"The Boys in the Band is not a musical" read the film's original advertisements. The film is set in the apartment of Michael (Kenneth Nelson), a homosexual who holds a birthday party for his friend Harold (Leonard Frey). As Michael and his gay buddies prepare for Harold's arrival, Michael's old college chum Alan (Peter White) makes a surprise appearance. Alan is straight, so Michael tells the revellers to watch their step. Alan's uptight reaction to gay Emory (Cliff Gorman) foments a confrontation. The embittered Michael tries to prove that Alan is a latent homosexual by staging a perverse game in which all the partygoers are required to declare their affections for the persons that they love the most. As it turns out, the person most injured by this game is Michael himself, who is incapable of loving anyone. As the first major-studio production to deal frankly with homosexuality, every member of the show's original Broadway cast appears in the film, including Laurence Luckinbill as an out-of-the-closet husband and father.