Thai queer cinema – Four Thai gay films to watch before your holiday
LGBTQ+ travellers planning a trip to Southeast Asia’s original beach destination will find that the Kingdom is rich in queer culture: from nightlife and performances to literature and movies. One of the best ways to get a glimpse at – or a deeper understanding of – local queer life before any trip is to watch one of the many Thai gay films made over the last few decades.
There are so many, in fact, they can’t all be mentioned in a single article. But for an overview of the different genres and storylines of this particular branch of cinematic history, check out the below!
The Iron Ladies (2000) easily ranks among the most successful Thai gay films
This highly entertaining comedic movie marked the directorial debut of now-famous director Youngyooth Thongkonthun, and it has achieved cult status since first premiering in 2000. Based on real events, the film follows the story of an LGBTQ+ volleyball team consisting of gay men and kathoey women, which faces being banned by officials (however, there’s a happy ending!).
A beloved classic within the Kingdom, The Iron Ladies is a film about standing up for yourself and about what the support of others can mean to people from diverse backgrounds. It also made history by becoming the first-ever Thai film commercially released in the USA and beyond.
The Last Song (1985) remains one of the most celebrated Thai gay films
When this movie debuted in 1985, it made headlines nationally and internationally as the Kingdom’s first movie ever to focus on a queer storyline. The Last Song tells the tragic story of a kathoey cabaret performer, Somying, who falls in love with the wrong man and ends up sealing her fate in her final-ever performance.
Directed by Pisal Akkrasenee, this truly is a masterpiece among Thai gay films, sparking wide-ranging discussions about the lives of LGBTQ+ people in 1980s Thailand. The film has been remade in 2006, though arguably no new rendition could possibly ever touch the original, which made history while being a big, commercial success.
Love of Siam (2007) is among the most highly awarded Thai gay films ever
A movie that could hardly be more heartwarming and lovely if it tried, the Chookiat Sakveerakul-directed Love of Siam caused quite a stir in 2007, when its marketing material didn’t reveal the queer storyline it went on to tell. But that didn’t stop it from becoming a huge hit, and a critic-favourite that would end up winning countless awards!
The romantic drama follows main characters Mew and Tong, who have known each other since childhood, and meet again as adults. Difficult decisions, confusing emotions and a fair share of family drama unfold throughout the narrative: this is a movie not just about growing up, but also about growing into your true self.
Tropical Malady (2004) brought Thai gay films to an art-house level
You know you’re in for a masterpiece when the movie you’re about to watch has won the Jury Prize at France’s legendary Cannes Film Festival. Tropical Malady, directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, has elevated the Kingdom’s queer cinema to an artistic level rarely seen before.
Divided into two narratives, the first tells a story of passion and longing between two men in Northern Thailand, while the second pays homage to the country’s age-old folklore. Critics have described Tropical Malady as a dream-like tale that invites viewers to dream along, speculate about the movie’s symbolism and lose themselves in thought: this one is perfect if you’re looking for intellectual stimulation!