The Best Queer Holiday Movies to Make the Yuletide Gay
Photo: Philippe Bosse/Netflix
Not too long ago, LGBTQ+ people who wanted to see themselves represented in holiday movies could either (a) pretend or (b) settle for a second-rate film with a queer character who had very few lines, ambition, or development.
Early in the contemporary holiday queer canon, The Family Stone, which stars gay icon Sarah Jessica Parker as a (shocker) snobby New Yorker spending the holidays at her boyfriend’s family home, became queer canon for its B-plot gay couple with ambitions to adopt a baby. And while the film is still worth an annual watch, so much more has happened in seasonal cinema since SJP’s iconic spilled-strata scene with matriarch Diane Keaton. That is, queer holiday films actually center queer people now — same-sex holiday revelers crush and fall in love, break up, regain romance, and just live the same celebratory December existence every heterosexual (or closeted) character has gotten for, well, ever.
Now if we could just get a smart, well-written, celebrity-cast lesbian Hanukkah rom-com.
Lifetime’s new and first-ever lesbian Christmas movie is a legitimately good queer film in which the main character, Alma (Elise Bauman), is not only accepted by her Maine-based, small-Christmas-business-owner parents for being a lesbian but also encouraged to fall in love with out-of-town stranger Charlie (Tattiawna Jones). Cheesy as it is, the premise is as sweet as it is predictable with plenty of fun, memorable scenes and unexpected moments thrown in. And perhaps against all odds, there’s at least one decent queer-sex joke in this PG-rated made-for-TV seasonal flick, which definitely has annual-watch potential.
Where to watch: Lifetime
Corporate city girl returns back home to her small town to save the family business and fall in love with the family ranch hand? Classic trope, except this time, the meet-cute is between two women. Haley (Laur Allen) and Kate (Amanda Righetti) have an irresistibly adorable chemistry from their first few dating-app messages. The plot is, again, predictable from the first few minutes, and the cheesiness is palpable, but that’s part of the charm.
Where to watch: Tello Films
A hyperfamiliar, perhaps way-too-overdone heteronormative plot flipped to be gay? So! Here! For! It! Netflix’s first true gay Christmas movie (2019’s Let It Snow has a cute queer-teen subplot) follows plant daddy Peter (Michael Urie) as he heads home to New Hampshire with his best friend and pretend boyfriend, Nick (Philemon Chambers), to avoid his mom’s (Kathy Najimy) nagging about his perpetual single status. A Christmas-loving mom who can’t wait for her wholesome son to meet a nice man? So much so that she gives him a blind date with a hot guy as an early gift? Too cute. The friends-to-pretend-lovers-to-actual-lovers plot is only sweetened by the lovely appearance of Jennifer Coolidge as the cool, sex-positive aunt.
Where to watch: Netflix
Perhaps the most highly anticipated lesbian rom-com ever (oh, wait, there are only like, well, zero), Kristen Stewart’s not-home-for-the-holidays Hulu debut was the quar must-watch of 2020. Don’t be fooled, this holiday flick is neither rom nor com (though it was billed as such), but it certainly is heartwarming with plenty of subplots to debate during an annual rewatch. Should Stewart really end up with Aubrey Plaza’s character instead of the girlfriend she celebrates Christmas with (Mackenzie Davis)? Discuss.
Where to watch: Hulu
Lifetime’s first gay Christmas movie is a love story between (surprise!) two cis, white, pretty fit men (who are husbands in real life!), but it still has its merits. Manhattan lawyer Hugo (Ben Lewis) returns home to Milwaukee with his quirky best friend, Madelyn (Ellen Wong), to hang with his pushy mom, (Fran Drescher), for a very festive week leading up to Christmas. Naturally, Hugo runs into his teenage crush, Patrick (Blake Lee), now a tech billionaire who spends his time volunteering. With some nudging from his mom, Hugo catches feelings for Patrick while trying to save his neighborhood’s historic train station. Formulaic in the best sense, this 90-minute film proved that the holiday rom-com is without a doubt queer friendly and that it’s just necessary to tell heartwarming same-sex love stories in the same format as decades of heteronormative romances.
Where to watch: Lifetime
Truly the first lesbian holiday rom-com (looked over because it didn’t have big-name celebrities starring in or directing it), this ensemble-based Christmas movie is like Love, Actually minus all the creepy, sad stuff. The escapist film follows three lesbian couples, all joyful during the most wonderful time of year, and is full of queer in-jokes but can be widely enjoyed by all.
Where to watch: Tello Films
Based on Patricia Highsmith’s lesbian pulp novel The Price of Salt, Carol became queer canon before it even hit theaters thanks to Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara’s star power and palpable onscreen sparks. Set in the 1950s, Carol tells the love story of Therese Belivet (Mara), a 20-something aspiring New York City photographer and department-store clerk, and suburban mom Carol Aird (Blanchett), who remains best friends with her former lover Abby (Sarah Paulson). Set at Christmastime, Therese and Carol’s meet-cute begins when the sophisticated shopper forgets her winter gloves at the toy counter where Therese works and Therese takes it upon herself to return them to their sultry owner.