Jonica T. Gibbs stars as Hattie in BET’s new TV series “Twenties,” the first show in the network’s 40-year history to centre an LGBTQ lead.
Jonica T. Gibbs stars as Hattie in BET’s new TV series “Twenties,” the first show in the network’s 40-year history to centre an LGBTQ lead. Credit: Courtesy Michael Kubeisy/BET
TV and Film
6 min

The 15 essential LGBTQ films and TV shows of 2020

What’s the best part about kicking off a new year? Giving the film and television industry another chance to try to accurately and authentically portray LGBTQ people on screen. Sure, we’ve seen immense progress over the 2010s with shows like Pose and Schitt’s Creek and films like Moonlight and Love, Simon. But as we enter the new decade, I want more!

The roaring 2020s are off to a great start if this year’s projected slate of queer and trans content is any indication. To help you wade through the many offerings, here are 15 films and TV shows any self-respecting LGBTQ person should have on their radar.

9-1-1: Lone Star 

Call “9-1-1 Lone Star!” Brian Michael Smith is the first Black trans man to be a series regular on television.
Call “9-1-1 Lone Star!” Brian Michael Smith is the first Black trans man to be a series regular on TV. Credit: Courtesy Jack Zeman/FOX/CTV

I’m not sure why procedural dramas that are not Law and Order: SVU even try. But I’ll be tuned into the first season of Fox’s 9-1-1: Lone Star when it premieres Jan. 19 for one reason only: It features Brian Michael Smith in a historic role that makes him the first Black trans man to be a series regular on television. The show is a spin-off of the Angela Bassett-led 9-1-1, co-created by Ryan Murphy, who—spoiler alert—will be included in this list a lot.

Fortune Feimster: Sweet & Salty

Fortune Feimster gets “Sweet and Salty” in her new TV special.
Comedian Fortune Feimster gets “Sweet and Salty” in her new TV special. Credit: Courtesy Peter Taylor/Netflix

Plainly put, lesbian comic Fortune Feimster deserves! She’s been putting in the comedy work for some time now, and she finally has her own Netflix stand-up special. And you can best believe—as the recently released trailer proves—it’s gonna be double-a gaay. It hits the streaming platform on Jan. 21.

Birds of Prey

There’s a lot to be said about superhero franchises and the games both Marvel and DC love to play with our queer hearts. But with the bisexual Harley Quinn (played by Oscar-nominated Margot Robbie reprising her role from Suicide Squad) as the lead character in DC’s Birds of Prey, the world awaits how her sexuality—and that of characters like lesbian police detective Renee Montoya (played by the legendary Rosie Perez)—will be rendered. We don’t want any more of that “coded as gay” shit! In theatres Feb. 7.

And Then We Danced

A coming-of-age, gay love story set in conservative Tbilisi, Georgia—the country, not the U.S. state—And Then We Danced has already garnered headlines for the violent protests the award-winning film has received in its home country where being gay is taboo and anti-LGBTQ violence is common. The film follows Merab, a competitive dancer thrown off balance by the arrival of Irakli, a fellow male dancer with a rebellious streak. It debuts in U.S. theatres Feb. 7. (No Canadian release dates, yet.)

Portrait of a Lady On Fire

Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel heat up the screen in the film “Portrait of a Lady on Fire.”
Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel heat up the screen in the film “Portrait of a Lady on Fire.” Credit: Courtesy MK2/Mile End

One of the best films I saw in 2019 at the Toronto International Film Festival, Portrait of a Lady on Fire is must-watch filmmaking. Its planned release across North America is on Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14), and this sublime lesbian love story is perfect for date night. Queer writer-director Céline Sciamma did what she needed to do! Portrait of a Lady on Fire is automatically canonical. Don’t fight me on this.

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist

Jane Levy stars as Zoey in “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist.”
Jane Levy stars as Zoey in “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist.” Credit: Courtesy James Dittiger/NBC

NBC’s new musical dramedy about a young woman who discovers she can hear the innermost thoughts of people around her in the form of songs and musical numbers has already released its pilot episode—which you can watch on YouTube. New episodes of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist start Feb. 16. Though it stars Jane Levy, Skylar Astin and Lauren Graham, I’m tuning in for Alex Newell whose Glee renditions of “If I Were A Boy” and “I Know Where I’ve Been” still give me chills.

Twenties

Lena Waithe is dead-set on making BET as queer as possible. Her new show Twenties, which premieres March 4, is loosely based on her life. It follows Hattie (Jonica T Gibbs), a queer woman and aspiring TV writer, and her two straight best friends as they navigate their 20s, careers and romance in Los Angeles. It’s the first TV show in the network’s 40-year history to centre an LGBTQ2 lead.

Mulan

I think that by now we’ve all come to an agreement that Mulan, the character from the iconic Disney animated film of the same name, is not trans. Nevertheless, the movie does have inherent queerness in its narrative about a young Chinese woman who disguises herself as a male warrior in order to save her father. A live-action version hits theatres March 27.

Hollywood

Ryan Murphy has entirely too many projects coming down the line now that he has a massive Netflix production deal. Perhaps the one we know the least about—and are therefore the most interested in—is Hollywood. All we know is that it’s supposed to be “a love letter to the Golden Age of Tinseltown” and stars the likes of Glee alum Darren Criss, Pose alum Patti LuPone, Broadway breakout Jeremy Pope, the legendary Holland Taylor, Jim Parsons and more. It’s slated for an early May release, and because Murphy is involved we know it’s going to be queer AF, or at least very campy.

The Eternals

Superheroes won’t leave us alone, so here is yet another project we’re supposed to be ready to applaud. The Eternals is said to be the first Marvel film to feature an openly gay male superhero. Reports from Brazil’s Comic Con say that character is Phastos (played by Atlanta’s Brian Tyree Henry) who has been seen in a not-yet-released trailer hand-in-hand with a male partner and accompanied by two kids. I’ll believe it when I see it Nov. 6.

Happiest Season

A queer, holiday-themed romantic comedy? I’m already in! This one stars Kristen Stewart and Mackenzie Davis (Terminator: Dark Fate) as a lesbian couple headed to Davis’s family home for the holidays, where Stewart plans to pop the question. But that plan is averted when it’s revealed that Davis has yet to come out to her conservative parents. Happiest Season, written by comedian Mary Holland and Veep’s Clea DuVall, who also directs, lands in theatres Nov. 20.

I Am Not Okay With This

I haven’t truly been into a show about superpowers since Charmed—and that’s only because “The power of three will set us free!” But I Am Not Okay With This, an upcoming series from Netflix (release date pending) based on the Charles Forsman graphic novel of the same name, promises to be a fave for LGBTQ2 folk who love the supernatural. It stars Sophia Lillis (Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase) as a teenage girl in high school “dealing with the complexities of her family, her budding sexuality and mysterious superpowers that are beginning to awaken within her.”

The Half of It

Alice Wu, writer-director of the 2004 movie Saving Face, is back with her sophomore effort, a teen rom-com about a shy Chinese-American, straight-A student who’s enlisted to help her school’s top jock woo the girl he loves. In an amazing plot twist, she loves the girl, too. The Half of It stars Leah Lewis, Daniel Diemer and Alexxis Lemire. No release date as of yet.

Ammonite

Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan star in the film "Ammonite." Credit: Courtesy Samantha Joly/See Saw Films

We’re getting yet another olde-timey queer love story in the form of Ammonite, a romantic drama due in theatres sometime later this year. It’s 1840s England: An infamous fossil hunter and a young woman develop an intense relationship, altering both of their lives forever. The film stars Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan and is from God’s Own Country writer-director Francis Lee. I probably won’t see it (because corsets makes me queasy and these films never have people of colour in them) but I’m putting it on this list for all of you who loved The Favourite.

The Prom

Another Ryan Murphy production to watch this fall is his adaptation of the beloved queer musical The Prom. It’s about four washed-up Broadway vets who vow to help a lesbian student who is banned from bringing her girlfriend to prom. The Netflix flick stars Meryl Streep, James Corden, Nicole Kidman and Andrew Rannells as the central quartet, with Keegan-Michael Key, Awkwafina and Kerry Washington supporting.