homo for the holidays

Cuddle-worthy movies to transform the holiday season into a gay ‘ol time

With the holiday season upon us, the time has come again for gatherings of family and friends, epic feasts, gift exchanges, and the occasional wince-inducing sing-along. But all that season join can be taxing. So why not cuddle up with a loved one and watch how other people deal with the season.

Holiday movies have also become essential to the end of year celebration, and contrary to popular belief, a number of classics have LGBTQ themes. Beyond that, new entries in the genre have, at long last, added some loveable queer characters making the yuletide gay.

We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer

Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer has a special interest. One of the recurring themes in the story is that of alienation—Rudolph gets bullied by the other reindeer for being different, while Hermie the Elf lost his job in Santa’s workshop for having different interests. Rudolph, Hermie, bearish prospector Yukon Cornelius and the yeti-like Bumble form a community with the ghettoized residents of the Island of Misfit Toys. Their positive actions not only end up saving Christmas, but also teach the other North Pole residents the value of celebrating diversity.

Streams on Amazon & Vudu.

Meet Me in St. Louis

Not a Christmas movie per se, the Christmas segment of the season-themed Meet Me in St. Louis manages to upstage all the others, thanks to the misty-eyed ballad “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” The song became an immediate classic upon debuting in 1944, and Meet Me in St. Louis remains a holiday viewing favorite. It helps, of course, to have gay icon Judy Garland in the lead, and delivering one of her best performances. Queer director (and father of Liza) Vincente Minnelli spearheaded the production, which teems with Hollywood Golden Age charm and lushness. A film starring an icon and helmed by a queer director has an automatic place in gay history. That Meet Me in St. Louis is one of the great musical movies that makes it essential holiday viewing too.

Streams on YouTube, Vudu, iTunes & Amazon.

Home for the Holidays

Jodie Foster directed this dramedy film set at Thanksgiving, though the antics of the lovably dysfunctional family might as well take place at Christmas. Home for the Holidays chronicles the relationships of the Larsen family, with particular attention paid to disgruntled sister Claudia (played by Holly Hunter) and quirky gay brother Tommy (an irrepressible, if drug-addled Robert Downey, Jr.). Like any holiday movie, the family bickers, whispers secrets, has meltdowns and reconciles, finding the hope for the future that every holiday celebration represents. Besides Downey and Hunter, a stellar cast which includes Anne Bancroft, Charles Durning, Geraldine Chaplin and Claire Danes make Home for the Holidays an entertaining, if predictable, romp.

Streams on Hulu, YouTube, Amazon & Vudu.

The Family Stone

Much like Home for the Holidays, The Family Stone uses the bickering family, screwball comedy premise to warm hearts and provide a good share of laughs. With an appealing cast that features Diane Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Craig T. Nelson, Luke Wilson, Claire Danes (again) and Sarah Jessica Parker, the story revolves around the Stone family, as uptight brother Everett (Dermot Mulroney) brings his fiancé Meredeth (Parker) home to meet the family. Hilarity and heartwarming ensue in predictable fashion, though the movie does feature a groundbreaking and fascinating subplot involving deaf, gay brother Thad and his partner Patrick trying to adopt a child. No doubt, in an age of marriage equality, plenty of LGBTQs will have similar experiences with their crazy families this holiday season.

Streams on Hulu, YouTube, Amazon & Vudu.

Make the Yuletide Gay

Going home for the holidays can hold its perils, particularly for our brethren still in the closet to their families. Make the Yuletide Gay takes that premise, and turns it into a heartwarming romantic comedy. College student Olaf has come out at school and even nabbed a boyfriend for himself, but his family back home doesn’t know. As he celebrates the holidays, Olaf tries to maintain a “straight” identity, even after his boyfriend Nathan shows up at the house! Make the Yuletide Gay falls into the same traps as a good deal of rom-coms, with broad characters and some corny jokes. Still, that it centers on an LGBT couple makes it refreshing holiday fun.

Streams on Amazon & iTunes.

Too Cool for Christmas

Soap opera staples George Hamilton and Donna Mills star in this Here! TV produced flick about a spoiled teen who would rather spend Christmas skiing than with her family. Of course, she learns the True Meaning of Christmas over the course of the film’s runtime in a predictable fashion. What makes the film interesting is that the 16-year-old heroine is the daughter of two gay dads. Lifetime runs a censored version of the movie, which subs the gay parents for reshot scenes with straight parents. Avoid that version (dubbed A Very Cool Christmas) at all costs.

Streams on  YouTube, Amazon & Vudu.

Star Wars Holiday Special

Otherwise known as the weirdest Christmas special of all time, The Star Wars Holiday Special has never had a commercial release, though it shows up frequently on sites like YouTube. Broadcast once in 1978, the special features the cast of Star Wars (yes, including Harrison Ford, gay icon Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill) trying to help Chewbacca get home to his Wookie family in time for “Life Day,” the Star Wars analog of Christmas, in a musical adventure. The camp factor alone makes the Holiday Special worth watching at least once, as do the celebrity cameos, including appearances by gay icons Diahann Carroll as a pornographic hologram (yes, really), Bea Arthur as a cantina bartender, and Harvey Korman as an alien chef. George Lucas has reportedly said he wants to destroy every copy of the special. That the statement comes from the man who created JarJar makes The Star Wars Holiday Special something that needs to be seen to be believed.

Available on YouTube.

Diva’s Christmas Carol

Anything with the word “diva” in the title should get a rise out of a good chunk of the LGBT population. That the movie also stars Vanessa Williams, Kathy Griffin and Chili (of the band TLC) should also grab A Diva’s Christmas Carol some attention. The telefilm debuted in 2000 on Vh1, and reimagines A Christmas Carol as a modern-day tale about a vein pop singer. Griffin gets in some good laughs as the Ghost of Christmas Past, while Williams lends her vocals to some holiday standards making A Diva’s Christmas Carol a fun take on the popular tale.

Available on YouTube.

White Christmas

White Christmas centers on a pair of musical composers trying to mount a new show. It also helps to have gay icon and bisexual star Clooney in the female lead, and Bing Crosby never looked better in a movie. Kaye and Crosby also perform a hysterical drag number—just one of the highlights of, quite possibly, the best holiday movie ever.

Streams on Netflix, YouTube, Amazon & Vudu.

Mrs. Santa Claus

Leave it to Angela Lansbury to make an almost laughably dated premise into an endlessly entertaining romp. It also helps that she collaborates again with composer Jerry Herman, the openly gay musician behind Mame and Hello, Dolly! It helps too that the movie has a talented gay screenwriter in form of seven-time Emmy winner Mark Saltzman. Mrs. Santa Claus becomes more than a standard musical telefilm, subtly confronting issues like bigotry, sexism, interfaith marriage and overzealous capitalism. It gets away with it all thanks to the frothy touch of Herman’s music, and an irresistible performance by Lansbury. Originally airing in 1996, Mrs. Santa Claus speaks with a wink and a nudge and should have become an immediate holiday classic.

Streams on Amazon.

Shared Rooms

A queer answer to holiday relationship movies like Love, Actually or The Family StoneShared Rooms follows a trio of gay couples all in various states of commitment over the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. The unrated movie also features plenty of nudity from its very attractive cast, including the full-frontal variety (actors Justin Xavier and Alexander Neil Smith might actually most of the movie’s runtime showing off the full Monty). Rather than titillate though, the nude scenes add a layer of honesty to the story, somehow making the characters all the more believable. The film’s one misstep lays in the film’s adoptive subplot: at times half of the married couple seems a bit too excited to have an adoptive gay teen, to the point it borders on creepy. Still, Shared Rooms has a great deal of charm, and some heartwarming scenes of a gay surrogate family becoming a real one.

Streams on Amazon, YouTube, iTunes & Vudu.

RuPaul’s Christmas Ball

Ok, so it isn’t a movie exactly, but what’s not to love about America’s Favorite Drag Queen donning some gay apparel and hosting a holiday extravaganza? The sketch comedy special, which features cameos by Latoya Jackson, Taylor Dane, Elton John, Nirvana, Belinda Carlisle, Boy George and–of all people–Eartha Kitt, channels retro-MTV anarchy and the holiday spirit. The two tastes shouldn’t mix, and yet, RuPaul’s Christmas Ball has an undeniable, if unique, appeal. Besides, Ru has never looked better than in the show’s closing number, which features him decked out in a white sequin holiday gown and sporting a white fur muff. The holidays don’t get much more bonkers than this.

Available on YouTube.

Other People

Jessie Plemmons and Molly Shannon star in this Sundance dramedy about a recently-dumped gay man who returns to his hometown to care for his cancer-stricken mother. Both actors give delightful performances and have rarely been better. Added bonus: Josie Totah gives an early performance as a drag-obsessed kid, who helps bring some levity to the proceedings with a holiday drag performance in the family living room. Bradley Whitford, Paul Dooley & June Squibb also star, in a little-seen gem that captures all the familial angst of the holidays…and the heartwarming joy buried underneath it all.

Streams on Netflix, YouTube, Amazon & Vudu.

Let It Snow

Netflix dropped this Hallmark-style movie earlier this year, chocked full of the same kind of holiday implausibilities that fuel the oh-so-saccharine genre. A group of high school students plan a holiday party (and just where are their families, anyway?) in the midst of a blizzard. Against that backdrop a beautiful young student finds love with a world-famous musician, a heartsick guy expresses his love for a female bestie, and a sardonic lesbian finds romance with a popular cheerleader. That last item inspires us to recommend the movie, since seeing any kind of LGBTQ characters in a holiday film remains a rarity.

Streams on Netflix.

 Season of Love

Director Christin Baker helmed this delightful holiday story about a group of lesbians coming together to celebrate the holidays. Part Love, Actually, part The L-Word, Season of Love navigates several intertwining stories of Los Angeles women during the holiday season as they struggle with love, work, family and holiday insanity. Cheesy by design, the movie reminds us of that cheeseball served at midwestern family Christmas parties: odd, esoteric, and so delicious, we can’t stop eating it.

Available on the film’s official site.

Batman Returns

Whaaaat you say? Batman Returns is a Christmas movie? It’s queer? Yes to all of the above, in fact. While not the Dark Knight’s best cinematic outing, the Tim Burton-directed movie features a story set at Christmas, and an iconic performance by Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman. It also has no shortage of campy, dark humor, courtesy of writer Daniel Waters. Waters has never commented on his sexuality, at least as far as we know, though considering he also wrote Heathers, he does have an undeniably queer-ish, feminist sensibility. More importantly, though, Waters has a unique sense of fun. Batman Returns may not be a great film, but it is a very interesting one which channels the utter weirdness of the holidays…and the quiet spirit of hope that runs beneath.

Streams on iTunes, YouTube, Amazon & Vudu.

Happiest Season

Who better to usher it in a new era of on-screen inclusion than LGBTQ stalwarts Dan Levy, Kristen Stewart and writer/director Clea DuVall? In Happiest Season, Stewart plays Abby, a thriving lesbian about to propose to her longtime girlfriend, Harper (Mackenzie Davis). When Harper invites Abby home for the holidays, Abby finds herself in the eye of a furious family storm as she learns Harper is still in the closet. With Harper’s dad (Victor Garber) exploring a political career, her mom (Mary Steenburgen) bent on having the perfect Christmas, and her sisters (Aubrey Plaza and Mary Holland) hiding secrets of their own, the tension begins to spiral out of control. Can Abby’s gay bestie John (Levy) arrive in time to save the day?

Warm and tender (as a holiday film tends to be), Happiest Season also has its share of sharp jabs at familial pressures, not to mention a few very big laughs. More importantly, DuVall earns the film’s sweet ending by building characters equal parts lovable and infuriating. Loaded with gorgeous winter pageantry and fine performances all around, it’s a fine way to usher in the yuletide season, with or without gay apparel.

Streams on Hulu.

Christmas on the Square

An old-fashioned holiday musical about the love of charity, empathy and forgiveness? Who else could get away with it but Dolly Parton, who also stars in this new film for Netflix. Director Debbie Allen stages a story about Regina (Christine Baranski), a wealthy real estate tycoon hellbent on bulldozing her hometown just ahead of Christmas. Enter Angel (Parton), an actual Angel that forces Regina to face her own fears over a breast cancer scare, and lingering feelings for a high school beau (Treat Williams). Few actresses could carry this kind of material better than Baranski, who delivers a three-dimensional, genuinely affecting performance. Moreover, Parton’s score allows both ladies, as well as Donovan and co-star Jennifer Lewis an opportunity to show off their remarkable vocal chops. Silly and schmaltzy as it is, we can’t deny falling in love with the cast (including a pair of voguing hair stylists…read into that as you will) and even shedding a tear or two.

Streams on Netflix.

The Christmas Setup

The Lifetime holiday movie—the first-ever to feature a queer-themed love story at its center—arrives this week. Real-life husbands Ben Lewis and Blake Lee play Hugo and Patrick, respectively, two gay professionals who once attended the same high school in suburban Milwaukee. Hugo has made his way to New York as a powerful lawyer, while Patrick has stuck around town working at his family’s landscaping business. When the pair reconnect, sparks fly. But can Hugo sacrifice his New York job for love?

If the plot sounds familiar, that should come as no surprise—these kinds of holiday films on Lifetime or the Hallmark Channel often follow the same formula. In this case, that’s not a bad thing. The Christmas Setup is a fairytale romance for the LGBTQ community, one whose sweetness managed to melt even our cynical heart. The picturesque winterscapes provide a beautiful backdrop, and Fran Drescher, as Hugo’s mother, gives an all-in performance that helps make the ridiculous plot believable. The real charm, though, comes from the very real chemistry between Lewis & Lee who have a palatable sexual charge to their relationship. Somehow, watching the pair share a kiss is far more erotic than graphic scenes of sex. With rumors of a sequel—one which will push LGBTQ inclusion even further—already abounding, we suggest giving the film a look. It’s fun to see a holiday fantasy centered on two men…and imagine what their characters are probably doing off-screen.

Airs on Lifetime.

Dashing in December

If someone made Brokeback Mountain as a Christmas romance, the result would probably look a lot like Dashing in December, yet another queer-themed holiday film coming down the chimney this week. Peter Porte plays Wyatt, a New York financier who returns to his Colorado hometown for the holidays. While staying at his mom’s (Andie MacDowell) horse ranch, he develops a wandering eye for Heath (Juan Pablo Di Pace), the newest ranch hand. As the sexual tension mounts, Wyatt must make a choice to sell the ranch and return to New York and his feelings for Heath.

Sound like a familiar plot yet? If so, please see our above entry for The Christmas SetupDashing in December features its own mix of snowy mountains, men on horseback, romantic meet-cutes, as well as scenes of rugged men line dancing, rustic Rocky Mountain ranches and emotional disclosures to equine friends. MacDowell gives a sweet performance as Wyatt’s mom, Deb, while Porte and Di Pace go very easy on the eyes.

Streams on the Paramount Network.

The Christmas House

Mean Girls’ Jonathan Bennett–himself no stranger to Hallmark films–stars in the very first queer-centric holiday film from the ever-prolific holiday TV movie factory. The Christmas House centers on Bill (Treat Williams) and Phylis (Sharon Lawrence), a longtime married couple that invites their sons Mike (Robert Buckley) and Brandon (Bennett) home for an extended holiday stay. Brandon and his husband Jake (Brad Harder) long to adopt a baby together, while Mike’s high school friend Andi (Ana Ayora) moves home, and sparks fly. Sentimental, sweet and utterly predictable as all Hallmark holiday films are, The Christmas House nevertheless represents a new high for LGBTQ inclusion…and still manages to pull the occasional heartstring.

Streams on the Hallmark Channel & YouTube.

I Hate New Years’

Rising pop star Layne Price (Dia Frampton) journeys back home to Nashville for the holidays, and where she hopes to cure a nasty case of writer’s block. While staying there, she crosses paths with longtime friend Cassie (Ashley Argota), who agrees to help her search for the girl that got away. Cassie, though, harbors secret feelings of her own. Can the advice of a psychic (Candis Cayne) help Layne cure her heartache?

Filmed on location in Nashville, I Hate New Years’ mixes a holiday fairytale with high-energy music. The movie also features a winning performance by Cayne, who might just be the fairy godmother every LGBTQ person has hoped for.

Streams on Tello.

Note: This article contains portions of previous posts containing Queerty’s holiday film recommendations. 

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