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    15 LGBTQ Asian And Asian American Movies To Watch Now

    Here are some Asian and Asian American films quietly revolutionizing the way sexuality is represented.

    1. Spa Night (2016)

    Youn Ho Cho, Haerry Kim, Joe Seo
    Strand Releasing / courtesy Everett Collection

    18-year-old Korean American David lives in Los Angeles with his deeply conservative immigrant family, and he begins working at a spa to help his parents out financially. He discovers that the spa is a meeting ground for gay couplings between customers, which brings David face-to-face with his own burgeoning sexuality. David loves his family deeply and feels guilty for every way he thinks he "fails" them: not getting good grades, not being able to help much financially, not being straight. This is an intimate portrait of a boy struggling with his own uncertainties in a rigid community as he enters adulthood. 

    2. Happy Together (1997)

    Leslie Cheung, Tony Leung Chiu-wai in a car
    Kino International / courtesy Everett Collection

    In this Asian cinema classic, Hong Kong couple Ho (Leslie Cheung) and Lai (Tony Leung Chiu-wai) head to Argentina seeking a better life and to mend their tumultuous relationship. Through a series of increasingly abusive breakups and reconciliations, Ho goes on his own personal journey, and the two men eventually drift apart, with Lai befriending another man, Chang (Chen Chang). Ho and Lai struggle with their own demons far away from home in a series of quiet, beautifully shot scenes.

    3. I Don't Want to Sleep Alone (2006)

    Lee Kang-sheng, Norman Bin Atun resting next to each other
    Strand Releasing / courtesy Everett Collection

    Malaysian Taiwanese romantic drama I Don't Want to Sleep Alone is a tough movie to watch, but if you make it through, you will be touched. Taiwan-based director Tsai Ming-liang returned to his native Malaysia for this gripping film starring Lee Kang-sheng as the victim of a vicious beating being nursed back to health by Bangladeshi immigrant worker Rawang (Norman Atun). Parallel story lines run, and Lee plays both "Paralyzed Guy" and "Homeless Guy," eventually culminating with a ferocious display of yearning.

    4. Saving Face (2004)

    Joan Chen in wedding dress
    Destination Films

    Saving Face is millennial early Asian American classic, exploring the intersectionality of being a minority within a marginalized community. Closeted Asian American surgeon Wil (Michelle Krusiec) falls for openly gay ballerina Vivian (Lynn Chen), but their relationship is complicated when her widowed mother (Joan Chen) gets pregnant and kicked out from her own traditional parents' house. Alice Wu's GLAAD Award-nominated directorial debut was produced by Will Smith's company, who helped the small-budget film get aerial shots of New York from the same helicopter used in Hitch

    5. Ethan Mao (2004)

    Margin Films
    Amazon Video

    Writer-director Quentin Lee's award-winning drama-thriller about a gay Asian American teenager (Jun Hee Lee) is an intense depiction of desperation. The low-budget indie film focuses on Lee's character, who turns to prostitution after being kicked out by his homophobic father. He returns to his family home on Thanksgiving to steal his late mother's necklace, taking his father, stepmother, and siblings hostage in the process. 

    6. The Half of It (2020)

    from left: Leah Lewis, Alexxis Lemire
    KC Bailey / © Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Alice Wu continues to make strides in LGBTQ Asian American film with Netflix movie The Half of It. The queer Cyrano de Bergerac-meets-John Hughes movie features a quiet, nerdy Chinese American teen, Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis), who helps genial jock (Daniel Diemer) woo a girl (Alexxis Lemire) whom she quickly falls for. Ellie and Paul's blossoming friendship is a joy to watch, and Lewis conveys all the tortured emotions of innocent high school romance. 

    7. Loev (2015)

    Sahil and Jai
    Bombay Berlin Film Productions

    Homosexuality was still illegal in India when writer-director Sudhanshu Saria secretly shot this gripping gay romantic drama. Sparks fly between reunited childhood friends Sahil (Dhruv Ganesh) and Jai (Shiv Pandit) as they go on a road trip through India, and plenty of drama happens as Sahil's boyfriend, Alex, recognizes their attraction. 

    8. Twilight's Kiss (2019)

    from left: Ben Yuen, Tai-Bo walking outside
    Strand Releasing / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Inspired by 2014's nonfiction book Oral History of Older Gay Men in Hong Kong, Twilight's Kiss features the love affair of two closeted gay men in their twilight years. 65-year-old retired single father Hoi meet-cutes with 70-year-old taxi driver Pak in a park, awakening desires they have repressed for years. While they both yearn to love openly, they are proud of the children and families they have worked hard to build, and the film shows many touching moments between two men finding love in the last decades of their lives. 

    9. Fire (1996)

    Sita looking at Radha
    Amazon Prime Video

    Deepa Mehta's Fire is a deeply erotic, intimate love story between a young woman, Sita, in an arranged marriage and her older brother-in-law's wife, Radha. They are both trapped in unhappy marriages — Sita's husband, Jatin, is cruel and unfaithful, while his older brother, Ashok, is a religious zealot. Banned in India shortly after its release, Fire is a bolt and poignant outcry against repressive societal conventions. 

    10. Your Name Engraved Herein (2020)

    Birdy and Chang Jia-Han

    Your Name Engraved Herein is Taiwan's top-grossing LGBTQ-themed film of all time, and is set toward the end of martial law in1980s Taiwan. Wang Po Te (Birdy), a new student at a Catholic all-boys high school, meets Chang Jia-han (A-han), and the two form a friendship that quickly blossoms into romance during a time of social upheaval. This coming-of-age tale explores love, homophobia, and family pressures as their relationship develops.

    11. Die Beautiful (2016)

    Trisha Eschevarria and her friend
    The IdeaFirst Company

    This strange and innovative film stars acclaimed makeup artist Paolo Ballesteros as Trisha Echevarria, a transgender woman who passes away after winning a gay beauty pageant. The film flashes back from her wake, where she is made up to be a different celebrity each night, to her youth and to her family, and it shows how she fought to always live (and die) as her real self. 

    12. Present Perfect (2017)

    Toey and Oat kissing
    Commetive Production

    This Thai movie depicts heartbroken Toey (Tonawanik Adisorn), who escapes to Higashikawa in Hokkaido following a bad breakup, where he meets Oat (Maroukasonti Kritsana). Oat is in Japan as a "last hurrah" before getting married. The two bond and quickly develop a budding attraction, forcing themselves to face their personal problems and the realities of their lives. 

    13. The Handmaiden (2016)

    KIM Tae-Ri starring across from her
    Amazon Studios /Courtesy Everett Collection

    The Handmaiden is a gorgeously shot South Korean thriller filled with stunning twists and turns, all centering around a lesbian romance. Set in Korea under Japanese colonial rule, a young girl is sent to scam a rich heiress into marrying a con man, but all is not as it seems. 

    14. Fruit Fly (2009)

    Bethesda striding around the Castro
    Center for Asian American Media (CAAM)

    This tiny-budget, limited-run musical comedy follows the adventures of Filipina American performance artist Bethesda, who moves into San Francisco's vibrant Castro neighborhood in search of her birth mother. As she explores her career in an artist commune and tries to workshop her latest piece, which centers on finding her biological mother, she builds a loving gay family. With only a one-week run in New York, Fruit Fly won several independent film awards at small film festivals. 

    15. The Wedding Banquet (1993)

    Winston Chao, May Chin, Mitchell Lichtenstein
    Samuel Goldwyn / courtesy Everett Collection

    One of iconic-LGBTQ-film director Ang Lee's early directorial efforts, The Wedding Banquet is a co-production between Taiwan and the United States, featuring the story of Wai-Tung (Winston Chao), who lives happily with his boyfriend (Mitchell Lichtenstein) in New York City, but keeps his sexuality hidden from his Taiwanese parents. He appeases their wish for a traditional Chinese union by marrying a struggling artist looking for a green card, but their plans backfire when his parents plan an extravagant wedding banquet.