For a long time, the only romantic films LGBTQ+ people were able to watch on Valentine’s Day revolved around the straights. That’s no shade to the straight romantic genre, we’re a sucker for any soppy love stories with J-Lo, Reese Witherspoon and Julia Roberts, and – fact time! – the I Say a Little Prayer For You number in My Best Friend’s Wedding is one of the greatest scenes in cinema history. (Forever, and ever…) But finally, after all these years, the queer community has an entire library of LGBTQ+ romances to choose from, from Ang Lee’s groundbreaking Brokeback Mountain to Céline Sciamma’s wistful historical drama Portrait of a Lady on Fire. If you can’t choose a film to watch this Valentine’s Gay, we’ve got you covered with 17 romantic – and at times, heart-wrenching – classics.
Blue is the Warmest Color (2013)
Cast: Léa Seydoux, Adèle Exarchopoulos, Salim Kechiouche, Aurélien Recoing, Catherine Salée, Benjamin Siksou
After meeting in a gay bar, French teenager Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos) falls in love with a blue-haired art student called Emma (Léa Seydoux). The first film to have the Palme d’Or awarded to both the director and the lead actresses, Blue is the Warmest Color follows their relationship from Adèle’s high school years until her adult life as a school teacher. Based on the 2010 graphic novel of the same name from Jul Maroh, the romantic drama has garnered a passionate following amongst the LGBTQ+ community – particularly queer women – and is widely regarded as one of the best films of the 21st century.
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Cast: Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, Michelle Williams, Randy Quaid, Linda Cardellini, Anna Faris
Ang Lee’s celebrated same-sex romance Brokeback Mountain stars Jake Gyllenhaal and the late Heath Ledger as Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist, cowboy lovers in the American West in the 60s. The film became a critical and commercial success when it was released in 2005, and went on to win three Academy Awards including Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay, with further acting nominations for Ledger, Gyllenhaal and Williams. The film memorably lost Best Picture to Paul Haggis’ drama Crash, which is unanimously regarded as one of the worst decisions in the history of the Academy Awards (apology, when?). Despite this, Brokeback Mountain has been hailed as a turning point for the advancement of LGBTQ+ stories in mainstream cinema.
Cast: Billy Eichner, Luke Macfarlane, Ts Madison, Monica Raymund, Guillermo Díaz, Guy Branum, Amanda Bearse, Jim Rash, Miss Lawrence, Dot-Marie Jones, Jai Rodriguez, Harvey Fierstein, Bowen Yang, Debra Messing, Symone, Ryan Faucett
The first gay romantic comedy from a major studio, Bros marked a historic moment for queer cinema with its principal LGBTQ+ cast – even the heterosexual roles were played by actors of the LGBTQ+ experience. This alone is enough reason for Bros to be included on this list, but it has a plethora of factors going for it besides its historic feats. Following Billy Eichner’s character Bobby Lieber as a podcaster and radio show host as he falls for a ‘masc4masc’ gay (played by Luke Macfarlane), Bros is one of the most outrageously funny comedies of the year and is, thankfully, not straightwashed to appeal to cis-het audiences. From Bobby snapping a pic of his butt for a Grindr hook-up (who subsequently blocks him) to the two lead characters bringing the foot fetish industry to the big screen, Bros is g-g-g-gay. While it didn’t make a splash at the box office, Bros reinvigorated a genre that hasn’t felt fresh in years and proved that rom-com’s are in dire need of more queer narratives. As Eichner told us, it was about damn time that we saw “accurate, multi-dimensional and genuinely funny and genuinely smart depictions of ourselves that we don’t get.”
Call Me By Your Name (2017)
Cast: Armie Hammer, Timothée Chalet, Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar, Esther Garrel
Call Me By Your Name has quickly become one of the most beloved romances of all time. An adaption of the 2007 novel of the same name by André Aciman, the film is set in 1983 in Northern Italy and chronicles the brewing relationship between 17-year-old Elio Perlman (Timothee Chalamet) and Oliver (Armie Harmer), a 24-year-old graduate assistant to Elio’s father (Michael Stuhlbarg). The themes of first love and heartbreak, as well as the dreamy and idyllic world created by director Luca Guadagnino, has evoked such a strong and impassioned emotion in LGBTQ+ viewers around the world. You’ll never be able to listen to Sufjan Stevens the same way again.
Cast: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson, Jake Lacy, Kyle Chandler, John Magaro, Cory Michael Smith
Carol stars Cate Blanchett as an older woman navigating a difficult divorce who embarks on a forbidden affair with an aspiring female photographer (Rooney 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. We challenge you to find a film more breathtaking than Carol.
Fire Island (2022)
Cast: Joel Kim Booster, Bowen Yang, Conrad Ricamora, James Scully, Margaret Cho, Matt Rogers, Tomás Matos, Torian Miller, Nick Adams, Zane Phillips, Michael Graceffa, Aidan Wharton
Hailed by critics and viewers as an instant queer classic, Fire Island follows two best friends (Joel Kim Booster and Bowen Yang) as they embark on their annual weeklong vacation to the titular gay hotspot. Written by Booster and directed by Andrew Ahn, the Pride and Prejudice-inspired rom-com puts queer Asian-American narratives at the forefront whilst celebrating and glorifying LGBTQ+ culture like no other film before it. Although Fire Island explores issues such as body image, wealth, race and how the queer community can, at times, tear each other apart, it’s saturated with moments that capture the unequivocal joy that comes with being queer – instead of the constant strife that’s historically been depicted in mainstream media. No death! No despair! No desolation! Here, queers have sex, attend underwear parties and scold one another for their lack of knowledge on Marisa Tomei’s Oscar-winning role in My Cousin Vinny. Sequel slash spin-off, when?
God’s Own Country (2017)
Cast: Josh O’Connor, Alec Secăreanu, Ian Hart, Gemma Jones
Taking place in Yorkshire, this romantic drama tells the story of sheep farmer Johnny (played to perfection by Josh O’Connor), whose life changes with the arrival of Gheorghe (Alec Secăreanu), a Romanian migrant worker who is hired as extra help for the lambing season. Partly based on the experiences of director Francis Lee (in his feature directorial debut), God’s Own Country was one of the most acclaimed films of the 2010s, with praise aimed at the performances of O’Connor and Secăreanu and its depiction of loneliness and intimacy. Hailed as Yorkshire’s answer to Brokeback Mountain, the film is a must-see for lovers of queer cinema.
Happiest Season (2020)
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Mackenzie Davis, Dan Levy, Aubrey Plaza, Alison Brie, Mary Holland, Mary Steenburgen, Victor Garber
Writer, actor and director Clea DuVall, who instantly earned LGBTQ+ icon status with her role in But I’m a Cheerleader, helmed the first major LGBTQ+ Christmas film in 2020 with Happiest Season. Released to overwhelmingly positive reviews, the rom-com puts queer female narratives at the forefront with Abby (Kristen Stewart) and Harper (Mackenzie Davis). When the couple attend the latter’s annual Christmas festivities, 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). If you weren’t convinced by all the mega-stars mentioned, Happiest Season also stars Aubrey Plaza (!) and Dan Levy (!). Yes, we need a sequel and we need it now.
Imagine Me & You (2005)
Cast: Piper Perabo, Lena Headey, Matthew Goode, Celia Imrie, Anthony Stewart Head, Darren Boyd
Lena Headey, Game of Thrones icon, stars in Imagine Me & You as Luce, a flower shop owner who catches the attention of Rachel (played by Coyote Ugly star Piper Perabo) on her wedding day. After becoming close friends, the duo form an unexpected romantic connection, which causes Rachel to question her marriage. For some absurd reason (homophobia!), Imagine Me & You received mixed reviews upon release but in recent years, it has attained cult classic status while Rachel and Luce are often hailed as two of the most iconic queer female characters in film. The film also hugely contributed to Headey’s enduring popularity within the LGBTQ+ community.
In From The Side (2022)
Cast: Alexander Lincoln, Alexander King, William Hearle, Christopher Sherwood, Peter McPherson, Pearse Egan, Ivan Comisso, Carl Loughlin, Alex Hammond, Chris Garner, Mary Lincoln,
We received the gay rugby drama we need and deserve thanks to a Kickstarter campaign and the vision of director/writer and former rugby coach Matt Carter. In From The Side stars Emmerdale’s Alexander Lincoln as Mark, an inexperienced new recruit on the B team at a gay rugby club who has a drunken encounter with Warren (Alexander King), the star player on the A team. With both men in long-term relationships and Warren’s partner on the same team, he and Mark inadvertently put the future of the rugby club at risk as they embark on a steamy, passionate affair. Carter’s directorial boasts well-written characters and strong performances from the two leads, and refreshingly, doesn’t conform to tropes normally associated with queerness and sports. Forbidden romance aside, In From The Side simply depicts the lives of people who play rugby together and just-so happen to be gay. No homophobia. No dramatic coming-out sequence. Sadly, that’s still quite rare.
Cast: Dhruv Ganesh, Shiv Pandit, Siddharth Menon, Rishabh J. Chaddha
Indian romantic drama film Loev – pronounced as ‘love’ – explores the relationship between Wall Street deal maker Jai (Shiv Pandit) and Mumbai-based music producer Sahil (Dhruv Ganesh, who sadly passed away from tuberculosis before the release), two friends with a complicated past who set off to the Western Ghats for the weekend. Drawing heavily from the personal experiences of director Sudhanshu Saria, Loev came to fruition after months of crowdfunding, with its budget at just $1 million. Despite this, Saria managed to craft a stunning film thanks to its scenic Indian locations and unmatched chemistry between Pandit and the late Ganesh. Loev won the Audience Award for Best Feature Film at the 2016 Tel Aviv International Film Festival and later found mainstream popularity with its release on Netflix. (It has since been removed, boo.)
Love, Simon (2018)
Cast: Nick Robinson, Jennifer Garner, Josh Duhamel, Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp, Jorge Lendeborg Jr, Keiynan Lonsdale
Marketed as the first major studio romantic comedy featuring two gay lead characters and a same-sex love storyline, Love, Simon was a momentous achievement in queer cinema history. Not only did it mark the first time LGBTQ+ people saw themselves represented properly in this very mainstream genre, it also proved that yes, queer stories can make a profit too, putting to bed any myths that had previously suggested otherwise. Based on Becky Albertalli’s brilliant novel Simon vs. The Homo Sapien Agenda, the film follows Simon Spier (Nick Robinson), a closeted gay high schooler who struggles to balance his friends and family, as well as the blackmailer threatening to out him to the entire school. Paired with incredible performances from the diverse and talented cast (that scene with Jennifer Garner’s speech gets us every time), it felt like a real moment not only for the community, but pop culture in general.
Cast: Trevante Rhodes, André Holland, Naomie Harris, Janelle Monáe, Mahershala Ali
This trailblazing coming-of-age tale that charts the life of disenfranchised African-American man Chiron (Trevante Rhodes) and takes viewers through three pivotal chapters in his life. Little follows a young nine-year-old Chiron as he grows up with a drug addict mother in a rough neighbourhood in Miami; Chiron shows his awkward and painful teenage years, including bullying he experienced at school; and finally Black, which shows how he’s developed as a fully-grown man, and the internalisation of his sexuality. The film was rewarded for its brilliance with three Oscars back in 2017. It’s an emotional rollercoaster for any viewer, but especially anyone who’s struggled to accept themselves for who they really are. Most importantly, it offered a rare chance for Black gay men to see themselves reflected on screen.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)
Cast: Noémie Merlant, Adèle Haenel, Luàna Bajrami, Valeria Golino
Set in France in the late 18th century, Portrait of a Lady on Fire tells the story of a forbidden love affair between Héloïse (Adèle Haenel) an aristocrat, and Marianne (Noemie Merlant), an artist commissioned to paint her portrait. One of the most lauded films of 2019, the historical drama explores themes of power and desire while subverting the harmful male gaze in favour of a female gaze (about damn time). The romance made history when it screened at the Cannes Film Festival, with Céline Sciamma becoming the first ever female director to win the coveted Queer Palm award. It earned further nominations at the Critics’ Choice Awards and Golden Globe Awards. The Academy Awards, however, snubbed the film. Shock.
Cast: Samantha Mugatsia, Sheila Munyiva, Neville Misati, Nini Wacera
Tensions run high when Kena (Samantha Mugatsia) and Ziki (Sheila Munyiva) start a same-sex love affair and are forced to hide their affection from the Kenyan locals. Homosexuality is still illegal in the African nation, and when they are caught, they are confronted by an angry mob. However, with this film the fictional discrimination on screen shone a harsh spotlight on the reality queer people in Kenya face when the Kenya Film Classification Board banned its release because of its “homosexual theme”. Director Wanuri Kahiu sued the Kenyan government to get the film released so it could be submitted as the country’s entry for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. The ban was lifted for seven days and went on to sell out cinemas, becoming the second highest-grossing Kenyan film of all time.
A Secret Love (2020)
Cast: Terry Donahue, Pat Henschel, Diana Bolan
Produced by Ryan Murphy, this emotional documentary follows the 65-year-long secret relationship between baseball star Terry Donahue and her partner Pat Henschel, as well as the challenges they face coming out later in life. It recalls when Terry and Pat met for the first time, through their professional lives in Chicago, coming out to their conservative families and deciding with whether or not to get married. As the official synopsis reads: “Facing the hardships of ageing and illness, their love proves resilient as they enter the home stretch.”
Cast: Colin Firth, Stanley Tucci, Pippa Haywood, Peter MacQueen, James Dreyfus, Ian Drysdale, Sarah Woodward
Supernova, written and directed by Harry Macqueen, stars Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci as Sam and Tusker, partners of 20 years. Following Tusker’s diagnosis of young-onset dementia, the couple travel across England in their campervan where their individual ideas for their future begin to collide. One of the most tear-jerking films of the decade, Supernova boasts career-high performances from the aforementioned industry legends and is a devastating observation into the effects of dementia, as well as a moving portrait of a couple accepting mortality.
Cast: Tom Cullen, Chris New, Jonathan Race, Laura Freeman, Loretto Murray, Jonathan Wright, Sarah Churm, Vaxuhall Jermaine, Joe Doherty, Kieran Hardcastle
Before he worked on queer HBO series Looking, director Andrew Haigh helmed British romantic drama Weekend, which followed two men (Cullen, New) who meet and begin a short-but-sweet sexual relationship the weekend before one of them leaves the country. The film received universal acclaim after its release in 2011, largely for its realistic and documentary-like portrayal of a same-sex relationship, and for offering a queer romance that was mostly unaffected by the omnipresent threat of homophobia or judgement from the outside world. The nostalgia of fleeting romance and ‘what could have been’ is strong with this one.