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Happy Birthday, Marsha!

Happy Birthday, Marsha! imagines Johnson's life in the hours before Stonewall

It’s been 52 years since the first Pride march took place in the United States to mark the first anniversary of Stonewall. Much progress has been made for the LGBTQ+ community in the years since, with more to come in the future. To celebrate how far we’ve come in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights, here are seven historical films to commemorate Pride.

After Stonewall

After Stonewall is a 1999 documentary film that chronicles the gay rights movement in the thirty years after the Stonewall Uprising. Narrated by musician and activist Melissa Etheridge, this film serves as a sequel to the 1984 documentary, Before Stonewall. Aside from Etheridge, the film features a plethora of notable LGBTQ+ individuals, including Rita Mae Brown, Barney Frank, Barbara Gittings, Larry Kramer, and Armistead Maupin.

Battle of the Sexes

Battle of the Sexes is an incredible film based on the infamous 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs. Starring Emma Stone as King and Steve Carrell as Riggs, the film received critical acclaim, including Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice Award nominations for Stone and Carrell. The film also explores King’s affair with her female hairdresser, Marilyn Barnett, and is available to rent on Amazon Prime.


In June 2020, Netflix released Disclosure, a documentary film that explores transgender representation on television and in the movies. The documentary premiered at Sundance to rave reviews and features a star- studded cast including Laverne Cox, Lilly Wachowski, MJ Rodriguez, Jamie Clayton, and Chaz Bono.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

If you’re like me and you still miss watching Viola Davis play Annalise Keating on How to Get Away with Murder, look no further than Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. This Netflix film earned Davis an Oscar nomination in 2021 for her portrayal of bisexual blues musician Ma Rainey and stars Chadwick Boseman in his final film before his passing in 2020.

A More Perfect Union

A More Perfect Union (Photo: Ferrodonna Features)

To A More Perfect Union: U.S. v Windsor

Winning the landmark Supreme Court case that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013 takes a true hero, and Edie Windsor earns that title in the documentary, To A More Perfect Union: U.S. v Windsor. Released after Windsor’s passing, the film won several awards, including Best Feature Documentary at the 2018 Manhattan Film Festival.

Happy Birthday, Marsha!

Queer life as we know it would not be the same without activist Marsha P. Johnson, who participated in the Stonewall Uprising and later co-founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) with Sylvia Rivera. Happy Birthday, Marsha! is a short film that imagines Johnson’s life in the hours before Stonewall and celebrates her for the true icon that she is.


First released in October 2008, Milk is a biopic that focuses on the life of gay rights activist and politician Harvey Milk, who was assassinated in 1978 at the age of 48. The film received critical acclaim, grossing over $54 million worldwide and winning two Academy Awards. But its impact went much further than that, as it shed light on the experiences of LGBTQ+ people at a time when only three U.S. states had legalized same-sex marriage.







Becca Damante
Becca Damante
Becca is a Smith college graduate with a B.A. in Women and Gender Studies and an Archives concentration. She has worked and written for non-profits organizations such as Media Matters for America, The Century Foundation, and GLAAD, and loves to write about the intersections between pop culture, politics, and social justice. You can find her at @beccadamante on Twitter.