View Tides of Laughter
Tides of Laughter
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Tides of Laughter 1986

A female ‘end-of-the-pier’ double act find out a surprising secret about their landlady - and about each other.

48 mins United Kingdom Director. Paul Oremland

View Remembrance of Things Fast
Remembrance of Things Fast
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Remembrance of Things Fast 1993 18

John Maybury’s dark, queer state of the nation film starring Tilda Swinton and Rupert Everett

60 mins United Kingdom Director. John Maybury

View Beautiful Thing
Beautiful Thing
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HD

Beautiful Thing 1996 15

Hettie MacDonald’s 1996 comedy tells the story of two classmates and neighbours (Glen Berry, Scott Neal) who fall in love in over one summer in South East London.

90 mins United Kingdom Director. Hettie Macdonald

View Closets
Closets
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Closets 2015 18

Tommy Knight (The Sarah Jane Adventures, Waterloo Road, Young Victoria) stars as a teenager struggling with his sexuality in 1986, who time-travels to the present day.

18 mins United Kingdom Director. Lloyd Eyre-Morgan

View Departure
Departure
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Departure 2015 15

Andrew Steggall’s deft and delicate drama about a teenage dreamer who falls for the rough beauty of local boy while staying in France.

109 mins United Kingdom Director. Andrew Steggall

View The Crying Game
The Crying Game
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The Crying Game 1992 18

Neil Jordan's acclaimed 1992 drama-mystery tells the story of Fergus (Stephen Rea), who looks after the lover (Jaye Davidson) of a British soldier he once knew. But what is Dil hiding?

111 mins United Kingdom Director. Neil Jordan

View Entertaining Mr Sloane
Entertaining Mr Sloane
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Entertaining Mr Sloane 1970 15

Joe Orton’s delicious slice of suburban perversity, in which Beryl Reid’s lascivious landlady and her gay brother attempt to seduce their psychopathic tenant.

90 mins United Kingdom Director. Douglas Hickox

View Loot
Loot
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Loot 1970 15

Silvio Narizzano adapts Joe Orton’s extraordinarily funny satire on police corruption and the conventions of detective fiction.

101 mins United Kingdom Director. Silvio Narizzano

PART OF BFI PLAYER+ SUBSCRIPTION

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 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 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 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 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 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. Campbell X

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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 Sixth Happiness
Sixth Happiness

Sixth Happiness 1997 12

Funny, acerbic and moving story of a young man's sexual awakening as family life crumbles around him.

90 mins United Kingdom Director. Waris Hussein

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