The Celluloid Closet

1996

The Celluloid Closet

Critics Consensus

The Celluloid Closet takes a thought-provoking look at the decades of omission and misrepresentation endured by the gay community in mainstream cinema.

97%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 32

89%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 4,041

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Movie Info

Documentary directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, already well-established for bringing gay issues to a mainstream film audience, examined the representation of homosexuality in the film industry itself in this absorbing study. Based on a 1981 book by Vito Russo and narrated by Lily Tomlin, the film states upfront that in one hundred years of cinema history, homosexuality has rarely been acknowledged, and only then for laughs, pity, or fear. As the film continues, it details the prevailing trends in the depiction of gays during each decade, showing how the visibility of homosexuals began to increase and evolve. Interviews with Tom Hanks, Susan Sarandon, Gore Vidal, and Harvey Fierstein, among others, are notable additions to this illuminating and entertaining feature.

Cast

Critic Reviews for The Celluloid Closet

All Critics (32) | Top Critics (9) | Fresh (31) | Rotten (1)

  • Lively and absorbing.

    May 28, 2020 | Full Review…
  • "The Celluloid Closet" goes all the way back to the birth of cinema, to an experimental Thomas Edison short of two men dancing, to trace the odd, funny, sad and disgraceful history of homosexual iconography on film.

    May 28, 2020 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…
  • An immensely entertaining, galloping reflection on screen perceptions of lesbians and gay men, from the humorous to the heinous to the heartening.

    March 26, 2009 | Full Review…

    David Rooney

    Variety
    Top Critic
  • A witty, touching study of Hollywood's (mostly on screen) treatment of homosexuality.

    June 24, 2006 | Full Review…

    Tom Charity

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • Celebrity interviewees and glossy graphics further turn this into a colorful overview with the popular appeal of a "That's Entertainment!" and with an even more interestingly gay agenda than the history of Hollywood musical comedy.

    May 20, 2003 | Full Review…
  • Makes it clear Hollywood wanted it both ways: It benefitted from the richness that gays added to films, but didn't want to acknowledge their sexuality.

    January 1, 2000 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Celluloid Closet

  • May 21, 2013
    A decent historical reflection, if not somewhat self-indulgent.
    Christian C Super Reviewer
  • Mar 31, 2011
    Documentary about the presence (or lack thereof) of gay men & women in Hollywood film, starting with the silent era all the way through to Tom Hanks kissing Antonio Banderas. Interesting.
    Lesley N Super Reviewer
  • Aug 28, 2009
    A great documentary! Incredibly interesting look at homosexuality in film from silent pictures up to 1995, when this was made. I'd like to see this documentary updated to include the past 10 years, it would be interesting to see if/how perceptions have changed. It's really funny to realize how prudish Hollywood is compared to the rest of the world.
    Laura C Super Reviewer
  • Jan 23, 2009
    "It's amazing how, if you're a gay audience and you're accustomed to crumbs, how you will watch an entire movie just to see someone wear an outfit that you think means that they are a homosexual. The whole movie may be a dud but you are just sitting there waiting for Joan Crawford to put on her black cowboy shirt again." -Susie Bright An interesting documentary that enabled me to view some of my favorite films from a different perspective.
    Randy T Super Reviewer

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