Here at Autostraddle we want every lesbian, every queer woman, and every non-binary person to know that movies should include us and do include us. We want you all to see our lives on screen through the best lesbian movies with the variety and quality we deserve.
That’s why five years after releasing our original “100 Best Bisexual, Queer and Lesbian Movies” list we decided to double it. The past half a decade has brought new films worthy of excitable gay celebration — and older works that have been rediscovered.
The goal with this list was to create a canon of lesbian+ movies that honor all the different types of work worthy of viewing. There are films that are simply fun for a casual night in, there are deeply thought-provoking films, and there are films that are mostly just here to turn you on.
This list was created through a rigorous multi-step process that involved a lot of lesbian movie watching, a lot of voting, and a lot of weighing factors often ignored on mainstream film lists. It was important to us that we not take into account any metric voted on by institutions composed mostly of cis straight white men. While it’s impressive when a film about queer women or nonbinary people manages to get Oscar nominations or a high Rotten Tomatoes score, the films that get those recognitions are not often made by us or specifically for us.
Here are some of the metrics we considered when voting and ranking:
- The prominence of the queer character or storyline
- Whether or not the work was made by queer people and/or women/nonbinary people
- Awards given by queer and women specific film festivals and critics circles
- And, most importantly, artistic quality
This list does not include films about trans men (e.g. Boys Don’t Cry, By Hook or By Crook), films about trans women exclusively interested in men (e.g. Tangerine, A Fantastic Woman), films based on queer books that had their explicit queerness removed (e.g. The Color Purple, Fried Green Tomatoes), or films where the queerness is just subtext (e.g. A League of Their Own, Rebecca). This list also doesn’t include short films, documentaries, or porn — with a handful of exceptions where length/genre lines were blurred.
The headline says “Lesbian, Bisexual, and Queer,” but for us that means any woman or non-binary person interested romantically or sexually in another woman or non-binary person.
One last note: There are lesbian movies on this list not currently available to stream. Some of the greatest works of queer cinema are not being watched, because people not within our community get to decide which films deserve attention. Many titles on this list were included because I contacted production companies and producers, attended rare screenings, and hunted for DVDs at actual video stores. And still some films — most notably Me siento extraña (1977) and Skin Deep (1995) — were not included because no one on our team was able to access them.
There is a world of cinema and a world of queer cinema and there are films from the last hundred years waiting to be discovered. But hey, we’ll keep searching for lost lesbian classics, the industry will keep making more films that include us, and in the meantime why not start with this little ol’ list of TWO HUNDRED movies? By the time you watch them all, we promise there will be more.
Author’s Note (1/18/22): If last year’s update made this list less white and significantly more trans, this year’s greatest accomplishment is diversity of location. The 23 new films — ranging in date from 1950 to last year — hail from 13 countries. There’s always a tension in creating this list between wanting it to be more representative of our queer world, the limits of what exists, and what’s available. This list is still predominantly American and French, but I hope each year we can keep chipping away at that.
Every time this list is posted there are a lot of comments that a list of 200 lesbian movies must include them all — I’d like to clarify that is not at all true. This year especially, films were taken off this list that I really like to make room for new titles. There are 109 films eligible for this list that are not included — and that doesn’t even count all the films that are too subtextual, have too little queerness, or are currently unavailable to our team. Every year this list improves in quality and inclusivity and I’m so excited about this year’s update! Enjoy!
200. Nina’s Heavenly Delights
dir. Pratibha Parmar, 2006
This sweet Indian-Scottish romcom is silly and sentimental, but it’s also a pleasure to watch. It has solid performances from Shelley Conn and Laura Fraser, a fun and breezy script, and a few great dance numbers. Beautiful lesbians and food porn are indeed heavenly delights and this movie has plenty of both.
199. The Pirate
dir. Jacques Doillon, 1984
This lesbian movie starts the drama at 100 and then turns it up. It’s as French as it is over-the-top as it is gay gay gay. Only the French would cast Jane Birkin in a love triangle with another woman and a man PLAYED BY HER BROTHER. It’s a brutal, unpleasant movie, but its magnetism is undeniable.
198. The Firefly
dir. Ana Maria Hermida, 2013
A film as much about grief as it is about queer love, Ana Maria Hermida’s debut is about a woman who develops a relationship with her brother’s fiancée in the wake of his death. The two women bond over their shared mourning and shared love and eventually find a way forward together. With magic realist touches and a heavy script, the movie is rich in drama, but it mostly earns its earnest ambitions.
197. Love My Life
dir. Koji Kawano, 2006
If you don’t read the plot description for this otherwise low-key lesbian coming-of-age romance, the coming out scene will be one of the most surprising ever filmed. It’s a twist that adds a fascinating layer to the story and the movie is at its best when exploring this complexity and Ichiko’s relationship to her family. Her chemistry with Eri is really sweet and actors Rei Yoshii and Asami Imajuku are fun to watch in the roles. The plot is a bit convoluted with conflict that feels manufactured, but it’s still very enjoyable.
196. Entre Nous
dir. Diane Kurys, 1983
While the lesbianism remains implicit, this is still a beautiful movie about love and obligation. Miou-Miou and Isabelle Huppert are heartbreaking as two women whose deep connection pulls them away from the men in their lives. It’s slow and chaste — at least in its queerness — but this delicate film is a tribute to love between women.
dir. Frida Kempff, 2021
Frida Kempf’s debut narrative feature is a different kind of queer horror movie. It’s about a woman named Molly who leaves a psychiatric hospital to start a new life in a new apartment. Her trauma is hinted at in dreamy flashbacks — kisses from her lover on the beach, the terrifying expanse of the sea. There was an accident. The grief and the guilt — and likely some pre-existing mental illness — caused a psychotic episode. But now she’s trying to be better. This is a simple, effective thriller that largely takes place within the confines of Molly’s claustrophobic apartment. Kempff’s direction and star Cecilia Milocco’s performance place us in Molly’s head. As she unravels, we unravel, and the whole experience is deeply unsettling. This is not a fun genre film. This is a sad and visceral foray into one woman’s mind.
dir. Stacie Passon, 2013
What begins as a gay twist on the classic story of sex-driven mid-life crise, becomes a deeper exploration of ennui and desire. Despite focusing largely on protagonist Abby’s foray into sex work, the film seems less concerned with representing that profession realistically and more concerned with how the sex (lots and lots and lots of sex!) impacts Abby as a character. Robin Weigert’s performance as Abby anchors the film despite its somewhat silly premise, and Maggie Siff gives a sexy supporting performance as one of Abby’s clients. There’s more to this movie than just the sex, but there is a lot of sex and it’s very well done!
dir. Leonie Krippendorff, 2020
How much you like Leoni Krippendorff’s lesbian coming-of-age tale about 14-year-old Berliner Nora will likely depend on how much you like lesbian coming-of-age tales in general — and your tolerance for butterfly metaphors. With an urgent, handheld style and dreamy yet realistic tone, Krippendorff’s film is just really beautiful and watchable even as it follows familiar beats. Lena Urzendowsky is excellent as the sad-eyed Nora and Jella Haase is devastating as her crush. This is a beautiful film filled with the kind of panicky intensity that defines early adolescence — and first love.
192. The Killing of Sister George
dir. Robert Aldrich, 1968
Buy on Blu-Ray
Robert Aldrich’s film is a landmark of lesbian cinema, but it’s brutal to watch. It perpetuates the trope of the bitter old lesbian with none of the pleasures of similar films. But as a movie it’s quite good with a devastating performance from Beryl Reid. It’s worth watching for her performance and for its historical importance even if it leaves a sour taste.
This Israeli coming-of-age film draws parallels between protagonist Naama’s burgeoning sexuality and her country’s troublesome politics. While she’s having the usual queer teen experiences of first love, first heartbreak, and first post-heartbreak head shave, she’s also forced to deal with her violent home life and racist father. It’s a tale of intolerance across identities that’s affecting even as it follows familiar beats.
dir. Chris Columbus, 2005
Watch It on amazon
Even fans of the musical would likely agree — or especially agree — that this adaptation doesn’t quite have the same magic as the show. But it does still have Idina Menzel as bisexual dreamboat/nightmare Maureen and isn’t that enough?? Rent means so much to so many queers and while the movie may have disappointed it still deserves recognition for capturing part of that legacy.
189. Ride or Die
dir. Ryuichi Hiroki, 2021
Watch On Netflix
Based on the popular manga Gunjō, Ryūichi Hiroki lesbian romance is bonkers and gratuitous in the best ways. While probably too long, the first half hour and the last half hour, and the chemistry between Kiko Mizuhara and Honami Sato, are good enough to justify the rest of the journey. If you want to complain about this movie having a “male gaze” or whatever — you wouldn’t be totally unjustified, but at least don’t erase that it was written by a woman, Nami Yoshikawa. This may not be the most authentic lesbian movie (whatever that means) but it’s about big, irrational feelings and what’s gayer than that?
188. My Days of Mercy
dir. Tali Shalom-Ezer, 2017
Capital punishment romance is a tough sell, but three stunning performances from Elliot Page, Kate Mara, and Amy Seimetz, and endless chemistry between Page and Mara, make this movie more watchable than its premise. It’s certainly emotional, but rarely maudlin, avoiding too much melodrama by focusing on the characters as people. There are moments of humor and even a few stellar sex scenes.
187. Stud Life
dir. Campbell X, 2012
Buy on DVD
This low-budget slice of queer London life centers on a black stud named JJ who vlogs about her experiences. Her best friend is a white gay man and the film focuses on that friendship and JJ’s new relationship with humor and sharp accuracy. There’s some casual transphobia and whorephobia, but it feels true to the messy characters trying to figure out how to navigate their community. Overall this is a really stellar film that feels grounded in a specificity we rarely see on screen.
186. My Mother Likes Women
dir. Daniela Fejerman, Ines Paris, 2002
Buy on DVD
Finding a balance between pathos and farce, this movie about three sisters and their newly out mother is a messy delight. Leonor Watling is impossible not to love as the anxious Elvira and while the film is more centered on her than her mother’s queer relationship, it’s still a funny and moving film about figuring out one’s identity. It’s also pretty clear that Elvira herself is bisexual — no matter what her creepy male therapist says.
185. When Night is Falling
dir. Patricia Rozema, 1995
Silly melodrama and lesbian movie tropes are simply a mask for a queer poetic vision in this love it or hate it drama from Patricia Rozema. Pascale Bussières’ uptight Christian college professor and Rachel Crawford’s sexually forward circus performer are magic together finding just the right chemistry for the movie’s specific tone. With endless creative flourishes, Rozema set out to make a film about queer desire and either you’ll want to mock it or live in it — or maybe both.
184. Yes or No?
dir. Sarasawadee Wongsompetch, 2010
Available on Netflix
With a cheesy score and endless adolescent feelings, this popular Thai film about a “normal” girl and her “tomboy” college roommate will make you feel 18 again. This movie may send a terrible message to baby butches in love with their lowkey homophobic seemingly straight girl roommates, but it’s simply too adorable to resist.
183. The Heiresses
dir. Marcelo Martinessi, 2018
Available on HBO Max
Slow and artful, the weight of emotions underneath this film settle in with melancholic surprise. Chela and Chiquita are two older upper-middle class lesbians whose 30 year partnership is interrupted when Chiquita goes to jail due to fraud. Broke and lonely, Chela begins offering rides to her older neighbors — and one younger woman with whom she develops a bond. Ana Brun is stellar as Chela — much of the film is just watching Chela in silence and Brun gives a performance worth watching. This is a sad film without resolutions, but its melancholy is equaled by its power.
182. Who’s Afraid of Vagina Woolf?
dir. Anna Margarita Albelo, 2013
Anna Margarita Albelo’s unique comic sensibility is on full display in this funny, charming movie based on a fictionalized version of herself. Low-budget and a bit all over the place, Albelo’s film works due to her committed performance, an endless formal inventiveness, and its unashamedly lesbian world. Also Guinevere Turner and Janina Gavankar co-star and Albelo spends much of the movie dressed in a vagina costume. What else do you need to know?
dir. César Sodero, 2020
Lesbian teachers being inappropriate with students is one of the oldest and most complicated tropes of queer women cinema. Some entries are salacious, some explore the realities of abuse, and some try to do both at once. This film does neither, opting instead for a colder, more observational approach. The titular character is lost in her twenty-something second adolescence ennui and while her emotions don’t justify her repeated bad behavior they do make it compelling to observe. This film works as well as it does because its star Sofia Palomino finds nuance and meaning in every moment. It’s a remarkable central performance you’ll want to watch no matter what Emilia is doing — no matter how sad or uncomfortable it makes you.
dir. Henrika Kull, 2021
Obviously inspired by Lizzie Borden’s Working Girls — more on that later — Henrika Kull’s story of two sex workers in love, trades the hyper-emphasis on the workplace for a greater focus on romance. This is a slow and meandering film, but the performances of Katharina Behrens and Adam Hoya — and their chemistry — keeps it compelling. Thirty-six years after Lizzie Borden’s masterpiece, accurate depictions of sex work are still largely absent from media and this is a welcome return to that low-stakes look at the job as a job.
179. Stranger Inside
dir. Cheryl Dunye, 2001
Buy on DVD
While more conventional in form and structure than much of Cheryl Dunye’s work, there’s still a lot to admire about this straight forward drama. Yolonda Ross is great as Treasure, an 18-year-old who meets her mother for the first time in prison. Dunye spent four years researching women’s prisons before making this project and that work is clear in the world that she builds for her characters.
178. Knife + Heart
dir. Yann Gonzalez, 2018
This explicitly queer take on Giallo is as bold and stylish as the genre demands. The heartsick lesbian at its center is flawed in ways that some may find interesting and others simply cruel — either way Vanessa Paradiso’s performance is compelling to watch. It’s a messy movie in plot and theme, but it’s certainly not boring. And it has a dildo knife used as a murder weapon so that’s something.
177. Itty Bitty Titty Committee
dir. Jamie Babbit, 2007
Buy on DVD
It might be goofy, dated, and a bit all over the place, but there’s still a lot to enjoy in Jamie Babbit’s lesbian movie about a newcomer to a feminist action group. Melonie Diaz plays Anna, a goody two shoes who falls hard for cool girl Sadie and in the process gets radicalized. It’s a fun movie with a great ensemble cast and it’s truly just so gay.
176. Red Doors
dir. Georgia Lee, 2005
Buy on DVD
This dramedy about a dysfunctional Chinese-American family is an absolute delight. Elaine Kao plays Julie Wong, the family’s middle daughter, a gay medical student who falls for a famous actress. Their romance provides the film’s sweetest storyline. It’s a touching film about family and the constant struggle to live life from a place of truth.
dir. Jordan Scott, 2009
Taking its place in the lineage of lesbian films about boarding schools, Jordan Scott’s striking debut feature lands on the side of brutality over eroticism. While Eva Green is arresting as always as the initially charming, eventually horrifying Miss G., the reality of her abuse is allowed to play out. It’s a frightening and effective film with an incredibly talented young cast that includes Juno Temple, Imogen Poots, and María Valverde.
dir. Bruno Barreto, 2013
Elizabeth Bishop and Lota de Macedo Soares’ relationship was far from peaceful and this movie shows it in all its messy glory. Miranda Otto and Glória Pires play the headstrong women and they’re both magnetic to watch in their brief moments of joy and in their frequent states of conflict. It’s a film about depression, substance abuse, and the creative process — and how all three affect romantic relationships.
173. Carmen & Lola
dir. Arantxa Echevarria, 2018
Available on HBO Max
There’s an entire subgenre of lesbian movies where two women fall in love and one is overtly gay and the other could fake it through a heterosexual life. But like so many oft-told stories, the repetition of patterns does not inherently imply a lack of ingenuity. Rather, this structure can be used to explore the nuance and specificity of a specific culture and specific characters. Arantxa Echevarria’s Carmen & Lola is just such a film as it focuses on two young Romani women who are being pressured into marriage and struggle to be together instead. Zaira Romero and Rosy Rodríguez play the titular characters and their chemistry further elevates the film. There is an engagement party dance scene that will burn into your memory forever.
172. The Chinese Botanist’s Daughter
dir. Dai Sijie, 2006
Buy on DVD
Lush and tragic, this is male gaze lesbian melodrama at its finest. The men are abusive, the scenery is gorgeous, and the women are madly in love. Mylène Jampanoï and Xiaoran Li succeed at deepening their simply written character and provide a couple that’s easy to root for even as the plot maddens.
dir. Martin Provost, 2013
An accomplished and thoughtful biopic led by a remarkable performance from Emmanuelle Devos, this retelling of the life of Violette Leduc is an excellent introduction to one of the great queer women writers in history. The film largely focuses on Leduc’s personal and professional relationship with Simone de Beauvoir as the two women rise in literary esteem. It’s a rather chaste film considering Leduc’s work but it’s still an interesting look at a troubled yet accomplished artist.
170. The Lure
dir. Agnieszka Smoczyńska, 2017
This genre-bending mermaid musical horror movie was likely not intended to be about a gay trans girl and her straight trans girl best friend — Michalina Olszanska and Marta Mazurek who play the central mermaids, Gold and Silver, are both cis. And yet with its literal bottom surgery and riff on The Little Mermaid — a trans girl favorite — it’s no surprise that it’s left such an impression on the community. But beyond this imposed subtext this is still a weird and wonderful work of queer cinema that includes a sung-through scene of lesbian fish sex that makes The Shape of Water look like Mr. Limpet.
Finally after so much subtext, a big budget superhero movie that explicitly includes queer women — in fact, it’s starring one. Cathy Yan’s explosive, misandrist, comic book treat may be light on gay sex and romance, but with a mention of an ex-girlfriend Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn is an on-screen canon bisexual. Add Rosie Perez’s lesbian Renee Montoya and her ex-girlfriend played by Ali Wong and a nice amount of the usual subtext that accompanies a female-led action movie and you’re left with a movie that’s gay by any standard and very gay by a Hollywood standard. Montoya also sets a lovely example for lesbian cops across media by doing the right thing — quitting.
168. Boys On the Side
dir. Herbert Ross, 1995
While very 1995 and very obviously written and directed by white men, this post-Thelma and Louise road movie is worthy of reconsideration. Whoopi Goldberg plays Jane, a lesbian who breaks up with her girlfriend and her band and heads across country for a new gig and a new life. She ends up driving with a type-A real estate agent played by Mary-Louise Parker and their initial friction soon gives way to a friendship and something more. Sure, the movie is all over the place — in tone and plot — and Drew Barrymore’s subplot with Matthew McConaughey hurts the film, it’s the chemistry between Goldberg and Parker that provide this film its heart. At a time when most mainstream movies still lived in subtext, this film provided a complex lesbian protagonist to pull at our heart strings.
167. Drifting Flowers
dir. Chou Zero, 2008
Lesbian filmmaker Chou Zero’s trio of intersecting queer tales are about love, friendship, and identity. As much about gender as it is about sexuality, the film is at its best when focusing on the character Diego played by Chao Yi-lan. In the present Diego is a masc heartthrob, but in the past we see her struggle to define her identity beyond the expectations of woman. It’s a moving film that saves its best section for last.
Lola Kirke and Breeda Wool give beautiful performances in this melancholy tale of first love in rural America. As the two women try to find a future together, they’re faced with the limitations of their circumstance. It’s an at times heartbreaking, at times sexy, and always lived in debut from director Deb Shoval.
165. Therese and Isabelle
dir. Radley Metzger, 1968
A landmark of lesbian cinema caught between Violette Leduc’s poetic truth and director Radley Metzger’s male gaze, this is an imperfect yet worthy work. This boarding school tale of young love avoids most of the tropes associated with similar stories, trading in plot for extended sex scenes, lush narration, and a visual representation of haunting memory. The second half of the film is especially stunning, for its time, yes, but for our time as well.
164. The Feels
Constance Wu playing a lesbian is probably enough of a pitch to get you to watch this breezy Netflix comedy — and it should be! She’s great as always and she has a nice chemistry with co-star Angela Trimbur. The movie is sweet and affirming as it acknowledges how different our bodies function and the necessity for communication during sex. Ever Mainard gives a standout comic performance and provides some much needed butch energy to this gay bachelorette party comedy.
dir. Catherine Corsini, 2001
Catherine Corsini would go on to make the far more romantic Summertime, but first she made this twisted tale of obsessive love. Nathalie and Louise are childhood friends unwilling to admit their feelings for each other. Louise is especially taken and over the course of decades alternates between full commitment and spiteful abandonment. This is a painful movie about jealousy and the cost of internalized shame.
dir. Milica Tomović, 2021
Taking place entirely at a children’s birthday party, this snapshot of 1993 Belgrade puts a political spin on queer chaos. While the kids dress up as Ninja Turtles, the adults oscillate between heated discussion of current events and even more heated affairs. Yes, this includes a tense love triangle between the birthday girl’s aunt, her leather jacket wearing ex, and the ex’s new young girlfriend. Working on several layers, Milica Tomović creates characters with full enough lives that the drama compels even if the historical relevance is lost on you. But understanding the place and time centers it all the more. Just a bunch of adults acting like children while the society they know falls apart.
dir. Lisa Cholodenko, 2010
Not the most beloved by the lesbian community, this Oscar-nominated movie from lesbian filmmaker Lisa Cholodenko might be due for reevaluation. While some were put off by one of the film’s married lesbians having an affair with a man, the messiness of the affair and the family dynamic all contributes to the film’s themes about marriage and queer families. It’s a funny movie with great performances from Julianne Moore, Annette Benning, Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasikowska, and Josh Hutcherson. It might not be the most groundbreaking film, but ten years later its missteps feel a lot less worrisome.
dir. Rachel Goldenberg, 2020
Available on HBO Max
A pro-choice friendship comedy, Rachel Goldenberg’s road trip romp is juggling a lot of tones. But its combination of silly and serious works, because of the two stellar performances at its center. Haley Lu Richardson and Barbie Ferreira create characters that are easy to root for and a chemistry that’s a joy to watch. Ferreira is queer IRL and she just feels so queer in every moment here. It’s exciting that we’re at a place where so many teen movies have at least one queer character — even more exciting that so much of young Hollywood is queer and can openly play those parts. The central love story of the film is the platonic one between the friends but fret not Ferreira still gets a crush and a kiss — with a monster truck driver played by Betty Who!
159. The Fish Child
dir. Lucia Puenzo, 2009
Based on her own novel, Lucia Puenzo’s film is a painful love story about two young queer women separated by race and class. Lala is from a wealthy family and has been having an affair with Ailin, her family’s maid. Their desire to escape pushes them to crime and Lala must face the naïveté of her fantasies while Ailin tries simply to survive. Inés Efron and Mariela Vitale are fantastic and fantastic together and make the film work even when the plot takes some difficult to believe turns.
dir. Zaida Bergroth, 2020
While this biopic of Moomin creator Tove Jansson is relatively straightforward, it’s elevated by a casual gay angst and a strong central performance from Alma Poystï. It follows Jansson as she struggles between her desire to be a serious artist and her increasing Moomin fame. Meanwhile, she has a series of relationships with people of various genders as she continues her pursuit for a truly free life. That freedom is felt especially in the party scenes that welcome us into Jansson’s bohemia. A fun fact is Jansson was a Leo sun, Pisces moon, Libra rising, so the dyke drama is on full display. An even more fun fact is ALL THREE of her love interests featured in this movie were Aquariuses!
157. Jennifer’s Body
Poorly marketed and unfairly maligned upon its release, Karyn Kusama and Diablo Cody’s already cult classic has finally started to get the praise it deserves. With Cody’s signature wit and Kusama’s sharp style, this horror-comedy/rape-revenge/queer-teen-girl-friendship movie is a deadly delicious treat. Megan Fox is excellent in a role that plays with her celebrity and the expectations placed upon her and Amanda Seyfried is perfect as her best friend literally named Needy Lesbian — okay, fine, Needy Lesnicki. The original film was supposed to be even more explicitly gay but even with the studio-influenced version we still get one steamy make out and lines like: “Do you buy all your murder weapons at Home Depot? God you’re butch!”
dir. Daniel Laabs, 2018
Winner of the Grand Jury prize for Outstanding American Feature at Outfest 2019, Daniel Laabs’ debut feature is about two lost individuals forming an unlikely connection. Tallie Medel is phenomenal as Maya, a heartsick lesbian struggling in the aftermath of a car accident. She befriends Freddy, a lonely gay man with an estranged daughter, played by Robert Longstreet and the film cuts back and forth between their two storylines. While a bit underwritten and at times as lost as its characters, the film ultimately works because of its central performances and Laabs’ impressive visual style.
155. Miao Miao
dir. Cheng Hsiao-Tse, 2008
If you watch this movie hoping for the teen girls at its center to be together you’ll be disappointed. But if you watch this movie to witness the kind of adolescent yearning queer teens know intimately then you’ll be pleased. It’s a classic tale of lesbian girl meets probably bi girl meets probably gay boy who is probably in love with his ex-bandmate. No one really knows what they’re doing or how to express their feelings, but with its poppy soundtrack and jarring editing Cheng Hsiao-Tse seems to embrace the messy adolescent perspective of his characters. The characters feel what they want so deeply, but feeling what you want and articulating what you want are far from the same thing. Adolescence is hard no matter what, but queer adolescence is another level of confusion.
dir. Angelina Maccarone, 2005
Buy on DVD
Jasmin Tabatabai gives a phenomenal performance in this story of an Iranian lesbian pretending to be a man and seeking asylum in Germany. It’s a difficult and heartbreaking film, but writer/director Angelina Maccarone resists easy dramatic choices in favor of a melancholy complexity.
153. My Summer of Love
dir. Pawel Pawlikowski, 2004
What begins is a quiet and tender queer coming-of-age love story takes a darker turn, as characters get increasingly untrustworthy and violent. It’s beautifully shot and has moving performances from Natalie Press and Emily Blunt, in her breakout role. It may not be the happiest queer film, but it’s not without hope, and the journey is worth it.
152. Forgotten Roads
dir. Nicol Ruiz Benavides, 2020
This movie has EVERYTHING. A 70-something lesbian rediscovering her sexuality. Another 70-something lesbian who is married to a man but moonlights as a queer lounge singer. Gays, against all odds, learning how to drive. UFOs. Yes. UFOs. Nicol Ruiz Benavides’ debut film is emotionally accessible and artistically esoteric and that combination makes for an incredible viewing experience. It’s rare to get movies about older queer women — it’s even rarer to get a film about older queer women that takes risks like this film. Lucky for us the risks pay off for a unique and meaningful viewing experience.
151. If These Walls Could Talk 2
dir. Jane Anderson, Martha Coolidge, Anne Heche, 2000
Buy on DVD
The three stories that make up this iconic HBO film certainly vary in quality. Jane Anderson’s 1961-set tale of a lesbian in mourning is simple and heartbreaking, while Anne Heche’s present day portrayal of Ellen Degeneres and Sharon Stone having a baby is cringeworthy at best. But it’s the middle section set in 1972 that makes the film what it is. Martha Coolidge’s love story between Michelle Williams and a very butch Chloë Sevigny is fun and sexy and explores questions of class and gender identity within lesbian circles. It also has an incredible supporting cast that includes Natasha Lyonne and Nia Long. The whole film can be watched by completists, but it’s this section that deserves true praise.