• Golden Globe Awards

2017: “Moonlight” Shines as First LGBTQ+ Film with All-Black Cast

In 2017, as in many years before, the Golden Globes were once again the showcase of an important social and cultural milestone, the top award for the first LGBTQ+ film with an all-Black cast.
Directed by Barry Jenkins, Moonlight is a coming-of-age drama based on Tarell Alvin McCraney’s semi-autobiographical play “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue.” It chronicles the struggles of an African American man through a difficult childhood, adolescence, and adulthood, throughout which he deals with such issues as identity and sexuality.

The film, which won Best Drama at the 74th Golden Globes, ignited the careers of Mahershala Ali and Trevante Rhodes. Ali earned a nomination for Best Supporting Actor, and the film was nominated in four additional categories: Best Director and Best Screenplay, with both nods going to the aforementioned Jenkins; Best Supporting Actress, for Naomie Harris; and Best Original Score, for Nicholas Britell.

The movie also stars André Holland, Janelle Monáe, Ashton Sanders, and Jharrel Jerome.
Moonlight, the first LGBTQ+ film with an all-Black cast, was just one of the examples of growing diversity in moviemaking and, in the judgment of Golden Globe voters, the best cinematic offerings of the previous year. Three of the five nominations in female supporting roles went to Black actresses: Naomie Harris in Moonlight, Octavia Spencer in Hidden Figures, and winner Viola Davis in Fences. The latter’s co-star in this film with an all-Black cast, Denzel Washington, also received a nomination in the Best Actor – Drama category.

On the TV side, Tracee Ellis Ross won a Golden Globe as Best Actress, in a TV Series Comedy or Musical, Black-ish; and Atlanta received two Golden Globes – Best Musical/Comedy Series and Best TV Actor, Donald Glover.
Additionally, Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga were also each nominated for their roles in Loving, a drama about the atrocities a married couple experienced at a time when racially mixed unions were still outlawed in parts of the United States.
After its Golden Globes victory, Moonlight unexpectedly became a piece of lasting Oscar history when presenters Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty mistakenly announced La La Land as the Best Picture winner. When the producer of La La Land, Jordan Horowitz, seconds later realized the mistake, he declared Moonlight the rightful winner, leading to a chaotic scene on stage.
La La Land won seven Golden Globes, including the Best Picture Musical or Comedy and Best Director for Damien Chazelle.
Later, Moonlight’s Ali told USA Today, “I didn’t want to go up there and take it from somebody. It’s very hard to feel joy in a moment like that. But I feel very fortunate for all of us to walk away with Best Picture. It’s pretty remarkable.”
In 2019, Ali would go on to win a Golden Globe (and an Oscar) for Best Supporting Actor for Green Book, and he earned another Golden Globe nomination in 2022 for Best Actor – Drama for Swan Song.