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14 Best Transgender Movies of All Time

November 20, 2018
10 min read

Politicians stay diplomatic about them, religion condemns them, but I’m proud to say that Cinema is the only public medium that dares to talk about transgenders, and dares to be no-nonsensical about it. This article is an ode to such film-making, which opens a dialogue about them, discusses them, debates about them. But most importantly, they attempt to portray transgenders as normal human beings. This list contains films which talk about transgenders, along with being true to their cinematic values. So, here is the list of top movies about transgenders. You might be able to find some of these best transgender movies on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime.

14. In a Year With 13 Moons (1978)

“In A Year With 13 Moons” is a German film by director Rainer Werner Fassbinder who’s main character Elvira Weishaupt is perhaps the most different and intriguing character on this list. On an impulse lead by love, Erwin has changed his sexual identity and become a transsexual woman by the name of Elvira. Be prepared because here, we aren’t told a story with a good ending, instead we follow the last few days before the death of Elvira, by suicide. On the way there, we fall into a depiction of sexual identity, of the character’s feelings and emotions and of this world which sadly disregards the loneliness and desperation of the ones in need. A memorable performance by Volker Spengler and a strange and unusual cinematography.

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13. Beautiful Boxer (2004)

Parinya Charoenphol is a 36 year-old Thai boxer, actress and model whose story has been adapted to the screen into a beautiful and emotionally-grabbing film. She was born male yet felt a strong identification with the female gender already at a very young age. Accepting who she was, she turned to boxing in order to support her family and pay for a sex-reassignment surgery. An interesting contrast that is greatly presented in “Beautiful Boxer”, where boxing gloves and polished nails eliminate all kinds of stereotypes and get together in a central character who’s strength and determination is an inspiration to all.

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12. Tomboy (2011)

‘Tomboy’ is a perfect example of French film-making. It’s paced, calm and the viewer is left to respond to the film in his/her own way, without being manipulated by anything other than what’s on the screen. I love the way that French films make so little use of music to milk the audience’s response. The children are simple, free and totally believable. Zoé is quite simply remarkable, as is her little sister. The direction is masterly. As for the subject matter, if you work with children, you’ll recognize how true the story rings. To be precise, ‘Tomboy’ is an excellent portrayal of child transgender experience.

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11. Hedwig and The Angry Inch (2001)

Hedwig is a transgender woman. A strong, confident and energetic German woman who takes her rock band and follows her former lover’s US tour, a boy who stole her songs after she stood by him as a musical mentor and collaborator. Throughout her electric musical adventure, she narrates parts of her life and gives us an insight into her past and complicated gender identity change. Directed and acted by John Cameron Mitchell, Hedwig is truly one of a kind, and a character that will remain in one’s memory for long. Go Hedwig!

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10. The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Dessert (1994)

‘The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of Dessert’ stars Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce and Terence Stamp. Weaving and Pierce play to gay drag queens and Terence Stamp plays an aging transgender woman. They all three decide to get in a bus that they have named Priscilla and drive across the desert to some drag shows they will be performing in a town called “Alice Springs”. On this road trip they come across many things: homophobic assaults, they learn secrets about one another, and they get to know each other better through deep meaningful conversations. There is nothing quite like it, big fun with big heart. Sweet, funny and meaningful.

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9. Soldier’s Girl (2003)

‘Soldier’s Girl’ is a TV movie that connects to every transgender. An IMDb User Review, which proves my point states ” …. being a TS(Transgender), to me it was more than real. I interacted with Calpernia and relived my own memories that her experiences brought to the surface in my mind. I do not think the producers could have presented the story better…..”. The film is inspired from a true story. The story behind Calpernia Addams and PFC Barry Winchell’s love story is promising yet tragic at the same time. The best part is that ‘School Girl’ doesn’t preach, it simply tells about a love story that goes terribly wrong.

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8. Boy Meets Girl (2014)

“Boy Meets Girl” is the story of a transgender young woman who lives in rural America and longs to move to New York City to study fashion. She meets a rich girl who appreciates her, and their relationship changes the lives of many people. This film has a brilliant cast and a great script. The story is written with a both no-holds-barred approach and a beautiful sensitivity. It touches on many aspects of transgender life and it touches the emotions perfectly. Michelle Hendley, (as the lead character, Ricky, turns in a performance that is brave and heartwarming.

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7. Transamerica (2005)

The film walks on a fine line between drama and comedy. Maintaining the seriousness of the subject but at the same time injecting comedy, makes the viewing  a little bit easier and entertaining.  ‘Transamerica’ deals with Stanley ‘Bree’ Osbourne, played by Felicity Huffman, a pre-operative transsexual whose life is about to change forever. Not because of the surgery, but because he discovers that he had fathered a child in another life and this boy needs his help. With his surgery only a week away, Bree has to come to terms with having a child and how his transformation is going to affect both their lives. The film is considered as one of the best made on the subject.

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6. Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

Apart from being an amazing film, it is also one that carries a big important message when telling the story of Ron Woodroof, who helped patients attained by AIDS receive the right medication, after being diagnosed and given 30 days to live in the 80’s un-advanced medical world. Rayon is a drug-addicted transsexual woman with HIV who partners up with Ron and, although facing an unfortunate fate, changes the protagonist for the better as he slowly gains understanding and respect for her lifestyle, going up to defending her from other discriminators. That’s the power that she spreads when expressing her true identity, even though deep down she still carries a broken soul damaged by her past. This beautiful and fragile character will linger in your heart, and for that, a huge applause and respect goes to Jared Leto, who has not and probably will never cease to impress.

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5. The Danish Girl (2015)

In the middle of all the incredible performances he has delivered, one will never forget the role of transsexual Lili Elbe that Eddie Redmayne gracefully portrayed in the romantic drama “The Danish Girl”. Lili is a character we profoundly empathy with as we are invited in accompanying the process of enlightenment she goes through, and therefore fully understand the inner and outer difficulties that she must face, that come along with the change occurring within her. Inspired by the real Danish painter of the early 20th century, the character shows the intensity of what it is to be one of the first transsexuals to undergo sex reassignment surgery. A performance to praise forever.

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4. Boys Don’t Cry (1999)

Based on a true story, this fictionalized tale relates the experiences of Teena Brandon, played by Hilary Swank, a sexually confused youth that decides to live as a man. Her relationships with a group of people in a Middle American small town is vividly brought to life by the performances of several unknown young actors who bring these characters to life. The film hooks you with a beautifully composed title sequence showing us how Teena’s friend helps her dress as a guy so she can go to a roller-skating rink and meet girls.

It is clear from early on that Brandon is a self-hating lesbian, frustrated by the oppressive environment she lives in, and feels that her only solace is to don the clothing of boys in order to enjoy the women she can only dream of when dressed as a girl. The film works because the director and her cinematographer compel us with images that compliment the gripping screenplay. Even after almost a couple of decades of its release, ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ remains one of the most effective movies on transgenders.

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3. Ma Vie en Rose (1997)

‘Ma Vie en Rose’ or ‘My time in Pink’ is a story of a boy who believes he’ll grow up to be a girl, who likes to dress as a girl, who dreams to marry his boyfriend. It’s a difficult story, at least for people having troubles with the subject, but it’s well-developed, with a terrific screenplay and great performance by the lead actor. What makes the movie stand out from the rest of the list is that the story is about a transgender which does not involve drag queens or troubled transvestites with bad home lives. It’s rather a simple character study of the boy. The character deals with harsh realities, rejections, and being picked on for what you believe. This makes you empathize with him, whether you’re a transgender or not.

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2. All About My Mother  (1999)

A spectacular film by Pedro Almodóvar that examines a set of societal complexities which include transsexualism, from man to woman, a topic that feels like a completely natural and logical theme considering the director’s recurring interest and exploration in female characters. Agrado is the protagonist Manuela’s old friend, a confident and witty transgender prostitute, a character who’s strength we admire and who’s kindness and honesty we love. The remarkable performance by Antonia San Juan, a transsexual herself, has made this Spanish character one to remember. Even with a beaten and bruised face, she empowers the beauty and dignity of transsexuals in the most raw and memorable form.

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1. The Crying Game (1992)

The less you know about this film, the better. I won’t tell you anything except what a well-written and well-acted movie this is. From the first 15 minutes, which is mainly dialogue between two actors, you are completely drawn in to the film, which has almost dream-like qualities. ‘The Crying Game’ continues to stand out in the top ranks of intelligent, literate and provocative psychological thrillers. At heart it is a remarkable study of loyalty, identity and betrayal.

A textured exploration of the nature of allegiance and friendship, the film is anchored by fine central performances from Jaye Davidson, Forrest Whitaker and Stephen Rea. Indeed, the American actor Whitaker’s utterly convincing portrayal of a modern urban Briton is ample proof of his impressive range. It is perhaps Whitaker’s finest performance. The triangular relationship explores the principal theme on many levels, and the fine supporting performances from Jim Broadbent and Miranda Richardson add to the richness of Jordan’s film.

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