Trans Teen Pauly Likens’ Murder Haunts Her Rural Pennsylvania Community

This article contains graphic descriptions of violence against trans youth.

Pauly Likens was a 14-year-old trans girl. She had a core group of close friends, and she was seen by them, and loved by them and by her family. Pauly had a mother, a father, an older sister, and a 7-year-old younger brother. Pauly loved animals, including her two cats and her dog, Star, and she had ambitions of being a park ranger like her Aunt Liz, who she spent time with, shopping or getting her nails done.

“She wouldn’t let you be sad. She wouldn’t let you be down,” her friend, Melanie, told me. Pauly was kind and sweet, but also fiery and resilient: “There were people that she didn’t like, people that would talk crap on her, and she wouldn’t let it bother her.”

Pauly was light-hearted and creative, and made up words and phrases that her friend Kyrie, described as sticking with her. “She was the highlight of my day,” Kyrie, her BSF, told me. She was funny, she would hype her friends up and make them laugh, and she seems to have gotten up to some typical teenage mischief from time to time. She loved painting her nails and playing Roblox and Fortnite.

According to her Mom, Pauly was the kind of kid who would show the new kid around. Kyrie said of Pauly, “It was amazing being friends with her. She was so sweet and kind and never judged anyone no matter what. What made her special was how beautiful her soul was.”

On July 23rd this year, Pauly’s life and future were brutally and violently cut short when a 29-year-old man she met on the hookup app, Grindr, murdered her. The violence has shaken Pauly Likens’ community, and left her family and friends devastated.

On Saturday July 13, the Shenango Valley LGBTQ Alliance — a very small, grassroots group — organized a candlelight vigil and memorial for Pauly in cooperation with other LGBTQ groups from the area. An estimated 200-300 people turned out for the memorial, some traveling from Pittsburgh like myself, and many more from Pauly’s local community. People of all ages wore pink or the colors of the trans flag in Pauly’s honor. A large drawing of Pauly hung behind a central microphone, where multiple speakers called for an end to violence and discrimination against trans people, especially trans kids.

I spoke with Pam Ladner, President of the Shenango Valley LGBTQ Alliance, and she introduced me to some of Pauly’s friends. They were quiet, staying close with each other, young teens who lost their dear friend in a terrible way, squeezing each others’ shoulders and putting on brave faces. Kyrie and Pauly were hanging out, as they did often, sometimes four days a week, at Kyrie’s house the night before Pauly’s death. “She left at 9 and gave me a hug and said she loved me like she always did but I never thought it would be the last time. Never. She left a road sign here and before she left, I asked ‘are you gonna take your sign?’ And she said ‘prob not I’ll come back a diff day and get it.’ It makes me tear up knowing she was gonna come back. I really regret asking her what time she was leaving. If I knew it was going to be the last time, I would have never let her leave.” Kyrie also said, “I want everyone to know and understand Pauly and know her story and how she didn’t deserve this at all.”

Pauly lived out in Mercer County, Pennsylvania, just over an hour’s drive north of Pittsburgh, close to the Ohio border. The area is lush and green, with the Shenango river running through it. Mercer County is 93% white, with 62% of voters in 2020 voting Republican. Hermitage is the largest city in the county at a population of 16,000, with Sharon, PA, where Pauly lived, coming in at 13,000 residents. In short, it’s Trump country. More than that, Grove City College, located in the county, is a noted training ground for the US’s far right leaders. They recently had to fight off allegations that they had “gone woke” for engaging in what sounds like the most minimal DEI work. A parent’s quote from the petition against the college’s wokeness in 2022 mentions that their director of multicultural education was seen “walking around campus regularly with a LGBT rainbow mask on” and the parent went on to ask “why is this person an employee of GCC?” He’s, notably, not an employee of the college anymore, not after that year.

In any area in the US, there are going to be queer people, there are going to be allies, there are going to be people who don’t think about LGBTQ folks much but who are more or less neutral, and then there are going to be anti-LGBTQ hate-mongers. But this area is particularly tense. It’s not just any old Trump country. It’s a hotbed for anti-LGBTQ sentiment and for white supremacy and all that entails.

That’s where Pauly grew up. And what has been so damn hard to hear, the more I learn about Pauly, is how much she was still carving out a life and a future for herself, whatever she might be facing.

I spoke with Pam Ladner after the vigil about what it was like for kids like Pauly to be queer or trans in Mercer County, and Pam turned to her own experiences as a parent of a trans teen. After they came out “I wasn’t even speaking to some of my close family for months at a time, because they couldn’t get on board with it.”

As we spoke, a group that had formed outside of the vigil grew louder. Led by Pauly’s grieving father, a crowd of dissenters had played their own music throughout the vigil and chorused their own grief for Pauly, while misgendering and deadnaming her. At one point, a member of this group had to be escorted from the vigil for shouting Pauly’s dead name. Throughout the event, volunteers shielded the mother’s side of the family and vigil attendees from the protesters, using rainbow umbrellas, and escorted people to their vehicles, keeping the crowds separate. Pauly’s father paced up and down the street in a red pro-Trump hat, shouting that Pauly was his son, and telling vigil attendees that “not all kids fit your narrative.” Some vigil attendees reprimanded the protesters while they left, but, despite heightened tensions following the attempted assassination of Trump and shooting of rally attendees that occurred an hour to the east and south, these arguments did not escalate beyond brief verbal altercations.

Paul Likens Sr.’s insistence on misgendering his trans daughter might account for part of the confusion as media originally misgendered Pauly, as noted by Sue Kerr of Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents. There had also been two competing GoFundMe campaigns, one started by the father’s side, and one started to help Pauly’s mother pay for funeral expenses.

I asked Ladner what she saw as a barrier to acceptance for trans kids like Pauly, especially in more conservative, rural communities like this one, and in Mercer County specifically. Ladner emphasized the need for education, especially education geared toward parents and families, which she works to offer through the LGBTQ alliance. “Just from the mom’s standpoint, understanding that journey, and that journey that mom was probably on, having a trans child, and then not getting to complete that journey. You saw. She wasn’t even able to get there with that other parent…I hope that in the future if there is a parent who doesn’t understand, that they’ll give us an opportunity to help them understand and educate them and find their way to acceptance.” Pauly’s father was clearly stricken with grief. He lost his kid in a horrific way. He spent days searching for her in the park after she went missing. He might have gotten to a place of understanding, but we’ll never know because Pauly was robbed of her life. But her family life, the way trans people are talked about by conservative media and politicians, and the perceived and real isolation and vulnerability of trans people, especially young trans people, can’t be ignored when it comes to what happened to Pauly.

Pauly wasn’t completely isolated. She had friends who loved her, her family loved her. Her friends saw Pauly and embraced who she was. Kyrie told me, “This one time I was complaining to Pauly about my period and what she said I’ll never forget. She said ‘You complain about it but I’d do anything to have one because then I’d be a real girl,’ but she was a real girl.” Kyrie continued, “Pauly only wanted to be accepted for who she was.”

Still, with anti-trans hate speech and MAGA rhetoric, we continue to see young trans people, in their teens and early 20’s, suffer violent deaths at the hands of people who hate them, who see them as easy targets, or both. We know that Gen Z might be the loneliest and most isolated generation due to a variety of factors, from the economics that have led to the disappearance of third spaces, to social media, to the after effects of the pandemic, and more. We know that dating for transgender people can be difficult. We also know that underage teens, including and perhaps especially queer teens, are regularly using dating apps. These apps do not require age verification, though the technology exists where an app could require ID verification and facial scans to use an app like Grindr that comes with risk and adult sexual communication. According to this investigative piece, between 2015 and 2023, over 100 men were charged with assaulting minors or attempting to sexually assault minors they made contact with through Grindr. Even if this predation doesn’t culminate in the murder, predators are using dating apps like Grindr to find and assault or exploit vulnerable LGBTQ teens. A predator found Pauly, who likely just wanted some connection, and now we don’t have this amazing person with us anymore. Earlier this year, a young trans man, Jacob Williamson, was murdered by a man he met on a dating app and the man’s girlfriend.

Both of the above linked pieces discuss the fact that teens are going to get on these apps no matter what we tell them, which is true. Yes, it’s dangerous and in an ideal world every queer and trans teen who uses dating apps would delete them right now, but as someone who talked to older men on the internet when I was fourteen, who told my family I was sleeping at a friend’s when I wasn’t (as Pauly did that night), the onus is not on teens to be perfect as they learn about their world, their sexuality, and make mistakes while trying to figure things out. However, it is on us as a community to teach our young LGBTQ siblings how to stay safe, how to do their best to identify predators, to rely on their friends and trusted elders so that they’re never going somewhere alone, so that they avoid putting themselves in potentially dangerous scenarios. Whether we do this in our personal lives, via what we publish, or through sex education at schools or LGBTQ centers, we need to be having discussions about online safety, about safety and predators on dating apps.

Pauly’s body was discovered on July 25th, dismembered and in trash bags in a lake in the Golden Run Wildlife area. Cause of death has been determined to be sharp force trauma to her head. It appears that Pauly was killed in the early hours of the morning on June 23rd, not long after she posted to SnapChat that she was on a walk to clear her head in the park at 2:30am. Her friend, worried, contacted her to see if she was okay. A vehicle, allegedly owned by DaShawn Watkins, was identified from security camera footage and was seen driving in the park in the same area and time that Pauly was believed to be in the park according to both her social media post as well as footage from security cameras. Security camera footage showed Watkins struggling to carry a heavy duffel bag into his apartment, and on June 24th, after buying an electric saw the day before, security footage showed Watkins leaving his apartment several times with multiple trash bags and other bags. One can only grasp at straws, but this doesn’t feel like an accident, like an impassioned violent act. This is someone who already had a duffle bag, and who, we must remember, sought out someone on an app who was 14 — who looks 14 years old — and who met her sometime before sunrise but after 2:30am.

It’s likely impossible that anyone reading this can understand why anyone would do something like this, this violent, this seemingly random, but we need to recognize the constellation of factors that open the door to increased violence faced by trans people. DaShawn Watkins is a 29-year-old, cis man who allegedly met a 14-year-old trans girl on Grindr, confirmed that he engaged in a sexual act with her, and then allegedly killed her. When questioned, Watkins apparently said that he was gay. District Attorney Peter C. Acker told Pittsburgh’s Action 4 news that he would not pursue hate crime charges because Watkins was “openly gay” and Pauly “was transitioning.” There is a sense that because there is an element of intra-community violence within the LGBTQ community, that this cannot be a hate crime. But we know that some of the biggest voices of transphobic hate are people who identify as lesbian or gay. There is also the fact that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s, and many other states’, legislation does not include LGBTQ identity or gender identity as a protected class when it comes to hate crimes. Pennsylvania’s current hate crime legislation only allows for hate crime charges on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion or national origin. Nevertheless, Pauly’s death, like the death of Jacob Williamson, seems like one that is a part of a trend, one targeting vulnerable trans teens. Jacob was brutally killed by a cis man, Joshua Newton, who said on a livestream, “it was fun.”

We know, also, that often the people who are most engaged in hate against trans people are those attracted to trans people, and who cannot extricate themselves from their shame around that attraction. Data shows that the more conservative a locality, the more likely its residents are to search for trans porn. And — as I know from on more than one occasion looking into the personal online history of a conservative — these men will continue to follow trans adult creators, all while spewing the most right-wing talking points. The history of the completely diabolical trans panic (and gay panic) defense illustrates, actually, how well-understood it is that men who feel attraction to trans people also do not desire to lose their heterosexual privilege, and feel shame — and that shame also means they do not value trans people or their lives or truly see trans people as people. All of this has coalesced in a rise of transgender hate and violence against trans people, both at a state level and in everyday life.

While the majority of transgender women murdered in recent years are Black women, trans people and especially trans women and girls as a whole are four times more likely than cis people to be victims of violence. On a micro level, we know that a lack of acceptance greatly increases a person’s risk when it comes to experiencing domestic and other types of violence, and that lack of acceptance has a direct impact on the fact that trans people are subjected to interpersonal violence and state violence. We also know that on a macro level, our society is obsessed with trans people, devaluing them, putting them in the spotlight, and shaming them and the people who care about them. UC Berkeley Associate Professor Eric Stanley put it this way in an article for Berkeley News in 2021:

“Most forms of anti-trans violence are specifically brutal. They’re also very corporal. Trans people are positioned in relation to a normative culture that is both fascinated and repelled by us. It’s not usually, ‘I hate you, get away.’ It’s more often, ‘I hate you. Come really close so I can terrorize you.'”

As a speaker from Pittsburgh’s TransYOUniting said at Pauly’s vigil, “I’m a Black, trans woman from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and I’m tired. I’m tired of coming to these. I’m tired of us being murdered.” She went on to say, “So many of my friends have been murdered, and it should not be happening. There are so many folks out here. So many community members showed up today. But what are y’all going to do when you leave here? How are you going to show up for us then? That is the problem. Because you come here. But you don’t show up when we need you. We need you when we’re alive.” She continued, “We need you to show up to polls. We need you to show up to school boards. Because we matter. Pauly mattered. Say her name!”

It is on every living person to show up. It is on parents to work to educate themselves so that they can provide supportive environments for their trans kids. It’s on the other “helper” adults in these kids’ lives to make sure they have support at home, that they aren’t isolated, lonely, neglected, or abused. It’s on apps like Grindr to take community safety seriously, and for executives who won’t roll out age verification for dating apps to know they are enabling the assault, rape, exploitation, and murder of queer and trans teens and young adults. Even if they aren’t legally responsible, they are morally responsible.

We need to continue relentlessly fighting for queer and trans rights, for LGBTQ books and representation in schools and libraries, for trans kids to be protected by school policy — not outed or harmed. We need all of these things and more.

Pauly Likens was a 14-year-old trans girl with a beautiful soul who should have lived a full fucking life. Rest in peace, Pauly. You are sorely missed.

Interviews have been edited for clarity.

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Nico Hall

Nico Hall is a Team Writer for Autostraddle (formerly Autostraddle's A+ and Fundraising Director and For Them's Membership and Editorial Ops person.) They write nonfiction both creative — and the more straightforward variety, too, as well as fiction. They are currently at work on a secret longform project. Nico is also haunted. You can find them on Twitter and Instagram. Here's their website, too.

Nico has written 230 articles for us.

3 Comments

  1. I don’t know what to say; thank you Nico for covering this reporting with such care. Rest in peace Pauly

  2. I so wish this article wasn’t necessary but I am so grateful to Nico and AS for putting Pauly’s life first.

    I’m crying into my mask on my commute home and I’m so tired of crying for our trans kids. Thank you for the reminder that we all have keep showing up and fighting.

    May Pauly’s memory be a blessing for her loved ones.

  3. Just wanted to note that there are a few date errors in this article. Pauly is described as having died July 23 and her body found July 25. I believe this is supposed to be June.

Comments are closed.

‘I Only Want To Top During Sex and My Partner Is Taking It Personally’

Q:

I’m a trans, grey-ace person with a long history of body dysmorphia, eating disorders, and gynecology-based medical trauma. I recently had gender affirming top surgery, which has had an enormously positive impact on my life. I am determined, as I get to know my new body, to meet my body image hang ups with compassion and do the work to help myself heal.

One of the areas I really want to address is my anxiety around sex. I recently mentioned to my partner that I want to have a (temporary) break from receiving during sex in order to give myself space to be with my body fully, which didn’t go over terribly well. She feels guilty, although she has absolutely no need to — I LOVE topping, that’s how I feel most sexy, and to be honest, less overtly sexual receiving of touch such as massage or hair petting makes me feel safer and more grounded in my body than sex acts.

I know in theory it’s not wrong of me to ask this, but I also really, really don’t want to make her feel bad. I have reiterated that it’s not down to her skills, I’ve always enjoyed what we do together, I just have a super complicated relationship with receiving that is getting in the way of enjoyment. How can I help her feel supported and also take the time I need to reclaim my body as my own first?

A:

Hi there to a fellow trans person finding home in your body. Congratulations on having surgery that speaks to you, and I hope your recovery goes well.

In general, it sounds like you have a pretty good grasp of your needs. You’ve had gender-affirming surgery and are going through a period of bodily reflection and adjustment. You’re doing the admirable labor of self-love in addressing our past pain. And you’re still finding room to care for your partner’s needs while you post a temporary Under Construction sign on certain sex acts.

But when we change the shape of the sex we want, it’s a call that includes our partners. And you can get a whole color wheel of responses. I’ve experienced relief because it turned out that’s what they also wanted but didn’t want to say. I’ve also experienced uncertainty that settled into a pleasant new norm. And I’ve experienced disruption and anger. Raising these questions and changes with our partners is difficult because if there was already a pleasant status quo, changes can disrupt people’s preferred sex and their sense of normalcy.

I think that’s part of what’s happening here. This state of flux you’re experiencing is positive for you but is being received as a disruption to her pleasant status quo. To use an overused word from 2020, it’s injected uncertainty into her life. So I’m going to address this from two directions: structure and affirmation.

Structure

Structure is the comfortable normalcy we build or settle into. It’s different for everyone. The easiest way to see someone’s preferred structure is to notice how foreign their life seems. Like, you could never live that way. But somehow they seem perfectly fine with it? That’s structure. It makes life feel ‘normal’. It keeps dysregulation away.

In your case, I think the concept applies because there’s been a change in your mutual structure that’s being received differently. To you, putting a hold on receiving sex is a planned step that coincides with your needs. To her, it’s a change of pace that’s touched off some insecurities.

It’s possible that her feelings will stabilize with time and she’ll find a way to ‘cope’. But you can help a lot by restoring structure to the dynamic in a way that doesn’t deny your bodily integrity.

This can look like a number of things:

  • Opening conversations about how this is a planned adjustment to your life to reassure her things aren’t tumbling downhill
  • Checking on how she feels about this topic as often as she needs, so she feels heard
  • Pointing out that you’re not checking out of sex and greatly enjoy aspects of it — like topping! Then demonstrate your enthusiasm when you have a chance. That way, she can feel like sex is still present and enjoyable.
  • Gently softening her life in other areas. Things like picking up an extra chore or some errands can take a bit of stress off our partners when they have stuff on their mind.
  • Framing the discussion of this change as one that benefits your mental needs and past trauma. So that it’s not ‘just’ about sex, but also about healing and growth.

All of these things comprise the work of facilitating a change in a relationship. They show that you’re not charging ahead with a change that affects her. Instead, you’re taking her emotional state and opinion seriously without compromising on your needs. Of course, this will only be true if you commit to the labor of doing this.

Affirmation

The second step is affirmation. This one matters because if she feels bad about her share of the sex life, it might speak to an existing insecurity.

Here, it’s important to have conversations with her about what she’s feeling. This isn’t quite the same as restoring the structure so she doesn’t feel disrupted. It’s about stepping out to affirm her needs as part of the shared relationship journey.

It definitely starts with the thing you said to us about how it’s not at all her fault. And that she doesn’t have any reason to feel guilty. And you adore her and want to share this life with her. And everything else that is remotely true that she needs to hear when she feels guilty.

You’ll be replacing the voice of inadequacy in her head with your voice of affirmation. This applies to her worries about her sexual skills. Her body image. Her preferred role in the relationship. All of it.

Focusing on both structure and affirmation will help stabilize roughness in a relationship. They both serve the same purpose: restoring confidence. You didn’t do anything to damage her confidence, but you unveiled a soft spot, and you can walk through it with her.

I’ve found that when efforts like these go well, they have a feedback loop. All relationships have a cycle of feelings between partners. Great relationships use that to their advantage by cultivating growth and confidence.

You’ll notice I didn’t mention anything about what you should do to work on your body. That’s because your growth can follow as a natural outcome of supporting your girlfriend. If she’s more stable and confident in this change, you’ll get the relief you need to look to your needs. And you’re already the expert on your life, so you’ve got that down.

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

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Summer Tao

Summer Tao is a South Africa based writer. She has a fondness for queer relationships, sexuality and news. Her love for plush cats, and video games is only exceeded by the joy of being her bright, transgender self

Summer has written 41 articles for us.

Who Will Write Me Fanfic About Sasha Lane and Katy O’Brian in ‘Twisters’?

The original Twister from 1996 is one of the best Blockbusters of all time. It’s a Universal Studios ride of a movie that’s filled with great performances, genuine heart, and so much sex appeal. Legacy sequels are often bad, but with the director of Minari behind the camera and a cast with a deep bench, I was very excited for Twisters.

Rather than a mindless good time at the movies, I found this sequel to be quite moving and even upsetting. During horror movies, my girlfriend is usually the one squeezing my hand as we push her limits, but this time I was squeezing hers. Natural disasters on-screen really upset me! And Twisters doesn’t shy away from portraying the grief and genuine fear these disasters wrought. It also asks questions about how we move past youthful idealism, how we continue to fight for a better world after setbacks, and how we work toward our big picture goals without losing day-to-day humanity. My cold Capricorn heart does not usually cry in movies and I was sobbing! To be fair, did you know our world is very challenging and a lot of people are suffering and our climate crisis is making natural disasters more frequent without the government intervention needed to either prevent this increase or take care of people after?

Anyway, all these big feelings didn’t mean the movie wasn’t also fun. Without even a kiss, Twisters was not as horny as the original. I was still horny. No, not for our central love interests — Challengers inspired me to embrace my bisexuality but Glen Powell still doesn’t do it for me, Normal People endeared me to Daisy Edgar-Jones but not in that way — I’m talking, of course, about Sasha Lane and Katy O’Brian.

I’ve been a fan of Sasha Lane since American Honey. The Miseducation of Cameron Post, Hearts Beat Loud, How to Blow Up a Pipeline, and her coming out as queer only solidified my crush — talent crush and otherwise. Meanwhile, Katy O’Brian is a new fave due to a movie you may have heard about and we may have written about a few times titled Love Lies Bleeding. Both actors play members of Glen Powell’s ragtag group of tornado wranglers. Sasha Lane is Lily, the drone expert, and O’Brian is Dani, the… well, I’m not sure her official title, but I think it’s Hot Masc In Cowboy Hat.

Neither character has their own arc nor even scenes where they’re the focus per se, but they are very charming and enhance every scene they’re in. They also hint at the reveal that Glen Powell’s cocky asshole is actually just an ethical sweetheart with bravado. I’m not saying straight guys with two dyke friends can’t still be assholes, but, hey, it’s at least a green flag.

While I was trying not to rip my girlfriend’s hand off in panic as the tornadoes were swirling around threatening the lives of everyone on-screen, my mind did start to wander about Lily and Dani. Have they hooked up? Are they just friends? Are they just friends who hooked up once and then decided it was only due to the adrenaline rush of surviving disaster? How often do they frequent the two remaining lesbian bars in Oklahoma?

Maybe a few years ago I would’ve begged for a Twist3rs focusing on these two. But I am no longer filled with the youthful idealism of someone who thinks Hollywood would put a hundred million dollars behind a couple of storm-chasing queers. Instead, I’ll ask the queer community to do their thing: Who will be the first to write Twisters fanfic about Lily and Dani? I have no plans to do it formally, but I have started thinking up scenarios. It just goes to show, even bare minimum, surface level queer inclusion can be a lot of fun with the right performers.

I hope Lane and O’Brian got to cash some big checks so they can afford to do more great work in very gay indies. And I hope Lily and Dani are somewhere in our imaginations having a post-tornado hangout at Frankie’s.


Twisters is now playing in theatres.

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Drew Burnett Gregory

Drew is a Brooklyn-based writer, filmmaker, and theatremaker. She is a Senior Editor at Autostraddle with a focus in film and television, sex and dating, and politics. Her writing can also be found at Bright Wall/Dark Room, Cosmopolitan UK, Refinery29, Into, them, and Knock LA. She was a 2022 Outfest Screenwriting Lab Notable Writer and a 2023 Lambda Literary Screenwriting Fellow. She is currently working on a million film and TV projects mostly about queer trans women. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.

Drew Burnett has written 567 articles for us.

3 Comments

  1. I loved how Chung softpedaled the movie. It’s queer, diverse, worried about the climate, against corrupt greed, and all in such a matter-of-fact, non-confrontational way that it might seep into a red pilled brain without prompting defensiveness.

  2. When the straight characters did their secret tornado handshake with TWO FINGERS I was like …ok you needed to clear this with Sasha Lane and Katy O’Brian

Comments are closed.

‘Orphan Black: Echoes’ Gay Flashback Episode Approached ‘San Junipero’ Levels of Gay Sadness

The Queer Relationship on Orphan Black: Echoes is Revealed to Be the Backbone of the Whole Show

Orphan Black: Echoes, Kira and Eleanor eating Chinese food on the floor of their new apartment

They met at school just like Auntie Cosima and Auntie Delphine did. :wipes proud tear:

This week’s episode of Orphan Black: Echoes took a break from the timeline and did a big gay flashback episode that was so beautiful and tragic it’s being compared to the classic Black Mirror episode San Junipero as far as sapphic sadness goes. It showed us a little of what Kira was like in her 20s and how she ended up with her ex-grad school professor. We see Kira and Eleanor dating, falling in love, marrying, having a child, and eventually we see how Kira lost Eleanor and why she decided to go against everything she learned being entangled in an illegal cloning experiment once before and make a copy of her wife. It’s here we learn that a flirty little line they had throughout their relationship was a call and response that went, “Do I know you?” “I thought you might.” Which brings an extra knife-twist to the sadness in Adult Kira’s eyes when she answered accordingly when Lucy unwittingly asked her that question in the pilot.

Trans actor August Winter plays the younger version of Kira we meet in this episode, and they give off more of a gender non-conforming vibe than Adult Kira does and I kind of wish they had stuck with that. I understand that they probably didn’t partially so that in the pilot we would recognize Dr. Manning as the little girl we once knew – they practically have the same haircut – but I like that we get to see Kira in school, still a little quiet and shy, but also very smart with a charming smile. And hey, maybe it was just a gay haircut phase. I had an undercut for a while, it happens.

The episode gives a lot of backstory and makes the ethically questionable choices Kira has made more understandable, and definitely seems to be better as far as motives go compared to the scientists we met in the original Orphan Black. And it was also nice to see Krysten Ritter get to flex some of her Maslany abilities and play a second character with the same face in the same show. And in fact, Ritter has said this was one of her favorite episodes to film, and that August winter was “so wonderful.” She said, “We had such a great connection and so much fun together on set. They were really wonderful to work with as well.”

It was also just nice to have an entire episode centered around a queer romance, and that queer romance being revealed to be the backbone to the entire show. We are the future!! And I can’t wait to see what the future of this show has in store.

(Friendly reminder to our Australian friends that only episodes 1-5 have dropped in the US, even though you got the entire season months ago. No spoilers in the comments, please!)


More Gay Reverberating News (Get It…Because Echoes…)

+ Tubi dropped an 18 second teaser for the upcoming special Wynonna Earp: Vengeance and Waverly is sporting Dom Provost-Chalkley’s buzz cut!

+ Drag queens face off against zombies in upcoming film Queens of the Dead, which will involve Katy O’Brian, Margaret Cho, Brigette Lundy-Paine, and more

+ The House of the Dragon kiss between Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy) and Mysaria (Sonoya Mizuno) wasn’t originally in the script

+ Speaking of the non-binary actor, D’Arcy also recently discussed roles that helped them figure out their own identity

+ Britney Spears had a “girl crush” on a dancer which we all know is just comphet for crush crush

+ Here are 144 queer athletes at the Olympics that we know about so far

+ Chef Kristen Kish will celebrate her Emmy nomination with a tattoo whether she wins or not

+ Alyssa Thomas and DeWanna Bonner are a basketball power couple on the cover of Slam magazine

+ Netflix drops another Arcane teaser as we inch closer to the release of the second and final season

+ JoJo Siwa is still talking about her very specific plans for having three kids at once and naming them Freddy, Eddy, and Teddy – she even has a timeline now and I just sort of wish she was straight so I could stop learning things about her

+ And finally, have a list of queer beach reads for your summer plans

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

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Valerie Anne

Just a TV-loving, Twitter-addicted nerd who loves reading, watching, and writing about stories. One part Kara Danvers, two parts Waverly Earp, a dash of Cosima and an extra helping of my own brand of weirdo.

Valerie has written 574 articles for us.

4 Comments

  1. I do enjoy a good, sad gay flashback.

    The casting (or the general direction?) of younger Kira was really weird, they made 0 effort to maintain any continuity between kid Kira of orphan black and older Kira, this Kira was essentially a different character – not just dress style wise – but completely different accent, different way of talking, mannerisms, etc.

    Orphan Black has always been so, so good at maintaining continuity for characters that so it was a surprise to see them drop the ball like that.

  2. Whenever I hear something new about Jojo Siwa I’m trying to figure out what’s going on with her. She seems very immature, a little out of touch with reality, and quite entitled – which I suppose makes sense considering her upbringing. I don’t want to be out here criticising a 21 year old, I’m just always baffled by the stuff she says.

Comments are closed.

‘The Garden Against Time’ Asks, Who Gets To Live in Paradise?

I didn’t grow up knowing anyone who had a traditional garden. In South Florida, where the heat is relentless and the storms are unpredictable, it takes a special kind of person to dedicate themselves to the care and keeping of a flower garden. Instead, almost everyone I knew, including my grandparents, had backyards full of tropical fruit trees. I suppose you could think of these as gardens, too, because taking care of mango, lemon, and avocado trees takes the same amount of patience, pruning, and commitment as anything else. But as kids, we often just took advantage of the gifts these trees gave us without much consideration for how much time our elders put into making sure they bore fruit at the appropriate times. Maybe it’s a way of performing penance for all the time I resented doing yard work with my grandpa that I love reading about people’s love of the natural world now — how they consider plants and treat them as members of their family or good friends, how they care for them, how they keep them alive despite our rapidly changing climate. Watching as an adult from someone else’s view of their relationship to nature has, in turn, helped me expand my appreciation beyond the wild wetlands of the Everglades and the blissful coasts of the beaches I’m more familiar with.

Olivia Laing’s latest book, The Garden Against Time: In Search of a Common Paradise, is an incredibly thoughtful and well-researched memoir and examination of gardens and, more specifically, a distinct vision of their power and prominence. In 2020, Laing and her partner purchased a home in Suffolk, England mostly because of the appeal of its garden. Laing, who spent most of her life working in radical environmental activist circles and creating temporary gardens in the places she lived, saw the home’s garden as an opportunity to finally design, create, and nurture a permanent garden into place. Originally designed by famous British landscape designer, Mark Rumary, the home’s large garden turned into a much bigger challenge than Laing originally thought it might be: “In the winter [when Laing first visited the house], I’d only seen the loveliness of the structure, the sense of promise. I hadn’t really taken in how neglected it all was. Now I looked with different eyes.”

The garden’s “neglect,” of course, set Laing on mission to resurrect it into something Rumary would be “proud” of through different the various struggles of her life: the pandemic, the political anxiety of our era, and personal adversities that range from her own illness to her father’s health problems. Its promise led her on a different journey altogether, one that would take her through the annals of time, history, literature, and art to reveal simultaneously more challenges to the legacy of gardens and more reasons to celebrate the very ideas represented by the construction and creation of them.

When we’re not out in the garden with Laing mulching and reseeding plant beds and stumping trees that can’t be revived, we’re in the library with Laing learning from a pantheon of (mostly British) writers, historical figures, thinkers, and artists who share an affinity or elitist fascination for gardens and the natural world. She moves between two diverging points of view of what gardens represent and who they’re for: one that insists gardens are a human “improvement” to the seemingly untamed savageness of the natural world meant for the enjoyment of the richest amongst us and one that places gardens in tandem with the natural world as the democratic ideal of “Eden” where everyone can share in their beauty and the common gifts they provide.

She introduces us to the Middleton family, the former owners of Shrubland Hall who were able to renovate the manor and the gardens there through the fortune they made from chattel slavery in the “New World;” Capability Brown, the 18th century English landscape architect who leveled parts of the British countryside taken by law from the people who lived there to create gardens and parks that “improved” the natural landscape; Iris and Antonio Origo, the owners of the La Foce estate in Tuscany who, during World War II, bucked against the feudal system of sharecropping occurring on their land to help the people there survive attacks by the Germans and then tried to reinstate the system as soon as the war concluded. To Laing, these characters are representative of the ways she doesn’t want people to think about gardens. Through the money they made in the most grotesque manners to their poisonous ideals, they’re but just a few of the people whose dedication to capitalism and fascism highlight the artifice of the garden and the destruction that is often done to people and the natural environment for the survival of them. Their relentless pursuit of profit makes her wonder, “The ordinary people who own the world; when do they get the keys?”

Thankfully, there’s not a moment in the book where she leaves us on that note. We’re taken through her first reading, during the pandemic, of John Milton’s epic poem, Paradise Lost, about Satan’s rebellion and descent into Hell and Adam and Eve’s subsequent removal from Eden after falling under his trance and defying God. Her generous reading of the ending of the poem, where Adam and Eve have been expelled from the great garden, brought tears to my eyes and set the scene for the rest of her investigations in the book.

She writes, “Despite its title, Paradise Lost is not exactly nostalgic. The garden serves as a kind of lodestar, an experience of nurture and richness that cannot be dismantled and might in future be reinstated. Adam and Eve mourn their losses, grieve what won’t continue, but when eviction comes, when the cherubim gather like mist rising from a river, when they are taken by the hand and led to Eden’s gate, they look back, drop a tear, and then turn resolutely round. The final line swells with possibility. ‘The World was all before them.’ Whatever they have suffered, whatever damage has been done, the future lies open ahead.” She reminds us that “Eden” — a uniquely egalitarian natural place free from shame, greed, corruption, and, most importantly, the evils of capitalism — isn’t some far-off fantasy that can’t be rebuilt through our own efforts here on Earth.

From there, the rest of her analysis examines the works of others who tried to bring this radical, communal conceptualization of a more earthly “Eden” to life. We’re initiated into the thoughts and practices of the Diggers and their founder Gerrard Winstaley, who fought against 17th century English enclosure laws and believed the natural world was a “common treasury” for all to be part of; Victorian gardener, textile artists, and socialist reformer William Morris, who spent the second half of his life fighting against the worst aspects of our capitalist society; the 19th century poet John Clare, who tried to fight against the destruction of nature through his poetry; the writer and filmmaker Derek Jarman, whose garden at Prospect Cottage was constructed despite the harshest odds; and the artists Cedric Morris and Arthur Lett-Haines, whose art school at Benton End became an enclave for outsiders and radicals of all stripes. Through these stories, she continually prompts us to remember that while that particular envisioning of “Eden” may seem like an “impossible dream,” there are and have been many others working to bring that vision to fruition through the seeds they’ve sown both physically and ideologically. Laing writes,

“What makes a garden such an important constituent of a utopia? It is neither a farm nor a wilderness, though it can push up hard against either of these extremes. This means it betokens more than just utility, encompassing beauty, pleasure and delight, while remaining emphatically a site of labour as well as leisure, a place to please puritans and sybarites alike. The presence of gardens in a society indicates that its inhabitants have sufficient surplus energy and time to attend to cultivation that, like art-making, is not strictly speaking necessary. What’s more, they wish to do so, which perhaps conveys something positive about their emotional or even spiritual state […] If a new model of society is desired, one that attempts to share its burdens and benefits more equably, then the question of the garden becomes very interesting to contemplate.”

Like so many of us, Laing dreams of a world where people are not only free to garden — or create art or read books or do nothing — without the anxiety of finding a way to survive but one where we’ve completely restructured it to make sure we can all share equally in the gifts our world provides us. She contends that, really, “Eden” is only “impossible” if we refuse to see what Adam and Eve did at the end of Paradise Lost: a whole world belonging to us “ordinary people,” opening up to us, begging us to make that dream a reality.

Woven throughout these arguments and contemplations are Laing’s recollections of the two-year (and still somewhat ongoing) project of revitalizing Rumary’s garden in the back of her new home. The garden provides her with the space to think about her relationship to it, her memories of all the places that made her fall in love with gardens in the first place, the experience of growing up with a queer parent during some of the most difficult times for queer people, and her relationship to her gardener father. These parts constitute some of the most endearing, harrowing, and distinctive writing of the book. In these sections, we truly get to know Laing in a way I don’t think her other work gives us access to. She’s unsure of herself, heartbroken by her “failures” in her garden, disappointed in the way so many of us seem resigned to continue living in the world as it is, and, of course, joyous over what she’s able to accomplish through the labor she puts into her garden (and everything she does).

In addition, her descriptions of that labor and of the natural life she nurtures into existence are some of the beautiful and life-affirming passages in the book. If her historical and literary examinations aren’t enough to convince you of the power and pleasure of doing labor that helps give you meaning, these passages certainly will. This helps her strike a delicate and authoritative balance in the book that, once again, helps show that her story is one that exists in the context of many that came before hers. She knows her ruminations on the majesty and equitability of gardens and the natural world, her beliefs about how our society should operate, and her hopes for the future are not unique. And that’s the point. There have always been others with steadfast trust in our ability to create a better, freer, more beautiful future together, and we just have to be unafraid of listening to them. At the end, she reminds us, “There’s no point in looking for Eden on a map. It’s a dream that is carried in the heart: a fertile garden, time and space enough for all of us. Each incomplete attempt to establish it […] is like a seed that travels on the wind […] rooting itself in what seemed like the most inhospitable terrain. […] This book is a garden opened and spilling over. The common paradise, that heretical dream. Take it outside and shake the seed.”

We desperately need to keep looking back at the people who came before us as a guide to remake the world around us. They created thousands upon thousands of roadmaps for us, and in a similar vein, The Garden Against Time is doing the same. Laing doesn’t provide us with any definitive answers, but instead, leaves us to contemplate what our “Eden” could look like and calls on us to decide, once and for all, what we’re willing to do to get it.


The Garden Against Time: In Search of a Common Paradise by Olivia Laing is out now.

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

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Stef Rubino

Stef Rubino is a writer, community organizer, and student of abolition from Ft. Lauderdale, FL. They teach Literature and writing to high schoolers and to people who are currently incarcerated, and they’re the fat half of the arts and culture podcast Fat Guy, Jacked Guy. You can find them on Twitter (unfortunately).

Stef has written 96 articles for us.

Minke Is Moving Past the Noise and Focusing on the Music

It’s an exciting era for music — lesbian musicians are not just being accepted but shooting to the top of the charts for queer and straight audiences alike. This makes the presence of fresh, queer faces like Minke even more exciting.

The artistic vehicle of London-based songwriter Leah Mason, Minke is a refreshing splash of cool queer melody, infused with multi-genre inspiration and a raw, electric voice. She popped onto the music scene with her 2017 single “Gold Angel” (which, as of this article, has 20 million streams on Spotify), and released her first album The Tearoom in 2019. Now five years later, she has returned with the orchestral piano track “Happier Than Me” and the thick-bassed, synth-laced “Favorite Part.” I had the pleasure of sitting down with her over FaceTime to discuss these songs, her past spent discovering herself as a musician, and where she hopes to grow in the future.


Gabbie: First off, congratulations. You recently released your single “Favorite Part” – a song Prelude Press referred to as “capturing the feeling of mustering up strength in the face of circumstances outside of your control.” Can you speak to the impact and significance of the track? Were there any challenges when you were making this song that influenced the way it came out?

Minke: It’s funny, everything has been relatively calm in the last couple years when I was writing that song. But it originated from the idea of when I first started grappling with coming out, and having crushes on women who were friends, and the broad idea of how terrifying, beautiful, and exciting that all is. It’s relevant still to my life now, though – I had a learning experience when me and my current partner became public. Learning how to deal with those elements of this beautiful thing happening but having that noise surrounding it – that was quite overwhelming for me. And it feels like that when you’re younger too, when you’re seeing this stuff online telling you how to feel, telling you if you’re gay and whether it’s wrong or it’s amazing. It’s easier to handle now, but I used to get lots of hate online, and the lyric “everybody’s screaming at me inside my car” felt like that at times.

Gabbie: As you just said, you publicly came out with your relationship with Cara Delevingne recently – how do you feel dating such a high-profile celebrity has impacted you and your work?

Minke: It was definitely discombobulating at the time, but generally falling in love will have an influence on your life, your music, how you grow as a person. This has been an amazing growth spurt in all those ways – as a partner she makes me feel so incredibly supported and loved, which inevitably has influence on the music. Quite quickly I learned people have a lot of thoughts about this, but now I live a very normal life and I focus on my music, and she goes off to do a million things, and we’re very happy. The other stuff’s just noise.

Gabbie: In a similar vein to that: a lot of queer musicians historically and contemporarily have to face that choice of being public with their sexuality or to keep it private, to make it a pillar of their work or to not. But right now there’s also this “lesbian renaissance” of music, pop specifically – with people like Chappell Roan and Renee Rapp getting to be openly lesbian and still sell out venues. It’s cool and great, but also kind of strange.

Minke: Right! Really wild. When I was coming up that was a faraway dream. The idea that I could be so…I was gonna say accepted, and it probably feels more accepted in the world that I choose to surround myself with, but it does feel more accepted by the mainstream. At the same time though I see the array of the comments online, and we have a long way to go to keep fighting. But it is a different landscape from when I was growing up, and it’s so exciting.

I’m typically quite a private person, and toeing that line between the music and expressing things publicly, I always struggle with that balance. I was definitely struggling with internalized homophobia early on in my music. I didn’t want to be known for being “the queer artist,” I wanted to be known as just an artist. But then when I became comfortable in my sexuality, I realized I really don’t mind that! I think it’s the coolest thing! I am a queer artist, and I’m owning that, and I’m proud of that. So it was a flip in my head, wanting to come out with this new music this year that’s more open.

Minke stands posed among some logs

Photo by Diana Mantis

Gabbie: On the topic of struggling with figuring out one’s identity, I know you also started out as a blues singer, and have made comments that performing blues made you feel like you were “pretending” to be someone else. Which I found an interesting choice of language considering that is often a feeling people attribute to the closeted queer experience. Can you talk more about your history with blues, and what made you make that move toward and then away from it?

Minke: 100%. It was my awakening of life. I was a lucky but sheltered kid. I felt awkward at school. So I locked myself away in my bedroom for years learning guitar, which was therapy for me because it was something I was good at. And by learning guitar, you kind of learn blues music first, from Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix, Django Reinhardt, all sorts of older musicians who have a run of blues through them. My love of blues came from the guitar first, and that’s what got me noticed very young by my label.

It all happened so quickly: a label picked me up right out of school, but I still felt like that sheltered kid. I still hadn’t figured out who I was or what I wanted, and suddenly I moved into the city and realized it was a big world out there. I started questioning everything: my sexuality, my music, what I really wanted to write about. It feels weird saying it wasn’t great – I mean, I was sent to Nashville as a kid, which was so amazing! But I just felt out of place. I was working with a lot of older men who had a strong idea of what my music should sound like, and I was a kid who didn’t know what I wanted. But then moving to London, I met people, and ran around town and to raves, which helped me hone in on what I wanted to do, which led me to the project of Minke. I’m still that curious person, with love for all different types of music and I like to think there’s a throughline with the lyrical themes, the content, the production, but it definitely takes from a wide range of genres.

Gabbie: You say you grew up in a musical family?

Minke: Not professionally, we just really loved music.

Gabbie: I’d love to hear more about what it was like growing up in a home like that.

Minke: I owe it to my parents for introducing me to amazing music really young. My mum used to work as a secretary for a music video company, so she was kind of in the industry, and my dad just played drums for fun. The top floor of our house was an open plan, just space, and there was a piano and drum kit. My dad would come home from work and play music, and I would just dance around to it. I had this big teddy bear that I would dance with for hours, which must’ve driven my mum and brother wild!

And every car journey, that was my mum’s territory, playing Bon Jovi or Aretha Franklin, while my dad was more Tom Petty and “dude rock.” I absorbed this array of music, and basically it’s all their fault.

Gabbie: You say you moved to London, but you didn’t grow up there?

Minke: I was born in London, but then we moved to the suburbs where I lived until I was 17. And then I came out of school, immediately had my record deal handed to me which is the greatest luck, and so I moved to London as a baby musician. I didn’t know how to cook or do any adult things.

Gabbie: Maybe this is just me, but I’m curious how where an artist grows up or spends their time influences their music and who they are as a person. Do you feel growing up near London or living in London has affected your work, or does it feel inconsequential?

Minke: We grew up in the countryside, so that had something to do with it. Because the countryside can be quite isolating – if you want to visit a friend, you have to drive a long way to see them. So I had a lot of alone time, and that fed into the boredom of a kid, so you want to keep them busy however you can. Being 18 in London, and then growing into an adult person, that had an effect because it made me realize I didn’t want to sing about Nashville and “being at the crossroads,” it felt wrong. So if it wasn’t for London I probably wouldn’t have made that switch.

Gabbie: Yeah, and Nashville is quite a different cultural and musical landscape.

Minke: It was a huge culture shock. I mean, I loved it, but it was wild. Looking back, I think “wow, that was an interesting choice.” To be an English girl, late teens, just sent to Nashville.

Gabbie: You say growing up in the countryside made you feel lonely and bored, which is a great segue into a curiosity I had. Listening to your work, the one emotion or pillar I find myself returning to as I listen is loneliness. It feels like a strong tether – from romantic loneliness to social loneliness.

Minke: Yeah, I always feel like an outsider, and that feeling follows you around. Maybe being a queer person, an English person in America, even just a human. All my friends growing up went to university, and all had similar experiences, and they’re still my friends but I was always the odd one out.

Gabbie: I was wondering the intentionality of that loneliness, if you wanted to speak more to it. Being a queer person, being an artist, those experiences can be inherently isolating, unfortunately. I’m curious if you could talk more about how being on the outside looking in permeates your work, and if it feels more subconscious than conscious.

Minke: As a musician, you’re constantly observing, for inspiration, for writing. I’m constantly on the lookout for interesting things to write about. At a party, I’m observing, noticing things that surprise me or that I don’t understand or that I wouldn’t do. It’s intentional in the exact situation I’m writing about – the song “Elsewhere” was about me turning up to a party that a friend told me to go to, and they never turned up, so I was just at a house party alone. Dealing with that flakiness of Los Angeles friends that can happen.

I think you’ve actually cracked something open here! It’s not conscious, it’s just there, that I’m feeling alone a lot of the time, I – is this a therapy session?

Gabbie: It’s an intervention.

Minke: Cool, cool.

Gabbie: Loneliness can be a very insightful topic for art, especially for queer women, who experience a very specific kind of loneliness.

Minke: Yeah, I think it’s more subconscious bleeding through – which is why I love music. I’ll be listening to songs I wrote a year ago, and find them surprisingly so relevant to my life now. They’ll teach me things that I didn’t see at the time. When you’re writing something as pure and honest as you can, it’s magical. It teaches you about yourself.

She lies on a bed with a wooden backboard holding her guitar.

Photo by Diana Mantis

Gabbie: Now that you’re moving into this next chapter, era, album cycle, however you’d refer to it – is there anything you feel you’ve learned about yourself? Reflecting on the work you’ve already put out, what expectations do you feel you’re setting for yourself?

Minke: For me this work feels so much more accurate to where my life is now and how I’m actually feeling. It’s more representative of what I’m capable of and of what’s influencing me. I listen to these old songs and I cringe sometimes because I can hear the girl figuring things out. That poor lost baby! But these feel a lot more confident, as a woman in my early 30s, it feels like where I should be. One thing in particular is that I’m coming back to guitar in a full-circle moment of falling back in love after putting it to the side for awhile.

Gabbie: I feel you, that sometimes you have to leave something in the past while you figure yourself out, so you can come back to it for the reasons you love it and not for reasons other people expect of you.

Minke: Absolutely.

Gabbie: You talked about how you seek a wide scope of inspiration for your work. I’ve seen you across the Internet refer to artists like Fleetwood Mac, the Spice Girls, and Charli xcx, which is quite a spectrum. How has this melting pot approach to inspiration affected the kind of musician you are, and the kind of musician you want to become?

Minke: I think it all boils down to when I go to the studio, so many things go into my process: What mood am I in? What am I listening to right now? Since the explosion of Spotify, we have access to all the music from all parts of our lives. When I was a kid it was my parents’ music, as a teen it was emo and rock, in my 20s it was dance music and jazz. So we have all this music at our fingertips, and I just want to write something as pure and honest as I’m feeling that day. I don’t want to be so structured about it. I don’t want to create something just for the sake of generating “a sound.” The idea of a sound as an artist can limit you, in my opinion – like, this is the guitar tone that you always use, it’s usually around this BPM, and I don’t want to do that. I want to create music based on myself that day, which is probably where all of those influences come from, because I’m pulling from whatever I’m feeling and listening to that day. It could be Fleetwood Mac, it could be my friend playing me this cool thing they’re working on – not copying, but subconscious, it seeps in.

I was reading an interview with Pete Townshend where he said he doesn’t listen to any music while he’s working on his own stuff, so it can be “pure.” But, music is my life! You don’t turn that off. And I love listening to music, so why would I stop doing that? Just to penetrate this mysterious wall of authenticity? I don’t abide by that.

Gabbie: It’s such an exciting thing to hear you say that. There’s a lot of artists nowadays with a very concrete sound, style of production – and if that’s what they want, go for it! But as a listener it’s exciting to hear this approach, where you’re less concerned with curating a project, even a product, and more curating the songs as they come and worrying about how they slot in together later.

Can you talk more about what to expect moving forward? You’ve released “Favorite Part,” so we’ve got a sense of where you’re at, but moving forward what can you tell us to expect? If you even know what to tell people!

Minke: I’m going to be releasing a single roughly every six weeks for the rest of the year, so I know those songs that are already coming. I’ve tied them into the feelings of the songs and the ideal time, in my head, to listen to them.

The next one is a summery bop with biting lyrics – falling for a straight girl and that off-and-on worry about if they’re closeted or not. The one after that has hip-hop influences, the closest I’ve ever come to having a beat on a song, with really cool guitar which I love. The one after that will be out around Halloween, and the one around Christmas has a choral, wholesome, uplifting, hopeful edge. Very personal song. So I know what’s coming, which is exciting. And I’m working on the next chapter now – it’s not fully nailed down yet, but it’s a lot more guitar. Watch this space, it’s a work-in-progress.

Gabbie: Is there any particular song coming out soon that you’re excited to share?

Minke: I’m most excited about the next one because I think it’s the most playful, queer-specific song I’ve written so far. It feels like a first in my repertoire. But the song at the end of the year is very heartfelt, it’s a ballad. I think every song shows another side of me, and what I’m capable of, so I’m very excited.

Gabbie: I love this approach, of your honesty that you’re figuring it out as you go along.

Minke: Is that the queerness in me? That I refuse this very structured box? Maybe that’s why I haven’t had a lot of success with labels, because I just want to be free. I want to maintain that excitement, love, and passion for my music. I don’t want to be limited in any way.

Minke dressed in black walks on stone stumps in a park.

Photo by Diana Mantis

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!
Related:

Gabrielle Grace Hogan

Gabrielle Grace Hogan (she/her) received her MFA from the University of Texas at Austin. Her poetry has been published by TriQuarterly, CutBank, Salt Hill, and others, and has been supported by the James A. Michener Fellowship and the Ragdale Foundation. In the past, she has served as Poetry Editor of Bat City Review, and as Co-Founder/Co-Editor of You Flower / You Feast, an anthology of work inspired by Harry Styles. She lives in Austin, Texas. You can find her on Instagram @gabriellegracehogan, her website www.gabriellegracehogan.com, or wandering a gay bar looking lost.

Gabrielle has written 14 articles for us.

2 Comments

  1. How random, did Cara D pay you to write this? 🤣 Her music is boring plus her performances and music videos show no personality either. Yawwwn.

    If she wants to succeed then she better get on Chappell, Charli, Taylor, Sabrina etc level and become exciting to watch or listen to.

    • I see the trolls have arrived here too. get a life or find a hobby instead of going around the web insulting people

Comments are closed.

Quiz: Who Is Your Dream WNBA Olympian Basketball Wife?

WNBA All-Star weekend was honestly fantastic but now we’re all bracing ourselves for the holes in our souls where multiple WNBA games a day once lived as the season is paused for our faves to travel to Paris for the Olympics. Luckily, we will be able to fill that hole with the Olympics! Plan your own (imaginary) Olympics adventure with this handy quiz and we’ll tell you whomst of the gay WNBA players competing in France is your (hypothetical) Basketball Wife! (In this scenario you are able to travel with your loved ones to Paris and stay in the same place. I’m not sure how all that actually works to be honest, so let’s just go with it. We are all playing games here in the end)

Who Is Your WNBA Olympian Basketball Wife?

Imagine a fantasy world where you're traveling to the Olympics with your basketball wife. What travel-day duties are you taking on?(Required)
Pick a snack from home to pack for the flight:(Required)
Let's pack some things for in-flight entertainment. First, a book:(Required)
And a Game:(Required)
And pick a movie currently available on Delta's in-flight entertainment system:(Required)
While you're in Paris for the Olympics — besides basketball, which sporting events are you hoping to check out?(Required)
Pick an activity to do if you hypothetically had a day off to see the sights with your basketball wife:(Required)
Pick a charming travel vice for your partner to have:(Required)
Pick a charming travel virtue for your partner to have:(Required)
And finally, pick the ideal height for your dream WNBA basketball wife:(Required)

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Riese

Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, 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. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3228 articles for us.

8 Comments

  1. If I got Alyssa Thomas, does that mean that I get a bonus basketball wife in DeWanna Bonner?

  2. It’s very fun to me that I picked the lowest height for the height question and got Brittney Griner, the tallest lesbian, for my overall result.

    No hate to tall women. I just am a modest 5’4″ and prefer smaller height gaps. Who knows, maybe a different tall woman and I will fall in love one day in the end lol.

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Anatomy of a Queer Sex Scene: ‘Dyktactics’ Reminds Us to Touch

Welcome to Anatomy of a Queer Sex Scene, a series by Drew Burnett Gregory and Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya about queer sex scenes in film. Today, Drew analyzes Barbara Hammer’s classic Dyketactics.


Barbara Hammer: Dyketactics was the first, as far as we know, lesbian lovemaking film and I made it because touching a woman’s body similar to my own increased my sense of touch in a way that I hadn’t experienced as a heterosexual. So I began to put touch on the screen, connecting eyes, sight, perception and physical touch.

Another Gaze Magazine: Can you talk more about this relationship to touch? Was it grounded in any sort of theory?

Barbara Hammer: Well, I started trying to study the sense of touch and found that really it wasn’t scientifically studied. I only found one book by Ashley Montagu on touching and as I read it, it confirmed my experience. In the brain, the largest area connected to the senses is the area of touch. We know space through movement, through moving. The amount of nerve endings in our opposable thumbs is almost equal to the clitoris. These are our areas of knowing the world, and they are connected directly to sight. Why? Because, as infants we do not focus until two months, but we touch immediately. We have to find our mother’s breast. So our sense of touch is more highly developed upon birth than any of the other senses that we have. I think this is extraordinarily important and is still neglected. I hope that when people see my cinema they feel their bodies and they find the connection.

The two halves of Barbara Hammer’s Dyketactics are equally sensual. The first two minutes capture a group of women frolicking through a field, superimposed images of fruit and bodies over wide pastoral images. The second two minutes are more direct. Two women — including Hammer — have sex. The camera spins around, alternately close and closer, abstracting the bodies, allowing us to see them in new ways and to feel the rush of sexuality.

Hammer made this film as a 30 year old film student. It’s one of the most influential and important works of both experimental film and lesbian film. Even after a lifetime of remarkable, ground-breaking work, it remains her most famous and just this week was voted 48th on our list of The 100 Best Lesbian Movies of All Time.

As someone who wanted to make movies before I wanted to be a lesbian, and made my first movie before I had my first lesbian sex, I find Hammer’s approach to cinema as exciting as her subject matter. Many times over the years I’ve bemoaned filmmaking as a calling due to its cost. Every art form has its challenges, but movies feel uniquely prohibitive. That is if we limit our understanding of filmmaking like many straight people limit their understanding of sex.

There is an immense understanding of cinema within the short runtime of Dyketactics. But it’s an understanding that requires few resources. Like all of Hammers’ early films — shot either on 16mm or Super 8 — it required only a small amount of people and a small amount of equipment.

How can two women have sex? How can someone make cinema without money and power? These are intellectual questions. They are questions of expectation and the expected. When two women touch, this all goes away. Lesbian sex — in all its many definitions — can be endless invention driven by pure desire. Why can’t cinema be the same?

I’ll stop the metaphor there — although I’m tempted to go further with the point that lesbians do deserve institutional backing just like they deserve expensive sex toys — because the point, to me, is to refuse the intellectual exercise of sex and filmmaking. Touch your partner or partners, touch cameras and film stocks and the device you use to edit. Follow instinct. Use what you have. Communicate desire with lovers and collaborators, but don’t get lost in the how.

To me, Dyketactics is sex and Dyketactics is cinema. It’s a reminder of our place within both. It’s a reminder that we can define both.

Maybe the most important shot of the film is Hammer pointing a camera down at herself.

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Drew Burnett Gregory

Drew is a Brooklyn-based writer, filmmaker, and theatremaker. She is a Senior Editor at Autostraddle with a focus in film and television, sex and dating, and politics. Her writing can also be found at Bright Wall/Dark Room, Cosmopolitan UK, Refinery29, Into, them, and Knock LA. She was a 2022 Outfest Screenwriting Lab Notable Writer and a 2023 Lambda Literary Screenwriting Fellow. She is currently working on a million film and TV projects mostly about queer trans women. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.

Drew Burnett has written 567 articles for us.

Boob(s On Your )Tube: ‘All American’ Ends With Spencer and Coop, Just As It Began

Well my friends it is Friday, July 19th, and you know what that means — the WNBA Skills Challenge happens tonight and the All-Star game is tomorrow! Do you think we should try to make a lasagna or order a pizza for our All-Star game watch party? Let me know in the comments. Also, this week the Emmy nominations were announced, which was great news for Kristen Kish’s arms, Hacks, Reservation Dogs and Abbott Elementary, among others. All the gay stuff is right there in that link.

It was a very important week for all of us as Drew published her very epic 100 Best Lesbian Movies of All Time list and also revealed the ballots submitted by the 78 queer celebrities and writers who lent their desires to the project. Then Drew shared the ten films she wished made it to the top 100 but unfortunately did not.

Okay, let us proceed!


Notes from the TV Team:

+ All American: Homecoming is back for its third and final season. With so many changes happening at Bringston, I can’t wait to see what the season brings for newly minted roommates, Keisha and Nate. — Natalie

+ On 90 Day Fiance: The Other Way, Statler and Dempsey are preparing to… get this… live in a camper van together and travel through Europe despite having nearly opposite personalities. – Nic

+ One very brief scene in Criminal Minds confirmed Tara and Rebecca are back together, but that’s it. If you need me I’ll be riding the high (pun intended) of the Jemily scene from a few weeks ago -Valerie

+ The Boys ended in mayhem but not gayness. The gays belong to Gen V now I guess. – Valerie

+ New season of Bel-Air is on deck:

The show’s third season debuts on Peacock on August 15, just after the conclusion of the Olympic Games. — Natalie


All American 615: “I Do (Part II)”

Written by Natalie

Coop and Spencer step away from the wedding festivities to talk about her future. They're sitting on the swings at their childhood playground.

This is where it started: after a frustrating first day at Beverly Hills High, Spencer James retreats back to the world he knows and to those that know him. On the playground where their friendship was born, Spencer vents to Tamia “Coop” Cooper. He second guesses his decision to leave South Crenshaw for a team that doesn’t support him and a coach that only pays him lip service. Maybe he made a mistake. Coop reassures him.

“You just got to do you. You got the goods on and off the field. I knew it from the moment I met you right here in this park,” his best friend reminds him. “You decide who you want to be.”

Fast-forward 105 more episodes, to All American‘s sixth season finale and we find the best friends back where they started: walking the halls of South Crenshaw High and discussing life’s biggest decisions on their childhood playground. Only this time, it’s Coop that needs the reminder.

As a comedy of errors roils Spencer and Olivia’s wedding plans, Coop gets good news: first, she gets accepted into GAU’s law school, then she gets word that she’s been accepted at Yale Law. The Vortex is thrilled for her — they all embrace her and cheer her success — but Coop doesn’t share their enthusiasm. She insists that the good news is just a lot to process right now and she’d rather invest her energy into getting Spencer hitched. Her best friend accepts her excuse for the moment but soon after he’s married, Spencer turns his attention back to Coop. He knows something is bothering her and the two reconnect on the playground to talk about it.

Sitting on neighboring swings, Coop admits that while she’s always been able to imagine a huge future for the Vortex, she never really saw one for herself. Given her history — “a former rapper who minored in gang banging” — she’s finding difficult to imagine herself fitting in, especially in the Ivy League. But Coop’s best friend reminds her that she’s got the goods.

“Coop, you are brilliant and you belong anywhere you want to be,” Spencer reminds her. She gets to decide who she wants to be and Spencer pushes her to chose the law school that’ll make her happiest. Her confidence restored, Coop smiles brightly and, one last time, she tells her best friend she loves him.

I’ll always be remiss at how All American handled Coop, particularly her relationship with Patience. What was truly groundbreaking about this show, initially, was how it gave equal time and weight to its straight and gay pairings. But, by the end, Coop and Patience didn’t share more than hugs, even as the straight couples around them were intimate and had lavish weddings. The disparate treatment was stark and it’s hard not to let that taint the way I view this show.

But if this is the end — and it appears to be, at least of this iteration — then it ended exactly where it should have: with Spencer and Coop, just as it began.


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Natalie

A black biracial, bisexual girl raised in the South, working hard to restore North Carolina's good name. Lover of sports, politics, good TV and Sonia Sotomayor. You can follow her latest rants on Twitter.

Natalie has written 410 articles for us.

Riese

Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, 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. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3228 articles for us.

Brittney and Cherelle Griner Had a Perfect Baby Boy, You Can Call Brittney “Pops” Now

As WNBA All-Star Weekend begins today and the Paris Olympics approach, a person might be wondering…. have Brittney and Cherelle Griner invited a new human into their household in the form of a human baby yet? Because it would suck if Brittney was in Paris for the Olympics when the baby got born!!!! Well great news: Griner revealed today that their baby indeed got born on July 8th, and that he is perfect and comes in at 7 pounds 8 ounces. It feels important that he was born on 7/8 and is 7 pounds 8 ounces right? Probably that is good luck. She told the reporter that she’ll be going by “Pops,” which’s also what she calls her own father.

The Griners announced in April that they were expecting a baby in July, and have been sharing very cute pictures on instagram to get everybody excited and it has worked we are all excited.

Griner has been on the “might be out for personal reasons” list for a few games this month, leaving us all wondering if perhaps she was leaving the option not to play open in case her wife gave birth.

In an interview with Megan Rapinoe The Cut in May, Griner revealed that they’d be naming their kid Bash Raymond Griner. “I’m super excited for this next chapter of my life. Anybody who knows me knows I love kids. I’ve always been right there with my nieces, my nephews. I just love family time. The country, down South side of me comes out,” Griner told Megan Rapinoe. “I can’t wait to go fishing and off-roading and teach them everything my dad taught me, them coming to me for advice and watching them learn something or figure something out for the first time. That’s going to be the biggest joy. Screw the championships and all the trophies and all that; that’s going to be the highest peak of my life right there.”

Congratulations to the very happy parents!

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Riese

Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, 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. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3228 articles for us.

4 Comments

  1. Didn’t Griner already have kids with her ex-wife? The ex-wife that Griner plead guilty to domestic violence against? Kids that she subsequently tried to abandon until she was court-ordered to pay child support?

      • I’m not a sports gay so I didn’t really follow Brittney Griner pre-Russian detention. Just looked up the story with her ex-wife and it’s totally crazy – she announced their split the day after the pregnancy announcement?! Seems like a very toxic relationship and I hope both women are in a better place now and that their twins are happy and healthy!

  2. one day we needa talk bout the stud baby daddy DEBACLE hot damn these studs acting like they daddies out here runnin from ex wife child support. studs supposed to show how they better than men but a lot just as dl dirtyyyy -toxic masculinity in the hood IS A REAL THING. more good stud daddy representation please-britney be triflin.

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Despite Its Story of Cis Family, ‘Crossing’ Lets Trans Performers Take Center Stage

The 2009 Jason Michael Carroll song “Hurry Home” concerns a father with a unique voicemail message. On this family’s answering machine, the dad croons a song to his daughter who’s left her family and home. “It doesn’t matter what you’ve done/I still love you” the father sings, urging his daughter to “hurry home.” Eventually, the song lands on the daughter lingering “outside a bar in New York City” rather than fly-over U.S.A. She calls up her family home and hears her dad’s melodic voicemail. “Dad, I’m on my way” she responds. This is how most global pop culture depicts younger family members racing away from their families.

The next generation abandoning their “roots” to pursue standalone lives typically means trouble in film, television, and music. This is especially true of young women. These figures should really just listen to their parents and never ever have sex, do drugs, or a distinct personality. Better yet, these yarns function as warnings to youngsters to steer clear of far-off lands dominated by diverse, er, “untrustworthy” souls. Whether it’s Hardcore or Taken, our culture loves stories of noble parents becoming saviors to wayward offspring who made the foolish decision to carve out their own identities. These rampant norms make Crossing, the latest feature film from director Levan Akin, an extra striking creation.

Lia (Mzia Arabuli) is on a hunt. As Crossing begins, this Georgian woman needs help navigating Istanbul to find her trans niece, Tekla. Reluctantly paired up with teenager Achi (Lucas Kankava), the duo travels to the cat-dominated streets of Istanbul. Trying to uncover Tekla here proves as tricky as uncovering a needle in a haystack. Other stories in this vein bend over backward to reaffirm the relentless adaptability of adult protaganists. In Crossing, Lia is totally lost. Every lead she has slips through her fingers. Sorrow so consumes her that she drinks whenever possible. No wonder this rescue mission quickly spirals out of control.

As this hunt transpires, Akin introduces viewers to Evrim (Deniz Dumanlı), a lawyer living in Istanbul. Before she shows up on-screen, the only physical trans representation we see is the hands of Tekla. This part of her body silently caresses Lia in a dream sequence. With Evrim’s introduction, the floodgates open. Consistent trans women representation peppers the rest of the Crossing, most of it squarely focuses on Evrim’s interior life. This material pleasantly appears nonchalantly on-screen. The sensationalism defining so much classic trans cinema representation, thankfully, never appears.

Mere seconds into her screentime, we see that Evrim has a buoyant best friend greeting her when she gets off a ferry. From there, the script reveals that she’s got a job she’s passionate about, a larger social circle, and even a complicated romantic life. Misery doesn’t solely define Evrim like so many other trans women in cinema. If anything, her more mundane daily life provides a steady contrast to Lia’s quietly devastating struggles.

Even depictions of Evrim engaging in sex quietly subvert cinematic norms for trans representation. Viewers only see Evrim from the waist-up in these interactions, while Akin and cinematographer Lisabi Fridell don’t linger on her body exploitatively. Boning dudes in the back of a car doesn’t allow the audience to gawk at Evrim’s physical form. Instead, it’s a chance to glimpse every facet of her day-to-day life. Of course she has sex. It’s depicted as naturally as her having a date or best friends.

Akin’s screenplay lends a relaxed pace to each of its parallel storylines. For Evrim, this approach results in a subversive look at everyday trans existence. This same aesthetic, meanwhile, means Lia’s hunt for Tekla is constantly quietly discouraging. Grand epiphanies elude this woman as she contends with the local language barrier and a strained dynamic with Achi. Because they’re not rushing to follow up on random clues, there’s time for quiet moments of vulnerability. This includes a critical sequence where Lia opens up to Achi about why Tekla left her family’s village in the first place.

Arabuli’s work in this scene is remarkable, especially since she’s portraying Lia lying in bed. She can’t rely on grasping for props or sudden bursts of over-the-top physicality to carry this moment’s emotional core. It’s all coming down to the subtlest nuances of her performance. To that end, Arabuli depicts Lia verbally opening up about the past reluctantly. You can feel the words emerging from her mouth like teeth plucked out by pliers. As a result, sentences come out like fragments or trail off with a proper resolution. It’s a hauntingly realistic depiction of recounting bottled-up trauma.

The delicately jagged nature of her line delivery doesn’t undercut the tangible regret informing each word of Lia’s recounting of Tekla’s father casting out his daughter. Especially haunting is Lia’s throwaway line about a neighboring child from another village supposedly “[shooting] himself in the head” after being revealed as trans or queer to their parents. Even a cis woman like Lia is becoming conscious of the violent realities of trans existence in oppressive social spaces. Crossing uses Arabuli’s tremendously detailed acting to reflect this reality while still keeping trans violence off-screen. This doesn’t just give more room for Arabuli’s command of dialogue to shine — it also allows Evrim’s mundane life to inform Crossing’s visual landscape. Explicit on-screen transphobic bloodshed exists solely in dialogue. It doesn’t define Crossing‘s imagery like so many other trans-centric films.

Speaking of Crossing’s visual language, if there is any grand disappointment with the feature, it’s in its imagery. Thankfully the feature does avoid regressive ways of framing trans sexuality or anguish on-screen. However, the default filmmaking style for Crossing is ultimately rudimentary. While competently shot, the blocking and camerawork angles don’t exude much personality.

The editing also leaves something to be desired. Certain quiet scenes, namely a dinner between Lia, Achi, and a rich Georgian stranger, hop between cramped close-up shots with abandon. Little room is afforded in these intimate sequences for space or truly imaginative staging. That early dream sequence involving Tekla’s hands on Lia’s body is a rare excitingly vibrant visual aberration. Otherwise, Crossing’s on-screen imagery is functional, but not especially distinctive…save for the welcome presence of stray cats littering the background of nearly every shot.

While it doesn’t break new ground visually, Crossing still registers as a perfectly agreeable watch. This is especially true in terms of its performance. Arabuli’s depiction of a woman grappling with bottled-up regret isn’t the only acting-based standout here. Deniz Dumanli also impresses with her work as Evrim. The quiet nature of this character’s sequences puts tons of pressure on Dumanli’s shoulders. She must captivate viewers in down-to-earth segments without aid from elements like explosive emotional displays. And yet, even when she’s chilling at a bus stop with friends or talking to a bureaucratic government servant Dumanli enthralls. This performer has an instantly engaging aura making it a thrill to watch Evrim in any scenario.

Meanwhile, there’s a welcome willingness in Crossing to let trans performers take center stage. These actors leave an impression even if they’re only on-screen for one scene. Most notably, Lia’s hunt for Tekla takes her to a location overseen by a trio of trans women. These three new figures don’t speak this Georgian woman’s language. Viewers witness much of this exchange through the trans women’s perspective, as they chat about how unprepared Lia is in her search. All three of the supporting performers here are remarkably compelling. This scene’s focus on Istanbul souls, meanwhile, reinforces how much depth Crossing gives to this location’s population.

Though described as a “place people go to disappear,” Istanbul isn’t depicted entirely as a hellscape just because it isn’t the place Tekla grew up in. The nonchalant air of Akin’s filmmaking gently guides viewers everywhere from sex worker havens to pristine cafes to police stations and everywhere in between. No yellow-tinted color grading suffocates every shot of Istanbul to reinforce its “otherness”. On the contrary, upon entering Turkey, Achi is surprised at the minimal visual differences between this place and Georgia. “Aren’t we supposed to be in a different country?” he loudly inquires.

This normalized approach to Istanbul immediately makes Crossing something different in the pantheon of movies concerning adults searching for younger loved ones. Qualities like Arabuli and Dumanli’s performances only hammer home that reality. If you’re tired of so much pop culture urging you to “hurry home” to suffocating societal norms, Levan Akin’s got just the motion picture for you. Plus, this director wields the good sense to realize trans women petting cats is a grand cinematic sight all movies should include!


Crossing is now playing in theatres.

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Lisa Laman

Lisa Laman is a life-long movie fan, writer, and Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic located both on the autism spectrum and in Texas. Given that her first word was "Disney", Lisa Laman was "doomed" from the start to be a film geek! In addition to writing feature columns and reviews for Collider, her byline has been seen in outlets like Polygon, The Mary Sue, Fangoria, The Spool, and ScarleTeen. She has also presented original essays related to the world of cinema at multiple academic conferences, been a featured guest on a BBC podcast, and interviewed artists ranging from Anna Kerrigan to Mark Wahlberg. When she isn’t writing, Lisa loves karaoke, chips & queso, and rambling about Carly Rae Jepsen with friends.

Lisa has written 9 articles for us.

3 Comments

  1. I thought this was far more than a “perfectly agreeable” watch! I went to a pre-screening with a directors interview and I thought it was magnificent. I’m surprised at the lack of focus in this review (though i agree with Evrims excellence) on the specifically Georgian/Turkish nature of the film, whcih I thought was a really rich seam, particularly when paired with the homophobic violence that resulted at the screening for his first movie.

    In sum, though, everyone should see this movie!

  2. “Absolutely loved this review! ‘Crossing’ seems like a groundbreaking show that brilliantly balances the narrative of a cis family while shining a well-deserved spotlight on trans performers. It’s refreshing to see a production that prioritizes authentic representation and gives trans actors the center stage they deserve. Kudos to everyone involved in bringing this important story to life!”

  3. Delve into the touching narrative of a father’s love in the song “Hurry Home” by Jason Michael Carroll. Experience the daughter’s journey back home as she hears her dad’s melodic voicemail, showcasing the power of familial connections.
    read more;- https://www.bhartisharma.fun

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Is My Butchness Ruining Our Relationship?

Does leaning more into my masculine side mean that my girlfriend isn't as attracted to me?

Q:

Me and my girlfriend are both cis lesbians in our 30s, have been together for four years and the way she has reacted to some of my fashion choices lately is causing me some distress. I‘ve been experimenting with more masculine looks as I grow more comfortable and confident with myself in my queerness. We recently were invited to a wedding and I was so happy to show her the suit, my first suit, that I’d gotten to wear. She just said something like, “I thought you were going to wear a dress.” I asked her why she thought that, she said because I always wear dresses to weddings.

When I asked what she’d think if I got a short haircut, she said...

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the team

auto has written 730 articles for us.

The Top 10 Lesbian Films NOT on Our Best Lesbian Films List

The 2024 edition of Autostraddle’s The 100 Best Lesbian Films of All Time list came out this week and, like many of you, my opinion does not perfectly align with the tallied votes. Yes, I cheated and gave myself more than ten picks, but still there are many films I love that didn’t make the cut. Here are ten movies that didn’t make the list — and my pitch for why they should make the next one.

10. Lianna

dir. John Sayles, 1983 1 vote – Lea DeLaria Two middle aged women lie in bed together. When this film came out in 1983, its story about a woman leaving her husband to be a lesbian felt fresher than it does today. (Although it wasn’t the first — A Woman Like Eve beat it by four years.) But I think modern audiences would be surprised to revisit this classic and discover how sharp and moving it remains.

9. Second Star on the Right

dir. Ruth Caudeli, 2019 Diana Wiswell jumps on Silvia Santamaria's back as they both smile Over the past half a decade, Ruth Caudeli has been prolific. All of her work is worth checking out, but my favorite — so far — is this creative explosion of bisexual storytelling. It’s funny and dramatic and formally inventive. I wish it was more widely available to stream!

8. Tahara

dir. Olivia Peace, 2020 Rachel Sennott and Madeline Grey DeFreece almost kiss on a couch. I feel like this movie was dismissed because it came out the same year as Shiva Baby and is also a very Jewish queer dramedy with Rachel Sennott. But why can’t there be two?? Beyond those surface level comparisons, this is a vastly different film. There have been a lot of queer girl coming-of-age movies in recent years, but this is one of the best.

7. La Llamada (Holy Camp!)

dir. Javier Ambrossi, Javier Calvo,  2017 Two teen girls sit on the steps of a summer camp cabin There are two love stories in this musical from the creators of Veneno. One is between a queer girl and a nun, the other is between the queer girl’s best friend and God — who appears as an older man singing Whitney Houston. What else do I have to say?

6. The Children’s Hour

dir. William Wyler, 1961 1 vote – Jes Tom Shirley MacLaine looks forlorn as Audrey Hepburn walks out the door behind her I already wrote a whole essay about why this film deserves a better reputation. Yes, it’s an important touchstone of lesbian cinema with a tragic ending. But it’s also beautiful and romantic and challenging!

5. Set Me Free

dir. Léa Poole, 1999 A close up of a girl's face with short hair, a crack of light illuminating half her face This is a deeply underrated movie from the lesbian filmmaker who would go on to make Lost and Delirious. Where that film is all melodrama, this one is quiet and real. It’s not flashy, but it is a queer girl coming-of-age story told really, really well.

4. A Date for Mad Mary

dir. Darren Thornton, 2016 A woman in a jean jacket sits with her arms crossed and looks at her friend in a wedding dress shop Everyone is always saying they want more lesbian rom-coms, so why don’t more people talk about this Irish gem? A woman needs to find a date to her best friend’s wedding and through the process of searching realizes she’s been in love with her best friend all along. A perfect romcom premise! Sure, the main character is getting out of prison and with that the film has a dramatic streak, but it’s still an excellent — and funny! — rom-com.

3. Blue Gate Crossing

dir. Yee Chih-yen, 2002 A close up of a smiling girl's face with lens flare from the sun I have a soft spot for movies about queer girls and their straight dude besties and this is a lovely entry in that niche subgenre. It’s a beautiful tale of friendship — deeply felt and gorgeously crafted. It’s a perfect snapshot of adolescent loneliness and an ode to the people who make it a bit more tolerable.

2. In Between

dir. Maysaloun Hamoud 1 vote – me! A woman with big curly hair talks on the phone while another woman texts standing in the background and a third woman in a hijab looks on. Beyond holding a place in my heart for being the first film I reviewed for Autostraddle, Maysaloun Hamoud’s debut feature is a great movie about living in an impossible world. Following three very different Palestinian women as they navigate Tel Aviv amid both patriarchy and Israeli apartheid, the film shows the challenges — both chronic and acute — of moving through the world with multiple marginalized identities. It’s a film of stolen joyful moments as its characters connect and find escape and fulfillment despite their circumstances. This is not a film of easy resolutions, but it understands the stakes are too high to give up hope.

1. Glen or Glenda

dir. Shirley Wood (it’s the name he preferred!), 1953 1 vote – me! Shirley Wood in an angora sweater stands next to a mannequin Shirley Wood’s long-maligned first feature has finally achieved some recognition as a classic of trans cinema. It’s time it receive the same reputation as a lesbian film. Combining documentary and narrative, this sometimes misguided, yet deeply personal, film about transness contains within it the wish fulfillment of a queer trans woman who wants desperately to be out to her cis woman partner. Wood cast his real-life fiancée in the film and after a fantastic nightmare sequence of anxieties had her embrace his identity as he understood it at the time — a crossdresser who could outgrow it with acceptance. In reality, Wood never outgrew these desires and the fiancée left him. But on-screen, there’s a beautiful display of queer love — radical for the 1950s, radical for some even today.
Comment your favorite films that didn’t make the list and see if any of our experts agreed with you!
Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

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Drew Burnett Gregory

Drew is a Brooklyn-based writer, filmmaker, and theatremaker. She is a Senior Editor at Autostraddle with a focus in film and television, sex and dating, and politics. Her writing can also be found at Bright Wall/Dark Room, Cosmopolitan UK, Refinery29, Into, them, and Knock LA. She was a 2022 Outfest Screenwriting Lab Notable Writer and a 2023 Lambda Literary Screenwriting Fellow. She is currently working on a million film and TV projects mostly about queer trans women. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.

Drew Burnett has written 567 articles for us.

6 Comments

  1. I had no idea Ed wood was trans I though Ed woods was just a cross dresser! I love Ed Wood the Burton movie

    • Language was different back then, but based on everything he said and watching Glen or Glenda it feels kind of undeniable imo.

  2. I’m still surprised the fiction and the non fiction versions of Freeheld were not mentioned in these lists. The doc one is SO GOOD.

  3. I loved the heck out of A Date for Mad Mary and I wish it had gotten more attention outside of the queer film festival circuit in the year it released – it would have been right up there on my list.

    I’m a bit surprised Ellie and Abbie (and Ellie’s Dead Aunt) isn’t on either list.

  4. I wish “Yes or No” the 2010 Thailand movie got more recognition. It even has a sequel.

Comments are closed.

What Can a Queer Film Series Accomplish?

For decades, Outfest was one of the most prominent and well-respected queer film festivals in the world. But after laying off nearly their entire staff last fall and halting programming, a gap was left in the Los Angeles festival scene and the queer film world at large.

Many have wondered what would fill this gap and some festivals have explicitly tried. But possibly the most exciting replacement is one that’s not aiming to be a replacement at all. Rather than continuing this legacy, it’s beginning one of its own.

Queer Rhapsody, organized by the UCLA Film and & TV archive with lead programming by former Outfest employee Martine McDonald, is not a film festival. It’s a community-based film series. “I don’t want an event to feel like just a screening or just a Q&A,” Martine told me. “I want it to be an invitation to follow a filmmaker’s work throughout the year.”

With hybrid docs about queer Olympians and shorts programs named things like Laughing Through Fire and Queering Memory, Queer Rhapsody aims to be a different kind of film event. But that doesn’t mean the series isn’t still highlighting work recognized by major festivals like The Queen of My Dreams and Desire Lines. There’s a variety — a celebration of many different facets of queer film.

I spoke with Martine about the goals of the series and the fraught (yet hopeful!) state of queer media.


Drew: How did this festival come about?

Martine: Well, we’re calling it a film series, which was to highlight the fact that it’s community driven and not a competition or about any kind of festival framework. And so it really was May (Hong HaDuong) at the archive reaching out to different community partners emphasizing that we need queer film regardless of what institution is hosting it. From there she brought me on and we worked with the programmers. It’s been very organic from how invested and flexible our partners have been to what we’re most passionate about.

Drew: I love that distinction between film series and film festival. You’ve obviously worked with festivals in the past. What do you think can be gained in this format that can sometimes be lost in a festival format?

Martine: One of the things we encouraged in notifying the filmmakers about being selected was not only promoting their own film but other artists they’re passionate about and inspired by. We hope to foster the sense that you’re not in competition with anyone. This is just being in conversation with the community. And also because the archive is the center of it, May and the archive are inviting all of these films to be officially filed in the UCLA Film and TV archive which is the largest in the country. That will be a really nice thing for people in the beginning of their career and for people who are mid-career. It’s a unique part of it.

Drew: How do you feel queer film festivals, film series, and film culture have evolved over the last ten years?

Martine: This is a big question.

Drew: (laughs) I think you’re up for it!

Martine: Here we go. Right now, we have to ask, what is it for? What’s the festival structure for? Is it to maintain or move forward the film industry? Is it Academy qualifying or something like that? I think it’s become more about being on a circuit, being in a community, rather than competition. Sponsorship and all those pieces are a big part of film festivals, but film series are more about public education and public inspiration. And that’s the way I tend to lean even in festival structures.

I think it’s also about being more innovative with what stories you’re willing to share with audiences. Not making assumptions about their capacity to ingest a complex narrative or a more artful, meditative film. But we tried to keep it broad. There are lots of different genres. It’s continuing to evolve and be defined by the audience. You’re not there for the institutional definition of what queer community is or what queer stories are. It’s always in conversation and response to the community as we all evolve.

Drew: You touched on this a bit, but what do you and your programming team look for in queer media?

Martine: May and I sparked this Queer Rhapsody theme. You know, we love a complex drama. We love all interesting, emotionally driven stories. But this was focused on expansive joy. What does rhapsody mean? There’s a film that’s a rageful, vengeance story, but told from a joyful perspective. What are the ways we express ourselves? We really looked for that. And, of course, it’s always such a hard decision. That’s nobody’s favorite meeting when we have to narrow it down. But we really looked for a balance of international films that show voices and talent you don’t typically see in LA, as well as retrospective work like Darby and the Dead. The last four years even, pandemic to now, what have we maybe missed the opportunity to celebrate in community?

I’m most into poetic wonder — that’s my jam. We have folks on the team who are more into dark comedy. A couple more genre-based pieces. It’s also a good mix of documentary. I’d say about half the programming is documentary, particularly hybrid docs. There’s lovely, transcendent storytelling happening.

Drew: What queer work do you feel still gets ignored in the larger conversation?

Martine: Experimental work. That’s something we don’t know where to fit in public conversation. When it’s someone who has typically done narrative or documentary, it’s framed as practice. It’s not their career trajectory. But challenging the audience and even distributors on what can find a wider audience.

And beyond that, maybe this is cliché, but I always want more romcoms. Quality, deeper romcoms. And I think Sisters is really fun and has a unique story about intimate friendship and queer relationships.

Drew: I always want more queer romcoms and want work that fits into this theme of queer rhapsody, but I think a lot of time the work that gets made that’s adjacent to that genre or joyful in some way then lacks — this is so hard to quantify — but lacks a sort of queerness. It’s palatable and I don’t think joy has to be palatable. There’s so much room to have work that still feels of the community but is, you know, fun.

Martine: Definitely. I mean, I love a coming out story, but a lot of the mainstream distribution projects we see right now are still situated there. It’s fun to look for queer voices who are also exploring different aspects of queer life.

Drew: There was this shift from the studios in the 2010s where there were more queer movies and way more queer shows. But then the pandemic happened and the streaming bubble burst. And the first thing to go was the “diversity” — even though that work often makes money. So when I look around I see a generation — and I don’t even mean that in age — of queer filmmakers who had the carrot dangled in front of us to be like this is possible, only for many of those opportunities to disappear. And, as a result, I’m seeing a lot more exciting indie work that’s even better than a lot of what was happening pre-pandemic. I don’t have a lot of faith in the ability to pay one’s rent via filmmaking right now, but I do have a lot of faith in the work that’s getting made on lower budgets.

Martine: Definitely. Our community has always made a way out of no way. So that’s pivotal. I wish it wasn’t at odds with having the structural support we all deserve. But I have seen a lot of submissions that were single room location. And good for you for finding a way to make it happen. I’m biased because I always lean toward indie spaces and programs and creators. And being a programmer I see people in this situation and observe how they’re navigating their career.

Actually, Natalie Jasmine Harris is one of our programmers this year and she’s also an incredible filmmaker. We’re showing two of her films. She is so skillful at navigating the industry.

Drew: She’s amazing.

Martine: It’s been really fun getting her perspective as a filmmaker, a community member, and now as a programmer. What does this system look like? How can it support her work?


Queer Rhapsody runs from July 19-July 28 in Los Angeles.

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

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Related:

Drew Burnett Gregory

Drew is a Brooklyn-based writer, filmmaker, and theatremaker. She is a Senior Editor at Autostraddle with a focus in film and television, sex and dating, and politics. Her writing can also be found at Bright Wall/Dark Room, Cosmopolitan UK, Refinery29, Into, them, and Knock LA. She was a 2022 Outfest Screenwriting Lab Notable Writer and a 2023 Lambda Literary Screenwriting Fellow. She is currently working on a million film and TV projects mostly about queer trans women. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.

Drew Burnett has written 567 articles for us.

‘Melissa Etheridge: I’m Not Broken’ Is Heavy On Inspiration and Soft On Prison

I initially suspected that I’d spend the entirety of Melissa Etheridge: I’m Not Broken in tears. The film was grainy but the grass was vivid as we traveled down a two-line country road to the Topeka Correctional Facility and saw the barbed-wire fencing outside it from every available angle. Melissa was singing “I’m The Only One” to a crowd of female inmates in navy blue and maroon t-shirts — many of whom, themselves, were crying. Old butches with buzzcuts and tattoos, middle-aged women with weather-beaten skin and french braids, younger girls with no interest in the concert but clearly just happy to be outside and entertained. It could’ve been any Melissa Etheridge show, really, and I’ve been to a few. It’s really nice, you know, to be in community with your people singing your intense lesbian country-rock ballads with a truly iconic pioneer. She’s still up there, and she’s still giving it her all in her raw, wide-open, unmistakable voice.

melissa etheridge playing at the prison

Luckily for the skin that surrounds my eyeballs, I didn’t, ultimately, cry through the whole thing. Eventually my emotions leveled out. The docuseries was moving and heartwarming and deeply empathetic, and a must-watch for Etheridge fans. But I found myself wondering an awful lot where the line is between “imposing my personal political agenda on a work of art” and “wanting a work of art to portray the world it represents with responsible accuracy.”

But let’s not start there.

Instead, here: Etheridge grew up in Leavenworth, Kansas, an area replete with prisons, and in fact performed for inmates as a very young budding folk musician. She recalls the audience at her local correctional facility making her feel like “a female Johnny Cash,” and for that reason and many others, had hoped to perform for incarcerated audiences again some day. For this documentary, Etheridge corresponded by letter with five inmates of the Topeka Correctional Facility, using their stories and her in-person conversations with them as inspiration for a new song, “Burning Woman,” which she performs in the aforementioned concert.

Each of those five residents get a solid chunk of time to tell the story of the circumstances that landed them in prison. It’s a big-hearted point of view that never passes judgment on its topic — believing, truly, that everyone is worth more than the worst thing they’ve ever done. Etheridge, who lost her son to opioid addiction in 2020 — and speaks with clarity and wisdom on how she’s approached living with that grief and channeling it into advocacy — notes that most of these women’s stories begin with drug addiction. Most also begin with abuse and neglect.

“I know there’s so much wrong with the penal system in general,” Etheridge tells the women, but then she goes on to say that the warden and employees she’s spoken to have expressed a desire to heal and release their inmates, which gives her hope. This perspective on this specific facility is echoed by the shared personal stories and interior footage. Scenes are shot in a cheery, well-stocked library, a nursery and play area with themed rooms for when children come to visit, a neatly organized supply room, a prison bunk decorated with dozens of crocheted teddy bears. They talk about their jobs in prison (we don’t hear about the $1.05 a day they’re paid to perform them) and we see inmates walking down empty corridors and doing interviews in empty rooms, no sign of the overcrowding that has plagued the facility. We meet people like Classification Administrator Meghan Davis, who explains victimization statistics (whereas men are less likely to be the victims of crime as they age, women remain just as likely) and her philosophy of healing that trauma, stressing the importance of treatment that’s proactive (community services) instead of re-active (e.g., prison). I wish conversations like that had gone a bit further, to address the numerous interventions that could’ve turned things around for these women before they became another cog in the prison-industrial complex.

I’d love to believe that the Topeka Correctional Facility is exactly as it is portrayed — full of caring, devoted Correctional Officers, overseen by competent, fair leadership; full of opportunities for enrichment, learning and progress; well-staffed with doctors and therapists; free of drugs and a healthy place for women to detox.

I’d love to believe that this is not the same place where prison staff mocked, rather than helped, a resident who was unable to walk and required medical treatment, and threatened to write up inmates who tried to offer aid, an incident that NPR noted is consistent with patterns of medical mistreatment by private oft-fined contractor Centurion, a for-profit corporation who serves Kansas prisons including this one. The Topeka Correctional Facility for Women was isolated as the site of the most frequent source of medical care violations in the entire state. Just last month, six inmates filed suit alleging deliberate indifference to their safety and health via the food provided by notorious prison food supplier Aramark Food Service, an open flow of dangerous drugs, and exposure to toxins and molds in an environment lacking ventilation.

I’m not arguing for any of those topics to be the subject of, or even mentioned within, this documentary. I also imagine the producers of the film and Etheridge herself were abiding by whatever agreement was necessary to give them the freedom to film there at all. And for an audience not already inclined to see the residents as full humans deserving of empathy and consideration, the documentary does a great job changing that.

But for those of us for whomst that is a foregone conclusion, it’s tough to ignore the docuseries’ own foregone conclusion — that prison is a productive place to put people who have engaged in criminalized behavior, even when those crimes are a result of poverty and drug addiction, problems better solved with financial support and medical treatment than with incarceration. That prison is a place for introspection and redemption, an opportunity that the individual has the choice to accept or deny. It certainly can be a chance to turn it all around — Etheridge also catches up with the truly charming and inspirational Leavenworth mayor, Jermaine Wilson, himself a convicted felon who eventually became determined to end the cycle for his own son. In prison, Wilson sobered up, took community college classes and leadership training and now is, you know, the mayor!

But logic suggests and research has shown that incarceration is more likely to cause harm than to help — severing inmates from friends and family, subjecting them to dangerous and unhealthy conditions including physical and sexual abuse, failing to shield them from drugs, leaving them more traumatized than before they came in. Options that aid, rather than punish, are often more effective and less expensive. Not to mention the barriers to employment, housing, and education faced by inmates upon release, as well as challenges specific to female inmates. The danger in narratives that suggest a “rock bottom” like prison must be met in order for change to occur is that more money is funneled into incarceration instead of into the services that could prevent it.

I hope the documentary turns people onto The Etheridge Foundation, Melissa’s non-profit dedicated to advancing new treatments for opioid use disorder. Etheridge has long been an advocate for marijuana decriminalization, which is one way to reduce incarceration rates. 

That all said, within the current system, it’s important and inspirational, to see artists like Etheridge making public efforts to connect with female inmates and push back against the stigma of incarceration and drug addiction. Etheridge said she visited the facility to inspire and empower the women, and she does that handily. “A lot of people say they care,” says Leigh, who is serving 15 years for possession with intention to distribute. “But we don’t see that, you know? It’s kinda rough. So I’m just like, really grateful that she gave a shit, you know? It means a lot, really.”

There’s a chorus in “Burning Woman” where Etheridge invites them to sing along in a call and repeat — I might have fucked things up, Etheridge yells. But I can make a change! the woman volley in return. I can only hope and pray that the world gives them every chance to do so. That, in fact, would be truly unprecedented.

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!

Riese

Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, 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. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3228 articles for us.

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The Best Lesbian Movies According to 78 Queer Writers, Actors, and Filmmakers

Your Fav's Favorite Lesbian Films against a red background with black and white face images of Devery Jacobs, Margaret Cho, Lena Waithe, Lea DeLaria, and Ayo Edebiri

When I first took on the task of revamping Autostraddle’s best lesbian films list in 2019, I thought I could see every lesbian movie ever made. How many could really exist in the world? 200? 300? But as I continued my research I discovered more and more, each year more and more being made. (I’ve now seen over 600.) The question of what constitutes a lesbian film also came into question. What was subtext and what was text? What if subtext sometimes is text?

The 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023 editions of the list were voted on by our team of writers with my voice being the most prominent since I had seen the most films. But this year that felt insufficient. Canon-making cannot be the work of one individual, nor even a handful of individuals. Even with its recent number one pick, the famed Sight & Sound list is never as cool to me as the individual ballots that determine its ranking. There is value in the aggregate — there’s even more value in the specificity of each individual’s knowledge and taste.

That’s why this year’s update was decided beyond our team. At first, I wanted to just expand to anyone with an Autostraddle byline. Then, to anyone Autostraddle has ever interviewed. But as I chatted with queer artist and critic friends about this project, the enthusiasm from people to share their own picks of the best lesbian movies was impossible to resist.

Every list has its limits. There are so many more queer critics and queer artists who I’m sure we’ll add in future versions. But what a gift to get the input from these 75+ queer people each with their own perspectives. I decided early on not to provide any guidelines and you’ll see that reflected in the ballots below. There are shorts and features, documentary and narrative, lesbian classics and movies that will have you asking, “Wait how is that a lesbian film??” It’s all part of the fun!

If you want to see how these ballots came together for the top 100, check out Autostraddle’s The 100 Best Lesbian Movies of All Time. And if you want even more lesbian films check out our ever-evolving lesbian film encyclopedia.


Anna Margarita Albelo

Director, writer, actor [Hooters: The Making of Older, Wiser Lesbian Cinema, Who’s Afraid of Vagina Woolfe?]

Fiction:
Born In Flames
Go Fish
Je Tu Il Elle
Mosquita y Mari
Wild Nights with Emily (and also Madeleine Olnek’s other films)
Yentl

Docs:
Dykes, Camera, Action!
Hooters! The Making of Older, Wiser, Lesbian Cinema
Last Call at Maude’s
Lavender Limelight: Spotlight on Lesbian Filmmakers
Paris Was a Woman

More Documentary Shout Outs (All on Kanopy):
The Aggressives
Female Misbehavior
Framing Lesbian Fashion
Krudas
The Same Difference: Gender Roles in the Black Lesbian Community
Shinjuku Boys
Venus Boyz

Personal Bonus:
A Lez in Wonderland: Dinah Shore


Valerie Anne

Autostraddle team writer
Autostraddle byline

All Cheerleaders Die
Bit
Booksmart
Crush
D.E.B.S.
The Fear Street Trilogy
The Half of It
I Can’t Think Straight
Imagine Me & You
Jennifer’s Body


Kristen Arnett

Author [Mostly Dead Things, With Teeth], Autostraddle writer
Autostraddle byline
Autostraddle interview 

1. Bound
2. But I’m a Cheerleader
3. The Handmaiden
4. Bring It On
5. Charlie’s Angels (2000)
6. Drop Dead Gorgeous
7. D.E.B.S.
8. Foxfire
9. Friday the 13th
10. The Virgin Suicides


Jamie Babbit

Director, producer [But I’m a Cheerleader, A League of Their Own (2022)]
Autostraddle interview 

Born in Flames
Bottoms
Bound
But I’m a Cheerleader (to keep the streak going)
Carol
Fucking Åmål
Go Fish
Heavenly Creatures
High Art
Portrait of a Lady on Fire


Michelle Badillo

Writer, actor [One Day at a Time, A League of Their Own (2022)]

1. But I’m a Cheerleader
2. Heavenly Creatures
3. Jennifer’s Body
4. Portrait of a Lady on Fire
5. Black Swan
6. Gia
7. Bound
8. The Runaways
9. The Watermelon Woman
10. Mosquita y Mari


Juan Barquin

Critic, Autostraddle writer
Autostraddle byline

The Adolescence of Utena
The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant
Blue is the Warmest Color
Bound
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Carol
The Duke of Burgundy
The Handmaiden
The Miseducation of Cameron Post
Nitrate Kisses


Elise Bauman

Actor [Under the Christmas Tree, One More Time]

Aftersun
Alice Júnior
Appropriate Behavior
Cruel Intentions
Dirty Computer
Foxfire
House of Hummingbird
I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing
The Novice
The Queen of My Dreams
Tomboy


Riese Bernard

Autostraddle co-founder, senior editor
Autostraddle byline

All Over Me
Blockers
Bottoms
But I’m a Cheerleader
Everything Everywhere All at Once
The Handmaiden
Happiest Season
Love Lies Bleeding
Professor Marston & the Wonder Women
Saving Face


Drew Burnett Gregory

Filmmaker, Autostraddle senior editor
Autostraddle byline
Autostraddle interview

1. Dyketactics/The Watermelon Woman
2. Desert Hearts/Saving Face
3. Persona/Mulholland Drive
4. Multiple Maniacs/Bound
5. House of Hummingbird/Aftersun
6. Carol/Portrait of a Lady on Fire
7. Glen or Glenda/MURDER and murder
8. Born in Flames/In Between
9. Princess Cyd/Alice Júnior
10. Je Tu Il Elle/The Joy of Life
11. All About My Mother/Mars One
12. Mädchen in Uniform/Olivia

I get to cheat as my reward for putting this project together. :)


Ruth Caudeli

Director, writer [Second Star on the Right, Petit Mal]

1. Appropriate Behavior
2. Carmen y Lola
3. Carol
4. Imagine Me & You
5. Portrait of a Lady on Fire
6. The Kids Are All Right
7. The Miseducation of Cameron Post
8. D.E.B.S.
9. But I’m a Cheerleader
10. Certain Women


K-Ming Chang

Author [Bestiary, Organ Meats]
Autostraddle interview

Aquamarine (dir. Elizabeth Allen Rosenbaum)
Bottoms (dir. Emma Seligman)
Bram Stoker’s Dracula (dir. Francis Ford Coppola)
Bride Wars (dir. Gary Winick)
But I’m a Cheerleader (dir. Jamie Babbit)
Carol (dir. Todd Haynes)
The Handmaiden (dir. Park Chan-Wook)
The Other Woman (dir. Nick Cassavetes)
Spider Lilies (dir. Zero Chou)
Who’ll Stop the Rain (dir. Su I-Hsuan)


Nea Ching

Filmmaker, Autostraddle writer
Autostraddle byline

But I’m a Cheerleader
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
The Favourite
The Forest of Love: Deep Cut
Knife + Heart
The Lure
Mulholland Drive
Showgirls
Tár
The Watermelon Woman


Margaret Cho

Comedian, actor [All-American Girl, Fire Island]
Autostraddle interview

All About Eve
Basic Instinct
Bound
Carol
The Hunger
The Killing of Sister George
The Matrix
Monster
Personal Best
Showgirls


Peaches Christ

Drag performer, filmmaker [All About Evil]
Autostraddle interview

1. Bound
2. But I’m a Cheerleader
3. Heavenly Creatures
4. Mulholland Drive
5. The Color Purple (1985)
6. Desperate Living
7. Love Lies Bleeding
8. The Watermelon Woman
9. Bottoms
10. Monster


Daemonum X

BDSM educator, Autostraddle writer
Autostraddle byline

Benedetta
Bound
But I’m a Cheerleader
Daughters of Darkness
Desert Hearts
The Duke of Burgundy
The Favourite
The Handmaiden
School of the Holy Beast
The Watermelon Woman


Davey Davis

Author [the earthquake room, X]
Autostraddle interview

1. Kamikaze Hearts
2. Desperate Living
3. Set It Off
4. But I’m a Cheerleader
5. Mulholland Drive
6. BloodSisters
7. Showgirls
8. The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant
9. The Watermelon Woman
10. The Bride Wore Red


Lea DeLaria

Comedian, actor [Edge of Seventeen (1998), Orange is the New Black]
Autostraddle interview

But I’m a Cheerleader
Carol
Desert Hearts
Gia
Go Fish
The Hunger
I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing
Lianna
Rebecca
The Watermelon Woman


Zackary Drucker

Filmmaker, multimedia artist [The Lady and the Dale, Queenmaker: The Making of an It Girl]
Autostraddle interview

All Over Me
Born in Flames
Bound
D.E.B.S.
Desert Hearts
The Girl (2000)
Fucking Åmål
High Art
The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love
Saving Face


Natalie Duggins

Autostraddle team writer
Autostraddle byline

1. Pariah
2. Saving Face
3. Rafiki
4. The Watermelon Woman
5. The Handmaiden
6. The Half of It
7. Mosquita y Mari
8. Imagine Me & You
9. Blockers
10. Set It Off


Gabe Dunn

Filmmaker, author, podcaster, Autostraddle writer
Autostraddle byline

1. Set It Off
2. Desert Hearts
3. The Handmaiden
4. Disobedience
5. The Watermelon Woman
6. Appropriate Behavior
7. Good Manners
8. Bound
9. But I’m a Cheerleader
10. Being John Malkovich


Ayo Edebiri

Actor, writer, director [Bottoms, The Bear]

Desert Hearts
Orlando
Pariah
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Rafiki
Saving Face
Saint Maud
Tár
The Watermelon Woman
Working Girls

Honorary Picks: White Chicks, ep. 3 of Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy


Rhys Ernst

Director, writer [She Gone Rogue, Adam]

1. Mulholland Drive
2. Kamikaze Hearts
3. Fucking Åmål
4. But I’m a Cheerleader
5. The Watermelon Woman
6. Bound
7. Born in Flames
8. The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant
9. Pariah
10. Go Fish

Honorable Mentions:
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Carol
Dyketactics (and many other Barbara Hammer films)
Liquid Sky
Young & Wild


Gretchen Felker-Martin

Author [Manhunt, Cuckoo]
Autostraddle interview

1. Showgirls
2. The Handmaiden
3. Knife + Heart
4. Heavenly Creatures
5. Rebecca
6. Ammonite
7. Shiva Baby
8. The Neon Demon
9. Carmilla (2019)
10. The Hunger


Sarah Fonseca

Researcher, Autostraddle writer
Autostraddle byline

Anaïs in Love (dir. Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet, 2021, France)
Circumstance (dir. Miriam Keshavarz, 2011, France/Iran/USA)
Clouds of Sils Maria (dir. Olivier Assayas, 2014, France/Germany/Switzerland)
Duet for Cannibals* (dir. Susan Sontag, 1969, Sweden)
Greta (dir. Neil Jordan, 2018, USA/Ireland)
The Heiresses (dir. Marcelo Martinessi, 2018, Paraguay)
The Ladies Almanack (dir. Daviel Shy, 2017, USA)
Love Lies Bleeding (dir. Rose Glass, 2022, UK/USA)
Prodigal Sons (dir. Kimberly Reed, 2008, USA)
Shakedown (dir. Leilah Weinraub, 2018, USA)

*An anecdote about this broad selection: Sontag regularly told friends in passing that Adriana Asti, who plays Francesca in Duet, was the great (unrequited?) love of her life. Sontag later directed her in a play some decades later… all fun to consider when viewing this one.


Marya E. Gates

Critic, Autostraddle writer
Autostraddle byline

Antonia’s Line
Appropriate Behavior
Blue Jean
Desert Hearts
Je Tu Il Elle
Mädchen in Uniform
Pariah
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
The Summer of Sangaile
The Watermelon Woman


Nico Hall

Autostraddle team writer
Autostraddle byline

All About Eve
Arsenic and Old Lace
The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant
Bound
But I’m a Cheerleader
The Handmaiden
Heavenly Creatures
Mulholland Drive
Multiple Maniacs
The Watermelon Woman

Bonus: Twilight


Natalie Jasmine Harris

Writer, director [Pure, Grace]

1. Portrait of a Lady on Fire
2. Pariah
3. Saving Face
4. But I’m a Cheerleader
5. The Miseducation of Cameron Post
6. Carol
7. Hearts Beat Loud
8. Shakedown
9. The Color Purple (1985)
10. Desert Hearts


Annette Haywood-Carter

Writer, director [Foxfire]
Autostraddle interview

Aimee & Jaguar
Ammonite
Boy Meets Girl
Breakfast on Pluto
Carol
The Danish Girl
Elisa and Marcela
The Favourite
Girl (2018)
Orlando


Gabrielle Grace Hogan

Autostraddle team writer
Autostraddle byline

Bloodsisters
Bottoms
But I’m a Cheerleader
Carol
Cloudburst
D.E.B.S.
The Handmaiden
The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love
Pumping Iron II: The Women
The Watermelon Woman


Heather Hogan

Former Autostraddle editor
Autostraddle byline

1. The Half of It
2. Nimona
3. D.E.B.S.
4. Portrait of a Lady on Fire
5. Pariah
6. Carol
7. Wild Nights With Emily
8. Saving Face
9. Rafiki
10. Desert Hearts


Devery Jacobs

Actor, writer, director [Reservation Dogs, Backspot]

1. The Watermelon Woman
2. Saving Face
3. But I’m a Cheerleader
4. Thelma and Louise
5. Shiva Baby
6. Thelma
7. Bottoms
8. Kajillionaire
9. Blue is the Warmest Color
10. Jennifer’s Body


Chase Joynt

Director, writer [No Ordinary Man, Framing Agnes]
Autostraddle interview

Born in Flames
Bound
But I’m a Cheerleader
Carol
A League of Their Own (1992)
Lost and Delirious
The Queen of My Dreams
Rafiki
Regarding Susan Sontag
Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit
The Watermelon Woman


Ingrid Jungermann

Director, writer, actor [The Slope, Women Who Kill]

1. Mulholland Drive
2. The Favourite
3. Portrait of a Lady on Fire
4. Desert Hearts
5. High Art
6. Benedetta
7. The Kids Are All Right
8. Disobedience
9. Thelma
10. Bound


Aamina Inayat Khan

Autostraddle team writer
Autostraddle byline

Bend It Like Beckham
Black Swan
Bottoms
But I’m a Cheerleader
Jennifer’s Body
Juno
The Kids Are Alright
Little Women (2019)
Mean Girls (2004)
Portrait of a Lady on Fire


Kirsten King

Writer [Crush (2022), The Second Best Hospital in the Galaxy]
Autostraddle interview

Aftersun
Bottoms
Bound
But I’m a Cheerleader
Desperate Living
The Favourite
Jennifer’s Body
Mulholland Drive
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Princess Cyd


Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

Author [Helen House], Autostraddle managing editor
Autostraddle byline

1. The Watermelon Woman
2. Bound
3. Multiple Maniacs
4. Good Manners
5. Appropriate Behavior
6. Can You Ever Forgive Me?
7. The Handmaiden
8. Olivia
9. Mommy Is Coming
10. The Hours
11. Love Lies Bleeding


Grace Lavery

Author [Please Miss: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Penis]
Autostraddle interview

The Aggressives, dir. Daniel Peddle (2005)
Baise-moi, dir. Virginie Despentes (2000)
The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, dir. Rainer Werner Fassbinder (1972)
A Bit of Scarlet, dir. Andrea Weiss (1997)
Carol, dir. Todd Haynes (2015)
아가씨 [The Handmaiden], dir. Park Chan-Wook (2016)
Raw, dir. Julia Ducournau (2016)
The Skin I Live In, dir. Pedro Almodóvar (2011)
The Favourite, dir. Yorgos Lanthimos (2018)
Portrait de la jeune fille en feu, dir. Céline Sciamma (2019)


Andrea Lawlor

Author [Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl]

All Over Me
Born in Flames
Bound
Heavenly Creatures
High Art
Saving Face
Set It Off
She Must Be Seeing Things
Show Me Love
Stranger Inside


Analyssa Lopez

Autostraddle writer
Autostraddle byline

1. Saving Face
2. Bound
3. Pariah
4. Desert Hearts
5. The Handmaiden
6. Imagine Me & You
7. The Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls in Love
8. Jennifer’s Body
9. Foxfire
10. Black Swan


T Kira Madden

Author [Long Live the Tribe of the Fatherless Girls]

Appropriate Behavior
Bottoms
Bound
But I’m a Cheerleader
Fried Green Tomatoes
Kajiliionaire
Now and Then
Water Lilies
The Watermelon Woman
Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken


Carmen Maria Machado

Author [Her Body and Other Parties, In the Dream House]
Autostraddle interview

1. Desert Hearts
2. Fried Green Tomatoes
3. Heavenly Creatures
4. Bound
5. But I’m a Cheerleader
6. Mulholland Drive
7. Carol
8. The Handmaiden
9. Portrait of a Lady on Fire
10. Love Lies Bleeding


Shayna Maci

Filmmaker, programmer, Autostraddle writer
Autostraddle byline

1. Desert Hearts (1985)
2. Bloodsisters: Leather, Dykes, and Sadomasochism (1995)
3. Born in Flames (1983)
4. The Watermelon Woman (1996)
5. The Joy of Life (2005)
6. Bound (1996)
7. Simone Barbes or Virtue (1980)
8. D.E.B.S. (2004)
9. Welcome to the U.S.A. (2019)
10. A Comedy in Six Unnatural Acts (1975)
Shorts: Janine (1990)/If Every Girl Had a Diary (1990)/Dyketactics (1974)


Annie Rose Malamet

Writer, lesbian vampire expert

1. Je Tu Il Elle
2. Working Girls
3. The Watermelon Woman
4. The Handmaiden
5. Bound
6. Water Lilies
7. Mädchen in Uniform
8. Daughters of Darkness
9. Kamikaze Hearts
10. Gia


Miss Malice

Drag performer

The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant
Born in Flames
Bound
Bloodsisters
Cat People (1942)
Daughters of Darkness
Flaming Ears
Mulholland Drive
Multiple Maniacs
Olivia

HM: If These Walls Could Talk 2 (second vignette only)


April Maxey

Director, writer [Work]

1. Portrait of a Lady on Fire
2. Pariah
3. Mosquita y Mari
4. Desert Hearts
5. Bound
6. Set It Off
7. Saving Face
8. The Watermelon Woman
9. Water Lilies
10. Circumstance


Ashni Mehta

Autostraddle team writer
Autostraddle byline

Bend It Like Beckham
Bottoms
But I’m a Cheerleader
Crush
D.E.B.S.
The Favourite
I Can’t Think Straight
Jennifer’s Body
Love Lies Bleeding
Portrait of a Lady on Fire


Fawzia Mirza

Director, writer, actor [Signature Move, The Queen of My Dreams]

Appropriate Behavior
But I’m a Cheerleader
Carol
Chutney Popcorn
Circumstance
Love Lies Bleeding
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Saving Face
Set it Off
Shiva Baby


Motti

Comedian, For Them community manager, Autostraddle writer
Autostraddle byline

Bound
Below Her Mouth
Best in Show
Booksmart
But I’m a Cheerleader
D.E.B.S.
The Favourite
Love Lies Bleeding
This is Where I Leave You
The Watermelon Woman


Sari Navarro

Film programmer
Autostraddle interview

1. Love Lies Bleeding
2. But I’m a Cheerleader
3. Mosquita y Mari
4. The Watermelon Woman
5. Desert Hearts
6. Bound
7. Bottoms
8. Portrait of a Lady on Fire
9. Mulholland Drive
10. Certain Women


Jenni Olson

Filmmaker [The Joy of Life, The Royal Road], film historian
Autostraddle interview

Bottoms
Bound
By Hook or By Crook
Carol
Circumstance
D.E.B.S.
Desert Hearts
The Half of It
Fucking Åmål
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
She Don’t Fade


Olivia Peace

Artist, filmmaker [Tahara]

1. The Watermelon Woman
2. Dirty Computer
3. D.E.B.S.
4. Nope
5. Rafiki
6. Jewel’s Catch One
7. Set It Off
8. The Color Purple (1985)
9. Saving Face
10. The Handmaiden


Carmen Phillips

Former Autostraddle editor-in-chief, Autostraddle writer
Autostraddle byline

1. Pariah
2. How to Blow Up a Pipeline
3. The Watermelon Woman
4. Set It Off
5. Mars One
6. Bessie
7. Saving Face
8. But I’m a Cheerleader
9. Passing
10. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Honorable Mentions: A Simple Favor, Bodies Bodies Bodies


Jennifer Reeder

Artist, director, writer [Knives and Skin, Perpetrator]

Daughters of Darkness
Fire
Heavenly Creatures
High Art
The Hunger
Morvern Callar
Pariah
Personal Best
Rebecca
Silkwood


Eva Reign

Actor [Anything’s Possible], Autostraddle team writer
Autostraddle byline

Appropriate Behavior (dir. Desiree Akhavan, 2014)
Bessie (dir. Dee Rees, 2015)
Bodies, Bodies, Bodies (dir. Halina Reijn, 2022)
High Art (dir. Lisa Cholodenko, 1998)
The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love (dir. Maria Maggenti, 1995)
Love Lies Bleeding (dir. Rose Glass, 2024)
Pariah (dir. Dee Rees, 2011)
Set It Off (dir. F. Gary Grey, 1996)
Thelma and Louise (dir. Ridley Scott, 1991)
The Watermelon Woman (dir. Cheryl Dunye, 1996)


Jen Richards

Writer, actor, producer [Her Story, The Acolyte]
Autostraddle interview

Better Than Chocolate
Bound
But I’m a Cheerleader
Carol
The Handmaiden
Imagine Me & You
Love Lies Bleeding
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Saving Face
Signature Move


Stef Rubino

Autostraddle team writer

All About My Mother
Born In Flames
Bound
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Desert Hearts
High Art
Kajillionaire
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Princess Cyd
The Watermelon Woman


Mey Rude

Journalist, critic, Autostraddle writer
Autostraddle byline

1. Love Lies Bleeding
2. Pariah
3. But I’m a Cheerleader
4. Saving Face
5. The Watermelon Woman
6. Bound
7. Bottoms
8. Black Swan
9. The Handmaiden
10. Professor Marston and the Wonder Women


Dua Saleh

Musician, actor [Sex Education]
Autostraddle interview

Bound
But I’m a Cheerleader
Carol
Chutney Popcorn
Fingersmith
Love Lies Bleeding
The Miseducation of Cameron Post
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Rafiki
The Watermelon Woman


Nic Sam

Autostraddle team writer
Autostraddle byline

Blockers
But I’m a Cheerleader
Carol
Crush
Dirty Computer
The Half Of It
Imagine Me & You
The Miseducation of Cameron Post
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Professor Marston & the Wonder Women


Tanya Saracho

Playwright, screenwriter, producer [Looking, Vida]

Ammonite
Blue is the Warmest Color
Bottoms
Bound
But I’m a Cheerleader
Gia
Go Fish
The Incredible True Adventure of Two Girls in Love
Love Lies Bleeding
Mosquita y Mari
Portrait of a Lady on Fire


Daniel Sea

Artist, musician, actor [The L Word]
Autostraddle interview

Born in Flames
Circumstance
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
Heavenly Creatures
A Litany for Survival
Mädchen in Uniform
Persona
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Times Square
The Watermelon Woman


Jourdain Searles

Critic, programmer, comedian, Autostraddle writer
Autostraddle byline

Bound
But I’m a Cheerleader
Desert Hearts
Go Fish
The Handmaiden
Loving Highsmith
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Shirley (2020)
The Watermelon Woman
When Night is Falling


Sa’iyda Shabazz

Autostraddle team writer
Autostraddle byline

1. Imagine Me & You
2. Fucking Åmål
3. Ellie and Abbie (And Abbie’s Dead Aunt)
4. D.E.B.S.
5. Gia
6. Kissing Jessica Stein
7. Under the Christmas Tree
8. Crush
9. The Half of It
10. But I’m a Cheerleader


Sarah Schulman

Author, screenwriter [Mommy Is Coming, Let the Record Show]
Autostraddle interview

Blue Jean (Georgia Oakley)
Bound (Lily and Lana Wachowski)
Gently Down the Stream (Su Friedrich)
Je Tu Il Elle, Les Rendez-vous d’Anna, and Sloth (Chantal Akerman)
Nellie and Nadine (Magnus Gertten)
Persona (Ingmar Bergman)

Lesbian films I worked on: The Watermelon Woman, Mommy Is Coming, The Owls (Cheryl Dunye)

Special award for my personal sentimental favorites: Hooters: The Making of the Owls, Who’s Afraid of Vagina Woolfe? (Anna Margarita Albelo)

Special Big European Budget Award: Joan of Arc in Mongolia (Ulrike Ottinger)


Vivek Shraya

Artist, author [The Subtweet], screenwriter, actor [How to Fail as a Popstar]
Autostraddle interview

Bound
Carol
Disobedience
Fire
Love Lies Bleeding
Passing
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Tár
V for Vendetta
“Telephone” music video


Lauren Ashley Smith

Writer, comedian [A Black Lady Sketch Show]

Carol
The Color Purple (1985)
The Favourite
Happiest Season
The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love
The Kids Are Alright
Pariah
She Hate Me
Suicide Kale
The Watermelon Woman


Quiniva Smith

Attorney, Autostraddle writer
Autostraddle byline

1. Desert Hearts
2. The Favourite
3. Pariah
4. The Handmaiden
5. Mulholland Drive
6. Notes on a Scandal
7. The Watermelon Woman
8. Doubt
9. All About Eve
10. Portrait of a Lady on Fire


Erin Sullivan

Screenwriter, Autostraddle writer
Autostraddle byline

Bottoms
But I’m a Cheerleader
Carol
D.E.B.S.
The Handmaiden
I Can’t Think Straight
Jennifer’s Body
A League of Their Own (1992)
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Water Lilies


Stewart Thorndike

Director, writer [Lyle, Bad Things]
Autostraddle interview

Bound
Desert Hearts
The Favourite
High Art
The Kids Are All Right
Mulholland Drive
Shiva Baby
Thelma
The Watermelon Woman
Working Girls


Jes Tom

Comedian, writer, actor [Crush, Our Flag Means Death]
Autostraddle interview

1. Bound
Black Swan
The Children’s Hour
Disobedience
The Favourite
Fingersmith
Imagine Me & You
Pariah
Saving Face
V for Vendetta


Andrea Torres

Film programmer

At Land
Blue is the Warmest Color
Fucking Åmål
Je Tu Il Elle
Mädchen in Uniform
MURDER and murder
Nathalie Granger
Simone Barbès, ou la Vertu
Spacked Out
With Beauty and Sorrow


Christina Tucker

Autostraddle team writer
Autostraddle byline

1. Desert Hearts
2. High Art
3. The Watermelon Woman
4. Bound
5. The Handmaiden
6. Can You Ever Forgive Me?
7. Imagine Me & You
8. But I’m a Cheerleader
9. Saving Face
10. Set It Off


Carly Usdin

Director, writer, author [Suicide Kale, Monét’s Slumber Party]
Autostraddle interview

All Over Me
Bottoms
Bound
But I’m a Cheerleader
D.E.B.S.
Everything Everywhere All at Once
Love Lies Bleeding
Pariah
Set It Off
Suicide Kale


Lena Waithe

Writer, actor, producer [Twenties, The Chi]
Autostraddle interview

1. The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love
2. The Color Purple (1985)
3. Set It Off
4. Portrait of a Lady on Fire
5. The Watermelon Woman
6. Blue is the Warmest Color
7. Saving Face
8. The Women of Brewster Place
9. Imagine Me & You
10. Heavenly Creatures


D.W. Waterson

Director [Backspot]

1. Saving Face
2. Bend It Like Beckham
3. Blue is the Warmest Color
4. Bottoms
5. The Runaways
6. The Watermelon Woman
7. Coyote Ugly
8. Circumstance
9. Kiss Me
10. Imagine Me & You


Em Win

Autostraddle team writer
Autostraddle byline

1. Raya and the Last Dragon
2. Everything Everywhere All at Once
3. Carol
4. The Half of It
5. Mean Girls (2024) (not because it’s a good movie but because it made me more gay for more people)
6. Dumplin’
7. Little Women (2019)
8. Black Widow
9. Desert Hearts
10. Frozen 2


Alice Wu

Director, writer [Saving Face, The Half of It]
Autostraddle interview

Top Ten Lesbian Films formative to my becoming a lesbian (and a filmmaker):

All Over Me
Bound
But I’m a Cheerleader
D.E.B.S.
Fucking Åmål
Go Fish
The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love
The Joy of Life
Tank Girl
The Watermelon Woman


Laura Zak

Writer, actor, producer [Her Story, Twelve Forever]
Autostraddle interview

Bound
But I’m a Cheerleader
Carol
Desert Hearts
Disobedience
The Handmaiden
High Art
Imagine Me & You
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Signature Move


Jess Zeidman

Writer, producer [Tahara, Summer Solstice]

1. But I’m a Cheerleader
2. The Watermelon Woman
3. Bound
4. Water Lilies
5. Carol
6. Desert Hearts
7. Fucking Åmål
8. Jennifer’s Body
9. Princess Cyd
10. She’s the Man

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

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Drew Burnett Gregory

Drew is a Brooklyn-based writer, filmmaker, and theatremaker. She is a Senior Editor at Autostraddle with a focus in film and television, sex and dating, and politics. Her writing can also be found at Bright Wall/Dark Room, Cosmopolitan UK, Refinery29, Into, them, and Knock LA. She was a 2022 Outfest Screenwriting Lab Notable Writer and a 2023 Lambda Literary Screenwriting Fellow. She is currently working on a million film and TV projects mostly about queer trans women. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.

Drew Burnett has written 567 articles for us.

8 Comments

  1. Surprised Erin didn’t cast 10 votes to Carol. And a bit sad that Summertime (la Belle saison, 2015) didn’t make it in anybody’s list but the experts have spoken.

    • Summertime is so good! I’m also surprised it didn’t make any lists.

  2. Love everyone not picking their own films and then Jamie Babbit including But I’m a Cheerleader :)

  3. Love that we get to see these! Am going to read through in more detail when I get a sec and add everything I haven’t seen to my watchlist.

    Thanks for all the work you’ve put into this huge project! Are you going to write about your methodology for ordering the top 100 or was it purely a case of adding up the numbers from these ballots? (Sorry if you’ve already explained elsewhere – like I say, I need to digest it all more thoroughly when I have the time.)

    • Thank you for asking , because obvi I thought about this a lot! Many of the ballots included the same films so when the votes were tallied, there were lots of ties. I decided that the more people who have seen a film the higher chance people would have to put it on a list, so I settled ties using obscurity as judged by Letterboxd views. Not a perfect system, but I think it had mostly good results!

      • Ohhh interesting!

        Before I read this article, I figured everybody provided a ranking (didn’t realize so many would provide an unranked list though I get the appeal) so I figured it was gonna be “a first place gets 10 points, second gets 9” sort of thing… Then I saw the unranked lists and became quite curious how it all worked. Very interesting methodology, totally makes sense why I felt like there were a bunch I didn’t recognize between each one I did: I was probably recognizing the least obscure in each set of ties 😅.

        I giggled and grinned to see The Matrix mentioned 😁. Also it’s quite impressive who all you know and were able to get opinions from! Thanks for putting the work in to this latest edition of the list. There are definitely a few I want to watch.

  4. Most of these lists seem pretty rote, but it’s really fun to see some unusual choices: Greta, Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken (a childhood favorite, that haircut was truly formative), Coyote Ugly, Black Widow (presumably the Debra Winger/Theresa Russell movie rather than Marvel, I hope), This is Where I Leave You. All great and at least vaguely gay movies!

  5. Recent favorite – My Animal directed by Jacqueline Castel (lesbian teen werewolf, with killer Boy Harsher soundtrack, hello?)

Comments are closed.

2024 Emmy Nominations: Just The Gay Parts

It’s a slim Emmy year after last year’s strikes, but our hearts go on, just like in the movie about the boat. How has the LGBTQIA+ community fared this fine year? Let’s discuss.

Outstanding Comedy Series:

Abbott Elementary
The Bear
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Hacks
Only Murders in the Building
Palm Royale
Reservation Dogs
What We Do in the Shadows

What a fine assortment of nominees aside from Palm Royale which I personally thought was a massive waste of incredible talent! The Bear stars out queer actor Ayo Edebiri. The queer, Indigenous creative team behind Reservation Dogs includes writer Tommy Pico and actor/writer/director Devery Jacobs. Hacks is both super-gay as a show and stuffed with gays, from lead Hannah Einbinder (whose character is also bisexual) to characters played by queer actors Megan Stalter and Poppy Liu. Abbott Elementary‘s had a gay lead from the start, introduced a minor lesbian character this season, and has our very own local favorite Brittani Nichols on its writing and production team. What We Do in the Shadows is centered on a group of pansexual vampires. Queer filmmaker Jamie Babbit is an Executive Producer of Only Murders in the Building.

Outstanding Drama Series

The Crown
Fallout
The Gilded Age
The Morning Show
Mr. and Mrs. Smith
Shogun
Slow Horses
3 Body Problem

This category is straight as fuck but does include The Morning Show, whose lesbian storylines both giveth and taketh away. I think there was a non-binary character in Fallout for like five minutes.

Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series

Baby Reindeer
Fargo
Lessons in Chemistry
Ripley
True Detective: Night Country

We turned out big-time here — first of all, Baby Reindeer, about a bisexual comic, his stalker (played by queer actress Jessica Gunning) and his on-again-off-again girlfriend, played by trans actress Nava Mau. Ripley is based on The Talented Mr. Ripley, based on a gay book (The Talented Mr Ripley) by a gay author (Patricia Highsmith). There’s a gay male character in Lessons in Chemistry. Drew’s favorite show True Detective: Night Country stars queer, Two-Spirit actor Kali Reis and lesbian actor Jodie Foster. Jodie’s character has a queer daughter.

Outstanding Reality Competition Program

The Amazing Race
RuPaul’s Drag Race
Top Chef
The Traitors
The Voice

Everything here includes gay people because we are real and we love to compete! From The Traitors, hosted by bisexual icon Alan Cumming with queer contestants including Peppermint and Parvati Shallow to RuPaul’s Drag Race literally being about gay people to Kristen Kish‘s arms on Top Chef, we are all over this.

Outstanding Talk Series

The Daily Show
Jimmy Kimmel Live!
Late Night with Seth Meyers
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

We will be rooting for Seth Meyers who has always rooted for us.

Outstanding Television Movie

Mr. Monk’s Last Case: A Monk Movie
Quiz Lady
Red, White & Royal Blue
Scoop
Unfrosted

First of all, Unfrosted is the worst movie I have ever seen, but I did enjoy Scoop (starring bisexual goddess Gillian Anderson). Second of all, congratulations to gay royals fan-fic TV movie Red, White & Royal Blue, based on a book by queer author Casey McQuiston that I fucking adored! Also nobody told me that it was Mr. Monk’s last case! WHAT WILL HE DO NOW????


Okay now for a brief sprint through the actress categories!

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
Quinta Brunson — Abbott Elementary
Ayo Edebiri — The Bear
Selena Gomez — Only Murders in the Building
Maya Rudolph — Loot
Jean Smart — Hacks
Kristen Wiig — Palm Royale

Ayo Edebiri is queer and Selena Gomez’s character is bisexual.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Jennifer Aniston — The Morning Show
Carrie Coon — The Gilded Age
Maya Erskine — Mr. and Mrs. Smith
Anna Sawai — Shōgun
Imelda Staunton — The Crown
Reese Witherspoon — The Morning Show

Reese Witherspoon’s character is gay. What if I was like “Jennifer Aniston is gay.” My head would explode. (She’s not, don’t @ me)

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie

Jodie Foster — True Detective: Night Country
Brie Larson — Lessons in Chemistry
Juno Temple — Fargo
Sofía Vergara — Griselda
Naomi Watts — Feud: Capote vs. The Swans

Jodie Foster is gay and Sofia Vergara’s character is bisexual.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Carol Burnett — Palm Royale
Liza Colón-Zayas — The Bear
Hannah Einbinder — Hacks
Janelle James — Abbott Elementary
Sheryl Lee Ralph — Abbott Elementary
Meryl Streep — Only Murders in the Building

Hannah Einbinder is bisexual and so is her character.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Christine Baranski — The Gilded Age
Nicole Beharie — The Morning Show
Elizabeth Debicki — The Crown
Greta Lee — The Morning Show
Lesley Manville — The Crown
Karen Pittman — The Morning Show
Holland Taylor — The Morning Show

Holland Taylor is gay.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie
Dakota Fanning — Ripley
Lily Gladstone — Under the Bridge
Jessica Gunning — Baby Reindeer
Aja Naomi King — Lessons in Chemistry
Diane Lane — Feud: Capote vs. The Swans
Nava Mau — Baby Reindeer
Kali Reis — True Detective: Night Country

Lily Gladstone is queer and so is their character in Under the BridgeJessica Gunning is queer and Nava Mau is trans. Kali Reis is Two-Spirit and queer.


Other gay tidbits of note:

  • Fellow Travelers, a gay historical thriller about the decades-long gay romance between two men who first met at the height of McCarthyism’s gay witch hunts in the 1950s, was nominated for Outstanding Writing for a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie. So were Baby Reindeer and Ripley.
  • Girls5Eva, which stars lesbian comic Paula Pell, earned a nod for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series, as did Hacks, Abbott Elementary, The Other Two, The Bear, and an episode of What We Do in the Shadows called “Pride Parade.”
  • Queer actress Sarah Paulson got nominated for Drama Guest Actress for Mr and Mrs Smith,
  • Lesbian chef Kristen Kish was nominated for Host for a Reality/Competition Program, as were queers Alan Cumming (The Tratiors) and RuPaul Charles (RuPaul’s Drag Race)
  • Girls State, about a program for young aspiring politicians, including a very cool queer aspirant, was nominated for Documentary or Nonfiction Special.
  • Da’Vine Joy Randolph was nominated for Best Actress in a Comedy Series for her queer role in Only Murders on the Building.
  • Stephanie Allyne was nominated for Outstanding Directing for a Variety Series for Tig Notaro’s Hello Again.

Anyhow, I am really looking forward to another year of the Autostraddle TV Awards, in which we pay attention to so many queer shows and actors that were overlooked!

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

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Riese

Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, 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. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3228 articles for us.

2 Comments

  1. queer actress and Academy award winner, Ariana Debose got nominated variety special for hosting the 76th annual Tonys . This is her second Emmy nomination .

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No Filter: Reneé Rapp Gets Slimed!

Hello and welcome back to No Filter! This is the place where I find all the best/funniest/strangest/hottest content from Queer Celebs on Instagram, and put it here, for your benefit! Let’s go!


Cynthia always serves such lived in cat mom content, a blessing!


Gam gam city bitch!!! Come on LEGS!!


Few things intrigue me more than the celeb + assistant relationship, and I am loooving this one.


Lesbian Jesus spotted in a LDR? Likely place for her to be!


Even though it hurts my feelings that I was not here to hang with Mae and Parvati and Alanis, I am glad it happened to someone I GUESS.


Okay fine this is very sweet, I am back on board with the whole group outing.


One thing about me is that my ass will be parked in the theater for Twisters!! Summer blockbuster heads where ya at?!


Liv seems to have a very woods and chill focused life and I love that for them!


Not to be extremely 90s kid, but man there is something comforting about famous people covered in slime!


I love that Meg’s brand is so gf forward, it’s really beautiful to see!


No choice but to tip my hat respectfully to the folks at Quinn who dreamed this up, this is excellent work!


Janelle I would simply never stop you from doing what you need to do!!


Stunning as ever but also— I just remembered they are dating Rami Malek, so I have to think about that for the next three hours!

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!

Christina Tucker

Christina Tucker is writer and podcaster living in Philadelphia. Find her on Twitter or Instagram!

Christina has written 293 articles for us.

1 Comment

  1. the one-two punch of Mae and then Katy really has me thinking about doing the big chop again!!

Comments are closed.

Power Ranking Chappell Roan’s Most Iconic Queer Looks

feature image art by Autostraddle / photo of Chappell Roan in EAT ME shirt by Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

As much as she’s known for her sexy, catchy lesbian pop songs, Chappell Roan’s fame is also defined by her looks. Often harnessing touchstones of New Romanticism, Chappell’s fashion pays tribute to queer and drag history, to camp, to her theater kid roots, to horror, and of course, to the Midwest where she’s from. The looks are over-the-top but also more trashy and inventive than they are “stylish” or elegant, a collision of highbrow/lowbrow aesthetics.

Frequent collaborator Genesis Webb —who also hails from the Midwest —has frequently styled Chappell for the stage and shoots, and apparently their partnership on serving extreme cunt was a match made in heaven: “We both have a trashy, less defined sense of fashion than high fashion,” Webb told Vulture in an interview. “When I was dressing her, we immediately went into this mode of, ‘Eh, who cares about the label and politics. I just want you to look sick.’”

The results are striking, memorable, and —much like Chappell’s music —simply sexy and fun.

From some looks from her music videos to her on-stage drag tributes to the costume themes she curates for fans to follow, here are Chappell Roan’s most iconic queer looks, power ranked.


17. Chappell in the “HOT TO GO!” Music Video

I feel like in this screengrab in particular, she’s recruiting me into the cult of Chappell. And it worked, bitch! Loving the gay Ringling look. My sequin queen!

16. Chappell as Horror Doll at Bonnaroo

Photo by Erika Goldring / Contributor via Getty Images

I feel like this one goes out to all the girls who shopped at Hot Topic, and I mean that absolutely as a compliment because I have been that girl.

15. Chappell in the “My Kink Is Karma” Music Video

If I had to imagine a closet of Chappell’s staples, I’m pretty sure this is what I’d imagine: red bra, something leopard print, and tights. That’s all a girl needs, really!

14. Chappell as Football Player

She really took football and made it gay and glam. The fully bedazzled shoulder pads alone are instantly iconic.

13. Chappell as My Kink Is Karma at Boston Calling

Photo by Astrida Valigorsky / Contributor via Getty Images

Chappell often assigns themes to her live shows for her fans to dress to, and this is a great execution of her own My Kink Is Karma theme, which is all about black/red contrasts, a mixture of textures like leather, fur, and velvet, and almost harlequin-esque touches. She looks like the goth girl at prom, and I love it.

12. Chappell as Blue Pony Club

Photo by Boston Globe / Contributor via Getty Images

Whether intentional or not (since I believe this was from a show prior to Chappell establishing her official themes), this look takes the elements of her Pink Pony Club Theme but then executes them with the color palette of her Mermaids theme. Chappell is constantly collaging with her looks!

11. Chappell as White Swan on Jimmy Fallon

Photo by NBC / Contributor via Getty Images

Though its black counterpart ended up ranked much higher, I gotta give flowers to this pristine white avian look. That headpiece alone! It’s very impressive to me that she did a televised performance with literal feathers sprouting from her eyes.

10. Chappell in the “Pink Pony Club” Music Video

This is a wild card for the 10th spot on the list, as it ended up beating out some more over-the-top glam looks, but the gay cowboy glam of Chappell’s “Pink Pony Club” music video deserves a top ten spot for harnessing one of Chappell’s greatest fashion weapons: combining midwestern rural aesthetics with gay glam. Initially, she looks “out of place” in this honky tonk, but by the end, she’s far from it, her infectious aesthetic infiltrating the space. Even in lo-fi hair and makeup, Chappell slays.

9. Chappell as Taxi at Gov Ball

Photo by @luxxienne

Not quite as good as the full Statue of Liberty look I ranked higher, but playful and fun nonetheless!

8. Chappell as Poor Things on Stephen Colbert

Photo by Scott Kowalchyk/CBS via Getty Images

My love of Poor Things and especially its costumes meant there was no way this look wasn’t making the top ten. Webb told Vulture this was the first look they actually had budget for, and it shows! It was explicitly inspired by Poor Things, particularly by the women who worked in the brothel in the film.

7. Chappell as Butterfly at Coachella

Though her other Coachella look won out as my favorite, it’s hard to deny the sheer scope of this butterfly look, a custom design by @jackalopeland. I have no idea how she was able to perform in wings spanning six feet. (She did eventually detach them on stage, but still.)

6. Chappell as Penelope for “Good Luck Babe” Cover Art and Grammys After Party

Photo by Gilbert Flores / Contributor

Designed by special effects makeup artist Tyler Green, Chappell’s “Good Luck Babe” prosthetic nose is a nod to the 2006 film Penelope, in which Christina Ricci plays the titular young heiress born with a pig snout due to a curse placed on her family by a witch. Combined with the headpiece, there’s almost an underworld glamor to this look.

5. Chappell as Prom Queen for Tiny Desk Concert

I like Chappell’s Tiny Desk look, because it feels like the next evolution of her Prom Queen aesthetic from the album cover for The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess. There’s a wild mix of elements here, but it all comes together into a cohesive vision. Chappell’s looks often reference each other, and here I can see touches of not only her album cover look but also connections between the butterfly clips and her big butterfly look at Coachella and her eye makeup here and then her eventual eye makeup at Kentuckiana Pride when she dressed as Divine. With Webb, she’s building an arsenal of looks that all talk to each other. That’s just great artistry.

4. Chappell as the Statue of Liberty at Gov Ball

Photo by Marleen Moise/Getty Images

I tend to favor Chappell’s trashy/freaky looks over her pretty ones, but this Statue of Liberty look was so pretty while also maintaining a sense of strangeness due to, well, her entire body being painted glitter-green. She wears it well (Wicked Broadway run when?), and I love just the sheer idea of transforming a symbol of American patriotism into a slutty queer camp persona. She was wearing this look when she announced she would not perform at the White House Pride parade as a political statement, and that also sends this one up in the power rankings.

3. Chappell as EAT ME at Coachella

Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

This look ended up higher in my rankings than I originally anticipated, but it’s just a perfect distillation of Chappell’s trashy, campy aesthetics, and I love that she wore it specifically for her Coachella debut because it feels so distinctly her. It’s textural chaos, and I love the mix of hardware and gemstones. Chappell’s commitment to a leopard print is aspirational, and there’s something almost clown core about this, but like a slutty weird clown. The EAT ME top with the boob-highlighting cutout is just the cherry on top. Webb cites Vivienne Westwood as an influence here, and it shows!

2. Chappell as Black Swan on Jimmy Fallon

Photo by NBC/Contributor via Getty Images

“My stylist Genesis Webb and I pull from drag, horror movies, burlesque, theater. I love looking pretty and scary,” Chappell said in her Jimmy Fallon appearance, underscoring exactly why I love her looks so much. Horror, burlesque, theater? You’re speaking my goddamn language, babe! This bird-like look (and its white counterpart from further up the list) was made possible by a whole team of collaborators, including hairstylist Dom Forletta who’s responsible for that Carole Kane ass mane, makeup artist Andrew Dahling on the eye feathers, and of course those fucking incredible nails that Chappell gay-clicked throughout her interview, executed by Juan Alvear.

1. Chappell as Divine at Kentuckiana Pride

This one’s the winner. Chappell’s two-look tribute to drag icon Divine at Kentuckiana Pride was technically simple but flawless in its execution. Paying homage to the queen of filth at her attendance record-breaking headlining show at a Pride festival in the Bible Belt is queen shit. The clash of red between the Pink Flamingos-referencing gown and her mess of fiery curls! The leopard-print one-piece! The blue eye shadow (with Andrew Dahling on the makeup again, made extra special since he’s from Kentucky)! This right here is exactly why I extra appreciate Chappell’s artistry. There’s a real reverence for the queer art that has come before her, especially queer art that centers drag performers. She indeed looks divine.

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is the managing editor of Autostraddle and a lesbian writer of essays, short stories, and pop culture criticism living in Orlando. She is the assistant managing editor of TriQuarterly, and her short stories appear or are forthcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Joyland, Catapult, The Offing, and more. Some of her pop culture writing can be found at The A.V. Club, Vulture, The Cut, and others. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram and learn more about her work on her website.

Kayla has written 870 articles for us.

The 100 Best Lesbian Movies Of All Time

Top 100 Best Lesbian Movies white text against a purple background with heads of famous lesbian film characters in black and white surrounding the text

Here at Autostraddle we want every lesbian, every queer woman, and every nonbinary 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.

It’s about more than representation. We believe that the best lesbian movies rank among the very best movies, period. Our stories matter and have too long been ignored. This list, created based on ballots submitted by over 75 current and former Autostraddle writers, other critics and programmers, other queer writers, queer filmmakers, and queer performers, aims to create a canon of the very best lesbian movies of all time. Past lists, we’ve made rules about what constitutes a lesbian film — but with this wide swath of voices, we let the numbers decide. From serious art films to gross-out comedies, this list has it all.

There is a world of cinema and a world of queer cinema. There are films from the last hundred years waiting to be discovered and new films yet to be made. So grab some popcorn and join us. And if you’re looking for even more lesbian movies to watch, check out the individual ballots to be released later this week, as well as the Autostraddle Encyclopedia of Lesbian Cinema.


100. The Queen of My Dreams

dir. Fawzia Mirza, 2023
Our Review // Unreleased

Best Lesbian Movies #100: a close up of Amrit Kaur sitting on a plane

Fawzia Mirza’s long-awaited directorial debut feature hasn’t even been released in the U.S. And yet, it’s a testament to the film’s power that it still made this list thanks to festivals and Canadian viewers. Combining a queer coming-of-age movie with a tribute to Bollywood and mothers, this is a film as fun as it is poignant. There is certainly not a lack of queer cinema about mommy issues, but few films have approached this key relationship with such a complicated tenderness. With its fractured narrative structure and bold stylistic swings, Mirza’s film is the work of a confident queer artist stepping fully into their voice.


99. Hooters: The Making of Older, Wiser Lesbian Cinema

dir. Anna Margarita Albelo
Unavailable

Close up of Anna Margarita Albelo holding a fake owl next to text that says Lesbians Over Forty

More than a making-of featurette for Cheryl Dunye’s The Owls, Anna Margarita Albelo’s behind-the-scenes documentary is a snapshot of queer cinema at a turning point. A decade post-New Queer Cinema, but before the influx of recent film and television, Dunye and her team were rightly questioning where queer cinema — and specifically lesbian cinema — should go next. It’s rare to see discussions from queer artists that are this blunt and possibly even rarer to witness the kinds of generational conflicts on display. For fans of lesbian cinema, this documentary is essential.


98. Bodies Bodies Bodies

dir. Halina Reijn, 2022
Our Review // Watch It

The cast of Bodies Bodies Bodies huddled together dripping wet with makeup running

With sharp direction, a perfect cast, and a script from phenomenal playwright Sarah DeLappe, this turned out to be a whodunnit as smart as it is funny. This film is a masterclass in prioritizing character and entertainment and ending up with a clear political message as a result. It may seem like the satire is aimed at Gen Z NYU students — and they do receive some hilarious jabs — but it’s more pointedly a critique of true crime media and the audiences who love it. Oh and it starts with a close up of a queer makeout involving nonbinary movie star Amandla Stenberg.


97. Thelma and Louise

dir. Ridley Scott, 1991
Watch It

Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon sit on the edge of a convertible.

The best part of putting this list together via individual top ten lists rather than a team vote was the opportunity to redefine what constitutes a lesbian film. There is great value in queer filmmakers telling explicitly queer stories — there is also value in subtext. Ridley Scott’s feminist masterpiece has long been labeled an ode to female friendship. But is there any surprise that many read more than friendship onto Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis’s titular characters? Yes, they kiss on the lips before the famous final moments, and, even more than that, their chemistry together has a depth of intimacy that easily blurs with the erotic. (It helps when both actresses are stunning and look gradually gayer as the film goes along.) In a world against women, these two had each other. What’s more lesbian than that?


96. All About My Mother

dir. Pedro Almodóvar, 1999
Watch It

A cis woman tends to an injured trans woman in a colorful living room.

Often considered Pedro Almodóvar’s crowning achievement, All About My Mother is a tribute to women — to actresses, to mothers, to trans women, to sex workers, to lesbians. With his trademark style of bright colors, raunchy humor, and gorgeous melodrama, Almodóvar’s film is a reminder of the communities we form. The boundaries between family and friendship and lovers are as fluid as the boundaries of sex and gender. Cecilia Roth, Marisa Paredes, Penélope Cruz, and Antonia San Juan lead a cast of women that feel real even as they play in Almodóvar’s heightened imagination. This is not usually considered a lesbian film, but probably only because several of its queer women relationships involve trans women. Since its release the film has held a place in the canon of world cinema — it’s time it takes its rightful place in the canon of best lesbian movies as well.


95. Monster

dir. Patty Jenkins, 2003
Watch It

Best lesbian movies #95: Charlize Theron lights Christina Ricci's cigarette in Monster

Bleak and devastating, Patty Jenkins’ portrayal of Aileen Wuornos does right by Wuornos’ life of trauma. Charlize Theron went beyond the prosthetic makeup in her truly remarkable — and Oscar-winning — performance as Wuornos. Her chemistry with Christina Ricci provides a much needed levity — until it makes what happens even more painful. The film doesn’t judge Wuornos or romanticize her, but simply portrays the life-altering effects of abuse.


94. Benedetta

dir. Paul Verhoeven, 2021
Our Review // Watch It

Virginie Efirie looks up while tied to a wooden stake being burned while a crowd gathers behind her.

Admittedly, I did not give Paul Verhoeven’s latest a positive review for this very website. But the outpouring of love for this naughty nun picture from voices I trust and respect has me eager to give the film a second look. Virginie Effira is one of our most consistently great actors and the power — and fury — of her titular performance is undeniable. Maybe I went into the film wanting to be shocked at its taboo, when instead I should have been appreciating what it was doing beyond its Virgin Mary statue dildo. Even upon my first viewing, I admired its games of manipulation, its bursts of violence, its social commentary once it moves beyond the walls of the abby. People have never agreed on Paul Verhoeven’s work — and, hey, maybe that’s exactly what makes him such an important filmmaker.


93. Fried Green Tomatoes

dir. Jon Avnet, 1991
Our Review // Watch It

Mary-Louise Parker and Mary Stuart-Masterson stand next to each other in wide hats.

While less explicitly gay than the book upon which its based, there’s no denying the romance between Ruth and Idgie. They flirt, they gaze, they start a business, they raise a child, they have food fights, and they build a life together. What is left unsaid due to 1991 Hollywood — or, generously, due to the hetero narrator — is usurped by the chemistry between Mary Stuart-Masterson and Mary-Louise Parker, the sensuality of their connection over food, and the very gay outfits worn throughout by Idgie. Maybe some straight people could watch this movie and see a tribute to good friendship, but queer audiences in 1991 and queer audiences today could and can see that these gals are more than just pals.


92. Passing

dir. Rebecca Hall, 2021
Our Review // Watch It

A black and white image of Tessa Thompson looking at Ruth Negga in period dress.

There’s a distance and a hyper-stylization to this adaptation of Nella Larsen’s masterpiece. Every choice Rebecca Hall makes as a director and writer is deliberate, some — such as the casting — to make the story feel current, others — such as the dialogue, 4:3 aspect ratio, and black-and-white photography — to pull the story back to the past. This is a film of contradictions, somehow both cold and sensual. It emphasizes the queer subtext of the novella without making it more explicit. It is a film of obstruction, of withholding, of glances. It’s the performances of Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga that ground this puzzle — it’s in how they look at each other. It’s a mix of love and hatred, lust and repulsion, envy and superiority. Glances destined for tragedy.


91. Certain Women

dir. Kelly Reichardt, 2016
Watch It

A close up of Lily Gladstone driving a truck.

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.


90. Orlando

dir. Sally Potter, 1992
Watch It

Best lesbian movies #90: Tilda Swinton as Orlando looks at the countess in the snow

Considering Virginia Woolf wrote her gender-bending classic as a tribute to her lover Vita Sackville-West, it’s no wonder Sally Potter’s film adaptation holds a special place in the heart of many lesbians. Led by a career-best performance from Tilda Swinton and gorgeously crafted by Potter and her team, this is the rare literary adaptation that captures all the magic of its source material while elevating it for the cinematic form. Arguably lauded more as a feminist film by some and a trans film by others, it nevertheless deserves its spot here as a lesbian film — turns out lots of feminists and trans people also happen to be dykes.


89. Knife + Heart

dir. Yann Gonzalez, 2018
Our Review // Watch It

A blonde woman with a bob and teary eyes reaches toward a movie screen.

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.


88. The Duke of Burgundy

dir. Peter Strickland, 2014
Our Review // Watch It

A woman sits in a chair with her legs crossed as another woman crawls on the floor.

This is one of the very few non-porn films about queer women BDSM and that alone makes it noteworthy. But it’s also a gorgeous and strange film with alluring performances from Sidse Babett Knudsen and Chiara D’Anna. While it’s at times formally unmotivated and certainly not devoid of male gaze, it’s still a fascinating film showing an underrepresented aspect of many lesbian lives.


87. Blue Jean

dir. Georgia Oakley, 2022
Our Review // Watch It

A close up of a blonde woman with short hair sits at a bar with a cigarette dangling from her mouth.

Queer people can exist in every shadow; not in every spotlight. Set in 1988 England, Georgia Oakley’s debut feature follows a familiar story of a closeted teacher torn between her job and her life. Elevated by sharp writing and acting, the film also distinguishes itself with a willingness to hold conflicting truths, to push for moral courage while acknowledging its limitations. It may be a period piece, but with the latest anti-trans moral panic leading to book bans and teacher firings, this film is, unfortunately, all too relevant to today.


86. House of Hummingbird

dir. Kim Bora, 2018
Watch It

A young girl lies her head on a table with her arm outstretched and looks toward the camera.

The only thing gayer than karaoke first dates, shitty families, and friend breakups are loving teachers. Well, Kim Bora’s remarkable 1994-set coming-of-age debut has all four. Ji-hu Park plays the lonely and sensitive Eun-hee who is stumbling through her adolescence in an abusive home. This is a difficult film that’s filled with tragedy and hardship, but it’s far from bleak. In fact, an optimism and hopeful spirit runs deep throughout even its toughest moments. Adolescence is challenging — queer adolescence especially — but one person can make such a difference in showing us a way forward. This is a movie for all the queers who ate lunch in a teacher’s room, this is a movie for all the queers who wondered if a future was possible and then, one day, stopped wondering and started to believe.


85. Good Manners

dir. Juliana Rojas, Marco Dutra, 2017
Our Review // Watch It

Best lesbian movies #85: A white woman with long hair leans forward and licks the mouth of a Black woman with short hair who leans away.

The best werewolf fairy tale horror lesbian movie musical ever made. Yes, this movie is all of those things and it’s a commentary on race and class differences in Brazil and a story about the nuances of queer motherhood. There’s a lot going on but somehow it all just works. It’s a gorgeous, at times terrifying, at times sexy, movie that is unforgettable to say the least. This isn’t the first movie to find horror in pregnancy and motherhood, but there’s something explicitly queer about this portrayal — and with that a fresh perspective. It deserves as prominent a spot in the canon of horror cinema as it does the canon of lesbian cinema.


84. Mars One

dir. Gabriel Martins, 2022
Our Review // Watch It

Two Black women cuddle on a picnic blanket in a park.

This is an ensemble film about a lower-middle class Black family in Brazil right after Bolsonaro’s election. There’s Tércia, who after a traumatic event believes she’s cursed, her husband, Wellington, four years sober and soccer-obsessed, and their son, Deivenho, who is fulfilling his dad’s soccer ambitions while secretly dreaming of astrophysics. And then there is their daughter, Eunice, a college student ready to leave home and even more ready to explore her sexuality. Because it’s such a thorough portrait of the family, Mars One manages to do something with its queer story that’s rarely seen. While movies have often centered straight people’s reaction to their queer family member, this film lets us know the straight family intimately and then centers the queer person’s experience of herself. There’s a specificity to Eunice’s interaction with her family that shows the stakes of their support — there’s an equal specificity to the love story with her girlfriend Jo. Mars One accomplishes the rare feat of acknowledging the realities of heteronormativity without slipping into painful cliches. This is just one tender achievement in a film full of them. It’s a film about family, a film about dreams, and a film about the societies that fail both.


83. Alice Júnior

dir. Gil Baroni, 2019
Our Review // Watch It

A trans teenager looks in the mirror with a hand toward her lip.

In some ways Alice Júnior hits all the regular beats of the teen movie genre — new student, bullies, quirky friends, mean teachers, nice teachers, a desire for a first kiss. And yet the film is a totally fresh take on the queer girl coming-of-age story. Not only is Alice trans — a detail that is all too rare — but her journey towards queerness is more of a pleasant surprise than an inevitability. In order to survive in the world as a young trans girl, Alice has built up a wall of total self-awareness, total self-confidence, and a delightful stubborn streak. These qualities make her such a fun character to watch. But even the most self-aware teen doesn’t know everything. And while she’s busy crushing on Bruno, Bruno’s girlfriend Taísa is busy crushing on her. The joy and specificity director Gil Baroni and writer Luiz Bertazzo bring to the film makes this a wholly unique work of trans cinema — but its fluidity regarding sexuality make it a unique work of queer women cinema as well.


82. I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing

dir. Patricia Rozema, 1987
Watch It

A woman with short red hair looks at her refracted reflection in a tiled mirror wall.

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.


81. Fire

dir. Deepa Mehta, 1996
Unavailable

A woman rests her head on another woman's shoulder with an orange background.

Deepa Mehta’s gorgeous film is about two women who refuse to simply be the wives of terrible men. Radha and Sita find love and desire in each other and remain true to that desire in the face of hardship. Their love feels real and their sexuality consuming due to Mehta’s artful gaze and the performances of Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das.


80. Wild Nights with Emily

dir. Madeleine Olnek, 2018
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Best lesbian movies #80: two women lie in bed in period dress and make eye contact

Shaking off almost two centuries of misrepresentation, Madeleine Olnek reclaims Emily Dickinson clarifying that gay does not equal old maid and homebody does not equal self-serious. Molly Shannon plays Dickinson and along with Olnek’s very funny script adds humor and sex appeal where it’s long been hidden. The fun of the movie is the entire point. It’s a fitting tribute to Dickinson’s life and work and a statement about the historical erasure of queer women.


79. Personal Best

dir. Robert Towne, 1982
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A woman holds her leg while sitting on the ground while a man crouches on one side and a woman on the other side.

With realistic and intricately captured scenes of athleticism, this queer woman classic is one of the best sports movies period. It’s imperfect, with some racist jokes, and it may disappoint anyone in it for the love story, but it’s a noteworthy film about two fiercely competitive women who bond over their ambitions. Come for the sweat on perfectly toned muscles, stay for the specificity of a Cap4Cap romance.


78. Bessie

dir. Dee Rees, 2015
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Queen Latifah as Bessie Smith leans against a wall.

Dee Rees is one of the very best filmmakers around and she elevates her biopic about Bessie Smith beyond the usual HBO movie. The costumes and all the period detail are stunning, but Rees’ film is ultimately a tribute to a queer Black woman artist who refused to compromise — refused to cater to white people or any men — made by a queer Black woman artist at the beginning of her career determined to do the same. Rees is aided by what is truly one of Queen Latifah’s best performances. It’s a perfect combination of material, filmmaker, and star.


77. Shakedown

dir. Leilah Weinraub
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Studs and femmes dance at a club as a dollar bill floats in the air.

The only movie to have streaming premieres on PornHub and The Criterion Channel, Shakedown is a documentary both erotic and important. A portrait of the Black lesbian strip club of the same name, Shakedown chronicles the club from 2002 to 2004 when it was shut down by the police. It’s a celebration of Black lesbian sexuality and a condemnation of our racist and homophobic police state that always has and always will attempt to restrict freedoms. There is so much joy in the club itself and so much melancholy in its demise. It’s a snapshot of this specific queer space and a rallying cry to build and protect spaces like this today.


76. Simone Barbès or Virtue

dir. Marie-Claude Treilhou, 1980
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A female bartender looks at another woman sitting at the bar with her head down.

Marie-Claude Treilhou’s debut film is split into three sections. The first introduces the titular lead, played by Ingrid Bourgoin, at her job as an usher at a porn theatre. She barbs and commiserates with her coworker as they rip tickets for an eccentric collection of (mostly) men. When her shift is over at midnight, she goes to meet her girlfriend at the lesbian bar where she works. This isn’t your average lesbian bar. There’s live music and live sword fights and, yes, plenty of astrology talk and dyke drama to go around. And, finally, at the end of the night she has an unexpected car ride with another lonely stranger. This nocturnal journey through the hidden corners of Paris is alternately casual and heightened, an odyssey with no destination but plenty to see along the way. The middle section provides a unique snapshot lost in most 20th century cinema and Simone is a heroine we still rarely see on screen.


75. Signature Move

dir. Jennifer Reeder, 2017
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Best lesbian movies #75: Sari Sanchez and Fawzia Mirza laugh at a bar.

A late in life coming-of-age movie, this captures a very common queer experience — through the very specific lens of a Pakistani-American woman obsessed with Lucha-style Mexican wrestling. Fawzia Mirza stars and co-wrote the script and her natural likeability, impeccable comic timing, and chemistry with Sari Sanchez make this movie endlessly endearing. It’s part romcom, part family dramedy, and both threads feel nuanced and real. Also, lesbian wrestling!!


74. Chutney Popcorn

dir. Nisha Ganatra, 1999
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Nisha Ganatra and Jill Hennessy stand next to each other.

Before Nisha Ganatra was directing several of your television faves, she co-wrote, directed, and starred in this film about queerness and family. The film shows the intimacy and conflict within biological and chosen family structures, searching for new ideas around parenthood. It’s funny and sweet and always living in the reality of its well-drawn characters.


73. Suicide Kale

dir. Carly Usdin, 2016
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Lindsay Hicks, Brittani Nichols, and Jasika Nicole stand around laughing.

This dramedy farce is anchored by four stellar performances, a natural real-life queerness, and an if-mumblecore-was-well-shot aesthetic. Brittani Nichols’ script is astute in its portrayal of queer relationships and sharp in its humor. There’s a casual DIY quality to this movie that makes it seem effortless, but if you’ve watched a lot of low-budget indie films you’ll know that’s not the case. It takes a level of talent, vision, and specificity to make a movie this good and it should be sought out and celebrated as much as any big budget fare.


72. MURDER and murder

dir. Yvonne Rainer, 1996
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Two older women with short hair sit next to each other on the subway.

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.


71. Bend It Like Beckham

dir. Gurinder Chadha
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Keira Knightley and Parminder Nagra stand next to each other in soccer jerseys.

The 90’s and early 00’s were filled with movies that should have been gay. Often, the romance between the female leads was projected onto a male love interest so audiences could be reassured that the obvious subtext wasn’t so obvious. That’s exactly what happens in this movie about a British Punjabi girl who wants to play soccer despite the wishes of her family. She befriends her teammate and then they both fall for their (male) coach. There are lots of jokes and misunderstandings where people think the girls are lesbians and there is an explicitly gay male character, but otherwise this movie appears to be straight. But maybe a lesbian movie isn’t just what’s on-screen — maybe it’s also what’s in the hearts of the viewers. And in 2002, when options for mainstream lesbian films were limited — especially lesbian films with non-white leads — it’s not difficult to understand why so many people still consider this part of the lesbian cinema canon.


70. Everything Everywhere All at Once

dir. Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert, 2022
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Best lesbian movies #70: Stephanie Hsu dressed in white with a pink wig walks through glitter.

For some, the Daniels’ audacious, genre-defying crowd-pleaser is about a woman played by Michelle Yeoh, who runs a laundromat and is filled with regret. For others, it’s about her husband, a man of optimism who wishes the world would be a kinder place. But for most of the people reading this, it is about their daughter Joy, a queer woman acutely aware of the gap between tolerance and embrace, a queer woman with a simmering hurt that could tear apart the multiverse. The film doesn’t align with any of its main characters, instead giving each of them a moment, a voice, and then accepting balance. The result is a one-of-a-kind action movie with originality and practical effects that’s also a stellar family drama. As Joy and as Joy’s multiverse alterego Jobu Tupaki, Stephanie Hsu is alternately relatable and larger than life, often at the same time. True to its title, this is a film that encompasses so much — the everything includes big gay feelings.


69. Mommy is Coming

dir. Cheryl Dunye, 2012
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A woman with short hair points a condom covered gun at her masc lover's head in the back of a cab.

Cheryl Dunye’s most recent feature is a sex-filled romp through Berlin. Papi Coxx plays Claudia/Claude, a hotel clerk trying to rediscover the spark with her girlfriend Dylan played by Lil Harlow. They end up on separate sexual odysseys with Claudia genderbending while Dylan has a threesome with her best friend. The silliness and sexiness escalates when Dylan’s mother comes to town and some unexpected twists arise. Dunye’s film doesn’t take itself seriously, but its refusal to bend to respectability politics gives it an air of importance. It’s a reminder from Dunye that queer cinema can still be queer and a reminder that she’s an icon for a reason.


68. TÁR

dir. Todd Field, 2022
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A low shot of Lydia Tàr conducting

Beloved by some, despised by others, Todd Field’s portrait of an domineering lesbian conductor Lydia Tár has certainly stirred conversation. Is it a sharp indictment of an abusive egotist? Or a shallow critique of “cancel culture” in defense of singular brilliance? Perhaps, it’s something in between. What everyone can agree on is Cate Blanchett. While Field may be better equipped to write his protagonist as a conductor than as a lesbian or a human being, Blanchett grounds the character and makes her come alive. It’s the kind of performance that’s only possible when an actor is both uniquely talented and has had decades honing her craft. The movie starts with a recreation of a New Yorker Festival talk on conducting and, with Blanchett at its center, it’s as riveting as an action movie.


67. Aftersun

dir. Charlotte Wells, 2022
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Frankie Corio rests in Paul Mescal's arm that has a cast.

Exactly what Charlotte Wells is doing in her feature debut remains elusive for most of the film’s runtime. The mix of camcorder footage and patient 35mm cinematography. The hazy combination of past and present and an imagined third space somewhere in between. So much of the movie feels casual — a father and his twelve year old daughter on vacation, a slice of life in Turkey — its bold strokes seem incidental. Until they don’t. This is the rare coming-of-age movie about a queer kid who doesn’t yet understand that queerness. Her self-discovery we witness is not first love — it’s deeper knowledge of her parent and therefore half of her herself. This results in a story of queer youth unlike anything we’ve ever seen.


66. All About Eve

dir. Joseph L. Mankiewicz
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Bette Davis and Anne Baxter face off as the rest of the cast looks on.

Considering Joseph L Mankiewicz’s classic won Best Picture at the competitive 1950 academy awards, its placement in the canon has long been agreed upon. However, its placement in the queer canon continues to be debated. Most agree that George Sanders’ prickly theatre critic is coded as gay. But what about Eve herself? Is her obsession with stage icon Margo Channing merely professional? Or does she desire Margo’s body as well as her career? There are explicit hints such as some of Eve’s wardrobe and a moment when Eve walks upstairs with her “roommate.” And yet I think a more compelling case for its queerness can be found in the unquantifiable: the way Anne Baxter looks at Bette Davis, the inherent lust of envy.


65. Blockers

dir. Kay Cannon, 2018
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Best lesbian movies #65: Ramona Young and Gideon Adlon talk to each other in prom attire

The rare big budget Hollywood comedy that’s thoughtful, progressive, emotional, and beyond fucking hilarious. Kay Cannon’s first film feels effortless in its perfection — filled with great comic performances from its trio of adults and its trio of teens. Virginity pacts are a staple of teen comedies, but never has one been treated with such intelligence and sex positivity. Gideon Adlon plays Sam’s awkward queerness with a funny and sweet authenticity and the movie’s inclusion of her is refreshingly casual. She hasn’t come to terms with her queerness at the film’s beginning but she’s given the space to go on a journey of self-exploration — aided by her friends, family, and a massive crush. It may only be a third queer, but that third is great enough to place it among the best lesbian movies. It’s certainly one of the funniest.


64. Rebecca

dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 1940
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Mrs. Danvers displays Rebecca's clothes to the second Mrs. DeWinter.

Alfred Hitchcock is responsible for some of the most interesting queer characters in Old Hollywood — of course, they were all villains. And yet the complexity granted to these damaged — often murderous — individuals made them transcend the one-note villains that dominated classic cinema. Nowhere is that clearer than in Mrs. Danvers as played by closeted queer actress Judith Anderson. While the film may be about the passive second Mrs. DeWinter, it’s Danvers who runs the household. In her attacks on the second Mrs. DeWinter, we feel her love for her former mistress Rebecca. To her, this new woman cannot measure up, because no one can measure up to the object of a lesbian’s affections. There’s a perspective on this story where Danvers is a sympathetic, grief-stricken widow of sorts. That’s not the primary story being told, but it has simmered beneath the surface for queer audiences for over eighty years.


63. Kajillionaire

dir. Miranda July, 2020
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Gina Rodriguez stands next to Evan Rachel Wood in glasses and long straight hair.

Queer multi-hyphenate Miranda July has made a career out of entertaining, challenging work that adds depth to what some might dismiss as quirky. Of her three films, none is as challenging — nor possibly accomplished — as her tale of Old Dolio, the sheltered adult daughter of two scammers. Played by Evan Rachel Wood, Old Dolio is a difficult protagonist who hides in baggy clothes and long straight hair and speaks in deep mumble. But as July’s story unfolds — and Old Dolio falls for a woman played by Gina Rodriguez — it reveals itself to be a relatable and painful story of a queer person leaving behind her controlling family. It’s not a film for everybody but if you’re patient and get on its wavelength, it just might steal your heart.


62. Crush

dir. Sammi Cohen, 2022
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Rowan Blanchard and Auli'i Cravalho talk at a party in turquoise light

A mere ten years ago it may have seemed impossible, but this coming-of-age romcom lets its queerness be an afterthought. That’s not to say its gay romance isn’t uniquely gay — sorry but falling for your crush’s sister, being a teenage artist, and track are all canon gay — it just exists in a world that’s homoneutral if not homonormative. With a young queer cast led by Rowan Blanchard and Auli’i Cravalho and queer people behind the camera, this is a low-key work of wish-fulfillment. It may not be the most radical work of queer expression, but in many ways it feels like the streaming boom at its best: accessible queer stories ready to be discovered by gays of all ages.


61. Thelma

dir. Joachim Trier, 2017
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Two young women kiss against a black background.

This beautiful coming-of-age thriller actualizes queer shame and repression. As Thelma navigates adjusting to college — and gay feelings — apart from her religious upbringing, she begins to have seizures and visions and potentially telekinetic powers. As the tension builds, the scope of the film widens with more imagery and plot twists. But at its core is simply a girl navigating her identity and trying to find herself separate from her family.


60. Ammonite

dir. Francis Lee, 2020
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Best lesbian movies #60: Saoirse Ronan and Kate Winslet look at one another

While dismissed by some upon its release — including yours truly — due to it seeming like a middling entry in the lesbian period piece romance subgenre, its defenders have wisely emphasized that its strengths lie beyond its love story. This isn’t a tale of grand passion, but of two lonely people finding unlikely connection. The coldness of Kate Winslet’s archaeologist, her lack of obvious chemistry with costar Saoirse Ronan, are not flaws but virtues. The central character is a lonely woman, stuck between her desire to focus on her career and her desire to have more than what career women were granted at this time. This younger woman is not her soulmate or even a hot affair — she’s a life raft, a chance to stop drowning in her misery.


59. Persona

dir. Ingmar Bergman, 1966
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Bibi Andersson with a blood nose confronts Liv Ullmann

Maybe about two women, maybe about one woman, maybe beyond narrative analysis, Ingmar Bergman’s avant-garde masterpiece is sexy, unsettling, and thought-provoking. Bibi Andersson plays Alma, a nurse assigned to the care of Liv Ullmann’s Elisabet Vogler, an actress who has suddenly stopped speaking. They seclude themselves at a beach house and their interactions increase in eroticism, violence, and unreality. This is definitely one of the hornier arthouse classics even if the women never consummate their attraction.


58. Professor Marston and the Wonder Women

dir. Angela Robinson, 2017
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A woman embraces another woman dressed in Wonder Woman garb with a glowing gold light behind them.

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.


57. Dirty Computer

dir. Janelle Monáe & others, 2018
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Janelle Monáe and Tessa Thompson gaze at each other dressed in pink in the desert.

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.”


56. Desperate Living

dir. John Waters, 1977
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Jean Hill and Susan Lowe look at Mink Stole

With his film most squarely focused on lesbians, John Waters also finds some of his most audacious cinema. Mink Stole is great in all of her many Waters collaborations, but here she’s at the center. Whether playing a bourgeoisie housewife or a violent rebel, Stole is remarkable throughout the film’s winding journey. This is an uncomfortable film featuring rape and transphobia and lots of grotesque imagery — it’s also a hilarious good time. It’s the peak of Waters’ boundary-pushing before he moved onto a more refined (for him) approach. There was nowhere else for him to go. Almost fifty years later, there’s still nothing like it.


55. Foxfire

dir. Annette Haywood-Carter, 1996
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Best lesbian movies #55: Angelina Jolie stands in the girl's bathroom while the other girls argue behind her.

Based on Joyce Carol Oates’ novel, Annette Haywood-Carter’s coming-of-age tale about a feminist girl gang is great for a lot of reasons, but short-hair leather jacket wearing knife wielding Angelina Jolie is definitely at the top of the list. She’s so good and so gay and can do so much with a look. It’s no wonder the other girls follow her lead. It’s incredibly satisfying to watch them wreak havoc on all the awful men in their lives, even as things start to cross a line. There’s a real intimacy between the girls when it’s platonic and when it’s romantic.


54. Working Girls

dir. Lizzie Borden, 1986
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A group of women chat in a kitchen with one wearing a towel.

One of two Lizzie Borden masterpieces on this list is the rare film to show sex work as, well, work. Focusing on a day in the life of lesbian Molly, Working Girls reveals the boredom and mundane difficulties of working at a Manhattan brothel. The film doesn’t romanticize sex work or sensationalize it — instead it just lets it be like any crappy job. The dynamics between Molly and her boss, her co-workers, and her clients are all compelling as they reveal more about her, the job, and society’s relationship to sex work. This is a landmark work of cinema that’s finally getting its due and a landmark work of lesbian cinema as well. All of the sex we see may be with men, but Molly’s identity isn’t tied to her job. Like so many queer people, Molly is doing what she has to do to pay the bills, so she can get home to her girlfriend, so she can someday spend her time on something other than work — any work.


53. I Can’t Think Straight

dir. Shamim Sarif, 2007
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A woman embraces another woman from behind.

While certainly hitting all the expected tropes, lesbian filmmaker Shamim Sarif’s semi-autobiographical romcom stands out for its cultural specificity, truly stunning leads, and endless charm. Sometimes you just want to watch beautiful women defy their families in the name of love and have gorgeous sex montages.


52. Olivia

dir. Jacqueline Audry, 1951
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A woman hovers over a young girl sitting on her bed.

Long ignored, this recently restored classic of lesbian cinema deserves all its newfound praise and more. It’s one of many films on our best lesbian movies 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.


51. Kamikaze Hearts

dir. Juliet Bashore, 1986
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In a screenshot from Kamikaze Hearts, two women with mullets (one blonde, one brunette) are pressed up together against a wall. The blonde mullet has her arms grazing the shoulder and face of the brunette. It's the 1980s, with 1980s style bright make up included.

Recently restored, this hybrid documentary has already received newfound acclaim. The film is about real-life lesbian couple Sharon “Mitch” Mitchell and Tigr, Mitch a seasoned porn performer and Tigr more of a novice. And yet the film being made that this film documents is not real. This film is not real. But what is real? What does that mean? What’s not real about a group of people playing themselves, acting out their dynamics for a camera? How is that less real than the self-awareness subjects bring to a more straight-forward documentary? This is a unique film that provides a window into queer lives, and asks questions about reality in sex, in porn, in love, in life. It’s not a film that provides answers. But thirty-six years later, its questions still demand to be asked.


50. Shiva Baby

dir. Emma Seligman, 2020
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Best lesbian movies #50: Rachel Sennott and Molly Gordon walk on a suburban street.

This is officially a comedy, but with its horror movie score, claustrophobic cinematography, and premise of running into your sugar daddy and your ex-girlfriend at a shiva, it’s safe to say this is one of the scariest movies on this list. Rachel Sennott stars as Danielle, a 20-something on the precipice of college graduation who has no idea what to do with her life — career-wise or otherwise. Writer/director Emma Seligman excellently captures a specific type of Jewish culture and the simmering anxiety it induces. The cast — that includes Dianna Agron! — is excellent, especially Sennott who excels equally in moments where she’s living a nightmare and in moments where she is the nightmare. This is bisexual Jewish chaos at its absolute best.


49. The Joy of Life

dir. Jenni Olson, 2005
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The Golden Gate Bridge framed by two buildings.

Like most of Jenni Olson’s singular work, The Joy of Life is a cinematic poem filled with horny longing and a deep engagement with the world at large. This is a film about San Francisco and about suicide and also about having crushes on girls. Narrated by Harry Dodge, it’s an affecting portrait of navigating lesbianism and lesbian community outside the binary. It’s a film you sink into, a film full of patience and wisdom and pain. And yet its title is not ironic — there is joy in life amidst the pain. The beauty of this film is proof enough of that.


48. Dyketactics

dir. Barbara Hammer, 1974
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A black and white close-up of intertwined bodies

Dozens of films from experimental lesbian cinema icon Barbara Hammer would be deserving of a spot on this list. But I’m still happy her most famous — and, yes, one of her best — made the cut. At just four minutes, this film holds so much of what made Hammer’s work so special. The beautiful abstraction of bodies, the unapologetic portrayal of lesbian sex, the emphasis on the natural world. Much of her later work is more overtly political, but even in this film there is a firm stance. With art, with beauty, lesbianism is shown to be the most natural thing in the world. Watch this film, then watch the rest of her extensive body of work.


47. Showgirls

dir. Paul Verhoeven, 1995
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Elizabeth Berkeley holds her nails up to Gina Gershon

Dismissed and maligned at the time of its release, time has been kind to what many consider to be Paul Verhoeven’s masterpiece. Queer people can recognize the camp — and the feeling beneath the camp — in this Las Vegas riff on All About Eve. Elizabeth Berkley and Gina Gershon are fantastic, boldly performing at the heightened frequency of the film’s tone. Is this movie really so bad it’s good? Or is it just, well, good? For queer people, those lines can often be blurred. But, one thing is certain, Showgirls is more than a punchline. It’s a portrait of sex and ambition and excess filmed with sex and ambition and excess. It’s a true work of queer art still underestimated by even some of its fans.


46. Daughters of Darkness

dir. Harry Kümel, 1971
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Delphine Seyrig with blonde hair holds the back of a man's hair as he kisses a woman

If this movie only had Delphine Seyrig as its glamorous villain, that would be enough to make it stand out in the canon of lesbian vampire movies. She’s beautiful and sexy and frightening — bringing her talent as one of the best actors ever to this genre that is often dismissed. But the movie around her is worthy of this talent. It takes the conventions of a heterosexual couple usurped by a queer vampiric force and complicates it with a tone as dark as the visuals are vibrant. Many films in this subgenre are frenetic — this one lulls in its viewers with the same seductive force as its countess.


45. The Kids Are All Right

dir. Lisa Cholodenko, 2010
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Best lesbian movies #45: Annette Benning and Julianne Moore sit next to each other on a couch and laugh.

Dismissed by much of the lesbian community, this Oscar-nominated movie from lesbian filmmaker Lisa Cholodenko is 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.


44. The Hunger

dir. Tony Scott, 1983
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Catherine Deneuve gives Susan Sarandon a drink cloaked in shadow.

Frenetic editing, heavy symbolism, and vague plotting make for a dreamy whirlwind of bisexual vampirism. Catherine Deneuve, David Bowie, and Susan Sarandon are all at their hottest as they fuck and bite their way to immortality. The sex scene between Deneuve and Sarandon is especially iconic — there’s a reason this is what Cameron Post and Coley Taylor watched before having sex.


43. Princess Cyd

dir. Stephen Cone, 2017
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A femme with long hair leans in to kiss a nonbinary person with a mohawk and shaved head.

As sensual as its protagonist and as thoughtful as her aunt, Stephen Cone’s understated masterpiece finds the balance between pleasures of the flesh and mind. Cyd Loughlin is a teenager freely exploring her pansexual desires who spends a summer with her novelist aunt Miranda who is more preoccupied with intellectual discussion, friendship, and food. As Cyd and Miranda challenge each other’s beliefs — and Cyd falls for a hot barista — the film becomes a celebration of the many ways to find enjoyment and connection in life. There’s little plot and minimal drama — just sink into this pleasant world and you’ll find whatever you needed most.


42. Multiple Maniacs

dir. John Waters, 1970
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Mink Stole puts a rosary in Divine's ass in church.

John Waters lives up to his title Pope of Trash with this raucous celebration of counter-culture deviancy. The movie opens with a group of cishet normals making their way through a free exhibit titled The Cavalcade of Perversions — and then Divine robs them at gunpoint. Waters starts his filmography with a statement and never lets up. This is the only movie on this list where a drag queen is fucked with a rosary in a church. It’s a remarkable sex scene with a level of queerness rarely seen on screen. And, hey, if straight actresses can appear on a list of best lesbian movies then so can drag queens!


41. BloodSisters: Leather, Dykes, and Sadomasochism

dir. Michelle Handelman, 1995
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A dyke holds another dyke's head as a third dyke puts needles in their face.

First screened at festivals in 1995, this documentary about leatherdykes and BDSM communities was buried for decades after it became a point of contention in congressional hearings about the National Endowment for the Arts. Finally restored and released in recent years, it’s found a new audience of queers cherishing this snapshot of our history and showing BDSM with a complexity and celebration still largely absent from our screens. It’s essential viewing for queer people in contemporary versions of these communities and queers who are not. This film is hot and interesting — it’s also quite sweet. One interviewee sums it up: “She stuck her fist in my cunt and I knew I was home.”


40. Black Swan

dir. Darren Aronofsky, 2010
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Best lesbian movies #40: A close-up of Natalie Portman with bloodshot eyes as she looks at a feather.

Perfectionism, mommy issues, and lesbianism haunt Natalie Portman in Darren Aronofsky’s Oscar-winning ballet horror movie. It’s frightening and beautiful and, yes, has a sex scene between Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis. Bordering on camp with its heightened style and emotion, this is the rare Hollywood movie about queer women that’s allowed to be properly unhinged. The line between beauty and body horror disappears and every second is a thrill.


39. The Color Purple

dir. Steven Spielberg, 1985
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Celie smiles as she makes eye contact with Shug

Like Fried Green Tomatoes, the removal of explicit lesbianism from this adaptation did not prevent it from finding a place within the canon of lesbian cinema. Whether queer audiences brought the context of the book or simply filled in the gaps from what is shown, the love between Celie (Whoopi Goldberg) and Shug (Margaret Avery) remained palpable. Even in 2024, it’s still rare for lesbian cinema to feature romance between two Black women. Maybe that’s why nearly forty years later, this imperfect yet deeply moving film is still beloved. The Hollywood of the 80s wasn’t able to give us the version of Alice Walker’s novel people deserved — in fact, the Hollywood of today is still struggling — but the performers and the source material rise above these limitations. There is still a kiss and another kiss and a smile and another kiss. And then there’s a longer kiss as the camera pans away. Many lifetimes of Black queer identity and Black queer affection held in the twinkling of a wind chime.


38. The Miseducation of Cameron Post

dir. Desiree Akhavan, 2018
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Forrest Goodluck, Sasha Lane, and Chloe Grace-Moretz smile in the back of a truck.

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.


37. Disobedience

dir. Sebastian Lelio, 2017
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Rachel Weisz spits in Rachel McAdams' mouth.

There are a lot of other things to celebrate about this quiet drama about two Jewish women navigating their love within an Orthodox community. But let’s be honest. This is the movie where one very famous Rachel spits in another very famous Rachel’s mouth. Specifically Rachel Weisz spits into Rachel McAdams’ mouth and it’s just one part of a very hot sex scene. It’s made even hotter by their characters’ history, their forbidden desire, their connection, and their need for one another. This is a movie about faith, about the past, about the desire for community, and the desire to escape. The plotting is messy, but so is life.


36. Gia

dir. Michael Cristofer, 1998
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Angelina Jolie in glamour makeup with a bridge behind her.

Telling the story of model Gia Carangi’s troubled life, this Angelina Jolie vehicle alternates between delicious and devastating. Jolie is so sexy, but her performance proves she’s more than just a sex symbol. As Carangi’s life turns toward inescapable hardship, Jolie remains impossible not to watch. Special shoutout to her sex scene with Elizabeth Mitchell that is truly unforgettable.


35. Water Lilies

dir. Céline Sciamma, 2007
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Best lesbian movies #35: Two teen girls lie in bed next to each other.

Céline Sciamma is one of the best filmmakers working today — lesbian or otherwise — and her talents were already clear in this first film. With a color palette of blues and greys and a moving camera that knows just where to land, Sciamma and cinematographer Crystel Fournier create a visual language that’s poetic and pointed. This is a film about teenage friendship as much as it is about teenage love — a lesbian film at its core. Synchronized swimming has never looked so beautiful and brutal. Being a teenager has never looked so beautiful and brutal. Sciamma is a brilliant lesbian artist and every film from her is a gift.


34. Mädchen in Uniform

dir. Leontine Sagan, 1931
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A black and white image of woman kissing a girl on the mouth.

The lesbian movie that started it all. With its boarding school setting, central age difference, and near-suicide ending this first known work of explicit lesbian cinema can be credited with shaping the entire lesbian film canon. But it’s more than just a work of history. While its age difference might be too much for some, the film places us squarely in the perspective of new student Manuela. Her love for teacher Fraulein von Bernburg becomes our own adolescent crush as we understand her confused place in gay life. At the dawn of the Holocaust the Nazis tried to burn every copy of this film — they failed. It’s a testament to the scope of queer history, a glorious time capsule, and, simply, a stunning work of art.


33. All Over Me

dir. Alex Sichel, 1997
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Leisha Hailey with pink hair stands in front of a microphone on stage

A film doesn’t have to be campy to be formally queer. Alex Sichel was given a grant to make a movie about the riot grrrl music scene and instead she made a riot grrrl movie. Even the cinematography and sound design feel dykey. The soundtrack does not disappoint, of course, and this movie has both a painful “in love with my straight(?) friend” storyline and a “first love with a dyke in a band” storyline. And the dyke in the band is played by Leisha Hailey with pink hair! Alex Sichel never got to make another feature, and this film is currently very hard to find, but this was made for dykes and if it’s going to finally get the recognition it deserves that has to start with us ranking it among the best lesbian movies of all time.


32. Blue is the Warmest Color

dir. Abdellatif Kechiche, 2013
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Lea Seydoux and Adele Exarchopoulos look at art.

This Palme d’or winner is certainly one of the more divisive lesbian movies. Some despise its extended sex scenes drenched with male gaze while others admire its genuine sensuality and emotion. Reports of on-set abuse only make matters more complicated. Still, it’s impossible to ignore the beautiful performances from Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux, and easy to appreciate its portrayal of first love. For many, this is a movie that no longer belongs to its male writer/director, but to its lead actresses and to their own past selves who in 2013 saw something familiar.


31. Can You Ever Forgive Me?

dir. Marielle Heller, 2018
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Melissa McCarthy stands in a bookstore with a glass of whiskey.

Based on Lee Israel’s memoir about her time forging literary letters, Marielle Heller’s melancholy film is concerned with the mundane loneliness of queer lives in a way rarely seen. Lee’s homosexuality, and her friend and accomplice Jack’s homosexuality, are integral to the story but not the focus. Lee and Jack are given the freedom to be deeply flawed, yet still human, and it makes for an emotionally resonant story. Bonus points for properly capturing the importance of a queer woman’s cat.


30. The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant

dir. Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1972
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Best lesbian movies #30: a woman holds a baby doll by a phone while two other women are behind her and a mural behind them.

Gay german auteur Rainer Werner Fassbinder was known for his brutality on and off screen and this film is no different. Taking place entirely in the apartment of Petra von Kant, we watch as she treats her assistant Marlene cruelly and falls miserably for model Karin. It’s a cruel movie about cruel women, but the camerawork, costume design, and incredible performances from Margit Carstensen, Hanna Schygulla, and Irm Hermann make it worth it.


29. Je Tu Il Elle

dir. Chantal Akerman, 1974
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A black and white image of two women naked in bed together.

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.


28. Rafiki

dir. Wanuri Kahiu, 2018
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Two women kiss, one with pink braids.

Filmmaker Wanuri Kahiu has committed to a style she describes as Afrobubblegum, presenting a “fun, fierce, and fantastical representation” of Africa. This film — initially banned in its home country of Kenya before Kahiu sued — fulfills this promise. It’s a beautiful, colorful celebration of Black queer love. It’s honest about harsh realities, but overwhelms them with its moments of joy.


27. Circumstance

dir. Maryam Keshavarz, 2011
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Sarah Kazemy and Nikohl Boosheri lie next to each other looking up on a red bedspread.

This is a film of stark contrasts, of sensual close-ups and repulsive close-ups, of freedom and restriction, of great joy and tragic horror. Nikohl Boosheri and Sarah Kazemy are incredible as two young women pushing the boundaries of society in Iran. The moments of freedom between them are so joyful, on a beach, in a bed, in the living room singing “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” It makes the repression all the more painful. One moment this film is devastatingly sexy, the next it’s just devastating.


26. Mosquita y Mari

dir. Aurora Guerrero, 2012
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Two girls lie down with their heads resting against each other.

Quiet and big-hearted, Aurora Guerrero beautiful coming-of-age story focuses on straight A student Yolanda and new rebel girl in school Mari. As the two girls navigate their families’ expectations, they grow closer, crushes turning to friendship turning to something more. Like many of the best lesbian movies, this film never takes melodramatic turns, instead trusting the grounded truth of its characters. When we’re young the smallest moments mean so much — Guerrero gives these moments the weight her young protagonists deserve.


25. The Half of It

dir. Alice Wu, 2020
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Best lesbian films #25: Leah Lewis sits in a small body of water wearing a shirt and glasses.

A decade and a half after her landmark debut, 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.


24. Go Fish

dir. Rose Troche, 1994
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Guinevere Turner kisses V.S. Brodie.

Low-budget and largely plotless like so many American indies of the era, Rose Troche’s debut film provided a first glimpse of representation for a generation of queer women. Guinevere Turner’s baby gay Max is adorable with her backwards hat and confused love life and the supporting cast feels so casually gay. This movie is certainly a time capsule, but it’s still funny and relatable decades later.


23. The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love

dir. Maria Maggenti, 1995
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Laurel Holloman with short hair kisses the top of Nicole Ari Parker's head.

Before she was Tina, Laurel Holloman played heartthrob soft butch Randy Dean in this iconic 90s comedy. Paired with Nicole Ari Parker as Evie Roy, Holloman is earnest and charming and bursting with teenage energy. Randy and Evie are adorable together as they fall in love and field hilarious — and painful — responses from their friends and family. All these years later this movie is still just as cute and fun — and it might even make you like Tina.


22. Appropriate Behavior

dir. Desiree Akhavan, 2014
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A close-up of Desiree Akhavan on the subway.

Shirin thought she met the only person in the world as sad and cynical as herself. She thought they were meant to be. Now in the wake of her break up she’s spiraling in a flurry of bisexual chaos. Writer/director/star Desiree Akhavan is a once-in-a-generation talent and her humor makes this an easy movie to watch even as Shirin is seeped in melancholy and crisis. Since The Slope, Akhavan has made work that feels deeply grounded in a casual queer perspective. There might be a lot of semi-autobiographical films about people trying to master adulthood, but there’s only one Desiree Akhavan and this film is as special as the filmmaker herself.


21. Jennifer’s Body

dir. Karyn Kusama, 2009
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A demonic Megan Fox smiles.

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 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!”

20. Fucking Åmål (Show Me Love)

dir. Lukas Moodyson, 1998
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Best lesbian movies #20: two girls sit against a wall, one out of focus, one in focus.

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.


19. Heavenly Creatures

dir. Peter Jackson, 1994
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Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey sit on opposite sides of a bathtub.

Peter Jackson is probably responsible for the misguided romantic choices and various kinks of hundreds (thousands?) of queer women around the world. Who among us didn’t watch this movie about two teenage girls falling in love, inventing their own fantasy world, and deciding to murder one of their mothers and think… hmm maybe? Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey play the parts of instigator and instigated so well and it really is bursting with as much imagination as it is toxic queer angst.


18. High Art

dir. Lisa Cholodenko, 1998
Our Review // Unavailable

Radha Mitchell looks at Ally Sheedy in a car.

Mirroring the energy of the drug-addicted lesbian photographer at the film’s center, Lisa Cholodenko’s debut film is sensuous, measured, and simmering with a sense of danger. Ally Sheedy plays Lucy with a toxic allure that barely masks a depth of sadness. We understand why Radha Mitchell’s Syd is so drawn to her and like Syd we hope for the best while expecting the worst. This is a movie about lost innocence and the decades that follow.


17. Born in Flames

dir. Lizzie Borden, 1983
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A group of Black women sit behind a microphone.

Radical, revolutionary, and still all too relevant, Lizzie Borden’s speculative masterpiece deserves its underground reputation and newfound celebration. Taking place ten years after a socialist revolution in America, Borden’s film examines the ways in which even leftist political structures leave women, people of color, and queer people behind. This is a complicated film that engages in complicated discussions — never afraid to confront the true nature of the issues we face as we attempt to build a better society. Ultimately, the film shows the power of mutual aid and a suggestion that to create real change communities will have to take care of ourselves. This world contains a multitude of revolutions, but Black queer women are at the center of the ultimate revolution. In Borden’s world — our world — change is possible, but the work continues.


16. The Favourite

dir. Yorgos Lanthimos, 2018
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Emma Stone adjusts the collar of Olivia Colman.

This movie about Queen Anne of England is not your average period piece — it’s not even your average gay period piece. Yes, it takes place in 1704 and is based on a true story and features all sorts of royal intrigue. But here that royal intrigue revolves around two women trying to finger their way to power. Olivia Colman plays Anne with a hilarious desperation — totally unstable and totally captivating. Rachel Weisz is Anne’s second in command — and lover — Lady Sarah, the real source of power in the court. Enter Emma Stone’s Abigail, a down-on-her-luck newcomer who quickly realizes the key to Anne’s favor. Watching Abigail and Sarah fight over Anne is delicious even as the film — or especially as the film — gets more and more twisted. Yorgos Lanthimos can be counted on for his dark sensibility and that’s certainly the case here even with the plot revolving around a queer women love triangle. The movie that sparked a thousand lesbian tweets asking Rachel Weisz to run them over with a truck, you’ll at least want her to fire a blank into your heart.


15. Imagine Me & You

dir. Ol Parker, 2005
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Best lesbian movies #15: Piper Perabo smiles with her back to Lena Headey

Out of all the lesbian romcoms, this might be the one that most successfully takes your standard hetero romcom and queers it. Not the deepest, not the most interesting, but the truest to the genre with lots of jokes, lots of heart, and all the right story beats. Piper Perabo plays gay once again and once again steals our hearts, but it’s Lena Headey’s confident gay florist that really makes the movie. Be careful. It just might make you believe in love at first sight.


14. Set It Off

dir. F. Gary Gray, 1996
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Queen Latifah sits on a roof next to Kimberly Elise, Vivica A. Fox, and Jada Pinkett Smith

An absolute masterpiece of a heist movie. F. Gary Gray’s story of four women who decide to rob a bank is as excellent a drama as it is an action movie. We care so much about the women played by Jada Pinkett Smith, Queen Latifah, Vivica A. Fox, and Kimberly Elise and it makes the suspense all the more suspenseful. Queen Latifah is absolutely iconic as Cleo, the lesbian whose confidence is as dangerous as it is sexy.


13. Mulholland Drive

dir. David Lynch, 2001
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A fractured image of a brunette covering her face and a blonde looking on.

A cinematic masterpiece and one of David Lynch’s finest works. Naomi Watts gives an all time great performance as Betty, the wide-eyed actress who moves to Hollywood and falls for the mysterious amnesiac Rita (Laura Harring). Of course, there’s more to the story as this is a Lynch film, but more than any other work of his each thread of surreal oddity clicks together to tell this painful love story between two doomed women. Some accuse it of male gaze, but if you’re gonna pick a male’s gaze you could do worse than David Lynch.


12. Love Lies Bleeding

dir. Ross Glass, 2024
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Kristen Stewart looks at Katy O'Brian before throwing a burning bottle.

Kristen Stewart has been playing queer characters since before she came out. And yet Rose Glass’ sophomore feature about a gym employee and the bodybuilder who catches her eye still feels like the beginning of a new era for Stewart — and a new era for lesbian cinema. It’s not just that this film is gay — it’s the unapologetic eroticism and physicality and queer specificity allowed in a film centered around one of the world’s biggest movie stars. Stewart is wonderful, as is relative newcomer Katy O’Brian, and Glass doesn’t hold back in supporting their performances with bold formal choices. There’s nothing respectable about this film — not in queerness, not in form — and still it ends up being a crowd-pleaser. Queer filmmakers have been making bold cinema for decades, but, in terms of mainstream work with bigger budgets, we someday might look back at lesbian cinema as before Love Lies Bleeding and after Love Lies Bleeding.


11. D.E.B.S.

dir. Angela Robinson, 2004
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A group of girls in schoolgirl outfits hold up guns.

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.


10. Pariah

dir. Dee Rees, 2011
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Best lesbian movies #10: A close-up of Adepero Oduye wearing an askew hat.

Dee Rees’ debut feature is a stunning cinematic achievement. Her artful direction and poignant, specific writing melts into Bradford Young’s remarkable cinematography, the impeccable soundtrack, and a collection of phenomenal actors led by Adepero Oduye. Oduye gives the kind of performance that should be talked about until we stop talking about cinema — finding layers in the realism, lightness in the pain. This is an at times difficult film, but it’s far from maudlin. Rees gives us those first moments of love, those first moments of self-discovery and identification — even if they’re met with rejection and isolation and difficulties. This is a film explicitly about Black queerness — not a single white person appears on screen — and it’s a towering achievement from a Black lesbian filmmaker who’s already left her mark and is only just beginning.


9. Bottoms

dir. Emma Seligman, 2023
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Best lesbian movies #9: Ayo Edebiri and Rachel Sennott sit in the front seat of a car with Havana Rose Liu in the back. They all look surprised.

With most mainstream lesbian movies split between tragic and wholesome, Bottoms arrived like breath of deliciously sour air. It’s not just that Emma Seligman’s sophomore feature is funny — and it is — it’s that it finds its humor through irreverence. It has more in common with Anchorman than But I’m a Cheerleader. Respectability isn’t just subverted, it’s ignored altogether. Its lesbian leads aren’t predatory like the trope — they’re predatory like misguided horny teens of any sexuality and gender. With perfect performances — especially from Ayo Edebiri, Havana Rose Liu, and co-writer Rachel Sennott — and a story that feels at once fresh and familiar, it’s no wonder this movie has quickly become so beloved.


8. Saving Face

dir. Alice Wu, 2004
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Best lesbian movies #8: Michelle Krusiec and Lynn Chen dance

Plenty of gay romcoms attempt to fit queerness into the genre, but Saving Face goes beyond what any of its straight counterparts have ever accomplished. Alice Wu’s only film for sixteen years is funny and romantic — it’s also a moving tale of family and community. Michelle Krusiec plays Wil, a Chinese American lesbian surgeon forced to house her mysteriously pregnant mother just as she’s falling for her boss’ daughter played by Lynn Chen. Krusiec and Chen have a timeless chemistry. It’s so fun to watch them flirt and fall in love and navigate how their lives could possibly merge. Joan Chen also gives a really special performance as Wil’s mom. This movie isn’t content to just tell one love story — its ambitions are to show the unpredictable nature of the very concept. Specificity makes for better storytelling and it doesn’t get much better than this enchanting film.


7. The Handmaiden

dir. Park Chan-Wook, 2016
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Best lesbian movies #7: Kim Tae-ri holds an umbrella over Kim Min-hee in the rain.

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. Kim Min-hee and Kim Tae-ri crackle with chemistry — no matter who is the cat and who is the mouse in any given moment. This is a thrilling, sexy, horrifying, ultimately romantic and hopeful movie and the whole thing is an absolute ride. It’s a masterful example of what’s possible when queer women are included in genre storytelling.


6. Desert Hearts

dir. Donna Deitch, 1985
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Best lesbian movies #6: Patricia Charbonneau leans back on a bed.

A period piece decades ahead of its time, Donna Deitch’s sweeping romance is a classic that earns that word in quality and burns past it with an ever-present spark. Helen Shaver plays Professor Vivian Bell who’s staying at a Nevadan ranch while she waits for her divorce to finalize. She has taken the first step towards independence, but isn’t sure what’s next. The answer? Cay Rivers. Patricia Charbonneau as Cay has so much easy tomboy femme charm, a sexy dedication to self, and wears pants and shorts unlike any other on-screen character. Their romance is fraught, but absent is the melodrama one might expect from a film made in the 80s about the 50s. It’s a quieter, more grounded affair — that still finds time for an iconic kiss in the rain. You don’t have to believe in love — let one of the best lesbian movies of all time do it for you.


5. Carol

dir. Todd Haynes, 2015
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Best lesbian movies #5: Cate Blanchett holds Rooney Mara naked in bed.

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, possibly, vice-versa. Therese Belevit 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 Aird is ten to twenty years her senior, going through a divorce, and worried that as a lesbian she’ll lose 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 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.


4. Portrait of a Lady on Fire

dir. Céline Sciamma, 2019
Our Review // Watch It

Best lesbian movies #4:a woman in a green dress looks out at crashing ocean waves.

An immediate landmark of lesbian cinema, Céline Sciamma fulfills the promise of her first three features with a gorgeous work of lesbian art that pushes the boundaries of how our gaze appears on screen. This is a movie about love and a movie about creation – specifically about women, specifically about lesbians. Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel are exquisite, giving performances that challenge the very notion of audience watching actors. Claire Mathon’s cinematography is as beautiful as it is pointed — the stunning images always motivated. There is so much eroticism and love and also a push to view these concepts in a way separate from heteropatriarchal structures. Céline Sciamma wants our cinema to be our cinema and with this monumental work she succeeds.


3. But I’m a Cheerleader

dir. Jamie Babbit, 1999
Our Review // Watch It

Natasha Lyonne and Clea DuVall in pink shirts look at each other while scrubbing the floor.

Jamie Babbit’s campy lesbian classic received bad reviews upon its initial release. The largely straight male critics just didn’t understand why someone would make a comedy about a subject matter this serious. But this film isn’t for them. This is a biting satire that mocks homophobia and the people and institutions that uphold it — all the while featuring relatable gay characters and joyful queer romance. Natasha Lyonne first earned her crown as honorary lesbian with her hilarious performance and Clea DuVall is a total heartthrob as her love interest. The rest of the cast includes Melanie Lynskey, Michelle Williams, Cathy Moriarty, Mink Stole, and RuPaul — each one of them falling into the movie’s specific tone with perfection. Camp is often associated with gay men, but this movie is explicitly lesbian camp. This is a queer movie made by queer people about queer experiences through a queer lens for queer audiences.


2. The Watermelon Woman

dir. Cheryl Dunye, 1996
Our Review // Watch It

Best lesbian movies #2: Cheryl Dunye in sunglasses and tan shirt over a white tank looks up smiling.

Mockumentary, romcom, buddy comedy, alternate history, Cheryl Dunye’s debut feature is a work of Black lesbian cinema highly aware of its place within film history. Dunye is so funny and charming — and sexy with love interest Guinevere Turner — the depth of this singular work of lesbian art is only evident with its final title card. It has jokes, it has a video store meetcute, it has a hot sex scene, but it is also a declaration of an artist’s stubborn autonomy. Dunye isn’t content just to mock or pay tribute — she understands that being a filmmaker with several marginalized identities doesn’t allow her that casual dismissal or easy celebration. She understands the importance of history and that sometimes you have to create your own history. And she’s determined to have fun along the way.


1. Bound

dir. Lana and Lilly Wachowski, 1996
Our Review // Watch It

Best lesbian movies #1: Jennifer Tilly grabs Gina Gershon's shoulder as she kisses her neck.

The Wachowskis’ take a classic film noir story with classic film noir archetypes and queer it in form and content. Gina Gershon plays Corky, the soft butch everyman ready-made to get wrapped up in things that don’t concern her. This, of course, arrives in the form of Jennifer Tilly’s femme fatale Violet. There’s a deep understanding of the genre that allows them to subvert it — holding onto the excitement and sex appeal, but prioritizing lesbian love and delicious misandry. This is as stylish and exciting as any of the Wachowski’s bigger budget fare and it has some of the best sex scenes of all time choreographed by Susie Bright. This is a fitting recipient of the title best lesbian movie ever — a genre masterpiece by two queer trans women whose love of cinema is matched only by their love for lesbian culture.

The morning after hooking up with Violet, Corky says, “I can see again.” That’s how it feels every time I revisit this movie. I can see again. Lesbian cinema’s past, lesbian cinema’s future. Bound lets me see it all.

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Drew Burnett Gregory

Drew is a Brooklyn-based writer, filmmaker, and theatremaker. She is a Senior Editor at Autostraddle with a focus in film and television, sex and dating, and politics. Her writing can also be found at Bright Wall/Dark Room, Cosmopolitan UK, Refinery29, Into, them, and Knock LA. She was a 2022 Outfest Screenwriting Lab Notable Writer and a 2023 Lambda Literary Screenwriting Fellow. She is currently working on a million film and TV projects mostly about queer trans women. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.

Drew Burnett has written 567 articles for us.

15 Comments

  1. These lists are the best things ever!
    One thing- in the old list, the Rafiki description had a link to an Autostraddle interview with the actors. But when I clicked on the link, it didn’t work. I read the interview via the Wayback Machine, and it was really good. Esp nice to see international stuff on Autostraddle. Is it possible to put the link back up?

  2. Great choices – all my faves are here.

    But I’m wish EEAAO were ranked in the top 20 – sure, the movie centres around Evelyn, but Joy is central to the latter part of the film. Her relationship with her mother, her queerness and longing for familial aceeptance informs the *entire* plot.

    Also, I felt like I died and went to heaven on seeing Jamie Lee Curtis and Michelle Yeoh as lesbo lovers in the *hotdog fingers* universe. Hilarious and poignant.

  3. Love the list! I’m surprised Bottoms made it but Book Smart didn’t though. I think they’re comparable films and I do appreciate both to be sure. But Book Smart seems the stronger of the two to me. I don’t think you have to replace one with the other, but I’m just kind of shocked Book Smart didn’t make it, really. Thanks for the stellar list though. Great resource!

  4. As a relative newcomer (trans woman, felt like trespasser in lesbian culture before finding myself), this is a great list of movies I haven’t seen, for the most part 😅 Surprised how many are from the last century, and how many are from male directors. But I’ll happily enqueue the lighter fare, at least, and give it a watch. It’s been a long time (and a gender) since I watched a proper romcom. Maybe I’ll even clean out the popcorn machine and fire up the projector, make an evening of it with the other Mrs.

  5. Drew, thank you thank you thank you for this love letter to cinema. This is the kind of contribution to the internet that will outlive us all.

  6. Fantastic list, so pleased to see Fire included but sad to see that My Summer of Love did not make the list. Its a top 10 contender for me!

  7. Pleasantly surprised to see a few movies on this list that often get overlooked.

    But would 100% haver included The World to Come on this list.

  8. The story behind Bend It Like Beckham: it was originally based on the life of Permi Jhooti, the first British South Asian woman to professionally play football (soccer). She’s cute AF and has eternally rocked a short haircut. I worked in the UK film industry for many years and was told by people who were around in the late 90s that the first couple of drafts of the BILB script were written as a story where the two lead characters fall in love with each other. Apparently, Gurinder Chadha was told that the script was good, but it would never get made if it was a queer love story. So, I suppose she and her writing partners (Paul Mayeda Berges and the woman behind the original concept, Guljit Bindra) had to rewrite it, yet the queerness could never be completely erased. Even Keira Knightley has reportedly said that the two lead characters should have ended up together.

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