The Christmas-themed Hallmark movie has never been renowned for its LGBTQ+ representation. The festive genre is very much dominated by romance narratives of the heterosexual variety, however, there has been a noticeable increase in queer visibility, characters and stories in the last handful of years. A flurry of recent queer Christmas titles is adding some alternatives to the traditional holiday picks, from Under the Christmas Tree—Lifetime’s first lesbian romance—to Single All The Way—Netflix’s first Christmas film focused on a gay romance.
We’ve gathered 10 recent queer titles that embody the seasonal Hallmark spirit, perfectly accompanied by a fireside hot cocoa.
Not only a great song from Jonathan Larson’s RENT, Season of Love is also the title of Christin Baker’s rom-com that is readily regarded as the lesbian Love Actually. This delightful rom-com ties together the connection between three different couples with a neat, glittering bow: One long-term relationship, one new couple, and two friends who have yet to admit their feelings for one another compose the six-women strong ensemble. Kathryn Trammell pens a script that confidently leans into dramatics but ensures the stakes never become so high that intensity becomes overwhelming. It’s a sweet Christmas movie punctuated by confessions of adoration and mirthful joy.
A coming-of-age tale set later in life, angsty twenty-something Ainsley (Alexandra Swarens) is returning home for the holidays. It is an ordeal made all the more nerve-wracking by her prolonged absence—it’s been several years. Ainsley’s hometown trip is set to the melody of small town reconciliation as she comes face-to-face with her lingering, unresolved teenage feelings. This character-focused narrative hinges on Ainsley reuniting with Sophie (Olivia Buckle) who is nothing like the popular cheerleader she knew when she left. The film has a more indie feel than the traditional Hallmark categorization, lending intimacy to its tackling of emotional sincerity. While some of the more technical aspects of the filmmaking are lacking, at its heart, City of Trees is a touching lesbian indie that has a beautifully grounded simplicity: Instead of spiced mulled wine and a roaring fireplace, there’s cheap beer and an outdoor bonfire fueled by old receipts.
Happiest Season was one of the best cinematic gifts we received for last year’s Christmas. Abby (Kristen Stewart) and Harper (Mackenzie Davis) are going to the latter’s family home for Christmas but both have very different versions of how they’re expecting to celebrate the holiday season. Abby’s preparing to propose while Harper is trying to summon the courage to tell her girlfriend she’s not yet out to her family and, more so, tell her family Abby’s not just a friend. It’s a touching comedy that recognizes the weight of its subject. Like many festive titles, Happiest Season revolves around coming home for Christmas. Yet, through a queer perspective, the film is a revamped rendition of all the typical holiday plights. Additionally, the rom-com’s supporting characters—the excellent Dan Levy and the brilliant Aubrey Plaza—offer some of the film’s most charming moments. With an all-around terrific ensemble, Happiest Season is a delectable festive treat.
The first of two horse-ranch-located movies on this list, Dashing in December centers on Wyatt (Peter Porte) arriving home for Christmas to find his mother (Andie MacDowell) preparing to sell their Colorado ranch. Shedding his city suit and sliding straight into a cowboy hat and boots, Wyatt is devastated—but his attention goes awry upon meeting the ruggedly handsome Heath (Juan Pablo Di Pace). Gay cowboys galore, and a lot more optimistic than Brokeback Mountain, Dashing in December’s underlying worry of losing the ranch becomes a backdrop to the romance that ignites between the two stablehands. A Christmas miracle never feels far from reach, you’ll have major sweater envy from the array of cozy threads, and the needle drop of Kacey Musgraves’ “Oh What A World” is the icing on this film’s Christmas cake.
Netflix’s first Christmas film focused on a gay romance, Single All The Way, bundles up the tried and tested rom-com formula and re-wraps it in some modern wrapping paper to deliver a joyous gift of open-armed acceptance. All the familiar beats are refreshed by Peter (Michael Urie) and Nick (Philemon Chambers), two best friends spending Christmas at Peter’s family’s home. However, as soon as they walk through the door, festive shenanigans begin: Peter’s mother has set her son up on a blind date, but one by one, the rest of the family begins to see Nick as the more perfect match. A jovial, entertaining watch for all, Single All The Way’s seasonal splendor is heightened by the iconic Jennifer Coolidge playing Aunt Sandy, who is on a mission to make the nativity a theatrical showcase.
Under the Christmas Tree, too, is making history in the world of queer Christmas movies. Lisa Rose Snow’s film is Lifetime’s first festive lesbian romance following the channel’s first holiday romance between two men last year, The Christmas Setup. Under the Christmas Tree sees Alma (Elise Bauman) and Charlie (Tattiawna Jones) cross paths when the latter finds the perfect Christmas tree for the Governor’s Holiday Celebration in Alma’s garden. Romantic sparks fly like a flurry of falling snow as Alma and Charlie begin to fall for each other in this Hallmark-esque movie that brims with familiarity and coziness.
If you want a queer horse ranch double bill, put Christmas at the Ranch beside Dashing in December. Hayley (Laur Allen, also in Season of Love) returns home to help her brother (Archie Kao) shovel the family’s ranch debt as if it was snow in the driveway. She doesn’t expect, however, to fall for the tartan-loving ranch hand Kate (Amanda Righetti). The warm amber tones of director Christin Baker’s (also of Season of Love) film melt away any frosty feelings towards Christmas while the pair adorably bicker like an already married couple when Kate hogs the blanket or when getting back in the saddle proves to be a challenge for Hayley. With an abundance of hot cocoa, warm candlelight and sparkling Christmas decorations, Christmas at the Ranch is adorned by sapphic sensibility.
A Hallmark sequel, The Christmas House 2: Deck Those Halls reunites with the Mitchell family after their parents, Bill (Treat Williams) and Phylis (Sharon Lawrence), tried to sell the family house in The Christmas House—Hallmark’s first movie prominently featuring a gay couple. In the sequel, however, the film is more focused on a family competition of who has the most impressively decorated house. Brandon (Jonathan Bennet) and his husband, Jake (Brad Harder), go up against Mike (Robert Buckley) to create a showstopping sight that continues the family’s tradition of over-the-top festivity. The Christmas House 2: Deck Those Halls promises an all-out wintery extravaganza dressed with an abundance of seasonal decorations.
The RuPaul empire is ushering in its first holiday movie: The Bitch Who Stole Christmas. The sequins are out for the star-studded cast of 20 RuPaul’s Drag Race alumni who feature in this festive movie. The film follows a journalist (Krysta Rodriguez) heading to a Christmas-obsessed small town for a story allocated by her editor (RuPaul). However, she gets more than she bargained for when she arrives at the winter wonderland: A cutthroat Winter Ball becomes the talk of the town as festivity descends into fierce competition. As you’d expect, The Bitch Who Stole Christmas boasts an array of exquisite, festive couture looks that offer plenty of inspiration for this holiday season’s lookbook.
Based on the Emmy-nominated NBC series Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, Zoey’s Extraordinary Christmas picks up where the series left off as a holiday-themed feature film. The eponymous Zoey (Jane Levy) is knee-deep in Christmas preparations to ensure the first Christmas without her father can be a meaningful celebration. Reuniting with fan favorite Mo (Alex Newell), Zoey’s gay sidekick-turned-star, Zoey’s Extraordinary Christmas’ song-and-dance numbers are sure to awaken the seasonal spirit. Written by the show’s original creator, Austin Winsberg, the Clarke family’s magical Christmas promises to be fan service for the viewers who mourned the beloved musical dramedy’s cancellation. If you haven’t yet indulged in the show’s 25 episodes, don’t fret: The film can still be enjoyed as a festive, standalone watch!
Emily Maskell is a freelance film critic, culture and entertainment writer from the UK who drinks way too much tea. You can keep up with her antics on Twitter: @EmMaskell