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Culture > Entertainment

Top 10 Essential LGBTQ+ Romances To Watch this Valentine’s Day

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Toronto MU chapter.

It’s a lonely time to be queer during a time like this. Whether you’re single, looking for someone to love online or missing your partner who lives in another household, it’s a difficult holiday to celebrate for us all. What’s a better way to cure that beating heart of yours than watching a bunch of romance films? For this list, make your heart full with the variety of cute, emotional queer romances below. From short films to anime, mainstream hits to indie darlings, there is sure to be at least one title on this list that will catch your eye. They’re sure to make you laugh, cry, have your heartache or feel all at the same time. 

The choice selection is carefully curated to list queer romances that are both accurately representative of the community while also being quality films regardless of your identity. There are feature-length mainstream hits, indie festival darlings, short films and more. 

Note that the list below however does identify stories that are specifically within the romance genre. Incredible queer centred films like Moonlight, Tangerine and documentaries like Paris is Burning are all deserving of your attention, but had to be left out for not focusing squarely on a love story. 

There are still so many more films that need to be made in order to cover the wide spectrum of the LGBTQ+ community. To not leave anyone in the community out, there are unfortunately no movies on this list covering an asexual or aromantic character (someone who does not feel any sexual or romantic attraction, you can also be both ace and aro). It’s also painful not to feature pure romance movies for the transgender community. Despite the list not fully representing everyone in the community, that does not mean that you are invalid. Hollywood is an industry that needs to do better when it comes to representation for all minority groups, including the LGBTQ+ community. It has been improving, slowly but surely, as this list shows. Let’s celebrate the breadth of queer cinema that proves that queer romances are worthy stories to tell. Always hope for a better future, especially if you are a storyteller that’s part is queer, trans, POC or all of the above. You are needed and you are valid. Your stories deserve a place on this list just as much as anybody else. 

10. In a Heartbeat (2017)

Let’s start off your binge-watching with this cute little short film. In a Heartbeat is an astounding animated short about Sherwin, a shy, timid, ginger-haired boy who yearns for a cute boy he’s waiting for at school named Jonathan. Watching him from afar, Sherwin yearns to talk to Jonathan, but his shyness cripples him from getting closer. This isn’t until his heart, his actual beating heart comes out of his chest and charges towards Jonathan.  Filled with anxiety, Sherwin goes and tries to stop the beating heart from exposing his feelings to his one true love. 

In a Heartbeat has just as much of an interesting behind-the-scenes origin as the actual short itself. It was the thesis project for a team of two Ringling College students majoring in Computer Animation. The ambitious duo created a Kickstarter to fund their project. The project caught the eyes of many and were able to astronomically surpass their goal of $3000 to gain $14 000. What’s fascinating was that most of the money went into hiring composer Arturo Cardelús and doing a live studio recording of the beautiful score in Los Angeles. 

Once the short was released in 2017, it reached massive viewership and critical acclaim. It went viral on Youtube with over 44 million views and was one of the winners at the 44th Student Academy Awards. It’s a dream big Hollywood story, one that takes a tremendous amount of luck and talent, but these two artists prove that anything is possible. The creator’sBeth David and Esteban Bravo, also both identify as queer so a love story between two middle school boys felt deeply personal to them and it shows in beautiful colours on screen. 

It’s a story made by underdogs with the challenge of entering the industry as a pair of unknowns. Beautifully coinciding with the character of Sherwin, whom we immediately love and root for as an underdog trying to face his biggest challenge of falling for another boy. It’s a concept that’s been done millions of times before but with a fresh perspective that we still need to see more of, especially in children’s animation. 

You can watch In a Heartbeat now on Youtube

9. Love, Simon


The most obvious choice for a list about LGBTQ+ romances. Love, Simon is perhaps the most mainstream and well-known film on this list. The films are known for being one of the first major studio films featuring a gay teen protagonist. It’s undeniable how much of an impact this film had on the queer community finally seeing themselves in a modern, blockbuster coming of age romance. 

Love, Simon isn’t perfect. Aside from his sexuality, Simon isn’t necessarily the most relatable character. He is a white, rich and privileged teen who falsely claims that he is ‘just like everyone else’. His statements are far from true, but fortunately, his character is so loveable and fun to watch, with Nick Robinson giving Simon layers of empathy and all the anxiety that comes with being a teenager coming out as gay. This is the cinematic equivalent of comfort food. It’s a deliciously sweet romance with a genuinely likeable cast of characters. The Creekwood setting feels familiar and universal, showing the freeing joy of being a teenager with your life long friends. It’s a feeling akin to sticking your head out of the window while going on a road trip with your best friends, blasting the Bleachers and letting the cool air sweep you away. Everyone in this universe is yearning to be loved, understood and are genuinely good people (though maybe not the person that blackmails Simon). It’s partly why the film was a hit and which led to the creators taking that Creekwood setting and using it as the basis for its strong and recommended spin-off show; Love, Victor. Take this entry almost as a Creekwood double bill, absorbing the highly watchable teen melodramas play out in its own wonderfully queer cinematic universe. 

Watch the trailer for Love, Simon here


8. Portrait of a Lady on Fire


Taking a more adult and arthouse route for this entry, Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a 2019 French film that struck a massive chord with critics and viewers alike. The story follows Marianne, a young painter who is commissioned to do a wedding portrait of soon to be wedded Héloïse. Marianne thus observes Héloïse day by day, in order to paint her at night. The closer the two women get, however, leading to a captivating drama of hidden desires and celebrating one’s last moments of freedom. Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a slow burn that does take a while for audiences to really get on board with the rhythm of its beat. When it does, the film is a hypnotic experience with some of the best cinematography in recent foreign cinema. It’s a film directed by a woman (the incomparable Celine Sciamma) and starring women (the electrifying chemistry between Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel) who are authentically queer themselves. It’s a film where every single shot feels like it could be its own painting. The precision and framing of Sciamma’s eye make room for the actresses to fully embody their characters. 

You can watch Portrait of a Lady on Fire Now on Crave TV with the Movies+HBO add on. 


7. Doukyusei 

Let’s shake up the flavour of the list entries more with an anime recommendation. Anime has never had the best LGBTQ+ representation. The medium has often been criticized for fetishizing and sexualizing its characters tailored more towards heterosexual men and women. Doukyusei (translated to Classmates) does not do such a thing. It’s a simple story following two high school students who start to develop an unlikely friendship turned relationship. The film has luscious, beautiful watercolour animation. Giving you a feeling of being wrapped in a warm blanket, cozy on your bed, embraced by the one you love. What makes the film stand apart from other yaoi or shounen-ai (genres in anime referring to boy-on-boy love), is that it fully fleshes out who these characters are. It’s a slice of life coming of age tale that prefers to dive into the characters burgeoning emotions and identity without overtly sexualizing them. That’s not to say there isn’t a sprinkle of sexual tension between the two men, but it’s done so with every glance, every embrace and every whisper in the ear. When the two men get to be authentically themselves, you feel every beat of its intimacy. Like you’re peering into something private and personal. All while never thinking the characters are fetishized in any way. If you’re looking to expand your tastes and explore queer representation in anime, this hour-long gem is the perfect place to start. 

Watch the trailer for Classmates here

6. And Then We Danced 


The most recent film on this list, Levi Atkin’s And Then We Danced was one of the few queer films that managed to come out in 2020. It’s likely to be the least known out of all the titles on this list, as it’s a severely underrated Georgian film. There are subtitles, but at this point with films like Parasite winning Best Picture, that’s no longer a valid excuse to not watch this gem. The story follows Merab, a dancer who spent years of his life training for a spot to be part of the National Georgian Ensemble. His life and career are upended by the arrival of Irakli, sparking an intense rivalry and eventual desire set within the conservative world of Georgian society. And Then We Danced comes from director Levi Atkin who wanted to explore themes of masculinity and sexuality in a fiercely homophobic setting. He is able to craft a pair of likeable leads with strong chemistry and a forbidden romance that you just ache to see come to life. Since the film centers around a dancer, the music is nothing short of exceptional. The dancing is excellently choreographed, with the intensity and tenacity of seeing real dancers on stage. One scene that’s a standout is Merab dancing to Robyn’s song Honey. It’s a sequence so simple yet so earnestly beautiful and queer. The film does explore the tragedy of complicated feelings for the same sex, especially in a setting that forbids it, but it also doesn’t shy away from the joy of being in love or being gay. Merab is able to find a community of those who are willing to accept him and show him a world that he never thought was possible. It’s a beautiful reminder that even in the darkest of times, you can still find those that manage to uplift you and make you feel at home. 

You can watch And Then We Danced now on Amazon Prime Video. 


5. Brokeback Mountain 


One of the most well known and acclaimed gay films of all time, Brokeback Mountain is famous and notorious for a variety of reasons. Following two cowboys, Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal), as they take a job as sheepherders. Starting off as strangers, Jack and Ennis develop a connection that spans years. Director Ang Lee beautifully films the expansive mountaintops that serve as the quietly private and intimate setting for Jack and Ennis to fall in love. Ledger and Gyllenhal have incredible chemistry as two cowboys who are able to share their affections for each other despite not being able to be open about it in the outside world. The film is about being unable to hide your internal desires no matter how many years have passed. Jack and Ennis spent the next years of their lives trying to maintain what they think is normalcy through heteronormativity. Despite their efforts, it’s all futile as the two consistently keep coming back to each other which is both beautiful but heartbreaking at the same time. 

The film was so highly regarded and groundbreaking that when it came time for the 2006 Oscars, it notoriously lost Best Picture against Paul Haggis’ Crash. This caused major controversy and is considered one of the Oscars’ biggest mistakes. Paul Haggis himself even stated that the film shouldn’t have won the top title against Brokeback Mountain. In 2015, the Academy voters were asked to recast their votes to see which films really stood the test of time, with Brokeback winning against Crash. It’s not really a surprise, however, as the themes of the film are quintessential with gay films today. A powerful look at the effects of toxic masculinity and heteronormativity, Brokeback Mountain will always stand the test of time. 

You can watch Brokeback Mountain now on Amazon Prime Video. 

4. San Junipero 


Part of Netflix’s Black Mirror anthology series, San Junipero is a standalone episode that works as its own quality short film. Set in an ’80s inspired neon-drenched locale, the episode follows the timid and nerdy Yorkie (the talented and gorgeous Mackenzie Davis) who meets the fun-loving Kelly (the highly underrated Gugu Mbatha-Raw) at a bar in San Junipero. Black Mirror is well known for tackling the darker side of technology. This episode in the series however takes a slightly more intimate and lighter tone as it’s more about the connection between its two main leads. Queer love stories are often known for having a tragic ending, so to have the one Black Mirror episode be the most joyful is just one of the many reasons why this episode is the perfect Valentine’s Day watch. It does feature the trademark Black Mirror twists and turns that fans expect from the series, but it never loses focus on the relationship between its highly loveable leads. Not everything is what it seems on San Junipero, but the romance is authentic, real and an essential watch in the realm of queer love. 

Watch the San Junipero episode as part of Black Mirror’s third season now on Netflix. 


3. Weekend


A chance encounter that shapes the lives of two individuals, Weekend is a love story directed by the highly underrated Andrew Haigh. What starts off is a seemingly typical queer hookup. Boy meets boy at a club, they go to one of their apartments and have sex, then they part ways. What the main characters, Glen and Russel don’t expect, is the connection and bond that they form for one another, one that becomes something more special than they ever anticipated. What elevates this film from just a simple romance is in its script, featuring a singular conflict and incredibly well-written dialogue. The conflict that comes with this story is that although Glen and Russell realize that they have a connection that they never knew they desperately needed, there’s an unfortunate time limit to their relationship. For reasons that will not be spoiled, the star crossed lovers have a romance that is threatened to be destroyed when circumstances may force them to separate. The film’s script, written by Haigh, is well written as a majority of the conversations are between the two characters. Similar to dialogue-heavy movies like My Dinner With Andre or the Before Trilogy, this film relies heavily on the dynamic chemistry between the leads. They discuss fascinating topics from love, sex, identity and personal conversations about their lives that we as audiences really get to relate to and understand. It’s a film about truly accepting who you are, which the film manages to achieve without being overly melodramatic. Quietly nuanced and beautifully intimate, Weekend is an experience you should definitely spend during your binge-watch. 

Watch Weekend now on The Criterion Channel. 


2. Call Me By Your Name 


(TW: The age gap in the film may make some viewers uncomfortable.)

A romance set in the heated summer of 1980’s Italy, Call Me By Your Name is one of the most well known and greatest queer romances of all time. Oliver (Armie Hammer) is a grad student helping Elio’s (Timothee Chalamet) father with research while staying at their summer villa. What sparks between Elio and Oliver is a romance for the ages and catapulted the careers of both actors, most especially Timothee Chalamet. Based on Andre Aciman’s 2007 novel of the same name, Call Me By Your Name vividly brings the book to life through the singular vision of Luca Guadagino. Whether or not you’ve seen or heard of his previous films like I Am Love or A Bigger Splash, Guadagnino’s trademarks are distinct. Each of his films gives off a feeling of sensuality, which is when you experience senses beyond just sight and sound when watching a film. When Elio and Oliver are basking in the summer heat, you feel that same heat and when Elio is eating that peach (you know exactly the scene if you’ve watched it), you can feel that taste. Watching Call Me By Your Name is a highly sensual experience, through the power of Guadaginino’s cinematography. It’s a beautifully sumptuous experience that you just want to dive into and never leave. 

The leading actors were able to truly bring these characters to life through their chemistry. Armie Hammer and Timothee Chalamet were able to quickly find that chemistry, which definitely radiates on screen. One of the main criticisms that the film has received is the age gap between Elio and Oliver. The film is able to make it work because it convincingly rejects the idea that age should matter at all. When the two of them are flirting, Elio is able to philosophically challenge Oliver on a level that makes him more mature than his age would suggest.

Watch Call Me By Your Name now on Mubi. 


1. Carol


What does it mean to love at first sight? It may not be actual love and more of an instant attraction, but there’s a certain feeling, an emotion, that’s only captured in movies like Todd Haynes magnificent Carol. If you live in a four seasoned country, chances are Valentine’s Day is going to be a cold time. So what better way to cozy up and soak in the beautiful Christmas winter setting of this film. Carol is not just an emotionally affecting romance, but a masterclass in everything from performance, cinematography and costume design. The film is an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Price of Salt and follows aspiring photographer Therese Belevet (Rooney Mara) who catches the eye of the voluminous Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett). What follows is an absorbent, beautifully filmed romance that’s one of the best and purest. Todd Haynes films Carol in a way that harkens back to classic Old Hollywood Douglas Sirk melodramas. Beautifully filmed with grain bathed over the screen to give the look of a 50s film aesthetic, Carol gets nearly everything right. Its performances are some of the best in queer cinema history. Instead of resorting to dialogue-heavy melodrama to get these characters’ emotions across, Carol and Therese are soft-spoken, speaking volumes with just the look in their eyes. Every glance and every emotion is on full display as the pair keeps their hidden desire, their love for one another, under a veil of simple, secret glances. Match that with a pair of powerhouse performances from Mara and Blanchett at the center. The film is an absolute romantic triumph to watch this Valentine’s Day season. 

Watch Carol now on Amazon Prime.

Don Qarlo is a writer, movie and tv lover, as well as an aspiring showrunner. All he wants to do is tell stories with a big smile on his face. You can catch him at home watching way too much TV or outside just living his life to the fullest.
Zainab is a 4th-year journalism student from Dubai, UAE who is the Editor-in-Chief of Her Campus at Ryerson. When she's not taking photos for her Instagram or petting dogs on the street, she's probably watching a rom-com on Netflix or journaling! Zainab loves The Bold Type and would love to work for a magazine in New York City someday! Zainab is a feminist and fierce advocate against social injustice - she hopes to use her platform and writing to create change in the world, one article at a time.