8 Pretty Great Lesbian Movies You Haven’t Seen Yet

We’re putting together this list of the Top 100 Lesbian Movies Of All Time, a project which has involved a lot of surveying of other movie-watchers and has also required me to watch no less than 30 allegedly queer films over the last two weeks. I believe this process has transformed my brain into a smaller, more forgiving and less cynical organ than it was last month.

Let’s be real: lesbian films are notoriously medicore, and as a moviegoer, I’m very difficult to please. There are good ones, for sure, many of which I saw during that two-year time period in the mid-’00s when I gave myself a crash-course in LGBTQ culture in preparation for a book I was working on. (In a strange twist of fate, all that research ultimately inspired me to give up on the book and create this online publication and community instead!) Since launching Autostraddle, I’ve caught at least a dozen new and undeniably excellent releases like Pariah and Mosquita y Mari and kindly declined to review at least a dozen films that were actually unbearable, like And Then Came Lola and My Normal.

But none of that compares to the pace at which I’ve been consuming lesbian films for the past two weeks. I watched a bunch of movies nobody had seen and bunch of movies we just weren’t sure where to place. I watched many of these with somewhat divided attention — at the gym, while doing accounting or having a slow-paced but relatively consuming work-related conversation — I didn’t watch as many foreign films as I wanted to because you can’t half-watch subtitles, but I have now seen: Cloudburst, Tru Love, Better Than Chocolate, The World Unseen, Reform School Girls, Trigger, The Fish Child / El Niño Pez, Family, Four-Faced Liar, Farewell My Queen, Miao Miao, Reaching For The Moon, Jack + Diane, A Marine Story, Drool, I Can’t Think Straight, Margarita, and the eight movies below.

(Also you can look forward to that Top 100 debuting very soon!!)


 

Bumblef*ck USA (2014)

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bumblefckusa-lesbian-movie

This was the first movie I saw where I actually stopped what I was working on to focus completely on the movie. It’s sort of mixed-up — there’s a somewhat reluctant-to-take-off storyline about a curious ostensibly-straight girl visiting a small town who is charmed by the village lesbian, and this narrative is intercut with startlingly authentic interviews with seemingly real small town queer people. I’m not sure if the film succeeded, but it was compelling to witness.


Lianna (1983)

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lianna-lesbian-movie

This was a bold film to make back then. There’s actual lesbian sex in this movie! It’s a Canadian film in which everybody works in academia speaks in NPR voices and wears sensible sweaters and none of the women wear makeup. Lianna, who’s married to a jerk who made her quit school to become his wife, goes back to night school (against his wishes) and falls for her female child psychology professor. This leads to the unraveling of her marriage and the breaking up of her family, throughout which Lianna is sometimes frustratingly naive and sometimes endearingly so.


The Secrets/Ha-Sodot (Israeli)  (2007)

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the-secrets-ha-sodot-lesbian-movie

I’m always jealous of people who speak French or Italian when we’re watching movies in those languages with subtitles and I feel really blessed when the movie is in Spanish or Hebrew, because even though I can’t speak those languages anymore, I studied them both for long enough that it’s slightly easier to actually listen for tone than it is for languages I don’t speak. Which is just to say that it’s really rare to see a lesbian movie in Hebrew, I wish I’d studied Swedish instead. Anyhow! If you kinda liked or barely tolerated Blue Is The Warmest Color, you might truly like this film. It’s long and goes in many different dimensions, but is also tender and feminist, too.


Circumstance (Iranian) (2011)

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Circumstance

First of all, I think Sarah Kazemy might be one of the world’s most beautiful people? Like OMG YOU WERE BORN THAT WAY? This story is full of youth but also sexuality, and family and rules and an underworld where people can be who they are. The two girls at the center are being torn really strongly in a few directions, sometimes almost violently so, but can’t seem to untangle from each other or from their familial obligations. It’s worth your undivided attention and it easily got mine.


It’s In The Water (1997)

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its-in-the-water-lesbian-film

THIS IS SO ’90S! Seriously you can tell that the lead character read Teen Magazine and also considers Sarah Michelle Geller to be her fashion icon. I thought this movie was gonna be about an entire town turning gay because of the water, and it was actually not about that. It was a sort of tepid and occasionally quirky romantic comedy of sorts with a lot of campy characters. The fact that this movie didn’t make me want to dunk my head in a pot of cold tapioca pudding was the first time I became concerned that I’d seen so many lesbian movies that I was becoming a softie and no longer knew my ass from my elbow.


Kiss Me/Kyss Mig (Swedish) (2011)

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kyss-mig

I’d heard good things about this one and indeed it was quite nice! The plot was pretty standard for a lesbian movie — dashing lesbian inspires a girl involved with a man to stray from her man in order to get naked with the dashing lesbian — but it was a sweet and honest film, too.


Girltrash: All Night Long (2014)

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girltrash-lesbian-movie

I wasn’t gonna watch this one and we’ve avoided promoting it because we’re standing behind Angela Robinson, who has said that she didn’t okay this cut and therefore doesn’t support any screenings or commercial sales of it. Also, Power UP has been spamming my facebook walls and the facebook walls of everybody I know with Girltrash promo stuff and it’s been driving me insane! But we couldn’t create a list of the Top 100 Lesbian Movies of all time without at least considering this one, regardless of what happened behind the scenes, and my girlfriend Abby and I are South of Nowhere fangirls so last night we caved in and watched it. It was pretty fun and sweet, actually! Plus, my girlfriend Tasha from The L Word is in it.


Ashley (2013)

watch on amazon

ashley-lesbian-movie

What’s interesting about this is that most days, this movie on Amazon is Autostraddle’s #1 outclick, from when Kate recommended it in 5 Lesbian Films You Might Have Missed in 2013, I think because many people are drawn to stories that contain terrible things like self-mutilation and sexual assault. Or perhaps because you recognize the lead actress from America’s Next Top Model! It was dark, sure, if you’re into that kind of thing. (I am.) Also I wish I knew how to nail a first date by not talking for the entire time like Ashley does?


 

Who’s Afraid of Vagina Wolf? (2013)

watch on wolfe video

whos-afraid-of-vagina-wolf

Okay so I didn’t actually watch this one yet because last night I officially maxed out on lesbian movies and needed to take a break and work on some other things before I got to this one but I have heard so many good things about it so you should go watch it and let me know what you think. The woman who made this was on this one episode of The Real L Word and in my recap I was like WHO IS THIS GENIUS DRESSED LIKE A VAGINA AT WHITNEY MIXTER’S “WHITE TRASH PARTY” and her friends read it and told her about it and then we e-mailed and she told me about this movie. Then this movie started to exist! GO WATCH IT.

Riese is a Jewish lesbian and the 37-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key power lesbian and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. 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 Nylon, Queerty, 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! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2607 articles for us.

76 Comments

  1. I watched Kiss Me when I was trying to absorb as much queer pop culture as possible prior to coming our (I’m not sure why, it just felt like the only thing to do), it’s pretty excellent (and also the plot hit home in a lot of ways for me.)

    Very excited to work my way through the rest of this list though, thanks heaps for compiling it!

  2. YAY! More to the list. My girlfriend and I previously made a list of lesbian movies to binge watch and we’ve only made it through like a third of the movies listed. Some good, some not so good, but we suffered through the representation together. I am a little tired of the same narrative of the girl who is already taken by someone and becomes suddenly attracted to this one woman.

    This is why I love Carmilla, the queer women there just are. They exist, and things happen, and their sexuality and queerness is just part of the deal. I want more stuff like that.

    Of the above mentioned we’ve only watched Kiss Me, and I thought it was pretty decent.

  3. Thanks for this list! I’m always looking for good lezzie movies to watch especially now that hibernation period is coming. AND I just really liked to say that secrets/ha-sodot does not in any level compare to the trashy blue is warmest color movie. Maybe it’s just me because I really fucking hate that movie. (I feel very strongly about this apparently.)

    • We need an open thread about BITWC. I went to see it by chance not having heard anything about it, absolutely loved it with all my heart, and then afterwards read all this awful stuff about the director and now I really want to watch it again and I can’t bring myself to, so I got the graphic novel, which is so great, and I don’t GET why people don’t like it!

  4. “Auf der Anderer Seit/Edge of Heaven” (2007, in German and Turkish)!!! It’s a wonderful movie about grief, migration, love and family with a lesbian relationship at the heart of it. Great soundtrack, too. It was Germany’s nominee for a best foreign film Academy Award.

  5. Oh, I didn’t know that Angela Robinson wasn’t ok with the release of Girltrash. I watched it and really enjoyed it (I mean, lesbians + songs + trash = I’M IN).

    I recently saw All Cheerleaders Die with Caitlin Stasey, if you like nonsense funny/trashy things I totally recommend it.

    Also, one of my new teachers looks like the blond girl (too lazy to google her name) in Kyss Mig. Yeah, it’s being an interesting semester.

  6. I’ve seen “Circumstance”, but to be honest I didn’t watch it for the lesbian plot. I watched it for a look at young people living in Iran. I really like reading about the (attempted/attempting) cultural revolution going on there.

  7. who’s afraid of vagina wolf is SO GREAT. it was funny and heartwarming and genuine and everything i want from a lesbi film. also papi from the l word looking de-lightful.

    i think what i liked the most about it was that it was centred around women who just sort of happened to be queer, and there was no apologetic need for male characters or a male storyline.

    saw it as part of a lesbian film festival called dyke drama. if anyone is in perth or western australia definitely look it up, i think it’ll be back around february and is a really special and well put together event.

  8. am i the only lady in existence to intensely dislike kiss myg? i feel like we as a viewership have settled for poor production values, grotesquely bad acting, and super creepy relationship dynamics for so long that we now believe this is a fantastic standard.

    my top 100 list has about four movies on it and i have seen SO MANY OTHERS I CAN’T EVER GET THOSE HOURS BACK:
    #1 – but i’m a cheerleader
    #28 – heavenly creatures (super creepy dynamics, but)
    #46 – aimee & jaguar
    #84 or so – imagine me and you.

    i’m still totally going to watch all of these, though. ugh. pray for me.

    • Nope, I fully agree with you and for all the same reasons – unfortunately a lot of lesbian films fall short in those categories as well. I know I should support all the lady-lovin’ films I can get my hands on but my time is too precious to watch bad films.

      • my sexuality was also movie-inspired! i knew i liked girls when i watched but i’m a cheerleader, but it made me realize that i would be disappointed to have a boy for a lover if we ever watched a great lesbian movie like that together. i had no idea there WERE no other great lesbian movies like that and i needn’t have worried.

        oh, the boys i could have loved…

    • “i feel like we as a viewership have settled for poor production values, grotesquely bad acting, and super creepy relationship dynamics for so long that we now believe this is a fantastic standard.”

      i actually agree with this wholeheartedly. like i suggested in the intro, i started to feel like after two weeks of watching lesbian movies (which i usually avoid because they’re almost all terrible and i’m not a big movie person anyhow), my overall standards had lowered so dramatically that i had to stop watching lesbian movies altogether in order to piece back together the parts of my brain that had possibly fallen out of my head.

      • yes, i think we are coming from roughly the same place, which was why i was looking forward to checking out your endorsements. i am still going to check these all out, and i’m actually glad you included kiss myg. it’s like finding a pristine bowl of candies in the sewer with one nugget of poop nestled in the mix: lower your expectations, it seems to say. these are sewer candies after all.

  9. Wait, “It’s In the Water” ISN’T about a town where people become gay from drinking the water? We watched this at a gay-straight alliance movie night when I was in college and I totally thought that’s what it was about. (Or maybe I was distracted because the girl I liked was talking to me and we left the movie after about 20 minutes. Maybe.)

    Also a friend of mine worked on “Who’s Afraid of Vagina Wolf?” but I still have not watched it because I’m terrible. I should watch it, now that I have a handy link at which to do so.

  10. Love the list!

    I might add one bittersweet comedy to that list: Joe + Belle by Veronica Kedar with Sivan Levy, that I have seen during a queer film festival in Paris a couple of years ago.

    You should check on it, I love rewatching it at times 😉

  11. It’s a stretch to call most of these films ‘pretty great.’ The list of ‘pretty great’ lesbian films is pretty small. Especially Girltrash – like you I caved in and watched it. It was truly, truly awful and I can see why Angela Robinson doesn’t want to be associated with it. It really didn’t need to be on the list.

    • AGREED. I just watched Girltrash last night (because I’ve seen basically all the other dyke movies on Netflix…) and it was horrible. I was especially dubious that the ONE non-white character is a black woman just released from prison who spends the entire movie calling people “bitches” and threatening to assault them. I don’t know if I was more offended by the racial stereotyping or the total failure of imagination.

      that said, I did watch the whole thing because Michelle Lombardo is ridiculously hot in it.

  12. I have Bumblef*k USA and Kiss Myg at home. Liked both of them.

    Another good one i think is Spanish movie Eloïse, a coming out story which i liked a lot because of the chemistry between the two leads.

    She monkeys is another Swedish one, which i liked.

    And i also bought, purely to support our LBGT bookstor in town : The four faced liar , but that one is just for bored out your brain afternoons 🙂

  13. I saw Circumstance when it came out and it blew me away. Absolutely stunning, and heartbreaking.

    Also the soundtrack is amazing. Check out Be Nam Zaan by Farinaz – it was the soundtrack to my summer last year.

  14. I watched It’s in the Water for free on Hulu a while ago and thought it was ok, but probably not something I would rewatch, but for some reason I was thinking of it the other day, so now after seeing this list I will probably go watch it again.

  15. Ooh, I hadn’t even heard of some of these, yay new films for my list! The only one I’ve seen is Kyss Mig, which I really like.

    Also, I think we need a film where the water in a town turns everyone gay. That could be fun.

  16. Am I really the only one that HATED Imagine Me and You!?!?! I just can’t take the lackluster, it’s already been done a million times storyline. I loved But Im a Cheerleader, Better than Chocolate (LOVE), Loving Annabelle, Room in Rome (the music is awful/repeats but some parts are just so cute…plus they are nude pretty much the whole movie…)

  17. I have this secret fantasy where all the AS writers do normal everyday stuff in The Gayest Way Possible and the image of Riese “doing accounting” while halfheartedly watching dozens of lesbian movies pleases me greatly.

  18. circumstance is legitimately one of the most beautiful films I’ve ever seen. like, the chemistry between Sarah Kazemy and Nikohl Boosheri is A++++ and the score/soundtrack/cinematography/script/=everything

    [a substantial % of my netflix is def ~Romantic Drama with a Strong Female Lead~]

  19. I have seen all but 2 of these. I don’t even consider myself a lesbian film zealot, film zealot, yes. I am quite insecure after reading the comments. Truly thought they would be filled with “We’ve seen all these..” Or even ” I think you meant 7 movies we all have seen, let’s discuss…” Now I feel like a weirdo. Must go edit netflix queue immediately.

  20. I really enjoyed “It’s in the Water” and remember when I first saw it, immediately searching Autostraddle to see if there was a post on it. And now there is!

    Very excited for the upcoming Top 100 post. 🙂

  21. Thanks for this list. I’m really into lesbian movies and trying to find decent ones- I appreciate there are a couple on there I haven’t seen.

    I also appreciate the non-promotion of Girl Trash. As an outsider I didn’t feel I had enough information to knowledgeably take sides, but their odd behavior on the interwebs really favored Angela’s take. Too bad. Plus even though I heart Spashley the movie didn’t really do it for me. I actually think I liked the promotional t-shirt I bought some years ago better. That was dope.

    I hope more movie dialogue pops up on the site. 🙂

  22. I am the weirdo who makes everyone watch Leading Ladies and cooes over the femme love interest (also I met the director and the actress who plays Taci at the premier and they were delightful)

  23. From the list, I’ve only seen Who’s afraid of Vagina Wolfe? I liked it, but I doubt I’ll watch it again. The main character annoyed me. I have a low tolerance for people who whine about how they don’t have a partner and then treat the person who has a crush on them in a shitty manner.

  24. I’m echoing the appreciation for Circumstance. It really was a beautiful, moving film. That one and Pariah were probably my two favorites of the past year. (I don’t know when they were made, but my two favorites of what I’ve personally watched in the past year.)

  25. I watched and loved “It’s in the Water” back in the 90s. That line, “you don’t want to kiss me” “why not?” “because you’re gonna like it” was a favorite of mine! But, I tried to rewatch it sometime this decade, and it just doesn’t hold up.

    Also, I originally watched Lianna on VHS. VHS you guys!!I rewatched it recently-ish and it holds up pretty well.

  26. Not actually a lesbian movie, but a great, intriguing feminist movie …..”The Wall”. I would love to know if anyone has seen this, and what thoughts you might have. I saw it on Netflix! It was mesmerizing and somewhat baffling! Anyone?

  27. I read this article last night and decided to watch Girltrash: All night long. Usually I self implode at the mere thought of watching a musical so you can imagine my sheer horror when it broke out into cheesy song within the first 5 minutes. However, I hung on in there till 2am and its safe to say Girltrash is now in my top 5 lesbian movies of all time, it replaced Bloomington as my ‘so bad its good’ movie . The Colby/Misty romance had me hooked, I’m such a sucker for hot femme duo’s. I’ve just talked myself into watching it again.

  28. You made a comment about the movie ” And Then came Lola” as being unbearable. I really liked the movie. And I do not know why you or anyone finds it meaningful or necessary to put down anyone or anything. You know what people say about opinions. Thank you for sharing what you liked…………. That is the only meaningful sharing there is. The rest of it is unloving and unnecessary..

  29. I’ve seen all of this except for Liana, kiss mig is beautiful lesbian love story, but sometime i dont know why she give up her lover but people like this film, i dont know. Circumstances and the secrets is good lesbian movies, but i dont like the ending. sound not good.

  30. Can’t think it straight , elena undone, saving face, kiss me, room in rome, circumstances, blue is the warmest color these are my all time favorite lesbian movies. The rich man’s daughter, the l word, pepsi story (paco) crisabel (lobos) these our best tv series for me.. I forgot the complete title of the 2 series. But it is a good movie..

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