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November 26, 2004

Film at 11

The top ten AIDS-related movies, plus one

AIDS has not been treated on film with the seriousness and due attention it deserves.

Nevertheless, as the world enters the third decade of the plague, here are 11 of the most notable films (listed alphabetically) on this horrible scourge.

And the Band Played On

This is an amazing dramatization of the book by the late Randy Shilts, the great journalist in San Francisco who helped make gay rights and AIDS issues prevalent in the mainstream media. Starring Matthew Modine, Richard Gere, Lily Tomlin, Ian McKellan, Angelica Houston and Alan Alda, this brave film attempts to expose how ineptitude and in-fighting amongst various agencies and organizations impacted the early spread of AIDS. This film is excellently acted and a must-see to remind ourselves of the atrocities of the early to mid-1980s. The film was made for HBO.

As Is

PBS� production of the stellar Boradway hit by William Hoffman, this film chronicles the lives of two-ex lovers who are drawn back together by the AIDS crisis.

The film stars Robert Carradine and the legendary Colleen Dewhurst.

Before Night Falls

Here is an amazing film about the life of Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas, who struggled powerfully against censorship, homophobia, political oppression and the eventual disintegration of his body brought on by AIDS. The film, powerful and poetically directed by Julian Schnabel, features a bravura, Oscar-nominated performance by Javier Bardem in the title role.

An Early Frost

Starring Aidan Quinn, Ben Gazzara and Gena Rowlands, this NBC movie was one of the first films made about the disease. Here is the story of a family who discover that their son is both gay and dying of AIDS. The films is powerful and eloquent in a silent yet stirring manner.

The Hours

Directed by out director Stephen Daldry, and based on out writer Michael Cunningham�s novel, this is an amazing film with Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman and Juliane Moore. The film powerfully interweaves three separate stories, all connected by Virginia Woolf�s Mrs. Dalloway. Streep�s character, Clarissa, is throwing a party for her ex-lover who is dying of AIDS (played by Ed Harris). A must see.

In the Gloaming

Robert Sean Leonard plays Danny, a young man dying of AIDS, in this HBO film. He returns home to his family to spend his last days with them. Glenn Close plays his mother and Whoopi Goldberg co-stars in this moving and powerful film.

It�s My Party

Nick, played by Eric Roberts, realizes that he has only a few days to live due to a very rare AIDS-related disorder. He decides to throw a two-day farewell party where he invites his friends and his ex, Brandon. The film is both funny and poignant and has an amazing list of cameos by George segal, Olivia Newton-John, Marlee Matlin and Margaret Cho.

Longtime Companion

This is the best and most powerful film made on the subject. With Oscar-worthy performances by Campbell Scott, Mary Louise-Parker and Stephen Caffrey, and a Best Supporting Oscar nomination for Bruce Davison, the film chronicles the lives of gay men in New York when the epidemic was just breaking. A personal and gripping film, Longtime Companion is quite simply one of the best films of the 1990s.

Parting Glances

Along with An Early Frost and As Is, Parting Glances (1986) is one of the first films dealing with AIDS. Of the three, it is the only one that was released theatrically. Instead of focusing on the theme of someone coming home to die, it dealt more with the friends of someone with AIDS helping him to truly live. The movie also was one of the first major roles for Steve Buscemi, of Fargo and Reservoir Dogs fame.


Jonathan Demme, Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington and Antonio Banderas teamed up to give Hollywood�s first mainstream portayal of the disease. Even though the film is skittish about male-to-male contact and sexuality, the film is a powerful rendition of not only the disease, but also the way in which it is used to discriminate against people.

Zero Patience

John Greyson�s avant-garde film is an AIDS musical which traces the notion of the alleged Patient Zero who supposedly brought AIDS to America.

This quirky, funny, yet powerful movie deals with Sir Richard Burton, an explorer and sexologist, who is preparing a museum exhibit about Gaetan Dugas, the flight attendant accused of being Patient Zero. Greyson has created several larger Busby Berkeley-styled musical numbers to create the lurid world of his film.

Anthony Glassman contributed to this article.

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