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In the first 50 years of world cinema only a small number of films took homosexuality as a primary theme. The landmark is Richard Oswald’s Different from the Others, made in Germany in 1919, and a huge box office success during a very liberated period of sexual liberation made possible by the pioneering work of the sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld. With the rise of Nazi Germany, the film was banned and only fragments of the film survive.

It was during the 1920s/early 30s that world cinema films in general could be open about gay sexuality, and it is worth checking out the opening of Wonder Bar (1934, dir. Lloyd Bacon) with two men dancing together (choreographer. Busby Berkeley). The Motion Picture Production Code known as the Hays Code was introduced in 1934 and gay sexuality became invisible on screen unless suggested by coded reference. Experimental films including Kenneth Anger's Fireworks (1947), Jean Genet's Un Chant D'armour (1950) and the Athletic Model Guild physique films of Richard Loncraine (early 1950s) became the only real sources of gay imagery. The code as applied in the UK ended in 1961 and Basil Dearden’s Victim, with Dirk Bogarde, became the first film to dare speak of the love-with-no-name in a ground-breaking study of a married man blackmailed over his sexual relationship with a younger man.

With flood gates partially opened, the work of Andy Warhol, eg: Blow Job (1964) and films including Sebastiane (1976, dir. Derek Jarman), Cruising (1980, dir. William Friedkin), Maurice (1987, dir. James Ivory), Beautiful Thing (1996, dir. Hettie Macdonald), Brokeback Mountain (2005, dir. Ang Lee) and Stranger by the Lake (2013, dir. by Alain Guiraudie) broadened the way gay film became accepted into mainstream UK Cinema release. Gay films often première at the annual BFI London Film Festival, or in the LGBT Flare Festival at the BFI on the South Bank in London.

The rise of explicit hardcore gay film also started in the early 70s with erotica by Wakefield Poole, Jean-Daniel Cadinot, Curt McDowell, Peter de Rome and Bruce la Bruce. Fred Halsted’s L.A. Plays Itself (1972) is credited as the first gay film to show fist fucking while A Night at Halsteds (1982) records the first jerk-off cum shot to be screened in a public cinema.

These films from the masters of erotica were released on VHS, paving the way for new generations of LGBT+ film makers and the digital revolution, which by 2000 included gay pornography on DVD and online streaming from the likes of Peccadillo Pictures, TLA Releasing, Amazon Netflix; and YouTube where you can watch many short films from gifted independent film makers and directors.

5 movies from 2020 that got queer characters right | Queerty* | 1 Aug 2021
The 30 Best LGBTQ+ Films of All Time | British Film Institute | 19 Jul 2018
History of homosexuality on film | US perspective | Just Write | 2 Jul 2015 | 10m 12s
  The 50 best gay movies: the best in LGBT+ filmmaking | Time Out | 11 Jun 2018
Stop telling us about LGBT characters in blockbusters – show us instead | The Guardian | 18 May 2018
  GLAAD calls for LGBT characters in 20 percent of movies by 2021 | Reuters | 22 May 2018

History of homosexuality on film | US perspective | Just Write | 2 Jul 2015 | 10m 12s

Peccadillo Pictures
TLA Releasing
Flare: London LGBT Film Festival (British Film Institute)
British Film Institute

Lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender-related films | Wikipedia
Lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender-related films by year | Wikipedia
LGBT characters in animation and graphic art | Wikipedia

Queer Images: A History of Gay and Lesbian Film in America 2005, H M Benshoff | Rowman and Littlefield
From Thomas Edison's first cinematic experiments to contemporary Hollywood blockbusters, Queer Images chronicles the representation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer sexualities over one hundred years of American film. The most up-to-date and comprehensive book of its kind, it explores not only the ever-changing images of queer characters onscreen, but also the work of queer filmmakers and the cultural histories of queer audiences.
The Queer Encyclopedia of Film and Television 2005, C J Summers | Cleis Press
From Hollywood films to TV soap operas, from Vegas extravaganzas to Broadway theater to haute couture, this comprehensive encyclopedia contains over 200 entries and 200 photos that document the irrepressible impact of queer creative artists on popular culture.
Ultimate Guide to Lesbian & Gay Film and Video 1996, J Olson | Sepent's Tail
More than 2,000 entries, complemented with extensive film stills, short essays and reflections on the most important gay and lesbian films ever made highlight this encyclopedic reference. Includes a distributor and subject index, a directory of international gay and lesbian film festivals, and much more.
Images in the Dark: An Encyclopedia of Gay and Lesbian Film and Video 1994, R Murray | TLA Publications
This unique guide is a revealing, comprehensive and entertaining reference source that uncovers vast and previously unknown contributions by lesbians and gay men to the entertainment industry. With more than 3,000 reviews and 200 biographies, this encyclopedia is fully indexed and cross-referenced.
Screening the Sexes: Homosexuality in the Movies 1972, P Tyler, A Sarris | Holt Rinehart and Winston
Parker Tyler (1904-1974) was a noted American film critic, and this text is regarded as his most significant work. Devoted to homosexuality in films, it aims to look beyond the obvious and to observe the psychology of sex roles, at the same time recognising film as the realm of contemporary mythology. Tyler was once described as one of the most consistently interesting and provocative writers on film that America has produced, "well-informed and free of cant".

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