6 Movies With Non-Binary & Gender Nonconforming Heroes To Watch After Nimona
Netflix’s animated film Nimona introduces a protagonist who identifies as non-binary, joining a growing collection of movies that feature non-binary and gender-nonconforming leads. Nimona explores the shapeshifting character’s desire to defy gender norms, providing younger audiences with an educational and normalized representation of non-binary characters. The film received overwhelmingly positive feedback from both critics and viewers, praised for its subversive portrayal of knights and monsters in a reimagined medieval setting. Chloë Grace Moretz voices Nimona, an outcast who wants to use their powers for good, while Riz Ahmed co-stars as the disgraced knight Ballister Boldheart, who relies on Nimona’s assistance to prove his innocence. Nimona’s exploration of gender and sexuality sets a precedent for future films. Not only does the animated adventure delve into the lead character’s gender non-confirming identity, but it also features a heartwarming gay romance between two knights at the end. While animated TV shows have seen a rise in non-binary character representation, films are still in the early stages, with rare exceptions like Nimona. The release of the Netflix original was closely followed by Elemental, which aimed to challenge Pixar’s LGBTQ+ track record with a minor non-binary character named Lake. However, there is a demand for greater representation of gender-nonconforming and non-binary characters on a larger scale, as demonstrated by other compelling film protagonists.
In addition to Nimona, here are five other films that feature non-binary and gender-nonconforming characters:
1. The Kings of Summer: This coming-of-age film from the 2010s follows three teenagers who run away from their dysfunctional families to live freely in the woods. As they navigate their isolated lives, they encounter hard truths and grapple with their individual identities. Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, The Kings of Summer received positive reviews for its exploration of loss of innocence and the struggle to find one’s identity.
2. They: This film revolves around 13-year-old J, who is assigned male at birth but is taking hormone blockers to determine their desired gender transition. Through dreamy visuals, They offers a glimpse into the protagonist’s psyche and explores the social construct of gender and its ultimate futility. Premiering at Cannes in 2017, the film received praise for its portrayal of adolescent genderfluidity.
3. Zombies 3: The third installment of Disney’s sci-fi musical franchise, Zombies 3 takes place in the fantastical town of Seabrook, where undead creatures, werewolves, and humans coexist. When an alien invasion threatens the town, the three species unite to defend themselves. RuPaul joins the cast as the voice of the alien mothership, and A-Spen, a non-binary alien with telepathic powers, becomes Disney’s first live-action openly non-binary character.
4. Hedwig and the Angry Inch: Based on the musical of the same name, this film follows the journey of punk rock singer Hedwig Robinson as she pursues her former lover and apprentice who stole her music. The film delves into Hedwig’s gender reassignment surgery and her struggle with her identity. John Cameron Mitchell, who wrote, directed, and starred in the film, came out as non-binary and describes Hedwig as a genderqueer character.
5. Monster High: The Movie: This live-action adaptation of Mattel’s Monster High fashion doll franchise explores the lives of misunderstood monsters. The teenage protagonists face an identity crisis as they navigate societal expectations and embrace their beastly identities. Frankie Stein, the daughter of Frankenstein’s monster and Dr. Stein, identifies as non-binary and serves as a self-confident and highly intelligent character.
Lastly, The Carmilla Movie serves as a sequel to the popular Canadian YouTube series. The film follows the former vampire Carmilla as she experiences unexpected changes and seeks to uncover the truth behind her transformation.
Netflix’s animated film Nimona features an openly non-binary protagonist, joining a growing list of compelling movies with non-binary and gender-nonconforming leads. Exploring Nimona‘s titular shapeshifting character’s urge to not conform to any gender identities is a fresh take that educates younger audiences and normalizes the representation of non-binary characters. Nimonawhich garnered an overwhelmingly positive response from critics and audiences alike, was praised for its subversive portrayal of knights and monsters in a reimagined medieval setting. Chloë Grace Moretz voices Nimona, an outcast who wishes to use their powers for good, while Riz Ahmed co-stars as the disgraced knight Ballister Boldheart who relies on Nimona’s help to prove his innocence.
Nimona’s exploration of gender and sexuality sets a precedent for future movies. Not only does the animated adventure delve into its lead’s gender non-confirming identity, but the ending of Nimona also explores a wholesome gay romance between two knights. While animated TV show have seen a notable rise in non-binary character representation, films are still in the nascent stage with rare exceptions like Nimona. The Netflix original’s release was closely preceded by Elementalwhich tried to change Pixar’s polarizing LGBTQ+ track record with a minor non-binary character called Lake. However, gender-nonconforming and non-binary representation demands to be seen on a greater scale, as exemplified by other compelling film protagonists.
6 The Kings of Summer
The Kings of Summer is easily one of the finest summer coming-of-age movies of the 2010s. The title alludes to three teenagers who run away from their dysfunctional families to lead a carefree life in the woods. But then, when these aimless heroes actually start leading their isolated lives, they come across some hard truths. The 2013 comedy-drama delves into the loss of innocence and the struggle to find an individual identity. The youthful energy of the leads, coupled with a utopian narrative, make The Kings of Summer a powerful watch. Directed by Kong: Skull Island filmmaker Jordan Vogt-Roberts, the movie earned positive reactions from critics and audiences alike.
One of the breakout stars from 2013’s The Kings of Summer was Moisés Arias as Biaggio. The character mostly provides comic relief to the group but can prove to be extremely helpful in their wild adventures. The character also serves as an amusing attempt at representing a person who doesn’t wish to subscribe to the binary of male and female. In a particularly moving scene, Biaggio opens up to the other leads and reveals, “I don’t really see myself as having a gender.” The scene plays out organically, and Biaggio’s gender-nonconforming attitude is established even without any explicitly established labels.
Set over the course of a weekend, They revolves around the mental dilemmas of 13-year-old J. As an assigned male at birth, J has been taking hormone blockers before they can finally decide which gender they wish to transition to. Offering a glimpse at the protagonist’s psyche against the backdrop of dreamy visuals, They is an artistic exploration of gender as a social construct and its ultimate futility. J’s naivety can be understood from the character’s diary in which they reveal that they sometimes feel like a female, a male, and, at times, a genderless person. They succeeds as one of the few movies to poignantly touch upon adolescent genderfluidity.
Premiering at Cannes in 2017, They received a positive response, particularly for its lead character who is played by newcomer Rhys Fehrenbacher. During filming, Fehrenbacher was himself transitioning from female to male. The process ended up making They and J’s journey all the more authentic with director Anahita Ghazvinizadeh incorporating a documentary-like approach instead of cinematic shock value. On playing the non-binary trans teen in TheyFehrenbacher told the digital magazine Into“We [himself and J] were both kind of experiencing the in between.” The actor also opened up on how normalized everyday portrayals of trans and gender-nonconforming characters like They are required instead of “a big spectacle.”
4 Zombies 3
The third entry in Disney’s sci-fi musical franchise, Zombies 3 is set in the fantastical town of Seabrook that harbors not just the titular undead creatures but also werewolves and humans. As the three species coexist in harmony, they also unite to repel an incoming alien invasion that can threaten the entire town. Much like its two predecessors, Zombies 3 is filled with catchy songs and instantly likable characters ultimately offering a delightful experience for Disney’s YA audience. While RuPaul notably joins the cast as the voice of the alien mothership, many other aliens are introduced as new entrants to the franchise.
One such alien is A-Spen, an intelligent alien gifted with telepathic powers. Not identifying to any gender norms, the non-binary alien serves as Disney’s first live-action openly non-binary character. Easily excited about their surroundings, A-Spen instantly develops a liking for Earthlings even if they plan to attack A-Spen’s race. Earth is also where A-Spen discovers love for the first time. Terry Hu’s moving performance as A-Spen also allows the character to deliver some of Zombies 3’s best quotes such as “Harmony isn’t silence. Unity isn’t sameness. Love is powerful.” Much like Nimona, A-Spen emerges as a positive non-binary character that offers hope for future representation.
3 Hedwig And The Angry Inch
Based on the musical production of the same name, 2001’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch documents the journey of the titular punk rock singer as she pursues her former lover and apprentice who stole her music. As Hedwig Robinson and her band set out on the road, audiences also get insights of her botched gender reassignment surgery in the past. Equal parts funny and introspective, Hedwig and the Angry Inch emerged as a cult favorite with director–writer-lead star John Cameron Mitchell earning praise for their multiple talents. Mitchell not only won Best Director at the Sundance Film Festival but also earned a Golden Globe acting nomination.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch labels its lead character as genderqueer, with Mitchell himself coming out as non-binary in a 2022 interview with Pride Magazine (he/him being his preferred pronouns). As Mitchell told Toronto Star in 2014, “[Hedwig] is more than a woman or a man. She’s a gender of one and that is accidentally so beautiful.” Even decades after the movie’s release, Hedwig endures as a multidimensional character who challenges the gender spectrum with her outspoken attitude and energetic songs. While the ill-fated surgery from her early days gave her physical insecurities, Hedwig eventually rises out of self-doubt to express herself more openly.
2 Monster High: The Movie
Bringing Mattel’s Monster High fashion doll franchise to the live-action format, Monster High: The Movie goes down Nimona’s route to explore the life of misjudged monsters. With some of the human-monster hybrid students at the titular school too ashamed to embrace their beastly identity, Monster High: The Movie aims to understand the identity crisis that the teenage protagonists go through. And when the school’s existence comes under threat, the students must follow their heart even if it means going against societal notions. A treat for fans of the original dolls, the movie breathed new life into the beloved toys while fleshing out their backstories and even diversifying their identities.
A case in point is Frankie Stein, one of the main characters in Monster High: The Movie. The daughter of Frankenstein’s monster and the scientist Dr. Stein, Frankie is a monster with both male and female body parts. The monster identifies as non-binary and is a loyal friend and roommate to half-werewolf half-human Clawdeen Wolf. As a non-binary revisionist version of the monster from Mary Shelley’s classic novel FrankensteinFrankie is also depicted as a self-confident and highly intelligent character. After all, Frankie’s brains include cerebral parts of some of humanity’s greatest geniuses like Albert Einstein, Marie Curie and Plato.
1 The Carmilla Movie
The Carmilla Movie was inspired by and serves as a sequel to the famed Canadian YouTube series Carmilla. The titular protagonist of The Carmilla Movie is introduced as a former vampire who unexpectedly begins showing signs of “re-vamping”. Aided by her friends, Carmilla aims to uncover the truth behind her transformation as she encounters supernatural rituals, dimension-traveling ghosts and alternate timelines. The movie instantly drew praise for its genre-blending narrative as well as a largely female and queer cast that wasn’t subjected to harmful stereotypes.
One of the leads of The Carmilla Movie is the non-binary university student S. LaFontaine. A highly intellectual biology major at Silas University, they play a major role in helping Carmilla find the roots of her vampirism. They emerge as one of the movie’s memorable characters for their blunt sense of deadpan humor. Blatantly honest in their conversations, S. LaFontaine’s way of talking can be mistaken for rudeness. But ultimately, they prove their dedication to their friends with an overprotective attitude. S. LaFontaine’s arc in The Carmilla Movie proves that non-binary characters can very much be heroic and responsible in their own right much like the adventurous lead of Nimona.