This month, comedian Billy Eichner is flipping the script on the romantic comedy genre with his new film Bros, which he cowrote. Directed by Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and produced by Judd Apatow, the film is being touted as the first gay rom-com by a major Hollywood studio, and it stars Eichner as a podcaster and museum curator who finds himself falling for a macho lawyer named Aaron (Luke Macfarlane), despite both of their long histories of commitment-phobia. Bros also features an almost entirely LGBTQ+ cast — with two notable exceptions that we won’t spoil for you! — including such fan favorites as Harvey Fierstein, Scandal’s Guillermo Díaz and SNL’s Bowen Yang. Groundbreaking as it may be, Bros is far from the first LGBT romantic comedy, though previous entries may have skewed a bit more independent and small-budget. Here, seven of our favorites, plus the cast members and scenes that made us swoon.
The Wedding Banquet (1993)
The premise: More than a decade before his acclaimed drama Brokeback Mountain, Ang Lee, 67, wrote and directed this decidedly more lighthearted comedy, which earned an Oscar nomination for best foreign film. Young Taiwanese landlord Wai-Tung Gao (Winston Chao) lives with his American boyfriend in Manhattan, unbeknownst to his conservative parents back home. When they hire a dating service to find him a wife, Wai-Tung decides to enter into a marriage of convenience with his tenant, a poor artist named Wei-Wei (May Chin) who needs a green card — and who also happens to have a crush on Wai-Tung. The plan seems like it might go off without a hitch until his parents announce they’re planning to visit from Taiwan to host a grand wedding celebration for the new couple.
The part you’ll love: The intergenerational relationships end up being surprisingly warm and sweet, with late Ang Lee regular Sihung Lung proving a particular standout as Mr. Gao.
The premise: Set in New York City during the AIDS crisis, this groundbreaking ’90s rom-com based on an off-Broadway play follows the titular actor/waiter (Wings star Steven Weber, now 61) who takes a vow of celibacy because of his paranoia surrounding the plague; he’s not only afraid of catching the disease but of falling for someone who might end up dying and leaving him heartbroken. But fate has other ideas, and Jeffrey soon finds himself falling for the handsome — and HIV-positive — Steve (Michael T. Weiss). For advice, he turns to his friends, interior decorator Sterling (Patrick Stewart) and his partner, Darius (Mad Men’s Bryan Batt).
The part you’ll love: Despite being a relatively modest indie hit, the film has an absurdly stacked cast, including Christine Baranski, Sigourney Weaver, Robert Klein, Nathan Lane, Olympia Dukakis and Victor Garber.
Join today and save 25% off the standard annual rate. Get instant access to discounts, programs, services, and the information you need to benefit every area of your life.
But I’m a Cheerleader (1999)
The premise: In this camp satire, Orange Is the New Black’s Natasha Lyonne stars as Megan Bloomfield, a high school cheerleader whose parents begin to suspect she’s a lesbian thanks to her vegetarianism and love of Melissa Etheridge. With the help of an “ex-gay” counselor named Mike (played by RuPaul, out of drag), they send her away to True Directions, a conversion therapy camp designed to turn teens straight. But their plan backfires when she strikes up a relationship with a fellow camper named Graham Eaton (Clea DuVall from Veep). Lovers of queer culture might recognize John Waters regular Mink Stole as Megan’s mom.
The part you’ll love: Raging Bull Oscar nominee Cathy Moriarty makes for an appropriately menacing camp founder, Mary Brown.
Imagine Me & You (2005)
The premise: If you’re a fan of witty British rom-coms like Notting Hill and Four Weddings and a Funeral, you’ll love this winning romance by writer-director Ol Parker, of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again fame. On her wedding day, Rachel (Piper Perabo) begins to second-guess everything when she makes eye contact with her florist, Luce (Lena Headey), as she walks down the aisle; they soon have a proper meet-cute as Luce helps Rachel fish her wedding ring out of a punch bowl into which she’s dropped it. Could this be love at first sight — even if it happens on the worst day possible?
The part you’ll love: Expect heaps of rom-com cliches, including a climactic scene during a London traffic jam set to the Turtles song “Happy Together” that gave the film its title.
Happiest Season (2020)
The premise: Abby (Kristen Stewart) and Harper (Mackenzie Davis) travel to Harper’s family’s house to celebrate the holidays. Abby plans to propose on Christmas morning, but on the way, she learns that her girlfriend has never come out to her conservative parents, played by Mary Steenburgen and Victor Garber. The ensemble cast includes a roster of recognizable faces, such as Schitt’s Creek star Dan Levy as Abby’s best friend and Alison Brie as Harper’s sister, and the clever soundtrack comprises holiday classics covered by queer artists like Sia and Tegan and Sara.
The part you’ll love: Parks and Recreation actress Aubrey Plaza is a standout as Harper’s ex-girlfriend Riley
Watch it: Happiest Season on Hulu
Single All the Way (2021)
The premise: In this holiday rom-com by Tony-winning Broadway director Michael Mayer, L.A. social media strategist Peter (Michael Urie) faces nonstop judgment from his family about his long-term bachelorhood; to avoid their criticism, he convinces his best friend, Nick (Philemon Chambers), to come home for the holidays with him and pretend to be his boyfriend. The only catch: Peter’s mother (Kathy Najimy) has already set him up on a blind date with her spin instructor, James (Bros costar Luke Mcfarlane). Could Peter and Nick become more than friends? Or is James about to pedal his way into Peter’s heart?
The part you’ll love: Jennifer Coolidge (The White Lotus) steals scenes as the kooky Aunt Sandy, who directs the town’s Christmas pageant, which Urie said in an interview was “the gayest thing to happen to Christmas since Mariah!”
Watch it: Single All the Way on Netflix
Fire Island (2022)
The premise: Comedian Joel Kim Booster — who recently appeared alongside Maya Rudolph in her new sitcom Loot — wrote and starred in this modern-day adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, set in the titular Long Island gay beach hamlet. Jane Austen fans will get a kick out of figuring out how the updated characters correspond to P&P favorites: Booster plays the Elizabeth Bennet stand-in, Noah; Saturday Night Live breakout Bowen Yang is an amalgamation of Jane Bennet and Charlotte Lucas; and Conrad Ricamora, who played Oliver on How to Get Away with Murder, keeps ’em swooning as the Mr. Darcy-inspired Will.
The part you’ll love: One of the most groundbreaking comedians and LGBT social activists of her generation, Margaret Cho plays Erin, the “house mother” who owns the property where the friends stay every summer.
Watch it: Fire Island on Hulu
Nicholas DeRenzo is a contributing writer who covers entertainment and travel. Previously he was executive editor of United Airlines’ Hemispheres magazine and his work has appeared in the New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, Travel & Leisure, Sunset and New York magazine.