Your big queer summer movie guide

Budding theatre queens, intersex advocates, virgin lesbian fight club and a raunchy road trip through China are among the summer’s queer cinematic treats. And Donna Summer

The summer movie season is finally here; time for some heat and light from new queer cinema. Some of 2023’s most highly anticipated movies are LGBTQ2S+—this is how we win! Blockbusters like Greta Gerwig’s queer-coded Barbie will finally leap from Mattel to movie theatres while the formerly cancelled animated feature, Nimona, shape-shifts its way out of the grave and on to Netflix. Several festival favourites from Sundance and SXSW finally get their theatrical debuts, including the theatre people comedy Theater Camp and the debut horror flick from YouTube creators RackaRacka, Talk to Me. On the documentary side are new features that focus on subjects ranging from intersexuality to the life of gay icon Donna Summer. Here’s a preview of the upcoming features to look out for during this summer 2023. 

Monica (in theatres May 12) 

Credit: Courtesy of Filmitalia

Thomas Wolfe once said, “You can’t go home again.” Such is the case for Monica (Trace Lysette), a trans woman living her best life until she hears the news that her estranged mother (Patricia Clarkson), whom she left as a teen, is dying of cancer. Monica drops everything and returns home to tend to her mother and hopes they can see eye to eye during her final days. Andrea Pallaoro’s dramatic portrait shares the trials and tribulations of a fractured person seeking acceptance and love from the ones closest to them. Monica already broke new ground by being the first feature with a trans lead participating in the Best Film award competition at the Venice Film Festival last year.

Love to Love You, Donna Summer (coming to HBO Max May 20) 

Credit: Courtesy of HBO

Many know that Donna Summer was an LGBTQ2S+ icon due to her hit music that has been blaring in the queer clubs since the ’70s. The queen of disco, who made everyone feel love, finally gets the documentary portrait she deserves. Told through the lens of co-director Brooklyn Sudano (who happens to be Summer’s daughter), Love to Love You, Donna Summer gives fans untold stories from her career and the ever-changing music industry. 

Nimona (coming to theatres and Netflix sometime in June) 


Credit: Courtesy of Netflix

I can’t wait to watch rebellious shape-shifting teen Nimona (Chloë Grace Moretz) team up with knight Ballister Blackheart (Riz Ahmed) to take down a corrupt government. This isn’t the first time I’ve expressed my excitement for the long-awaited film adaptation of ND Stevenson’s graphic novel and it probably won’t be my last. If you are familiar with the strenuous journey the Nimona adaptation has been on for years, you know why. The film was going to be Blue Sky Studios’ first animated release to feature a prominent same-sex romance. But Disney shut down Blue Sky during the pandemic, after production on Nimona had already begun. When the studio died, everyone thought Nimona went down with the ship. But she lives! DNEG Animation and Annapurna Pictures formed a spirit circle and resurrected Nimona from the dead. Now she’s ready to shape-shift her way to Netflix and make Disney regret their mistake. 

Blue Jean (in theatres June 9) 

Set in England in 1988, during the homophobia and AIDS hysteria of the Margaret Thatcher era, lesbian gym teacher Jean (Rosy McEwen) is pressured to lead a closeted life. Since Section 28, the law that banned the promotion of homosexuality in Scotland, England and Wales, was about to go into effect, Jean must play straight by any means necessary. That is, until a new student learns about her sexuality and threatens to out her. A frightened Jean now must do everything in her power to prevent the student from spilling the beans that will cost her job. Blue Jean is another Venice Film Festival banger, winning the Giornate degli Autori’s People’s Choice Award. Now that its run has concluded across the pond, Georgia Oakley’s directorial debut hits North America, surely to add to the film’s award-winning streak. 

Every Body (in theatres June 30) 

Right in time for Pride Month, Every Body reveals raw honest truths from various subjects who were born intersex, exploring how they navigate life within a binaristic world. Filmmaker River Gallo (Ponyboi), political consultant Alicia Roth Weigel and PhD student Sean Saifa Wall share their personal experiences of how they turned their uniqueness into their power. The doc also chronicles these subjects’ efforts to advocate for intersex rights and demand an end to systematic medical abuse of non-consensual and unnecessary surgeries on kids born intersex. 

Joy Ride (in theatres July 7) 

Stephanie Hsu, Sabrina Wu, Ashley Park and Sherry Cola in Joy Ride.

Credit: Ed Araquel/Lionsgate

Who’s ready for a wild, raunchy, drug-fuelled trip through China with a queer Asian cast? The directorial debut of Adele Lim (co-writer of Crazy Rich Asians), Joy Ride follows Audrey (Ashley Park), an adopted Chinese American woman travelling to China with several friends to find her birth parents. Joy Ride features a predominantly queer Asian cast, including bisexual actress Sherry Cola, newcomer comedian Sabrina Wu and Oscar-nominated icon Stephanie Hsu. This is my most highly anticipated film of the summer due to Wu, one of the funniest and sweetest people I know from the Brooklyn comedy scene, getting their debut leading role. Hollywood didn’t have this much queer Asian excellence in a studio comedy like this since—checks notes—EVER! 

Theater Camp (in theatres July 14) 

Molly Gordon and Ben Plat.

Credit: Courtesy of Sundance

During its premiere at Sundance 2023, Molly Gordon and Nick Lieberman’s debut feature, Theater Camp, was an unexpected crowd-pleasing delight that wore its musical theatre love on its sleeve. Even the most anti-theatre person will walk away charmed by its laid-back and hilarious nature. Camp counsellors try their darndest to keep a rundown theatre camp in upstate New York afloat in the absence of their founder Joan (Amy Sedaris). Best friends, counsellors and struggling actors Amos (Ben Platt) and Rebecca-Diane (Gordon) decide to make their annual original musical a tribute to Joan. Meanwhile, Joan’s dim-witted and frat-boyish son Troy (Jimmy Tatro) is sent to lead the camp, but lacks the experience to run a business and doesn’t have one iota of theatre knowledge. Theater Camp is like Abbott Elementary for theatre geeks who will love the little inside-baseball references to Sondheim. All the characters are funny, eccentric and witty. The kids are so effortlessly adorable, stealing the show with their voices and comedy. Since Searchlight is distributing this gem to theatres, it will make the perfect Sunday afternoon movie that the whole family can enjoy. 

Barbie (in theatres July 21) 

Come on. It’s Greta Gerwig’s Barbie. Margot Robbie jumps out of her case and onto the big screen as the titular doll. After getting the hell out of Barbieland for being a less-than-perfect doll, Barbie and Ken (Ryan Gosling) venture out to the real world to find their happiness. Apologies to Christopher Nolan and his Oppenheimer, this is the summer movie that real cinephiles are gearing up for. Everyone will run out of their dollhouse to see Kate McKinnon, Issa Rae, Hari Nef, Alexandra Shipp, Emma Mackey, Dua Lipa and more bring many variations of Barbie to life. 

Kokomo City (in theatres July 28) 

Kokomo City is a portrait of trans sex workers in New York and Georgia, shot in black and white. Trans filmmaker D. Smith, inspired by her own experiences in sex work after she was pushed out of the music industry, gives flowers to the women who experience the freedom and dangers that come from being a sex worker. After one of the subjects, Koko Da Doll, was tragically murdered last month, Smith shared on her Instagram: “It is extremely difficult to process Koko’s passing, but as a team, we are more encouraged now than ever to inspire the world with her story. To show how beautiful and full of life she was. She will inspire generations to come and will never be forgotten.” 

Talk to Me (in theatres July 27) 

Sophie Wilde stars in Talk to Me.

Credit: Courtesy of Causeway Films

Australian brothers Danny and Michael Philippou (aka RackaRacka) raise the age-old question: If a transmasc non-binary person comes to you with an embalmed hand and tells you you can have a dead person possess your soul, would you do it? With Talk to Me from A24, a group of high schoolers led by cool kid Hayley (Zoe Terakes) plays a dangerous game with dead spirits. Things go awry when Mia’s (Sophie Wilde) obsession with the game transits to the wrong person. Sure to be the horror film of the summer, Talk to Me is a bone-chilling thrill ride as the Philippous depict the fatal consequences of teenagers obsessed with dangerous viral challenges. 

Red, White, & Royal Blue (coming to Prime Video August 11)

How Shakespearean would it be if two royal sons from different countries started an enemies to lovers arc? Based on the New York Times bestseller by Casey McQuiston, Red, White, and Royal Blue sets on Alex Claremont-Diaz (Taylor Zakhar Perez), son of Ellen Claremont (Uma Thurman), the first-female president of the United States. After an incident at a royal wedding, Alex and Prince Henry of Wales (Nicholas Galitzine) must pretend to get along to avoid an international incident. Their deep rivalry blossoms into a full-blown, R-rated (literally) romance. The two royal lovers must keep their relationship on the downlow and away from the paparazzi while Alex’s prezzie mommy runs for re-election.

Bottoms (in theatres August 25) 

Rachel Sennott and Ayo Edebiri.

Credit: Courtesy of MGM/Orion Films

It’s been a long time since we had a joke-filled, raunchy, absurdist comedy akin to Not Another Teen Movie and Wet Hot American Summer. Luckily, the minds behind Shiva Baby, Emma Seligman and Rachel Sennott, bless Gen Z with the laugh-a-minute queer comedy we deserve. Bottoms centres on two virgin lesbians (Ayo Edebiri and Rachel Sennott) who start a fight club in their high school so they can hook up with cheerleaders. As raunchy as it sounds, Bottoms runs on a frivolous free spirit with gags in every corner. I’ve seen the film twice already and on both viewings, it had me laughing until I got a migraine. It’s one of the year’s must-see movies and is destined to become a new all-time queer classic.

Rendy Jones is a film and television journalist based in Brooklyn, New York. They are the owner of self-published outlet Rendy Reviews, a member of the Critics Choice Association, and a part time stand up comedian.

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