The biggest LGBTQ+ film moments of 2022: From game-changing to underwhelming

Collage of Stephanie Hsu, Billy Eichner, Michaela Coel and Maya Hawke

2022 was filled with LGBTQ+ film moments which sparked discourse and delight in equal measure.

Although there have been some blows to LGBTQ+ representation on the big screen, there have also been huge wins and moments that have put a smile on our faces.

So get ready as we go through the highs and lows of queer cinema this year in all its glory.

The year’s best film was a queer multiverse epic

Everything Everywhere All At Once was the best film of 2022.

Starring Michelle Yeoh in what should become an Oscar-winning performance, it told the story of a Chinese immigrant family who, when pushed to the edge, explore a series of “what-ifs” through multiversal travel while trying to prevent the end of worlds.

At its core is a deep conflict between Yeoh’s Evelyn and her daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu). Joy is gay, something Evelyn tries to hide from her grandfather. Instead of a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it nod to queerness, Joy’s identity is woven through the entire film, including the stunning twist that sets up the third act.

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Disney had a mixed bag with Lightyear

Pixar producer explains importance of restoring Lightyear's same-sex kiss

Disney has had a big year when it comes to LGBTQ+ characters across their film franchises.

Lightyear dominated discourse at the start of the year over its inclusion of a lesbian couple. Originally, Disney bosses reportedly ordered that a kiss between the couple be cut, something revealed in an exposé published in the wake of Disney equivocating on Florida’s Don’t Say Gay law (Disney has a huge base in Florida and as such has huge influence).

After the article was published, Disney apparently reversed its decision and ultimately went on to lobby against the Don’t Say Gay law. Lightyear subsequently was banned in several countries over the kiss after Disney refused to remove it. The film itself was fine, with the queer plot a highlight.

… and Black Panther 2

Michaela Cole as Aneka in Black Panther_ Wakanda Forever. (Marvel_Youtube)
Just one kiss? Michaela Cole as Aneka in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. (Marvel/Youtube)

At the end of the year, it was confirmed that Black Panther: Wakanda Forever would see Michaela Coel join as a canonically queer character, Aneka.

Unlike in Lightyear, where a queer romance was an important part of the film, Aneka’s sexuality was only depicted in a brief kiss scene that was reportedly for release in Kuwait.

The sequel was well-received, with powerful performances from Angela Basset and Letitia Wright in particular, but it’s a shame that Aneka didn’t live up to expectations.

Animated film Strange World wrapped up the year for Disney. It was lauded as Disney’s first with an out LGBTQ+ lead, but it bombed at the box office.

Bros came out to extremely mixed reviews

Billy Eichner and Luke Macfarlane at a dinner table, laughing with cutlery raised mid-gesture, in Bros
Despite some positive reviews, Bros failed to make it big at the box office. (Universal)

Billy Eichner’s Bros was tipped to be revolutionary as the first LGBTQ+ film with a major film studio to feature an all-LGBTQ+ cast.

The rom-com was met with a mostly warm reception, but flopped hard at the box office

Speaking about its lack of success, Eichner said: “Even with glowing reviews, great Rotten Tomato scores, an A CinemaScore etc, straight people, especially in certain parts of the country, just didn’t show up for Bros. And that’s disappointing but it is what it is.”

Bros suffered abysmally from review bombing on IMDb, causing them to completely scrub the reviews. 

However, it did also receive some positive praise from the likes of Elizabeth Gillies, James Gunn and Mariah Carey – leaving opinion firmly split. 

Regardless of its box office numbers, Eichner did make LGBTQ+ film history. Bros may not have been the rom-com to end all rom-coms, but sometimes being just OK is fine.

Harry Styles made his mark on film, for better or worse

Trailer for 'heartfelt' and 'tragic' film My Policeman drops featuring several queer moments
My Policeman. (Amazon Prime)

Styles had two big roles this year, in the queer romance My Policeman, which came out to middling reviews, and in the psychological thriller, Don’t Worry Darling, which also came out to middling reviews.

My Policeman certainly had strong moments, with some stellar angst-ridden performance from all leads, including Emma Corrin, but it didn’t particularly stand out. By the end, there was an overwhelming feeling of “that was fine” and being left with more questions than answers. 

Don’t Worry Darling was overshadowed by the drama surrounding production, which was reported to be full of tension.

It all came to a head during the film’s world premiere at September’s Venice Film Festival – with absurd reports that Harry Styles spat on Chris Pine fuelled by a grainy video (it was confirmed that spit was not exchanged between the two).

Harry Styles, Florence Pugh and Olivia Wilde had the most awkward after-film applause ever, refusing to make eye contact, while Styles and Nick Kroll inexplicably kissed during the premiere.

Pugh became the embodiment of the “this is fine” dog sitting in a fire meme by simply strutting around with a cocktail while the drama unfolded. 

Downton Abbey shocked everyone by actually giving Thomas Barrow a happy ending

Downton Abbey finally came to an end after six seasons and two films, and unlike every other period drama ever, the tortured gay character actually got their happy ending

Thomas Barrow, one of the serving staff to the Grantham family, had a rocky time during the show as he grappled with mental health problems and hiding his sexuality. 

Downton Abbey: A New Era
Gay butler Thomas Barrow finally gets his happy ending in Downton Abbey: A New Era. (YouTube/ Focus Features)

However, in the final film, he finally got his shining moment as he ran away with Dexter, a man he took a liking to, as his dresser.

Barrow fans everywhere rejoiced at the long-suffering butler finally having a chance at happiness and who knows – maybe period dramas will finally take some notes and let LGBTQ+ people be happy too.  

Do Revenge brought back campy ’90s teen films – but with actual gay people

Maya Hawke has truly entered the queer icon hall of fame this year with her role as Robin in Stranger Things, making iconic music videos and starring in the best Netflix film of the year. 

Do Revenge truly resurrected the early ‘90s teen film canon with all its campness, chaos and twists.

But unlike its predecessors, Do Revenge pipped them to the post by actually including gay characters front and centre. 

Maya Hawkes and Camila Mendes in Do Revenge.
Do Revenge has plenty of ’90s references throughout plus Maya Hawkes and Camila Mendes are on top form. (Netflix)

The film, starring Maya Hawke as Eleanor and Camila Mendes as Drea, saw the two make a plan to execute each other’s revenge – until everything falls apart. 

As well as the exquisite chemistry between Drea and Eleanor, Eleanor actually ends up in a happy queer relationship by the end of the film.

All in all, with epic one-liners, seriously excellent costumes and a popping colour palette, Do Revenge has set the bar high.

Bonus: Lindsay Lohan returned to film in Falling For Christmas

Lindsey Lohan, Chord Overstreet, and Olivia Perez in Falling for Christmas.
Lindsey Lohan, Chord Overstreet, and Olivia Perez in the completely daft but entertaining Falling for Christmas. (Netflix)

Lindsay Lohan announced her return to acting with a three-film Netflix deal, kicking off with a festive movie, Falling for Christmas.

The film was, until its final moments, as straight as they come, but the sheer joy of having Lohan back screens sent queer hearts fluttering. And this particular slice of yuletide fun ended up being the creme de la creme of cheesy Christmas films. 

With gaping plot holes, amnesia and seriously ridiculous montages it was a true spectacle.

Fans were gobsmacked at the cringy levels of silliness they were plunged into, and the film even served us a gay plot twist at the end. What’s not to love?

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