The sound of church bells. The smell of cookies. The decked up halls, and roads, and trees. And the Christmas movies. Oh, the Christmas movies! Featuring elves, a protagonist that doesn’t have time for Christmas, and a very, very, very straight couple that finds magic just in time to sing ‘Jingle Bells!’while wearing red caps.
As someone who went to a catholic school and grew up behind a toy store, I am constantly searching for ways to experience the nostalgia and warmth of Christmas without surrendering to the binary of red and green. While my family and friends have a variety of Christmas rituals that I engage in leading up to the big day like Secret Santa games and tree decor parties, my absolute favourite thing to do is to snuggle in my blanket with rum cake and hot chocolate in my lap and Queer Christmas movies on my television. There’s something about the guarantee of a happy ending that a Christmas movie promises that when seen through the rainbow lens absolutely melts my heart.
Unfortunately, there are not too many to choose from because the interpretation of Christmas as a holiday for ‘families’, and the existence of queer individuals as a rebellion against ‘family values’ is still the dominant narrative propagated by divisive leaders- making sure that we are no where near having as diverse and heartwarming a line-up as the one that cisgendered, heterosexual individuals get to choose from. But there are some films that have managed to fight against that and absolutely deserve a spot on your watch-list this year:
I agree that to just qualify Carol as a ‘Christmas film’ would do injustice to it due to how surfacy and predictable the genre usually is, but to deny yourself the pleasure of watching Carol and Therese long for each other would be equally unfair to the very concept of magic. First of all, it follows the most cardinal rule of Christmas movies: it has a Christmas-themed title, which it shares with a central character’s name. Secondly, is there anything as iconic as the shot of Rooney Mara as Therese looking at Carol for the first time while wearing a Santa cap? Christmas hues play a huge role in the narrative as the story progresses and much of the ‘falling for each other’ arc of the story takes place between Christmas and New Years. Nominated for six Academy Awards, Carol has gorgeous shots that will have your eyes widening with awe, a connection that transcends the mundanity of reality that will make you believe in love again, and Cate Blanchett’s heart-stopping expressions that will leave your speechless. Watch the trailer here:
Did someone just make a feel-good LGBTQ+ Christmas film featuring a very queer Kristen Stewart? You best believe they did! Filled with chaotic RomCom energy, Happiest Season is the story of Abby and Harper, two women who are in love and about to reach the ‘meet the parents’ milestone around Christmas. But of course, one of them isn’t out to their family yet, so now they need to navigate the closet again before they can move forward together. If you’re somehow not sold yet, the film also stars Daniel Levy, Alison Brie, Mary Holland, and Aubrey Plaza! Featuring cheesy christmas tropes, heartwarming friendships, and a beautiful proposal, Happiest Season is a must stream this holiday season. Watch the trailer here:
While Holiday Heart does not fall within the tropes and tonality of the Christmas movie genre, it redefines the kind of film that can be made around the festival. Featuring breathtaking performances and a protagonist who is not only a drag queen but also a person of colour, the film is not afraid to touch on questions of prejudice, intersectionality, and drug abuse. It also explores parenthood, the power of chosen family, and conflicts within the community. Being made in 2000, a few conversations in it definitely feel dated, but the fact that the film went where it did when most narratives and filmmakers were hesitant to go there, is what makes it retain its place in the Christmas movie list. It is not a lighthearted film but one that is sure to tug at the strings of your heart and make you cry, so if you’re looking to watch a Christmas film that goes beyond the feel-good, predictable stories where everything ends well, this is your pick. Watch the trailer here:
LET IT SNOW:
I adore holiday films with ensemble casts and interweaving storylines because they get to explore so many definitions of love at once that even as the story rushes to check all boxes, you are bound to find something to connect with and invest in. What makes Let It Snow even more special is that the focus here is on teen stories so there is the fumbling and the falling and the learning a lot more than there is the rediscovering, ensuring that while the stakes are lower, the emotions are more raw and vulnerable. One of the many subplots in this film features two queer girls who are trying to navigate their feelings for each other. The beauty of this film lies in how seamlessly it weaves that in with the other subplots. It is not self-congratulatory of adding their story, and it doesn’t behave like it’s job ends there. There is actual conflict, resolution, and an ultimate happy ending. Watch the trailer here:
THE CHRISTMAS SET-UP:
I’m an absolute sucker for warm stories featuring an actual married couple as characters falling in love for the first time. Starring real-life husbands Blake Lee and Ben Lewis, The Christmas Set Up gives centre stage to their chemistry, love, and connection. Featuring Christmas RomCom tropes like Big City Lawyer Visits Hometown and Over Excited Mother Goes on a Match Fixing Spree, this film is completely committed to the genre from the get-go. What is also refreshing is that the conflict in the film has absolutely nothing to do with them being queer. There are no conservative family members, judgemental friends, or overbearing socio-political realities here- it is all about the two of them discovering their passion for each other. Also notable is the fact that since the two characters knew each other in school, there is room to discuss things like personal growth and the evolution of self love and acceptance which goes beyond what you expect from the get go! Watch the trailer here: