Queer teen comedies are having a moment right now – here are 8 you simply must watch
Quirky LGBTQ+ teen comedies have long been a cinematic staple, so if you are in search of your next subversive queer flick, look no further.
The past couple of decades have seen the birth of the iconic coming-of-age comedy genre, (sometimes) hilariously documenting the chaotic experience of being a hormonal teen in the modern age.
The late ’90s and early ’00s saw the advent of timeless camp classics such as culture-defining romp Mean Girls (all three male leads have since come out as gay); the 1999 rom-com 10 Things I Hate About You, which kickstarted Brokeback Mountain star Heath Ledger’s career; and the gender-bending Shakespeare retelling She’s the Man.
These films served as a homing beacon for queer kids everywhere hoping to see themselves represented on the big screen, even if it was only through subtext.
By the end of the 2010s, explicit LGBTQ+ representation hit its stride and created 21st century hits such as the first gay teen film to have major studio backing Love, Simon; Booksmart, which has already been hailed a modern day classic with a sapphic lead, and The Miseducation of Cameron Post, which sparked public discussion around gay conversion camps.
The popularity of those films created a momentum that encouraged filmmakers to create nuanced LGBTQ+ representation for mainstream audiences. There is still a long way to go – with a desperate need for more films centring queer women, people of colour, and trans and non-binary leads – but progress is taking place, year by year.
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In 2023, LGBTQ+ cinema continues to thrive, with major studio hits such as Amazon Prime’s adaptation of bestselling gay romance Red, White & Royal Blue, and ground-breaking Academy Award shortlisted works such as Joyland and Blue Caftan.
There is no shortage of content, and as LGBTQ+ teen comedies maintain their foothold in popular culture – here are eight queer high-school comedies worth watching.
Emma Seligman’s masterful sophomore feature film Bottoms is the perfect nostalgia trip. The R-Rated comedy, starring The Bear‘s Ayo Edebiri and Bodies Bodies Bodies‘s Rachel Sennott, balances the sometimes coarse but often witty aesthetic of early teen classics with current Gen Z politics.
When high school outcasts PJ (Sennott) and Josie (Edebiri) start an underground fight club in order to pick up hot cheerleaders, things soon spiral out of control. Stuffed with cringey jokes, awkward humour and unapologetic lesbian female leads, it is quickly carving itself a place in cinematic history.
Bottoms is currently in US cinemas and arrives in the UK soon.
Throughout history, LGBTQ+ people have become one another’s family when there is no one else to fall back on – and queer teenagers are no different in needing this ‘found family’ support.
Found family is explored in 2013 film Geography Club, which follows a group of LGBTQ+ teens who start an undercover ‘geography club’ at school as a safe space to support each other. Everything changes when struggling teen Russell (Cameron Deane Stewart) rocks up to the club one day.
The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love
This 1996 teen comedy-drama has long been praised as a cult classic and blazed a trail for mainstream representation for LGBTQ+ women. When bullied tomboy lesbian Randy (The L Word‘s Laurel Holloman) strikes up an unlikely friendship with popular high schooler Evie (Nicole Parker), it soon blossoms into something more.
Things gets complicated as they share their new relationship status with friends and family, leading to confusing conversations and a heartwarming portrayal of fearless queer love.
Netflix’s black comedy Do Revenge, directed by Jennifer Kaytin Robinson and starring Camila Mendes and Maya Hawke, contains all the perfect elements of an angsty teen classic, from delicious schemes of vengeance to a sweet queer love story.
Teenagers Drea (Mendes) and Eleanor (Hawke) seek revenge for past wrongs by teaming up to help destroy one another’s tormentors. The chemistry between Drea and Eleanor will leave viewers on the edge of their seat – will their evil plotting succeed or plant the seeds of their own destruction?
But I’m A Cheerleader
No LGBTQ+ teen comedy list would be complete without era-defining classic But I’m a Cheerleader, starring Natasha Lyonne.
The 1999 satirical flick follows high school cheerleader Megan (Lyonne), who seemingly has it all. Countless friends, brilliant test scores and, of course, a dashing footballer boyfriend. But when she realises she’s not attracted to him, her parents ship her off to a conversion camp.
Here she meets badass lesbian Graham (Clea DuVall) and, as Megan comes to terms with who she really is, starts to fall for her.
The Curiosity of Chance
Let’s just say 2006 film The Curiosity of Chance walked so Everybody’s Talking About Jamie could run.
Set in the 1980s, an openly gay international student Chance Marquis (Tad Hilgenbrink) encounters a homophobic bully intent on making his life miserable. Cue his newfound LGBTQ+ friends who rally around to help rebuild his confidence.
He soon discovers the underground drag scene and learns the true meaning of expressing yourself.
Trans teen Kelsa (Eva Reign) is just trying to get through the school year when she starts falling for classmate Khal (Abubakr Ali). Despite their feelings for each other, Khal is concerned about the stigma of dating a trans woman, while Kelsa worries about betraying her friend who also has feelings for Khal.
Deciding to risk school gossip, they start to date and Kelsa is faced with various obstacles to achieving true happiness. In an interview with PinkNews, director Billy Porter (Pose) delved into the film’s “beauty”.
“You see characters that kind of deal with that very early, simple, innocent, first impulsive love and follow it,” he said.
The Half Of It
Tender coming-of-age Netflix film The Half of It from director Alice Wu is guaranteed to leave a huge grin on your face.
When introverted Chinese-American student Ellie Chu agrees to help fellow student Paul Munsky (Daniel Diemer) write love letters to his crush Aster (Alexxis Lemire), everything starts to fall apart when she develops her own feelings for the object of Paul’s desire.
Punctuated with laugh-out-loud moments, this sweet rom-com wonderfully encapsulates the yearning of first love and the enduring power of friendship.
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