1. Buddies (1985)
Buddies was the first American film to deal with AIDS. Focusing on a gay man in New York who volunteers to help a man suffering from AIDS, the indie film had a limited release and wasn’t seen by a large audience.
2. An Early Frost (1985)
The first TV movie to deal with AIDS, An Early Frost told the story of a man who has to come out as gay and HIV positive to his family. It not only dealt with the rejection he faced from certain family members, but the prejudices AIDS patients faced even from the medical community.
3. Parting Glances (1986)
Parting Glances is less of an AIDS movie and more a movie that features a main character suffering from AIDS. The film focuses on a group of gay men in the early ’80s, and while there are whispers of the threat of the disease there’s just as much talk about new relationships and work worries. It was a film that didn’t have an agenda of teaching the audience about the issue.
4. Longtime Companion (1989)
Longtime Companion, the first wide release of AIDS related film, was able to illustrate the impact of AIDS on the gay community, not just by the friends lost but by what they chose to do about it, highlighting the gay men’s health crisis center and AIDS activism.
5. Philadelphia (1993)
By illustrating the prejudices AIDS patients faced Philadelphia went beyond depicting how AIDS effected those suffering from the disease and their loved ones and instead depicted how the disease had effected the entire country.
6. Reality Bites (1994)
Even though Reality Bites had a main character struggling to come out, it was a straight character who worried about her possible exposure to HIV. This film pointed out AIDS can affect anyone, gay or straight.
7. The Cure (1995)
While a steady stream of swears and gay slurs keeps The Cure off the family film list, the “charming coming of age instrumentals” and pre-teen adventures make the movie about an eleven-year-old who was infected by a blood transfusion and the best friend who is sure they can find a cure extremely far removed from the AIDS film of the ’80s centered around gay communities.
8. Kids (1995)
Kids is like a terrifying feature film length AIDS PSA, reminding viewers whatever your age or sexual orientation, if you have unprotected sex, you’re at risk. Depicting a single day, it focused on exposure to HIV and AIDS rather than the effects of the disease.
9. It’s My Party (1996)
It’s My Party focuses on a man with AIDS who’s physically fine yet has days before AIDS related lesions destroy his brain. It introduced the topic of AIDS patients using assisted suicide.
10. Gia (1998)
Gia introduced not only a depiction of a real person who suffered and died from AIDS, but someone who was infected through IV drug use. While it came out in the late ’90s it was set in the mid-’80s, and the fear surrounding AIDS and AIDS patients was addressed.
11. Angels in America (2003)
Angels in America portrays a character who is introduced hospitalized because of his AIDS but is later able to manage the disease through medication, a significant change from the steady deterioration of AIDS patients in earlier films.
12. Rent (2005)
Rent ends on a hopeful note, and not just because one of the main characters suffering from AIDS miraculously comes back from the dead. Constant mention of AZT and AIDS activism sends the message that being HIV positive is no longer a death sentence.
13. Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire (2009)
In Precious the title character is infected with HIV through abuse, but learning her status does not derail her goals of creating a positive future for herself and her son.
Those interested in learning more about World AIDS Day can visit the organization’s website.
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