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 has seen quite a few Asian gay movies in my lifetime. Below are some of my best BL movie recommendations in the genre.
List of BL Movie Recommendations
BL Movies in 2021
Komorebi is a Taiwanese BL movie about a gay son on the verge of coming out to his mother. The main character has gotten married to his childhood sweetheart recently. While his sisters know about them, the mom remains unaware of her son’s relationship. At family dinner, the conversation turns to the subject of his mysterious love life, pushing him closer towards honesty.
There is a warm, gentle coming-out story in Komorebi. This short film features relatable characters, realistic reactions, and reassuring messages. Admittedly, the story is limited by its length, unable to elaborate on certain details. Nonetheless, it does a decent job at making the parent-child dynamic feel wholesome and down-to-earth.
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.
Moneyboys is a Taiwanese movie that explores the world of gay sex workers. Although filmed in the country of Taiwan, the story is supposed to take place in China. The main character comes from an impoverished rural background. He escapes to the city and makes a living as a rentboy. His career comes with many challenges, including physical danger, emotional torment, and financial burdens.
Despite the stylish aesthetic and some meaningful commentary, I don’t feel passionate about Moneyboys. There are several inspiring moments, but this gritty gay movie seems excessively melodramatic. The cynical narrative, cliched dialogue, and emotionally distant protagonist fail to connect with me.
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 Pornographer: Playback is overburdened with heavy melodrama. I feel fatigued from the constant heated arguments and emotional angst. This movie sequel does lighten up significantly in the second half, ending the trilogy on a strong, satisfying note.
Sweet Curse is a short Korean BL horror movie. A bewitching spell is placed upon the gay protagonist, who becomes terrorized by a ghost. Every night, he is haunted by bizarre circumstances and strange erotic dreams that intensify dramatically.
Despite its intriguing premise, Sweet Curse suffers from a convoluted story with no satisfying payoff. The narrative feels lost, lacking clarity, coherence, or any emotional impact. Even the provocative nudity cannot save this short movie from being a disappointment.
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.
The Night Beyond the Tricornered Window is a supernatural horror movie adapted from a Japanese BL manga. The protagonist can see ghosts and spirits, even though he isn’t comfortable interacting with the paranormal world. He partners up with a mysterious exorcist to solve a series of gruesome murders around the city.
Although this movie adaptation looks slick and stylish, The Night Beyond the Tricornered Window doesn’t feel coherent for those unfamiliar with the source material. As someone who has not read the original manga, the complex plot moved too rapidly and confused me. I couldn’t connect with the complex story, the bland characters, or the nonexistent relationship.
BL Movies in 2020
A Distant Place is a Korean movie about a gay farmer and his quiet life in the countryside. He raises a young child with the small rural community supporting them. His lover from the city moves in and settles down, forming a cozy family unit. However, their idyllic lifestyle is disrupted by an unwelcomed arrival.
In recent years, there has been an influx of sad gay movies that take place in the countryside. A Distant Place is a worthy addition to the list, impressing me with its melancholic story and beautiful visuals. This meaningful film captures the struggles of the down-to-earth characters, highlighting the nuanced themes of family and conformity.
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.
Journey to the Shore is a Korean BL movie about two high school students in a secret romance. The couple goes on a trip to a distant beachside town, far away from their peers and acquaintances. They enjoy their alone time together, working up the courage to display physical affection in public. Beneath their momentary happiness, these boyfriends feel troubled by a grim and depressing future.
I am wowed by Journey to the Shore, an excellent short film that conveys a beautifully poignant gay love story. The complex characters, their intimate relationship, and many heartbreaking emotions come together in this well-crafted narrative. The wistful romance is supported by two talented actors who bring charisma, authenticity, and gravitas to their performances.
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.
Secret Roommate is a short Korean BL movie about a gay couple who live together. Their living arrangement is interrupted when the lead character’s younger brother makes a sudden arrival. He becomes an unknowing third wheel in their relationship, as they try to disguise their romance around him.
Using a simple scenario, Secret Roommate creates an amusing and lighthearted short film that hits all the right notes. It mixes romance with comedy and family drama effectively in twenty minutes. The movie also ends cleverly, wrapping up an excellent story in a satisfying way.
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.
Your Name Engraved Herein is a Taiwanese BL movie, depicting a gay high school romance in the 1980s. The main characters are two students who have fallen in love during a forbidden era and cannot openly express their love for each other. As these teenagers navigate their confused feelings, they experience the excitement, confusion, and heartbreak associated with first love.
There’s an epic and poignant love story in Your Name Engraved Herein, backed by solid acting and stellar production. This film 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 in 2019
As If You Whisper is a Korean BL movie about an aspiring singer at the start of his career. Just when he struggles to gain traction in the music industry, the main character meets his biggest fan. The two men develop a close bond that gradually grows into a secret relationship.
With a mix of soft music and gentle romance, As If You Whisper shines brightly during several moments. However, the story suffers from some clumsiness that holds back its potential. It could have benefited from a smoother narrative, better character development, and more emphasis on the love story.
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.
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.
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.
BL Movies in 2018
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.
My Pistachio is a short Korean BL movie about an aspiring actor and a student director. The main character recently joined his school’s drama club, but he clashes with one of its key members. As they work together in an upcoming play, these two theatre enthusiasts discover a growing rapport.
I was underwhelmed by My Pistachio, finding this BL film too average and low-key. The story’s simplicity isn’t a problem, but I couldn’t connect with the flat characters or their dry relationship dynamic. The narrative doesn’t move me, leaving behind a feeling of tepid indifference.
Some More is a Korean BL movie about a gentle countryside romance. A traveller from the city accidentally ends up on a farm, where he befriends a soft-spoken resident. This friendly farmer shows his new acquaintance the wonders of the outdoors. The two men navigate their developing feelings over the next few days.
I really enjoy the warm, sunny, and relaxing vibe in Some More. The serene surroundings provide the idyllic setting for this sexy love story to thrive. The couple has excellent chemistry, backed by intriguing sexual tension and passionate encounters. Everything about this BL short film feels easygoing and effortless.
BL Movies in 2017
Malila: The Farewell Flower is a Thai movie about two former lovers who reunite in a rural village. Both men have experienced devastating tragedies that changed their lives dramatically. After meeting again, the grieving characters spend intimate time together and navigate their rekindled feelings.
Beautifully filmed and powerfully acted, Malila: The Farewell Flower is thought-provoking. The poignant narrative explores philosophical themes like death, loss, and enlightenment. Unfortunately, I didn’t love the film’s second half, finding many scenes too slow and gruesome. As much as I appreciate the artistic merits, I needed a reprieve from the heavy ideologies towards the end.
Secret Spectacles is a short Korean gay movie about a pair of magical glasses. The main character’s new specs gives him the extraordinary vision to see through clothes. He uses this voyeuristic ability on his university crush, hoping to catch a glimpse of him undressed. What happens next does not go as planned.
With a naughty premise, Secret Spectacles plays out like an erotic fantasy than a BL romance. The movie suffers from a small and limited plot, which doesn’t expand beyond the basic concept of wanting to see your friend naked. The experience is unsatisfying whether you watch it for the barebones love story or the lacklustre fetishism.
Spring Like a Lover is a Japanese movie about three gay men and their intertwining love lives. The main characters are going through a rough patch in their relationship. After an argument, one of the leads revisits his ex-boyfriend, who is now married to a woman. When old feelings rekindle between the pair, this complicated love triangle leads to tears, confrontations, and violence.
Enjoyable for the wrong reasons, Spring Like a Lover will appeal to those who secretly appreciate messy BL movies. This short 18+ film features flawed, miserable characters who make many mistakes in their explosive relationship drama. Although the story is a total disaster, I can’t look away from the chaotic trainwreck.
Other BL Films
Antique is the Korean movie adaptation of the Antique Bakery manga. The film focuses on a pastry shop owner and an openly gay patisserie, who share a tricky relationship dynamic. Joined by other quirky employees, they work together in a cheery, cozy, and chaotic environment.
Although Antique looks stylish and vibrant, it misses the mark with muddled storytelling. The narrative is an incoherent mess and all the characters come across as shallow caricatures. Plus, the homophobia is outrageously rampant with gay sexuality often antagonized or depicted as the butt of the joke.
I Go To School Not By Bus is a Hong Kong BL movie about a high school romance. An artistic student and his athletic classmate begin a sweet friendship that develops into a romantic attraction. However, they are constantly challenged by nosy classmates and homophobic teachers, making them self-conscious about their close bond.
Despite the silly name, I Go To School Not By Bus features a sincere and heartfelt connection between two gay youths. This short film uses its thirty minutes effectively, conveying an authentic relationship with engaging drama. The movie’s second half feels a bit incomplete, making me wish the story could have been expanded fully.
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.
Sweet Boy is a Thai BL movie about a high school student entangled in scandalous campus drama. The main character excels academically, but he is inexperienced with romance and slowly navigates his sexuality. In his journey of self-enlightenment, he is faced with savage bullying, lustful desires, and heartbreaking love affairs.
I write this review solely to warn people about Sweet Boy, an abysmal movie that I regretted upon watching it. This disturbing story is the exact opposite of sweet. The film leaves an unpleasant aftertaste with its amateurish writing, problematic tropes, and irresponsible portrayals.