1 Call Me By Your Name – Crema, Italy
It’s the hottest LGBTI-themed movie of the year, and CMBYN’s backdrop is similarly sizzling.
Telling the story of Elio, a bored, precocious teenager who falls in love and lust with Oliver, a 20-something academic working for his father, the movie takes place over one hot summer in northern Italy.
Most of the action takes place in Elio’s parents’ fabulously ramshackle and leafy mansion just outside the picturesque town of Crema, an hour’s drive from Milan. The guys are also seen exploring the region’s sumptuous scenery on never-ending bike rides and wild swimming trips. Gorgeous.
2 Looking: The Movie – San Francisco, California
San Francisco is to Looking is what New York City is to Sex and the City. A character in and of itself, as essential to the story as the actual cast.
After two seasons circling his feelings for Richie (Raul Castillo), HBO’s seminal drama concluded with main character Patrick (Jonathan Groff) tidally returning to San Fran for a wedding. In season two he’d escaped to Denver, following the dramatic end to his affair with boss Kevin (Russell Tovey).
Across the entire story, Patrick and his friends are most themselves when immersed in the city’s buzzing energy, whether partying at the EndUp, going hell for leather at Folsom, or seeing the stars at the California Academy of Sciences, as Patrick and Richie did for one memorable date.
3 Brokeback Mountain – Canadian Rockies in Alberta
Set some 50 years before Looking, shepherds Ennis (Heath Ledger) and Jack (Jake Gyllenhaal) face considerably more serious obstacles to love than the neurotic Patrick and co.
The only place the relationship between these deeply closeted men can flourish is Wyoming, and the fictional Brokeback Mountain, far from homophobic prying eyes. (Although the sheep didn’t seem to mind).
While the film and book are indeed set in the central US state, director Ang Lee chose to shoot the movie in the comparatively cheaper southern Alberta, Canada. Brokeback Mountain as we know it is actually a combination of Mount Lougheed and Moose Mountain.
4 The Kids Are All Right – LA, California
Now to tinseltown, home of the movies, where the climate and forgiving natural light rarely falter.
That said, this family drama eschews the glitz and glam of Hollywood to focus on the artsy and bohemian Echo Park, and a same-sex parent family headed by Julianne Moore and Annette Benning. They live a perfect, juice-bar-on-every-corner existence with their two achingly cool kids, until…
Well, basically until Josh Hutcherson tracks down his sperm donor father; a ruggedly trendy Mark Ruffalo. Josh’s birth mom swiftly takes a liking to this organic-restaurant, farm and bungalow owner who loves recycling and gardening aficionado. That’s LA.
5 Mulholland Drive – LA, California
While the Kids Are All Right depicts LA as a hipster wonderland, Mulholland Drive goes for a darker, seedier tone. It journeys through the Hollywood underworld, presenting the film industry as at once dazzling and grotesque.
This psychological thriller is named after the scenic, winding road atop the Hollywood Hills, from where amnesic Rita (Laura Harring) makes her way after a horrific car crash, eventually stumbling into the apartment of aspiring actress Betty. The two form a deep bond, but while one goes on to find stardom, the other suffers an unbearable fate.
From opulent show homes to sleazy diners and buzzing film sets to dark and dingy movie theaters, Mulholland shows the light, shade, mystery and gross superficiality of LA.
6 Stranger By the Lake – Provence, France
Erotic horror Stranger By the Lake is another dark tale that, on the whole, is sumptuous to look at.
The serenely beautiful lake in question is the 13.7km2 Sainte-Croix in Provence. Here, it doubles up as a popular cruising spot for impossibly handsome gay Frenchmen.
It’s briefly a gay utopia. However, bashful Franck’s summer of sun tanning and sex soon takes a wrong turn. Basically, he spots his brooding, moustached lover Michael drowning his ex. Gulp.
7 The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert – The Australian Outback
The film that inspired its own drag festival (Broken Heel) is still one of the best tourism adverts for Australia almost 23 years later.
In it, two drag queens and a trans woman set out on the road trip to end all road trips. They journey from Sydney to Alice Springs on a tour bus named Priscilla. Hilarity ensues. As do brushes with homophobia and death…
The sight of their high glamor against an array of rugged backdrops burns its way into your memory. The most famous scene sees the core characters hike to the top of Kings Canyon. We would like to follow in their glitter-laden footsteps, literally.
8 Carol – New York City, New York State
It was mostly filmed in Cincinnati, Ohio. But has any movie in recent memory captured the heady glamor and romance of Manhattan quite like Carol?
Cate Blanchett plays our heroine, a heavy-smoking socialite and desperate housewife straight out of Mad Men. You can practically smell her perfume as she stalks through Frankenberg’s department store (based on Bloomingdale’s) looking for Christmas presents. Shopgirl Therese (Rooney Mara) is immediately in awe.
I watched Carol at the Paris Theater off Central Park in December 2015, when it came out. I left the theater in floods of tears, greeted by NYC’s festive decorations and window displays; it was one of those strange moments where you feel like you’re in the film you’ve just watched.