There are enough Christmas films to fill Santa’s workshop (the Hallmark channel alone could), many of which have become annual classics or cult classics, but many of which are quite forgettable to say the least. However, what there are too few of is well known LGBTQ-themed Christmas films or those with diverse casts. Many Christmas films are bursting with clichés and are highly predictable but still mostly heartwarming and feel-good – including some on this list.
This list however, aims to shine a light on some Christmas films that champion diversity and highlight the different types of families or people that celebrate Christmas – not just standard White families with all members being straight – so you can diversify your roster of Christmas films to watch this season. Some of these films may not be brilliant or are filled with Christmas cheese but are proof that LGBTQ Christmas films and those with diverse casts exist and are breaking new ground and growing.
A Sugar & Spice Holiday
Touted as the first Asian-American Christmas film, A Sugar & Spice Holiday (available to watch on YouTube) has been a long time coming. Released last year, it’s crazy no other Christmas films (outside of Asia at least) with a predominantly Asian cast have been made until now. Most of the cast are relatively unknown, including Jacky Lai as lead Suzy Yung and Tony Giroux as her love interest Billy (a classic tale of meeting up with an old schoolmate/flame/crush when home for the holidays) – the most famous is probably Tzi Ma (from Rush Hour 1 & 3 and Mulan) as Suzy’s dad. A sweet film about rediscovering old loves – in this case, Suzy’s late grandmother’s love of baking – and of course, finding new loves. It nicely incorporates some Asian/Chinese (-American) cultural traditions and mentalities too so is very relatable to any Chinese diaspora watching it.
The UK’s first Christmas film with an all-Black main cast has just been released. Another one that is long overdue, it stars Aml Ameen who also directed and co-wrote it (loosely based on his own life, he is known for his debut role in the film Kidulthood). The ensemble cast is made up of mostly relatively unknown actors except Aja Naomi King (How to Get Away with Murder) and the most famous in her first acting role, Leigh-Anne Pinnock from Little Mix, which is sure to get some bums in cinema seats.
The story revolves around an awkward love triangle when Melvin (Ameen) brings his American fiancé Lisa (King) back to the UK for the holidays to meet his family and bumps into his ex Georgia (Pinnock). Cue the usual family drama (such as secret White boyfriends, a pregnant fiancé and hard truths and unearthed pasts being revealed) as this large and larger than life family attempt to celebrate the holidays. It’s a nice, empowering film that celebrates Black British culture, even if a little muddled with too many characters and subplots.
Loosely inspired by the music of gay icon George Michael, Last Christmas (available on Netflix) features an Eastern European immigrant family living in London (headed by co-writer Emma Thompson), with one daughter who is in an interracial lesbian relationship. It’s every EDL/UKIP-supporting pro-Brexiteer’s worse nightmare. Co-starring Eurasian actor Henry Golding alongside Emilia Clarke and also featuring the world’s greatest action heroine Michelle Yeoh in a rare comedic, non-action role, Last Christmas is both a heartwarming and heart wrenching film. It’s twist and overall premise is certainly unique, if a little strange but its overarching message of spreading love and joy during the festive season is what is so beautiful about it.
Let It Snow
Featuring a lesbian storyline between two of the characters, Let It Snow (on Netflix) was nominated for the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding TV Movie or Limited Series in 2020. The film centres on a group of high school seniors and the trials and tribulations typical teenagers go through – love lives, bullying, parent and family issues, college applications and of course the main problem of where they can get alcohol from.
The cast is made up of a diverse mix of actors in their early to mid 20s playing teens, including Isabela Merced (Dora and the Lost City of Gold), Kiernan Shipka (The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina), Jacob Batalon (Spider-Man: Homecoming), Shameik Moore (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse), Mitchell Hope (Descendants), Mila Kunis lookalike Odeya Rush (Dumplin’), and Mason Gooding (Love, Victor). Liv Hewson (non-binary in real life) and Anna Akana (identifies as bisexual) portray the lesbian couple who are torn between being open to everyone about their relationship and hiding who they are for fear of rebuttal and rejection. Legendary actress Joan Cusack also appears in a very bizarre supporting role.
Let It Snow is a drama-filled film (well, teen drama anyway) that isn’t too exciting yet still manages to make it revolve around Christmas (otherwise it would just be another standard teen drama) and manages to tick a number of diversity boxes.
The long-awaited sequel to one of Lindsay Lohan’s earlier films, Life-Size 2 updates the original story of a girl accidentally bringing her Eve doll to life with the characters in this sequel’s storyline attempting to bring Eve back from the brink of discontinuation just in time for the big Christmas shopping season.
As a Disney film, Life-Size 2 is perhaps one of the studio’s most progressive, even with its subtlety. Two Hispanic actresses (Francia Raisa and Alison Fernandez) fill the lead roles of Grace and Lex alongside Black supermodel Tyra Banks who reprises her role as Eve, while Grace’s best friends are played by Black actress Shanica Knowles (not related to Beyoncé) and Asian actor Hank Chen. Chen’s character is openly gay and it’s implied he’s more than just friends with one of Grace’s male colleagues, while a line said by Grace to Eve suggests she could be bisexual. A fun film that appeals to the now adult fans of the first from 18 years before (hence the aforementioned) and still hopes to delight younger viewers. You can watch the sequel on Disney+ but the original still isn’t available on there for some reason.
A recent addition to Netflix, Love Hard stars Jimmy O. Yang (Silicon Valley and Crazy Rich Asians) and Nina Dobrev (The Vampire Diaries) as an extremely odd couple who meet when Josh (O. Yang) catfishes Natalie (Dobrev) and she seemingly foolishly travels to his hometown for Christmas (very weird, right?). Love Hard is a unique take on a romantic comedy that takes its cues from the unfortunate rise in catfishing and fake dating profiles.
Of course, it is still a classic polar opposites attract story that goes through several dramas and disagreements before it gets to its obvious happy ending. Although the ethnicity of the characters is not a focal point of the film (I mean, clearly not when Josh’s mum is White and her sons do not look half-White unless she’s their stepmother), the representation of having a Chinese male lead is already a step forward for representation. Even if he does come across as stereotypically nerdy. The film also stars Harry Shum Jr. as Josh’s brother, Japanese-American actor James Saito as their father (in another classic case of not hiring a Chinese actor to portray a Chinese person) and Darren Barnett (who has Japanese ancestry, so they perhaps thought a drop of Asian blood in him will do) as “fake Josh”.
Make the Yuletide Gay
Available to watch on Amazon Prime (with Dekkoo), this charming film is about an openly gay college guy (Olaf) who goes home for Christmas to his family to whom he is not openly gay. When his boyfriend Nathan drops by unexpectedly because his distant parents have gone on a Christmas cruise to the Holy Land, it leads to the obvious awkward, hilarious and emotional time the two spend together in Olaf’s home. Meanwhile, Olaf’s parents Sven and Anya (I’m surprised her name wasn’t Anna or Elsa, to be honest) appear to remain completely oblivious to their son’s sexuality and the two’s relationship.
Although quite cheesy and Olaf’s mother especially being rather cringe, it’s a funny (lots of sexual innuendos and double entendres) and touching film with a couple of unexpected, lovely and funny twists at the end.
Single All the Way
Recently released on Netflix and featuring two iconic comedy actresses – Kathy Najimy (Sister Act 1 & 2, Hocus Pocus) and Jennifer Coolidge (Legally Blonde 1 & 2, American Pie), and three out gay/queer actors in the main male leads, Single All the Way takes a different angle on the story of a gay son returning to see his family at Christmas. In this, Peter (Michael Urie who played Marc St. James in Ugly Betty) is out to his family and brings home his best friend Nick (newcomer Philemon Chambers) who pretends to be his boyfriend so he’s not the only single person there. But of course his family are all ready to try and set him up with another guy (Luke Macfarlane who already has a string of Hallmark Christmas films under his belt)… Well, if an LGBTQ Christmas film isn’t about the LGBTQ character coming out to their family and they’re single, it’s about their family trying to meddle in their love life. And Peter’s entire family bar his mother seem to try and desperately get them together – like, annoyingly. There are other scenarios you can explore, you know!
Despite its predictability, Single All the Way is a cute film with some laughs that is only really made possible by Najimy and Coolidge. And while it will probably get lost among the many other possible and more iconic Christmas films to watch, it stands out with its three gay male leads and is bound to please the Netflix-loving gays (it already made the top 10 most-watched in the UK in its opening weekend).
The Bitch Who Stole Christmas
I’m surprised a Christmas film about drag queens hasn’t been made yet but here it is – The Bitch Who Stole Christmas (available to watch somewhere somehow, wink wink*) is fronted by the Queen of all drag queens, RuPaul along with co-star Krysta Rodriguez (no, I don’t know her either). It features a drag queen-studded cast of mainly Drag Race alumni, including Cher’s double Chad Michaels, Latrice Royale, and Ginger Minj to name but a few. If you’re a Drag Race aficionado you’d probably know them all. RuPaul’s right hand woman Michelle Visage, Raven from That’s So Raven and trans pop star Kim Petras also appear.
The Bitch Who Stole Christmas is, as you’d expect – a fabulous, laugh out loud and camp as Christmas film full of cheeky jokes and sass. And for once, blossoming love is not part of the main plot. Instead as you can guess from the title, it’s an extremely over-the-top drag version of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas about saving the beloved season from mean-spirited bitches, scrooges and party poopers.
The Christmas House
Ok, so the main cast are all White (and mostly good looking) people but The Christmas House features a gay couple, made up of Jonathan Bennett from Mean Girls and Brad Harder as his character’s husband. It is the first Hallmark movie (but you can watch it on YouTube) to prominently feature a same-sex couple – in 2020, so very late to the party – though it was a landmark for the channel who are known for their more so-called wholesome, safe, traditional and conservative shows. It was later nominated for the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding TV Movie or Limited Series, but in honesty the gay characters’ story (trying to adopt) is not a main focus of the film.
Being a Hallmark film it is certainly not one that stands out much from the countless Christmas films they churn out, I mean, release every year but with the inclusion of a gay couple and their subplot it definitely makes a nice, groundbreaking change at least and one that will hopefully spark the introduction of many more in the future. A sequel, The Christmas House 2: Deck Those Halls, with the original cast returning, is showing on the channel this December, making it one of the 41(!) they are releasing this year.
The Christmas Setup
The first LGBTQ-themed Christmas film broadcast by American cable channel Lifetime (if you’re in the UK you can probably find “somewhere else” to watch it*), The Christmas Setup stars real-life married gay couple Ben Lewis (appeared in Arrow) and Blake Lee (known for his role in Parks and Recreation). In this they play old acquaintances from school who meet again when Hugo (Lewis) returns home with his best friend Madelyn (Ellen Wong – good to see an Asian American as part of the main cast of White people). His mother Kate (who constantly sounds like she’s got a cat scratching at her throat) makes it her mission to set the two boys up with each other and set Maddy up with her other (straight) son.
Of course, the film is a first for Lifetime and I’m sure there’ll be more to follow. The storyline is a little thin and the ending is predictable, seeing as Kate’s attempts for the two guys to fall for each other aren’t necessary since the attraction and chemistry are already there – she just gives them a few pushes in the right direction. It is still however, an adorable, fuzzy and easy to watch Christmas film with a snazzy soundtrack to go with it that like The Christmas House was nominated for the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding TV Movie or Limited Series. And hopefully we’ll get a sequel to this film too?!
Following in its footsteps is Christmas at the Ranch, released this festive season, which will be Lifetime’s first Christmas film about a lesbian couple. It was written by Michael J. Murray, who also wrote The Christmas Setup.
The Preacher’s Wife
Last but not least and one of my favourite Christmas films, simply because it stars the legendary Whitney Houston, The Preacher’s Wife is a lovely film about faith, love, family and remembering or knowing who is truly important to you. In this all-Black cast remake of The Bishop’s Wife from 1947, it centres on Reverend Henry Biggs and his wife Julia (Houston) as he tries to save his church from being sold off. But in the process he neglects his wife and son Jeremiah while an “angel” called Dudley (Denzel Washington) flies in to both spend the time with Julia and Jeremiah that Henry can’t and to help save the church.
Of course, the The Preacher’s Wife is set in the run up to Christmas and with it being a gospel church, there’s plenty of beautiful, joyful singing. Naturally, Whitney shines in this role as she continued to extend her acting chops and exercised her vocal chops. Its soundtrack is still the best-selling gospel album of all time. The film is difficult to find anywhere to watch for free (or legally*) but CEX currently sell the DVD for £1.50.
So that’s it, my suggestions for LGBTQ-themed and diversely cast Christmas films you can watch! Obviously most of the films focus more on the G in LGBTQ but hopefully this will change over time as we are regularly inundated with many Christmas films every year. And the same goes for Christmas films with more Asian, Black, Hispanic and other ethnic group cast members. If you’d like to add any more suggestions for myself and other readers, please leave a comment!
* I don’t endorse watching films illegally (just in case someone wants to try and sue me), but sometimes needs must!