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: 19523%
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: 93639%
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: A frustrated housewife, Francine Fishpaw (Divine), tries to maintain her sanity while taking care of her dysfunctional household. Elmer (David... [More]
Directed By: John Waters

#28
#28
Adjusted Score: 91214%
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: 97595%
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: When drag queen Anthony (Hugo Weaving) agrees to take his act on the road, he invites fellow cross-dresser Adam (Guy... [More]
Directed By: Stephan Elliott

#26
Adjusted Score: 43020%
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: Elite Manhattan drag queens Vida Boheme (Patrick Swayze) and Noxeema Jackson (Wesley Snipes) impress regional judges in competition, securing berths... [More]
Directed By: Beeban Kidron

#25

The Birdcage (1996)
81%

#25
Adjusted Score: 83795%
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 this remake of the classic French farce "La Cage aux Folles," engaged couple Val Goldman (Dan Futterman) and Barbara... [More]
Directed By: Mike Nichols

#24

In & Out (1997)
71%

#24
Adjusted Score: 72811%
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: Upon winning an Academy Award, actor Cameron Drake (Matt Dillon) honors his high school teacher, Howard Brackett (Kevin Kline), who... [More]
Directed By: Frank Oz

#23
#23
Adjusted Score: 79552%
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: Set in 1984 in Sandusky, Ohio, it follows the coming-out of a naive 17-year-old at exactly the moment when gender-bending... [More]
Directed By: David Moreton

#22

Chutney Popcorn (1999)
83%

#22
Adjusted Score: 51147%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: When Sarita discovers she can't have children, Reena finds that for the first time in their lives, she, Reena, can... [More]
Directed By: Nisha Ganatra

#21

Trick (1999)
78%

#21
Adjusted Score: 78181%
Critics Consensus: By portraying its love story as nothing less than conventional, Trick avoids genre tropes to create a simple, effective romance.
Synopsis: It's lust at first sight when Gabriel (Christian Campbell), a songwriter with Broadway ambitions, runs into Mark (John Paul Pitoc),... [More]
Directed By: Jim Fall

#20
#20
Adjusted Score: 43519%
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: Megan (Natasha Lyonne) considers herself a typical American girl. She excels in school and cheerleading, and she has a handsome... [More]
Directed By: Jamie Babbit

#19
#19
Adjusted Score: 59257%
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: 42810%
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: 88925%
Critics Consensus: A charming tale of a love affair that overcomes cultural taboos.
Synopsis: Wil (Michelle Krusiec) is a lesbian, but she not dare tell her widowed mother, Hwei-lan (Joan Chen), or her very... [More]
Directed By: Alice Wu

#16
#16
Adjusted Score: 76732%
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: Steven Russell (Jim Carrey) becomes a cop, gets married and starts a family, but after a terrible car accident, he... [More]
Directed By: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa

#15

Kaboom (2010)
60%

#15
Adjusted Score: 63517%
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: Smith (Thomas Dekker), a typical young college student who likes partying and engaging in acts of random sex and debauchery,... [More]
Directed By: Gregg Araki

#14
Adjusted Score: 93175%
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: 81111%
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: 67654%
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: 96771%
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: 102154%
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: 118051%
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 the early 18th century, England is at war with the French. Nevertheless, duck racing and pineapple eating are thriving.... [More]
Directed By: Yorgos Lanthimos

#7

Never Goin' Back (2018)
76%

#7
Adjusted Score: 77974%
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: 80667%
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: 119705%
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: Academic overachievers Amy and Molly thought keeping their noses to the grindstone gave them a leg up on their high... [More]
Directed By: Olivia Wilde

#4

Charlie's Angels (2019)
52%

#4
Adjusted Score: 65072%
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: Elena Houghlin is a scientist, engineer and inventor of Calisto -- a sustainable energy source that will revolutionize the way... [More]
Directed By: Elizabeth Banks

#3

Straight Up (2019)
93%

#3
Adjusted Score: 93071%
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: 103542%
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: 92035%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: ... [More]
Directed By: Hitesh Kewalya

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