Brokeback Mountain (2005)

A landmark in changing attitudes to homosexuality on screen, Ang Lee’s frank tale of thwarted love between two cowboys was an international box-office hit.

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“What ultimately makes Lee’s Oscar winning adaptation of an Annie Proulx story a radical project is its being Hollywood’s first bona fide, well made and commercially successful gay weepie.”
Dave Calhoun, Time Out Film Guide

Romantic tragedies in the Brief Encounter mould have lost plausibility in recent decades – with the stigma of adultery removed, there’s too little to keep heterosexual lovers apart. But the appetite for such stories remains, and mainstream audiences flocked to this tale of 1960s Wyoming sheep hands Ennis (Heath Ledger) and Jack (Jake Gyllenhaal), whose love is blighted over the years because they dare not leave their married lives and, in the case of the taciturn Ennis, face up to their true feelings.

Director Ang Lee won an Oscar, as did screenwriters Diana Ossana and Larry McMurtry for their skilful expansion of a lean Annie Proulx short story. But the Academy, not quite ready to embrace an openly gay movie, awarded Best Picture to the middlebrow Crash (2004).

Andy Warhol’s camp Lonesome Cowboys (1968) was a rare earlier attempt to bring a gay perspective to that most masculine of genres, the western.

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