Queer Journeys: Road Trip, Summer Getaway & Travel Films Worth Watching

by Frank J. Avella

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Sunday July 17, 2022
Originally published on July 6, 2022

Félix Lefebvre and Benjamin Voisin in François Ozon's "Summer of 85"
Félix Lefebvre and Benjamin Voisin in François Ozon's "Summer of 85"  

With Pride month over and Justice Thomas (and his ilk) continuing to push their homophobic agenda, the LGBTQ+ community must brace for a heady future. But before the fight, how about a breather because it's summer and time for a holiday, be it a trip abroad, a road trip, or simply an annual visit to a favorite vacation spot.

But if you are unable to get away, EDGE has put together a list of summer getaway, vacation travel, and road trip films that you can watch from the comfort of home. All are worth viewing. And while some may not have the happiest of endings, these movies take you on a journey to places you may want to consider visiting.

Road Trip:

'To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar'

Beeban Kidron's 1995 road movie, "To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar," written by out playwright Douglas Carter Beane, focuses on three drag artists (Patrick Swayze, Wesley Snipes, and John Leguizamo) who converge for a drive out to Hollywood. But when their car breaks down in Snydersville, Nebraska, they find themselves fraternizing with some homophobic locals and transforming the lives of most of the townies. While the backwater town of Snydersville is not necessarily a tourist attraction, some of the road scenes are alluring. And the actors are fab.

"To Wong Foo" is available to stream on Apple TV and Prime.

'Thelma and Louise'

With Roe v. Wade overturned, women's rights are under attack in this country. So, in essence, not much has changed in the 30 years since Ridley Scott's seminal and subversive attack on toxic masculinity. "Thelma and Louise," released in 1991, and brilliantly written by Callie Khouri (who won an Oscar for her efforts) stars Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis, who take to the road after ridding the world of a rapist. Along the way, T&L pick up a hot, young Brad Pitt and put law enforcement in their place... until the inevitable ending. The queer-tinged relationship between the women is palpable, and still one of the most female-empowering moves to ever reach the screen.

"Thelma and Louise" is currently streaming on HBO Max, Hulu, and Prime.

'Jess and James'

Released in 2015, this mystical Argentinian treat by Santiago Giralt is the kind of gay road-trip romp one can return to over and over, delighting in and discovering new things with each viewing. Young hottie Jess (Martín Karich) hooks up with another young hottie, James (Nicolás Romeo), and the two soon take to the roads of rural Argentina, which Giralt gorgeously captures via Connie Martin's impressive camerawork. Along the way, they pick up young hottie Tomás (Federico Fontán), and a thruple of sorts is formed. "Is this a trip or a dream?" Jess wonders, and only the viewer can decide.

"Jess and James" is available to stream on Prime.

Summer Getaway:

'Love! Valour! Compassion!'

Joe Mantello's 1997 film version of Terrence McNally's Tony-winning play, "Love! Valour! Compassion!" takes place over one summer on three holiday weekends — Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Labor Day — in which a gaggle of gay men converges at a lakeside home in upstate New York. In both play and film, McNally captures urban gay life in the final decade of the 20th century with wit and perspicacity. Most of the Broadway cast returns, including Tony winner John Glover, who plays twins. The film boasts an abundance of nudity. Gays of a certain age will appreciate its humor and pathos, and Gen Z can experience what life was like during the AIDS pandemic.

"Love! Valour! Compassion!" is not currently available to stream but, if you have a DVD player, you can purchase the disc at Amazon.

'Fire Island'

"Fire Island" feels like an updated (if superficial) version of "Love! Valour! Compassion!" The Andrew Ahn film loads up on sex, food, drugs, alcohol, angst, bitchy queens, and, yes, romance; but the real game-changer is how it focuses on two gay Asian characters as they embark on a trip to the renowned queer haven. Joel Kim Booster and Bowen Yang star, the former as a six-packed egotist seeking sex and the latter as his old-fashioned bestie. Oh, and the sights (dudes and locales) are lovely, making the film one long cinematic trip to this East coast gay Mecca.

"Fire Island" is currently streaming on Hulu.

'Call Me by Your Name'

It's the summer of 1983, and 17-year-old Elio (Timothée Chalamet, in his best performance to date) lives with his parents in suburban Northern Italy. Elio's archaeologist papa (Michael Stuhlbarg) invites a 24-year-old American grad student, Oliver (the always-wooden Armie Hammer), to spend the summer helping with his academic projects. We all know the rest, as Elio and Oliver spend a tempestuous and sexy summer together in Luca Guadagnino's "Call Me by Your Name," based on the André Aciman novel, adapted by the great James Ivory, who won his first Oscar for the script (one that was sanitized to please the straight actors in the leads). The gorgeous landscape of Crema, Italy is showcased magnificently in this 2017 release.

"Call Me by Your Name" is available to stream on Apple TV and Vudu.

'Summer of 85'

François Ozon offers a tantalizing look at a love affair between two teen boys. "Summer of 85," released in 2020, is set in 1980s Normandy. The sumptuous film stars two major new talents, Félix Lefebvre and Benjamin Voisin, equally compelling, playing two 18-year-old boys of slightly different classes with diverging ideas about fidelity and loyalty. The chemistry between them is off the charts. In addition to the gorgeous boys, stunning Normandy beach scenes, and pretty vistas, "Summer of 85" seeks to ask fascinating questions about whom we fall in love with and why, and whether we can ever really know one another. Ozon blends the playful and lighthearted with the sinister and macabre.

"Summer of 85" is currently streaming on Showtime, Hulu, and Prime.

'Stranger by the Lake'

A different kind of summer pleasure can be found in Alain Guiraudie's mesmerizing 2013 film, "Stranger by the Lake." Set in rural France, it features Franck (Pierre Deladonchamps), who spends his days cruising and fucking and eventually falling in love with the enigmatic Michel (Christophe Paou) in a bucolic cruising area. But after he witnesses Michel drowning his boyfriend (yep!) "Stranger" becomes a hypnotic, disquieting thriller about erotic obsession that boasts explicit sex scenes and nudity galore. It may be the perfect film to rev up your engines before you embark on a day or night of cruising, or serve as something of a cautionary tale of its consequences.

"Stranger by the Lake" is currently streaming on Prime.


'Death in Venice'

While Luchino Visconti''s 1971 classic "Death in Venice," based on the Thomas Mann novella, is somber and ultimately devastating, it does provide audiences with a visually enticing cinematic sweep of the unique and stunning city of Venice (much like David Lean's "Summertime," starring Katharine Hepburn, which is even lusher and more romantic). Dirk Bogarde embodies the role of a composer who travels to Venice for rest and becomes enchanted by a teen boy, played by Björn Andrésen (whose life was profiled a half-century later in the doc, "The Most Beautiful Boy in the World"). Visconti finds beauty not only in Andrésen and the exquisite city of love, but also in the storytelling. Bogarde was said to be modeled after composer Gustav Mahler, whose music — selections from his Third and Fifth symphonies — are used as elegant accompaniment.

"Death in Venice" is streaming on Prime.

'Christopher and His Kind'

Originally made for BBC TV in 2011, Geoffrey Sax's film of Christopher Isherwood's memoir follows the author's journey to Berlin in the early '30s during the waning days of the Weimar Republic. What Isherwood (a lovely Matt Smith) discovers, besides the rise of Nazism, is a thriving gay world that he happily dives into — inclusive of his hottie lover Heinz, played by the gorgeous Douglas Booth. Isherwood's "Berlin Stories" would inspire the play "I Am a Camera," which would become the musical "Cabaret." Today, Berlin's queer scene is thriving once again, and it's fascinating to visit all the haunts that Isherwood once immersed himself in.

"Christopher and His Kind" is available to stream on Prime and Roku.

Frank J. Avella is a film journalist and is thrilled to be writing for EDGE. He also contributes to Awards Daily and is the GALECA East Coast Rep and a Member of the New York Film Critics Online. Frank is a recipient of the International Writers Residency in Assisi, Italy, a Bogliasco Foundation Fellowship, and a NJ State Arts Council Fellowship. His short film, FIG JAM, has shown in Festivals worldwide (figjamfilm.com) and won awards. His screenplays (CONSENT, LURED, SCREW THE COW) have also won numerous awards in 16 countries. He is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild. https://filmfreeway.com/FrankAvella https://muckrack.com/fjaklute