Started in the early 1900s by four Polish immigrant brothers as a simple movie theater business, following several decades of growth Warner Brothers Pictures was formally incorporated in 1923 as a full-fledged film studio. Since then, Warner Brothers has remained at the forefront of the film business and a pioneer in technologies like synced sound and color film. Over the years, Warner Brothers produced such classics as Casablanca, A Clockwork Orange, Goodfellas, and Blade Runner.
One of Warner Brothers’ most iconic films also contains one of the earliest and most celebrated gay-coded characters in mainstream American cinema: Sal Mineo’s tragic Plato in 1955’s Rebel Without a Cause. Over the subsequent years, there were other notable inclusive films released by Warner Brothers, including Dog Day Afternoon (1975), The Color Purple (1985), Interview with the Vampire (1994), and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997). Notably, nearly every one of those films was based on source material that included LGBTQ characters. More recently, Warner Brothers has also released inclusive films like Alexander (2004), Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005), V For Vendetta (2005), J. Edgar (2011), and Tammy (2014).
BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE
Widest theatrical release: 4,256 theaters
Similarly to The Avengers and Iron Man 3 before, Dawn of Justice included cameos by out news commentators who appear as themselves. This time, it was Anderson Cooper and Andrew Sullivan who each appear in very brief scenes to deliver some super-hero related news. Though their cameo appearances do technically meet GLAAD’s criteria for an onscreen LGBTQ impression, we continually hope that future superhero films will include substantial queer characters. While more out comic book characters are making the leap from the page to television, mainstream hero films are still cutting them from the big screen.
There is an additional brief scene where Clark Kent boards a ferry and walks in front of a couple sharing a kiss. Some have speculated that the characters are a gay couple, but given the out of focus haze and brevity of the moment, GLAAD did not count these characters.
Widest theatrical release: 3,508 theaters
This buddy comedy/spy mystery starring Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart is essentially a near two-hour gay panic joke that relies on the long-running homophobic “sissy” stereotype for most of the film’s intended punchlines. Johnson stars as Robbie Wierdicht/Bob Stone, a former high school nerd who was relentlessly bullied for his weight and has gone on to become a CIA agent who is believed to have gone rogue. He reconnects with Calvin, the captain of the football team voted most likely to succeed who once helped Bob against his bullies. When they meet up, Calvin is surprised to see Bob’s new body and visibly uncomfortable with Bob’s more effeminate mannerisms, seeming obsession with Calvin, and physicality as he hugs Calvin. At their school reunion, Bob gets together with Darla, another classmate who had been bullied for her looks. He strips down on stage to make a point about letting people see all of who you are, and after throwing his pants into the crowd, a male classmate catches them, yells out “yes!,” and fights with a woman who tries to take the pants from him.
The film attempts to make it seem as though they are in on the joke when Bob calls out the homophobia of someone attempting to start a fight with he and Calvin by implying the men are a couple, but ultimately Intelligence does nothing to address Calvin’s disgust at being complimented or touched by another man. The movie instead revels in this “humor,” that is both worn-out and simply unamusing.
FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM
Widest theatrical release: 4,144 theaters
This spinoff prequel to the Harry Potter universe is set in 1920s New York as “magizoologist” Newt Scamander arrives in town, and stumbles into a conflict between the magical government and the non-magic people of the city. The Director of Magical Security, Percival Graves, is eventually revealed to actually be the legendary dark wizard Grindelwald. Potter author JK Rowling announced in 2007 that Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore, who was friends with Grindelwald when the two were teens, is gay and had been in love with Grindelwald at one point. As there has not been any confirmation on whether Grindelwald himself returned Dumbledore’s feelings, GLAAD did not count this character. The franchise has announced plans for four additional films, set up to follow the rise of Grindelwald and his eventual defeat by Dumbledore. We hope to see more of their early relationship and Dumbledore’s feelings explored in those films.
THE LEGEND OF TARZAN
Widest theatrical release: 3,591 theaters
While no LGBTQ content made it into the film, the director announced during the film’s press tour that there had initially been a kiss between the ruthless soldier, Rom, and an unconscious Tarzan. The kiss was cut after initial test audiences were “perplexed” by the moment. In this case, the decision to cut the kiss helped the film as a forced kiss would have made the Rom character just one more in a long of gay characters who are portrayed as predatory and uncaring of consent. Further, the scene which seems the most likely to have contained the kiss comes as Rom is attempting to murder Tarzan. Including a kiss here would have also made Rom another in a line of villainous queer characters whose villainy was tied directly to their LGBTQ identity. GLAAD did not count this character.
LIVE BY NIGHT
Widest theatrical release: 2,822 theaters
This 1920s-set mob drama included one single scene with a gay character. The former Boston police captain, whose son is facing a possible murder charge, blackmails Chief Inspector Calvin Bondurant (Clark Gregg) with a threat to leak the proof of his affair with a man unless Bondurant allows the man’s son to take a deal on a lesser charge. This scene harkens back to old Hollywood production codes, which required that gay characters be somehow punished for being who they are, and would have been best left on the cutting room floor.
Widest theatrical release: 3,922 theaters
This animated comedy about the delivery of babies to new families via stork includes gay and lesbian couples. The film’s finale features a montage of couples and single parents who are receiving the children they have been longing for, and same-sex couples just happen to be part of that group of new parents. It is refreshing to see a “family” oriented film be so casually inclusive. LGBTQ people are already part of American families and communities across the country, and our films need to reflect that.
Widest theatrical release: 4,255 theaters
While Harley Quinn is bisexual in the pages of many DC Comics and continually veers between her love for fellow anti-hero Poison Ivy and returning to her abusive relationship with The Joker, none of that backstory came across in this widely panned film. Many audiences likely had no clue unless they had extensively read the source comics or researched the character beforehand. Suicide Squad instead chose to focus solely on her relationship with The Joker with very little back story, and largely sanitized the deeply abusive nature of their relationship. GLAAD did not count this character in its final tally based on the story presented. Warner Brothers has announced they are developing a film adaptation of the comic series Gotham City Sirens about Quinn, Catwoman, and Poison Ivy. If they follow the source comics, audiences can look forward to seeing some of the romantic relationship between Quinn and Ivy. This would be a huge moment for superhero films, which continue to leave out meaningful LGBTQ characters.