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Winter 2004 | Best Queer Travel Movies of All Time

Winter 2004 | Best Queer Travel Movies of All Time

Enjoy the world's greatest gay and lesbian getaways without leaving your nest

You can't go wrong with gay travel movies--except for Boat Trip--because they have so much going on in them that they make straight ones look positively homebound. Gay people are already outsiders, and in foreign environs we're even more so, which makes for can't-miss themes of alienation, adaptation, and outfit changing. The resulting culture clashes lead to big-time climaxes as the characters' eye-, thigh-, and mind-opening behavior results in either tragedy (in dramas) or triumph (in comedies) but rarely boredom. Gay road movies also include phantasmagorical encounters, comical conflicts, and ultimately some loud preaching for tolerance along with a big group lip-synch. Whatever the case, it's usually a trip worth taking, as long as you've gotten your shots first.

1. Some Like It Hot,1959, directed by Billy Wilder (United States)
After witnessing a gangland murder in Chicago, two musicians tuck their privates and join an all-girl band headed to pre-Versace Miami. The Prohibition-set classic takes its one joke and runs it like a stocking, replete with tangos, yacht rides, and Marilyn Monroe showing what a real woman looks like. It's a regular riot, and even if the Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis characters may not actually be gay, suitor Joe E. Brown ("Nobody's perfect") definitely is, and so is this movie's foofy appeal--or I wouldn't freakin' love it so much!

2.Henry & June, 1990, directed by Philip Kaufman (United States)
American writer Henry Miller (Fred Ward) has his hands full with wife June (the always game Uma Thurman) and frisky lover Ana?s Nin (puppy-faced Maria de Medeiros), so the latter two take some heat off him by doing each other too. It's all tr?s fabulous, especially since Parisian caf?s and picturesque views provide the backdrop for all the delectable debauching. Some critics found the flick distinctly unsexy despite the nonstop shtupping, but clearly they just don't appreciate fine art.

3. To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar,1995, directed by Beeban Kidron (United States)
Shoot me, but I liked this one too, I swear to Satan! Yes, it's a blatant Priscilla rip-off that seems to change only two major plot points. (Instead of the outback, we're taken through the American wasteland, I mean heartland; and the three central drag queens ride a beat-up Cadillac instead of a beat-up bus.) But still, Patrick Swayze in drag is so wrong it's right, the trio's charm-spreading is a little poignant, and I know at least half the extras!

4. Desert Hearts, 1986, directed by Donna Deitch (United States)
Way before Britney Spears, uptight professor Helen Shaver went to Nevada to get a divorce in this pioneering dyke drama, only to come across a love-crazed young lesbian (Patricia Charbonneau) who wants to teach her a thing or three. It's all done with much restraint and suggestion, the desert heat effectively mirroring the dried-out cobwebs of Shaver's nether regions.

5. The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,1994, directed by Stephan Elliott (Australia)
Two drag queens (Guy Pearce and Hugo Weaving) and a tranny (Terence Stamp) ride the title bus to a way-out gig in the outback, and we get to see how sequins and ABBA clash with aborigines and homophobes. As they schlep from Sydney to Alice Springs, inspiring people every step of the way, this tatty threesome would probably never make Destiny's Child worry (Stamp's lip-synching is particularly bad news), but they're quite endearing as cross-dressers who redefine "Down Under."

6. Death in Venice, 1971, directed by Luchino Visconti (Italy-France)
"Don't stay too long in Venice, obsessed with a piece of silent jail bait, as the plague encroaches" seems to be the message of this gloomy, arty adaptation of Thomas Mann's thought-to-be-unfilmable novella. But watching musician Dirk Bogarde fall into this pestilent pit, all the while chasing unattainable ideals of beauty, is a trip; in fact, it's the original reality show.

7. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues,1993, directed by Gus Van Sant (United States)
Guilty confession: I sort of liked this movie. (Then again, I sort of liked Swept Away.) That's certainly not the popular view, since most critics gave the loopy, episodic adaptation of Tom Robbins's novel about a compulsive hitchhiker with big thumbs a humongous thumbs-down. But Uma Thurman is fun as the hiking queen (I told you she was always game) and the lesbian-feminist-laden ranch in Oregon has to be seen to be disbelieved.

8. Thelma & Louise, 1991, directed by Ridley Scott (United States)
Yes, I know they're not outright lesbians, but Thelma and Louise do share an aversion to awful men, and let's not forget that impassioned kiss right before they drive off the cliff. (If I'm still ruining the ending for you after all these years, let me add salt by telling you that Bruce Willis is already dead.) Anyway, the Callie Khouri written feminist buddy flick takes you all the way to the Grand Canyon with laughs and drama--and Brad Pitt, who steals the gals' money, and in the process many gay audience members' hearts.

9. Suddenly Last Summer, 1959, directed by Joseph Mankiewicz (United States)
Rich widow Katharine Hepburn wants to lobotomize niece Liz Taylor, who went cuckoo after seeing the old broad's gay son raped and murdered by beach boys on a trip to Spain. Talk about a bad vacation! The resulting Southern gothic thriller is possibly the gayest movie ever made, thanks to its having been adapted by giddy Gore Vidal from a flaming Tennessee Williams play. Interestingly, gay Monty Clift plays the surgeon, and he needed one, having recently had his face reconstructed after a terrible car accident.

10. The Sheltering Sky,1990,directed by Bernardo Bertolucci (United Kingdom-Italy)
Paul Bowles and his wife, Jane, were both gay--or at least bi-curious--but in the movie version of Bowles's story the couple going on a Moroccan journey in search of thrills is as straight as the road to Hollywood. Of course that only adds more sexual tension, especially since, in lieu of a guidebook, they've brought along a handsome pal. It turns out he's not really a queen of the desert, but gay moments do pop up like sand dunes.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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Michael Musto