Although Christmas is camp as fuck and Rudolph is a gay icon, fact, holiday films don’t have the greatest reputation when it comes to queer storytelling. In recent years, however, the yuletide has never been gayer thanks to historic rom-coms such as Lifetime’s The Christmas Setup, Netflix’s Single All The Way and Hulu’s Happiest Season, which notably became the first gay Christmas film released by a major studio. Here, we’ve rounded up 12 of the best films that will provide you with all the festive queer this holiday season.
The Bitch Who Stole Christmas
Cast: RuPaul, Krysta Rodriguez, Michelle Visage, Ross Matthews, Carson Kressley, Peppermint, Latrice Royale, Laganja Estranja, Pandora Boxx, Brooke Lynn Hytes, Kimora Blac, Heidi N Closet, Porkchop, Gottmik, Jaymes Mansfield, Jan, Ginger Minj, Chad Michaels, Kelly Mantle, Rock M Sakura, Kylie Sonique Love, Mayhem Miller, Manila Luzon, Morgan McMichaels, Raven, Kim Petras, Charo, Anna Maria Horsford
Boasting an all-star cast with Drag Race alum such as Brooke Lynn Hytes, Chad Michaels, Ginger Minj, Kylie Sonique Love, Manila Luzon and Peppermint, The Bitch Who Stole Christmas follows a fashion journalist (Krysta Rodriguez) who is sent on an assignment to a Christmas-loving town by her editor (RuPaul). With the intention to dig up a juicy story, she unexpectedly gets involved in the town’s yearly winter ball competition. Of course, the festivities has its dark side with cutthroat housewives and ruthless townfolk seeking to ruin the holiday season. In a statement, World of Wonder co-founder Randy Barbato said: “There are 1,000 Christmas movies this year, but only one with drag queens. Christmas will never be the same!” The movie also features appearances from Michelle Visage, Ross Matthews, Carson Kressley, Kim Petras, Charo and Anna Maria Horsford
Cast: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson, Jake Lacy, Kyle Chandler, John Magaro, Cory Michael Smith
Set in the 1950s, Carol stars Cate Blanchett as an older woman navigating a difficult divorce who embarks on a forbidden affair with an aspiring female photographer (Mara). Watching the effects of homophobia and a jealous soon-to-be-ex-husband on their relationship is heartbreaking, and if nothing else, the pure melodrama of it all will get you in a state of melancholy. After making audiences sob throughout most of the film with its beautiful portrayal of queer heartbreak, wistful cinematography and evocative soundtrack, the final shot signals that there’s hope yet for the title character’s romance yet, helping challenge the notion that all queer stories end in tragedy. Blanchett won universal acclaim for her performance, ultimately earning nominations at the Academy Awards, Golden Globes, BAFTAs, Critics Choice Movie Awards and Screen Actors Guild Awards. We challenge you to find a film more breathtaking than Carol.
The Christmas House (2020)
Cast: Jonathan Bennett, Brad Harder, Robert Buckley, Ana Ayora, Treat Williams, Sharon Lawrence
Hallmark’s first ever gay Christmas film follows Brandon (Jonathan Bennett) and his husband Jake (Brad Harder) as they visit Brandon’s parents for the holidays, during which they are anxiously awaiting a call about the adoption of their first child. Bill (Treat Williams) and Phylis (Sharon Lawrence), their parents, hope that “bringing the family together to recreate the Christmas house will help them find resolution and make a memorable holiday for the entire family and community.” It received praise from viewers and will be followed by a sequel, The Christmas House 2: Deck Those Halls, on 18 December.
The Christmas Setup (2020)
Cast: Ben Lewis, Blake Lee, Ellen Wong, Fran Drescher
Ben Lewis, known for his role as William Clayton on Arrow, plays an NYC-based lawyer who returns home to Milwaukee to spend Christmas with his best friend (Ellen Wong) and mum (Fran Drescher). Unbeknownst to him, Madelyn has arranged for Hugo to run into his high school friend and former crush (played by Lewis’ real-life husband Blake Lee), who has returned from a successful stint in Silicon Valley.
Dashing in December (2020)
Cast: Peter Porte, Juan Pablo Di Pace, Andie MacDowell, Caroline Harris, Carlos Sanz, Katherine Bailess
Young And The Restless star Pete Porte plays Wyatt Burwall, a prim and proper city man who comes back to his rural hometown for the holidays. Along the way, he meets their new ranch hand Heath Ramos (Juan Pablo Di Pace) and – surprise, surprise! – a romance unexpectedly ignites between them. As well as saving the property, Heath makes it his mission to reawaken the spirit of Christmas in Wyatt. Four Weddings and a Funeral’s Andie MacDowell co-stars as Wyatt’s mother Deb.
Happiest Season (2020)
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Mackenzie Davis, Dan Levy, Aubrey Plaza, Alison Brie, Mary Holland, Mary Steenburgen, Victor Garber
Released in 2020 to critical acclaim, the Clea DuVall-directed rom-com follows the story of Abby (Kristen Stewart) and Harper (Mackenzie Davis), a lesbian couple who attend the latter’s annual Christmas festivities. Upon arrival, Abby discovers that Harper hasn’t come out to her conservative parents (Mary Steenburgen and Victor Garber), as well as her dysfunctional sisters (Alison Brie and Mary Holland). Happiest Season made history as the first major LGBTQ+ Christmas film.
The Family Stone (2005)
Cast: Diane Keaton, Craig T. Nelson, Dermot Mulroney, Luke Wilson, Elisabeth Reaser, Tyrone Giordano, Rachel McAdams, Sarah Jessica Parker, Claire Danes, Brian J. White
The Family Stone stars Sarah Jessica Parker as Meredith Morton, an uptight career woman who travels with her boyfriend Everett (Dermot Mulroney) to attend his family’s Christmas celebrations. There, Everett plans to propose with the family’s cherished heirloom ring, but finds himself in hot water with his relatives when they come into conflict with Meredith. During dinner, Everett’s deaf gay brother Thad (Tyrone Giordano) and his partner Patrick (Brian J. White) announce their plans to adopt a child, which prompts a fierce debate about sexuality and nature vs nurture.
Let It Snow (2019)
Cast: Isabela Merced, Shameik Moore, Odeya Rush, Mitchell Hope, Kiernan Shipka, Joan Cusack, Liv Hewson, Anna Akana, Jacob Batalon, Matthew Noszka, D’Arcy Carden
Based on the best-selling book by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle, Let It Snow follows a group of high school seniors whose friendships and love lives collide after a snowstorm hits their small town on Christmas Eve. The movie features a same-sex romance between two characters played by Liv Hewson (Santa Clarita Diet) and YouTube star Anna Akana. Even better, both actors are queer in real life – Liv is non-binary and gay, while Anna is bisexual.
A New York Christmas Wedding (2020)
Cast: Nia Fairweather, Otoja Abit, Adriana DeMeo, Tyra Ferrell, Cooper Koch
A New York Christmas Wedding features a lead bisexual character in Jennifer (Nia Fairweather), who is in the midst of planning her wedding to David (Otoja Abit). However, she second-guesses the marriage when her fiancé’s monster-in-law mother (Tyra Ferrell) insists on conducting the ceremony her way. Jennifer, who still mourns the loss of her father and best friend Gabrielle (Adriana DeMeo), receives a visit from her guardian angel Azrael (Cooper Koch), who whisks her off to an alternate world in which both are still alive. There, Jennifer gets a second shot at love with Gabrielle.
Cast: Rosario Dawson, Taye Diggs, Wilson Jermaine Heredia, Jesse L. Martin, Idina Menzel, Adam Pascal, Anthony Rapp, Tracie Thomas
Based on the 1996 Broadway musical of the same name, Rent depicts the lives of several impoverished artists during the holiday season as they struggle with sexuality, drugs and paying their rent, all while under the shadow of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Lower Manhattan’s East Village. Although the film received mixed reviews at the time, it has since earned cult classic status.
Single All The Way (2 December)
Cast: Michael Urie, Philemon Chambers, Kathy Najimy, Barry Bostwick, Luke Macfarlane, Jennifer Coolidge
Netflix made history this year with Single All The Way, their first ever Christmas film focusing on a gay romance. The rom-com follows Peter (Michael Urie) as he persuades his best friend Nick (Philemon Chambers) to pose as his boyfriend on a trip home for the holidays to avoid his family’s judgement about his perpetual single status. Peter’s mother (Kathy Najimy), however, sets him up on a blind date with her handsome trainer (Luke Macfarlane) and their plan goes… awry. Single All The Way also stars Jennifer Coolidge as Peter’s Aunt Sandy, Barry Bostwick as Harold, Jennifer Robertson as Lisa, Madison Brydges as Daniela, Alexandra Beaton as Sofia, Steve Lund as Tim and Melanie Leishman as Ashleigh.
Cast: Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Mya Taylor, James Ransome, Mickey O’Hagan
Filmed using three iPhone 5S smartphones, Tangerine follows LA-based trans sex worker Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) who finds out from best friend Alexandra (Mya Taylor) that her boyfriend-slash-pimp Chester (James Ransome) has been cheating on her with a cisgender woman while she’s been in prison. Set on Christmas Eve, what follows is a hilarious and heartwarming buddy comedy that manages to put trans narratives front-and-centre without reducing them to victims or forcing sympathy from viewers. Tangerine also (importantly) set a precedent for casting trans actors in trans roles.