8 Essential Movies About HIV And AIDS That Got It Right


HIV and AIDS have been the most misunderstood disease; it has killed millions of people and yet, the right kind of awareness still falls short. There is a lot of misinformation and the stigma around the disease is never-ending. It was only a few years earlier, that media changed the discussion completely. Movies and documentaries around HIV and AIDS touched people’s hearts bringing a human face to the epidemic.

We decided to curate movies that get HIV and AIDS just right. Here are 8 movies/documentaries that you should definitely watch.

1. How To Survive A Plague



2012 Oscar nomination film shows the early years of the AIDS epidemic and the impact of the activist groups like ACT UP & TAG. It’s been directed by a journalist, David France who covered AIDS from the beginning and dedicated to his partner Doug Gould (Doug died of AIDS-related pneumonia in 1992)

The documentary has more than 700 hours of footage which included news coverage, interviews, meetings and conferences taken by ACT UP members themselves.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating – 98%

You can watch the documentary here. If you prefer reading, there’s a book on it too.

2. An Early Frost

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A 1985 movie that was made for television and it was also the first major film that dealt with the topic of AIDS. The film was nominated for 14 Emmy Awards and won three.  The film also made it to the Golden Globe Award for Best Television movie and Sylvia Sidney won an award for best-supporting actress.

The storyline revolves around a successful gay lawyer who after a bad coughing fit finds himself in a hospital, only to find out he has contracted HIV. The death sentence comes with a struggle to tell his family members about his sexuality, with the fact that he may not be there for long.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating – 74%

3. Philadelphia



The 1993 movie starring Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington, was one of the first mainstream movies to acknowledge HIV/AIDS, homosexuality, homophobia and made a huge effort to normalise it.

Hanks won an Academy Award for Best Actor at the 66th Academy Awards. The plot revolves around a gay lawyer who gets fired and suspects his AIDS is the reason for it and then tries to fight it at the court.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating – 80%

4. Angels in America

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This 2003 mini-series is based on Pulitzer-prize winning 1991 play with the same name. The story is set in 1985 and revolves around six New Yorkers with lives intersecting at a pivotal point.

It’s a story of Prior Walter, a gay man living with AIDS who is visited by an angel. Winner of Emmy Awards, Golden Globe awards, this series explores and talks about the spreading of the AIDS epidemic, Reagan era politics, and the rapidly changing social-political climate.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating – 92%

5. And The Band Played On



Very similar to ‘An Early Frost’, this television drama movie was considered a landmark of its time. It is based on the best-selling 1987 non-fiction book And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic’ by Randy Shilts.

The movie explored some of the first cases of HIV/AIDS in Africa in 1976s along with the various political, social, and scientific developments that marked the 1980s.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating – 100%

6. Dallas Buyers Club



Perhaps the most popular film making to our list, this movie tells the story of Ron Woodroof, an AIDS patient diagnosed in the mid-1980s. This was a period when the treatments were under-researched and the disease was highly stigmatized.

He is given 30 days to live and that’s where his journey with the disease starts. During this time, he smuggles unapproved pharmaceutical drugs to treat his symptoms and distributes them to those who have been affected by AIDS. He thus establishes “Dallas Buyers Club” while facing opposition from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

Rotten Tomatoes Rating – 93%

7. Parting Glances



This movie is considered an important film in the history of gay cinema. The movie put forth a real stance on urban gay lives in the Ronald Reagan era. It also highlighted the AIDS crisis and the stereotype around it.

You can watch it here

8. The Lazarus Effect

This 30-minute documentary talks about the impact of antiretroviral (ARV) medicine on the infected people in Zambia. This film shines a ray of hope for those living with the disease within the most remote of countries, and not just for people living in developed countries.

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