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Queerty: Man musk, faded belles, & melodrama: 10 great, gay Southern Gothic films to heat up your summer

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Image Credits: ‘The Paperboy,’ Millennium Entertainment (left) | ‘Reflections In A Golden Eye,’ Warner Bros. (center) | ‘Midnight In The Garden of Good And Evil,’ Warner Bros. (right)

The sweaty, hot days of summer are upon us. As the weather gets hazier and the wind stills, we’re reminded of the classic Southern Gothic film—faded belles, gorgeous men who struggle with their deviant (gay) urges, melodramatic climaxes (of the sexual nature and beyond)—that we can enjoy in the air-conditioned comfort of our homes. These films (and one TV show!) all feature hot, musky locales, hot, musky men, and gorgeous women who have been wronged. 

Read on for some Southern Gothic picks to stream.

Dream Boy

This 2008 romantic drama wears its indie roots on its sleeve with a largely unknown cast (barring Rooney Mara!) and touchy subject matter, but the intense melodrama of two boys falling in love in 1970s Louisiana is right at home on this sweaty, musky list. Based on the Jim Grimsley novel of the same name and directed by James Bolton, Dream Boy tells the story of Nathan (Stephan Bender), a sensitive teen who falls for hunky boy-next-door Roy (Max Roeg). Roy realizes there’s more than meets the eye with Nathan, who harbors a dark secret at home. Come for the edgy romance, stay for the haunting ending.

Streaming on HereTV, rentable on Vudu and Spectrum.

Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil

Based on a tabloid-esque true story of an antique dealer and the shooting of his male sex worker lover, this 1997 Clint Eastwood mystery stars Kevin Spacey (yes, we know) and John Cusack. Filmed in Savannah, GA, this sordid tale includes Southern self-loathing, faded silent film stars, and a memorable performance by The Lady Chablis, one of the first trans performers to hit the mainstream.

Rentable on all major platforms.

The Paperboy

Start applauding like Nicole Kidman for this 2012 Lee Daniels murder mystery, which stars the Hollywood icon as a would-be Southern belle who finds herself in a heap of trouble. It’s got sweaty Zac Efron and sweaty Matthew McConaughey, who investigates the murder of a local sheriff in 1969 small-town Florida. McConaughey’s character is far from a white hat journalist, though, with secrets of his own. Fine, it’s another Southern murder mystery with homophobia in the plot, but stay for the Efron beefcake.

Streaming on Fubo, Peacock, Roku, Vudi, Tubi, Kanopy, Crackle, and Pluto.

Reflections In A Golden Eye

“There is a fort in the South where a few years ago a murder was committed.” You may recognize this famous line from this 1967 John Huston film starring Marlon Brando, the queen Elizabeth Taylor, Brian Keith and Julie Harris. This movie—shockingly also about a murder—features Brando as a military officer hiding his sexuality. And as we’re quickly learning, in the world of Southern Gothic, being closeted equals doom.

Rentable on Apple TV, Amazon Prime, Google Play, YouTube, and Vudu.

Suddenly, Last Summer

Did you really think we’d make a list of Southern Gothic entertainment without including something from the gay godfather of Southern Gothic, playwright Tennessee Williams? Suddenly Last Summer has all the elements of Williams’ signature tragedy formula—a faded Southern belle, an angry mother desperate to hide her dead son’s secrets, a dashing man ashamed of his penchant for other dashing men. It helps that this film also stars some of the greatest of Hollywood’s greats, including Montgomery Clift, Katharine Hepburn, and Elizabeth Taylor.

Rentable on Apple TV, Amazon Prime, Google Play, YouTube, and Vudu.

Southern Baptist Sissies

This poignant 2013 dramedy was written and directed by Del Shores, who is most known for his hilarious Sordid Lives. Southern Baptist Sissies is a filmed version of Shores’ GLAAD-winning play about four teenage boys coming to terms with being gay in Texas. The late, great Leslie Jordan appears as Peanut, a hard-drinking older gay man who comments on the boys’ lives as they unfold and often unravel.

Streaming on Peacock, Tubi.


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Poor Pretty Eddie

Trigger warnings abound in this 1975 exploitation film that stars the iconic Leslie Uggams, Shelley Winters and Peyton Place’s Michael Christian. Uggams plays a famous singer who finds herself stranded in a strange, dilapidated Southern town that’s run by Winters’ deranged burlesque star Bertha. After Uggams is sexually assaulted by the townsfolk, she goes on a revenge rampage. Christian plays Eddie, Bertha’s younger lover, who wants to be the next Elvis. Directed by David Worth and Richard Robinson, this low-budget movie has a cult following thanks to its off-kilter tone, bizarro performances, and weird lore—apparently Winters was flown to set on a private jet that nearly crashed!

Streaming on Tubi, Plex, and FlixFling.

Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte

A who’s-who of old Hollywood divas, this 1964 Robert Aldrich thriller stars Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, Agnes Moorehead, Mary Astor (in her final film role), Bruce Dern and many other big names. Davis plays Charlotte, a take on her signature crazed spinster role opposite de Havilland (though Davis’ nemesis Joan Crawford was originally set to star in the part), who plays her evil, gaslighting cousin Miriam. If you thought What Ever Happened To Baby Jane was a twisty flick, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Davis, de Havilland, Moorehead and Astor do some phenomenal work in this melodramatic yarn.

Streaming on Hoopla, rentable on all major platforms.

Written On The Wind

Rock Hudson. Need we say more? 

A Texas oil baron (played by Robert Keith) is at the center of this soapy 1956 Douglas Sirk film, which stars gay Hollywood film star Hudson as kindhearted geologist Mitch, who is accused of the oil baron’s murder. Written on the Wind also stars Dorothy Malone and Robert Stack as the oil baron’s miserable, self-loathing adult children who vie for his attention, and Lauren Bacall as New York secretary Lucy, who is caught up in the family’s schemes. 

Streaming on WatchTCM.


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We conclude our journey through Southern Gothic melodrama with this contemporary series about the employees of a strip club in Mississippi. This ensemble series largely focuses on working class, queer people of color, starring Brandee Evans, Nicco Annan, Shannon Thornton, Elarica Johnson and many others. P-Valley shows a different side of the Southern experience, with contemporary themes and modern storytelling.

Streaming on Starz, Amazon Prime Video, and Roku.

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