I love Oscar season! I have an MA in watching movies, seriously. Someday maybe I’ll even finish paying for that super useful degree. As much as I love celebrating all the awesome new films and all the amazing queer films that have gotten nominations this year, I also love looking back at old classics. In this week leading up to the Oscars, I thought I might look back at some of the more bi moments of the Academy Awards.
Moonlight received 8 nominations and in one of the stranger Oscar moments ever, it won Best Picture in 2017 after presenters Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty read La La Land as the winner of Best Picture.
Moonlight became the first film with an all-black cast, the first LGBT film, and the second lowest-grossing film domestically (behind The Hurt Locker) to win the Oscar for Best Picture. It also won Best Adapted Screenplay and Mahershala Ali won for Best Supporting Actor. This beautiful film tells the story of Chiron, a young gay black man, as he grows up and learns about his own sexuality and identity. Although it is ambiguous many people also read his friend, Kevin as bi. Either way it’s an amazing coming of age story.
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Ang Lee won best director, Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana won for Best Adapted Screenplay, and Gusatvo Santaolalla won for Best Original Score. Additionally Heath Ledger was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role, Jake Gyllenhaal was nominted for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Michelle Williams was nominated for Best Supporting actress, Rodrigo Prieto was nominated for Best Cinematography, and the film was nominated for Best Picture.
Although this is often called thought of as “that gay cowboy movie,” it really should be called that bi cowboy movie. Jack and Ennis clearly love each other and both have relationships with other men throughout their lives. In addition, each of them marries and has children. Even after leaving his wife Alma, Ennis has another relationship with a woman.
A Beautiful Mind (2001)
The best picture winner of 2002 told the story of John Nash, a Nobel Laureate in Economics and famed mathematician. The film focuses on his battles with mental illness, his love story with Alicia Larde, and his Nobel Prize. Now for the bi erasure, it completely fails to mention, imply, or say that John Nash was bi. While in his 20s, Nash was arrested for indecent exposure in a sting operation targeting homosexual men. This resulted in his losing this top-secret security clearance.
Thelma and Louise (1991)
Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon were both nominated for Best Actress in this film and Callie Khouri won for Best Original Screenplay. This remains one of my favorite films of all times. The main characters’ deep friendship that only grows as they literally flee the patriarchy. They each learn something profound about themselves on their journey and yes, I read them as bi. Also, check out The Unicorn Scale about it.
The Godfather (1972) and The Godfather II (1974)
Both got best picture and best adapted screenplay. Scorsese also won best director for The Godfather II.
And why the hell not, go ahead and watch number 3. It didn’t win any awards, probably for good reason, but who doesn’t love a trilogy.
Admittedly The Godfather isn’t particularly bi, although I have to say there is something oddly homoerotic about all those men locked in dimly lit rooms having coded conversations with each other. Also the incredibly close bonds between the men are all chalked up to family, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there was something more. Also, what are all those ladies doing with each other while the boys are off playing gangsters? Just saying… There are also more than a few internet theories out there that Fredo is bi.
However the real reason The Godfather is on here is Marlon Brando. Yep, he was #oneofus.
Midnight Cowboy (1969)
The film won three Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. It was the first queer themed Best Picture winner. It tells the story of a young man name Joe Buck (John Voight) who decides to leave Texas and become a gigolo in New York City. He is handsome, young, dumb, naïve, and no match for the big city. Joe ends up turning tricks with both men and women, whether he is attracted to both men and women is unclear. The story is really about the growth of his close friendship with Ratso (Dennis Hoffman). Their odd friendship grows and they both heal each other emotionally, if not physically. They each learn the meaning of unconditional love with one another. Is that love romantic? I think so, but I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
This historical epic dominated the awards the year it came out. In addition to David Lean winning Best Director, Peter O’Toole was nominated for best actor, and Omar Sharif was nominated for Best Supporting Actor. In addition it won for Best Picture, Best Original Score, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Film Editing, and Best Sound.
Although the film doesn’t really make a statement about Lawrence’s sexuality, there was an ongoing debate at the time regarding his sexuality. Historians still disagree, Lawrence claims to have never had sex, but certainly had sexual urges. He was also a masochist and wrote about the sexual pleasure of being whipped. He may have been asexual, bi, straight, or gay, but the film chose to largely ignore and sanitize his sexuality.
Still it’s a great (if occasionally dated) film and has Alec Guinness (#oneofus).
Rebel Without A Cause (1955)
Admittedly it wasn’t a winner, but Sal Mineo (#oneofus) was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, Natalia Wood was nominated for Best Supporting Actress, and Nicholas Ray (#oneofus) was nominated for Best Original Screenplay. Although Jim (James Dean) and Judy (Natalie Wood) are the main couple of the film, there is definite romantic tension between Jim and Plato (Sal Mineo). This is often considered one of the first mainstream Hollywood films to depict same-sex desire.
I know I’ve missed more than a few, who are your favorite award winning bi writers, directors, and actors? What’s your favorite queer themed film? What movies exercised the most egregious bi erasure? And who are you rooting for next Sunday?
Talia Squires is Editor-in-chief of bi.org. Talia has a degree in German Literature from Bryn Mawr College and a Master's in Critical Studies from the USC School of Cinematic Arts. She's obsessed with good food, fantastic wine, and trashy television. She lives in LA with her husband and fluffy Lhasa Apso.