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21 Asian LGBTQ+ Films for Pride Month

Written by YumCha! Editorial Team Tell a Friend

This month, we're highlighting 21 Asian LGBTQ-themed films, ranging from the popular to the arthouse and from the provocative to the groundbreaking. The selection spans three decades of Asian cinema, including early auteur-driven works like Farewell My Concubine that inspire thought and discussion, and blockbuster coming-of-age stories like last year's Your Name Engraved Herein that reflect on heartache and self-discovery.


Beautiful Boxer
1. Beautiful Boxer (2003)
Directed by Ekachai Uekrongtham, this Thai biopic dramatizes the inspiring life story of transgender kickboxer Parinya Charoenphol, better known as Nong Toom. In his acting debut, boxing champion Asanee Suwan plays Nong Toom, who realizes from a young age that she is different. As an adolescent, Nong Toom begins to train in boxing and competes in hopes of earning prize money. The teen boxer becomes a media sensation when she reveals her true self by wearing makeup in the ring, upending the male-dominated world of kickboxing and bringing renewed attention to the sport.


Blue Gate Crossing
2. Blue Gate Crossing (2002)
A love triangle may be a romantic movie cliché, but Yee Chih Yen presents it in a wistful and refreshing manner in this Taiwan coming-of-age classic. Gwei Lun Mei, Chen Bo Lin and Yolin Liang play the teenaged protagonists tangled up in misunderstandings and secrets. Gwei's character questions her own sexual orientation while dealing with her feelings for her best girl friend and pushing her best guy friend away.


Close-Knit
3. Close-Knit (2017)
Ogigami Naoko brings her signature warm eye, unhurried storytelling and healing atmosphere to the everyday life of Rinko (Ikuta Toma), a transgender woman with a loving boyfriend, supportive mother and stable job. When her boyfriend's 11-year-old daughter shows up, she gladly takes on the role of a mother figure as the three slowly knit a family on their own terms in this gentle, heartwarming film.


Dear Tenant
4. Dear Tenant (2020)
In a Golden Horse-winning performance, Morning Mo is a "tenant" who devotedly takes care of his late partner's young son and ill mother (Chen Shu Fang). However, his good intentions are called into question by authorities that suspect foul play. Taiwan director Cheng Yu Chieh's understated yet emotional drama is a heartrending examination of love, family and loss, as well as the doubts and discrimination faced by the gay community.


Eternal Summer
5. Eternal Summer (2006)
Ray Chang and Joseph Chang play best friends Jonathan and Shane, one reticent and one rebellious, who have been close since elementary school. Jonathan is attracted to the oblivious Shane, but keeps it to himself until a girl (Kate Yeung) enters the equation, forcing them to face the unvoiced feelings in their relationship. From its lyrical title to its beautiful cinematography to that Mayday theme song, Leste Chen's hit film broodingly evokes the subtle yet overwhelming anguish and ardor of young love and longing.


Farewell My Concubine
6. Farewell My Concubine (1993)
Widely considered one of the best Chinese films of all time, Chen Kaige's masterpiece depicts the close and complicated bond between two Beijing Opera performers, portrayed by Leslie Cheung and Zhang Fengyi. The only Chinese film to have won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, the luscious drama sets the protagonists' lives and relationship against the turbulent stage of modern Chinese history, from the Sino-Japanese War and Japanese occupation to the Civil War and the Cultural Revolution.


The Handmaiden
7. The Handmaiden (2016)
Park Chan Wook's acclaimed feature is set in a world full of lust, deceit and repression during the Japanese occupation of Korea in the 1930s. A Japanese noble heiress (Kim Min Hee) and her pickpocket-turned-maid (Kim Tae Ri) get engulfed in an illicit romance while confronting a swindler (Ha Jung Woo) and an abusive uncle (Jo Jin Woong). Aesthetically and sexually seductive, yet not overpoweringly erotic, The Handmaiden inextricably intertwines the two women's love with the danger and duplicity of their circumstances.


Happy Together
8. Happy Together (1997)
Leslie Cheung and Tony Leung push and pull in an enthralling and destructive tango in Wong Kar Wai's classic about a gay Hong Kong couple who are often not so Happy Together. They head to Buenos Aires for a fresh new start in their tempestuous love, but the trip and their relationship gradually fall apart. Happy Together bears all the hallmarks of a WKW film: elliptical storytelling, breathtakingly beautiful filmmaking, and postmodern musings on yearning, loneliness and the human condition.


I Don't Want to Sleep Alone
9. I Don't Want to Sleep Alone (2006)
Love them or hate them, Tsai Ming Liang's bleak, slow-burning meditations on sexual tension, longing, alienation and repression are a vanguard of queer arthouse cinema. This quintessential work starring longtime muse Lee Kang Sheng is set in the auteur's native Malaysia, where it ended up being banned. Told in long takes and spare dialogue, the film depicts the growing desire between a migrant worker and the injured homeless man whom he nurses back to health.


King and the Clown
10. King and the Clown (2005)
Acclaimed Korean director Lee Joon Ik renders a tragic love triangle in this groundbreaking historical feature that swept the top prizes at the 2006 Daejong Film Awards. Gam Woo Sung and Lee Jun Ki partner up as street clowns who get arrested for poking fun of the notorious King Yeonsan (Jung Jin Young) in satiric performances. The King makes them official court entertainers, and grows increasingly fond of Lee's androgynous-looking jester, setting off a whirlwind of jealousy, betrayal and sacrifice.


La Maison de Himiko
11. La Maison de Himiko (2005)
A woman reluctantly reunites with her estranged gay father in Inudo Isshin's tale of resentment and reconciliation. Shibasaki Ko plays Saori, who is struggling to make a living. Her father's lover (Odagiri Joe) appears one day, and invites her to work at the retirement home for gay men founded by her father, who is dying of cancer. Though initially angry and uneasy, Saori gradually grows to understand the various residents of La Maison de Himiko.


Lan Yu
12. Lan Yu (2001)
Hong Kong director Stanley Kwan's stirring drama is based on the online novel Beijing Comrades about the gay experience in China. Hu Jun, who had previously appeared in the pioneering 1996 Chinese film East Palace, West Palace, plays 27-year-old Chen Handong who falls in love with 18-year-old student Lan Yu, played by Liu Ye in a Golden Horse-winning performance. The year is 1988, marking the beginning of a tumultuous decade-long relationship backdropped by social tumult and family pressures that drive them together and apart.


Like a Virgin
13. Like a Virgin (2006)
High school student Oh Dong Gu (Ryu Deok Hwan) dreams of becoming like Madonna, but lives frustratingly in the body of a clumsy teenage boy. Though initially indifferent towards the sport of ssireum, Dong Gu signs up for a teen wrestling tournament with the hope of winning the prize money that can go towards sex reassignment surgery. Directors Lee Hae Joon and Lee Hae Yeong's comical take on a weighty issue brings a lighthearted and empathetic look at the daily lives of sexual minorities in Korean society.


Love of Siam
14. Love of Siam (2007)
Long before BL dramas became a pop culture phenomenon in Thailand, Chukiat Sakveerakul's award-winning feature sensitively explored the confused, blossoming relationship between two high school boys. The multilayered family drama weaves together various characters and conflicts, but it's most remembered for the breakout performance of Mario Maurer as the teenaged son navigating his growing affection for a childhood friend (Witwisit Hiranyawongkul).


No Regret
15. No Regret (2006)
Openly gay filmmaker Leesong Hee Il paved the way for Korean queer films with his indie debut work No Regret, which delicately presents the romance between two men. While working as an escort at a gay bar, Su Min (Lee Young Hoon) encounters well-off client Jae Min (Kim Nam Gil). After several refusals, Su Min accepts Jae Min's overtures and they date happily, only to face opposition from Jae Min's family. The two men break up and make up as they search for a way out that leaves them with no regret.


Permanent Residence
16. Permanent Residence (2009)
What's worse – a gay man who doesn't love you, or a straight man who loves you? Hong Kong indie filmmaker Scud established his signature style of bold, broody and body-baring examinations of love, desire and sexuality in this sophomore effort partly inspired by his own life. Also ruminating on themes of mortality and transience, the film follows the intimate yet unrealized relationship of two men through years of ups and downs, fallouts and reunions.


Spider Lilies
17. Spider Lilies (2007)
Known for her queer-themed works, Taiwan filmmaker Zero Chou writes and directs this bittersweet lesbian love story that won the Teddy Award at the 2007 Berlin Film Festival. Pop idol Rainie Yang plays webcam girl Jade who re-encounters her childhood crush, tattoo artist Takeko (Isabella Leong). Jade wants to get the same tattoo that Takeko has – a spider lily design that links to the latter's deep traumas.


Suk Suk
18. Suk Suk (2019)
Two retired men with families forge a connection in Ray Yeung's gentle drama, which is also known as Twilight's Kiss. Raw and realistic in its portrayal of everyday Hong Kong society and the living concerns faced by older gay men, Suk Suk depicts the hopeful, intimate bond between the protagonists, as well as the family and social dynamics that affect their eventual decisions. Tai Bo won Best Actor at the Hong Kong Film Awards and the Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards for his performance.


Taboo
19. Taboo (1999)
Capping off a long career of challenging sexuality (and censorship) in Japanese cinema, legendary director Oshima Nagisa's daring swansong tackles the provocative subject of sexual relationships among samurai. This "taboo" – which was actually common in samurai culture – manifests jealous conflict when a new recruit of ethereal beauty joins the Shinsengumi. The young samurai, played by Matsuda Ryuhei in his acting debut, becomes a point of lust and contention in the militia unit, which includes the likes of Kitano Takeshi and Asano Tadanobu.


Wedding Banquet
20. Wedding Banquet (1993)
Over a decade before Brokeback Mountain, Ang Lee first garnered international acclaim with this Golden Bear-winning comedy-drama about a gay Chinese man (Winston Chao) living happily in New York with his partner. To appease his conservative parents back in Taiwan, he arranges a sham marriage with a woman. However, he's forced to hold a traditional wedding banquet when his folks show up. Wedding Banquet amuses and surprises with its clashing and reconciliation of values between different cultures and generations.


Your Name Engraved Herein
21. Your Name Engraved Herein (2020)
"Everyone's first love is great as an epic movie." Edward Chen and Tseng Jing Hua play high school boys grappling with their feelings for each other in late 1980s Taiwan, a time when society was still politically and sexually repressed. As the highest-grossing Taiwan LGBTQ+ film ever, the blockbuster depicts an unforgettable coming-of-age relationship in which the two teens push, pull, doubt and deny their true feelings – little do they know, their names have already been engraved in each other's hearts.



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Published June 17, 2021


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