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The 10 Best Asian LGBTQ Movies

To celebrate Pride Month, let's take a look at 10 Asian movies featuring gay, lesbian, bisexual, trangender, or queer characters.

By , 18 Jun 19 06:48 UTC
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Taiwan became the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage on May 24th, 2019, after a landmark ruling from Taiwan’s constitutional court stating that prohibiting same-sex couples from becoming legally married is unconstitutional. Though a 2018 referendum led to voters rejecting same-sex marriage, the government unveiled a “permanent union” bill to sidestep the referendum vote. Same-sex couples are allowed to adopt the biological children of their partner and are entitled to inheritance rights. However they still cannot adopt non-biological children or have transnational marriages.

Across Asia, Thailand is also close to passing a law that would allow same-sex unions. However, in many Asian countries homosexuality is still criminalized — Brunei recently passed a law that would see individuals convicted of gay sex stoned to death. Still, Taiwan’s legalization of same-sex marriage has brought forth a wave of relief and hope for many LGBTQ communities in Asia

To celebrate Taiwan’s legalization of same-sex marriage and Pride Month, we made a list of the 10 best Asian LGBTQ films to celebrate and recognize stories of love. While we recognize there are many iconic films throughout the decades on the subject of homosexuality and bisexuality, we made a conscious choice in selecting films that end on somewhat positive notes.

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10. Alifu, the Prince/ss

Chinese title: 阿莉芙 | Released: 2017 | Sub-Genre: Drama | Directed by: Wan Yu-lin

Alifu, the Prince/ss is a poignant tale of gender identities, transgender identities, and indigenous traditions in Taiwan. Alifu is a man of the Paiwan tribe. He is set to succeed his father’s position as a male, but his dream is to undergo sex reassignment and become a woman. It’s worth noting that director Wang Yu-lin was inspired to make this story from his years serving in the military, where a fellow serviceman (who was a shaman) replied Wang’s questions on homosexuality with “men and women have the same souls.”

Read our interview with director Wan here.

9. The Wedding Banquet

Chinese title: 喜宴 | Released: 1993 | Sub-Genre: Romantic Comedy, Asian American| Directed by: Ang Lee

The Wedding Banquet explores the relationships and conflicts between tradition and modernity in Eastern and Western cultures. Wai-Tung is a young Taiwanese immigrant living in Manhattan with his gay American partner. His traditional parents are eager to see him get married, so together with their female friend Wei-Wei — who desperately needs a green card — they decide to get married. His plan backfires when his overjoyed parents pay him a surprise visit.

Readers living in New York will have a chance to watch this movie in late June, alongside an exhibition on Taiwan’s road to marriage equality.

8. Fathers

Thai title: ฟาเธอร์ส | Released: 2016 | Sub-Genre:Drama | Directed by: Palatpol Mingpornpichit

Fathers centers around Phoon and Yuke, a gay couple with an adopted son named Butr. As Butr grows up, he begins to wonder why he doesn’t have a mother. The happy family soon faces difficulty when Butr starts acting out at school, and the Children’s Rights Protection Organization becomes involved. Fathers offers a thoughtful, heartwarming snapshot at the state of same-sex couples in Thailand, providing a glimpse of what might soon be the second country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage.

Read our in depth review here.

7. The Blue Hour

Thai title: อนธการ | Released: 2015 | Sub-Genre: Psychodrama, Supernatural, Crime | Directed by: Anucha Boonyawatana

The Blue Hour is a romance-horror about two young men finding love by an abandoned swimming pool. This seemingly coming-of-age tale soon becomes entangled with tales of family psychodrama, supernatural elements, and crime drama.

6. The Handmaiden

Korean title: 아가씨 | Released: 2016 | Sub-Genre: Psychological Thriller | Directed by: Park Chan-wook

The Handmaiden is an erotic thriller that will have your heart racing from start to finish. Set in early 20th century Korea under Japanese colonial rule, Sook-hee was hired by a conman to become Japanese heiress Lady Hideko’s handmaiden. She was to encourage the lady to fall in love with, and marry the conman. But before Sook-hee knew it, she had fallen for Lady Hideko. The Handmaiden is a brilliant thriller, and an intriguing story of love, betrayal, and mystery.

The Asian LGBTQ film is available in select markets on Netflix.

5. A Girl at My Door

Korean title: 도희야 | Released: 2014 | Sub-Genre: Drama | Directed by: July Jung

A Girl at My Door discuss the issues of small town stigmas and illegal immigration through the lens of policewoman Lee Young-nam, who takes in abused girl Do-hee. The conservative small town keeps quiet about her abuse because her father is the town’s main employer. Things get complicated when Lee’s ex-girlfriend tracks her down, revealing Lee’s sexuality to Do-he’s father.

Read our in depth review here.

4. Happy Together

Chinese title: 春光乍洩 | Released: 1997 | Sub-Genre: Drama | Directed by: Wong Kar-wai

Happy Together is a movie depicting the turbulent relationship of two Hong Kongers living in Argentina. Ho and Lai suffers the classic kind of toxic relationship. Lai is more stable, and more emotionally invested than Ho. Ho has a destructive personality and is unable to commit to a monogamous relationship. In an attempt to rekindle their relationship, Ho and Lai make a visit to Argentina to see the Iguazu waterfalls. On their way there, they argue and break up.

3. Girlfriend, Boyfriend

Chinese title: 女朋友,男朋友 | Released: 2012 | Sub-Genre: Drama | Directed by: Yang Ya-che

Girlfriend, Boyfriend is a coming of age romance taking place amidst Taiwan’s democratization, offering heartening confirmation of the growing maturity of Taiwan’s political and cinematic climate. Set in the late 80s, the three main characters — Mabel, Liam and Aaron — witnesses Taiwan’s political transformation as they come of age. Girlfriend, Boyfriend is a unique film that had the potential to depict the coming-of-age for not only its characters, but also an entire nation. It is also worth noting that it is one of Taiwan’s few mainstream films that features a gay lead character.

Read our in depth review here.

2. Dear Ex

Chinese title: 誰先愛上他 | Released: 2018 | Sub-Genre: Drama | Directed by: Mag Hsu and Hsu Chih-yen

Dear Ex offers an emotionally complex look at a modern family. After Chengxi’s father dies of cancer, Chengxi finds out that the beneficiary of the will is not him, but Ah Jie — his father’s gay lover. This sets Chengxi’s mother Sanlian on a warpath: she’s determined to get the money for Chengxi’s education, even if it means blackmailing Ah Jie. Dear Ex is an offbeat family drama that provides not only thought-provoking entertainment, but also an intriguing reflection of societal trends in Taiwan.

Read our in depth review here.

This Asian LGBTQ film is available on Netflix.

1. Small Talk

Chinese title: 日常對話 | Released: 2016 | Sub-Genre: Documentary | Directed by: Huang Hui-chen

Small Talk is a documentary film in which director Huang Hui-chen attempts to understand her gay mother and herself through conversations on issues ranging from trust to domestic abuse. Originally a project to better understand her mother, Small Talk turned into an award-winning documentary film, claiming the Teddy Award at the 2017 Berlin International Film Festival.

Read The News Lens International’s interview with director Huang here.

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