Must-Watch Documentaries About LGBTQ History, Rights and Visibility

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Here are some of the best non-fiction films and series that can be viewed on Amazon, Hulu, Netflix and more.

In addition to the many, many queer scripted shows available to stream right now, there are a growing number of documentary films and series re-examining the history, rights and visibility of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. These many projects chronicle everything, from the fight for rights during the pre-Stonewall era, how the AIDS epidemic had a lasting impact on the community, to depictions in media today.

More specifically, docuseries like Pride, Equal and Book of Queer take viewers back in time to spotlight various queer moments throughout history, while films, including HowardThe Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson and The Times of Harvey Milk, dig deeper into the lives of icons within the community. 

In celebration of Pride Month in June -- as well as LGBTQ History Month in October -- here’s an updated list of some of the best and most notable documentaries available to stream right now


A Secret Love

A Secret Love is one of several Netflix projects that shine a light on untold histories from Ryan Murphy. The heartfelt and emotional film tells the lifelong love story between Pat Henschel and former baseball player Terry Donahue. While Donahue’s time as a catcher for the Peoria Redwings of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League inspired the 1992 classic A League of Their Own, her nearly seven decades-long romance with Henschel did not make it into the story. But in the doc, the couple finally tell their truth, from the first time they met to eventually coming out.

Book of Queer

Class is in session thanks to this definitive, five-part look back at the past and the strides that have been made on Discovery+. The sometimes cheeky series features an LGBTQ+ ensemble who portray nearly 200 historical figures from various times in history as each episode highlights some of the most world-changing heroes, whose stories and contributions have been erased, marginalized or straightwashed throughout the years.


The 2020 Netflix film directed by Sam Feder and executive produced by Laverne Cox examines the history of transgender visibility from the earliest days of cinema to TV’s current scripted dramas -- and how that has evolved over decades. The documentary features interviews with Cox as well as Lilly Wachowski, Yance Ford, Mj Rodriguez, Jamie Clayton and Chaz Bono and more as they share their own experiences of seeing themselves represented (or misrepresented) onscreen in everything from Dog Day Afternoon to The Crying Game, and shows like The Jeffersons, The L-Word and Pose.  


The innovative, four-part docuseries reclaims forgotten or overlooked LGBTQ trailblazers from the post-war America to the pre-Stonewall uprising eras through never-before-seen archival footage, untold backstories and portrayals by Hollywood’s most prominent out actors, including Anthony Rapp, Isis King, Jamie Clayton and Samira Wiley as Lorraine Hansberry.  


In this Oscar-winning documentary, Amin Nawabi must reflect on a secret he’s kept hidden for 20 years, one that threatens to derail the life he has built and his soon-to-be husband. Recounted mostly through animation, he recounts his extraordinary journey as a child refugee from Afghanistan.

Gay Chorus Deep South

Now streaming on Paramount+, the film follows the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus, who are joined by the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, as they embark on a tour of the American Deep South, which takes them on an unexpected emotional journey as they perform in Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama and the Carolinas.


Known for his work on AladdinBeauty and the Beast, and The Little Mermaid, lyricist Howard Ashman has become synonymous with his time spent on the animated classics. Arriving on Disney+ 30 years after his death, the film chronicles Ashman’s life, from childhood to his humble beginnings in New York theater, to his longtime partnership with Bill Lauch and secret battle with AIDS, and his award-winning musical partnership with Alan Menken. Through never-before-seen archival footage, personal photographs and all-new interviews with friends, family and colleagues, Howard offers an intimate look at the musical theater legend’s life, creative drive and process behind the music.

P.S., Burn This Letter Please

Now streaming on Discovery+, a secret box of letters discovered 60 years later ignites a five-year exploration into a part of LGBTQ history that has never been told as subjects of the letters and those who knew them revisit a hidden world of men masquerading as women before it was known as drag.


The six-part FX docuseries chronicles the rise of LGBTQ+ rights in America from the 1950s through the 2000s, with six renowned LGBTQ+ directors exploring different eras as well as heroic and heartbreaking stories that helps define the community. The series spans from the 1950s Lavender Scare to the “Culture Wars” of the 1990s and beyond, exploring the queer legacy of the Civil Rights movement and the battle over marriage equality as well as the evolution of trans rights and identities through the decades.

Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood

This deliciously scandalous and gossipy story about a former Marine who lands in Hollywood after World War II and becomes a legendary escort and sexual procurer to closeted gay celebrities is more fun than anything Ryan Murphy could dream up in Hollywood -- even if Scotty Bowers wasn't the direct inspiration for that series.

Spring Awakening: Those You’ve Known

After 15 years, the original cast of Spring Awakening came back together for a one-night-only concert to benefit the Actors Fund. And the entire reunion was documented for the HBO film, which features all-new, revealing interviews with stars Lea Michele, Jonathan Groff and John Gallagher Jr. and captures what it was like to reconnect during an unlikely time for everyone.  

The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson

Marsha P. Johnson has been called “the Rosa Parks of the LGBTQ movement,” because of the pivotal role she played in the Stonewall riots of 1969 alongside the likes of Sylvia Rivera and others. She was also a pioneer of the gay liberation movement, co-founder of S.T.A.R. (Street Transvestites Action Revolutionaries), a self-proclaimed drag queen, community leader and, according to her friend and roommate, Randy Wicker, an “Andy Warhol model, prostitute, starving actress and saint.” Her life and tragic death is captured in the Netflix doc from David France.

The Lady and the Dale

Elizabeth Carmichael is many things to many people: a loving parent, a pioneer, an ambitious automobile entrepreneur, a criminal mastermind, or a fraud. In some instances, she was all at once. And that’s why she’s the subject of HBO’s four-part, visually stunning docuseries, which tells her story decades after she became a media sensation and the target of unwanted attention over her transgender identity.  

The Times of Harvey Milk

Narrated by Harvey Fierstein, the film chronicles the rise of San Francisco's Castro district politician, Harvey Milk, and his efforts to become California's first openly gay public official and life in office after he’s elected. The film also examines his gay political achievements before his life and time in office were cut short by his assassination in November 1978 at San Francisco's city hall.

Visible: Out on Television

While television in America has been around since the 1930s, it wasn’t until the ‘70s before the LGBTQ community started seeing positive portrayals of themselves onscreen. Now, 50 years later the five-part docuseries examines the evolution of visibility on the small screen. Over the course of the docuseries, an expansive list of A-list stars and notable LGBTQ celebrities -- everyone from Billy Crystal to Tim Gunn -- candidly discuss how storytelling and portrayals have changed over time. 

We Were Here

This incredibly powerful documentary looks back on life in 1970s San Francisco, which became a safe haven for the gay and lesbian community, providing one of the few places in America where they could live openly and safely from discrimination. But a decade later, the city and the community alike were ravaged by the AIDS epidemic, becoming the epicenter for the deadly infection, which took the lives of thousands of gay men.