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

Pepi, Luci, Bom (1980)
43%

#30
Adjusted Score: 38092%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: The lives of three different women converge in 1980s Madrid. Written and directed by Pedro Almodovar.... [More]
Directed By: Pedro Almodovar

#29

Polyester (1981)
93%

#29
Adjusted Score: 94118%
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: Odor-aware housewife Francine Fishpaw (Divine) meets the man of her dreams, Todd Tomorrow (Tab Hunter).... [More]
Directed By: John Waters

#28
#28
Adjusted Score: 91487%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Outrageous people, including a desperate empress and a terrorist with an acute sense of smell, seek happiness in Madrid.... [More]
Directed By: Pedro Almodovar

#27
Adjusted Score: 98033%
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: Three drag queens (Terence Stamp, Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce) head for a gig at a central Australia casino in a... [More]
Directed By: Stephan Elliott

#26
Adjusted Score: 43411%
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: Car trouble strands three drag queens (Wesley Snipes, Patrick Swayze, John Alberto Leguizamo) in a conservative Midwestern town.... [More]
Directed By: Beeban Kidron

#25

The Birdcage (1996)
81%

#25
Adjusted Score: 83162%
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: In Miami Beach a gay couple (Robin Williams, Nathan Lane) pretend to be man and wife when a son's future... [More]
Directed By: Mike Nichols

#24

In & Out (1997)
71%

#24
Adjusted Score: 73174%
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: An actor's (Matt Dillon) comment stirs media speculation about his prim Midwestern teacher's (Kevin Kline) sexuality.... [More]
Directed By: Frank Oz

#23
#23
Adjusted Score: 79379%
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: In 1984 a college student (Andersen Gabrych) prompts a high-school student (Chris Stafford) to recognize his homosexuality, which jars his... [More]
Directed By: David Moreton

#22

Chutney Popcorn (1999)
83%

#22
Adjusted Score: 57318%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A rebellious young woman (Nisha Ganatra), desperate to win her mother's approval, offers to be surrogate mother of a baby... [More]
Directed By: Nisha Ganatra

#21

Trick (1999)
78%

#21
Adjusted Score: 78323%
Critics Consensus: By portraying its love story as nothing less than conventional, Trick avoids genre tropes to create a simple, effective romance.
Synopsis: An unfulfilled man (Christian Campbell) meets another (John Paul Pitoc) who shares his passion, but obstacles and insensitive friends hinder... [More]
Directed By: Jim Fall

#20
#20
Adjusted Score: 43331%
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: Parents send their teenager (Natasha Lyonne) to a rehabilitation camp in the desert because they think she is a lesbian.... [More]
Directed By: Jamie Babbit

#19
#19
Adjusted Score: 59232%
Critics Consensus: Vulgar but entertaining camp.
Synopsis: An aging actress (Jack Plotnick) takes as a housemate the daughter (Jeffery Roberson) of a now-dead starlet who was once... [More]
Directed By: Richard Day

#18

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

#18
Adjusted Score: 42313%
Critics Consensus: Lacking enough material for a full-length movie, D.E.B.S. is short on both plot and laughs.
Synopsis: The star (Sara Foster) of a team of teenage crimefighters falls for the alluring villainess (Jordana Brewster) she must bring... [More]
Directed By: Angela Robinson

#17

Saving Face (2004)
86%

#17
Adjusted Score: 88722%
Critics Consensus: A charming tale of a love affair that overcomes cultural taboos.
Synopsis: A closeted lesbian (Michelle Krusiec) and her mother (Joan Chen) each struggle to come to terms with secret loves that... [More]
Directed By: Alice Wu

#16
#16
Adjusted Score: 76354%
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: A former police officer (Jim Carrey) comes out of the closet, becomes a con artist, lands in jail, and meets... [More]
Directed By: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa

#15

Kaboom (2010)
60%

#15
Adjusted Score: 63481%
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: Tripping on hallucinogens and believing he witnessed a murder, a sexually ambivalent college student (Thomas Dekker) makes a terrifying discovery.... [More]
Directed By: Gregg Araki

#14
Adjusted Score: 69870%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A lesbian space alien falls in love with an Earthling (Lisa Haas).... [More]
Directed By: Madeleine Olnek

#13

First Period (2013)

#13
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Cassie (Brandon Alexander III) and Maggie (Dudley Beene) decide the way to win the hearts of their classmates is to... [More]
Directed By: Charlie Vaughn

#12

GBF (2013)
80%

#12
Adjusted Score: 81385%
Critics Consensus: G.B.F. explores high school relationship dynamics and teen stereotypes with a refreshingly humorous touch - and surprisingly subtle smarts.
Synopsis: A closeted gay teen (Paul Iacono) wants to join the popular gals' clique, but his scheme backfires when his best... [More]
Directed By: Darren Stein

#11

Life Partners (2014)
68%

#11
Adjusted Score: 67961%
Critics Consensus: With two appealing leads adrift in a sitcom-worthy plot, Life Partners doesn't do quite enough to earn viewers' commitment.
Synopsis: A 29-year-old lawyer (Gillian Jacobs) and her lesbian best friend (Leighton Meester) experience a dramatic shift in their longtime bond... [More]
Directed By: Susanna Fogel

#10
#10
Adjusted Score: 97146%
Critics Consensus: Warm, funny, and quietly profound, Appropriate Behavior serves as a thoroughly compelling calling card for writer, director, and star Desiree Akhavan.
Synopsis: A secretly bisexual Brooklynite (Desiree Akhavan) from a traditional Persian family struggles with her identity and the disintegration of her... [More]
Directed By: Desiree Akhavan

#9

Tangerine (2015)
96%

#9
Adjusted Score: 103118%
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: After hearing that her boyfriend/pimp cheated on her while she was in jail, a hooker and her best friend set... [More]
Directed By: Sean Baker

#8

The Favourite (2018)
93%

#8
Adjusted Score: 114863%
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: In early 18th-century England, a frail Queen Anne occupies the throne and her close friend Lady Sarah governs the country... [More]
Directed By: Yorgos Lanthimos

#7

Never Goin' Back (2018)
76%

#7
Adjusted Score: 77499%
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: Angela and Jessie are best friends intent on taking a wild beach trip, but when their roommate loses all of... [More]
Directed By: Augustine Frizzell

#6

Alex Strangelove (2018)
81%

#6
Adjusted Score: 80466%
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: A high school senior plans on losing his virginity to his girlfriend. Things get complicated when he meets a handsome... [More]
Directed By: Craig Johnson

#5

Booksmart (2019)
96%

#5
Adjusted Score: 116682%
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: Two high school overachievers decide to cram four years of not-to-be missed fun into one night -- a chaotic adventure... [More]
Directed By: Olivia Wilde

#4

Charlie's Angels (2019)
52%

#4
Adjusted Score: 63249%
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: A brilliant scientist invents Calisto -- a sustainable energy source that will revolutionize the way people use power. But when... [More]
Directed By: Elizabeth Banks

#3

Straight Up (2019)
93%

#3
Adjusted Score: 92617%
Critics Consensus: Well-acted and sharply written, Straight Up serves as an effervescent calling card for writer/director/star James Sweeney.
Synopsis: Intellectual soul mates bond.... [More]
Directed By: James Sweeney

#2

The Half of It (2020)
97%

#2
Adjusted Score: 101708%
Critics Consensus: For viewers in search of an uncommonly smart, tender, and funny coming-of-age story, The Half of It has everything.
Synopsis: A shy, introverted student helps the school jock woo a girl whom, secretly, they both want.... [More]
Directed By: Alice Wu

#1
Adjusted Score: 72077%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: ... [More]
Directed By: Hitesh Kewalya

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