5 Films About The AIDS Crisis That Are Crucial And Heartbreaking

In honor of HIV Long-Term Survivors Day, we look at some of cinema's most important depictions of the AIDS crisis.

We’re nearly 30 years out from the height of the AIDS crisis, but that doesn’t mean the realities of living with HIV don’t continue to shape the lives of LGBTQ people in a very real way ― particularly the most vulnerable members of the LGBTQ community.

June 5 marks HIV Long-Term Survivors Day, a time for us to reflect on the lives and needs of people who have lived long, full lives while still living with the HIV virus. In honor of that, we’ve rounded up five films (though there are many more!) that we think do an honorable and important job of depicting what life was like for many queer people during the epidemic’s height.

It’s important for us to remember our history as LGBTQ people, and the AIDS crisis is an intimate and painful part of that legacy.

What other films do you believe should be added to this list? Let us know on Twitter.

“Silverlake Life: The View From Here”

“Silverlake Life: The View From Here” is a devastatingly raw documentation of one gay couple’s slow deterioration from AIDS in the early 1990s. The entire documentary is shot on a handheld video camera, and it is considered a seminal depiction of the early AIDS crisis.

Tom Joslin began filming a video diary of the experiences of himself and his lover, Mark Massi, shortly after they were both diagnosed with full-blown AIDS. The result is this 100-minute documentary that was finished by Joslin’s friend, film student Peter Friedman, following his death.

You can read more about “Silverlake Life” here. The film can be viewed in full above.

“BPM” (Beats Per Minute)

Released in 2017, “Beats Per Minute” is a revolutionary film in a number of ways. Focusing on the efforts of ACT UP Paris ― a division of the nonviolent direct action advocacy group formed at the height of the AIDS crisis ― “BPM” portrays queer experience and sexuality in a way that few films have.

Director Robin Campillo and others involved in the film drew upon their own experiences with ACT UP during their creation of the project. As The Guardian noted, Campillo “succeeds in uniting personal and political to electrifying effect.”

“Parting Glances”

A classic, 1986′s “Parting Glances” was one of the first American films to address the AIDS epidemic. While not as tragic as the other films on this list, it presents a realistic depiction of gay, urban life in the mid-’80s and deals with the epidemic in a way that is honest and frank, while still offering comedic qualities. You can read more about the film here.


One of the most well-known and mainstream films to grapple with HIV/AIDS, “Philadelphia” follows a corporate lawyer named Andrew Beckett who desperately tries to hide his sexuality and HIV-positive status from the partners at his firm. Following his dismissal from the firm ― which Beckett (played by Tom Hanks) attributes to homophobia ― the film follows his attempts to seek legal justice for what he insists amounts to discrimination.

In many ways, “Philadelphia” humanized the AIDS crisis for the general public. Albeit, that humanization came from filmmakers depicting a wealthy, white man with the disease, but the visibility and broadening of the understanding of HIV/AIDS the film brought the public was crucial at the time.

The Normal Heart

Ryan Murphy’s seminal 2014 film “The Normal Heart” was written by Larry Kramer and based on his 1985 play of the same name. It depicts the escalation of the HIV crisis in New York in the early 1980s through the eyes of a writer and activist played by Mark Ruffalo. It’s a gut-wrenching, but incredibly important, piece of work by Kramer, who is one of the leading voices during the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis.

#TheFutureIsQueer is HuffPost’s monthlong celebration of queerness, not just as an identity but as action in the world. Find all of our Pride Month coverage here.


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