Nicholas Stoller‘s Bros is going to be a movie for the history books. It’s the first gay rom-com from a major movie studio. It is also the first major studio film with an entirely LGBTQIA+ principal cast, led by Billy Eichner and Luke Macfarlane.
While all that is true, it’s not the first gay rom-com ever. There aren’t as many as rom-coms about straight people, but as gay rom-coms are going mainstream, it’s a good time to go back and watch how we got here.
‘Fire Island’ (2022)
Joel Kim Booster wrote and starred in Fire Island, an adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice set on the gay haven that is Fire Island. The movie is sexy, hilarious and finds a serious love for a place that could be easily written off as nothing more than a hook-up spot.
Booster is joined by a top tier LGBTQIA+ cast, including Bowen Yang, Conrad Ricomora, Matt Rogers, James Scully, Nick Adams, Tomás Matos, Torian Miller, and gay icon Margaret Cho. Even though it’s a Searchlight movie that debuted on Hulu, Fire Island hasn’t gotten the same mainstream attention that Bros has, and that’s a shame because, it’s another example that investing in an undervalued perspective can produce some of the freshest, most exciting art, even out of a classic novel.
‘Love, Simon’ (2018)
Especially as teenagers, people want to see their experiences reflected on screen. It validates your feelings to know that you’re not alone. Love, Simon is a movie that has done that for an entire generation of gay kids.
This coming of age movie is an adaptation of the young adult novel, Simon vs. The Homo-Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertali, and spawned a sequel series on Hulu/Disney+ called Love, Victor. It follows Simon (Nick Robinson), a high schooler who has kept a secret from his family and friends: he’s gay. When he connects with an anonymous boy online named “Blue”, his secret is threatened and Simon has to learn to overcome his fear and embrace his truth. Not every gay story has to be a coming out story, but they’re important because it’s still an integral part of a lot of LGBTQIA+ people’s journey.
‘Happiest Season’ (2020)
Nothing is better than a good holiday rom-com, and Happiest Season is one of the best in recent memory. The film stars Academy Award nominee Kristen Stewart as Abby, who goes home with her girlfriend Harper (Mackenzie Davis) for Christmas. The only problem is that Harper’s not out to her family, and leads them to believe that they’re just friends.
Stewart proves that she can lead a rom-com just as well as a small indie drama, and the cast is full of welcome faces, including Dan Levy, Victor Garber, Mary Steenburgen and Allison Brie. The film was co-written by writer/director Clea DuVall and Mary Holland, who also appears in the movie. Its script takes everything you love about a good holiday rom-com and uses it to tell a story that isn’t told enough.
Jeffrey, adapted by Paul Rudnick from his own stage play, follows Steven Weber as Jeffery, a gay man in New York who decides to become celibate in the wake of the AIDS epidemic. When he meets the man of his dreams, Steve (Michael T. Weiss) his priorities are thrown into flux after discovering that Steve is HIV positive.
Even though the AIDS epidemic, which disproportionately affected the gay community, left a lasting impact on the whole world and stigmatized gay men for generations, was a major point of discussion in the mainstream during the 1990’s, there still was not much of an investment in stories told from the perspective of gay men. When there was, they were typically tragedies that used AIDS as something to punish the gay men for being gay. Jeffrey challenges that notion. It looks at being gay and having AIDS, not as a death sentence, but as a reality. Steve’s life isn’t over, far from it. The movie is a joyous celebration of life itself.
Jim Fall‘s Trick is a wacky romantic comedy about two men trying to find some privacy in New York City. It’s not too complex or complicated, just quick, funny and sweet.
The film stars Christian Campbell and J.P. Pitoc as Gabriel and Mark as they go from place to place trying to find someone to be alone. Making it difficult are the various, wacky characters they run into along the way, including Tori Spelling as Gabriel’s friend Katherine, and a cameo from drag legend Coco Peru. The movie is a light, happy watch, which is kind of what you want from a rom-com.
‘Breaking Fast’ (2020)
While participating in the holy month of Ramadan, practicing Muslim Mo (Haaz Sleiman) meets Kal (Michael Cassidy). While he likes Kal, Mo is the type of person who wants to pretend like everything is fine the way it is. But when Kal begins to challenge his perspective, Mo questions whether he has been going about love all wrong.
Even less represented in American media than gay men, are Muslim gay men. Breaking Fast is proof that even a story about a very specific experience can have universal resonance. The movie is funny, sweet and poignant and well worth a watch or two.
‘Saving Face’ (2004)
Writer/director Alice Wu‘s Saving Face is one of the most underrated movies of the 2000s. The movie follows the mother-daughter duo of Hwei-Lan Gao (Joan Chen) and Wil Pang (Michelle Krusiec) as they deal with secret loves that are causing trouble within their traditional community. Wil is afraid of publicly embracing her life as a lesbian, and her Ma has become pregnant outside of marriage.
Saving Face is a movie that challenges the notions of shame that are associated with sexuality in general, but especially within the LGBTQIA+ community. It’s a story of two women learning not to be afraid of who they are. It’s funny, romantic and has a real message about what it means to be yourself.
‘But I’m A Cheerleader’ (1999)
But I’m A Cheerleader is a wacky movie. It stars Natasha Lyonne as Megan, your all-American high school girl, who is on the cheer team and dating a boy, even if she doesn’t like kissing him all that much. When her parents come to the conclusion she must be a lesbian, they ship her off to a gay conversion camp. While there she meets a cavalcade of wacky homosexuals and begins to fall for fellow camper Graham (Clea DuVall).
The movie is serving full-on camp, from the bright colorful aesthetic, to the insane cast, which includes the likes of Mink Stole, Michelle Williams, Melanie Lynskey and the icon RuPaul. But I’m A Cheerleader is a romantic comedy that is destined to be a cult classic for generations of LGBTQIA+ people.
‘The Broken Hearts Club: A Romantic Comedy’ (2000)
Most rom-coms are about two people. The Broken Hearts Club is about an entire baseball team. Written and directed by Greg Berlanti, the film follows Dennis (Timothy Olyphant) as he come to terms with the impact his wacky group of friends have had on his life as he prepares to turn 28. What makes it interesting is that each member of the friend group represents a different way to be a gay man. Gay men are often written as a monolith with a very specific way to be, but this movie shows that there’s a variety.
The cast of this movie is really good, especially for a gay rom-com from the year 2000. Olyphant is joined by the likes of Dean Cain, Zach Braff, Justin Theroux, Billy Porter, and the gay icon herself, Jennifer Coolidge. With plenty of moments that will make you laugh, and a cast of faces before they were famous, The Broken Hearts Club is well worth your time.
‘Single All The Way’ (2021)
Netflix has really tried to corner the market on the holiday rom-com, and Single All The Way may be the best one yet. It’s a great example of how, in the 2020’s not every gay rom-com has to be about coming out, but can embrace the idea that being gay, while still stigmatized for many, is becoming more and more accepted. Sometimes it’s nice to sit back and live in a world for a couple hours where there’s not the judgement that there is in the real world.
The movie stars Michael Urie as Peter, who is embarrassed about being perpetually single, so he convinces his friend Nick (Philemon Chambers) to come home for the holidays with him and pretend to be his boyfriend. Featuring a cast that includes Luke Macfarlane, Kathy Najimy and Jennifer Coolidge, Single All The Way is the perfect way to ring in the gayest time of the year.