'Pose' | 20th Television/Disney-ABC Domestic Television
'Pose' | 20th Television/Disney-ABC Domestic Television
Across the past several decades, LGBTQIA representation in entertainment media has moved forward leaps and bounds. From queer stories making it into mainstream film releases to transgender actors finally being cast in trans roles, queer entertainment is steadily becoming more and more readily available, thanks in part to the offerings in Netflix's LGBTQIA section. From queer classics to modern favorites, we've compiled the must-see LGBTQIA TV shows and films that you can watch right now on Netflix.
Robia Rashid's ambitious family dramedy centers on an 18-year-old on the autism spectrum named Sam (It Follows' Keir Gilchrist) who's seeking a girlfriend and independence. The writers carefully employ therapy sessions and asides to shed light on autism, moves that are always more enjoyable than didactic. The humor sprinkled throughout rarely comes at the expense of its protagonist (ie. great fun facts about penguins and Antarctica). And he's not the only character trying to find himself: His younger sister Casey, played by Brigette Lundy-Paine, is a track star who feels as if she has to hold the family together and keep the questioning of her sexuality in secret. The show touts a message of inclusion and compassion, no matter the circumstances, to which all viewers can relate. It's an emotional ride, but one that's ultimately worth the investment, especially considering the bite-sized runtimes and the heft that sucker-punches you at the end.
Bonding (2018– )
Newly out Pete (Brendan Scannell) dreams of taking New York City’s comedy scene by storm. Dreams and reality are very different, though; Pete’s never actually performed in front of an audience and his job as a waiter can’t foot the bills alone. When he reconnects with his old BFF Tiff (Zoe Levin), a grad student by day and dominatrix by night, he’s offered a solution to his money problems—working as her assistant/bodyguard during her evening rendezvous. At first Pete’s squeamish at the thought of BDSM, but over time he’s able to find his own sexual liberation and confidence by exploring the kink community. Tiff and Pete—otherwise known as Mistress May and Master Carter—are the dead-faced antiheroes and model archetypes of the struggling millennial New Yorker.
Scott Everett White/Netflix
The Boys in the Band (2020)
Mart Crowley's seminal 1968 play The Boys in the Band got the feature film treatment by Netflix in 2020, revealing just how much and how little has changed for the community. Similar to how the first time the play was presented on screen in 1970 brought back the original Off-Broadway cast, this rendition finds Joe Mantello, who directed the 2018 Broadway revival, as director and reunites the same cast from the stage (Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, Matt Bomer, and others). Produced by Ryan Murphy, the recent adaptation has a bit of glitz to it that makes it its own, but that never manages to distract from how poignant this story of an unexpected guest's arrival at a birthday party remains.
Focus Features/Universal Pictures
The Danish Girl (2015)
Eddie Redmayne plays Lili Elbe, a transgender Danish painter who is the first person to undergo gender-reassignment surgery. Director Tom Hooper took great pains to recreate Lili's 1920s Copenhagen, and the end product is gorgeous, from the costumes to the canals to the brushstrokes of every artist who crosses the screen. Alicia Vikander's Oscar-winning supporting performance as Gerda, Lili's wife, lends an aching pathos to the transition.
Duck Butter (2018)
Alia Shawkat and Miguel Arteta's Duck Butter relies on a simple premise: What if a couple had sex every hour on the hour for 24 hours? Shawkat appears in the indie comedy as one half of the couple doing the deed non-stop, opposite Laia Costa, as two women fed up with millennial dating decide to take up in this experiment of sorts. While limited by its basic plot, the rawness and humanity of the film can't be contained by the humble four walls it largely takes place in.
Edge of Seventeen (1998)
A suburban '80s nostalgia trip, Edge of Seventeen is like a John Hughes movie if a John Hughes movie were to have ever focused on one of the gay kids hidden in the background of those teen classics. The coming-of-age story set in 1984 Ohio focuses on the teenaged Eric Hunter, who's obsessed with androgynous stars like Annie Lennox and Boy George and still figuring out his identity. A bit racier than your average teen dramedy as it delves into how easy it is to confuse sex with true feelings, it's an essential film about coming out and the dizzying feeling of sexual firsts.
Élite (2018– )
This teen drama centered on a wealthy private high school from Spain was a surprise hit when it first dropped on Netflix in 2018, and, standing at three seasons, it's easy to see why: a juicy murder mystery that runs through the entire season, obscene displays of wealth, and lots and lots of sex. On top of being a soapy whodunnit, Élite's issues-based side plots, dealing with topics like class inequality, xenophobia, and the stigma of HIV, are the running undercurrents that truly keep this show afloat. Even with subtitles, you'll have binged through this quick series before you know it.
Scott Patrick Green/Netflix
Everything Sucks! (2018)
Set in the '90s, this underrated Netflix original tells the coming-of-age stories of one Oregon high school's A/V and drama club members, embellishing the proceedings with plenty of pop-culture references and slang from the era. The show is like if Freaks and Geeks was actually set in the '90s and a lot cheesier, although it has just as much heart as the cult classic it's been compared to. There's ample nerds-versus-theater-kid rivalries as the series follows one student's attempt to make his first film starring a bunch of misfits, a group of angsty, multifaceted adolescents dealing with trying to fit in, stand out, and come to terms with their sexuality. It's a short, binge-worthy single season in which you should expect in-your-face nostalgia and a whole lot of youthful positivity even in a show whose namesake suggests it revels in a cynical teenage attitude.
Feel Good (2020–2021)
From Canadian comedian Mae Martin's own experiences, Feel Goodis a very bingeable dramedy that catches you in all of its feelings. The quick Netflix original traces the semi-fictitious Mae's struggle with addiction, something she struggles to accept about herself, as she falls head over heals into a relationship with a woman named George (Charlotte Ritchie) who has never been with another woman before. What follows the perfect meet-cute when George approaches Mae after her stand-up set is a whirlwind romance full of spontaneity and wit. The two are forced to confront their own respective issues, but you'll find their relationship unfold easy to get swept up in.
With shows like Nip/Tuck, American Crime Story, and American Horror Story to his name, TV maven Ryan Murphy earned his reputation for spilling blood. But with Glee, Murphy and co-creators Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan (Scream Queens) spill their guts, setting observations on gender, sexuality, relationships, disability, family, and teenhood to song. Those who saw the show's 30-second ads during its six-season run know Lea Michele's bubbly Rachel, the comical rivalry between music teacher Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison) and cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch), and the non-stop re-engineering of classic songs into pop a capella hits. But there's more to Glee than jazz hands and major chords; when these kids belt "Don't Stop Believin'," they beam those notes through a social shitstorm of Murphy's creation, and the journey is typically sweet.
The Half of It (2020)
"This is not a love story," the heroine of The Half of Itsays at the outset of the movie. It's one of those things teens tend to say, but it's hard to believe, especially given that the movie is streaming on Netflix, which has become known in recent years as a teen rom-com factory where saccharine romance reigns. But Alice Wu's The Half of It is truly not a love story, which makes it all the better. By the end of the film, no one has "gotten the girl" and there's no coupling up. Each of the three main characters goes their separate ways. It's not an upsetting conclusion, but it doesn't spoon-feed its audience a classic happy ending, opting for something more honest along the way.
Holding the Man (2015)
Based on Timothy Conigrave’s 1995 memoir, Australian film Holding the Man pieces together the 15-year romance of Tim (Ryan Corr) and his longtime partner, John (Craig Scott), as they grow up together, navigate parental damnation, and confront their HIV diagnoses. Through the highs and lows of their relationship—distance, infidelity, arguments, and guilt—there’s always a tenderness beneath the surface of their interactions. Equal parts heartwarming and heart-wrenching, Holding the Man strikes a sensitive chord and proves that some love is worth fighting for.
I Am Jonas (2018)
When a traumatic experience yanks his first gay lover away, quiet teen Jonas gives up on happiness. 18 years later he’s still reeling from the loss, looking for comfort in club nights and casual encounters, until a chance meeting forces him to confront the past and find closure. I Am Jonas straddles two timelines, showcasing the charm of Nicolas Bauwens and Félix Maritaud as young and grown Jonas. Originally released in France, it’s a coming-of-age picture that tackles grief and self-forgiveness in a way that few films dare to attempt, and fewer manage to accomplish.
I Am Not Okay With This (2020)
Don't be mistaken: This series may feature kids (Sophia Lillis, Wyatt Oleff) from the It movies and come from showrunners of both Stranger Things and The End of the F***ing World, but I Am Not Okay With This is actually none of those things. The dramedy is another adaptation of one of TEOTFW author Charles Forsman's graphic novels, though, about a teenaged girl named Syd who, on top of dealing with the recent loss of her father and struggling with her sexuality, somehow starts to experience superpowers. It borrows the nostalgic music cues and moodiness that made TEOTFW work, but on its own is a queer, tender story about how grief and anger can manifest in teenage girls. Telekinetically giving bullies bloody noses and destroying super markets aside, it's the kind of relatable angst that you could be very okay with.
La Casa de las Flores (2018–2020)
Does drama follow the de la Moras, or do the de la Moras breed drama? Either way, their lives are dramatic. The upper-class family owns a flower shop and a cabaret, both named La Casa de las Flores (The House of Flowers), and when they’re not busy fighting over how to run the businesses, they’re busy covering up scandals to keep the de la Mora name untarnished. La Casa de las Flores helped popularize the millennial telenovela genre by incorporating LGBTQ+ characters and progressive values into the typical soap opera style. The dark dramedy challenges traditional Mexican morality and shuts down queerphobic viewpoints in a satirical and digestible way, and soapy as it may be, it’s hard to stop watching.
One Day at a Time (2017–2020)
One Day at a Time is a throwback family sitcom in a world that can be unkind to audience laughter, big comedic performances, and that stage-bound multi-camera look. This clever remake of Norman Lear's '70s hit about a single mother raising two teenage daughters is more charming and funny than many of its seemingly "edgier" peers. Anchored by a lived-in performance from Justina Machado (Six Feet Under), the show finds familiar laughs in the way generations clash and families wage war, but it's also culturally specific, socially engaged, and leisurely paced in a way that makes it stand out from your average CBS family show. Netflix may have clumsily announced its cancelation on the platform, but the fan outcry didn't just point to the show's popularity; it got One Day at a Time a second (third?) life on Pop TV, until finally brought to an untimely end.
Other People (2016)
Other People was a deeply personal film for screenwriter/director Chris Kelly (SNL, The Other Two) to make. Resembling his own experience dealing with the death of a parent, the dramedy examines the relationship between a struggling comedy writer named David (Jesse Plemons) and his mother Joane (Molly Shannon) as he moves back home to be closer to his family while she's dying of cancer. With David's down-on-his-luck situation and having to face strained relations with his homophobic father on top of Joane's terminal fate, the film is meant to tear your heart out—and that's exactly what Shannon does in her sublime, moving performance. Its piercingly funny moments and the intimacy of the leads' relationship, as well as the personal experience its derived from, make this film all the more authentic and a lovely piece about loving the family we've got.
Writer-director Dee Rees' first feature film grapples with identity and belonging through a soul-stirring coming-of-age story set in Brooklyn, New York. Gifted 17-year-old Alike (Adepero Oduye) starts embracing her sexuality with the help of her friend Laura (Pernell Walker) and at the contempt of her mother, Audrey (Kim Wayans). Between the film's title, which means "outcast," and an opening quote by Audre Lorde—"Wherever the bird with no feet flew, she found trees with no limbs"—Rees offers a window into Alike's conflicted mind. She feels alone, and she wants that to change. Alike's private warfare samples from Rees' own personal experiences, and Oduye's tender embodiment of Alike elevated Pariah to its award-winning status praised by both GLAAD and NAACP.
The Politician (2019– )
Ryan Murphy's first Netflix series is all about the highs and lows, the losses and triumphs of… high school elections. Ben Platt (Dear Evan Hansen) plays Payton Hobart, a student convinced that his road the United States presidency begins with winning his high school student body election. Of course, things aren't that simple—Payton has to grapple with the twists and turns that get thrown his way while he keeps up a secret relationship with his opponent, River. It's all a bit excessive, but entertaining nonetheless.
Pose, co-created by Ryan Murphy, made waves from its start for having the largest cast of trans actors as series regulars on a scripted show, which includes Janet Mock and Our Lady J. Beyond the numbers, the series has been renowned for its genuine warmth and the due diligence it gives the 1980s New York City ball scene. Starring MJ Rodriguez, Indya Moore, Dominique Jackson, Angelica Ross, Hailie Sahar, and Billy Porter, the series is a standout.
Queer Eye (2018– )
Netflix's most successful reality television series just keeps on going. A reboot of the early 2000s series Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Queer Eye features experts Jonathan Van Ness, Tan France, Antoni Porowski, Bobby Berk, and Karamo Brown traveling around and helping people get their lives together. No longer limited to just fixing up clueless straight men, the Fab Five provide help with personal grooming, home renovation, style, food, and life in general while also navigating issues of politics and identity. It's not always smooth sailing, but at its core Queer Eye is well-intentioned, heartwarming, and a joy to watch.
Rocko's Modern Life: Static Cling (2019)
Beloved '90s favorite Rocko's Modern Life returned with the Netflix special Static Cling, which picks up 20 years after the show went off the air. After flying around in space for a few decades, Rocko and his friends Heffer and Filburt manage to make it back to O-Town. Nothing is how they remember it, however: In addition to new tech like smartphones, Rocko's favorite show The Fatheads has gone off the air and its creator has disappeared off the face of the earth. Rocko and his friends set out to find Rachel Bighead, the creator of The Fatheads, whom they previously knew as "Ralph" and has transitioned in their absence. Nick Adams, GLAAD's Director of Transgender Media, served as a consultant on the special.
Schitt's Creek (2015–2020)
Any time you have the chance to watch a comedic genius flexing the full range of her abilities, you should take it, and Catherine O'Hara flexes hard as Moira Rose in Schitt's Creek. The story of the formerly wealthy Rose family's struggle to adjust to life running a motel in a small Canadian town they bought for their son back in the early '90s gives her and co-star/series co-creator Eugene Levy ample material to work with. Also living with their grown children David (Daniel Levy, the show's co-creator and Eugene's real-life son) and Alexis (Annie Murphy), who still share a room in the motel—it's the perfect vehicle for the cast's whip-smart comedic instincts, while doubling as a roast of the extremely wealthy.
Can you imagine waking up one day with your consciousness suddenly interwoven with those of strangers from around the world? That's the fate of eight individuals in Sense8, and only the beginning of the otherworldly oddities these "sensates" experience as they discover what their connection means as they're being hunted down. This global adventure of a series comes from the Wachowski sisters of The Matrix fame; it eventually won a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Drama Series for its representation of LGBTQ characters and storylines.
Sex Education (2019– )
Sex Education is basically exactly what it says on the tin. Otis (Asa Butterfield), the repressed son of a sex therapist (Gillian Anderson), teams up with Maeve (Emma Mackey) to run an under-the-table sex therapy business at their high school despite the fact that Otis himself is a virgin. There's plenty going on outside of the business, however: Otis' best friend Eric (Ncuti Gatwa) must balance the expectations of his family with his sexuality and gender expression; bully Adam (Connor Swindells) grapples with his sexuality, taking it out on Eric and chafing under his father's strict expectations. Irreverent, funny, and yeah, sometimes painfully awkward, Sex Education is one of the better LGBTQ-inclusive teen comedies out there.
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power (2018–2020)
Reimagining the '80s series She-Ra: Princess of Power with fewer gender stereotypes and more diverse characters, this adventure cartoon brings queer representation to a level that’s not often explored in family-friendly television. When teenage warrior Adora stumbles upon a magical sword, she gains the power to embody She-Ra, a princess tasked with defeating a malicious army intent on taking over the planet. Not only does the heroine herself rank on the Kinsey Scale, but several supporting characters help amplify the narrative that sexuality and gender are fluid, and there’s no right way to express yourself. Whether platonic, romantic, or familial, the relationships in She-Ra pack a ton of nuance, carefulness, and empathy.
The Weinstein Company
A Single Man (2009)
Is life worth living after the sudden death of your partner? That’s the question Colin Firth’s forlorn George faces in this drama, based on the novel by Christopher Isherwood and directed by fashion designer Tom Ford. You’ll see Ford's eye in every gorgeous scene, as if the movie is one long, breathtaking couture commercial. Set in 1960s LA, A Single Man will simultaneously break your heart and give you hope as George interacts with colleagues, visits an old friend (Julianne Moore), and has a romantic tryst with a student at the university where he teaches—all as he decides whether this will be the day he ends his life.
A mostly autobiographical series from Ryan O'Connell, Special is a comedy that explores the intersections of disability and queerness by drawing on O'Connell's personal experiences. The series kicks off with Ryan (played by O'Connell himself) getting hit by a car just before starting a new job, leading to his coworkers assuming that the physical embodiment of his cerebral palsy is due to injuries from the accident. He rolls with it, seeing the assumption as a chance to get a fresh start and not be known as "the guy with cerebral palsy." Presented in brief 15-minute episodes, Special is funny, witty, and genuine.
Tales of the City (1993)
Long before the days of peak TV and streaming services, Tales of the City was prestige viewing. The show was originally a 1993 miniseries adapted from Armistead Maupin's novels about wide-eyed Mary Ann Singleton (Laura Linney) who moves to San Francisco in 1976 and into a room in 28 Barbary Lane run by the benevolent and eccentric Anna Madrigal (Olympia Dukakis). The narrative then swirls around Mary Ann and Anna's interconnected circle of friends and acquaintances, dipping into the LGBTQ community and the stuffy elite society that surrounds them. It's so charming that you'll feel right at home at 28 Barbary Lane. Plus, Netflix recently rebooted the series and set it in modern day to follow Mary Ann's daughter, played by Ellen Page, so there's even more Tales of the City to watch if you're so inclined once you finish this binge.