The 200 Best Lesbian, Queer & Bisexual Movies Of All Time

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25. The Miseducation of Cameron Post

dir. Desiree Akhavan, 2018
Our Review // Watch It

The best adaptations capture the essence of their source material with a new set of tools. That’s exactly what Desiree Akhavan’s movie of Emily M. Danforth’s contemporary classic accomplishes. Akhavan focuses on the second half of the book, changes the ending, and alters lots of details, but at their core both works are about the ways queer people are brainwashed to doubt their identities. Chloë Grace Moretz is perfect as Cameron. She’s dykey and angsty and headstrong with that depth of vulnerability always peaking through. This is a quiet movie, Akhavan trusting Ashley Connor’s cinematography, Julian Wass’ score, and her actors’ faces to tell the story. Akhavan never lets the seriousness of the subject matter overwhelm the moments of humor and joy — the suggestion that our best hope for holding onto ourselves is to find community. Also switching the movie Cameron and Coley Taylor watch from The Hunger to Desert Hearts is a delightful touch.

24. Manji

dir. Yasuzô Masumura, 1964
Our Review // Unavailable

Proof that you can’t judge queer cinema by when it was made, Yasuzô Masumura’s semi-exploitation classic is absolutely bonkers. Sonoko, played with a delightfully unhinged energy by Kyôko Kishida, is a lonely housewife who falls hard for Mitsuko at their “art school for ladies.” Mitsuko is played by Ayako Wakao and she really creates a character worth going crazy for. This is a movie of big gay feelings to an extent that would be troublesome if it wasn’t so delicious. Things only get crazier when Sonoko’s husband gets involved — and even crazier when the poisoning begins. Nothing will prepare you for this movie, so you just have to watch it.

23. Certain Women

dir. Kelly Reichardt, 2016
Watch It

Renowned lesbian auteur Kelly Reichardt brings her famous touch of melancholy from her usual setting of Oregon to the plains of Montana. This triptych of stories about lonely women includes Reichardt’s most explicit work about queer women. Lily Gladstone is remarkable as a rancher who falls hard for a law professor played by Kristen Stewart. The infatuation is fairly one-sided, but it’s powerful to watch Gladstone’s shy character follow her heart and yearn for more. Like most of Reichardt’s films, this is a quiet and meditative piece, but its nuance will haunt you long after it ends.

22. I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing

dir. Patricia Rozema, 1987
Unavailable

Bursting with creativity and experimentation, Patricia Rozema’s debut is a remarkable film about finding one’s artistic voice. Sheila McCarthy’s Polly is a strange protagonist — uncertain and passive — but Rozema places us excellently inside her point of view. The movie’s queerness is handled casually as if the film is not about queerness per say, but rather the delayed maturity that many queers experience. The movie is so funny and charming that its emotional core sneaks up on you. The whole journey makes for a unique work of queer cinema.

21. Hide and Seek

dir. Su Friedrich, 1996
Available on Kanopy

Mixing documentary interviews with the tale of one twelve-year-old, Su Friedrich creates a moving masterpiece about lesbian childhoods. Conservative narratives pit queerness against children but Friedrich shows the casual queerness of so many of our younger days. There’s an innocent joy to the way she shows the girls interact and a pointed confusion in how being gay makes someone feel different long before they have the right language to understand why. It’s a simple yet remarkable film from an all-time great cinema artist.

20. Dirty Computer

dir. Janelle Monáe & others, 2018
Our Review // Watch It

Janelle Monáe has called this unique work of art an “emotion picture” and it’s easy to see why. Yes, it’s on a movie list, but it doesn’t easily fit within the box of feature film or any box really — just like its creator. Monáe and her team created a masterpiece that is at once a sci-fi epic, a visual album, a public coming out, a celebration of queerness/Blackness/femaleness, and an ode to everybody different. It’s also so sexy?? We may never know the details of Monáe’s relationship with Tessa Thompson, but whatever connection they shared is captured on-screen — the love, the sex, the finding yourself through another. Most of us didn’t have to come out under public scrutiny, but we can all use a reminder to be a “free-ass motherfucker.”

19. MURDER and murder

dir. Yvonne Rainer, 1996
Available on Kanopy

If you’re looking for a lesbian movie that begins with a 60-something lesbian saying to her straight friend, “I love eating pussy,” then look no further. A celebration of the ups and downs of a partnership, Yvonne Rainer’s last feature follows Doris and Mildred as they navigate their relationship — through the mundane and through Doris being diagnosed with breast cancer. They are accompanied by a Greek chorus of Doris’ mother, Mildred’s younger self, and Yvonne Rainer the filmmaker. It’s a complex, experimental, and ever so sweet film. The movie more or less takes the stance that all women can be and should be lesbians, and while that may not be true, Rainer is certainly convincing. Also Congressperson Pete Hoekstra used it as an excuse to cut funding from the NEA which is unfortunately always a good sign.

18. The Half Of It

dir. Alice Wu, 2020
Our Review // Available on Netflix

A decade and a half after her landmark debut (more on that later), writer/director Alice Wu returns with another gay romcom — but this time it’s not a love story. This lesbian take on Cyrano de Bergerac focuses on Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis) a shy, Chinese-American 17-year-old who splits her days taking care of her grieving father and writing essays for her peers for extra money. When a sweet and goofy football player hires her to write love letters to his crush she develops feelings of her own — and all three form an unexpected bond. This movie goes beyond the expectations we place on teen comedies, romcoms, and queer movies. It understands the messiness of adolescence, of love, of queerness. It’s a perfectly imperfect movie and confirms Wu as one of the most confident voices in lesbian cinema. Hopefully, we won’t have to wait as long for her next cinematic treasure.

17. D.E.B.S.

dir. Angela Robinson, 2004
Our Review // Watch It

Some movies seem to arrive from an alternate dimension — a homonormative utopia where queer audiences get what we deserve. Angela Robinson’s debut is exactly that kind of movie. We can indulge in the subtext of silly action movies all day long, but Robinson makes it the actual story. Why shouldn’t a campy movie about a group of girl spies also be a lesbian romcom? There was no movie like this when it came out and there haven’t really been any since. There’s a casual gayness to the movie that’s responsible for turning countless women queer — aided, of course, by Jordana Brewster as supervillain Lucy Diamond.

16. Carol

dir. Todd Haynes, 2015
Our Review // Watch It // Also Available on Vudu

One of the most instantly iconic films of the last ten years, Todd Hayne’s gorgeous adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s The Price of Salt is a poignant coming-of-age movie masquerading as a grand period love story — or, possible, vice-versa. Therese Belevit and Carol Aird are very different people at very different places in life. Therese is working at a department store for the holidays, spending her time with a man she doesn’t care much for, and daydreaming about being a photographer. Carol is ten to twenty years her senior, going through a divorce, and desperate for her undeniable gayness not to keep her from her daughter. And yet despite all their differences Therese and Carol connect. Therese finds a spark for maturity; Carol finds comfort and an escape. Phyllis Nagy’s script, Carter Burwell’s score, Ed Lachman’s cinematography, and truly every other technical aspect of the film is just perfect. Rooney Mara as Therese, Cate Blanchett as Carol, and Sarah Paulson as Carol’s friend Abby are all alluring and heartbreaking in their own specific ways. You’ll never think about a Santa hat, leather gloves, or creamed spinach the same way again.

15. Je, Tu, Il, Elle

dir. Chantal Akerman, 1974
Our Review // Available on Criterion

Chantal Akerman’s debut narrative feature is when she first established her cinematic language of depression. The first half hour of this movie finds a woman named Julie played by Akerman herself remaining entirely in her room. She moves around her furniture, she eats sugar out of a bag for sustenance, and she writes and rewrites a letter to a mysterious someone in her life. She finally leaves, but her time hitchhiking with a random man does not feel like an escape. She is still trapped in her own isolation even when around others. The only moments of release are when she finally arrives at her ex’s apartment — her ex the potential recipient of her letter — and they have sex in an extended ten minute sequence. But they are still exes and these moments can’t last. Whether or not Akerman is focusing on queer women characters, there’s a present queerness in how she views homosexuality and heterosexuality. She really did make movies for the sad gays and what a rare gift in the canon of arthouse cinema.

14. Professor Marston & the Wonder Women

dir. Angela Robinson, 2017
Our Review // Watch It // Also Available on Hulu

Angela Robinson’s career has been defined by injecting revolutionary queerness into film and TV with a casual touch. This is a biopic about the creator of Wonder Woman — as polished and neat as one might expect from the genre. But this is also a story about polyamory, about BDSM, about three individuals fighting to define their own lives and loves. There is power in completely disavowing mainstream forms and there is a different kind of power in mastering them and subverting them from within. Luke Evans and Bella Heathcoate are great as William Marston and the Marstons’ new partner, but Rebecca Hall as Elizabeth Marston truly astounds. The movie doesn’t ignore the complications of their relationship — the external and the internal — but instead allows the relationship and these characters an understanding they were never granted. There’s a reason Wonder Woman is such a popular character: these lives aren’t so rare after all — only on our screens.

13. Olivia

dir. Jacqueline Audry, 1951
Our Review // Watch It

Long ignored, this recently restored classic of lesbian cinema deserves all its newfound praise and more. It’s one of many films on this list that involve student/teacher relationships, but it’s the only one to treat that dynamic with the level of nuance it deserves. Audry encourages us to enter Olivia’s point of view, falling just as hard for her teacher crush, only to emphasize how painful the experience is for the young girl. Sometimes fantasies are meant to remain fantasies.

12. Show Me Love (Fucking Åmål)

dir. Lukas Moodyson, 1998
Unavailable

Mean-spirited, angsty, and oh so sweet, Lukas Moodyson’s grainy coming-of-age romance captures all the complications of teenagehood. The characters can be cruel — like teenagers tend to be — but it comes from insecurity, awakenings, and romance. Beyond the sour feelings, this is really a triumphant take on love. The moments of joy feel all the more satisfying bursting out of Moodyson’s realism.

11. The Handmaiden

dir. Park Chan-Wook, 2016
Our Review // Watch It

A cinematic miracle pairing two seemingly discordant visions to create one dazzling masterpiece. Park Chan-Wook’s adaptation of Sarah Waters’ Fingersmith keeps the source material’s tight plotting and well drawn characters and combines them with Park’s always remarkable style. It’s a thrilling, sexy, horrifying, ultimately romantic and hopeful movie and the whole thing is an absolute ride.

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Drew is an LA-based writer, filmmaker, and theatremaker. Her writing can be found at Bright Wall/Dark Room, Cosmopolitan UK, Thrillist, I Heart Female Directors, and, of course, Autostraddle. She is currently working on a million film and TV projects mostly about trans lesbians. Find her on Twitter and Instagram @draw_gregory.

Drew has written 122 articles for us.

60 Comments

  1. oh my god Drew, thank you for this extensive list!
    the sacrifice! of having to watch 200+ lesbian/bi/queer movies!

    I may not agree with the list 100%, but also there’s so many films I haven’t seen, so I’m gonna get on that right now!

  2. I’ve enjoyed reading this list as breaks throughout my workday. Thank you, Drew. Some of my absolute favorites are on it (Mulholland Drive, Professor Marston, Imagine Me and You) and I have plenty more to watch, just based on this list!

  3. This is an amazing list!

    I would like to throw in a small recommendation for a lesbian movie that I’ve never seen on any Autostraddle list, “What’s Cooking”. It’s a very sweet, Thanksgiving movie from 2000 that focuses on four family and one of the families is a lesbian couple played by Kyra Sedgwig and Julianna Margulies. It’s also directed by Gurinder Chadha who never gets her due as a female director who has made consistently great movies for the last 25 years. It’s not her absolute best movie (Bend It Like Beckham and Bride & Prejudice 4ever) but its a very pleasant way to spend a few hours and its in my own top 200 lesbian movies for sure!

  4. I’ve only (already?) seen 42 of these! I have some movies to watch. Thank you for all the work that went into this, I love a good list and for someone to tell me what to watch because I am nothing if not indecisive. (Too! Many! Choices!)

  5. This is an excellent list! Letterboxt says I’ve watched 25% of the list and that sounds about right. I was pretty excited to see Desert Hearts so high on the list; it’s one of my favorites. There something about it that is delightful and soars above all of the rest. The ending, in my mind, is full of possibilities. Nothing better than that.

    • I have to say I’m so disappointed that you have unequivocally decided Tomboy is a movie about a trans guy. This movie is the only one I’ve ever felt that represents my childhood as a masculine girl who liked to be taken for a boy. I actually think this is likely the experience of a lot of people who grew up to be butch women, and it feels pretty painful for that to be erased right here.

      I get that this kid could have grown up to be a trans guy. They could also grow up to be a butch woman or a non-binary lesbian. Idk why you are trying to put something that speaks to people like me in a box where there’s only one interpretation of it.

      Its your site, so do whatever. But this butch lesbian is pretty broken hearted.

      • Yeah, I am always a bit uneasy with that exclusion as well. A strict categorization for that movie isn’t fair at all. The trans experience is wide and gender and even just gender expression is an entire rainbow in itself and it’s sad to be excluding that movie.

        I am very curious as to how Autostraddle’s staff ultimately made this choice.

  6. THANK YOUUUUU This is such a valuable resource – thank you Drew & AS!!! The movie Yeu (2015) with Gil Le and Chi Pu is at leaaaast as good as some of the movies on this list :) The trailer makes it look not good but its sweet and the story line with one of the characters’ moms made me cry real bad in a good way. This clip compilation gives a better idea – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nK7gGPgIs0Y.

  7. I’ve only read p. 1 so far but want to thank you IMMENSELY for this amazing reference list. I’ve seen a few of the lesser known ones here, including The Firefly – dead brother brings two women together – as well as some of the bigger, English-language releases that weren’t quite as good as we’d hope (Birds of Prey, Lizzie, Vita and Virginia). And I remember Entre Nous from way back when!! Had a copy on VHS recorded off TV that I watched many times – very angsty, but deep emotions and great acting. I know I saw Salmonberries at a film festival but have no memory of any of its plot, though I recall kd lang being in it :).

  8. Thank you so much for this list, there’s some movies I need to watch!

    I have a few recommendations too, The Girl King (2015) a biography about Christina, Queen of Sweden. And Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga (2019) lesbian Bollywood, with dancing and all

  9. 40/200 and „Lost & delirious“ is not one of them 😁 We have a queer film festival in town, so once a year I watch a lot of movies but mostly documentaries. I will miss it so damn much this year!

    „Portrait of a lady on fire“ was a revelation last year there, and the year before I fell deeply in love with „My days of mercy“ or rather Kate Mara 😉

  10. Thanks for this list Drew, it must have taken so much work to put together. There are so many films I haven’t heard of. Also I appreciate the inclusion of Nina’s Heavenly Delights – not the best film but there’s not many Scottish lesbian films out there, so I love it for what it is.

    • There are some movies in the back half of this list that I love way more than I should (and some movies in the front half that I don’t understand the appeal…) and Nina’s Heavenly Delights is absolutely one that I adore. It knows what it wants to be! And it does that well!

  11. I love this list !!!! Thank you so much for taking the time and dedication to make such an incredible resource; your writing about film and tv continues to be my favorite on the internet… I can’t wait to watch.
    Just one note – the link to watch The Secrets actually led to a verrrrry different movie called The Secret

  12. I am a nerd for algorithms, etc – any chance you’d care to share more about how the process/procedure etc y’all used to combine that data into ranking. Did you all have votes that got combined in some way / an algorithm you used to guide criteria / was it sort of a gut choice based on the data you mentioned? etc. Just super curious! I love lists like this, but I love *making* (or knowing the behind-the-scenes of someone else’s list making system) almost as much as whatever list itself I am fancying ;)

    • It was a combination. We did a vote with the TV Team on all eligible titles that involved both a numerical rating and a list of favorites. These two forms of rating created two lists that were combined evenly into a single list. We then adjusted that list based on the decade vote that we did last year with the whole Autostraddle team as well as other internal judgements like reviews and lists.

      There was no way to be totally true to an algorithm, since everyone on the team has not seen every film (and, in fact, I’m the only one who has seen some), but we tried to stay true to that voting whenever possible. Then those other factors listed were taken into account.

      It’s fun, because even though I had the most influence on the eventual ranking there are still some films in the bottom 50 that I prefer to those in the top 50. Because taste varies! Hopefully the list reflects the queer community at large, but especially the Autostraddle community. Even though again I’m sure we all disagree with some things. haha

  13. Great list, however, I cannot believe Sarah Water’s Fingersmith wasn’t listed here. Although pretty low budget, the plot of the movie and Elaine Cassidy and Sally Hawkins acting was more than amazing. For me it can’t get any more real. The way they look at each other, you can feel their desire and suffering. I’m curious as to why was the movie not included in the list. Anyway, thanks.

  14. LOVE this list. Also wanted to show some love for “Jennifer’s Body”. Lesbian/bi horror film with two women leads directed and written by women. Explores the intimate relationship between two teenage best friends in a camp slasher film after one turns into a men-killing demon. Underneath the quirky humor is lots of painfully accurate subtext and VERY textual representation. Totally underrated queer cult classic.

  15. Kinda missed seeing “Blow Dry” on this list (I definitely liked it more than some of the movies which are on it). Yeah, it’s more about a blended family than a lesbian movie per se (and there is an implication of tragedy hanging over it: a terminal cancer diagnosis).

    But the ending finds at least brief happiness, the lesbian couple is together, and hey, some AMAZING hair-styling! Incredible cast w/ Bill Nighy, Rachel Griffiths, then (2001) up&coming It Kids Josh Hartnett and Rachel Leigh Cook, and [RIP to both] Miranda Richardson and Alan Rickman. [Richardson and Griffiths being the f/f couple]

    A particular delight for Anglophiles (I recommended it to my late mother on that count alone!] If you’ve never seen it, give it a…dry. ;-/

    [Really love finally being able to comment here, Auto. But why now, 5 (4) years into my “Supergirl” obsession, and w/ no new eps for at least a year?! }:-0]

  16. Great list! I watched a ton of these movies middle school through high school borrowed as DVDs from my public library, believe it or not! The public library was a wonderful resource to me as a young queer person and I checked out tons of young adult fiction about anything gay for years before diving into queer movies. Fucking Amal was one of these movies that I borrowed from the library and I see it listed as unavailable here. I want to encourage people to look IRL for some of these films!

    Most public library systems also have intralibrary loans so even if your local library doesn’t have what you’re looking for, they likely have a relationship with other libraries in their network to borrow within the county.

    This is also to encourage everyone to find alternatives to Amazon to watch these films. I know this is easier said than done in our era of streaming and instant shopping and with Amazon being so ubiquitous. They are such a terrible company from their mistreatment of workers and ties to government surveillance programs by providing information to Homeland Security and ICE, etc. etc.

    Thanks San Carlos Public Library and libraries everywhere for their work

    • YES! I love the library. That was also how I first watched a lot of films growing up.

      Unfortunately the average person simply doesn’t watch movies on DVD anymore, so it feels worth noting which films on this list are not available to stream. But I have a piece coming out soon that’s specifically about queer women media on home video. That’s absolutely something I think about and want to encourage others to embrace.

      And I’m with you on Amazon personally. When there’s literally any other option — even with streaming — I take it.

  17. Ooook. I have to be honest….

    So first I el give you and everyone else who took part in this long term project to dedicate it their time, their lives! It is not a small fit to undertake and therefore I am forever grateful to all of you! I cannot name any other lgbt online and offline gathering place which decided to take upon itself such an enormous endeavour you all did undertake!

    But I am hurt by the fact that you catapulted some of the best lesbian movies in the 100 – 200 positions while they were made by lesbian filmmakers, were very dedicated projects, were beloved by lgbt people around the world, were very sensibly made and were very genuine in overall portrayal, original, acting was amazing etcetcetc, in overall were magnificent projects and some of those movies are in overal among my fav ones, not because thwy r lgbt themed. So… I am really disappointed by placements of the best movies into the bad category…. While some of the very very awful and not at all enjoyable projects were rated and placed higher from all of you. This is very strange how lbt women rate art…. Very strange indeed…

  18. This is an amazing start to the list, but so many movies were left out. Some I can’t help but feel were slighted on purpose. The entire Nicole Conn and Sarah Waters collection of movies for starters. How can all 8 movies be absent?? Then there were great movies such as Tru Love, Poison Ivy, Raven’s Touch, Out at the Wedding, Finn’s Girl, Guest House, Running on Empty Dreams, Chole, Tell it to the Bees, Snapshots, Girls Like Magic, Alto,etc

    I would love to see a list created with every lesbian/queer movie ever made, without limiting it based people’s personal preferences of what they think a lesbian movie should or should not be. How about just list the movies and allow us to decide for ourselves, because each person is different, unique, and beautiful…just like each movie made. Let’s be more inclusive, not only in our cinema, but in our culture as a hole.

    Thank you for the amazing beginning though.

  19. Thanks for this – v comprehensive!
    I would also recommend Almost Adults and Carmilla (and the prequel in the form of the web series). They have the same leads – both out queer women, so they do the stories justice.

  20. Wow what an amazingly crafted list. The time and effort is greatly appreciated. I’ve been working through it chronologically, some I’ve seen but there’s a sense of nostalgia watching them again. I had a few movies that weren’t on the list that I personally enjoyed if anyone is interested.

    An unexpected Love-It’s life time and a little cheesy but there are some tender moments plus there is a happy ending.

    A Luv Tale-a movie with a queer Black woman it’s old school but it’s a really food watch plus MC lytes in it.

    Nina- An intense movie with some great scenes and the chemistry between the characters is deafening.

    City of Trees-it made me smile, believable chemistry, I did nod off a few times but I chuck that up to the slow pace of the movie or at least it felt like it to me but once it moved I was wide awake.

    A lot of these movies are in Tubi and Amazon Prime.

  21. Drew — Thanks for this terrific list. Could have sworn I had posted a comment when this piece first ran but it doesn’t seem to be here anymore. Thanks so much for your incredible knowledge of queer film history (someday I hope you’ll see my films and consider them for this canon!)

  22. Long ago, I watched a film,(maybe from the 60s or ealy 70s) on tv about an aged lesbian that was an actress in a tvshow for children. Her trade mark is that she would ride in a scooter o little motorcycle.
    Does any body know something about this, film? Title?

    • Fernando, the movie you’re looking for might be “The Killing of Sister George”. It’s about an aged lesbian actress who plays a nurse “Sister George” on a soap opera and her character rides a scooter on the show.

  23. I will never get over the fact that “Aimée & Jaguar” is not queer-universally considered a MUCH (like VERY. MUCH.) more inspiring story than some other ones which rank higher on the list (and not only on this list, so I’m not blaming anyone). Sure, the movie has its flaws, and sure, teenage coming of age stories (for example) are indeed important in some way for self-construction, but fierce lesbian love against Nazis? I wish I had seen THAT when I was a teenager. Maybe it’s because people cannot relate enough to that time period, or maybe it’s a more European story (I mean maybe more specific than some other European movies), I don’t know.

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