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.

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The PassThe Pass

Drama201586 minsDirector: Ben A. Williams

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.

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50 Years Legal50 Years Legal

Documentary201777 minsDirector: Simon Napier-Bell

Five decades on from the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality, a range of LGBTQ+ stars (including Sir Elton John and Stephen Fry) reflect on Britain's history of prejudice, persecution and liberation.

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The Book of GabrielleThe Book of Gabrielle

Drama201679 minsDirector: Lisa Gornick

Lisa Gornick's funny and frank drama sketches the relationship between a sex-obsessed lesbian illustrator and a randy hetero author, who bond over their favourite subject.

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Wild FlowersWild Flowers

Romance198968 minsDirector: Robert Smith

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.

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Entertaining Mr SloaneEntertaining Mr Sloane

Comedy197094 minsDirector: Douglas Hickox

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.

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Entertaining Mr SloaneEntertaining Mr Sloane

196881 minsDirector: Peter Moffatt

Surprisingly risqué TV adaptation of one of Joe Orton’s best known plays, filmed shortly after his murder.

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Historical drama197685 minsDirector: Paul Humfress

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

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Drama1977106 minsDirector: Derek Jarman

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.

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The TempestThe Tempest

Drama197996 minsDirector: Derek Jarman

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.

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The Angelic ConversationThe Angelic Conversation

Animation & Artists Moving Image198581 minsDirector: Derek Jarman

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.

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Biopic198693 minsDirector: Derek Jarman

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

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Derek Jarman: Life As ArtDerek Jarman: Life As Art

Documentary200460 minsDirector: Andy Kimpton-Nye

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

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A Bit of ScarletA Bit of Scarlet

Documentary199671 minsDirector: Andrea Weiss

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

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Drama200012 minsDirector: Wiz

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

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The Chocolate AcrobatThe Chocolate Acrobat

Fantasy199538 minsDirector: Tessa Sheridan

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

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Comedy2014120 minsDirector: Matthew Warchus

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.

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Fantasy199293 minsDirector: Sally Potter

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

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Love Is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis BaconLove Is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon

Biopic199887 minsDirector: John Maybury

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

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Drama201386 minsDirector: Hong Khaou

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

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Current affairs196526 minsDirector: John Phillips

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

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Drama201197 minsDirector: Andrew Haigh

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

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Comedy1970102 minsDirector: Silvio Narizzano

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

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3 Steps to Heaven3 Steps to Heaven

Drama199587 minsDirector: Constantine Giannaris

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

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Yellow FeverYellow Fever

Comedy199827 minsDirector: Raymond Yeung

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

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Greek PeteGreek Pete

Drama200970 minsDirector: Andrew Haigh

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

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Documentary201580 minsDirector: William Fairman

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

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One in FiveOne in Five

198252 minsSilentDirector: Ken Howard

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

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Madagascar SkinMadagascar Skin

Drama199591 minsDirector: Christopher Newby

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

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Dressed as a GirlDressed as a Girl

Documentary2015101 minsDirector: Colin Rothbart

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

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The ComedianThe Comedian

Drama201279 minsDirector: Tom Shkolnik

Touching drama about a thirtysomething comedian looking for happiness.

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Drama2015108 minsDirector: Andrew Steggall

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

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More than a JourneyMore than a Journey

198652 minsDirector: Caroline Mylon

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

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Tall Dark StrangerTall Dark Stranger

198648 minsDirector: Paul Oremland

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

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A Boy Called MaryA Boy Called Mary

198652 minsDirector: Paul Oremland

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

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Tides of LaughterTides of Laughter

198649 minsDirector: Paul Oremland

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

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Remembrance of Things FastRemembrance of Things Fast

Animation & Artists Moving Image199362 minsDirector: John Maybury

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

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Andy the Furniture MakerAndy the Furniture Maker

198653 minsDirector: Paul Oremland

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

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Current affairs19640 minsDirector: James Butler

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

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Science Fiction201518 minsDirector: Lloyd Eyre-Morgan

Tommy Knight (The Sarah Jane Adventures, Waterloo Road, Young Victoria) stars in this light-hearted drama as Henry, a teenager struggling with his sexuality in 1986.

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The Crying GameThe Crying Game

Drama1992112 minsDirector: Neil Jordan

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?

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Beautiful ThingBeautiful Thing

Comedy199691 minsDirector: Hettie Macdonald

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.

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The L-shaped RoomThe L-shaped Room

Drama1962126 minsDirector: Bryan Forbes

Bryan Forbes directs the Oscar-nominated story of a French woman (Leslie Caron) moving to London while unmarried, pregnant, and alone.

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Biopic199372 minsDirector: Derek Jarman

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.

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Boys and Girls TogetherBoys and Girls Together

Sex comedy197955 minsDirector: Ralph Lawrence Marsden

Extraordinary 1970s sexploitation film, groundbreaking in its portrayal of interracial and homosexual sex.

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Drama198293 minsDirector: Mai Zetterling

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

More LGBT Britain films in our Subscription collection.

More LGBT Britain films in our Free collection.

More related films in our Rentals collection, BFI Flare Presents

The home of BFI Flare: London LGBTQ+ Film Festival on BFI Player.