It’s been more than 90 years since the first same-sex kiss was seen on screen. Since then, there have been dozens of gay kisses in TV shows and movies, but there needs to be more. Compared to heterosexual kisses in the media, of which there have been hundreds of thousands, same-sex relationships on screen have been historically underrepresented, so we took it upon ourselves to highlight 20 same-sex kisses that have changed TV and movie history for the better.
The first same-sex kiss was in the 1927 silent film, Wings, an Oscar-winning romance war movie, which showed two male soldiers kissing in the trenches of World War I. While the kiss wasn’t romantic—the moment was between young handsome soldier John Powell and his dying friend David Armstrong—it was still a major moment in the LGBTQ+ community as the first kiss between two men on screen.
Fast forward to 2020, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a network that doesn’t have a show with a romantic relationship between two characters of the same sex. The LGBTQ+ community in the media has come a long way, but there’s still a long way to go for queer romances to be shown as often as their heterosexual counterparts. As we continue to make history, look back on these 20 same-sex kisses that defined the entertainment industry.
Wings was the first film to show a same-sex kiss. The silent, a romance war movie, showed two male soldiers kissing while hunkered down in a trench in World War I. The kiss was between John Powell, a young handsome soldier, and his dying friend, David Armstrong. Though it wasn’t romantic, Wings is still regarded as the first time in cinema that audiences saw a kiss between two men.
Making Love (1982)
Making Love broke ground when it premiered in 1982 for a kiss scene between Harry Hamlin’s Bart McGuire and Michael Ontkean’s Zack Elliot. The film is about a married man as he comes to terms with his homosexuality and is torn in a love triangle between his wife and another man. The movie is regarded as one of the first mainstream films to center on a gay romance.
L.A. Law (1991)
L.A. Law made history in 1991 for the first same-sex kiss on TV. The moment, which was in the episode “He’s a Crowd,” was between bisexual law associate C.J. Lamb and straight lawyer Abby Perkins. The Associated Press reported at the time that NBC lost advertisers and received 85 calls to the network about the moment, more than half of which were negative. Still, GLAAD praised the network for the scene, and NBC reported that, though it lost advertisers, it gained others because of the episode.
The “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” episode of Roseanne was another monumental moment in gay media. The episode follows Roseanne and Jackie as they accompany their newly out friend Nancy and her girlfriend, Sharon, to a local gay bar. At the bar, Roseanne meets a woman, and the two kiss. ABC attempted to pull the episode, but executive Tom Arnold fought back. In the end, the network released the episode with a Parental Advisory notice.
The Real World (1994)
The Real World: San Francisco in 1994 included one of the series’ first LGBTQ+ cast members, a gay man named Pedro Zamora, who was HIV positive. The season documented Zamora’s relationship with his partner, Sean Sasser, and showed the two exchanging rings and kissing in a commitment ceremony. Zamora passed away at the age of 22 a few hours after the season finale aired.
The first lesbian wedding on TV was in season 2 of Friends between Carol Willick (Ross’ ex-wife) and her new wife, Susan Bunch. The episode, titled “The One With the Lesbian Wedding,” centered on the ceremony as the six friends celebrate Carol and Susan’s love.
Ellen DeGeneres became the first openly lesbian actor to play an openly lesbian character on her self-titled sitcom in 1997. DeGeneres came out in real life only a few months after her character came out on TV.
Dawson’s Creek (2000)
The season 3 finale of Dawson’s Creek was one of the first times that two men were shown kissing on TV. The kiss was between Jack and his ex-boyfriend, Ethan. The moment came after Jack went to Boston to win Ethan back, and the two shared a passionate kiss to rekindle their relationship. The episode’s director, James Whitmore, has said that the WB, the network Dawson’s Creek aired on, was nervous to show the kiss but were convinced that “airing the scene would be in their favor.”
Will & Grace (2000)
Will & Grace was one of the first mainstream TV shows to have two queer main characters. The series received backlash after season 1 when it didn’t show a same-sex kiss with either of its male characters. In season 2, the series responded to the criticism in an episode where Will and Jack protest outside the Today show studios in New York City after NBC cut a same-sex kiss on a primetime show. When the cameras cut to them, Will kisses Jack.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (2003)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer is known as one of the first TV shows to feature a bedroom scene between two women. In episode 16 of season 5, Willow and Amber share a private kiss in a bedroom, which hinted at intimacy between the characters. While sex wasn’t shown, the scene was considered a first at the time.
All My Children (2003)
All My Children became one of the first daytime shows and soap operas to feature a same-sex kiss. The moment, which was between Bianca and Lena, came after Erica Kane’s daughter came out as a lesbian. While the 2003 moment was a closed-mouth kiss, it was a step in a positive direction for LGBTQ+ representation. Still, many fans criticized the show for taking another five years for Bianca to have sex with a woman on TV, despite the daily sex scenes of straight characters.
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Brokeback Mountain became one of the first mainstream movies to center on a homosexual relationship when it premiered in 2005. One of the most memorable kisses in the film is between Heath Ledger’s Ennis Del Mar and Jake Gyllenhaal’s Jack Twist when they reunite after four yeas apart.
Grey’s Anatomy (2009)
Callie Torres and Arizona Robinson were a fan-favorite couple on Grey’s Anatomy for years as one of the first same-sex couples in a mainstream primetime show. Callie and Arizona’s first kiss was in season 5 after they meet at a bar.
Modern Family (2010)
After Will & Grace, Modern Family was one of the first mainstream sitcoms to center on a gay couple. Like the NBC sitcom, Modern Family was also criticized for not featuring a kiss between Cam and Mitch, two gay married men, in its first season. Cam and Mitch’s first on-screen kiss came in season 2, which was praised by GLAAD.
For many millennials, including actor Ben Platt, the relationship between Kurt Hummel (Chris Colfer) and Blaine Anderson (Darren Criss) on Glee was monumental. The two meet in season 2 after Kurt spies for his glee club at the Dalton Academy, where Blaine is a member. Later in the season, the two share a first kiss after Blaine falls in love with Kurt after hearing him sing.
The Fosters (2015)
The Fosters made history on Freeform for its mixed family of adopted children with two lesbian moms. In a 2015 episode, the series also showed a kiss between 13-year-olds Jude and Connor. The moment was criticized by One Million Moms, but fans praised the scene as a positive step for LGBTQ+ representation.
Despite the La La Land fiasco, Moonlight became the first movie centered on a gay romance to win Best Picture at the Oscars in 2017. The film is about a gay love story between two men at different stages of their life, from their teenage years to when they’re adults. The film culminated with a kiss between the characters as grown-ups who have come to term with their sexuality.
Love, Simon (2018)
When Love, Simon premiered in 2018, the film became one of the few teen rom coms to star a gay lead. The movie, based on the 2015 book Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, is about a closeted gay teenager who becomes pen pals with anonymous gay student at his high school. At the end of the movie, Simon meets the student, a classmate named Bram, and the two share a romantic kiss atop a ferris wheel.
Rocketman is a biopic about the life and career of Elton John, who is openly gay. After the film premiered, publications like Esquire and The Hollywood Reporter praised the film for featuring an unfiltered look at a gay sex scene between two men. Many fans commended the film for not alluding to sex, as many movies have done in the past, but showed a more direct look at an intimate moment between actors Taron Egerton and Richard Madden.
Bachelor in Paradise (2019)
In 2019, The Bachelor franchise, which premiered in 2002, made history with its first same-sex couple on any of its shows. The monumental moment was on season 6 of Bachelor in Paradise, which featured a romance between two women: Bachelor alum Demi Burnett and her girlfriend Kristian Haggerty. The two even got engaged in the finale. While the romance didn’t work out, fans hoped that the relationship opened the door for more non-heterosexual couples on the Bachelor franchise.
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