7 queer Christmas movies that aren't Carol
Mark the festivities by switching on these stories of sapphic love.
The nights are drawing in, the Christmas lights are up, and on the streets of New York City, Billy Eichner is shrieking “Goddamnit! Lesbians again!” with festive legend Mariah Carey in tow. Earlier this year, when the weather was better, we spotlit seven movies for a sapphic summer to celebrate the sun-soaked movies that simmer with queer women’s desire. But as the seasons change, so do our watchlists; to celebrate the season of giving, here are seven women-loving-women winter watches to accompany the winter weather. Now we know what you’re thinking: Carol, the queen of gay alt Christmas movies, seems obvious. It is a classic but it tops every one of these lists normally. So instead, here’s a new canon of festive LGBTQ+ films to enjoy; a more obscure selection that contemplate winter-related sapphic yearning.
1. Imagine Me & You (2005)
Rachel (Orange Is the New Black’s Piper Perabo) is halfway down the aisle when she locks eyes with her wedding florist, Luce (Lena Headey), despite the fact her longtime male partner (Matthew Goode) is waiting for her with a wedding ring. The two women become quick friends after the wedding, though it’s clear Rachel desires something more than a platonic relationship. Case in point: in one scene, amid a spiralling gay panic, she throws herself across the room to turn off the lesbian porn she was watching as her husband returns home from work early. Wintry London gets colder and Rachel wraps herself up in deeper layers, like a silly metaphor for the queer crisis she’s trying to pull herself out of. This classically 2000s chick-flick is like a tacky ornament: it’s just not Christmas without it.
2. Rent (2005)
With Andrew Garfield and Lin-Manuel Miranda putting theatre’s Jonathan Larson back into the spotlight with Tick, Tick…Boom!, there’s no better time to experience Jonathan’s most prolific work: Rent. Bookmarked by Christmas Eves one year apart, Rent’s heartfelt story, brought to the big screen by Chris Columbus, is doused in snowflakes, as NYC’s East Village bohemians huddle around candles to keep warm after their power is turned off. The film’s pièce de résistance, however, has to be the couple Maureen (Idina Menzel) and Joanne (Tracie Thoms) belting “Take Me or Leave Me” at each other during their engagement party, their animosity as frosty as the air outside.
3. Anna and the Apocalypse (2017)
You may not expect a zombie musical to appear on a festive films list, but Anna and the Apocalypse is a movie with many surprises. It’s Christmas in the small Scottish town of Little Haven, and high-schooler Anna (Ella Hunt) and her friends are tasked with fighting off a hoard of flesh-eating zombies. A special shout out to Anna’s lesbian best friend Steph (Sarah Swire), the brave heroine who comes to the rescue. Starring in many of its über camp song-and-dance numbers, she’s more than a match for zombies and humans alike in this festive but grisly nightmare.
4. Let It Snow (2019)
Igniting Christmas spirit and featuring festive lesbians, Let It Snow is Netflix’s answer to a classic wintertime movie for Gen Z. Based on the fix-up young adult anthology written in three parts by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle, the story follows a group of small-town teens who are snowed in by a blizzard that doesn’t show signs of stopping. The movie’s queer storyline comes via the awkwardly loveable Dorrie (Liv Hewson) and her crush on the closeted cheerleader Kerry (Anna Akana). It’s refreshing, for once, to see a Hollywood production that doesn’t make the young gay woman crush on a straight girl. With plenty of charm, good tidings and low, low stakes, Let It Snow ushers in a modern take on the Christmas teen rom-com formula.
5. Moonlit Winter (2019)
A divorced mother and a teenage daughter, Yoon-hee (Kim Hee-ae) and Sae-bom (Kim So-hye), come to discover more about themselves and each other in this delicate South Korean tale. When a letter arrives from Jun (Yûko Nakamura), a woman who was her mother’s first love, Sae-bom, she and Yoon-hee venture to the snowy town of Hokkaido in Japan. Years of repressed desire swirl around Yoon-hee and Jun’s reunion, captured gorgeously by cinematographer Moon Myung-hwan. As Yoon-hee retraces her footsteps in the snow, a tenderness initially cut with melancholy warms up, thawing to become a story of self-acceptance.
6. A New York Christmas Wedding (2020)
Nothing like a hometown Christmas to help the repressed feelings you have for your childhood best friend resurface. A New York Christmas Wedding sees Jenny (Nia Fairweather) questioning her Christmas Eve nuptials to her cishet husband when a guardian angel transports her into an alternate reality. She wakes up the next morning beside her childhood best friend and now-fiancée Gabby (Adriana DeMeo). For 24 hours, Jenny must live out this alternative Christmas and confront the queer desire she has always pushed away. It’s a pretty low-budget package TV movie, with some questionable writing choices. But thankfully, those are simply two imperative qualities in a good festive watch!
7. Happiest Season (2020)
It turns out Spencer is not Kristen Stewart’s only Christmas-themed movie. Pablo Larraín’s royal thriller makes for a wintry double bill beside Clea DuVall’s Happiest Season. The latter sees Stewart become the lesbian rom-com lead she was destined to be all along. In it, Abby (Kristen) and Harper (Mackenzie Davis) are driving to Harper’s family home for Christmas. But Abby is unaware of something: the bombshell news that Harper isn’t out, and the family don’t know Abby is her girlfriend. And so the lesbian couple must avoid mistletoe for the Yuletide season, trying hard to keep the secret. Expect holiday cheer, so many blazers, dramatic family dinners, and an appearance from Aubrey Plaza.