Historically, if they’ve been acknowledged at all, LGBTQ characters have typically existed as sidekicks or comic relief in romantic comedies. That’s changed in recent decades, with 1990s classics like “Jeffrey” and Clea Duvall’s satirical 1999 teen comedy “But I’m A Cheerleader” kicking things off, and it continues with the current boom in romcoms with queer main characters. From Joel Kim Booster’s reimagined “Pride and Prejudice” LGBTQ love story in “Fire Island,” to “Love, Simon” and more, here are nine essential LGBTQ romantic comedies.
“The Half of It” (2020)
Alice Wu directed and wrote the 2020 Netflix rom-com “The Half of It,” about how two unlikely friends, Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis) and Paul Munsky (Daniel Diemer), who tag-team Paul’s romantic pursuit of Aster Flores (Alexxis Lemire). The film is a loose modern adaptation of Edmond Rostand’s 1897 play, “Cyrano de Bergerac.” Ellie and her father are strapped for cash, pushing Ellie to take Paul’s unusual request to help him write romantic letters to Aster. After Paul and Aster’s date goes poorly, Paul pleads with Ellie to help him learn about everything Ellie has written in the letters to Aster. With tons of miscommunication between the trio and hidden feelings, the sweet story about two unlikely friends evolves into mutual feelings between the two girls. Similar to “Love, Simon,” “The Half of It” tells the story of a closeted teen as they navigate their feelings and identity while maintaining friendships and going through high school.
“The Half of It” is streaming on Netflix.
“Fire Island” (2022)
As the most recent release on the list, “Fire Island” is the latest rom-com that audiences will fall in love with. Joel Kim Booster adapted Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” into a story about two gay men falling in love on Fire Island. While the film centers around two unlikely lovers, Noah (Booster) and Will (Conrad Ricamora), it also highlights the love within Noah’s “found family.” The rom-com of summer 2022 features a large cast that includes “Saturday Night Live”’s Bowen Yang as Howie and Margaret Cho as Erin. A reimagined adaptation of the classic adds this modern (LGBTQ) retelling to the “Pride and Prejudice” canon.
“Fire Island” is streaming on Hulu.
“I Love You Phillip Morris” (2009)
Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor star in this 2009 romantic black comedy, based on the true events detailed in “I Love You Phillip Morris: A True Story of Life, Love, and Prison Breaks” written by Steve McVicker. This film adaptation tells the story of Steven Jay Russell (Carrey) after he leaves his wife, comes out as gay, becomes a conman, and eventually is sentenced to prison. While in prison Steven meets Phillip Morris (McGregor) and the two fall in love. Phillip is released from prison, leaving Steven missing his partner, which in turn leads him to escape prison four times in order to be with Phillip. The two men constantly push the boundaries of their prison sentences, and their love for each other, categorizing the true — and dark — love story as an essential LGBTQ rom-com.
“I Love You Phillip Morris” is streaming on Prime Video and Kanopy
“Love, Simon” (2018)
While stories about teenagers in love and LGBTQ love stories are popular, it was rare to see a LGBTQ teenager fall in love in a major studio film at the time that “Love, Simon” was released in 2018. The film is based on the best-selling YA novel, “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda,” following Simon Spier (Nick Robinson), a closeted high school boy, falling in love with an anonymous pen pal. While attempting to discover the mystery boy, one character uses Simon’s identity to blackmail him, pushing him to grapple with coming out to both his friends and family. “Love, Simon” was such a success that 20th Television and Hulu developed a spinoff series, “Love, Victor” in 2020, with its third season to premiere June 15 on both Hulu and Disney+.
“Love, Simon” is streaming on FuboTV and Tubi.
“But I’m A Cheerleader” (1999)
This satirical cult film stars Natasha Lyonne as Megan Bloomfield and Clea Duvall as Graham Eaton. “But I’m A Cheerleader” was written by Bryan Wayne Peterson and directed by Jamie Babbit. At the start of the film Lyonne’s character is given an intervention by her friends and family, declaring her a lesbian and informing her she’ll be attending a conversion camp. At this conversion camp, she meets Graham, and as the film depicts some of the “patients” accepting their sexuality, it’s Megan who takes time. Eventually, like every good rom-com, Megan embarks on a path to win back her love interest, Graham. The comedy concludes with both a happy ending for Megan and Graham, as well as Megan and her family.
“But I’m A Cheerleader” is streaming on Prime Video, Peacock, The Criterion Channel, Tubi and Roku.
“Alex Strangelove” (2018)
The late 2010s saw a string of LGBTQ teen rom-coms released, including “Alex Strangelove,” which premiered on Netflix in 2018. This particular film follows teen Alex Truelove (Daniel Downey) as he navigates his conflicting feelings between his girlfriend, Claire (Madeline Weinstein), and his new gay friend, Elliot (Antonio Marziale). Alex and Elliot’s friendship begins right before Alex and Claire have decided to lose their virginity to each other. While the friendship between the two boys begins to develop, Alex recognizes that his feelings might be romantic rather than platonic. The surge of teen rom-coms in the 2010s incorporated several LGBTQ love stories, but delivered a true favorite with “Alex Strangelove.”
“Alex Strangelove” is streaming on Netflix
While the gay characters were sidelined as the best friends in romantic comedies throughout the 1990s, one film made the leading couple a gay couple: the 1995 rom-com, “Jeffrey,” directed by Christopher Ashley and written by Paul Rudnick, who adapted his play into the screenplay. Jeffery (Steven Webber) is a young gay man living in New York during the height of the AIDS crisis, who has decided to swear off sex. That is until he meets Steve (Michael T. Weiss), a charming and handsome HIV-positive man, whom he slowly falls for, creating a rare LGBTQ rom-com for the time. The cast of “Jeffrey” is the most star-studded on this list including Patrick Stewart, Nathan Lane, Christine Baranski, Kathy Najimy, Olympia Dukakis, and Sigourney Weaver.
“Jeffrey” is streaming on Peacock, Pluto, Freevee, Tubi, Roku, Hoopla and Kanopy
“Happiest Season” (2020)
Another Clea Duvall rom-com makes the list as one of the essential LGBTQ rom-coms to watch this Pride month. Duvall wrote and directed the holiday romantic comedy, “Happiest Season.” The film stars Kristen Stewart as Abby and Mackenzie Davis as Harper. In 2020, “Happiest Season” joined the long list of holiday romance films. Unlike the hundreds of holiday love stories featuring heterosexual couples, “Happiest Season” stands as one of the few films about a LGBTQ couple. Although the film is about a lesbian pairing, Harper requests that Abby hide their relationship from her conservative parents while visiting for the holidays. The impressive cast includes Dan Levy, Alison Brie, and Aubrey Plaza and stands as an essential romantic comedy to be watched year-round.
“Happiest Season” is streaming on Hulu.
“Schitt’s Creek” (2015-2020)
Although a TV show, “Schitt’s Creek’s” David and Patrick’s romance makes the list of great LGBTQ rom-coms for following the quintessential rom-com formula — albeit in serialized format. As the only TV show on this list, the Emmy Award-winning creator and star Dan Levy crafts an endearing romance between David Rose and his future husband, Patrick. Their romance very much forms the core of the show, and is played as a romantic comedy in the best sense of the term. Dan Levy’s contribution to LGBTQ stories for film and TV is seen both in “Schitt’s Creek” and the aforementioned “Happiest Season.” Yet, it is his quick explanation of David’s LGBTQ identity, “I like the wine and not the label,” that has become a LGBTQ motto.
“Schitt’s Creek” is streaming on Hulu and Freevee.