Welcome to the Autostraddle Team Movie Watch, in which our entire TV Team (we don’t have a Film Team, so we’re multi-tasking here) weighs in on a thematic set of lesbian/bisexual films! Because you know what, sometimes everybody except Riese thinks Battle of the Sexes is an incredible film and y’all need to know that we are not a monolith. Except… when we are. This week’s edition: Romantic Dramas! FYI: This isn’t a comprehensive list of all lesbian / bisexual romantic dramas or a list of the best ones, it’s just a SAMPLING of the genre. Also the average is of all the team members who ranked the movie, so if it doesn’t add up it’s ’cause somebody gave a ranking but didn’t write a blurb.
23. Below Her Mouth (2016) (1.5)
Erin’s Autostraddle Review (2016): “And this movie seems to wish upon the world a new generation of Shanes. But I’m urging you to let her rest. She’s been gone for nearly eight years.”
Riese: “It’s true that hot lesbian characters had hot lesbian sex in this film and that Erika Linder is beautiful, but the rest of it was almost unendurable — cardboard characters, tired “plot,” recycled romance, egregious acoustic guitar playing, insufferable protagonist — should’ve been illegal.” (1)
Heather: “This movie has been made a hundred times and so has this TV show and nearly all of those versions were better.” (1)
Valerie: “I cannot possibly recommend this movie…it’s not even the best soft-core lesbian porn I’ve ever seen. I guess it was kind of hot sometimes? That’s the best I can do.” (2)
Drew: “Porn is a thing. Don’t watch this on Netflix because you’re horny. Open a new tab, go to a porn site. I promise the writing and acting will be better.” (2)
22. Room in Rome (2010) (2)
Riese’s Autostraddle Review (2010): “I’d recommend smoking a TON of something before flipping on this masterpiece.” (Riese)
Drew: “Honestly I watched this very high and I don’t remember much about it. But I do remember being very bored which is not a good sign when you’re high and watching a movie about two women having sex… in a room… in Rome.” (2)
Heather: “You’ve gotta work really hard to make this much lesbian sex boring.” (2)
21. Go Fish (1992) (4.3)
Erin’s Autostraddle Review (2017): “It is with a heavy heart that I say that this might be the worst movie I’ve ever seen.”
Drew: “There’s something about the early 90s unremarkable-ness of this movie that really works for me. All the low-budget pals hanging around doing nothing movies that took Sundance by storm feel a bit underwhelming now. But this one is gay! And Guinevere Turner is such a cutie in her backwards baseball cap. And it’s fun to just watch a bunch of lesbians hang out and talk about stuff. Certainly groundbreaking for its time, but I think there are also pleasures to find as a modern viewer if you get on its wavelength. ” (7)
Riese: “Groundbreaking and so important for its time, but unfortunately for all the talent involved in making it happen — doesn’t really hold up. Guinevere Turner looks really cute in her baseball cap.” (3)
Heather: “Unlike Desert Hearts, this one, sadly, doesn’t stand the test of time.” (3)
20. Better Than Chocolate (1999) (4.8)
Erin’s Autostraddle Review (2016): “I feel damaged, like this movie has taken a part of my soul. And not only does this movie refuse to apologize for it, I think it’s going to use my soul’s energy in order to make it even more ridiculous for the next person who watches it.”
Drew: “This isn’t a good movie, but it is a bad movie in a very fun way. It also gets points for including a trans woman in its lesbian ensemble. Is she played by a cis man? Of course. But he honestly does a better job than any of the men who won Oscars for doing the same thing.” (6)
Heather: “It’s so dated now, but at the time — when you could only get Netflix on DVDs mailed to your house — it made a lot of cracks in a lot of closet doors. ” (5)
Riese: “This is a bad movie but it also portrayed a genuine lesbian social circle rather than an isolated romantic storyline, and one that included a trans woman at that.” (5)
Natalie: “Christina Cox deserved so much better than this movie.” (3)
19. Blue is the Warmest Color (2013, France) (4.6)
Kate’s Autostraddle Review (2013): “At a bloated 2 hours and 53 minutes, one wonders if there were any limitations placed on Kechiche’s vision, and if the film might have improved had someone taken him aside at some point and given him a lesson in the more harmful ways that one can portray a queer person.”
Natalie: “Knowing what the lead actresses went through, it’s hard for me to imagine watching this movie today…but even before I learned all that, I thought the back half of the movie was AWFUL.” (2)
Heather: “I wasn’t super sold on this when it first hit theaters in the U.S. — despite Adèle Exarchopoulos’s revelatory performance — and as the actresses have opened up about how they felt exploited by the director on-set, it’s become unwatchable.” (2)
Kayla: “The emotions in this movie are visceral and compelling, and the sex scenes are appalling.” (5)
Riese: “My theory about this film is that people who’ve been in love with the same ex for 3-5 years post-breakup related to it so strongly they didn’t notice it was too long and that there was too much chewing. But I didn’t hate it.” (6)
Drew: “The way this film was created, especially its sex scenes, is absolutely unacceptable. I also think it’s telling that a lesbian movie with such a male gaze broke into mainstream film circles in a way queer women films by queer women rarely do. But I can’t help myself! It has so many feelings and I love a movie with feelings! I haven’t watched this movie in years, but I loved it at a formative time in my life and I can’t seem to let it go…” (8)
18. Loving Annabelle (2006) (5.8)
Sarah’s Autostraddle Review (2009): “Loving Annabelle is not the greatest movie ever, but it’s refreshingly realistic.”
Riese: “I realize objectively that this is bad, but I wanna hold space for how much I loved this teacher/student romance when I first saw it in my early twenties. (6)
Heather: “A forbidden student-teacher romance that seemed so sexy to me as a closeted 25-year-old and seems so icky to me now as a non-closeted 40-year-old.” (6)
Natalie: “The only lesbian movie I’ve ever watched and wished for an unhappy ending. That said, if you’re going to watch a movie with a teacher/student romance, watch this, not Bloomington. Do not watch Bloomington.)” (6)
Drew: “This remake of Mädchen in Uniform, the 1931 German classic, is totally devoid of that film’s complexity and artistry. But this one is still fun enough. It’s very short and that’s something.” (5)
17. The Duke Of Burgundy (2015) (6)
Fikri’s Autostraddle Review (2015): “…the film captures sex, love, lust and affection all at the same time and really well, which is really impressive”
Drew: “I guess it’s sort of interesting, but this one feels very male gaze-y and its pleasures are not nearly enough to make up for that.” (6)
Riese: “Starts out intriguingly unlike any lesbian film I’ve ever seen, and then just gets progressively weirder until it can barely hold itself up. Still, points for being bold, I guess?” (7)
16. High Art (1998) (6.2)
Eli’s Autostraddle Review (2009): “The first time I saw High Art, my psuedoladyfriend made fun of me for crying, and when I said it was “sad & beautiful” she said it was just “tragic.” Whatever.”
Drew: “It feels like this movie snorted a line of heroin with its characters. It’s slow and deliberate with an ever-impending sense of danger. Ally Sheedy is as unsettling as she is irresistible.” (8)
Riese: “I guess I’m a sucker for a tortured artist going nowhere fast and taking a straight girl along with her.” (7)
Heather: “It was required viewing for lesbians of a certain age, and it still holds some charm.” (6)
Natalie: “I did not like this movie. Like, not at all. I wrote a note to a friend after seeing it that said, “okay, this movie sucks. I forced myself to watch the rest and have regretted it ever since.” (2)
15. The Incredibly True Adventures of 2 Girls In Love (1995) (6.3)
Erin’s Autostraddle Review (2018): “We open with Laurel Holloman as “Randy” making out with an older married woman in a gas station bathroom. This, by the way, is the most interesting thing that will happen in this entire movie. Let that settle in.”
Drew: “The title is absurd, but the movie is amazing! It’s just so fun and sweet. And Laurel Holloman gives an actual good performance! It may even make you like Tina! Crazy!” (8)
Carmen: “Seeing a black film mainstay like Nicole Ari Parker in a lesbian film was very formative for me early on, seeing her play a middle class black girl coming to terms with her sexuality – doubly so.” (7)
Heather: “There’s still something charming about this Tina Kennard origin story.” (5)
Natalie: “I am on-board with Nicole Ari Parker playing gay from now until the end of time.” (5)
14. I Can’t Think Straight (2008) (6)
Erin’s Autostraddle Review (2017): “Writer Shamim Sarif has managed a believable and engaging romantic comedy that doesn’t end in someone jumping off or setting fire to a building, and I think that deserves something special. DM me, Shamim.”
Heather: “I can’t remember what we all loved about this movie; maybe the fact that no one died?” (5)
Natalie: “I love this movie for what it is, an adorable lesbian romcom. ” (7)
Riese: “I could barely get through this the first time around, but found it refreshingly charming, if cheesy and formulaic, on my second watch.” (6)
13. Summer of Sangalie (2015, The Netherlands) (6)
Heather: “It’s beautifully filmed, but there are better versions of this coming-of-age story that’s been told on a loop by indie filmmakers for the last three decades.” (6)
12. Boy Meets Girl (2015) (6.7)
Mari’s Autostraddle Review (2015): “It’s a romantic comedy that’s actually both genuinely romantic, and genuinely funny.”
Drew: “It’s slightly saccharine, somewhat simple, and certainly flawed, but I don’t really care. This is literally the only romcom starring a trans woman I’ve ever seen and I cherish every adorable moment. Michelle Hendley’s performance is better than the movie and it makes me sad that she hasn’t had more of a career. I’d especially love to see her in something written and directed by a trans person!” (8)
Heather: “You mean trans actresses existed in 1994 and therefore every current argument from casting directors about trans actresses not existing isn’t true???” (6)
Riese: “”Very cute story offering important representation through a bisexual trans woman played by an actual trans actress.” (6)
11. Summertime / La Belle Saison (2016, France) (7.5)
Drew: “I LOVED this movie when I first saw it. And then I was like, okay, calm down you’re just horny. But then I was like, sure, but isn’t that valid?? Izïa Higelin is endlessly swoon-worthy and I can’t resist her or the combination of lesbian love story and feminist political awakening.” (9)
10. Kyss Mig/Kiss Me (2011, Sweden) (7.7)
Kate’s Autostraddle Review (2013): “What makes Kiss Me so wonderful, though, is that what could be a sudsy soap opera – two stepsisters falling for each other on the eve of a double wedding – is told in such a way that the emotions get to speak for themselves.”
Heather: “More lesbians should kiss and have sex in the sunlight on-screen like this.” (8)
Riese: “The plot was pretty standard for a lesbian movie but the characters win you over in this sweet, honest and engaging little romance.” (8)
Natalie: “Reminiscent of other lesbian movies you’ve probably seen but worth watching for the sizzling chemistry between the two leads.” (7)
9. Margarita With a Straw (2015) (8.5)
Carrie’s Autostraddle Review (2016): “Margarita is pretty damn close to the movie I’ve always wanted. It’s funny, touching, visually rich, and only slightly too syrupy toward the end”
Kayla: “Honest, nuanced character development makes this movie a delight…most of the time…but there’s one plot development in particular that sits with me wrong.” (9)
Heather: “Finally some disability rep up in this canon!” (8)
8. Disobedience (2018) (9)
Erin’s Autostraddle Review (2018): “I was informed by my viewing companion that I started to do the “wrap it up” hand motion before the credits even began to roll.”
Kayla’s Autostraddle Review (2018): “In short: This gorgeous movie featuring two famous Rachels and lesbian spitplay will probably make you cry. It’s sad throughout but not exactly tragic. ”
Heather: “A studied, stoic, brilliant addition to the list of films about lesbians oppressed by — and then freed from — the faith of their childhood. ” (10)
Kayla: “This gorgeous movie featuring two famous Rachels and lesbian spitplay will probably make you cry.” (10)
Drew: “Maybe it’s because I saw this in a theatre with reclining seats and my nails matched my outfit, but I loved this movie. That doesn’t mean I can defend it! It makes very little dramatic sense in lots of ways and so many creative choices make me fully crane my neck. But Rachel Weisz is so hot and that sex scene is so hot and it’s all so Jewish and I don’t know! Liking this movie was an even less popular take among friends than disliking The Favourite and I apologize my Weisz takes from last year were all wrong.” (7)
7. Carol (2015) (9)
Heather’s Autostraddle Review (2015): “Perhaps the best praise I can give Carol is that ten minutes into it, I forgot it was my job to be a critic. Twenty minutes in, I forgot I was watching a movie at all.”
Carmen: “I have a lot of respect for this film – and I 100% think you should see it so you can get all the inside jokes that have permeated queer women’s pop culture – but ultimately it just isn’t my cup of tea. I’ll forever love Cate Blanchett and Sarah Paulson’s relationship in this movie. The best depiction of lesbian friendship I’ve probably ever seen on film.” (7)
Riese: “It’s basically flawless but also (sorry) a little slow — I admit my appreciation for it has grown through my extended close contact to #1 carol Fan, Erin.” (8)
Drew: “The best part of having a Christmas Eve birthday is watching this every year. Every year? Didn’t it come out like a few years ago? Yes, fine, but I’m committed to this tradition for the rest of my life, thank you very much.” (10)
Kayla: “Beautiful, quiet, tense, seismic—this movie perfectly captures early, new, slightly obsessive queer love.” (10)
Heather: “Dearest, it’s the greatest lesbian movie ever made.” (10)
6. The Watermelon Woman (1997) (9.2)
Heather: “If this movie had had an actual budget, it would be regarded as one of the best and most important films in our canon. Its biting social critique is as relevant as ever.” (8)
Carmen: “Cheryl Dunye’s iconic work is like none other. It’s the very best of radical queer cinema and unapologetically black. If you’re looking for a real education in the best of our work on film, this is where you should absolutely start.” (10)
Drew: “This is my favorite movie of all time. It’s hilarious, it’s formally inventive, it has one of the best sex scenes ever, and it’s dealing with so, so much (the racism, sexism, and homophobia of film history, interracial relationships, exclusionary feminism, and so much more!). But the reason it’s my favorite movie is because of its message: If we don’t see ourselves on screen, we can put ourselves on screen.” (10)
5. Circumstance (2011, Iran) (9.3)
Riese’s Autostraddle Review (2014): “This story is full of youth but also sexuality, and family and rules and an underworld where people can be who they are.”
Heather: “Sensual, sincere: It feels familiar, but brand new, too.” (9)
4. Desert Hearts (1985) (9.7)
Rachel’s Autostraddle Review (2009): Bottom line, there’s something that resonates when watching this movie; something about it that makes it feel like it could be real. Or maybe just something you wish was real.”
Drew: “Okay people it’s time we shake off this movie’s corny classic reputation and respect it for the complicated, sexy masterpiece that it is! Its central relationship is obviously great, but its the supporting relationships that really elevate this film. Cay’s friendship with Silver is so touching, especially the scene in the bath. Also “I don’t act that way to change the world. I act that way so that the goddamn world won’t change me!” is one my favorite movie quotes ever. Also also Patrica Charbonneau invented pants.” (10)
Heather: “Desert Hearts still holds up as one of the great lesbian movies and romances in cinematic history, and the no-background-music sex is as erotic as ever.” (10)
Riese: “A lesbian love story so resonant and affecting it’s hard to believe it actually happened when it did.” (9)
3. The Handmaiden (Korea) (2016) (9.8)
Riese: “Kinky sex and twist after twist after twist. Nothing to complain about here.” (10)
Heather: “One of the sexiest, most electrifying lesbian films I’ve ever seen. I bet Sarah Waters fucking loves this adaptation of her book.” (10)
Kayla: “There isn’t really a lesbian heist movie I don’t like, but this is one of the greatest ever made.” (10)
Drew: “Okay, yes, the sex is gratuitous and the violence is gratuitous and this is still very much a Park Chan-wook film. But his sensibilities are so well-balanced by Sarah Waters’ novel. This is a visually stunning, deeply thrilling movie.” (9)
2. In Between (Israel) (2017) (10)
Drew: “I’ve never seen a film capture the mundanity of daily oppression as well as In Between, specifically how that affects people with multiple oppressed identities. This is an emotional, at times sexy, at times thrilling movie, that somehow still feels like just a slice of life.” (10)
1. Rafiki (Kenya) (2018) (10)
Kari’s Autostraddle Review (2018): “Black African Woman Excellence at its best.”
Heather: “Truly, literally revolutionary.” (10)
I’m a little shocked that Carol didn’t snag the No.1 spot, but I just saw Rafiki last week and it gave me those butterflies at almost 40 that The True Adventures did at almost twenty.
As a Korean lesbian living in Korea, I think The Handmaiden is overrated by non-Korean lesbians.
Though it’s true that it is the most successful lesbian film in Korea. I felt it had too much male gaze and the sex scenes are absurd. I hope Korean films by female directors or those that have less male gaze get more recognized globally, especially not The Parasite.
Carol has my heart forever but I am so here for all the Black lesbian- and lesbian of color-centered films ranked higher!
The mere fact that Carol and Disobedience didn’t make it into the Top 5 kinda makes me want to throw something against the wall that will smash into smithereens…
….but yeah, okay; everyone is entitled to their opinion.
Also, I really, really, REALLY liked Loving Annabelle and I Can’t Think Straight? The first because it was just fraught with angst and tension and I knew there was no way we’d get a happy ending but like a train wreck, I just couldn’t look away. As for ICTS, well it’s just a good ole’ romcom, where both leads are women! And there’s a happy ending! All of these equal an automatic yay. The director/author also did another movie, The World Unseen? I liked that one too though the ending was bittersweet at best.
I was half expecting the film My Summer of Love on this list at number 18, but surprised it is not. Would Freeheld be considered romantic drama, or is that just drama?
Always interesting to see how different people rank these. My wife and I did not care for Disobedience at all for some reason; we couldn’t finish it.
Same here. Did not like Disobedience, shocked with the top picks and that Carol wasn’t even in the top 5
So many movies on this list are just trash. Rafiki is fine but #1? The Handmaiden is just plain bad. Did no one judge this by cinematic aspects?
If anyone is on icheckmovies, feel free to check out my list, „best lesbian flicks“. Is Desert Hearts the best lesbian movie of all times? Probably not, but at least it’s important. In Between and Circumstance are great too, but where is Mosquita y Mary and A Date for Mad Mary? This list stinks, sorry, Autostraddle. Love you, but nuh uh!
Some great films on this list. Am I the only one who unironically loves Room in Rome?
I wouldn’t say I love, but there’s something relatable about holing up in a room with somebody and thinking it’s just going to be some sex and a nap but ends up being a bunch of things with much more talking than you expected.
The outside world calling, not wanting to leave the bubble of the room and face it but it’s gunna happen. There’s no stopping it.
Well this inspired me to watch The Handmaiden for a fourth time, thanks Autostraddle!
it’s probably not an exaggeration to say Margarita With a Straw changed my life? i saw it at a queer film festival when it was doing its original circuit, and it was the first disability rep i’d seen on film since becoming disabled myself. it forced me to articulate what i did and didn’t want out of the world, and now i’m trying to fund a postbacc degree in disability studies!
anyway i give it a 9/10
I just watched The Watermelon Woman after years of seeing the name on top ten lists and really enjoyed it! I went to see a Zoe Leonard photography exhibit, and included were the historical pictures she made for the movie. They were beautiful and fascinating, as was the film.
So, Rafiki and In Between get the top spot with one 10?
They say in the intro that the scores may include rankings from team members who didn’t write a blurb
Yes. I just thought they’d write something for No.1 and 2
You can’t possibly smoke enough to make Room in Rome watchable.
Also, remember that time they tried to make KD Lang an actress?
Surprised not to see Imagine Me & You here! I know it’s cheesy and formulaic but it was one of the better ones around at the time, I’d say.
I really need to bump Desert Hearts up my to-watch list. And I’m impatiently waiting until Rafiki is available on some platform I can rent or stream it from!
Yes, but Imagine Me & You is a romantic comedy, not a romantic drama.
Well sure but so are several others on this list, even as described in the blurbs below them
It was in the comedy collection: https://www.autostraddle.com/20-lesbian-and-bisexual-comedy-movies-ranked/
I feel like confusion/disappointment about the in- and exclusion in these lists is like the new “You forgot about Lost & Delirious”.
“… that seemed so sexy to me as a closeted 25-year-old and seems so icky to me now as a non-closeted 40-year-old.” Sums up a lot of my life.
I actually really liked Below Her Mouth.
The moment when they’re having sex and it suddenly turns into more, for both of them. Seeing a stone butch lesbian crack open, much to her own shock and dismay. Two people who don’t have much in the way of communication skills, who’ve up to then lived stilted dial-it-in lives, until their hearts take over and they make a connection. And they choose to follow that connection in spite of it being so new to them and in spite of them being such opposites. Romance ! Feelings ! So redeeming.
That was something to see, for me at least.
i’m the only person i know who has this take, but i ****hated**** the handmaiden. it felt like the most male gaze-laden move i’ve ever seen, and is the only movie i’ve ever had to walk out of the theater for part of (i returned after a few minutes, but later i really wished i hadn’t). granted i was not familiar with park chan-wook’s work, so i really wasn’t prepared for the sexual violence. i think the overall plot is so great and he is saying so many smart things politically in this film, but the sex scenes between the two women felt, to me, wholly and grotesquely overshadowed by the undercurrent of sexual violence in the film.
but – i love this list and that y’all are bringing back old reviews, and looking forward to watching a lot of these!
(i also haven’t read the book, although i’d like to someday, so i don’t know how closely the sex scenes hew to the original)
hi gay gracie hart! i also hated his movie. honestly my girlfriend at the time and i went in prepared to love it, because i LOVE the book (which is quite different), and within moments of the first sex scene we were frozen – at one point, during another sex scene, everyone in the theater started laughing???? Truly, the sex scenes were…not for me.
The book was written by a UK author and set in the UK, and what I DID like about the movie was how beautifully it was transposed into a Korean story.
But yeah, definitely give the book a shot!
Sexual violence fascination all through, edgy, no redeeming features except exotic visuals.
No, you’re right. It is a bad movie. I have watched over 4000 movies in my life (sadly the overwhelming majority did not include lesbians) and judging just by storytelling and is movie is complete crap. Especially if you have watched the (slightly cheesy but much better) adaptaion of the BBC (Fingersmith). Just like Carol (which is not bad but also not great if you substract the lesbian content) people flock to these movies because it’s what’s being fed to them. Much like most “Top Best” lists should just be called “most popular”.
no takers for the biker section of itwct2. it has everything for me – beer, motorbike, gayness, butch pride and infinite hatred for the predatory fucking cult always on the lookout for targets out there.
It may just be the asian in me but a list without Saving Face is surely an incomplete list.
I do have to admit I was drawn in to the characters of Kiss Me and can totally relate to Riese’s comment.
Saving Face was on the comedy list a few weeks back I think!
I’ve had some issues with films getting pigeonholed in one list or another, but these are the times we’re living in.
JayBee we would never forget Saving Face!!! It’s here on our comedy list: https://www.autostraddle.com/20-lesbian-and-bisexual-comedy-movies-ranked/
AND IT GOT THE #1 SPOT!!
The reality is that most movies cross genres in one way or another, but we tried to keep these lists unique and separate for the sake of variety between the posts. If you have any other questions, let us know.
Oh boy …how embarrassing! Can’t believe I missed it. Thanks for letting me know.
Regarding the lists, it does seem like a huge task trying to separate many of them as they do crossover quite a bit. Thanks for taking the time though :)
Ditto on Saving Face! Surprised to not see Saving Face on this list~~
WHY no Portrait of a Lady on Fire? Cos of the tragic ending?
Otherwise, wonderful to see black lesbian films represented so highly on this list.
Oh, I guess because this list was made before it came out… that’s fair enough 😂