7 iconic queer on-screen kisses

From Elio and Oliver to Jules and Rue, here is your ultimate queer french kiss fix.

by Otamere Guobadia
13 March 2020, 11:12am

Any queer who is worth their ethically-sourced pink Himalayan salt remembers the first time they saw a queer kiss on screen. For many of us who grew up in the absence of possibility models -- identifiable, happy pathways represented in popular culture for people like us -- the inklings or waves of queer desire we felt terrified us and condemned many people to years lost in the closet. Amrou Al-Kadhi, non-binary author, filmmaker and drag performer, recalls the first time they saw a queer kiss on screen and the impact it had on them. "One of the first queer kisses I saw on screen was when I was 14, in Brokeback Mountain. There's this scene where Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger reunite after years apart, and they kiss and hug so tight it's like their bodies are trying to fuse together. I was incredibly scared about my sexuality at the time. I remember desperately wanting to be hugged like that, to be hugged so tight that I would melt into another body, and would be lonely no longer."

"The first gay kiss I ever say onscreen was in Christina Aguilera’s music video for ‘Beautiful’," Tom/Crystal Rasmussen, ACM chanteuse and author of Diary of a Drag Queen says. "I still cite that video as the thing that made me realise that being gay was something people didn’t like, and something that I was. I had been kissing boys since before I could remember, but that video -- with all the people staring -- made me realise that my desires were different to many people around me. I’m glad I saw it when I did, at 12, but I can’t pretend it didn’t terrify me."

The idea that we could as queer people love and be loved authentically, experience and express romance and carnality was simply not an option we dreamed possible, often until we saw it unfold on screen. Enjoy our list of seven of the most impactful queer kisses in popular culture.

Euphoria: Jules and Rue

Zendaya. Hunter Schafer. That cinematography. Where better to begin than with Sam Levinson's spectacular vision of a new generation run riot? As the camera revolves around their bed and through busy school corridors, punctuated by scenes of unbridled laughter, the girls share their first kiss. This moment is special not just for the incredible direction, but for a envelope-pushing romance between a cis and trans teen played out in delicate pitch perfection. We can't wait for season two.

Moonlight: Chiron and Kevin

When the Best Picture Oscar-winning Moonlight came out to near-universal critical acclaim many lauded the film for its groundbreaking portrayal of queer desire between to African-American men with none of the usual stereotypical trappings. Main character Chiron and love interest-turned-bully Kevin share a tender, moonlit first kiss on a beach, that had us holding our breath in anticipation, and holding back the tears.

Orlando: Orlando and Sasha

Sally Potter's 1992 adaptation of Virginia Woolf's Orlando still remains as blisteringly relevant as ever to modern queer audience. The seemingly-immortal British Lord played by Tilda Swindon falls in love with Sasha, a Russian Princess played by Catherine Zeta-Jones. At one point, Orlando collapses into a deep sleep, only to wake up the "Same person. No difference at all… just a different sex." In this scene they share a passionate flurry of kisses on the ice, interrupted only by Orlando's melodramatic tears about some potential, far-off future unhappiness. Sounds pretty queer to us.

Call Me by Your Name: Oliver and Elio's last kiss

An excerpt from James Ivory's Oscar-winning screenplay:

Cruel Intentions: Kathryn and Cecile

"It's not gross, how else do you think girls learn!" An iconic come-on if we've ever heard one. Our list would not be complete without this Cruel Intentions moment, in which Sarah Michelle Gellar mentors Selma Blair (by way of practice) in how to successfully go to first base with the boy she's seeing, has stood the test of time in the pantheon of great queer kisses. We have to stan a little.

SKAM: Isak and Even

This was, without exaggeration, a kiss seen around the world. When characters Isak and Even locked lips in a swimming pool (set to no less than Des'ree's "I'm Kissing You"), the show's critical success and popularity with audiences exploded, prompting a number of remakes in Spain, Italy, France and beyond.

Riverdale: Toni and Cheryl

Riverdale has certainly earned its rep as one of TV's most ridiculous and high-stakes teenage dramas: gang warfare, serial killers, drugs called Jingle Jangle and Fizzle Rocks, the incest, the terrible wigs. A moment of brilliance in Greg Berlanti's fever dream is when Toni (played by Vanessa Morgan) and Cheryl (played by Madelaine Petsch) share their first kiss as Cheryl is broken out of a gay conversion therapy programme, set against the backdrop of a projected re-education film and pursued by, yes, rogue nuns. It was truly camp, mindblowingly contrived and deeply absurd -- and we fucking loved it.

Call Me By Your Name