Romantic comedies are some of the best trope-filled movies in Hollywood. One of those tropes often seen is the gay best friend (GBF), there to support the lead character (typically the female lead), provide comedy, and not much else.
Isn’t It Romantic? is a new rom com, out tomorrow (13 February), and continuing the trend of the rom com renaissance.
It takes the trope of the gay best friend and flips it on its head — but before you head out to the theater, why not look back on some gay best friends in rom com history?
Note: This list includes characters from movies that aren’t actually rom coms, but are usually discussed in the same breath (simply having teens and comedy does not a rom com make). For the purpose of including more characters, I’m using a much looser interpretation of a rom com.
11. Buddy, The Woman in Red
It likely has to do with the fact that this is the oldest film on the list, coming out in 1984, because it definitely feels the most dated. Charles Grodin’s gay character Buddy doesn’t exist outside of a supporting role for the lead man, Teddy (Gene Wilder).
Still, at the time it was refreshing to have ‘one of the guys’ be gay and for that not to be a big deal.
10. Leo, Must Love Dogs
Just like Buddy, Leo (Brad William Henke) exists primarily in support of Diane Lane’s Sarah. Still, one way he excels above plenty of other gay best friends is that he has a life outside of being a GBF. He has a job and a partner, both of whom we get to see him enjoy.
Plus, even though his scenes are all primarily with Sarah and supporting her, their scenes are earnest and genuine. Despite being a trope, positive representations of friendship are still welcome.
9. Oliver, Crazy Rich Asians
Crazy Rich Asians was a smash hit last year — and for good reason. It brought diversity, complexity, glamor, and charm to the romantic comedy in ways we hadn’t seen in years (or sometimes ever).
The character Oliver broken ground as an out Asian gay character played by an out gay actor (Nico Santos). Still, as fun as he is in the film, he doesn’t have all that much to do.
8. Sammy, Reality Bites
Sammy (Steve Zahn) is part of a friend group in this 1994 film that follows the ups and downs of post-college life. Like Leo, he gets his own life outside of his friends. Unlike Leo, however, it’s much more substantive.
His plot involves coming out to his conservative parents, which may not seem groundbreaking now, but was more compelling in the 90s. Even better? He gets a happy ending.
The movie also deals with HIV and, despite having a gay male character, doesn’t equate it with gay men.
7. Brent and Tanner, G.B.F.
For a movie literally titled G.B.F., there’s no way it couldn’t make it on this list.
The movie doesn’t always work, but occasionally it nails the satire it’s going for. It makes a commentary of the gay best friend trend (especially for cis, straight women) and tackles the idea of stereotyping gay men.
When Tanner (Michael J. Willett) becomes the GBF of a popular clique, the girls are disappointed he doesn’t fit into their limited idea of the gay men they’ve seen on TV, so they give him a makeover.
At the end of the day, the movie was a step forward for such representation.
6. Brandon, Easy A
There’s something endlessly endearing about Dan Byrd’s performance as closeted high schooler Brandon. Sure, maybe faking losing your virginity to a girl isn’t the best idea, but high school is a cruel place and Brandon does what he has to do to protect himself. There are some genuinely touching moments between him and Olive (Emma Stone), giving more depth to his character as well.
5. Donny, Isn’t It Romantic?
Brandon Scott Jones’ Donny in the most recent Hollywood rom com is a stereotype — purposefully.
Most of this movie exists in a dream world, and part of that dream world, includes Donny as Natalie’s (Rebel Wilson) best friend. The movie makes fun of the fact that he is stereotypically flamboyant and seemingly has no interests or life outside of supporting and giving advice to Natalie.
Without giving away too much, Jones’ performance is hilarious and cleverly takes a jab at the one-dimensional representation that came before.
5. Damian, Mean Girls
Damian may seem a bit like a stereotype but there’s a reason he’s one of the most popular and quoted gay best friends. Daniel Franzese’s performance is, frankly, iconic.
‘That’s why her hair is so big, it’s full of secrets!’
‘Danny Devito! I love your work!’
‘I am beautiful — ‘
The list goes on.
3. George, The Object of My Affection
A straight woman falling for a gay guy is not new, nor is it always the best type of representation. This movie misses the mark occasionally but the friendship between George (Paul Rudd) and Nina (Jennifer Aniston) is the true heart and warmth of this film.
It’s one of the rare films that makes the gay best friend just as pivotal a character as the female lead, partly because George is, well, the object of Nina’s affection. But Rudd does a fantastic job with the role, making George a more tangible and well-rounded character. It’s also a breath of fresh air to see the gay best friend get a romance — and happy ending — of his own.
2. George, My Best Friend’s Wedding
‘But by God, there’ll be dancing.’
That line, said by the incomparable Rupert Everett, is enough to land George in spot number two. More than that, however, he’s one of the most iconic characters on this list and commands some of the best-remembered scenes of the movie. There’s a reason it ends with him and Julianne (Julia Roberts), instead of that terrible alternate ending.
1. Gareth and Matthew, Four Weddings and a Funeral
Four Weddings and a Funeral is not only one of the best romantic comedies of all time, it also has the best gay best friends of any rom com.
Gareth (Simon Callow) and Matthew (John Hannah) are romantic, funny, endearing, affectionate, and heartbreaking all at once. They are fully satisfied in their relationship together, and a pivotal part of the friend group.
Though the rom com part of the film is between Hugh Grant and Andie MacDowell, it’s Gareth and Matthew who represent true love.
I won’t give spoilers for a 25-year-old film, but needless to say, Matthew’s reading of a W.H. Auden poem makes me cry every time.