Summary List Placement
Hugh Grant played Clive Allen in 1987’s ‘Maurice.’
Straight actor Hugh Grant took on the role of Clive in James Ivory’s “Maurice.”
Clive is a gay man who tries to suppress his homosexuality in Edwardian-era England. Grant’s performance has been labeled as insightful and “intelligent,” and in 1987, The New York Times critic Janet Maslin called Grant “so good.”
Maslin said that Grant’s Clive “embodies all the conservatism and complacency, not to mention all the hidden desire, that Forster saw as most repressive in the English society of his day.”
Hilary Swank played trans man Brandon Teena in ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ in 1999.
Hilary Swank, who is cisgender, won an Oscar for playing trans man Brandon Teena in “Boys Don’t Cry.” Her performance here was called “the performance of her career” by film critic James Berardinelli. The film scores 88% on Rotten Tomatoes, with the site’s critical consensus reading: “Hilary Swank’s acclaimed performance pays fitting tribute to the tragic life of Brandon Teena.”
Charlize Theron played a bisexual serial killer in 2004’s ‘Monster.’
In another Oscar winning performance, Theron plays serial killer Aileen Wuornos, who was bisexual. She won just about every award going for this role, which Roger Ebert called “one of the greatest performances in the history of the cinema.”
Felicity Huffman played a trans woman in ‘Transamerica’ in 2005.
Roger Ebert was also a fan of Cis actress Felicity Huffman’s performance as Bree, a trans woman, in “Transamerica.” Ebert wrote: “Felicity Huffman brings great empathy and tact to her performance as Bree.”
Huffman nominated for an Oscar her performance.
Chiwetel Ejiofor played a drag queen in ‘Kinky Boots’ in 2005.
Straight actor Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Lola/Simon, a drag queen in “Kinky Boots,” which also stars Joel Edgerton. While the film itself received average reviews, Ejiofor’s performance was hailed as “striking.”
Roger Ebert wrote: “He plays the role not as a man pretending to be a woman, and not as a woman trapped in a man’s body, and not as a parody of a woman, and not as a gay man, but as a drag queen, period: Lola, a tall, athletic performer in thigh-high red boots who rules the stage of a drag club as if she were born there, and is a pretty good singer, too.”
Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal played Ennis and Jack in ‘Brokeback Mountain’ in 2005.
Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, both straight, were both Oscar-nominated for their performances (Ledger in lead, Gyllenhaal in supporting) in this film about two men falling in love and continuing their affair for years.
The film scored 87% on Rotten Tomatoes, with the site’s critical consensus reading: “A beautifully epic Western, ‘Brokeback Mountain”s gay love story is imbued with heartbreaking universality, helped by the moving performances of Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal.”
Sean Penn played gay activist Harvey Milk in 2008’s ‘Milk.’
Harvey Milk is one of the most important gay activists in history, and straight actor Sean Penn won an Oscar for playing him. Penn’s performance as Milk was hailed by Variety, with Todd McCarthy calling his performance “winning.”
McCarthy wrote: “The show belongs squarely to Penn. Made to more closely resemble Milk via an elongated nose, which also makes his face look narrower, the actor socks over his characterization of a man he’s made to seem, above all, a really sweet guy, but who crucially possessed the fearlessness and toughness to be a highly successful political motivator, agitator and, ultimately, figurehead of a movement.”
Colin Firth played a gay professor in ‘A Single Man’ in 2009.
Colin Firth earned his first Oscar-nomination for his performance in this special film that just so happens to be Tom Ford’s directorial debut. Firth does typically-British emotional restraint so well, and The Austin Chronicle wrote that he “dons the role of George like a fine bespoke suit.”
“‘A Single Man is,’ ultimately, Firth’s tour de force,” the review continues. “He slips into the raw role of George Falconer with exactly as much precision as George brings to becoming Professor Falconer (straight, no chaser), and the masks both actor and character share are uncommonly seamless.”
Julianne Moore and Annette Bening played Jules and Nic in 2010’s ‘The Kids Are All Right.’
Based in parts on some aspects of director Lisa Cholodenko’s life, “The Kids Are All Right” paints a compelling and convincing picture of a middle-aged lesbian couple and their family.
Julianne Moore and Annette Bening play the couple, and even though both actors are straight, you believe in their relationship completely during every second of the movie. Bening was even nominated for an Oscar for her role.
Roger Ebert wrote: “Moore and Bening are superb actors here, evoking a marriage of more than 20 years, and all of its shadings and secrets, idealism and compromise.”
Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara played Carol and Therese in 2015’s ‘Carol.’
Both Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara were Oscar-nominated for their roles as Carol and Therese, two women who fall in love in the 1950s.
Variety critic Justin Chang called their performances “brilliant.”
Of Mara, Chang wrote: “Mara is as no less mesmerizing here than she was in ‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’ … and she seems born to the role of someone who seems at once knowing and naive, guarded yet unafraid to pursue what she really wants in life. Some of the film’s most moving moments find Mara simply peering out at the great nocturnal expanse of Manhattan.”
He added: “Blanchett fully inhabits the role of a woman who turns out to be much tougher and wiser than those luxurious outer garments would suggest. As a study in the way beautiful surfaces can simultaneously conceal and expose deeper meanings, the actress’s performance represents an all-too-fitting centerpiece for this magnificently realized movie.”
Eddie Redmayne played trans woman Lilie Elbe in 2015’s ‘The Danish Girl.’
Eddie Redmayne’s casting as trans woman Lili Elbe sparked controversy at the time, and speaking to GQ, Redmayne has since said he’s unsure if he should ever have accepted the role.
However, Variety’s Peter Debruge handed out praise for his performance, writing: “For an actor, there can be few more enticing — or challenging — roles than this, in which the nature of identity, performance and transformation are all wrapped up in the very fabric of the character itself, and Redmayne gives the greatest performance of his career so far, infinitely more intimate — and far less technical — than the already stunning turn as Stephen Hawking that so recently won him the Oscar.”
Meanwhile, Rotten Tomatoes’ critical consensus reads: “‘The Danish Girl’ serves as another showcase for Eddie Redmayne’s talent — and poignantly explores thought-provoking themes with a beautifully filmed biopic drama.”
Trevante Rhodes played the adult version of Chiron in ‘Moonlight’ in 2016.
“Moonlight” made history as the first ever LGBTQ movie to win best picture at the Academy Awards. The film follows the tale of Chiron over three different periods of time; when he is a child, when he is a teenager, and when he is an adult, each played by a different actor.
While all three performers are good, Trevante Rhodes’ portrayal as the adult Chiron stands out as particularly excellent. While Rhodes himself is straight, he used the experiences of a gay friend of his as a source of inspiration.
The Hollywood Reporter critic David Rooney wrote that it’s the “sensitivity” and “understated rawness” of Rhodes’ performance that makes the film “so emotionally satisfying.”
Rooney also wrote that Rhodes is “extraordinary in the self-exposure he achieves with minimal outward display.”
In 2017’s ‘Call Me By Your Name,’ Timothée Chalamet played Elio.
Timothée Chalamet’s performance in this exquisite movie launched his career into super stardom. Playing Elio, Chalamet is so convincing as a young man falling in love with an older man, obsessing over every painstaking detail of the process, as one usually does when falling in love for the first time.
The Economist wrote that Chalamet “evokes so many shades of humanity, portraying a path of youthful self-discovery that is more raw, unhinged, and ultimately honest than many actors could manage.”
Meanwhile, The Hollywood Reporter called Chalamet’s performance “breathtaking” in its review: “The true breakout of the film is 21-year-old Chalamet,” the review states. “Elio is someone who is experiencing a lot of things for the first time, for which he barely has any words, but Chalamet’s face and body language turn his character into an open book.”
The review also calls the final, one-take, wordless shot of the film (all a close up of Chalamet’s Elio) “so mesmerizing that it immediately cements his status as one of the world’s brightest young talents.”
In 2018’s ‘Love, Simon,’ Nick Robinson played gay student Simon.
“Love, Simon” was a groundbreaking movie purely for existing — it was the first ever mainstream romantic comedy with a lead character who he is gay, and where the story is about gay love.
While it would have been great for a gay character to take on this groundbreaking, first-of-its-kind role, Nick Robinson’s performance is undeniably touching.
Pete Hammond of Deadline Hollywood wrote: “Robinson nails the role with natural hangdog looks and an appealing personality that can’t help but make the audience root for his eventual happiness.”
Taron Egerton played Elton John in ‘Rocketman’ in 2019.
Taron Egerton took on the daunting role of Elton John in this biopic that isn’t really a biopic. It’s a fantasy musical, but unlike “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Rocketman” doesn’t straight-wash this movie (at least for the most part). There are even gay sex scenes — hooray!
Roeper continued: “From the moment Taron Egerton strides into the film … we believe Egerton as Elton. We believe him as the painfully shy prodigy Reginald Dwight, desperate for his parents’ approval; as the genius who sits at the piano and finds the perfect notes to breathe lasting musical life into Bernie Taupin’s brilliant lyrics; as a master showman in command of the worldwide stage, and as a man who nearly kills himself because he’s been conditioned to believe no one will ever really love him.”
Paul Bettany played Frank Bledsoe in Alan Ball’s 2020 movie ‘Uncle Frank.’
Paul Bettany is nowadays best known for his colorful turns as major characters in huge franchises, such as his role as Vision in the MCU and as villain Dryden Voss in “Solo: A Star Wars Story.”
While he’s great in both of those roles, Bettany actually started out as a character actor in smaller movies, excelling in films such as “Gangster No. 1” and, in particular, “A Knight’s Tale” opposite Heath Ledger, in which he played Geoffrey Chaucer.
While this movie is an Amazon Studios picture, it does have a significantly smaller and more personal feel than his ventures in Disney’s blockbusters. Alan Ball’s movie follows Bettany’s Frank on a road-trip with his niece, Sophia Lillis’ Beth, who is entranced by her uncle.
While the movie itself received mixed reviews, Bettany was praised for being on “top form” in this return to character-driven roles. Jordan Hoffman of The Guardian wrote: “The heartfelt richness of his performance has you wiping the tears from your cheek,” while Odie Henderson of Roger Ebert writes that Bettany’s “very good performance” is “moving, realistic and harmonious.”
Ewan McGregor played iconic gay fashion designer in the TV ‘Halston’
Ewan McGregor defended his casting as the legendary 1980s fashion designer Roy Halston, saying that the character’s sexuality was only one aspect of the role.
While “Halston” has so far been met with lukewarm reviews, McGregor’s blistering performance has been acclaimed.
Nailing the quirkiness of Halston’s voice and the catty hiss with which Halston spits out rants and put downs, McGregor makes the show entirely his. It’s a fun, hugely entertaining show despite claims from Halston’s real life family that it’s not historically accurate.
It may be best to not take this Ryan Murphy show as gospel, but it’s well worth watching for McGregor’s powerhouse performance. As usual, he is utterly compelling.