2020 rating


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Films released theatrically in 2020 under studio & official imprints
Total number of LGBTQ-inclusive films
Percent of LGBTQ-inclusive films of studio total releases
Films that pass the Vito Russo Test

Paramount Pictures was formed in 1916 when the Famous Players Film Company (founded in 1912) merged with two others. The Viacom Network acquired Paramount in 1994 and Viacom then re-merged with CBS in 2019, making Paramount currently sit under the ViacomCBS banner. Paramount became the first major studio to sign a multi-picture film deal with streaming giant Netflix in November 2018. However, in the future, several of Paramount’s films will stream on the recently rebranded Paramount+, ViacomCBS’s own streaming platform.

Paramount is known for big budget franchises such as Indiana Jones, Transformers, and Mission: Impossible. Starting in the mid-nineties, Paramount released several LGBTQ-themed or LGBTQ-inclusive films including Home for the Holidays (1995), Clueless (1995), The Brady Bunch Movie (1995), Brain Candy (1996), Kiss Me Guido (1997), Election (1999), The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999), The Next Best Thing (2000), and The Hours (2002).

In 1997, Paramount released the groundbreaking comedy In and Out, which received substantial press for a kiss between Kevin Kline and Tom Selleck. The film was wildly successful at the box office and joins The Talented Mr. Ripley among the top 10 highest grossing LGBTQ films. Paramount released Star Trek: Beyond in 2016, the third film in the new Star Trek franchise, which showed Hikaru Sulu with his husband and daughter. The inclusion of a gay man of color in such a large and recognizable franchise was a step in the right direction for representation. In 2019, Paramount released Rocketman, a biopic of famed singer Elton John, which fully delves into his life as gay man and icon.

In 2020, Paramount released six films, two of which included appearances by LGBTQ people, amounting to 33%. One of these films passed the Vito Russo Test.

Buddy Games

Widest Theatrical Release: 401 theaters

Vito Russo Test: Fail

This outrageous comedy follows a group of men who each year gather and play extreme games until one of the friends is crowned the champion for that year. The way these men interact with each other is primarily through using gross-out humor, involving feces, semen, testicles, and the like. There are also a few jokes scattered throughout about the guys laughing at the idea of two of them kissing or one of them going down on the other. These jokes, along with the general aggressive masculinity presented in the movie, feels extremely outdated and is not even funny.

One of the friends who partakes in the game is named Zane. He doesn’t get as much of a backstory as the more central characters, but the audience finds out that he owns a tanning business, works out a lot, and makes several comments about other men. Over the course of the film, he references how much he likes Mark Wahlberg, shows a tattoo he has of Zac Efron, references knowing the taste of semen, and other aside comments that show in a very stereotypical way that he is gay, though he also mentions several times that he “scores with the ladies.” At the end of the film, he comes out to another friend in the group, who responds that he knows, and they move on. While it is nice that Zane being gay is accepted by his friends, the character of Zane himself is built on nothing except lazy jokes about his sexual orientation.

Like a Boss

Widest Theatrical Release: 3078 theaters

Vito Russo Test: Pass

Like A Boss follows two best friends who own a small cosmetics company and have to figure out how to move forward after a bad deal leads to their business being stolen from them. Billy Porter plays Barrett, one of the two employees of the makeup company and a close friend of the film’s leads. After the business is taken over by a cutthroat executive, the owners are forced to fire Barrett, but ultimately re-hire him in the film’s third act when they are able to launch a new cosmetics brand. The film also includes a short appearance from a drag queen emcee at a karaoke night. While Barrett is primarily seen in the context of the lead’s friendship with him rather than as a character with his own development and story, Barrett is still significant and a respected character who drives the plot forward. The film leads realize how they have failed their friendship and how far they’ve gotten caught up in the drama when they make the decision to fire him to move their business forward rather than prioritizing their friend’s wellbeing. It should be noted that the film would have done better to leave a recurring joke about a woman having a penis on the cutting room floor.

Barrett’s character is a good example of casual inclusion, featuring an explicitly LGBTQ character in a film that is not otherwise focused on LGBTQ themes. It is also important to note that the production chose to hire an out actor, Billy Porter, to bring this character to life. Studio’s slates should continue to include both films with this type of LGBTQ inclusion as part of an ensemble – just as we are in the real world – as well as stories specifically led by LGBTQ characters and/or which are centrally focused on LGBTQ themes and experiences.


Paramount has announced an adaptation of the stage musical Spamalot, which features the character of Lancelot as gay and gave him a love interest in the character of Prince Herbert, with the two marrying at the end of the show. Though the story of the stage show is a bit dated, Lancelot’s orientation and relationship should be included and updated for this new adaptation.

Paramount has announced an adaptation of best-selling author Angie Thomas’ young adult novel On the Come Up, which follows a teen girl who becomes an overnight rap star. The book includes Sonny, who is gay and a close friend of the protagonist, as well as his love interest Milez. These characters should remain in the film adaptation. 
There have been talks of a variety of new Star Trek films at Paramount since 2016’s Star Trek Beyond, which introduced Sulu’s husband and child, confirming he was gay. The newest announced Star Trek film has hired Star Trek: Discovery's Kalinda Vasquez to write the script. Discovery itself includes multiple queer and trans characters, and Vasquez’s attachment presents a perfect opportunity for that same inclusion to translate onto the big screen, though the movie plot details are being kept under wraps. Paramount is also adapting popular Nickelodeon animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender into a feature animated film. The spinoff series The Legend of Korra confirmed the romantic relationship between Korra and her girlfriend Asami which has since continued across new comic and graphic novels. This film would be a great opportunity to move this beloved character and relationship to the big screen.

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