Before the term BL movies even existed, you probably knew this film genre as LGBT movies or simply gay movies. These were regarded as niche movies that didn’t appeal to mainstream audiences. Made with a low budget, not many filmmakers got involved in a genre that few people watched and wouldn’t make money at the box office.
As a result, you won’t find a lot of diversity in the few gay movies that were made. Usually, they covered serious topics like AIDS or it was a melodramatic coming out story rampant with homophobia. Gay movies with Asian characters were even rarer. They existed, but these films weren’t numerous and they weren’t popular outside of a limited demographic.
With the rise in popularity of BL dramas, the good news is that BL movies have seen a slight uptick in interest as well. In the past few years, you may have noticed some new BL films popping up here and there. Still not a lot, but at least it’s better than having no representation at all.
Usually, these BL movies are pretty interesting to watch. Despite having a low budget and using unknown actors, most of the projects are made with a lot of passion, produced by filmmakers who are genuinely interested in telling well-crafted LGBT stories. BL Watcher, who has seen quite a few Asian gay movies in my lifetime, would like to recommend the best BL movies in the genre.
List of Gay Movies and BL Films
BL Movies and LGBT Films in 2021
Light is a Taiwanese BL movie about a struggling protagonist caught in a perpetual cycle of abuse. He is routinely beaten by his violent stepfather and used by men who treat him as a sex object. However, he meets a handsome prince charming who rescues him from his downtrodden life. Together, they embark on a journey of healing and recovery.
A highly sensual film, Light will appeal to anyone who likes watching hot guys engage in passionate encounters. The numerous homoerotic scenes are bold, stimulating, and push the envelope beyond your wildest imagination. Unfortunately, the weak plot undermines the sexy moments, and it’s tough to take this borderline erotica seriously.
Pornographer: Playback is a Japanese BL film and the final instalment in an ongoing trilogy. It is the movie sequel of The Novelist, continuing the story two years later with the main characters in a rocky long-distance relationship. Faced with personal insecurities and cheating allegations, the couple has hit a rough patch that threatens to end their romance.
The first hour of this movie sequel is overburdened with heavy melodrama, from the heated arguments to the emotional angst. Pornographer: Playback does lighten up significantly in the second half, ending the trilogy on a strong, satisfying note.
The Immeasurable is a BL short movie from Taiwan that you can finish in around 20 minutes. In this passionate whirlwind romance, the two main characters meet, hook up, and quickly fall in love. However, the happy couple faces an uneasy tension over their polarizing views, which escalate dramatically.
If we judge The Immeasurable solely as a short movie, it’s astounding what the narrative accomplishes in twenty minutes. The compact journey is packed with steamy passion, vibrant emotions, and atmospheric cinematography. I was intrigued by what I saw, but the film needed more content to elevate the juicy story to a higher tier of BL.
BL Movies and LGBT Films in 2020
Beneath the Shadow is a Japanese movie that explores the depth of loneliness. The main character is a single gay man leading a monotonous life, until he befriends a rebellious coworker who adds excitement to his usual routine. However, his new friend proves to be an enigma, hiding his true intentions beneath an ambiguous façade.
At over two hours long, I suspect many people will find Beneath the Shadow to be too long, too slow, and too boring, especially with such a disappointing romance. Nevertheless, this sombre film resonated with me on a deeper level, making me ponder about the poignant emotions and its philosophical message.
Dangerous Drugs of Sex is a Japanese horror movie adapted from a BL manga. In this explicit 18+ film, the main character is abducted, tortured, and sexually assaulted by his demented captor. You wouldn’t expect any romance to take place amid the disturbing events, but there’s a bizarre relationship squeezed into the film somehow.
With some gruesome and graphic scenes, Dangerous Drugs of Sex is not meant for the faint of hearts. The storyline is definitely shocking, controversial, and provocative. I can’t say that I actually enjoyed this film, but at least it made quite the impression on me.
Dear Tenant is a critically acclaimed Taiwanese movie, featuring a gay protagonist, his adopted child, and their poignant family drama. The main character is a widower taking care of his partner’s son and an ailing mother-in-law. However, he becomes engulfed in controversy after facing severe police allegations. Emotions run high as the story unravels, revealing the truth behind the accusations against him.
Powered by phenomenal acting performances, this profound film explores the themes of pain, trauma, and loss poignantly. Dear Tenant tends to overindulge in melodrama and tragedy, becoming too emotionally heavy to watch in some places. However, it’s still a multifaceted LGBT movie with a special message to convey.
His is a Japanese BL movie about two ex-boyfriends who reunite years later in a small rural town. One of them is a divorced father, who’s currently in an intense custody battle over his daughter. Reluctantly, his former lover offers them a place to stay at his house, in a peculiar living arrangement that’s bound to have the neighbours gossiping.
Although His is technically the movie sequel of His: I Didn’t Think I Would Fall in Love, the standalone film can be watched with no prior knowledge of the story. This is a slow and atmospheric movie, depicting the heartbreak of two repressed gay men. Even during the happier moments, you can’t shake away the sense of melancholy that is prevalent throughout His.
Location is a short Thai BL movie about a sweet and simple romance between two neighbours. The main character is a bubbly high school student who recently moved into a new house. He forms a friendship with his next-door neighbour, as the two teenagers bond over music, school, and their aspirations.
If you’re in the mood for a quick and light love story, Location is a pleasant film that wraps up neatly within an hour. Although the plot is not that substantial, this endearing movie powers through on the strength of its casual charm. There’re enjoyable characters, a wholesome romance, and even a couple of songs.
Love Stage!! is a Japanese BL movie about a famous actor who pursues his childhood crush from ten years ago. He’s shocked to discover that his crush is actually another man, who only dressed up as a girl to play the female role in an acting gig. Nonetheless, this revelation does not deter his initial feelings, and he decides to go forward with a romantic relationship anyway.
Adapted from a manga, the story in Love Stage doesn’t particularly translate well in a live-action movie. This film misses the mark with its shallowly developed romance, poor comedic timing, and awkward storytelling that highlights all the flaws in its frivolous plot.
Restart After Come Back Home is a Japanese BL movie that takes place in a small, sleepy rural town. After losing his job in the city, the main character returns home to inherit the family business, but faces tension with his strict father. Feeling lost, he befriends a bubbly farmer around his age and begins working on the farm with him. Both of them are surprised when their platonic friendship develops into something more.
Adapted from a manga, Restart After Come Back Home is a wholesome film packed with lots of countryside charm. The endearing lead characters elevate a simple yet heartwarming story, which touches upon themes of family, friendship, and personal growth.
The Cornered Mouse Dreams of Cheese is a Japanese BL movie based on a manga. The main character is an unfaithful married man cheating on his wife. When his detective friend discovers about the affair, he agrees to keep it a secret in exchange for a passionate kiss. Their first kiss unlocks a turbulent relationship between the pair, in a journey filled with desire, mistrust, and heartbreak.
Although the characters in The Cornered Mouse Dreams of Cheese are troubled and flawed, their volatile romance is deeply compelling to watch. This unconventional love story is backed by steamy moments, delicate emotions, and powerful acting performances.
There’s a poignant love story in Your Name Engraved Herein, depicting a gay high school romance that takes place in Taiwan during the 1980s. The film is a classic tale about the excitement, the confusion, and the heartbreak that comes with your first love.
Your Name Engraved Herein is a beautifully told LGBT romance that will resonate with many viewers. You may have to watch the movie closely to appreciate all the subtleties in its nuanced storytelling.
BL Movies and LGBT Films Pre-2020
Athlete is a Japanese BL movie about a former pro swimmer, who takes on a young male lover after his divorce. Although there are lots of passion in the relationship, they come to discover their lifestyles are incompatible with each other. The two of them have different expectations when it comes to stability, commitment, and spending the future together.
Even though Athlete starts out intriguingly, the movie loses direction and feels aimless after a while. The messaging seems muddled amid the manufactured conflict, unclear character motivations, and a romance that fizzles out by the end of the film.
In the Taiwanese movie Dear Ex, the gay main character is in mourning after his lover passed away. He spends time with his partner’s vengeful ex-wife and rebellious teenage son, forming complicated relationships with them. The three of them must navigate their trauma while dealing with resentment, rage, and confusion.
Despite the heavy subject matter, Dear Ex is not a typical tearjerker movie about grief and loss. It successfully balances the melancholy with a quirky and offbeat tone, almost defiant in its irreverent approach towards death. Although the characters are deeply flawed, they go on nuanced journeys that unfold with sophisticated emotions.
Ossan’s Love: Love or Dead is the movie sequel of the popular Japanese BL drama, Ossan’s Love. This action comedy takes place a year after the original series, where the protagonist returns home after spending a year abroad. However, there’s a hostile takeover of his workplace, leading to increasingly hectic events. His relationship also goes through a dramatic change, and the couple’s love for each other may not endure the latest hardships.
Story-wise, Ossan’s Love: Love or Dead is a total mess, with an outlandish plot that muddles its intended message. Nonetheless, there’s plenty of boisterous energy and slapstick humour that you will recognize from the original drama. When the Ossan’s Love movie chooses to be serious, it is capable of delivering deep and powerful emotions that I wished we saw more of.
Red Wine in the Night is a Thai supernatural thriller that focuses on a precarious gay romance. The protagonist is a young man who has been unlucky in love, until he meets a mysterious stranger inside an abandoned building. When the stranger’s secret identity comes to light, the two main characters embark on a journey filled with passion, tension, and bloodshed.
Although the plot in Red Wine in the Night is borderline ridiculous, I still found this movie enjoyable, entertaining, and exhilarating to watch. Packed with steamy kisses and fit guys in their underwear, I had a lot of fun indulging myself in this delightfully decadent story.
Also known as Twilight’s Kiss, Suk Suk is a Hong Kong movie about a secret romance between two elderly gay men. Both characters are deeply closeted seniors who married, raised children, and led conventionally heterosexual lives. Yet, they fall in love at an unlikely age, maintaining a forbidden affair that their families can never know.
Suk Suk is a rare gem that stands out exquisitely in the genre of gay cinema. It showcases a tender and affectionate relationship between two older men, something you won’t see in many LGBT films. This subtle movie makes a stunning impression with its complex characters, elegant storytelling, and poignant tone.