Moonlight Is First LGBTQ Film to Win Best Picture: 7 Historic Oscar Moments That Paved the Way
"This sends a strong message to the film industry that it needs to embrace inclusive stories if it wants to remain competitive and relevant," GLAAD president Sarah Kate Ellis said
The acclaimed coming-of-age story about a black gay boy received eight nominations at the 2017 Academy Awards, winning Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor for Mahershala Ali, the first Muslim actor to take home the coveted trophy.
In his acceptance speech, writer Tarell Alvin McCraney dedicated his adapted screenplay win “to all those black and brown boys and girls and non-gender-conforming who don’t see themselves” in movies.
GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis applauded the historic win on Twitter.
“Congratulations to Moonlight on its well-deserved win for Best Picture,” she said in a statement. “Film is our largest cultural export and must represent the full diversity of the people who make up this country. This sends a strong message to the film industry that it needs to embrace inclusive stories if it wants to remain competitive and relevant.”
While Moonlight is the first Best Picture winner about LGBTQ characters, many previous wins and nominations led the way for the Barry Jenkins-directed film. Read on for some of the defining moments for the LGBTQ community at the Academy Awards.
1. Hilary Swank for Boys Don’t Cry
In 2000, Swank took home her first of two Best Actress statuettes for her role as real-life transgender man Brandon Teena, who was raped and murdered in 1993.
To many, Brokeback Mountain‘s Best Picture loss to Crash at the 2006 Oscars remains one of the biggest surprises in the award show’s history. The story of two closeted cowboys, played by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, was nominated for eight Academy Awards, but won three: Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Score. Still, scoring the most nominations at the show made it one of the most talked-about films of the year.
3. Jared Leto for Dallas Buyers Club
The actor played Rayon, an HIV-positive transgender woman living in Texas in the 1980s, in Dallas Buyers Club, earning himself a Best Supporting Actor trophy in 2014. However, the casting of a straight man in the role drew criticism from the LGTBQ community.
4. Tom Hanks for Philadelphia
Philadelphia, the movie credited with changing the conversation about HIV and AIDS, won two Oscars: Hanks for Best Actor and Bruce Springsteen for Best Song. Hanks plays a man who hides his homosexuality and his status as an AIDS patient from coworkers at his law firm.
Although Milk didn’t take home the top award at the 2009 Oscars, Penn was recognized for his role as Harvey Milk, the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California. In total, the movie was nominated eight times, winning twice (Penn and also Best Original Screenplay for writer Dustin Lance Black).
Annette Bening and Julianne Moore gave incredible performances as a lesbian couple dealing with the appearance of their children’s sperm-donor father, played by Mark Ruffalo. Although the film was nominated for Best Picture in 2011, and Bening was awarded the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, it fell short to The King’s Speech.
This 1969 Best Picture winner is not only the only X-rated film to ever take the top prize (although its rating has been changed to R), but it also centered around a possibly gay character. John Schlesinger also became one of the few LGBT filmmakers to win the Best Director Oscar.