The 21 Best Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Trans, Queer Movies on Hulu
From originals like “Fire Island” and “Love, Victor” to classics like “The L Word” and “Boys on the Side,” Hulu has a solid queer catalogue.
Hulu may have started out as the redheaded stepchild of the streamers back in Netflix’s heyday, but it has stuck around long enough to have firmly established itself as one of the old standbys. It follows, then, that Hulu would have a veritable fount of LGBTQ content ready to compete with the robust queer catalogues available to subscribers of Netflix, HBO, and other platforms, particularly in the spring months leading up to Pride.
A brief perusal of Hulu’s LGBTQ section doesn’t disappoint, but digging in deeper will give you the best chance at a genuinely memorable watch. Right now, the Disney-backed streamer is hosting popular queer television classics, like “The L Word,” “My So-Called Life,” and “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” alongside fresher fare, including “Everything’s Gonna Be Okay” and “Killing Eve.” Recent Hulu originals, such as “Love, Victor” and “Shrill,” deserve singling out, if only because you know they’re buzz-worthy and readily available on the service.
On the film side, old school classics like “Boys on the Side” (1995), “Kissing Jessica Stein” (2001), and “Saving Face” (2004) are available, as are newer titles of various genres. “Fire Island” is a 2022 romantic comedy starring screenwriter Joel Kim Booster (sketch comedy fans will recognize him from “Saturday Night Live”) which reimagines “Pride and Prejudice” with hard-partying gay men from New York. Or you could try Paul Verhoeven’s “Benedetta”: a 2021 erotic psychological drama about two nuns in a 17th century Italian convent. (Yes, it’s another entry in the lesbian period romance subgenre; some of us aren’t tired of those yet!)
The best LGBTQ movies and TV on Hulu can be tough a list to curate, largely become of how different so many of these titles are. But whether it’s film or TV — something laugh-out-loud funny or a heartbreaking tearjerker — variety in LGBTQ entertainment is as important as it is impressive. (Hulu has even got “Midnight Kiss”: a sexy gay slasher set on New Year’s Eve in Palm Springs!)
We’ve combed through what Hulu has right now, and think at least 21 of its current titles are worth recommending. Films are listed first, followed by television series. Both categories are sorted alphabetically, and everything is streaming now.
With editorial contributions by Steve Greene and Ryan Lattanzio.
Dutch provocateur Paul Verhoeven strikes again, this time with a movie that lands somewhere on that vast Verhoeven spectrum between “Elle” and “Showgirls.” Based on a true story of a Renaissance era nun and mystic, “Benedetta” inspired religious protestors to declare it the “blasphemous lesbian nun movie” — further cementing its must-see status. Both an erotic satire and a scathing critique of Catholicism and patriarchy, “Benedetta” is a political farce with a heaping dose of sex appeal. Discovered by the historian Judith C. Brown in the mid-1980s, Benedetta Carlini (Virginie Efira) was a 17th century mystic who had visions of Christ, claiming he wanted to marry her, and even received the stigmata. She was eventually stripped of her rank and imprisoned due to her sexual relationship with fellow novice Sister Bartolemea (Daphné Patakia).
Verhoeven plays up Benedetta’s flair for the dramatic to deliciously provocative ends, giving her religious embraces the same weight as her lustful longings. It’s never clear, to the more practical Bartolomea nor to the audience, just what Benedetta is playing at or how far her convictions go. Efira, who had a supporting role in “Elle,” is sly and seductive as the fanatic martyr, who dances playfully on the edge or narcissism and impassioned piety. Once she survives being burned at the stake, it’s clear even your craziest ex can’t hold a candle (or Virgin Mary dildo) to Benedetta. —JD
“Boys on The Side” (1995)
For his final film as director, choreographer-turned-director Herbert Ross (“Steel Magnolias,” “Footloose”) left a heartfelt road trip movie about three women. Delivering the kind of irresistably engaging performances that made them each stars, Drew Barrymore, Mary Louise Parker, and Whoopi Goldberg have an easy chemistry as an unlikely trio on a cross-country road trip. The film’s feminist outlook is embedded in its title, with men playing integral but definitively supporting roles. It’s a tearjerker, in the vein of “Fried Green Tomatoes” or “Thelma and Louise,” but it’s the only one of those films to actually feature an out lesbian character, embodied by Goldberg with all of her natural charisma and humanity. —JD
This tender buddy Western stars Steve Zahn as a modern-day Butch Cassidy who whisks his adorable Sundance kid away to the Montana mountains. Evoking the magic of the queer-coded Redford/Newman classic, “Cowboys” is an elegant revisionist Western that puts a complicated father figure and his adoring trans kid at the center. The film follows a young trans kid who is willingly abducted by his adoring but unreliable father, the only parent who supports him fully, as the two set off on the lam. As sweeping in grand landscapes as it is delicate in scope, writer/director Anna Kerrigan’s script keeps the focus tight, effectively crafting a satisfying adventure into a subtle excavation of masculinity — the good, the bad, and the ugly. —JD
“Fire Island” (2022)
Comedian Joel Kim Booster makes a splashy debut as both a formidable literary force and an appealing leading man in “Fire Island,” his first feature film as a screenwriter, and hopefully the first of many. Though the vision was all Booster’s, the love that went into “Fire Island” emanates from every player, which includes “Saturday Night Live” darling Bowen Yang in a wonderfully emotive performance and “Spa Night” filmmaker Andrew Ahn proving he can do more than evocative indie dramas.
A true ensemble piece, the movie is filled with the joy and camaraderie of that cheesiest of queer epithets — chosen family. But under the Day-Glo sheen of the car-less beach town filled with glistening shirtless queers, it all feels genuinely dreamy. (Or maybe it’s the Ketamine.) Arriving on Hulu to kick off Pride Month, “Fire Island” marries the promise of the queer comedy boom with the artistic arrival of Asian American cinema. Gorgeously intersectional, subtly political, and a damn good time — it’s a guaranteed instant classic. —JD
“Her Smell” (2018)
Elisabeth Moss delivers a tour de force performance (in a career full of them) in Alex Ross Perry’s monumental character study of a volatile rock star battling addiction, her own massive ego, and the tireless slog to remain relevant. Moss plays punk rocker Becky Something, frontwoman for a trio that imagines if Joan Jett and Sleater Kinney combined forces in the most toxic way imaginable. Gayle Rankin and Agyness Dean each buttress Moss’s erratic frontwoman as equally powerful collaborators and foils. Hailing from the modeling world, Dean is particularly enticing as the swaggering bass player Marielle Hell, the trio’s androgynous bassist who drowns out Becky’s noise with a blend of drugs, women, and masculine bravado. —JD
“Kissing Jessica Stein” (2001)
The charming Jennifer Westfeldt wrote and starred in this indie Jewish rom-com about a neurotic bisexual who can’t make up her mind. When she comes across a pre-Craigslist personal ad so perfectly written it leaves her speechless (a rarity for her), Jessica (Westfeldt) embarks on the slowest-moving affair in history when the person on the other end turns out to be a woman named Helen (co-writer Heather Jeurgenson). It’s the kind of New York romance that rarely gets made anymore: There’s charming montages to Ella Fitzgerald’s version of “Manhattan,” a hilarious wise-cracking best friend (Jackie Hoffman), and a lovably overbearing Jewish mother (Tovah Feldshuh). Without spoiling the ending, there are valid reasons to wish “Kissing Jessica Stein” were just a little bit gayer. But the film is a lot like its protagonist; so damn lovely, it’s no wonder everyone wants to kiss it. —JD
“Midnight Kiss” (2019)
For the second season of its popular horror anthology series “Into the Dark,” the executives at Blumhouse Productions were looking for something extra special. For 2019’s “Midnight Kiss,” a sexy gay slasher set amongst a group of LA gay friends on New Year’s Eve, Blumhouse tapped out gay talent — writer Erlingur Thoroddsen and director Carter Smith, who also hired all queer actors for the queer roles. The result is a campy whodunnit with clever barbs and genuine bite. Literally — the killer disguises themself with a leather fetish dog mask. Woof woof. —JD
“Portrait of a Lady on Fire” (2019)
Celine Sciamma’s luscious tour-de-force practically demands to be seen on the big screen, but its subtle glances and rich performances offer plenty to unpack on repeat viewings. There are only four characters in the film, all women: A painter, her elusive subject, her mother, and their maid. The setting is a damp and nearly empty manor house on an island in Brittany, the part of France that bears the closest resemblance to England.
A British austerity permeates the film’s first act, all cold shoulders and sidelong glances between the women, but Sciamma delivers the French passion by the film’s fiery conclusion — and then some. While the romance is undoubtedly the heart of “Portrait,” Sciamma also seamlessly infuses the film with evidence of women’s limited options, or rather, the endlessly creative ways they learned to skirt the rules. Shut out by a home country that stubbornly refuses to honor its great women filmmakers, the film itself stands ablaze in defiance of — and in glaring contradiction to — the dominance of men. Burn it down. —JD
“We the Animals” (2018)
Based on the semi-autobiographical novel by Justin Torres, filmmaker Jeremiah Zagar’s Sundance-winning drama follows the coming-of-age story of a young queer boy growing up in a working-class family in upstate, New York. Softer than the men in his life, he must form his identity against the backdrop of two rambunctious brothers and an erratic father. While his brothers grow into versions of their father, Jonah proves far more sensitive in coming to terms with his identity. The film boasts the kind of lyrical imagery and roving camera movements that Terrence Malick fans revere, but Zagar’s sharply studied focus offers a viscerally intimate family portrait. —JD
“The Bisexual” (Season 1, 2018)
“Appropriate Behavior” filmmaker and star Desiree Akhavan brings her dry humor and frank sexuality to this brisk six-episode comedy, which was produced by the UK’s Channel 4 in partnership with Hulu in 2018. Taking a refreshing reverse approach to Kevin Smith’s definitive bisexual film “Chasing Amy,” Akhavan explores bisexuality through the lens of a woman leaving her long term queer partnership to explore dating men again. Like her character in “Appropriate Behavior,” Leila is messy, seductive, wayward, and appealing. More women like this, please. —JD
“Difficult People” (Seasons 1-3, 2015-2017)
In many ways, Julie Klausner’s whipsmart comedy about a pair of charmingly neurotic New Yorkers was ahead of its time. A true sitcom in a TV landscape that never met a dramedy it didn’t like, “Difficult People” is stuffed to the brim with mile-a-minute jokes, pop culture references, and never pulls its punches. Billy Eichner is one of our most beloved gay actors, and as the co-lead he is given the full range of human experiences, including a romance with none other than John Cho. The show also features hilarious turns by Cole Escola, Shakina Nayfack, Andrea Martin, and James Urbaniak. As a staunch supporter of LGBTQ folks and a damn funny woman, Klausner is deeply committed to putting queer stories onscreen, making most “allies” appear paltry in comparison. —JD
“Everything’s Gonna Be Okay”
This warmhearted family story was created by and starring “Please Like Me” creator Josh Thomas, who stars as Nicholas, a young Australian gay man living in America. When an unexpected cancer diagnosis leads to his father’s sudden passing, Nicholas is left as the legal guardian to his two younger stepsisters.
The portrait of a shifting family finds its strength in engaging with things how they are, striking a magical balance between the three siblings plunged into a new family dynamic. By finding moments of brightness in overwhelming circumstances, “Everything’s Gonna Be Okay” has an infectious, energetic momentum to it. Finding love and laughter in unexpected places, one of the main things that comes across in “Everything’s Gonna Be Okay” is that there’s an abundance of acceptance. Not just in regards to who people are, but in how best to move forward from the unexpected. — SG
The BBC’s popular feminist thriller thrived on the erotically charged, unconsummated, mutually obsessive Sapphic tension at its center. Jodie Comer stars as a cold-blooded killer nursing a red-hot-longing for the brilliant detective (Sandra Oh) who is obsessed with hunting her down. An amoral hedonist with a taste for the finer things in life, Villanelle is the epitome of over-the-top high femme indulgence — only with a killer instinct as brutal as any toxic butch. As the women nurse and revel in the visceral wounds they give each other, their Dom/sub cat and mouse relationship shifts wildly over the course of four seasons. The series’ finale left many fans hot (and bothered) under the collar, but never bored. —JD
“Love, Victor” (Seasons 1-3, 2020-2022)
When 20th Century Fox released “Love, Simon” in 2018, it was the first studio movie to feature a gay teen coming out story. Though it was cheesy as hell, the comedy warmed the hearts of queer audiences of all ages, most of whom had never seen a reflection of their young selves in a big-screen movie with A-list stars. Wisely capitalizing on its success, 20th Television tapped “Love, Simon” screenwriters Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger to create “Love, Victor,” which passed the baton to Latinx teen Victor Salazar (cutie pie Michael Cimino) and his tight-knit family, exploring cultural nuances of LGBTQ acceptance through a Latinx lens. Wholesome, funny, and occasionally PG-13 steamy, the baby show is now a fully-fledged teenager with an identity of its own. —JD
“The L Word” (Seasons 1-6, 2004-2009)
Since 2004, there have been two fundamental questions of lesbian culture in America: “What’s your sign?” and “Which ‘The L Word’ character are you?” Whether you’re rewatching Ilene Chaiken’s beloved Showtime dramedy for the umpteenth time — or you’re a newbie trying to figure out if being “a Jenny” is a bad thing (it is, and haha, yikes, you are) — “The L Word” is TV’s answer to aughts lesbians’ need for a gayer, bronzier “Sex and the City.”
The show is absurdly uneven, handling trans representation among other gender and identity topics incredibly poorly. There’s even an outright racist subplot in the pilot, which makes pitching the show to contemporary viewers justifiably challenging. But “The L Word” has had an undeniable impact on queer television, and it improves in Seasons 2 and 3 (minus that one unforgivable mistake even Chaiken has apologized for, of course). Even its rougher edges tend to come off more campy than cruel, and with a New York-set reboot in the works, there’s no better time to reacquaint yourself with The Chart. —AF
“My So-Called Life” (Season 1, 1994-1995)
Angela Chase (Claire Danes) was the original small screen queen of teen moodiness in Winnie Holzman’s groundbreaking, all-too-short-lived ABC series that ran for one season from 1994 to early 1995. The show may be best remembered by many for Angela’s burning obsession with broody bad boy Jordan Catalano (a devastatingly rakish Jared Leto, who surely made us all question our sexuality more than once).
But the soul of the series is early TV queer icon Rickie Vasquez, the gay mayor of Liberty High, unafraid of gender-bending the dress code, wearing flashy makeup, and being his fabulous self. As played by Wilson Cruz, his homelife was often fraught with pain and abuse, with Rickie being forced to move between various foster homes (including, at one point, the Chases). But Rickie was a rare (and probably the first) example on mainstream TV of an unabashedly LGBTQ character whose queerness the storytellers always celebrated. For a young generation of questioning viewers, Rickie was undoubtedly an icon and a source of hope. —RL
“Pose” (Seasons 1-3, 2018-2021)
Created by Steven Canals, Ryan Murphy, and Brad Falchuk, “Pose” is the first television series to feature multiple transgender women of color in leading roles, and has been hailed as a bastion of inclusion and authentic LGBTQ storytelling. Beginning in the ballroom scene of the late-1980s and jumping ahead as its explosion in popularity following Madonna’s “Vogue” coincides with the AIDS crisis, “Pose” boldly portrays the community’s history in all of its pain and glory. For his role as PrayTell, Billy Porter became the first openly gay black man to win an Emmy for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series, and “Pose” broke yet another barrier in 2021 when MJ Rodriguez became the first out trans performer to win a Golden Globe for her work on the show. —JD
“RuPaul’s Drag Race” (Seasons 2-9, 2010-2017)
Racers, start your engines, and may the best reality competition series about the irreplaceable art of drag… win!
RuPaul is something of a controversial figure in the LGBTQ community (in no small part because of that fracking controversy), but to deny the global empire his personal artistry and god-given reality TV talent have inspired would require covering your eyes and ears in countless queer spaces.
Since debuting on Logo in 2009, “RuPaul’s Drag Race” has launched the global careers of countless drag superstars and become a fixture of American LGBTQ nightlife. Watch parties dominate whatever day of the week “Drag Race” falls on, and the queens who compete on the show are among some of the most well-known worldwide. You can’t stream the complete “Drag Race” collection anywhere without buying it. (After Logo, the show moved to VH1 but airs on MTV in 2023.) But you can catch Seasons 2 through 9 on Hulu now. With the arrival of iconic competitors from Patrice Royale to Trixie Mattel, 2010 to 2017 covers some of the best years in the show’s her-story. —AF
Lolly Adefope steals scene after scene in “Shrill”: Hulu’s feminist Aidy Bryant vehicle about a Portland journalist, which — let’s be honest — could have been a lot gayer but is still pretty fun on the whole. Based on Lindy West’s memoir of the same name, “Shrill” explores intersectional disadvantage as it relates to racism, sexism, and fatphobia through the lens of a simple but sweet situational comedy.Adefope plays Fran: the electric queer roommate of Bryant’s stuck-in-her-shell heroine.
Opposite her later in the series is E. R. Fightmaster (you might recognize them from “Grey’s Anatomy”) as Fran’s romantic interest Em. Em and Fran’s storyline is endearingly earnest but uncompromising in its honesty. In Season 2, “Shrill” audiences get one of the best TV karaoke scenes of all time by way of Fran singing Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s “Shallow” solo. The rest of the time she’s a likable comedic stinger, with some of the best lines in the largely heteronormative show: “You look like a parker ranger in a porno.” —AF
“Steven Universe” (Seasons 1-5, 2013-2019)
Even before its historic same-sex marriage proposal and kiss, queerness was a key part of Rebecca Sugar’s landmark Cartoon Network series, which broke new ground for its frank portrayal of sexuality and gender identity in children’s programming. Since its premiere in 2013, the critically acclaimed show has wielded zany comedy, drama, and visual metaphors to teach viewers of all ages that sexuality is fluid. Sugar, who is bisexual, spent five seasons building up the same-sex relationship between Ruby and Sapphire, from an onscreen marriage proposal to an uncensored lip-to-lip kiss, a major milestone for LGBTQ visibility in kids’ shows. The show also features both non-binary and polyamorous characters, making it by far one of the queerest shows on TV. —JD
“Vida” (Seasons 1-3, 2018-2022)
If you haven’t caught up with Tanya Saracho’s brilliantly entertaining and sizzlingly sexy “Vida,” whatever are you waiting for? The half-hour dramedy is by far the best show about queer women of color on TV, perhaps ever. Even more impressive is how the story tracks the shifting Los Angeles neighborhood of Boyle Heights, thoughtfully navigating the difficult choices communities face in gentrification’s unceasing churn. Though it ended far too soon with a half-sized third season, hopefully its continuing fan base will help get Saracho’s next project off the ground. —JD
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