+Updated November 5, 2023
I’ve enjoyed the occasional Asian gay-themed movie for years (see recs below), and a few years ago I discovered the many, many BL (Boys Love) shows and fell in love. 🙂 Here are some of my requirements:
- happy ending
- good chemistry between the leads
- no non-con vibes
The latter is unfortunately incredibly wide-spread, making many of the earky most popular shows unwatchable for me (looking at you, Addicted…). Even in some of the shows I mention below there are side-pairings or moments that squick me out, but that’s what the fast-forward button is for. Luckily more and more shows seem to avoid the painful clichés and are even made by actual queer people (especially in Thailand).
With some shows, the subtitles leave something to be desired, but I’m just grateful people go to the trouble to translate. For me, a show lives and dies with its main couple – I often go back and only rewatch their storyline, ignoring everything else.
If you have any recommendations for similar movies/shows, please don’t hesitate to share, as my obsession doesn’t seem to want to end any time soon… 🙂
Warning: There will be mild spoilers below.
I’ve supplied official links wherever possible, although on Viki or GagaOOLala they’re sometimes behind a paywall (so worth it, though, and a lot are free to watch). As a last resort you can use sites like Kissasian and Gcinee (although I only recommend them when there’s no other way, because it’s always better to support official channels). If you have trouble hunting one down, let me know and I’ll try and hook you up. 🙂
- Seven Days (Monday-Thursday / Friday-Sunday):
A two-part Japanese movie that takes what could be a very random premise and turn it into something lyrical and touching. Also, the premise could be straight from a fanfic: Seryou agrees to date any girl who asks him – but only for one week. Shino gets the idea to try and see whether going out with him might help him figure out what makes relationships work. Obviously they both catch feelings. Bonus point: Both of them do Japanese archery, which is lovely to look at and fits the movie’s atmosphere perfectly.
- Ai no kotodama (Words of Devotion): Unusually this Japanese movie focuses on an established couple that goes through a crisis when a girl from their past appears. Refreshingly, the girl isn’t villified, and the two guys work incredibly well together despite being pretty much opposites. I would 100% watch a movie/series about Ootani and Tachibana getting together in highschool (and might have ordered the prequel manga because of this).
- *Antique: South-Korean adaptation of a Japanese manga about a guy who starts a bakery despite hating cake, this movie is quirky, funny and has a weirdly dark edge. It’s also technically not BL: the pastry chef is a “gay of demonic charm” (and is shown with several guys) but the owner is the one man who’s immune to his charm, and officially that doesn’t change even as their friendship grows. However, at the very least they’re queerplatonic lifepartners, and I absolutely headcanon them as ending up as a romantic couple eventually. 😉
- Eternal Summer: This Taiwanese movie is about Jonathan, Shane and new arrival Carrie (names according to the English subs), and the way their relationships change and evolve. It has a somewhat melancholy open end, but that leaves me free to imagine either the boys eventually ending up together (because friends-to-lovers, baby!) or an OT3 ending (because why does it always have to be either/or?). Polyamory – the solution for boring old love triangles! 🙂 There’s also a very nice love scene between the boys, which is always a plus in my book.
- Formula 17: Another Taiwanese movie, this one’s all frothy and light – it’s nice to watch a rather typical romantic comedy about two guys, including a sappy happy ending. I’ve actually owned the DVD for years.
- *Long Time No See: Another South-Korean movie (or rather, 3 short episodes), about two hitmen falling in love, which feels as if it could easily have ended in tragedy but very delightfully doesn’t. My only complaint is that it isn’t longer, because I would have loved more of Chisoo and Gitae (especially how the latter ended up working for the mob). I’m definitely glad I spent the money and watched it all legal and shit on Vimeo on Demand. 🙂
- Just Friends?: A South-Korean short film about a gay couple that has to deal with the mother of one suddenly popping up when the other is visiting him during his military service. Has a scorching make-out scene that apparently upset some people and a surprising musical number that really touched me.
- Gray: Cute Thai short film about two guys reuniting and working through their unresolved feelings. The actors are very good-looking and have good chemistry, even if the kisses need some work (as is often the case in BL, especially older ones), and it’s just overall enjoyable. Can be watched officially on Youtube.
- Step for You: Matchbox is a South-Korean production company that seems to specialise in gay short films. Seeing that this one was about a dancer I couldn’t resist – and I don’t regret buying it on Vimeo, it’s such a sweet, sweet movie and definitely worth the price of a cup of coffee.
- *Some More: By the same company as Long Time No See (Strongberry, not sure if they’re related to Matchbox), but they make similarly lovely LGBTQ short films. This one feels like summer and serendipity. Buy on Vimeo.
- My Pistachio: Another short by Strongberry, this one about a student theatre production. So cute. Buy it on Vimeo.
- +I Feel You Linger in the Air: This is officially a “pilot” for a long-form series that’s currently airing, but it really works as an atmospheric love story set in 1920s Thailand but with a time travel twist. Currently airing as a full-length show! Watch on Youtube.
- *Love by Chance: Shy and adorable Pete meets small but fiercely protective Ae, starting a love story that makes me melt. This Thai series has been one of my favourite BLs for a long time, especially the first half, because Ae and Pete’s relationship is like a breath of fresh air. (In the second half, other ships get more screentime, one of which includes stalking/rape, so I fast-forward extensively.) They skip the usual misunderstandings in favour of actual communication, and their story isn’t just about them getting together but also about the development of their sexual relationship (with some lovely scenes, especially considering the relative age of the show). Speaking of which, I totally headcanon Ae as demisexual. (Btw, a lot of people prefer secondary pairing of Tin/Can – and finally, there’s now a season 2 with focus on them. Sadly Saint Suppapong, Pete’s actor – and therefore, Pete’s character – won’t be part of it, drastically reducing my interest.) Has official subs on Youtube and Viki.
- Cause You Are My Boy / My Tee: This Thai series got some rather bad reviews, which I find entirely undeserved. Many much more popular shows make me cringe and wonder at people’s preferences, while this one nicely shows adorable scamp Mork and “good boy” Tee go from apparent antagonists (a state that luckily doesn’t last long and gets an entirely different dimension as we learn more about their backstory) over a slightly confusing time “fake dating” to adorable couple who have to deal with very relatable problems. Especially their family situations are very interesting. There’s a scene with Mork and Tee’s mom that hit me right where it hurts, and I almost cried when they had to say goodbye. The season ends with them in a good place, but there’s enough left open that I would have loved to see resolved in a second season. (I would especially have liked to explore Tee, whose serious troubles are only alluded to. Also, there was a very low-key lesbian storyline, the first one I’ve ever seen in a BL, that deserved more time.) Instead we got a special episode as part of the Our Skyy series, in which Mork and Tee could have been any other BL couple with a completely boring and predictable storyline (albeit with a cute musical number and kiss). Official subs on Youtube.
- *He’s Coming to Me: I’m absolutely in love with this story about a ghost who falls in love with the only person who can see him. The actors are adorable (together and separately) and I was actually invested in the plot, namely in their quest to find out about Met’s life and death as well as Thun coming to terms with his sexuality. This is an incredibly well-done series, avoiding pretty much all the usual pitfalls of BL and left me with a huge smile on my face and in my heart. Probably overall the best BL series I’ve ever seen, as I literally love everything about it. Now finally available on Youtube!
- Love Sick: I very much recommend you track down the Phun/Noh BL cut of this Thai teen soap, as the show is stuffed with superfluous storylines. Main couple Phun and Noh, however, are very sweet, and they start with my one of my favourite tropes: fake dating. 🙂 However, a warning for cheating, because Phun has a serious girlfriend (who unfortunately gets kind of villified in season 2) and Noh is seeing someone, too. Season 2 was extended to a crazy 36 episodes, with even more skippable storylines, and there’s a few too many misunderstandings for Phun and Noh before their happy ending, but overall they just have lovely chemistry and their story has high rewatch value. This series has a special place in many a fan’s heart, since it was the first such show focusing on a gay couple (which shows sometimes).
- Together With Me: Main couple Korn and Knock easily have the most explosive chemistry of any of the BL couples I’ve seen (with the recent exception of Why R U?‘s Tutor and Fighter). All too often (although it’s getting better), BL suffers from Bad Kissing Syndrome, no matter how well the couple works otherwise, but Thai series Together With Me starts out with one of the hottest sex scenes and continues from there. (Doesn’t hurt that it’s not set in highschool and Max & Tul, the actors, are smoking hot and show a refreshing lack of personal space for two assumed-straight guys.) It’s also best friends-to-lovers, which is my total catnip, and I can forgive Knock’s indecisiveness. (Also, his gf is the devil.) The show is actually a prequel to Bad Romance (which aired first and has Korn/Knock as secondary pairing with much less chemistry), but that one didn’t work for me at all, and the characterisations are entirely different anyhow. There’s also a follow-up called Together With Me: The Next Chapter, which unfortunately plain sucks due to a horrific cheating storyline. I recommend just looking up the Korn/Knock scenes from both of these shows.
- Great Men Academy: Despite the wacky premise (a girl uses a wish from a unicorn to turn herself into a boy in order to stalk her crush), this show warmed my heart – especially as it upended expectations and turned comic relief secondary male lead Tangmo into one of the best characters ever as he finds himself falling for the strange new “boy”, Love .
- Theory of Love: This one is starring one of the Thai BL powerhouse couples, Off and Gun, as best friends Khai and Third. I’ve rarely hated any main character as much as I hated Off’s Khai when he put poor little Third through the wringer of unrequited love – but halfway through the show, there’s a POV switch, and suddenly everything changes! There’s also a surprise secondary ship, which I found myself shipping almost harder than the main one, and a het ship that’s utterly forgettable and luckily dropped. Official playlist on Youtube.
- *Until We Meet Again: Red Thread: This is possibly the best BL show I’ve ever seen, right up there with He’s Coming to Me. It tells the story of two couples connected by a “red thread” of fate (following a tradition that basically says soulmates are connected by red threads around their fingers). The first one, introverted Korn and quirly Intouch, shared a tragic love in the 1980s, doomed by homophobic fathers. The show starts with (trigger warning!!) their suicide and then moves to present day and adorable freshman student Pharm, who finds himself strangely drawn to quiet and serious Dean (aka the best boyfriend ever!). Their connection is instant, and they begin to have flashbacks of In and Korn’s lives. Somehow, the show manages to go from complete heartbreak to heartwarming fluff from one minute to the next, yet it never fails to leave me feeling happy. I am completely in love with all four boys, who are very different but intrinsically connected. Some people say the show’s too slow, but it reminds me of nothing so much as my favourite type of fanfic. Also very entertaining are the supporting cast – most notably Pharm’s friends Manaow and Team, the latter of which is part of the half-hidden secondary pairing with Dean’s best friend Win. They’re huge fan favourites, and they actually got their own show! Watch the official eps with English subs on Youtube. I also totally bought the DVDs.
- Kiss Me Again/Dark Blue Kiss: Pete/Kao is one of the biggest ships in BL land, and you can follow their story in several series (Kiss the Series, Kiss Me Again, Our Skyy special, Dark Blue Kiss). Keep in mind that the chronological order is KMA (how they got together), KtS (where they’re background), DBK, then OS. It leads to some inconsistencies, and I personally like KMA and DBK best – especially because I absolutely adore secondary pairing Sun/Mork (only hinted at in KMA, properly developed in DBK). Sun is possibly my favourite, because I have a Thing for competent grown-ups who’re emotional messes. Everything’s up on the GMMTV channel on Youtube.
- TharnType: Look, I didn’t want to like this series, because the relationship starts with virulent homophobia (Type) and sexual assault (Tharn). However, somehow I started watching and couldn’t stop, as the show manages to portray in a very believable way how both characters grow and change while falling deeply in love. It could definitely have better addressed how wrong Tharn’s actions at the start were (instead of underlying them with sexy music), but once he learns the reasons for Type’s behaviour (TRIGGER warning: he’d been molested by a man as a child) he never again oversteps. Okay, and I’m biased, because I love Tharn (who also has his fair share of baggage, as we learn) and find the actor, Mew Suppasit, very attractive indeed. The fact that “MewGulf” have insane chemistry definitely helps, too. The show is available internationally on LineTV, with a special movie available for purchase on Vimeo (totally worth it, 90 minutes of bliss).
- *Why R U?: This show is a funny one – both funny-funny and funny-weird. In addition to two main ships it’s crammed with side-plots, and each one has its own tone. And there’s quite a bit of that cringe-worthy overexcited shipping of the characters by the girls around them. But the two main relationships absolutely make it worth it: Tutor and Fighter are brimming with chemistry, and their story has quite an adult and angsty flavour, while Saifah and Zon are the cutest, most adorable puppies. Unfortunately filming hadn’t finished yet when Corona hit, so the last 3 episodes are mostly Tutor/Fighter because that’s what they had already filmed, and many plot threads are left dangling (although Saifah/Zon get their happy ending and got their own special episodes). Available internationally on Viki. Also bought this on DVD.
- *I Told Sunset About You: This show takes your heart and puts it through the wringer as we follow the emotional journey two estranged childhood friends, Teh and Oh-aew, go through. This is absolutely a queer coming-of-age story rather than a classic BL, and it’s beautifully shot, with every scene carefully crafted. Prepare to bawl your eyes out, though – well into the final episode there doesn’t seem to be a guaranteed happy ending, because real life is messy and that’s doubly true for teenagers. (Also check out the documentary episodes, they’ll make you even more impressed with what cast and crew accomplished.) Episodes can be legally found on Vimeo.
- +Bad Buddy: There’s a reason this show took the internet by storm. Pat and Pran have been neighbours all their lives, but their families are bitter enemies, which has coloured their entire relationships. After being separated in high-school they run into each other again in college – and immediately sparks fly. I’m not usually into enemies-to-lovers, but this goes deeper. Also, I partly watched it while in Thailand, which makes it special. I’m not entirely happy with the ending, but maybe that’s cultural differences more than anything else. Watch on Youtube.
- +*Dear Doctor I’m Coming for Souls: Refreshingly a show not set in high-school or college but in a hospital, this one really surprised me. I fell in love with workaholic Dr. Prakan and the mysterious soul reaper (nick named “Tua Phee” by Prakan) that haunts him and the hospital he works at. Naturally, Prakan considers Tua Phee his enemy – but when the reaper moves in next door, they become unlikely friends. And through it all, there’s hints of a backstory that connects them. Lovely! Watch on Youtube.
- +*Triage: Another hospital setting (a bit more realistic than Dear Doctor – think ER instead of General Hospital *g*), I just finished watching the 13 episodes in 3 sittings, to give an idea of how gripping it is. Based on a beautiful short from 2019, it’s a unusually grown-up groundhog day scenario that deals with actions and consequences Dr. Tin and student Tol have to overcome in order to help others around them and find their happy ending. Unfortunately doesn’t seem to have a legal channel to watch it with subs yet.
- *Guardian: Sci-fi fantasy. Not technically BL, since it falls under Chinese censorship (which also affected other aspects, like the original supernatural background), but it’s based on a BL novel and the love story is undeniable between the two male leads. Seriously, Shen Wei (a seemingly mild-mannered professor with a secret identity) and Zhao Yunlan (a police man in charge of a special division in charge of arresting “Dixingren”, who have special powers) own my heart! There’s some yummy identity porn and an adorable background couple that make up for the poor special effects (they lost most of their budget after the pilot was filmed). Show can be found on Youtube and Viki. (Warning for a rather sad ending, though.)
- *The Untamed: This is another cdrama and hence isn’t explicitly gay, despite (like Guardian) being based on a popular fantasy BL novel called “The Grand Master of Demonic Cultivation”. It spans 50 episodes and I’m completely in love, especially of course with the love story between Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji. Not being familiar with the tropes and rules of Wuxia (Chinese martial arts fantasy) I was utterly confused after watching episode 1 and by the fact that everyone has multiple names, so I simultaneously read the novel translation – the show follows a different plot order but sticks otherwise quite closely to it (minus the explicit gayness). Overall the emotion is very much there, not just between the two mains, but also the big supporting cast, and the whole show is utterly beautiful to boot. And unlike Guardian they managed to not rip our hearts out with the ending. In short, I love this show to pieces! You can watch it on Youtube, Viki or even Netflix. Also bought this on DVD.
- HIStory 2: Crossing the Line: This is the one that started my current obsession after seeing a fanvid for the main couple. HIStory is a Taiwanese BL series that focuses on different story arcs and is unusual in that they always have a happy ending. The second season works much better for me than the first – this arc is set in highschool and revolves around a volleyball team. It’s seriously sweet, and I like both the main couple (a “rebel” who’s too adorable for words and who joins the volleyball team, becoming involved with their manager) and the secondary one (step-brothers trying to hide their decidedly unbrotherly feelings for each other). No problematic content to be found here! (The “brothers” only started living together when they were already in their teens, if I understood the timeline correctly.) Can be watched legally on Viki.
- HIStory 2: Right or Wrong: This one’s a bit more controversial, because it focuses on a college student becoming the nanny of his professor and falling in love with him. For me the relationship works, though. I especially like how we can see Shi Yi Jie (the professor) changing, becoming a better father, a better man – and once he’s realized what his feelings are, he doesn’t hesitate, there’s no gay panic. And while his ex-wife pops up, the real obstacle are Fei Sheng Zhe’s fears and internalised homophobia, not misunderstandings. Also, the daughter is incredibly adorable, which is rather rare for child characters, and I love the scenes with all three of them. Another nice thing is that both of them have a support system – and Shi Yi Jie even asks Fei Sheng Zhe’s mom for permission to date her son. Also on Viki.
- History 3: Trapped: As the previous recced HIStory stories, this is a sheer delight – with happy endings for both the primary (enigmatic gangster boss Tang Yi and passionate cop Shao Fei) and secondary couple (confident Jack and adorable Zhao Zi). With 20 episodes it’s already much longer than previous stories, but it could easily have even been longer, because the characters and their stories need deeper exploration (especially Jack). Can be watched on Viki. I also own it on DVD.
- HIStory3: Make Our Days Count: I honestly debated whether to put this on here, because (and this is a MAJOR SPOILER) it has an out-of-the-blue gut-wrenching ending for the main couple, which left a lot of fans feeling completely railroaded and betrayed, because until now, the HIStory stories were famous for guaranteeing a happy ending. However, until about 10 minutes before the end of the second-to-last-episode, the show is just really rather wonderful, an adorable and captivating highschool love story (or rather two, although the secondary one starts out too stalkery for my taste). You can watch it for free on Viki, but please, do yourself a favour and ignore the last episode, or skim it with the fast-forward button for the secondary pairing. For a happy ending, watch a surprise cameo during the lovely Japanese web series Life – Love on the Line (see further down). 😉
- The Novelist (Pornographer)/Mood Indigo (Indigo no Kibun): A Japanese series and prequel with a decidedly more adult audience in mind, since the main character, Kijima Rio, is the eponymous writer of pornographic (straight) novels, which are quoted explicitly. Plus there are a couple of smoking hot sex scenes in both series. The characters are quite complicated, but I found them very intriguing. The mood of both series is bittersweet, it feels much closer to real life than most BL shows. I’m not sure which viewing order I’d recommend – I watched Pornographer first and fell in love with the relationship between Kijima and college student Kuzumi. The only other person we see is Kijima’s agent/friend Kido Shiro, and it’s into their relationship that the prequel Indigo no Kibun delves. Watch on Viki: The Novelist / Mood Indigo
- *Cherry Magic: Despite the cracktastic premise (when shy virgin Adachi turns 30 he can suddenly read people’s minds when he touches them) this ongoing series is sweet and has surprising depth, exploring Adachi’s journey to more self-esteem. And instead of yet another annoying yaoi fangirl/jealous girlfriend we get friendship and discrete ace rep!
- Gameboys: BL has really taken off in the Philipines – and this one’s my highlight so far. The lockdown love story between grumpy gamer Cairo and outgoing flirt Gavreel is so enchanting – sweet and funny, with a good dose of realistic drama (I cried!). Also stars one of my fave female characters – Gav’s best friend Pearl, who now has her own GL series, Pearl Next Door! The show was so successful that they made a movie. Watch on Youtube.
- Hello Stranger: Another Pinoy BL, another lockdown story told mostly via video chats (but not as exclusively as in Gameboys), about reluctant study buddies Mico and Xavier, who both end up catching feelings in the most adorable and feels-inducing manner. I totally fell in love, didn’t even mind that there was no kiss. It got a follow-up movie. 🙂 Watch on Youtube.
- *Gaya Sa Pelikula (Like In the Movies): This story of two accidental room mates addresses many issues queer people face, most of all internalised homophobia as Karl comes to know out-and-proud Vlad. There are so many quotes that I’m sure have never been said like this in a BL context, and even the “squeeing fangirl” (in the form of Vlad’s older sister Judit) quickly turns from a caricature to a three-dimensional person. I just love this so much! Can be watched on Youtube.
- Red Balloon: This short web series is angsty, but it’s very well-done and beautiful, playing with different timelines as it shows the main characters falling in love as students and meeting again when grown-up. And there is a happy ending. Watch on GagaooLala.
- Hanging Out: Another short web series, this one from the Philippines. Refreshingly it was made by a gay publication for a queer audience. I enjoyed it very much, because it takes a decidedly more adult approach to gay relationships (even without sex scenes). Found on Youtube.
- *Where Your Eyes Linger: This South Korean mini-series manages to tell an absolutely beautiful love story in only 8 10 minute episodes. They use a number of tropes we usually see with straight couples and you have no idea how much I love the end result! The series focuses on rich boy Han Tae Joo and his bodyguard/best friend/room mate (they share a bed!) Kang Gook, whose relationship is fraught with 15 years of history and emotion. There’s also a movie version of this, which omits the voiceovers but still manages to tell the story beautifully. Don’t walk, run to watch this on Viki!
- Life – Love on the Line: A Japanese mini-series that follows the love story between two boys from falling in love as teenagers to breaking up in their 20s to finding each other again in their 30s. At times too cute for words, then simply heartbreaking, it shows how people can grow and change yet stay connected all the same. It also has something I’ve never seen before: an easter egg happy ending for a completely different show, namely History3: MODC! Watch it on Viki.
- Ingredients: This one’s utterly heart-warming, I simply had to add it! It’s on a cooking channel of all things, which means that in addition to the sheer adorableness of housemates Tops (an aspiring chef) and Win (a musician) falling in love during lockdown, we also get some food porn in every short, fluffy episode. The show really is like comfort food, perfect small bites of bliss, so it’s no wonder it’s so successful that they doubled the number of episodes! Watch it on Youtube.
- Mr. Heart: From the same team that did Where Your Eyes Linger, this is about sunshine boy Sang Ha who’s been in love with marathon star Jin Won for years and becomes his pace maker, worming his way into the serious runner’s heart. Simply adorable! Watch on Viki, as show or movie.
- +About Youth: A simple, sweet Taiwanese short series about popular boy Ye Guang (who struggles with the weight of his parents expectations) forming a surprising friendship with quiet Xu Qi Zhang (who’s held a torch for the other since he showed him unexpected kindness during a dark moment). Watch on Viki.
- +Semantic Error: South-Korean mini-series set in college using the old staple of popular boy vs. shy boy going from antagonists to friends to more, this is still very charming. I was especially drawn to Chu Sang Woo, who I thought displayed some autistic traits and found himself drawn out of his shell by Jang Jae Young, after the latter decided to get revenge for something that really was his own fault. Watch on Viki.