Picture this: It’s Friday night, a.k.a. prime time to escape into the blissful world of romantic comedies and forget all about Janet from accounting. But instead of tuning into your favorite early ‘00s flick for the zillionth time, why not watch a film featuring an LGBTQ+ love story? Whether it’s Billy Eichner’s highly anticipated rom-com Bros (due out 2022), or 2020’s holiday hit Happiest Season, LGBTQ+ romantic comedies are finally being seen as a key part of mainstream entertainment.
“The power of media, especially film and television, is so personal,” says Megan Townsend, Director of Entertainment Research & Analysis at GLAAD. “There is tremendous power in seeing people who look like you and love like you going through the same types of experiences.” She stresses that, particularly for LGBTQ+ youth, it’s necessary that popular culture “includes someone like you in an important and central way.”
The presence of LGBTQ+ rom-coms “situates LGBTQ+ people firmly within our cultural landscape,” adds Julia Himberg, PhD, associate professor and director of film and media studies at Arizona State University. She notes that though rom-coms are often undervalued as “fluff,” they’re actually “a vital genre for us to be seen and validated in those relationships, whatever they may look like.” In fact, Himberg says, “These films contribute to social change, precisely because of their comedy.”
While there are many spectacular LGBTQ+ drama films, you won’t see them on this list for that reason—we need to laugh, people! Not just because it’s fun, but because it’s necessary. “Comedy gives us enough distance to see what is happening in our society,” continues Himberg. “We’re laughing because what we’re seeing resonates with us.”
In addition to the essential “com” of the rom-com, it’s important to note that, while many LGBTQ+ films feature characters coming out to friends and family, that’s not a necessity. “There is still value in coming out stories,” says Townsend. “We saw that with Love, Simon. People felt so passionately about it [because] it reflected part of their journey. What I would love to see in any future coming-out stories is focusing on the communities and the identities who have not had the chance to see that part of their story on screen.”
With all that in mind, grab the popcorn and settle in for one of these 20 best LGBTQ+ love stories that offer equal parts humor and heart: