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May's must-see queer movies and shows, from 'Doctor Strange 2' to 'Downton Abbey'

This month’s LGBTQ-inclusive watchlist includes a buzzy new Marvel movie, a "Downton Abbey" film spinoff and an abundance of drag queens.
Xochitl Gomez in "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness," Robert James-Collier in "Downton Abbey: A New Era" and Tian Richards in "Tom Swift."
Xochitl Gomez in "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness," Robert James-Collier in "Downton Abbey: A New Era" and Tian Richards in "Tom Swift."Matt Nighswander / NBC News; Marvel Studios; Focus Features; CW

While episodic storytelling rules the day in May, perhaps the most anticipated release of the month is “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” which prompted a censorship standoff ahead of its release. 

Other notable queer-inclusive films hitting theaters include spinoffs of popular TV shows: “Bob’s Burgers: The Movie” and “Downton Abbey: A New Era.” On streaming, new seasons of the cult favorites “Hacks” and “Stranger Things” join the latest Sally Rooney adaptation, “Conversations With Friends.”

'I Love That for You'

“Saturday Night Live” alum Vanessa Bayer is the star and a co-creator of this new comedy series loosely based on her childhood experience with leukemia. Bayer plays Joanna, a socially awkward Midwesterner who is still figuring out how to be an adult after having spent her teen years battling cancer. In a stroke of luck, Joanna lands her dream job as a TV personality on the home shopping channel SVN and comes face to face with her hero, the network’s most beloved host, Jackie Stilton (Molly Shannon). While Jackie instantaneously takes to the newbie, the rest of Joanna’s co-workers and her new boss, Patricia (Jenifer Lewis), prove harder to win over. That’s when Joanna, on the brink of losing her job, lies about her cancer being back and sees her career finally take off. 

In addition to the female leads, the campy series features a host of hilarious actors playing people you’d expect to find at a QVC-like network. On the talent side, there’s gay Southern queen Perry (Johnno Wilson) and mom-fluencer Beth (Ayden Mayeri). Behind the scenes, Patricia’s high-strung gay assistant, Darcy (Matt Rogers), keeps everyone in check.

“I Love That for You” season one premiered Sunday on Showtime.

'Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness'

Ahead of hitting the U.S. box office this month, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” has grabbed headlines for an approximately 12-second scene involving a lesbian superhero talking about her lesbian moms. The scene centers on the character America Chavez, the first lesbian superhero to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe, who is played by Xochitl Gomez (“The Baby-Sitters Club”). Although brief, America’s mention of her “two moms” prompted Saudi Arabia to withhold a release permit until the scene was cut, which Disney, which owns the rights to the MCU, has refused to do. It is the second showdown between Disney and the Saudi government in a year, after “Eternals” was banned across the Persian Gulf states for featuring the MCU’s first gay superhero and his husband.

Gomez joins a cast led by Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays Doctor Strange, a neurosurgeon-turned-wizard, and Elizabeth Olsen, who plays Wanda Maximoff, aka the Scarlet Witch. Also known as “Doctor Strange 2,” the film, a sequel to the 2016 film named after the title character, follows the events of the Disney+ series “Wanda-Vision.”

“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” opens Friday in U.S. theaters.

'Lux Æterna'

Director Gaspar Noé (“Irreversible”) makes dizzying, sexy, avant-garde films, and the Cannes Queer Palm nominee “Lux Æterna” is no different. The film began as an assignment to make a 15-minute commercial for Yves Saint Laurent and ended up as a 50-minute meditation on directing, feminism and genre. The mockumentary features French femme fatale Béatrice Dalle, playing herself, as a first-time director shooting a film about medieval witch hunts. When the film opens, Dalle is sharing a mostly lighthearted conversation with her leading lady, Charlotte Gainsbourg, who also plays herself, about their exploitive experiences working with male directors. That sets the stage for a derivative film packed with allusions to works by directors like Jean-Luc Godard, Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Federico Fellini, which climaxes as the fictional shoot descends into chaos and psychedelic visuals. When it’s all said and done, Noé’s abbreviated new offering feels like something between Fellini’s “8 ½” and a sexploitation horror film from the 1970s.

“Lux Æterna” opens Friday in U.S. theaters.


The deadpan comedy series “Hacks” was somewhat of a sleeper hit when it premiered in May 2021. But within a few months, it had a loyal fan base, a renewal for season two and multiple big-category Emmys, including Jean Smart’s lead actress award. (Smart also won the Golden Globe for best actress in a TV musical or comedy series.) Now the cast reunites on the road, leaving comedian Deborah Vance’s (Smart) beloved Las Vegas in the dust. 

Picking up where season one ended, Vance has lost her hotel residency to a younger act, but in the process she has found a new comedic edge. In a play to win back her status as a headliner, she’s taking her act and her joke writer, Ava (Hannah Einbinder), on tour. As usual, the two women are either swapping acidic digs over things like Deborah’s generational humor and Ava’s bisexuality or bonding over cocktails and life’s hardships. Among the returning characters is Marcus (Carl Clemons-Hopkins), Deborah’s right hand, who continues to give a weighty performance rooted in existential dread. The role made Clemons-Hopkins the first nonbinary person to be nominated for a best supporting actor Emmy.

“Hacks” season two premieres May 12 on HBO Max.

'On the Count of Three'

Jerrod Carmichael may be the year’s biggest breakout star. His third stand-up special for HBO, “Rothaniel,” was an immediate success when it premiered April 1 — in no small part because he used it as an opportunity to come out to the world. The day after, Carmichael opened “Saturday Night Live” with easily the most amusing monologue of the season. And this month, “On the Count of Three,” his directorial debut, is released in theaters. 

“On the Count of Three” is a black comedy about best friends Val (Carmichael) and Kevin (Christopher Abbott), who make a suicide pact and then spend their final day together, getting their affairs in order. For Kevin, that means getting revenge on his sexually abusive childhood psychologist, Dr. Brenner (Henry Winkler). And for Val, that means confronting his abusive father (J.B. Smoove) and his ex-girlfriend Natasha (Tiffany Haddish). In the trailer, the two friends go on a joy ride, running from the cops and smashing a lot of things — like Thelma and Louise but guys in their mid-30s listening to Papa Roach.

“On the Count of Three” opens May 13 in U.S. theaters.

'Conversations With Friends'

The team that brought “Normal People” to Hulu is tackling another Sally Rooney adaptation. “Conversations With Friends,” like its predecessor, is a steamy romance brimming with complicated sexual dynamics. Newcomer Alison Oliver plays Frances, a recent college graduate who performs live poetry with her best friend and former lover, Bobbi (Sasha Lane). Frances and Bobbi are exceedingly close, even for two women who used to sleep together. But when they meet a slightly older writer and actor couple, Nick (Joe Alwyn of “The Favourite”) and Melissa (Jemima Kirke of “Girls”), the friends find themselves growing apart, each closer to one of the posh spouses.

“Conversations With Friends” season one premieres May 15 on Hulu.

'Downton Abbey: A New Era'

It seems that Thomas Barrow, the lovable villain of the "Downton Abbey" downstairs, may finally be getting a happy ending. In the new sequel to Julian Fellowes’ 2019 film spinoff, Barrow (Rob James-Collier) returns along with the other familiar faces of the Crawley staff for another grand adventure. Perhaps this time it’ll even be their last.

“Downton Abbey: A New Era” involves two central plotlines, one that takes place in the fabled family home and the other in the south of France. Robert (Hugh Bonneville), Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) and some of the others travel abroad to investigate a villa that has been bequeathed to the family’s sharp-tongued matriarch, Lady Grantham (Maggie Smith), by a former love interest. And back at the estate in England, Mary (Michelle Dockery) supervises a film crew that’s shooting on location in exchange for funds to repair the house. In the trailer, the film-within-a-film’s dashing male star, Guy Dexter (Dominic West), cozies up to Barrow, hinting at a hopeful new era for the franchise’s unluckiest-in-love character.

“Downton Abbey: A New Era” opens May 20 in U.S. theaters.

'RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars'

As the “Drag Race” universe expands around the globe and into various spinoffs and live productions, series creator RuPaul finds more and more ways to up the ante. This month, it’s with the premiere of a winners-only season seven of “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars.” The unique format was announced the week before Willow Pill, the pocket-size queen who embraced offbeat humor, was crowned the winner of “Drag Race” season 14 — giving fans little time to shift gears before speeding into what will surely be a wild ride of an “All Stars” season. The cast of already crowned queens includes: Jaida Essence Hall, Jinkx Monsoon and Monét X Change. Helping RuPaul and the veteran co-panelists decide who takes home the title of “Queen of All Queens” is a buzzy collection of guest stars, including Cameron Diaz, Naomi Campbell, Ronan Farrow and Nancy Pelosi.

“RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars” season seven premieres May 20 on Paramount+ and VH1.

'Bob's Burgers: The Movie'

Just after the final season of the beloved animated series “Bob’s Burgers” comes to a close on May 22, fans will be able to see the Belchers in their feature film debut. In “Bob’s Burgers: The Movie,” it’s high season for the mom-and-pop burger joint, but, as usual, something disastrous stands in the way of commercial success: a giant sinkhole that opens up right in front of the restaurant. While Bob and his optimistic, wine-guzzling wife, Linda, try to figure out how to run things without an entrance, their quirky kids work behind the scenes to solve a mystery that could decide the fate of the family business.

Since it began airing on Fox in 2011, the offbeat series has been one of the most LGBTQ-friendly shows on mainstream television. Over 12 seasons, it has included a Pride parade, a lengthy list of LGBTQ guest stars and recurring characters — including sex worker Marshmallow (David Herman) and limo driver Nat Kinkle (Jillian Bell) — and plenty of queer coding.

“Bob’s Burgers: The Movie” opens May 27 in U.S. theaters.

'Stranger Things'

After a two-year break, the cult hit series “Stranger Things” returns this month with part one of its penultimate season. Set in 1980s Indiana, the show began with a group of adolescents who investigated the supernatural occurrences and mysterious happenings of their hometown after the disappearance of a local boy, Will (Noah Schnapp), and the arrival of a young girl, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), who has psychokinetic powers. Years later, the storylines have become more complex, and so have the characters, leading tuned-in fans to speculate that this will be the season that confirms long-running theories about Will’s sexuality. If the rumors prove to be true, Will would be the series’ second LGBTQ character, after actor Maya Hawke’s Robin was introduced last season.

“Stranger Things” season four, part one premieres May 27 on Netflix.

'Tom Swift'

The CW’s Stratemeyer Syndicate mystery book universe is expanding with a new spinoff series, centering on Tom Swift, a wealthy inventor who enters a sci-fi world of action and adventure after his father disappears. Like Nancy Drew, Tom Swift was the lead character of an early 20th century book series, created by Edward Stratemeyer, of Hardy Boys fame. In the small-screen adaptation, Tian Richards, in his biggest role to date, plays the title character, who was introduced in season two of the network’s “Nancy Drew” series. Flipping the usual dynamic, Tom, who is queer, is accompanied on his adventures by his best friend and partner in crime, Zenzi, played by Ashleigh Murray (“Riverdale”). Providing technical support is Tom’s AI Barclay, voiced by none other than LeVar Burton, who is best known for “Reading Rainbow,” “Roots” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

“Tom Swift” season one premieres May 31 on The CW.

In case you missed it ...


Since it premiered last month, the new Netflix series about first love, “Heartstopper,” has set social media abuzz. Many queer viewers have latched on to the love story between the lead characters, Charlie (Joe Locke) and Nick (Kit Connor), who meet at an all-boys school and quickly fall head over heels for each other. While the series is supremely sweet, there’s more angst than in some of the newer queer teen rom-coms, which has made it a more relatable watch for older viewers. But overall, it’s very much of this moment, with friends and family members — including Nick’s mom, who is played by the acclaimed actor Olivia Colman — rising to the occasion and supporting the young lovers.

“Heartstopper” season one is available on Netflix.

'Ten Percent'

“Call My Agent,” the sometimes stylish, sometimes slapstick series about French talent agents, is crossing the channel. The new series, “Ten Percent,” features a London agency, Nightingale Hart, modeled after its Parisian equivalent, Agence Samuel Kerr. In addition to the host of assistants, talent and other agents, the British office boasts its very own Andréa, the impossibly cool lesbian heartbreaker who’s known for staging hostile takeovers. Playing Andréa’s counterpart, Robin, is Lydia Leonard, whom fans of “Gentleman Jack” will recognize for her role as one of Anne Lister’s great loves. 

“Ten Percent” season one is available in the U.S. on AMC+.

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