10 LGBTQ+ Christmas films to get you in the holiday spirit, from the good to the not so good

An edited image with three separate film stills shown. The first in the top left hand corner shows Kristen Stewart and Mackenzie Davis in Happiest Season. In the top right hand corner is Michael Urie and Philemon Chambers in a still image from the Netflix film Single All The Way. At the bottom is a picture of two of the stars of Tangerine.

Christmas is inherently gay, and it’s only taken until now for Hollywood to catch up, with LGBTQ+ Christmas films starting to become an increasingly common festive occurance.

For decades, queer people have been craving their own LGBTQ+ Christmas films, and as we approach the holiday we’re happy to report that there’s now a plethora to choose from, from made-for-TV romances to indie dramas.

That’s not to say everything is perfect – there’s still a marked lack of diversity in the mix, with the bulk of LGBTQ+ Christmas films centring on white, middle-class families. Hopefully next year, Santa brings us more films that represent queer life in all its glory and complexity, including more people of colour and trans folk.

For now, PinkNews is casting a critical eye on some of the best – and more questionable – queer holiday films out there right now.

1. Happiest Season

There was much fanfare when Happiest Season was released in the lead-up to Christmas 2020 – and the excitement was entirely justified.

Happiest Season follows Abby (Kristen Stewart) as she and her girlfriend Harper (Mackenzie Davis) return to the family home for Christmas. There’s just one problem – Harper isn’t out to her family, so they must pretend they’re just friends for the festive season.

It’s hard not to instantly fall in love with Happiest Season. It captures some of the heartache and challenges queer people often face at Christmas, and it’s not afraid to put a harsh spotlight on family dysfunction. Stewart and Davis sell the film with some help from Alison Brie, Aubrey Plaza and Dan Levy.

2. The Christmas House

If you’re looking for predictable romantic comedies that will make you smile, then made-for-television LGBTQ+ Christmas films are definitely the way to go – and Hallmark and Lifetime’s offerings always provide some much needed festive joy.

The downside is that, historically speaking, these films have tended to be very straight. We all know the formula by now – a successful woman gives up her career to shack up with a tall muscular man with a beard who happens to have a tragic backstory. Fans have been craving an LGBTQ+ Christmas film from Hallmark for years, and finally, in 2020, it delivered one.

At the centre of The Christmas House are Bill (Treat Williams) and Phylis (Sharon Lawrence), a couple whose two adult sons Mike (Robert Buckley) and Brandon (Mean Girls star Jonathan Bennett) return to the family home for the Christmas season. Brandon is a married gay man who is trying to start a family.

Overall, the film is a little underwhelming and places little focus on its gay couple – something 2022’s The Holiday Sitter has attempted to put right.

3. Let It Snow

This heartwarming Netflix Christmas film from 2019 is basically Love, Actually but with teenagers.

The film follows a group of high school students as their friendships and love lives collide at Christmas time. There’s also a snowstorm for good measure.

Netflix doesn’t always get it right when it comes to Christmas films – see Lindsay Lohan’s Falling for Christmas – but Let It Snow is sweet and charming enough to pass the test.

4. The Christmas Setup

Hallmark and Lifetime apparently came to the realisation that queer representation was the way forward at around the same time, which resulted in both The Christmas House and The Christmas Setup airing within weeks of each other in 2020.

The Christmas Setup follows uptight New York City lawyer Hugo (Ben Lewis), who unexpectedly reconnects with his high school crush Patrick (Blake Lee) after returning home for the Christmas season.

The whole thing is masterminded by his mother, who just so happens to be gay icon Fran Drescher.

The Christmas Setup is a joy to behold. Sure, it’s not doing anything new, but is that really what anyone wants from a made-for-television festive romantic comedy? The chemistry between real-life married couple Lewis and Lee is palpable, and it’s all made so much better by an instantly iconic performance from Drescher.

5. Single All The Way

Ugly Betty star Michael Urie stars opposite newcomer Philemon Chambers in the Netflix romantic comedy Single All The Way. The heartfelt film follows Peter (Urie) and his friend Nick (Chambers) as they return to Peter’s family home for Christmas. There, Peter finds himself torn between two suitably attractive men.

That’s enough for queer rom-com fans to be getting on with, but the whole thing is elevated further by appearances from bonafide gay icons Jennifer Coolidge and Kathy Najimy.

Single All The Way does nothing new, but it’s still a heartwarming Christmas film that feels authentically queer. That’s not surprising when you consider the fact that all of the film’s gay characters are played by gay actors, and it was written by a gay man too.

If that’s not enough to tempt you, then Jennifer Coolidge talking about Grindr should be enough to rope you in.

6. Under the Christmas Tree

After The Christmas Setup, it was time for Lifetime to deliver a lesbian Christmas film – and they did just that with Under The Christmas Tree.

If you’re familiar with Lifetime’s Christmas offering, you won’t be too surprised by the plot of Under The Christmas Tree. The film revolves around a government worker/lesbian extraordinaire called Charlie (Tattiawna Jones) who retreats to a small town to find the perfect Christmas tree.

The only thing standing in her way is Alma (Elise Bauman), who isn’t too keen on letting go of her parents’ tree.

It’s hardly a spoiler to say love blooms before too long – there’s even a veiled strap-on joke in the mix.

7. Tangerine

You’ll probably have noticed by now that when we do get LGBTQ+ Christmas films, they’re almost always about cis people – which is part of the reason 2015’s Tangerine is such a delight.

The comedy drama – which was filmed entirely on an iPhone 5s – tells the story of trans sex worker Sin-Dee Rella (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez), who discovers her boyfriend has been cheating on her on Christmas Eve.

Tangerine manages to straddle the line between being laugh-out-loud funny and also deeply moving at the same time. It’s anchored by crafted performances from Rodriguez and Mya Taylor, and it has some of the heartwarming moments we need in a Christmas film.

It also shows what’s possible when filmmakers commit to diverse storytelling – and it provides some hope for the future that we might see a greater variety of characters on screen.

8. Christmas at the Ranch

No, it’s not the title of a Taylor Swift song about hot men wearing flannel – it’s a lesbian Christmas film, and we’re so happy it exists.

Christmas at the Ranch tells the story of a lesbian who falls hopelessly in love with ranch hand Kate. Think Brokeback Mountain but at Christmas, with a lot less anguish.

Let’s be real for a minute – Christmas at the Ranch is about as derivative as it gets, and that’s OK. It’s entertaining, if a little cloying, but if you like your lesbian Christmas content set on a farm in the wildnerness, then you’ll love this film.

9. Dashing in December

What’s that you say, even more ranch-related Christmas content?

Dashing in December is basically a mix of Christmas at the Ranch and The Christmas Setup. The premise is simple – Wyatt (Peter Porte) returns home for the holidays to convince his mother Deb (Andie MacDowell) to sell the family’s ranch.

But his mission is soon thwarted by the handsome ranch hand Heath (Juan Pablo di Pace).

What is it about queer people and ranch-related fantasies at Christmas-time, you might ask? We don’t have the answer to that, but we can recommend Dashing in December. It’s a very straightforward, simple Christmas flick – but it does the trick if you’re looking for something heartwarming.

10. Carol

We can already hear you screaming “But Carol isn’t a Christmas film!” – and on that, we’re going to have to disagree.

This 2015 period drama follows the titular character (Cate Blanchett) as she falls in love with Therese, a younger woman she meets while buying a train set for her daughter for Christmas.

Carol might not be your typical Christmas film, but it’s impossible to deny it has a wintery aesthetic. There’s also the fact that much of the film takes place at Christmas time.

For these reasons, we’re claiming Carol as a Christmas film. We won’t be taking any questions at this time.

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