Top Ten ’90s Movies Beloved by Girls Who Turned Out Gay

The coming out process always involves a little bit of historical re-contextualizing — your emotional attachments to your female best friends or your unexamined aversion to the way men smell in the morning suddenly take on new meaning when looking backwards through brand-new homo-tinted glasses. Your pop-cultural loves are no exception.

Today we look at some of the early-to-mid ’90s films that defined the youths of young queers born in the ’80s. These aren’t gay films, because well, there really weren’t many gay films back then (not like there really are now either though), but films with undertones or secret stories that queers heard loud & clear whether the mainstream knew it or not.

If you like this list, you’ll also like our list of Badass Girl Team movies, which celebrates flicks about girl gangs, girl sports teams, and otherwise group-related girl activities.

Regardless of when you grew up, what were the films that define your queer retrospective? And why do so many of ours star Whoopi Goldberg?


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Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)

[Watch it Now]


This story is multi-generational, jumping around from the past to present day. We love us some Jessica Tandy and Kathy Bates (her quip about car insurance in this one is classic), but let’s be honest, Mary Louise Parker and Mary Stuart Masterson are the real meat of this movie. Their characters meet when they are super young and obvs fall in love. Idgie is a classic dyke, but Ruth tries out the straight thing for a while. Of course, her marriage fails miserably, and the two women end up reuniting. Collective awwwws all around, especially for Idgie’s adorable over-protectiveness and devotion.

This is one of those “coded” movies that passes as hetero to all of those unenlightened viewers. But to those of us who were looking for a bit more under the surface, the relationship between Ruth and Idgie will give you everything you need. At least, for a fairly PG movie. And of course, if you’ve read the book by Fannie Flagg, it’s abundantly clear that these two women were actually in love. Rumor has it that the actresses wanted to make things a lot more explicit, but Hollywood just wasn’t ready. It also provides a handy straight/gay test: just ask a girl her thoughts on this movie for some extra clues on her orientation.


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A League of Their Own (1992)

[Watch it Now]

A League of Their Own is the gayest not-gay movie of all time. Rosie O’Donnell and Madonna play best friends, and the rest of them are farm girls who don’t fit in and just want to play baseball. I mean, COME ON. I know they all go out to a bar and dance with dudes, and yeah Madonna is boy crazy. But remember, this was in the 1940s. What else is a girl to do?

Gay or not, we love the story of women stepping up to the plate (see what I did there?) and taking over such a traditionally masculine arena.


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Little Women (1994)

Jo March, played by ’90s heroine Winona Ryder, is The Tomboy Archetype. With an emphasis on the bonds between sisters and the women-without-men wartime household, this film warmed the cockles of many queer hearts.


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Girls Town (1996)

[Own It on V-H-fucking-S]

Though largely ignored by mainstream audiences (who can only handle so much girl power), this indie cult film quietly caught on amongst teenage girls and indie film circuits for its stark and female-focused portrayal of urban American life. A tight group of female friends is torn up when their best friend commits suicide, which they later discover was prompted by a rape she never told them about. Basically it’s about how girls bond with other girls to protect themselves from the slings & arrows of the men and the families that neglect them. Also, there is a lot of flannel, sports jerseys, and serious overall action.

The soundtrack gets bonus points for featuring queer faves like PJ Harvey, Salt-n-Pepa & Queen Latifah.


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Now and Then (1995)

[Own It]


I remember this movie sold out when we went to see it in the theater, which was devastating, so we all had to buy tickets for some other crap and sneak in, where we sat in the back in the unoccupied wheelchair area in a girl-packed room.

The film centers on four grown women who’ve spent all their life trying to recapture the youthful energy they felt at the age of 12 in the summer of 1970 “when everything started to change,” like right before there was puberty and dating and boys and all those other things, let alone marriage & babies & other hetero trappings. The four girls, played by iconic ’90s girl actresses Christina Ricci, Thora Birch, and Gaby Hoffman, along with Ashleigh Aston Moore (Moore stopped acting in 1997, and tragically died at the age of 26 in 2007 from pneumonia and bronchitis), fought boys who talked shit, played boys’ games and weren’t afraid to get scrappy.

Extra gay points for Rosie O’Donnell as the grown-up Christina Ricci character, Roberta, who was originally supposed to be a lesbian although that storyline was edited out by producers wary of controversy. Demi Moore was dashing in her menswear and her daughter Rumer, who now plays gay on 90210, appeared as Demi’s daughter in Now and Then. ALSO, our dear Haviland Stillwell was an extra/stand-in.


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How to Make an American Quilt (1995)

[Own It]

Want the weird girls to see your normal-looking movie? Cast Winona Ryder. While How To Make An American Quilt is essentially about a young woman, Finn (Ryder), who’s about to marry this dude (Dermot Mulroney), it’s also about a how group of women learned to navigate the world while still maintaining a close, if sometimes rocky, friendship with one another. Lesbians love that stuff.

The character of Finn is kind of brooding, confused and agitated. She sulks around in over-sized t-shirts and messy hair. She has feelings. She writes! She’s like us, but straighter. Anne Bancroft is quietly badassy, as per ushe, and Maya Angelou is calming and perfect, probably just like IRL.


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NEXT:
Five more generation-defining flicks of the early-to-mid ’90s!

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Avatar of Riese

Riese is the 32-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York City, and now lives in The Bay Area. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are!

Riese has written 1734 articles for us.

154 Comments

  1. Thumb up 2

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    Me and my girl just saw Fried Green Tomatoes for the first time just a few weeks ago. It was amazing!!! I cried for like the last half hour of it though haha. I was listing the classic 90s movies she needs to see and half of them were on your list :) loooove Now and Then and Practical Magic!!

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      I was just about to mention “Henry and June” though it wasn’t Uma I was looking at, it was Anais.

      But also, what about “Bound”, “The Josephine Baker Story”, “Women of Brewster Place” and last but not least, “Gia”. I had such a visceral reaction to Angelina Jolie in that movie, it made me come out to my best friend at the time.

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    i had a lot of feelings about practical magic and always thought i was the only one for real. a lot of the feelings involved wanting sandra and nicole to make out. which i mean they’re supposed to be sisters, so.

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    NOW AND FUCKING THEN. holy shit, i feel ridiculously validated to hear that Roberta was supposed to be gay… like, she binds her boobs for chrissake. But I’m also disappointed, now, to hear that they didn’t follow through on that.

    Anyway, this is kinda gay but when I was little and my dad would be traveling for work on the weekends, my mom, and my sisters, and I would have a “girls’ night” and watch Now and Then, Girls Just wanna Have Fun (which I recommenddd), or Little Women EVERY TIME. I saw each of those probably twenty times before I even turned 10. So good work, all these movies are bomb.

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    YES sister act 2. i don’t even remember sister act 1 that well, but i can sing every fucking word to joyful joyful INCLUDING the rap.
    -
    i also seriously loved Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion. that has alan cumming in it too, so super gay.

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    “Seriously did anyone besides the homos love the sequel, maybe not. We loved the sequel.” What is this maybe not? Of COURSE everyone loved the sequel. You could probably use it as a test. “Did you love ‘Sister Act 2′? No? You’re probably a robot.”

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      hm, i remembered it not doing that well, but i guess it actually did. it made like 60 million, whereas the original made 130 million. It also got like really bad reviews. But maybe everyone did love it. i LOVED IT

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    Ohhhh. So this is why I loved Sister Act so much. It all makes sense know.
    My other “I inexplicably loved this film when I was growing up but it’s clearly because I was gay and didn’t know it” movie is Bend It Like Beckham. I IMDB’d it and it came out in 2002. So it’s close to the 90′s. And it was super gay, but not, because she gets with the Irish guy instead of Keira Knightley.

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    Several of these films really enthralled me. I think I’ve always been fascinated with films about bonding. It always bothered me how quick friendships could fall apart too. The Craft is a good example of that.

    I loved A League of Their Own, but I think Top Gun might be the gayest nongay film of all-time. :) I grew up in a hick town, I know farm girl softball players too, I really got a kick out of those characters.

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      i nominate you for a comment award this week*! you captured collective voice of this thread -> it is the way that we live(d)

      *note i do not belong to the official comment committee so my nomination has no value

  8. Thumb up 1

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    I literally just watched Sister Act 2 yesterday. I mean come on. Lauren Hill. Dame Maggie Smith. Whoopi Goldberg. Baby Jennifer Love Hewitt. Alanna Ubach(Who I forget about all the time and later hate myself for it because…seriously…have you seen her?!) LOVED IT. Will forever love Sister Act 2. There. I’m done.

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      Honestly, I had to google Alanna Ubach. I am probably the only person who would think of the Brady Bunch Movie upon seeing her picture. But alas, I am a dork that kinda loved that movie. They even sang in Sears. Anyhow, that was a gay movie too, and she had the hots for Marcia. And it wasn’t subtle for anyone… except the Brady’s.

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        yes her character in The Brady Bunch Movie made me afraid to be gay, cuz i thought gays were weird and gross girls who just hung on to pretty girls because they had all these latent sexual desires towards them!

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          I felt the same way, but it was slightly mitigated by the fact that I’d had a crush on her since she was in some weird Saturday morning science show with a fat guy in a rat suit. …This list/comment thread is seriously making me realize exactly how gay I was even before I’d really taken the time to analyze myself. So…thanks?

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          *GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAASSSSSSSSSSSSPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPP*

          fat guy in a rat suit…BEAKMAN’S WORLD?!?!?!?!?!

          I FUCKING LOVED THAT SHOW AS A KID. Waaaaay better than bill nye the science guy, cause it was fucked up and weird JUST LIKE SCIENCE CAN BE

          also this whole list is making me have a nostalgigasm. tonight ima rewatch the craft and romy and michelle and tank girl. THANKS AUTOSTRADDLE :D

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          Fun Fact: Jennifer Elise Cox who played Jan in the Brady Bunch movies is out. [edit: I know I saw this in an interview somewhere. Need to dig to confirm]

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          shut up jess. SHUT UP. she’s like my favorite. between the Brady movies, Will and Grace, and Lovespring International, i am such a huge fan of hers. ahh!!

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          Seriously DO. I googled about trying to find one and maybe it’s the epic hangover clouding my internet abilities but I couldn’t find any mention of it and I selfishly want her to share all of her feelings with the rest of us homos.

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    Wow. I was born in ’89 so I should really be too young for this but…League of Their Own: I played softball for 15 years. I worshipped this movie. Now and Then: Inspired many a seance over a Ouiji board back in the day and has made me sing “Knock 3 Times on The Ceiling” whenever I ride a bike in summer. Little Women: My sisters and I watch this every Christmas Day and quote it daily. “I am so degraditated. I can hardly hold my head up. I owe at least a dozen limes!”

    This is way too accurate for me. Curiously, my sisters had the same favs growing up and they’re straighties. Effects of a female dominated household?

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    I feel a movie fest coming on. Because omg this is the most accurate and amazing list ever. And while I love almost every one of these movies, it has been a long time since I’ve watched them.

    I agree with the above mention of Thelma and Louise. And also how about Beaches? It wasn’t very gay but was another one of those strong bonds from a young age movies like Fried Green Tomatoes. And also: Bette Midler. <3

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    Mmmm, yeah, this list pretty much rules. Also, even though it’s in the wrong decade by about 2 years, I wanna say Josie and the Pussycats. Maybe that was just me and my teenage feelings for RLC though though. I dunno. Anyway, I’m off to watch Practical Magic and Now and Then ’cause they’re all that I currently own.

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    I feel deprived because I was born in ’82 and have only seen two of these movies… XD

    Of course, the two I DID see were with my mom when Dad and my bro were out hunting or fishing or whatever. I swear my mom wishes she were gay/is actually bisexual possibly.

    I’d like to throw out there Empire Records… this one might be a bit tenuous (or bi instead of lesbian), but the teen angst angle was always particularly apt for me and I always thought that chick who shaved her head at the beginning was probably queer.

    Also, I’d love to see a list like this with YA books, and not necessarily the obvious ones like Annie on my Mind – just the other day I was thinking that my deep and abiding love for Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonsong and Dragonsinger had to do with my budding queerness (and that Menolly should have totally hooked up with Mirrim and not Sebel and possibly the third book should have never happened, but that’s another story).

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      That’s weird, I always thought she should hook up with the older Masterharper guy because I’m sure there was total frisson going on there at some point.

      Also an ’82-er, and I am alarmed by how few of these films I have seen, but it doesn’t matter because League of Their Own is in there and that’s all I need!

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        Yeah, there was a lot of that going on too. I think in one of the later books, Sebel thinks to himself that he’s only her third love, after music and the Masterharper… ^_^;

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    Oh my good gay! i’ve just realised maybe i’m not *whisper* a homosexual… I don’t remember watching any of these.

    but if we’re going to talk about it, sneaking downstairs to watch girlfight [2000] on late night tv cos i liked ‘sports’ movies may have indicated something…

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    Mmm, nostalgia. Is it just my degrading memory and advancing age, or were the ’90s magical?

    I would add these two on my faves list:

    Hackers – Ok, so there’s like only one girl in it, but it’s Ms Jolie with a pixie cut AND she’s a badass hacker. And the movie’s nerdy/bad/awesome.

    And I loved the ring she wears.

    No kidding, I said aloud on many occassions, in public, “Oh my god! I desperately need Angelina Jolie’s finger-ring!”

    Yeah. Well, hindsight and all of that…

    Clueless – Oh my god! I love Cher!…And now I don’t know how to act around her…

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    I’ve only seen one of these movies. I spent most of the 90s playing computer games and hiding from the big bad scary girl gangs in town. My high school was kind of tough.

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    I love Fried Green Tomatoes SO MUCH. I recently set out to trace my earliest homo celeb crush and while in all honesty it was probably the Pink Ranger, Mary-Louise Parker and Elizabeth Mitchell tied for strongest denied affection.

    If you haven’t read the book yet, DO! It’s a fun read. Also, watch the director’s commentary if you ever get a chance. It’s hilarious (mostly because the director whines so many times about various things you’d think they filmed in a war zone) and the director says he thinks of the food fight as their sex scene.

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    A League of Their Own!!!! I played softball for like 15 years and was hardcore into that movie. I even listened to “This Used to Be My Playground” on repeat for like, weeks on end.
    Yeah, this is one of the films that cemented my gayness. And my love of third base.

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    MERMAIDS. MERMAIDS MERMAIDS MERMAIDS MERMAIDS.

    THE FIVE BEST THINGS ABOUT MERMAIDS:

    1. CHER
    2. CHER
    3. CHER
    4. TEEN WINONA RYDER DRESSED LIKE A CATHOLIC SCHOOL GIRL FOR NINETY MINUTES
    5. BABY CHRISTINA RICCI

    GUYS, MERMAIDS.

  20. Thumb up 2

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    100% yes to this list! Mary Louise Parker, OMG. And Practical Magic- best thing ever. Strangely, though, the thing I liked best about that movie originally was that Stockard Channing was one of the aunts. I loved her because she read the audiobook versions of all of Beverly Cleary’s Ramona books (Which is another quasi-gay piece of 80′s/90′s pop culture I think. I mean, tell me Ramona doesn’t grow up to be gay…)

    Strange and geeky connection for my little brain to make at that time- that I loved the Ramona stories, especially when told by Stockard Channing’s voice, and therefore I loved Stockard Channing and anything she did.

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    Uh…need to add the movie All Over Me.
    Reason numero uno that Leisha Hailey is number one on the fantasy list. I wore out the VHS of this film when I was in college.

    Totally agree with the rest of the list. Is it just me or did Rosie not look very happy in the movie Now and Then. Looked depressed.

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      I totally agree with All Over Me!
      The first time I watched it I knew I was gay. I thought I couldn’t be because I’m so girly but then I saw Leisha with her pink hair making out with Alison Folland (she was in To Die For w/ Nicole Kidman!) and that was it! Wow! I love that movie.

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    And whoever said Top Gun was the gayest/non gay movie of all time…get out! (Elaine voice from Seinfeld).
    Had this discussion today at work (yes, these are the convos that occur in surgery)…
    How gay is it that they had a montage of sweaty men, playing beach volleyball…to the song Playing With the Boys??? I actually recall some posing/muscle flexing going on ;-)

  23. Thumb up 2

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    This list is so true it’s a bit creepy. In fact I own every movie except Sister Act 2 (including Tank Girl, Hackers, Empire Records, Bend it Like Beckham, & Romy and Michelle) and most are on vhs; which I still watch. But what does this say about my “straight” best friend in h.s. who watched these movies over and over again with me every night??? Oh wait… we slept together for 5 years; maybe the movies made her gay :)

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    I know this movie came out recently.. But, seriously… Whit It! Freaking amazing. I loved it. I wanna own it and add it to my collection of awesomeness in movies. XD

    I gotta see Foxfire.. *Wanders off to Netflix.* My parents are gonna hate me for a while. XD “Where are the other movies WE want to see?” “Uhhh lemme get my fix first.” “Damn you child.”

    Yay for hippie parents.

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    THE CRAFT! Amazing…it’s in my top 5. And yes, I did go out and buy a spell book after I watched it! I’ve seen all of these movies except for Fried Green Tomatoes. What an awesome list.

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    Practical Magic is one of the best movies ever made I DON’T EVEN CARE WHAT YOU SAY

    And yes, this homo loved the Sister Act sequel. I still know all the words to the final number. You down with G-O-D? Hey you know me. Who down with G-O-D? EVERYBODY! (I think it is testament to this film that it made me love a gospel number.)

  27. Thumb up 1

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    Hey hey hey, this list is pretty gay.

    New rule I had not heard of apparently. Women can not be friends without being gay for each other. NOT EVER. NOT ANYMORE.

    Alright, well I was just passing by, trying to help a goon with a movie search. As there are no chainsaw/breast obsession shenanigans here, I’ll just let myself out the back way. BYE!!

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    amazing list. especially Now and Then – can anyone ride their bike EVER without singing Knock Three Times loudly and out of tune??? And if Roberta was straight, it was only because Devon Sawa was the closest thing to a pretty butch around (how else can you explain my Tiger Beat obsession with him?).

    and practical magic!! oh sandy and nic – could they have been any hotter? totally helped solidify Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You” as one of the sexiest songs ever.

    i cant believe someone else loved How to Make an American Quilt as much as i did. Im fairly certain it’s because despite Ethan Hawke being like totally dreamy, Reality Bites was boring as hell. American Quilt had way more lady drama, and who didnt worship Winona at that age?

    im also going to go out on a limb and add: Little Giants (icebox was the best dyke that never was) and LiLo’s The Parent Trap remake – mostly bc her Hallie was a ridiculously precocious tomboy, and would have grown up to be a fantastically sarcastic lezzie.

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    The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love, Set It Off and Terminator 2.

    I was born in the 70s though…which puts me at 13 in 1990. When Terminator 2 came out, I was 14…and I swear I saw that movie in the theater 10 times. It was very confusing. I just wanted to keep watching Linda Hamilton do pull ups. That could’ve been the whole movie…Linda Hamilton doing pull ups for 90 minutes.

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    Oh my god! Just came across this list. I loved most of these movies, especially A League of Their Own because I had a thing for Geena Davis and I loved Madonna. It reminds me of being 7 and playing dress up with my best friend. I used to put on the tackiest prom dress and sunglasses and pretend I was Madonna in New York. I made her my entourage, even though she only wanted to be a cowboy or a ninja. *sigh* nostalgia…

    I know it’s 80′s, but I used to watch Anne of Green Gables a lot as a child. I know it’s not meant to be gay, but my heart still swells when Anne and Diana vow to be “secret bosom friends” forever. :) :) :)

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    Wow…the fact that I’ve seen about half the list and love most of the other noteables by everyone else, further weighs down the “I just might be gay after all” side.

    And OMGOSH..Beakman’s World!!! I was totally starting to think it didn’t really exist either. “Stenongrapher Fred” [in nasal east coast accent]

    p.s. I netflix everyday!! It should def be in Webster’s as a verb.

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    As I was reading through these comments and the list of movies I realized that one was skipped that I personally adored and all of my women’s college friends agree should be on this list: “Gold Diggers: The Secret of Bear Mountain”

    There is nothing like little Anna Chlumpsky, the tomboy from the wrong side of the tracks, and little Christina Ricci, the femme new girl in town, and their unlikely friendship. The way Christina’s character leaves all her other friends and ignores the boys that like her to hang out with Anna Chlumpsky’s character? And they were totally about to kiss in the final moment before the credits start to roll.

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    I too crushed on the girl from Beakman’s World. Then she ends up playing a lesbian in the Brady Bunch movie, and I recognized her right away, and it was the best thing ever! Nice to know I wasn’t the only one :D
    Foxfire was my first Jolie movie. OMG I watched that movie soooo many times. I discovered it shortly after coming-out to myself. I wanted to cut my hair and hitchhike to Portland. :)

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    Just read through this list going, “ha, oh yeah, wow, jesus, OH MY GOD” frightening accurate!

    I would also add Bad Girls with Drew Barrymore and Madeleine Stowe, all those girls in their cowgirl outfits… drool

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    Just come out to myself for the second time (it’s a long story) after re-watching Some Kind of Wonderful and crushing hard on Watts, and finding out that other girls like her too.. :-)

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    This one technically doesn’t count because it was made in 1989, however, I probably did not watch it until 1995, so in my heart it counts, sort of.

    The Challengers. A Canadian made for TV movie about a girl who just wants to hang out with a local gang of boys. The problem? They have a “No Girls Allowed” policy.

    Here’s the trailer.

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    So this thread is 4 years old and there are multiple Angelina and Winona movies here, but no one thinks to mention Girl, Interrupted??? It’s even in the nineties! One of my biggest 90′s favs along with Practical Magic, A League of their Own, The Craft, and Now and Then. Looks like I will have to get watching on some of these others!

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    To continue with the theme of this thread being outdated, I watched Fried Green Tomatoes this afternoon for the first time and then Googled something about the Idgie and Ruth as love interests and this article was second in the search results. The article and comments that followed confirmed my thoughts on the Idgie-Ruth relationship. I wish I’d seen this film sooner, and I intend to read the book. I saw Now and Then at a friend’s birthday party on VHS when I was 7 in 1997 and all of us bonded over it. I had no conscious understanding of its subtext, but I definitely wanted to be Roberta and was fascinated by the duct-tape binding scene. I saw Practical Magic and The Craft in middle school at lunchtime in “video club” (where a select few of us went to avoid the student government rallies, elections, and football/cheerleader scene). I discovered Boys on the Side thanks to IMDB after the Weeds series finale (I love Mary Louise Parker), and Whoopi Goldberg has been one of my favorite actors to watch since I saw Sister Act (1 & 2) as a child. Oh and come to think of it–as a pre-teen I watched every episode of the short-lived series Kate Brasher and idolized Mary Stuart Masterson (who played Idgie in Fried Green Tomatoes.

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