Prince Gomolvilas

"Brokeback" and "Bruno" Top List of Highest-Grossing LGBT-Related Films of the 2000s

Filed By Prince Gomolvilas | December 14, 2009 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Marriage Equality
Tags: Gabriel Fleming, indieWIRE, John Henning, Mike Roth, Peter Knegt

While I question the importance of box-office numbers when it comes to cinema (millions of Twilight fans don't negate the fact that those movies make me want to punch the screen), I do think they're a good barometer of public consciousness around films, mainstream and independent. So it was with great interest I read a recent list of the top-grossing LGBT-related films of the 2000s, compiled by indieWIRE, a popular source of news and information about independent cinema.

indieWIRE contributor Peter Knegt points out that "LGBT-related" was "in the eyes of the beholder" and acknowledges that eligibility on the list could be argued. That said, while compiling the list, Knegt made some interesting discoveries about LGBT cinema over the last decade.

Since 2000, thirty-four films with perhaps arguably LGBT related themes have grossed over $1 million. Very significant is that fact that, in the 1990s, forty-seven LGBT-related films grossed over $1,000,000, including five films ("The Birdcage," "In & Out," "The Talented Mr. Ripley," "Philadelphia" and "The Crying Game") which grossed over $50 million (and that number jumps to seven if you adjust for inflation). Only two did in the 2000s - "Brokeback Mountain" and "Bruno," that latter of which some argue was actually rather homophobic. Another distinction between the decades is that while in 1990s eight of the top ten releases were released by studios, only three were in the 2000s (though many of them were released by specialty subsidiaries of studios).

Here, then, is indieWIRE's list of Top Grossing LGBT-Related Films of the 2000s. indieWIRE counted North American box-office performance, and only included films that grossed more that $1,000,000. [Update @ 6:00 p.m.: indieWIRE feels that the list overlooked Notes on a Scandal, so the list below has been changed to reflect the addition.]

1. Brokeback Mountain, 2005, $83,043,761

2. Bruno, 2009, 60,054,530

3. The Hours, 2002, $41,675,994

4. Monster, 2003, $34,469,210

5. Milk, 2008, $31,841,299

6. Rent, 2005, $29,077,547

7. Capote, 2005, $28,750,530

8. Frida, 2002, $25,885,000

9. Notes on a Scandal, 2006, $17, 510,118

10. Far From Heaven, 2002, $15,901,849

11. The Next Best Thing, 2000, $14,990,582

12. Y Tu Mama Tambien, 2002, $13,839,658

13. Kinsey, 2004, $10,254,979

14. Transamerica, 2005, $9,015,303

15. The Deep End, 2001, $8,823,109

16. Taking Woodstock, 2009, $7,460,204

17. Mulholland Drive, 2001, $7,220,243

18. Kissing Jessica Stein, 2002, $7,025,722

19. The Closet, 2001, $6,678,894

20. The Rules of Attraction, 2002, $6,532,619

21. Mambo Italiano, 2003, $6,253,026

22. Bad Education, 2004, $5,211,842

23. Before Night Falls, 2000, $4,242,892

24. Hedwig and the Angry Inch, 2001, $3,067,312

25. Walk On Water, 2005, $2,713,932

26. But I'm a Cheerleader, 2000, $2,205,627

27. Shortbus, 2006, $1,985,292

28. The Broken Hearts Club, 2000, $1,746,585

29. Camp, 2003, $1,629,862

30. Saving Face, 2005, $1,187,266

31. L.I.E., 2001, $1,138,836

32. Chuck and Buck, 2000, $1,055,671

33. A Home at the End of the World, 2004, $1,029,872

34. All Over The Guy, 2001, $1,022,324

35. My Summer of Love, 2004, $1,000,915

I've managed to have seen 21 of these 34 films. Is that a lot? I'm not sure. Do I win something? How many have you managed to catch?

I know that there must be films that some of you wish were on this list, and some of you certainly bristle at the idea of Bruno being counted. Certainly, chime in.

For me, I'm thrilled that Fancis Veber's French farce, The Closet, made it on the list because I had always assumed that hardly anyone ever saw it. It's a very funny movie that does the whole straight-guy-pretending-to-be-gay thing with intelligence and wit. Indeed, Veber is a master of the genre and turns Daniel Auteuil's mild-mannered and meek condom factory accountant into an endearing minor hero. (He plays gay to save his job.) There's also a delightfully pitch-perfect supporting turn by Gerard Depardieu, who plays a macho homophobe who goes through a hilarious catharsis.

Films that I wish were on the list and I wish more people had seen include Beautiful Boxer (2001), which tells the true story of a Thai man who wins kickboxing matches to pay for a sex-change operation; The Iron Ladies (2000), another true Thai tale about a volleyball team made up of mainly gay and transgender players; Love Songs (2007), director Christophe Honore and composer Alex Beaupain's beguiling bisexual musical full of lush pop songs; Nico & Dani (2000), which is about two boys' coming-of-age in Spain; and Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway (2008) - far superior and truer to the original than the 2005 movie adaptation (which is #6 on the above list), this thrilling document of Rent's closing night on Broadway captures exactly why Jonathan Larson's musical won a Pulitzer Prize and lasted so long.

Finally, I would be considered a bad friend if I didn't mention my filmmaker friend Gabriel Fleming's beautiful and elegiac movie, The Lost Coast (2008), which won Best Feature at the New York Gay and Lesbian Film Festival and was recently a Fancast Movie of the Week.

But wait! There's more! My friend Mike Roth and his filmmaking partner John Henning are responsible for the stirring and inspirational documentary, Saving Marriage (2006), which traces Massachusetts' path to becoming the first state in America to legalize same-sex marriage.

[h/t indieWIRE]


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While parts of Brüno made me cringe (yes, I actually sat through the whole film despite friends' warnings), I found the happy end kissing so sweetly romantic and silly as few gay films before. So I'd say we should count Brüno.

Is the complete 1990s list published somewhere?

I'll try to dig up the 1990s list. I'll post the link here if I find it. :)

I have many opinions about this information - great post; Thank you! - but my initial reaction is this:

Y Tu Mama Tambien and Mulholland Drive are gay films???

Really...? This is such a f-ed up culture.

ONE KISS automatically equates to a categorization of non-hetero and in Mulholland the kiss can be explained in about 5 million ways because that movie isn't necessarily explainable (and it is brilliant because of that) but come on!

Even in Y Tu Mama the kiss doesn't explain anything about - nor is it necessarily central to - the story. It's a goddamn sex scene where a woman is blowing two guys! Not even the presence of the woman (who is the main mystery of the story) can stop the trigger from being pulled??

What a world!

I think you need to revisit the film. I will too, as it's been a long time. But if memory serves, it's point seemed to be that all of the bickering, bragging of sexual conquests, machismo competitions, etc. among the two male protagonists was a cover for their latent attraction to each other--all of this culminates in the sex scene that you mention. Yes, it takes a joint blow job from a woman to bring this to the surface, but the two men also wake up the next morning lying together in bed naked with the woman nowhere in sight. Maybe you don't share this interpretation of homoerotic longing, but I'd hardly call it an outlandish one, and I would also argue that it's not just central to the story, but that it's probably the most important scene in the film.

Hi, Jackson, your reading of Y Tu Mama Tambien is my reading as well. Back when it came out, I was surprised that nobody (that I know of) thought the film was about repressed homosexuality (or, at the very least, repressed homosexual attraction).

[BEGIN SPOILER ALERT.]

When it was revealed at the end that the two friends had drifted apart, I found it heartbreaking. Because of their machismo, repression, and perhaps also their culture, they were unable to confront their true feelings and ran back in the closet--which many men have done after a lone tryst in their younger years.

[END SPOILER ALERT.]

And, Patrick, about Mulholland Drive: if you revisit that film as well, you'll find that it wasn't a fleeting kiss. There's hot girl-on-girl action that my straight male friends have beat off too because it's so hot. Take that for what it's worth. :)

Thank you for this list and the analysis. As someone who's not much of a moviegoer, I can't wait to get the DVDs and have a little film festival of my own. Glad someone's out there doing the heavy lifting on this. :)

You're welcome. I think a personal film festival is in order for many of us!

Good to see that Adam Sandler/fat guy from "King Of Queens" movie wasn't counted!

Scott, I'm glad that movie isn't on the list either because it would've been #1 ($120 million domestic).

Other suggestions below, but, first, the inclusion of "Bruno" is most insufferable because it appears on a list where most of the films unquestionably INTENDED to positively raise consciousness about LGBT-related subjects [albeit too often unsucessfully]. Seeing it put next to "Brokeback Mountain" would otherwise being a hanging offense. I am one of those convinced that any good intention the creator of Bruno has is cancelled out by the fact that most movie goers are too fucking stupid to get his assumed intent of mocking not reinforcing homophobia....amplified by his pathologically-sized need for a laugh at any cost. [And the maker of "Shortbus" has a similar counterproductive pathological need for attention through grossing nongays out. I'm gay and he almost turned me off to sex. I apologize to any Bilericians who sincerely enjoy combining rimming and singing "The National Anthem."]

On the other hand, explicitly dramatizing [simulated?] gay sex and masturbation works in another film I'd encourage people to see: the 2000 French "Presque Rien" ["Come Undone"]. It didn't work as a story for me [I can't remember the plot beyond the young men's relationship], but it has some of the most sensual M2M scenes to date in a professional film [versus the endless "Independent" dreck flooding gay film festivals].

Scenes [NSFW] at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TKr_3DokJ7Q

One of its stars, Stéphane Rideau [whose lips are, naturally, the kind that have intoxicated both genders since cave dwellers], also appeared in a much better, earlieR [1994] French film, "Les Roseaux Sauvages" ["Wild Reeds"], when he was 16. Though a "small" film by American concepts and sometimes stilted, it won four César Awards [the French Oscar]including Best Film, Best Director (André Téchiné), Most Promising Young Actress (Élodie Bouchez), and Best Original Screenplay, as well as Best Foreign Film by the National Society of Film Critics and the New York Film Critics Circle.

While uneven, with a metaphorical setting in the time of the Algerian war that doesn't always work, and as much about two other straight characters, in our context, it's memorable for a number of scenes, including one in which the basically straight-identified butch character played by Rideau has casual sex with his gentle boarding school friend played by Gaël Morel [today mostly a director].

But the two best scenes include a brief one in which the look of sublime happiness Morel displays fully clothed but with his head against the back of and his arms around Rideau as they travel to a nearby town on a motorcycle is the visual definition of a gay man's love for another man [even one not gay]. Poor quality clip here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9CDP3cRFR4

The second is also revealing and causes those who remember their own initial desperation in understanding themselves to choke up. Morel has one to identify with, no one to explaiint his new and throbbing attraction to his friend. One day he bursts into the shoe shop of the local man known to be "queer." "It's not about my shoes," he tells the startled stranger. "It's about my destiny. AM I A FAGGOT?!!!"

Scenes [NSFW] at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D-0F8p0dNFA

Both films are Official Selections of the Foreskins for Jesus Club and should be available at any decent DVD rental store [and, no, "Adagio for Strings" by gay composer Samuel Barber will NEVER be cliche on a soundtrack.]

Hi, Michael, thanks for the reminder of Come Undone. Haven't seen it in a long time, but I do recall that it was HOT.

Does Rocky Horror Picture Show count? Because it almost certainly tops even Brokeback Mountain.

I have seen exactly 21 from this list also, with 7 more currently waiting in my queue. Bruno is not in either category, thank you :)

You beat me to mentioning Love Songs as one that could be on the list if only more people knew about it. That is one beautiful film that i am surprised has not received more attention.

It would be very interesting to compare the lists of the top-grossers from decade to decade. Seeing The Birdcage and In & Out listed in that blurb as big 90s money-makers makes me wonder what the rest of the decade looked like for queer films that people were willing to spend money on. I wonder if portrayals of queer characters were generally more accurate/positive/at-the-very-least-not-just-played-for-laughs in financially successful movies in the 00s?

OMG, I'm glad somebody appreciates Love Songs. The music in that is simply phenomenal!

This just in. indieWIRE just added Notes on a Scandal to the list because they felt it was an oversight. I have updated the list above.

"I wonder if portrayals of queer characters were generally more accurate/positive/at-the-very-least-not-just-played-for-laughs in financially successful movies in the 00s?"

No.

No.

And, no.

Also, it's important to reiteratet that these are "domestic" only [that is, "North American"] totals. Worldwide, "Brokeback" brought in more than twice its domestic take: over $178 million! Fortunately, it STILL beats Bruno which has a worldwide gross, so far, of $128,798,265.

Also, a finer, FAIRER tuning would have included "The Talented Mr. Ripley" which, because it opened on Xmas Day 1999 would have gotten the majority of its box office in 2000 and come in right behind BBM with $81,298,265. Worldwide it grossed: $128,798,265.

Further, I hope I don't have to point out that the success of most of these films was NOT a sign of positive attitudes about LGBTs but the attraction of the majority of filmgoers [who are STRAIGHT] to the films' stars [e.g., "Ripley"] and/or subject matter/critical raves [e.g. "Y Tu Mama"].

There is no explanation of the success of "Bruno" that I care to consider so close to dinnertime.

CORRECTION: My "Bruno" total should have read $137+ million.

Just want to encourage everyone to stop by http://WolfeVideo.com to add some of these great DVDs to your collection (Wolfe has been your trusted community source for LGBT movies since 1985). Also have to confess that I was the one who pointed out they had forgotten NOTES ON A SCANDAL (with the caveat that we don't really WANT it on the list — but that since their criteria was films with LGBT lead characters it needs to be there; even if Judi Dench's closeted psycho is not necessarily our ideal lesbian poster child).

And Prince -- I just emailed you my spreadsheet of LGBT box office figures so maybe you can determine the 1990 top box office numbers (I just don't have the time to go through it all myself).

Oh, Jenni, thanks so much. Could you e-mail me the spreadsheet again to my main e-mail address? My e-mail address (I don't want to type it out here) is on this webpage. Thanks again!

16/35. Not too bad. I guess I have some movies to see!

I feel somewhat alone in loving Brüno! I thought it mocked gays and straights equally and made a lot of people uncomfortable - as it should be.

Does it expose gays to mockery? Yeah. But it has some sweet moments in it, some hilarious moments, and it exposes bigotry to ridicule. I left the theatre smiling. I think it's OK to have on this list. Then again, I say this as a queer woman (who is also not American), maybe I would feel differently if I were a gay man in America.