There is certainly something to be said for dramatic movies that depict gay characters dealing with serious issues that impact their lives and society at large. Films like Philadelphia and Milk, for example, are cinematic masterpieces that hit you right in the feels while also telling compelling stories that need to be told.
But sometimes you just want to laugh, and things like dating, coming out and navigating friendships and relationships in the LGBT world can be downright hilarious.
So, next time you’re in the mood for a chuckle, consult this list that includes a great mix of Blockbuster classics, independent films and even a foreign one for when you want to feel a little cosmopolitan.
1. But I’m a Cheerleader
Before she was Nichols in Orange is the New Black, the bawdy and beautiful Natasha Lyonne played Megan Bloomfield, a straight-laced cheerleader whose fretting parents suspect her of having her laces… laced not so straight. They send her off to a conversion camp despite the fact that she adamantly claims not to be a lesbian.
Of course, sexual awakenings and hilarious antics ensue as Megan discovers, amongst a crowd of fellow repressed teens, that she is indeed of the queer persuasion. Don’t miss RuPaul playing a camp counselor whose real identity lurks just beneath his converted façade.
2. Another Gay Movie
Countless raunchy teen comedies have been made about the high school boy’s mission to lose his virginity before graduation or heading off to college but you have to see this familiar trope carried out by a group of 4 gay friends. You’ve got the nerd, the jock, the flamboyant one and the sex-crazed one whose scene with a quiche references the title-inspiring scene from American Pie.
They make a pact to hand in their V-cards by the end of the summer and discover, in their own ways, that sex is not at all what they expected. It’s gross, it’s over the top and very silly, but definitely a good time.
3. To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar
What do you get when you combine Patrick Swayze, Wesley Snipes, John Leguizamo, a road trip and a fabulous women’s wardrobe? One of the funniest and best gay movies of all time. If you haven’t seen this classic, get yourself to the television immediately.
While this unlikely trio is driving to the drag queen finals in Hollywood, they get waylaid in a Podunk town and hijinks ensue as they begin to convert the conservative townspeople to their unique brand of charm and wisdom. It’s funny, smart, and touching – everything you want in a comedy with a little depth and a lot of heart.
4. Saugatuck Cures
The already farcical nature of real life gay conversion therapy gets even more ridiculous and funny when the “therapists” are a couple of best friends, one of whom is openly gay (played by Max Adler of Glee fame). Their therapy might be bogus, but the motivation is pure – Adler’s character has a mother who is suffering from cancer and unable to afford a potentially life-saving treatment.
The buddies decide to launch the Hetero-Mobile and travel from church to church, spreading their faux gospel all the way to the bank. Add in an ultra-conservative sister, a homophobic deacon brother-in-law, and the self-doubt that arises from duping for profit and you’ve get this funny, heartfelt indie film.
5. The Birdcage
Even if you’ve already seen this classic, you should add it to your list because it’s worth several watches. It’s the old story of two incompatible sets of in-laws meeting for the first time when their children decide to tie the knot… only this time, the boy has two dads.
Nathan Lane and Robin Williams are brilliant opposite one another as the flamboyant gay parents trying, for their son’s sake, to play it straight when they meet his fiancé’s very old-fashioned parents. It should come as no surprise that the result is epic and hilarious failure.
6. Mine Vaganti (Loose Cannons)
Tommaso’s parents own a pasta factory (of course) in southern Italy, which he’s expected to take over. But that’s not his plan – he wants to pursue his dream of writing in Rome, where he lives with his boyfriend. He’s finally mustered his courage to announce his plans (and his sexuality) to the family and does a trial run with his brother, Antonio. But to Tommaso’s horror, Antonio hijacks the announcement at dinner and confesses to being gay himself.
The family erupts in shock and their father even suffers a heart attack. So obviously, Tomasso has to keep his secret a secret for the time being. While he remains at home, helping look after the factory until his father recovers, his gay friends from Rome come to visit, triggering a whole host of unexpected and comical encounters.
A gay man and his straight, female best friend agree to embark on the ultimate partnership together – parenthood. Jenn is frustrated with the search for Mr. Right and Matt is feeling at a dead-end in his personal and professional life, so having a baby together seems like a great idea.
As if this wasn’t already complicated enough, the two decide to go about the baby-making the old-fashioned way, and Jenn also begins dating again, which leads to a bit of a “Who done it?” when it comes to the paternity of the bun in the oven. It’s a smart, irreverent buddy comedy for the modern age, and definitely worth a watch.
If you need to relax and take your mind off the more serious issues of the day, queue up one of these funny films that allow you to laugh at a few of the interesting and challenging aspects of gay life.
JAY DERATANY is a travel blogger who wears several other hats – he’s also an attorney, film producer, screen writer and LGBT rights activist.