ByEmily Browne, writer at
Twitter: @emrbrowne
Emily Browne

Moonlight is a movie that needs no introduction. Born from the shared dream of director Barry Jenkins and writer Tarell Alvin McCraney, Moonlight is a delicate portrayal of masculinity and black queerness set to the backdrop of Liberty City, Miami. Above all, Moonlight is a movie that arrived in a moment when we so desperately needed it. It's a movie that deserves every award it has received, and while it's the first of its kind to win the coveted Best Picture Oscar, it's certainly not the first movie to explore what it means to be black and queer. Below are 7 other powerful movies you should watch after Moonlight — all explore queer black experiences, and all are certainly worth your time.

1. Tangerine (2015)

Famously filmed using an iPhone, is an indie comedy/drama exploring a day in the life of transgender prostitute Sin-Dee Rella (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) and her best friend Alexandra (Mya Taylor). The film follows them as they case down Sin-Dee's pimp/boyfriend who cheated on her with a cis-woman — while Sin-Dee was in prison. While there is comedy in the premise, Tangerine tackles real issues of violent transphobia, drug abuse, and sex work on the streets of Hollywood.

2. The Peculiar Kind: The Doc (2012)

Based on a web series of the same name, The Peculiar Kind is an unscripted documentary exploring the stories and experiences of women of color in New York City. The intimate nature of the documentary aims to educate and explore female sexuality in an open and honest way.

3. Blackbird (2014)

Blackbird is the story of Randy Rousseau (Julian Walker), a teenage boy coming to terms with his sexuality in a small Baptist town in Mississippi. Blackbird's themes of being black and gay in a deeply religious environment bubble to the surface when he is rejected by his mother (played by Mo'Nique), church, and community — while discovering his own identity as a gay christian man.

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4. Paris Is Burning (1990)

This 1990 documentary depicting New York's ball culture is an icon of queer cinema. Documenting the lives of gay and transgender Black and Latino men and women in the mid-1980s, Paris Is Burning is a significant exploration of race, class, gender, and sexuality. It provides a context for much of today's queer culture, and is an important milestone in the history of queer cinema.

5. Naz and Maalik (2015)

Released in 2015, Naz and Maalik follows two closeted back muslim men in Brooklyn, who struggle to hide their relationship from their families, mosque, and the FBI who profile them. This is a particularly poignant story which explores the overlap between race, religion and sexuality — an experience which feels especially important in a post-Trump world.

6. The Skinny (2012)

The Skinny is a romantic comedy starring Jussie Smollett as Magnus: a successful young medical student who reunites with his four friends from Brown University for a long weekend over New York Pride. It was written and directed by Patrik-Ian Polk, who also directed Blackbird, and is a mostly light-hearted look at queer life while also touching on topics of HIV, race, and class divides.

7. Pariah (2011)

Released five years before , Pariah deals with similar themes of growing up queer in a strictly binary environment. The film stars Adepero Oduye as Alike, a butch lesbian who has to conceal her real identity from her religious parents. Through Brooklyn's club scene and with the support of her openly gay best friend Laura (Pernell Walker), Alike embraces her sexuality, but struggles to reconcile this with her family. The movie also won its fair share of gongs, premiering at the Sundance Film Festival and winning the Excellence in Cinematography Award.

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Many of these movies paved the way for Moonlight, and it's because of the work put into diverse cinema by producers, writers, and directors like Patrik-Ian Polk, Lee Daniels, Angela Robinson, Stephen Winter and so on, that has allowed a small budget indie movie like Moonlight to enter the mainstream, and reminds us that blackness and queerness come in many different shades.


Have you seen any of these movies? Which one would you recommend?


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