Whether you’re a Grinch or an Elf, there isn’t a more indulging guilty pleasure during the holidays than binging on Christmas movies.
Stuffed with food, reaching for the couch surrounded by family or friends or snacking on your own, holiday flicks are the worst and the best thing to do when it’s cold outside.
These movies remind us that life can be happy, but only if you’re a conventionally attractive, slim, white, cis straight character.
LGBTI-themed holiday movies, in fact, are an exception rather than the rule. Heteronormative, gender-conforming stories are still the most popular trope and constitute the plotlines of a solid 80% of all Christmas movies. And when there is an LGBTI role in those stories, they are a secondary character.
Sure, there are some movies which can be queer without being explicitly LGBTI (Honorable Mention: Elf) and others which could have been improved by that same-sex storyline nearly making the cut (Dishonorable Mention: Love Actually), but that is not enough.
However, queer festive representation is finally, slowly increasing. If guys have had their unfair share of gay Christmas romance, it feels that lesbian and bi women haven’t yet.
Fear not, as Kristen Stewart is about to change this with her new queer romcom Happiest Season, out in 2019.
While we wait for the movie directed by lesbian filmmaker Clea DuVall, enjoy this very biased ranking of the best and worst LGBTI-themed holiday films of recent years. The criteria? Overall quality (because we have standards!) and LGBTI characters involved.
14 & 13 A Christmas Prince (2017) & A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding (2018)
Imagine having a bot writing a screenplay by collating all the Christmassy themes you can think of into 92 minutes of pure cheesy trash and you’ll have A Christmas Prince.
The movie stars iZombie Rose McIver in the role of aspiring journalist Amber.
She flies to the fictional kingdom of Aldovia to get a scoop on the reluctant future king, Richard. How will she get there? By posing as the American tutor for the prince’s sister Emily, obviously.
While on assignment, Amber has two sidekick friends following her adventures from the States, Andy and Melissa. These are also the only two characters belonging to any minority in the movie.
If you think that Andy, played by Joel McVeagh, is the stereotype of any gay character – sassy and camp – wait until you watch A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding.
The 2018 Netflix-released sequel features gay wedding planner Sahil (Raj Bajaj), a vaguely racist, homophobic cliché of a character. And, surprise surprise, the movie also hints at a possible romance between the only two gay men!
We truly hope they’ll do better for the heteronormative, unavoidable, yet-to-be-confirmed third installment. Chances are the title will be A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby.
12 Holiday in Handcuffs (2007)
Former teenage witch Melissa Joan Hart plays recently dumped, jobless, aspiring painter Trudie.
As she is determined to go back home for the holidays and please her parents, she kidnaps David (Mario Lopez), a customer at the cafe she works in, and brings him home to introduce him as her boyfriend.
It turns out Trudie isn’t the only one with a secret. Her gay brother Jack (Kyle Howard) comes out during a family feud. Moreover, Trudie’s sister Vanessa (Katie Chandler) announces she had bought a pilates studio with her parents’ tuition money. Quite a lot to process for just one Christmas dinner, huh?
11 Too Cool for Christmas (2005)
Spoiled Lindsay (Brooke Nevin) is a too-cool-for-Christmas teenager who wants to spend the holidays skiing with her friends, taking no part in the celebrations her two gay dads and sister are planning.
When out with a friend, Brooke makes fun of a department store Santa Claus, not knowing he is actually the real Santa.
The man then reveals his identity and Lindsay agrees to give him a fashion makeover and a helping hand. She will help him deliver presents, on one condition: she needs to be back in time for the ski trip.
Do we need yet another flick about a cliché female character like Lindsay? No, but it’s interesting to unveil the dynamics of same-sex parenting.
The movie was produced for the LGBTI cable channel Here TV. The producers also filmed a straight version (A Very Cool Christmas for Hallmark) while filming the gay version.
Each scene would be filmed with the gay couple, then one of the dads, actor Adam Harrington, would step out of the shot and actress Ingrid Torrance would step in and play the mom.
10 Love The Coopers (2015)
Ten years after The Family Stone, Diane Keaton strikes again with another holiday movie. What a waste of incredible talent.
The Coopers the title aggressively invites you to appreciate are the very white, very straight New England’s dysfunctional family we’ve seen on screen a little too often.
Where’s the LGBTI element, one might ask.
Well, Keaton’s sister, played by Marisa Tomei, gets arrested for shoplifting by a closeted cop, played by Anthony Mackie. He opens up to her about his sexuality. In case you’re wondering, he’s also black, because why not ticking all those diversity boxes with just one character and move on, right?
9 Scrooge & Marley (2012)
This 2012 movie reimagines Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol with a gay twist.
Directors Richard Knight Jr. and Peter Neville attempt to modernize the classic holiday tale with hot gay dancers, camp musical numbers and a same-sex love story that nobody saw coming.
8 Serendipity (2001)
Okay, this is more a romcom than a holiday movie tout court, but it still counts.
Jonathan (John Cusack) and Sara (Kate Beckinsale) meet during the Christmas season in New York and fight over a pair of gloves at Bloomingdale’s. This leads to a magical evening spent eating ice cream, ice skating and being cute.
Later that night, Jonathan suggests they could exchange numbers, but Sara, a firm believer in the power of destiny, encourages the man to write his on a $5 note and immediately buys something with it.
She will write her contacts on the front endpaper of a book that will be sold the next day. If it’s meant to be, Jonathan will find the book, Sara explains.
A few years later, the two are about to tie the knot. With other people.
That’s when that little ‘what if’ voice in the back of their minds kicks in, compelling Sara, now in San Francisco, to embark on an NYC bachelorette trip with her lesbian best friend Eve (Molly Shannon).
Eve doesn’t appear to have a girlfriend nor discusses her sexuality in details, but she’s pivotal in the development of the plot as she went to college with Jonathan’s bride-to-be Halley.
7 The Family Stone (2005)
Sarah Jessica Parker plays the uptight, conservative businesswoman Meredith. She goes to Connecticut for Christmas to finally meet her boyfriend Everett’s (Dermot Mulroney) liberal family.
The woman fails to feel accepted by the rambunctious Stones, composed of mom Diane Keaton and a bunch of other talented actors, including Luke Wilson and Rachel McAdams.
Particularly, one of Meredith’s future brothers-in-law, Thad (Tyrone Giordano), is gay. He announces he’s going to adopt a baby with his partner Patrick (Brian J. White).
Meredith then embarks on a casual homophobic rant which only makes things worse, but will learn her lesson in time for the inevitable happy ending.
6 Make the Yuletide Gay (2009)
This rom-com about a gay college student who goes back home for the holidays is a festive treat.
Gunn, portrayed by Keith Jordan, is out at school, but his parents have no idea of his sexuality. When he decides to spend Christmas with his Midwestern family, he will need to change his appearance and the way he speaks not to blow his straight cover. Will it work? Not when his boyfriend Nathan (Adamo Ruggiero) shows up unannounced.
5 Home for the Holidays (1995)
Set during Thanksgiving in Baltimore, this movie is Jodie Foster’s directorial debut and is festive enough to make the cut.
After losing her job and being left alone by her teenage daughter who wants to spend the holidays with her boyfriend, Claudia (Holly Hunter) goes home to celebrate Thanksgiving with her parents and siblings.
Her younger, overly sarcastic gay brother and confidant Tommy (played by Robert Downey Jr.) helps her get through the holidays. Despite being a secondary character, Tommy’s storyline is well developed. He’s openly gay and serves the narrative playing Cupid for his sister.
4 Other People (2016)
Breaking Bad and Fargo star Jesse Plemons is David, an openly gay and recently single writer going back to Sacramento to care for his dying mother, played by an incredible Molly Shannon.
Other People premiered at Sundance Film Festival in 2016 and was written and directed by Chris Kelly, the first openly gay head writer of SNL. This autobiographical movie is partly set during the holidays, kicking off with a New Year’s party.
David’s father still has troubles accepting his sexuality. The rest of the family, led by grandma Ruth-Anne (June Squibb), also struggles to come to terms with David’s truth, but the unavoidable loss they are all about to experience will help them get closer.
Young trans actress Josie Totah (credited as J.J. Totah) also stars.
3 Anna and the Apocalypse (2018)
Zombies? Catchy songs? A queer character? This movie has them all and it is honestly one of the best, campest things you’ll see this December.
Set in a small town in the UK, Anna and the Apocalypse is the zombie Christmas comedy you didn’t know you needed, but it’s entertaining as hell.
Anna (Ella Hunt) and her friends are in their final year in high school and need to figure out what’s next for them right when a deadly virus breaks out.
The gang is diverse in every regard. Anna is friends with John (Malcolm Cumming), Lisa (Marli Siu), and Chris (Christopher Leveaux), plus polarizing bad boy Nick (Ben Wiggins) and American exchange student Steph (Sarah Swire), who is also LGBTI.
Apart from the undead, the group of friends has also a very human enemy, evil teacher Savage (Paul Kaye).
Will the students survive the apocalypse just in time to enter adulthood? You’ll need to find out one beautifully executed musical number at a time.
2 Carol (2015)
Who says a holiday movie must be cheerful? If you expect Christmas cheer, you might want to look elsewhere.
Carol, by gay director Todd Haynes, is a dramatic lesbian love story with suggestive cinematography set during the holidays. And it hurts, but so does love, even at Christmas time.
Cate Blanchett plays the titular role, a sophisticated, elegant mother of one in an unhappy straight marriage in 1950s New York.
Carol meets the aspiring photographer and sales assistant Therese (Rooney Mara) in a department store while shopping for Christmas presents. The two immediately click but will need to defy all societal norms and their own doubts in order to be together. Sarah Paulson also stars as Carol’s previous lover and friend Abby.
Forget all the mistletoe cheesy scenes, Carol deals with the anticipation of a potentially life-altering new romance, the thrill of going against everyone to be free and has very relatable sex scenes. And how cute is Rooney Mara in that Christmas hat?
1 Pee-wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special (1988)
This is the LGBTI Christmas tale of the holidays – period.
It might not strike as a self-explanatory queer movie, but Pee-wee, in his grey suit, red bowtie and glorious, unapologetic but naive, not sexualized campness, is indeed a queer icon. And this Christmas Special is surely a festive gay extravaganza not to be missed, if only for the celebrities involved.
Grace Jones, k.d. lang, the unforgettable late diva Zsa Zsa Gabor, Charo and, of course, Cher being Cher. Need we say more?