You don't need to attend a festival to see the 10 best gay films ever made.

IT SEEMS LIKE everyone's down on the Seattle Gay Film Festival these days [see "Don't worry, be happy," 10/21 —Eds]. Queer folk lament, "We realized 'Gay is OK' 30 years ago," or "If I wanted to watch an hour and a half of tits and ass I'd rent a porno." Meanwhile, straight folk scoff, "Why a 'Gay' Film Festival? We don't have a 'Straight' Film Festival!" or "I don't care that she's a blossoming flower of a lesbian. Give me a plot already!" And you've all got a point. But I say there's no reason to wait for a new and improved Gay Cinema: The best queer films have already been made and are loved by gay and straight folk alike. Ladies and gentlemen, I present:

10. Interview With the Vampire (1994), starring Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, and Antonio Banderas.

SAY IT AIN'T SO: OK, so Brad Pitt and Antonio Banderas aren't really gay. But this movie? Vampires Lestat (Cruise) and Louis (Pitt) are oversexual hunks who: a) are most active at night, b) are damned by an unapproving Judeo-Christian society, c) can only be recognized by each other, d) love getting gussied up, e) relate most to a pre-adolescent girl with a "me" complex.

PROGRESSIVE KUDOS TO: Anne Rice, for exploring the "ego" factor in gay marriage before it's even been legalized.

9. Spartacus (1960) (Golden Phallus Winner, including Best Butt Shot), starring Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis.

NEED I SAY MORE?: Oiled muscles, tunics, "when in Rome . . .", the Infamous Bath Scene. OK?

8. Basic Instinct (1992), starring Sharon Stone, Gina Gershon, Jeanne Tripplehorn, and Michael Douglas.

WAIT A SEC: So maybe not all gay folk appreciated this movie, what with angry lesbiprotesters crying "misogyny" outside theaters on opening weekend. But Catherine Trammell is quite the lipstick lesbian in control, wielding the pen and the ice pick so her admirers can succumb to castration fantasies and she can return to multiple orgasms. And Trammell's not the only one who debunks Freud's myth of penis envy, what with both Tripplehorn and Gershon's characters getting in on the action. Heck, Gershon had so much fun she went on to star in Bound.

GAY FRIENDLIER SEQUEL WILL BE: Natural Instinct, when Trammell ditches SF and her husband to raise those "rugrats" with Rocky in Seattle.

7. Muriel's Wedding (1994).

THAT AUSTRALIAN INDIE FILM?: Yup, the same country that brought us Priscilla, Queen of the Desert brings us a tale about a social misfit who copes with the fucked-up reality of small town society by listening to ABBA's "Dancing Queen." Sound familiar?

6. Silence of the Lambs (1991) (Golden Phallus Winner, Best Get Your Shit Together Reminder From Lesbians to Gay Men), starring Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins.

THAT HORROR MOVIE ABOUT "HANNIBAL THE CANNIBAL"?: No, the one about Clarice of the Government Police who jogs 50 miles a day, doesn't cower before men who fling bodily fluids at her, and tracks down a queer serial killer (he dresses in women's clothes and skins) so she can clue him in to nonviolence, maturity, and the importance of community in a more estrogen-based society.

GAY ROLE MODEL AWARD GOES TO: Clarice. Now if only Jodie. . . .

5. Mildred Pierce (1945) (Golden Phallus Winner, Best Slap), starring Joan Crawford.

GAY BECAUSE IT'S: Campy as they come. Before Old Navy commercials, before Tinky Winky, before Absolutely Fabulous, before Divine, there was Mildred Pierce, a tale about a murder, a hardworking single mother, her all-consuming daughter, and more drama than you can shake a wire coat hanger at. Campiest scenes include Joan slaving away in fast food waitress uniform, the "I wish you weren't my mother" tirade by unruly daughter, and Joan's visit to the dingy burlesque club where her daughter's dancing all over '50s taboos.

4. Thelma and Louise (1991) (Golden Phallus Winner, including Best Lesbian Manifesto)

LITTLE DID YOU KNOW THAT: "We'll be sipping margaritas by the poolside" is lesbian code for "I'll take a vibrator over a husband any day."

3. Fried Green Tomatoes (1991), starring Jessica Tandy and Kathy Bates.

WHAT PART OF: tomboys, hearty food, sticky fingers, and tons o' womyn friends do you not understand?

2. All About Eve (1950) (Golden Phallus Winner, including Best Diva), starring Bette Davis and Anne Baxter.

ALL ABOUT BEING A BITCH: What can a gay man do when a) his parents talk to the neighbor's dog more often than they do to him, b) he can't maintain a relationship because the last time he kissed a date in public he ended up in his own private hospital room, c) he lives in a ghetto with Calvin Klein-model clones who can verbally dice him into a pulp faster than his new Cuisinart, d) he's soft as hand lotion on the inside? ANSWER: Be a Bitch, just like Bette Davis, All About Eve's aging theater queen who's threatened by an unamused public, a young actress upstart (Baxter), and a proclivity for too many cocktails and cigarettes.

MORE EVIDENCE OF THE BITCH COMPLEX: Joan Crawford (see Mildred Pierce), Bette Midler, Madonna, Tori Spelling (?!).

1. Some Like It Hot (1959) (Golden Phallus Winner, Best Men in Heels), starring Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, and Marilyn Monroe.

A PLOT SHAPED LIKE THE KINSEY SCALE: St. Valentine's Day Massacre witnesses and refugees from the mob Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon sign up with an all-girl band heading for Miami. Slipping into hose, wigs, and the mantra "I'm a girl, I'm a girl," they meet Sugar Kane (Monroe), a curvy burned-by-love sexpot who's responsible for Curtis' pounding heart and Lemmon's tangoing all night long with another man. By the end, there's boys who like boys who like girls who like girls and the words "I'm a boy" or "I'm a girl" are exposed as costumes instead of fixed identities.

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