The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

(Photo by © Gramercy/courtesy Everett Collection)

30 Essential LGBTQ Comedies

Queer culture is so many vibrant and beautiful and rambunctious things, but often times when you’re wading through the history of queer cinema it can feel like a community defined by tragedy and unhappy endings. And while there is much to learn from and much to love about the many heavy gay dramas out there, we must also take time to celebrate and revel in the bright side of difference, which is why this list is all about the comedies. There is plenty of tenderness among these films to be sure, but there’s also Robin Williams doing a macho drag impersonation of John Wayne in The Birdcage and a pair of dirtbag girls just trying to scrape up enough cash for a beach trip in Never Goin’ Back.

From the lo-fi beginnings of John Waters to New Queer Cinema to the present day wave of queer coming-of-age movies popping up on Netflix, queer comedy has gone from the underground to the mainstream. The pioneering work of stars like Divine and filmmakers like Pedro Almodóvar paved the way for a family-friendly lesbian Cyrano de Bergerac in The Half of It and a three-way battle of tops in an Academy Award darling like the acid-laced The Favourite. But even though queer culture has reached a much broader level of awareness than when The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert came out, its sharp-edged activist spirit still lives loud in directors like Greg Araki (Kaboom) and Darren Stein (G.B.F.). The fight for equal rights may go on ad infinitum, but so too will the laughter, the drag, and the happy-cry love stories.

Here are our 30 essential LGBTQ comedy movies, in order of release.   Jordan Crucchiola

#30
Adjusted Score: 31.381%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: An outrageous comedy that throws viewers into a culture shock. A suggestive satire about women who ignore society's rules. ~... [More]

#29

Polyester (1981)
93%

#29
Adjusted Score: 94.5%
Critics Consensus: As proudly tacky as its titular fabric, Polyester finds writer-director John Waters moving ever so slightly into the mainstream without losing any of his subversive charm.
Synopsis: After making a name for himself with such underground gross-out epics as Pink Flamingos and Desperate Living, director John Waters... [More]
Directed By: John Waters

#28
#28
Adjusted Score: 91.152%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: This early offering from Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar is a screwball sex tale of mistaken identity focusing on the director's... [More]
Directed By: Pedro Almodóvar

#27
Adjusted Score: 98.432%
Critics Consensus: While its premise is ripe for comedy -- and it certainly delivers its fair share of laughs -- Priscilla is also a surprisingly tender and thoughtful road movie with some outstanding performances.
Synopsis: The usually menacing British actor Terence Stamp does a complete turnaround as Bernadette, an aging transsexual who tours the backwaters... [More]
Directed By: Stephan Elliott

#26
Adjusted Score: 40.88%
Critics Consensus: To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar seeks to celebrate individuality, but is too timid and predictable to achieve its admittedly noble aims.
Synopsis: Noxeema Jackson, Vida Boheme, and Chi Chi Rodriguez are gonna show America a thing or two about being fabulous. Dressed... [More]
Directed By: Beeban Kidron

#25

The Birdcage (1996)
81%

#25
Adjusted Score: 83.51%
Critics Consensus: Mike Nichols wrangles agreeably amusing performances from Robin Williams and Nathan Lane in this fun, if not quite essential, remake of the French comedy La Cage aux Folles.
Synopsis: Armand Goldman owns a popular drag nightclub in South Miami Beach. His long-time lover, Albert, stars there as Starina. "Their"... [More]
Directed By: Mike Nichols

#24

In & Out (1997)
71%

#24
Adjusted Score: 73.651%
Critics Consensus: It doesn't always find comfortable ground between broad comedy and social commentary, but lively performances -- especially from Kevin Kline and Joan Cusack -- enrich In & Out's mixture of laughs and sexual tolerance.
Synopsis: Life is sweet for high-school English teacher and sports coach Howard Brackett (Kevin Kline); he's still living where he grew... [More]
Directed By: Frank Oz

#23
#23
Adjusted Score: 78.176%
Critics Consensus: A time capsule assembled with honesty and sensitivity, Edge of Seventeen overcomes youthful fumbles to capture a time of life -- and an era.
Synopsis: The year is 1984. The music is Boy George and the Bronski Beat. Eric and his best friend, Maggie, are... [More]
Directed By: David Moreton

#22

Chutney Popcorn (1999)
83%

#22
Adjusted Score: 50.926%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: The push and pull of familial bonds and clashing cultures sets the stage for the comic drama Chutney Popcorn. Renna... [More]
Directed By: Nisha Ganatra

#21

Trickfilme (1999)
78%

#21
Adjusted Score: 78.176%
Critics Consensus: By portraying its love story as nothing less than conventional, Trick avoids genre tropes to create a simple, effective romance.
Synopsis: In this comedy, Gabriel is a smart composer specializing in musical comedies. Mark is a real Adonis who works as... [More]
Starring:
Directed By: Jan Hryniak

#20
#20
Adjusted Score: 43.575%
Critics Consensus: Too broad to make any real statements, But I'm a Cheerleader isn't as sharp as it should be, but a charming cast and surprisingly emotional center may bring enough pep for viewers looking for a light social satire.
Synopsis: Confident and opinionated, 17-year-old Megan is far too strong-willed for her unsuppportive parents, who begin to worry she is a... [More]
Directed By: Jamie Babbit

#19
#19
Adjusted Score: 58.042%
Critics Consensus: Vulgar but entertaining camp.
Synopsis: The confessional, behind-the-scenes showbiz melodrama goes under the knife -- so to speak -- in this drag comedy. Girls Will... [More]
Directed By: Richard Day

#18

D.E.B.S. (2004)
41%

#18
Adjusted Score: 42.088%
Critics Consensus: Lacking enough material for a full-length movie, D.E.B.S. is short on both plot and laughs.
Synopsis: Filmmaker Angela Robinson writes and directs the action comedy D.E.B.S., a feature-length adaptation of her award-winning short film produced by... [More]
Directed By: Angela Robinson

#17

Saving Face (2005)
86%

#17
Adjusted Score: 88.395%
Critics Consensus: A charming tale of a love affair that overcomes cultural taboos.
Synopsis: An Asian-American woman and her mother both find their private lives are becoming a family matter in this romantic comedy-drama.... [More]
Directed By: Alice Wu

#16
#16
Adjusted Score: 75.479%
Critics Consensus: This fact-based romantic comedy has its flaws, but they're mostly overcome by its consistently sweet, funny tone and one of the best performances of Jim Carrey's career.
Synopsis: Bad Santa co-screenwriters Glenn Ficara and John Requa re-team for this fact-based black comedy starring Jim Carrey as a Texas... [More]
Directed By: John Requa, Glenn Ficarra

#15

Kaboom (2011)
60%

#15
Adjusted Score: 62.762%
Critics Consensus: Jumbled and shallow yet easy to watch, Kaboom is a one-night stand that isn't meant to lead anywhere -- but is fun enough while it lasts.
Synopsis: "Kaboom" is a hyper-stylized "Twin Peaks" for the Coachella Generation, featuring a gorgeous young cast. A wild, witty and sex-drenched... [More]
Directed By: Gregg Araki

#14
Adjusted Score: 58.294%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same follows the adventures of three lesbian space aliens on the planet Earth, and the... [More]
Directed By: Madeleine Olnek

#13

First Period (2013)

#13
Adjusted Score: 0%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: This release tells the story of two socially-awkward girls (Brandon Alexander III) and (Dudley Beene) who are determined to become... [More]
Directed By: Charlie Vaughn

#12

G.B.F. (2014)
80%

#12
Adjusted Score: 80.977%
Critics Consensus: G.B.F. explores high school relationship dynamics and teen stereotypes with a refreshingly humorous touch - and surprisingly subtle smarts.
Synopsis: In G.B.F., social warfare erupts when three high school clique queens battle for supremacy: drama diva Caprice, Mormon princess 'Shley... [More]
Directed By: Darren Stein

#11

Life Partners (2014)
67%

#11
Adjusted Score: 67.582%
Critics Consensus: With two appealing leads adrift in a sitcom-worthy plot, Life Partners doesn't do quite enough to earn viewers' commitment.
Synopsis: At 29, the most long-term relationship Sasha (Leighton Meester) and Paige (Gillian Jacobs) have ever been in is with each... [More]
Directed By: Susanna Fogel

#10
#10
Adjusted Score: 96.492%
Critics Consensus: Warm, funny, and quietly profound, Appropriate Behavior serves as a thoroughly compelling calling card for writer, director, and star Desiree Akhavan.
Synopsis: For Shirin, being part of a perfect Persian family isn't easy. Acceptance eludes her from all sides: her family doesn't... [More]
Directed By: Desiree Akhavan

#9

Tangerine (2015)
96%

#9
Adjusted Score: 101.589%
Critics Consensus: Tangerine shatters casting conventions and its filmmaking techniques are up-to-the-minute, but it's an old-fashioned comedy at heart -- and a pretty wonderful one at that.
Synopsis: A working girl tears through Tinseltown on Christmas Eve searching for the pimp who broke her heart. (C) Magnolia... [More]
Directed By: Sean Baker (II)

#8

The Favourite (2018)
93%

#8
Adjusted Score: 111.041%
Critics Consensus: The Favourite sees Yorgos Lanthimos balancing a period setting against rich, timely subtext - and getting roundly stellar performances from his well-chosen stars.
Synopsis: Early 18th century. England is at war with the French. Nevertheless, duck racing and pineapple eating are thriving. A frail... [More]
Directed By: Yorgos Lanthimos

#7

Never Goin' Back (2018)
76%

#7
Adjusted Score: 77.858%
Critics Consensus: Never Goin' Back benefits from the chemistry between leads Maia Mitchell and Camila Morrone, whose easy rapport lifts a coming-of-age story with uncommon insight.
Synopsis: Never Goin' Back is a fresh and funny look at female friendship, following Angela (Maia Mitchell) and Jessie (Camila Morrone),... [More]
Directed By: Augustine Frizzell

#6

Alex Strangelove (2018)
80%

#6
Adjusted Score: 80.153%
Critics Consensus: Alex Strangelove offers a refreshingly insightful -- and fittingly adult -- take on teen sexuality enlivened by smart humor and a fearlessly progressive approach.
Synopsis: ALEX STRANGELOVE tells the story of Alex Truelove (Daniel Doheny), a well-rounded high school senior with a wonderful girlfriend Claire... [More]
Directed By: Craig Johnson

#5

Booksmart (2019)
96%

#5
Adjusted Score: 112.224%
Critics Consensus: Fast-paced, funny, and fresh, Booksmart does the seemingly impossible by adding a smart new spin to the coming-of-age comedy.
Synopsis: The story follows Dever and Feldstein's characters, two academic superstars and best friends who, on the eve of their high... [More]
Directed By: Olivia Wilde

#4

Charlie's Angels (2019)
52%

#4
Adjusted Score: 61.649%
Critics Consensus: Earnest and energetic, if a bit uneven, Elizabeth Banks's pulpy Charlie's Angels adds new flair to the franchise with fun performances from its three leads.
Synopsis: Director Elizabeth Banks takes the helm as the next generation of fearless Charlie's Angels take flight. In Banks' bold vision,... [More]
Directed By: Elizabeth Banks

#3

Straight Up (2020)
93%

#3
Adjusted Score: 93.278%
Critics Consensus: Well-acted and sharply written, Straight Up serves as an effervescent calling card for writer/director/star James Sweeney.
Synopsis: Todd is a hyper-articulate, obsessive compulsive gay twenty-something whose fear of dying alone leads him to a baffling conclusion: he... [More]
Directed By: James Sweeney

#2

The Half of It (2020)
97%

#2
Adjusted Score: 100.687%
Critics Consensus: For viewers in search of an uncommonly smart, tender, and funny coming-of-age story, The Half of It has everything.
Synopsis: Shy, straight-A student Ellie is hired by sweet but inarticulate jock Paul, who needs help winning over a popular girl.... [More]
Directed By: Alice Wu

#1
Adjusted Score: 56.617%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Directed By: Hitesh Kewalya

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