Queer Cinema for High School

A high school curriculum that combines the study of queer films, film criticism, and queer theory

Why Queer Cinema?

Welcome to my curriculum on queer cinema, designed for high school students. Cinema studies is a field that receives little attention in high schools, despite the significance of audiovisual communication in adolescents’ daily lives. Armed with the disciplinary tools of cinema studies, adolescents can be better equipped to critically examine the media that surrounds them. Additionally, analysis of film and television is highly engaging to many high school students, and high engagement with the primary texts of this course will lead students to higher engagement with the rigorous secondary texts in this course, which consist largely of queer theory and film criticism works. Ultimately, the goals of this course are to sharpen students’ analytical skills, engage them with core concepts in cinema and queer theory, and help them critically deconstruct and challenge homophobia and transphobia.


The purpose of this course is to introduce students to two fields: cinema studies and queer theory. By close-reading representations of LGBTQ people in film and television, and analyzing these films using film criticism and queer theory, students will develop a strong grasp of critical concepts in both cinema studies and queer theory.

  • Cinema Studies: This course will introduce students to the standard tools of film analysis, analyzing elements like cinematography, sound, and editing, to close-read audiovisual media. In addition, this course will build on students’ skills with the standard tools of literary analysis, such as symbol and motif analysis, applying those techniques to film and television. Students will also be reading scholarly works of film criticism to support this work.
  • Queer Theory: This course also includes the works of queer theorists. Queer theory can be challenging to read in isolation but can become more comprehensible when examined in concert with cultural texts like the ones chosen for this course.


This contains lesson plans and materials designed for a semester-long course (16 weeks). The materials are broken into four units, organized by genre. Each unit contains four weeks of material, and each week contains three lessons, grounded in analyzing a single film from three different vantage points. This course will be designed for three class periods a week with students viewing films and independently prior to the start of the week. (The weekly schedule could easily be expanded into a four or five day a week, if that fits a particular school setting better). For more information on the components included in each week, please see course systems.

  • Day 1: Close reading: Following each weekly viewing, students will spend a class period close-reading significant scenes and discussing the film’s use of literary and cinematic techniques.
  • Day 2: Applying film criticism: The following period, students will examine film criticism pieces that engage the specific film being discussed that week. This process will help students learn how to unpack and engage with academic scholarship, and will deepen students’ understandings of the film being examined that week.
  • Day 3: Applying queer theory: At the end of each week, students will examine a brief work of queer theory and apply the theoretical frameworks utilized by the authors to that week’s film or show. This weekly cycle will provide students with opportunities to grapple with core concepts in queer theory and apply them to visual media.