Entertainment Weekly

Stay Connected


Advertise With Us

Learn More

Skip to content


The Celluloid Closet

Posted on

The Celluloid Closet

Current Status:
In Season
102 minutes
Antonio Banderas, Rob Epstein, Lily Tomlin
guest performer:
Tom Hanks
Jeffrey Friedman, Rob Epstein
Gay and Lesbian, Documentary

We gave it an A-

More than just a fascinating film-history lesson, The Celluloid Closet (which debuted on HBO before playing theaters) reveals how Hollywood has influenced perceptions of gay men and lesbians — and even gay people’s self-image. Using Vito Russo’s 1981 book as their source, producer-directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman interweave clips (from an 1895 Thomas Edison Studio short of two men dancing to recent indie films), thoughtful narration (written by Armistead Maupin, read by Lily Tomlin), and talking heads (including Gore Vidal, who boasts of outfoxing Charlton Heston by writing a subtly homoerotic scene for Ben-Hur). When Carter Burwell’s haunting music accompanies slow-motion glimpses of gay characters, the movie becomes quite magical.