The Autostraddle Encyclopedia of Lesbian Cinema

The words "The Encyclopedia of Lesbian Cinema" in white are superimposed over a collage of movie images, all brightly colored

Art by Viv Le

Since I started writing at Autostraddle four years ago, the possibility of naming 250 lesbian movies has gone from a dream to an inevitability. Every year dozens of new LGBTQ+ films are made and every year at least a handful of classics are unearthed. Never in the history of movies have our stories been told in such quantity or with such variety.

This increase in media led us to double our Best Lesbian, Bisexual, and Queer Movies of All Time list to 200 when I revamped it back in 2020. But with every passing year, every passing update, the list was begging to break out of those limitations. Not even 200 was enough. And when a list gets to be that length the ranking can feel silly — especially when I’m the only one in the voting body who is able to see all the eligible films. That’s why this year we cut our ranked all time list down to the best of the best — just 50 films representing the peak of sapphic cinema. We have then supplemented it with this gargantuan encyclopedia. It currently includes 250 LGBTQ+ films but it’s sure to grow.

This is not a list of every lesbian, bisexual, or queer movie of all time. It represents only the best feature length narrative films as voted on by our team and myself. Each film has been assigned a loose rating out of four stars — and you’ll notice no film included on this list has less than two and a half.

It’s possible there are LGBTQ+ films you love, not included here. Maybe we haven’t seen them yet or maybe they just didn’t get a high enough rating. Feel free to keep advocating for your faves, because titles such as Happiest Season and Wild Things didn’t get a high enough score in past years, but made it this year. Our team is ever-changing — and our individual opinions change too.

This list does not include films about trans men (e.g. Boys Don’t Cry, By Hook or By Crook), films about trans women exclusively interested in men (e.g. Tangerine, A Fantastic Woman), films based on queer books that had their explicit queerness removed (e.g. The Color Purple, Fried Green Tomatoes), or films where the queerness is just subtext (e.g. A League of Their Own, Rebecca). This list also doesn’t include short films, documentaries, or porn — with a handful of exceptions where length/genre lines were blurred. This update was already an enormous undertaking, but my dream is the boundaries of this list will expand in future years to include more of these categories. Any lesbian cinema list without filmmakers such as Barbara Hammer and Jenni Olson will always feel incomplete.

The headlines says “Lesbian Cinema,” but for us that means any movie with a woman or non-binary person interested romantically or sexually in another woman or non-binary person.

One last note: There is lesbian cinema on this list not currently available to stream. Some of the greatest works of LGBTQ+ film are not being watched, because people not within our community get to decide which films deserve attention. Many titles on this list were included because I contacted production companies and producers, attended rare screenings, and hunted for DVDs at actual video stores. And still some films — most notably Me siento extraña (1977) — were not included because no one on our team was able to access them.

There is a world of cinema and a world of queer cinema and there are films from the last hundred years waiting to be discovered. But hey, we’ll keep searching for lost lesbian classics, the industry will keep making more films that include us, and in the meantime why not start with this little ol’ list of TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY movies? By the time you watch them all, we promise there will be more.


8 Women

dir. François Ozon, 2002
Unavailable
Genre: mystery, musical // Rating: ★★★

Eight women in different colored outfits hold hands in front of a staircase.

The influence of queer icon Jacques Demy is felt in this murder mystery farce that’s like musical Clue but entirely women and French. Très très Français. This movie feels gay and then it gets explicitly gay and then it gets explicitly gayer. By the end it’s unclear if anyone is straight! The entire cast is perfect and charming — especially Firmine Richard who gets a sad gay ballad and Catherine Denueve whose commitment to playing queer women despite suing Deneuve Magazine is ever surprising.

Adam

dir. Rhys Ernst, 2019
Watch It
Genre: coming-of-age, comedy // Rating: ★★★1/2

A group of 2006-era queer people sit around watching TV.

While it stirred controversy before it was even released, award-winning trans filmmaker Rhys Ernst’s debut feature is surprisingly low-key and deeply queer. Based on The L Word writer Ariel Schrag’s even more controversial book, this 2006-set coming-of-age tale takes an original approach to queer storytelling. Many films on this list focus on a queer protagonist navigating a cishet world, but this is the rare film with a cishet protagonist navigating a queer world. The film largely focuses on trans men — including a stand-out performance from Leo Sheng — but it is filled with queer women. It’s as much about bisexuality as it is about transness as several queer women question what it means to date transmasculin individuals as lesbian-identified people in a binary community. It’s a thought-provoking work of art that deserves to be seen before it’s judged. It’s also the only film on this list to feature a butch trans woman — played with a sexy bravado by newcomer Dana Levinson.

Afternoon Breezes

dir. Hitoshi Yazaki, 1980
Watch It
Genre: drama, romance // Rating: ★★★1/2

Two women walk in the rain under one umbrella

When Natsuko’s crush is too busy spending her birthday with her boyfriend to accept Natsuko’s gift of a Virgo necklace, Natsuko eats an entire bouquet of roses and then throws it up. That’s how this movie begins. But despite its truly jaw-dropping twists and turns, Hitoshi Yazaki’s tale of lesbian obsession is at its best in its quiet moments. Setsuko Aya’s performance as Natsuko creates humanity where some might find crazy. This is as much a movie about depression as it is about toxic love. Natsuko feels isolated from the straight people around her and from herself — latching onto this ostensibly straight woman is just her way of expressing (or avoiding) that isolation. This is a difficult movie, but there’s so much beauty in even its saddest moments.

Aftersun

dir. Charlotte Wells, 2022
Watch It
Genre: coming-of-age, drama // Rating: ★★★★

A father and daughter stand on a cliff in Turkey with their arms outstretched. A nearby sign reads "We know the perfect place"

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.

Aimée & Jaguar

dir. Max Farberbock, 1999
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Genre: drama, period piece, romance // Rating: ★★★

Two women in 1930s garb dance whole other women watch.

This is very much a classic Holocaust-era period drama both formally and in structure. But there’s a certain pleasure to watching that kind of respected, serious film with the focus turned to a lesbian love story. The oppression of queerness is often left out of stories from this era and this is a welcome change. Maria Schrader gives an all-time magnetic performance as Felice, a woman so brave she’d risk being killed by Nazis to escape lesbian bed death.

Alice Júnior

dir. Gil Baroni, 2019
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: coming-of-age, comedy // Rating: ★★★★

A trans girl with sparkly eye makeup puts a hand to her lip while looking in the mirror.

Number 19 on our Best Lesbian Movies of All Time list. Read more.

All About My Mother

dir. Pedro Almodóvar, 1999
Watch It
Genre: drama // Rating: ★★★★

A woman shapes her fingers to indicate someone being crazy while sitting next to a younger woman.

Number 35 on our Best Lesbian Movies of All Time list. Read more.

All Over Me

dir. Alex Sichel, 1997
Unavailable
Genre: coming-of-age, drama // Rating: ★★★★

A girl with pink hair looks at another girl while they sit next to each other on a bed.

Number 13 on our Best Lesbian Movies of All Time list. Read more.

Anaïs in Love

dir. Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet, 2021
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: comedy, romance // Rating: ★★★

A close up of a woman resting her hand on the sandy thigh of another woman.

Anaïs is the latest in a recent line of anti-heroines who are far better at fucking the wrong people than getting a job. Call it millennial malaise, call it burnout, call it an annoying expression of privilege, but there’s a reason this character keeps popping up in fiction. And this film is among the best — and gayest — of the genre. More tonally in-line with Old Hollywood screwball and Éric Rohmer comedies than recent dramedy, this film stands out by reflecting the reality of its protagonist’s way of life without punishing her. Plenty of people live selfishly in ways that don’t bring them this level of pleasure. Plenty of people go through life contributing even less than Anaïs without even feeling joy. Maybe we could all learn something from this chaotic bisexual’s insatiable lust for life — either way it sure is fun to watch.

Annihilation

dir. Alex Garland, 2018
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: sci-fi, horror // Rating: ★★★

Tessa Thompson in a white tank stands next to colorful flowers.

Beautiful and horrifying, depending on the moment, depending on your perspective, Alex Garland’s haunting sci-fi film is visceral and thought-provoking. A group of women venture into a mysterious zone called the Shimmer where the laws of science seem not to apply. Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Tessa Thompson are joined by Gina Rodriguez as a soft butch with an undercut, and every lesbian’s favorite cishet man Oscar Isaac. The film is light on lesbian content — the only romantic relationship focused on is between Portman and Isaac — but science fiction is a genre we’re almost always excluded from so this film is noteworthy not only for centering women, but explicitly including a gay woman in the narrative.

Another Way

dir. Karoly Makk, Janos Xantus, 1982
Unavailable
Genre: drama, period piece, romance // Rating: ★★★

Two women wearing coats and scarves sit next to each other on a park bench.

Jadwiga Jankowska-Cieslak won the Best Actress award at Cannes for this remarkable film that’s hurt only by its maudlin insistence. Jankowska-Cieslak plays a political journalist in Hungary just after the revolution who begins a relationship with a less radical — and married — writer. They fight to live truthfully, love truthfully, and write truthfully, but the consequences of these transgressions are bleak. It’s a pointed, worthwhile film as long as you prepare yourself for the misery.

Antonia’s Line

dir. Marleen Gorris, 1995
Watch It
Genre: drama, period piece // Rating: ★★★

A middle aged woman in a blue bonnet stands in front of a younger woman.

Light on lesbianism but big on feminism, this decades long tale of the fiercely independent Antonia finds room in its utopic female vision for queerness. Antonia’s daughter casually has a love affair with her daughter’s teacher and the teacher being a woman is never a concern. There’s even a short sex scene between the two of them. This Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language film is a tribute to women who chose to be more than expectations — more than simply the wives of men.

Appropriate Behavior

dir. Desiree Akhavan, 2014
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: drama, comedy, romance // Rating: ★★★★

Desiree Akhavan sits on a New York subway.

Number 9 on our Best Lesbian Movies of All Time list. Read more.

Atomic Blonde

dir. David Leitch, 2017
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: action // Rating: ★★★

Charlize Theron and Sofia Boutella lean against a bar in red lighting.

This proper action movie from one of the directors of John Wick provides the queer Charlize Theron kickass thrill ride of our dreams. It’s impossible to overstate Charlize Theron’s acting or sexiness with Sofia Boutella or the accomplishments of the action choreography. A muddled plot doesn’t really matter when the experience is this great.

AWOL

dir. Deb Shoval, 2016
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: drama, romance // Rating: ★★★

Two women sit at a bar with beer bottles.

Lola Kirke and Breeda Wool give beautiful performances in this melancholy tale of first love in rural America. As the two women try to find a future together, they’re faced with the limitations of their circumstance — caused by homophobia, caused by poverty, caused by the military industrial complex. It’s an at times heartbreaking, at times sexy, and always lived in debut from director Deb Shoval.

Battle of the Sexes

dir. Valerie Faris, Jonathan Dayton, 2017
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: sports, period piece // Rating: ★★★

Andrea Riseborough gives Emma Stone a haircut.

The only thing gayer than tennis are haircuts, apparently! Emma Stone stars as Billie Jean King as she faces off against has-been chauvinist Bobby Riggs (Steve Carrell) in the tennis match deemed The Battle of the Sexes. Andrea Riseborough plays King’s hairdresser and eventual girlfriend, and, yes, there is a VERY sexy haircut scene! Haircuts aside, the movie is a sweet, soft feminist sports movie readymade for inspiration. Oh and Alan Cumming plays King’s queer mentor!

Bessie

dir. Dee Rees, 2015
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: drama, period piece // Rating: ★★★★

Queen Latifah wearing white in bed with another woman.

Number 37 on our Best Lesbian Movies of All Time list. Read more.

Better Than Chocolate

dir. Anne Wheeler, 1999
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: comedy, romance // Rating: ★★1/2

A trans woman in polka dots talks to a cis butch lesbian.

Famous or infamous depending on who you ask, this memorable ensemble comedy about a group of lesbian friends is noteworthy for its silly sex scenes, Ani DiFranco filled soundtrack, and inclusion of a trans woman character. Feminist bookstore, nudity-centric performance art, and sexy body painting are just some of the very lesbian things in this very lesbian movie. It’s not great, but it is ours.

BFFs

dir. Andrew Putschoegl, 2014
Our Review // Unavailable
Genre: comedy, romance // Rating: ★★1/2

Two middle aged women sit next to each other cross-legged.

With a warm and funny writing from leads Andrea Grano and Tara Karsian, this romcom about two straight best friends who go on a couples retreat only to discover they may have feelings for each other is an absolute delight. The premise lends itself to a lot of great comedy and the movie asks interesting questions about intimacy, sexuality, and friendship.

Les Biches

dir. Claude Chabrol, 1968
Unavailable
Genre: classics, drama // Rating: ★★★

A man has his arms around two women.

Claude Chabrol’s interest in queer women seems to begin and end with how hot it is to watch us make out — but, to be fair, he’s not wrong. Male gaze abounds in this gender swapped Talented Mr. Ripley, but that doesn’t take away from all its pleasures. Chabrol knows how to make a compelling movie and this is certainly compelling — almost as compelling as actresses Stéphane Audran and Jacqueline Sassard. But be warned: the man takes over as the main love interest for both women.

Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn

dir. Cathy Yan, 2020
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: action // Rating: ★★★

Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn leans against a bodega counter.

Finally after so much subtext, a big budget superhero movie that explicitly includes queer women — in fact, it’s starring one. Cathy Yan’s explosive, misandrist, comic book treat may be light on gay sex and romance, but with a mention of an ex-girlfriend Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn is an on-screen canon bisexual. Add Rosie Perez’s lesbian Renee Montoya and her ex-girlfriend played by Ali Wong and a nice amount of the usual subtext that accompanies a female-led action movie and you’re left with a movie that’s gay by any standard and very gay by a Hollywood standard. Montoya also sets a lovely example for lesbian cops across media by doing the right thing — quitting.

Bit

dir. Brad Michael Elmore, 2019
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: drama, horror // Rating: ★★★

A group of queers in purple lighting look at another queer.

The one and only movie about a trans lesbian joining a lesbian separatist vampire girl gang comes close to living up to its premise. Nicole Maines is incredible as Laurel, charming in moments of awkward romance, and commanding in moments of action. Trans lesbians are still largely absent from the canon of lesbian cinema and this exception is delicious in how casually Laurel is included. Her transness is acknowledged and affects her character and the story, but it doesn’t define her. She also gets an adorable meetcute — that ends with teeth in her neck.

The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant

dir. Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1972
Watch It
Genre: classics, drama // Rating: ★★★1/2

A woman in a green dress sits on her white carpet next to her phone and a bottle of alcohol.

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.

Black Swan

dir. Darren Aronofsky, 2010
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: horror, sports // Rating: ★★★1/2

Natalie Portman in a pink bra opens her mouth in orgasm.

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.

Bliss

dir. Henrika Kull, 2021
Watch It
Genre: drama, romance // Rating: ★★★

Katharina Behrens and Adam Hoya kiss in the shower.

Obviously inspired by Lizzie Borden’s Working Girls — more on that later — Henrika Kull’s story of two sex workers in love, trades the hyper-emphasis on the workplace for a greater focus on romance. This is a slow and meandering film, but the performances of Katharina Behrens and Adam Hoya — and their chemistry — keeps it compelling. Thirty-six years after Lizzie Borden’s masterpiece, accurate depictions of sex work are still largely absent from media and this is a welcome return to that low-stakes look at the job as a job.

Blockers

dir. Kay Cannon, 2018
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: coming-of-age, comedy // Rating: ★★★★

A girl in black stands by a snack table with another girl in flowery princess garb.

Number 40 on our Best Lesbian Movies of All Time list. Read more.

Blue Gate Crossing

dir. Yee Chih-Yen, 2002
Unavailable
Genre: coming-of-age, drama // Rating: ★★★★

A girl crouches by a pool while talking to a boy in the pool.

What begins as a gay Cyrano de Bergerac is complicated when Kerou’s crush’s crush falls for her instead. A love triangle that defers to moments of quiet connection over messy plot dynamics, Yee Chi-Yen’s film is a simple yet moving coming-of-age movie about first love and friendship. The movie is subtle and the power of its emotions may not hit you right away — but days later it just might make your heart swell.

Blue is the Warmest Color

dir. Abdellatif Kechiche, 2013
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: drama, romance // Rating: ★★1/2

Adele Exarchopoulos looks at a blue-haired Lea Seydoux.

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.

Blush

dir. Michal Vinik, 2015
Watch It
Genre: coming-of-age, drama // Rating: ★★★

A girl with a side part smiles at another girl with an undercut.

This Israeli coming-of-age film draws parallels between protagonist Naama’s burgeoning sexuality and her country’s troublesome politics. While she’s having the usual queer teen experiences of first love, first heartbreak, and first post-heartbreak head shave, she’s also forced to deal with her violent home life and racist father. It’s a tale of intolerance across identities that’s affecting even as it follows familiar beats.

Bodies Bodies Bodies

dir. Halina Reijn, 2022
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: horror, comedy // Rating: ★★★1/2

Two young queers look at each other while lying on grass.

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.

Booksmart

dir. Olivia Wilde, 2019
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: coming-of-age, comedy // Rating: ★★★1/2

Two teen girls lean on blue lockers.

“Last week of high school” teen comedies are an entire subgenre, but it’s rare that they focus on women and even rarer that they focus on queer women. That’s why Olivia Wilde’s debut was such an exciting dose of raunchy humor, female friendship, and adolescent romance. Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever are both so good and they are supported by a phenomenal ensemble — especially scene stealer Billie Lourd. Dever’s character is casually queer in a way that wouldn’t have been possible a decade ago and it’s so fun to watch her navigate her crushes and mishaps. Laugh-out-loud hilarious and full of heart, this movie will make you long for a teenagehood you never had and rejoice in a film landscape that’s finally changing.

Born in Flames

dir. Lizzie Borden, 1983
Watch It
Genre: classic, drama, experimental // Rating: ★★★★

Four women sit around a radio microphone.

Number 32 on our Best Lesbian Movies of All Time list. Read more.

Bound

dir. Lana and Lilly Wachowski, 1996
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: action, romance // Rating: ★★★★

A woman in a dirty white tank looks at a high femme in black.

Number 7 on our Best Lesbian Movies of All Time list. Read more.

Boy Meets Girl

dir. Eric Schaeffer, 2014
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: coming-of-age, romance // Rating: ★★★

A trans woman in a one piece bathing suit sits next to a cis woman in a bikini.

One of the few movies on this list starring a trans woman, Eric Schaeffer’s romcom is the sweet — and messy — love story we deserve. Michelle Hendley is an absolute star as Ricky Jones, a small town girl with a YouTube following and a desire for love. It takes a dalliance with the engaged Francesca to reveal the love she has for her male best friend — and what a dalliance it is! Ricky’s sex scene with Francesca is hot and tender, and while some of us may have been rooting for the two of them to end up together, the whole thing is so sweet you probably won’t mind that she ends up with the friend. And Hendley is just so good — she’s such a pleasure to watch on screen.

Boys On the Side

dir. Herbert Ross, 1995
Watch It
Genre: drama // Rating: ★★★

Whoopi Goldberg holds a finger up on stage as Mary-Louise Parker looks at her.

While very 1995 and very obviously written and directed by white men, this post-Thelma and Louise road movie is worthy of reconsideration. Whoopi Goldberg plays Jane, a lesbian who breaks up with her girlfriend and her band and heads across country for a new gig and a new life. She ends up driving with a type-A real estate agent played by Mary-Louise Parker and their initial friction soon gives way to a friendship and something more. Sure, the movie is all over the place — in tone and plot — and Drew Barrymore’s subplot with Matthew McConaughey hurts the film, it’s the chemistry between Goldberg and Parker that provide this film its heart. At a time when most mainstream movies still lived in subtext, this film provided a complex lesbian protagonist to pull at our heart strings.

Breaking the Girls

dir. Jamie Babbit, 2012
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: mystery, thriller // Rating: ★★1/2

A woman kisses another woman in a pool as the other woman looks off.

A lesbian remake of Strangers on a Train with even more twists and turns, this erotic thriller is certainly delicious. With direction from Jamie Babbit and a script co-written by Guinevere Turner, this has just the right amount of artistry added to its pulp. Recent films have tried to capture the magic of 80s and 90s erotic thrillers, but this film actually does it by doing what those films did best — be hot, be trashy, have sex appeal, have fun.

A Bride for Rip Van Winkle

dir. Shunji Iwai, 2016
Watch It
Genre: drama, experimental // Rating: ★★★1/2

Two women sit in a booth singing karaoke with their heads against each other.

There is not a minute of this movie where you’ll predict what the next minute holds. But if you give yourself over to Shunji Iwai‘s three-hour dramatic social satire, you’ll experience a strange and beautiful journey. The film begins with the seemingly simple story of a young teacher named Nanami — a singular performance from Haru Kuroki — who is getting ready to marry her boring boyfriend she met online. Embarrassed to not have more family to attend their wedding, she hires actors to pretend. This is just the first of many lies that will be told in this film where reality and fiction are ever-blurred. This is a film filled with tragedy but at its heart is the relationship between Nanami and Mashiro — famous singer Cocco in one of her few acting roles. Who they both are, and who they both are to each other, shifts but their time together lends the film its deepest beauty.

Bumblefuck, USA

dir. Aaron Douglas Johnston, 2011
Watch It
Genre: drama // Rating: ★★★

A woman looks at a multimedia sculpture she's making.

Part mumblecore romance, part documentary, this film combines real interviews with the story of a Dutch woman who visits her gay American friend’s small town after he commits suicide. Blaming homophobia for his death, she sets out to learn what it’s like to be gay in this place, but ends up falling in love with a woman and learning firsthand. It’s a lowkey story with some painful turns, but it captures the confused messiness of newly coming out — or dating someone who’s newly coming out.

But I’m a Cheerleader

dir. Jamie Babbit, 1999
Watch It
Genre: comedy, coming-of-age // Rating: ★★★★

Two girls watching a movie in pink outfits.

Number 1 on our Best Lesbian Movies of All Time list. Read more.

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

dir. Marielle Heller, 2018
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: drama // Rating: ★★★1/2

Melissa McCarthy stands in a bookstore holding a glass.

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.

Caramel

dir. Nadine Labaki, 2007
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Genre: drama, romance // Rating: ★★★

A group of women sit around in red lighting.

Nadine Labaki’s debut directorial work is a romantic comedy about a group of women working in a waxing salon in Beirut. All of the women have different struggles with love — including Rima who is very shy and very gay. It’s a beautiful, funny movie that casually values female emotion in a way we rarely see.

Carmen & Lola

dir. Arantxa Echevarria, 2018
Watch It
Genre: drama, romance // Rating: ★★★

Two young women embrace on concrete ground.

There’s an entire subgenre of lesbian movies where two women fall in love and one is overtly gay and the other could fake it through a heterosexual life. But like so many oft-told stories, the repetition of patterns does not inherently imply a lack of ingenuity. Rather, this structure can be used to explore the nuance and specificity of a specific culture and specific characters. Arantxa Echevarria’s Carmen & Lola is just such a film as it focuses on two young Romani women who are being pressured into marriage and struggle to be together instead. Zaira Romero and Rosy Rodríguez play the titular characters and their chemistry further elevates the film. There is an engagement party dance scene that will burn into your memory forever.

Carol

dir. Todd Haynes, 2015
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: drama, period piece, romance // Rating: ★★★★

Cate Blanchett stands behind Rooney Mara as they look at each other in a mirror.

Number 12 on our Best Lesbian Movies of All Time list. Read more.

Celts

dir. Milica Tomović, 2021
Unavailable
Genre: drama, period piece // Rating: ★★★

A young woman in big glasses stands pouring drink mix and looking in the same direction as the old woman next to her and he child in the foreground.

Taking place entirely at a children’s birthday party, this snapshot of 1993 Belgrade puts a political spin on queer chaos. While the kids dress up as Ninja Turtles, the adults oscillate between heated discussion of current events and even more heated affairs. Yes, this includes a tense love triangle between the birthday girl’s aunt, her leather jacket wearing ex, and the ex’s new young girlfriend. Working on several layers, Milica Tomović creates characters with full enough lives that the drama compels even if the historical relevance is lost on you. But understanding the place and time centers it all the more. Just a bunch of adults acting like children while the society they know falls apart.

Certain Women

dir. Kelly Reichardt, 2016
Watch It
Genre: drama // Rating: ★★★★

Kristen Stewart pets a horse next to Lily Gladstone.

Number 29 on our Best Lesbian Movies of All Time list. Read more.

The Children’s Hour

dir. William Wyler, 1961
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: classic, drama // Rating: ★★★★

Shirley MacClaine looks at Audrey Hepburn and holds her hand.

Number 50 on our Best Lesbian Movies of All Time list. Read more.

The Chinese Botanist’s Daughter

dir. Dai Sijie, 2006
Unavailable
Genre: drama, romance // Rating: ★★★1/2

Two women crouch down in a lush green landscape.

Lush and tragic, this is male gaze lesbian melodrama at its finest. The men are abusive, the scenery is gorgeous, and the women are madly in love. Mylène Jampanoï and Xiaoran Li succeed at deepening their simply written character and provide a couple that’s easy to root for even as the plot maddens.

Chutney Popcorn

dir. Nisha Ganatra, 1999
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: drama, romance // Rating: ★★★1/2

Two women lie down smiling and kissing.

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.

Circumstance

dir. Maryam Keshavarz, 2011
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: drama, romance // Rating: ★★★★

Two young women lie on a red bed looking up toward the camera.

Number 45 on our Best Lesbian Movies of All Time list. Read more.

Cocoon

dir. Leonie Krippendorff, 2020
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Genre: coming-of-age, drama // Rating: ★★★

A young queer wraps her arms around another young queer with a cityscape behind her.

How much you like Leoni Krippendorff’s lesbian coming-of-age tale about 14-year-old Berliner Nora will likely depend on how much you like lesbian coming-of-age tales in general — and your tolerance for butterfly metaphors. With an urgent, handheld style and dreamy yet realistic tone, Krippendorff’s film is just really beautiful and watchable even as it follows familiar beats. Lena Urzendowsky is excellent as the sad-eyed Nora and Jella Haase is devastating as her crush. This is a beautiful film filled with the kind of panicky intensity that defines early adolescence — and first love.

Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same

dir. Madeleine Olnek, 2011
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Genre: sci-fi, comedy, romance // Rating: ★★★1/2

A bald alien winks at the camera. Below the text reads ZYLAR Status: On Earth; Disposition: Sexually generous

Madeleine Olnek’s highly relatable comedy about a trio of aliens sent to Earth because they have too many feelings is as funny and weird as that premise suggests. Inspired by low-budget 1950s sci-fi, Olnek’s film has a DIY aesthetic that fits with the often silly script. All of its fish-out-of-water jokes ultimately lead to a story about connection. We all feel like aliens sometimes, but if we’re lucky we just might find another alien to love.

Concussion

dir. Stacie Passon, 2013
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: drama, romance // Rating: ★★★

Two middle aged women kiss in bed.

What begins as a gay twist on the classic story of sex-driven mid-life crise, becomes a deeper exploration of ennui and desire. Despite focusing largely on protagonist Abby’s foray into sex work, the film seems less concerned with representing that profession realistically and more concerned with how the sex (lots and lots and lots of sex!) impacts Abby as a character. Robin Weigert’s performance as Abby anchors the film despite its somewhat silly premise, and Maggie Siff gives a sexy supporting performance as one of Abby’s clients. There’s more to this movie than just the sex, but there is a lot of sex and it’s very well done!

Cracks

dir. Jordan Scott, 2009
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: thriller, coming-of-age // Rating: ★★★

A woman holds the lifeless body of a teen girl.

Taking its place in the lineage of lesbian films about boarding schools, Jordan Scott’s striking debut feature lands on the side of brutality over eroticism. While Eva Green is arresting as always as the initially charming, eventually horrifying Miss G., the reality of her abuse is allowed to play out. It’s a frightening and effective film with an incredibly talented young cast that includes Juno Temple, Imogen Poots, and María Valverde.

Crush

dir. Sammi Cohen, 2022
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: coming-of-age, comedy // Rating: ★★★

Two girls look at each other on a school track.

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.

D.E.B.S.

dir. Angela Robinson, 2004
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: action, comedy, romance // Rating: ★★★★

A woman in a schoolgirl outfit holds a gun.

Number 24 on our Best Lesbian Movies of All Time list. Read more.

Daddy Issues

dir. Amara Cash, 2018
Our Review // Watch It 
Genre: coming-of-age, romance // Rating: ★★★1/2

A girl with pink hair and a yellow sweatshirt kisses another girl in a blue dress with a cityscape behind them.

Amara Cash’s debut film is a campy, candy-colored, explosion of queerness. A love triangle between aspiring artist Maya, her instagram crush Jasmine, and Jasmine’s sugar daddy, leads to a twisted plot, two twisted romances, and a lot of expected — and unexpected — drama. Cash’s camera and editing is frenetic capturing Maya’s adolescence yearning and building to a new queer aesthetic. The most surprising thing about this movie is its sweetness. There’s an innocence to Maya that’s easy to root for and a sexiness to Jasmine that’s easy to fall for. By pairing the romantic and the taboo, the disturbing and the delicious, Cash creates a truly unique feat of queer filmmaking.

A Date for Mad Mary

dir. Darren Thornton, 2016
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Genre: drama, comedy, romance // Rating: ★★★★

Two young women walk along a street at night.

Number 44 on our Best Lesbian Movies of All Time list. Read more.

The Daughters of Fire

dir. Albertina Carri, 2018
Our Review // Unavailable
Genre: drama, romance // Rating: ★★★1/2

A close up on the faces of three queer people participate in an orgy.

Porn about making porn questioning how to make porn that’s properly queer and feminist, Albertina Carri’s film succeeds in answering its own question. Poetic and sexy this loosely plotted Argentinian road trip is bound to make you think and come. It’s casual in its inclusivity across body types, gender, and kinks, and ends with one spectacular orgy.

Desert Hearts

dir. Donna Deitch, 1985
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: drama, romance // Rating: ★★★★

Two women look at each other next to a train.

Number 4 on our Best Lesbian Movies of All Time list. Read more.

Dirty Computer

dir. Janelle Monáe & others, 2018
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: sci-fi, musical // Rating: ★★★★

Janelle Monáe in pussy pants with Tessa Thompson's head between her legs.

Number 20 on our Best Lesbian Movies of All Time list. Read more.

Disobedience

dir. Sebastian Lelio, 2017
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: drama, romance // Rating: ★★★

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.

Dope

dir. Rick Famuyiwa, 2015
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Genre: coming-of-age, comedy // Rating: ★★★

A lesbian and two boys stand with their bicycles.

Kiersey Clemons plays Diggy, the masc lesbian best friend of Shameik Moore’s Malcolm. They’re geeks and totally unprepared for the drug-deal-induced hijinks that ensue due to Malcolm’s lovesickness over Nakia played by Zoë Kravitz. The script is tight and funny and all of the performances are great. It works as a comedy, a coming-of-age story, and an action movie. Clemons is great as always and her outfits and energy feel authentically queer in a way often absent from mainstream media about teenagers. Also it’s highly relatable to almost ruin your life for Zoë Kravitz.

Dos Estaciones

dir. Juan Pablo González, 2022
Unavailable
Genre: drama // Rating: ★★★1/2

A middle aged butch lesbian looks in the mirror as her hair stylist rests her long nails on her shoulders.

Deliberately paced but never boring, this movie about a butch tequila factory owner and her trans woman hair stylist is a gem. Teresa Sánchez won a special jury prize from Sundance for her performance as the factory owner, Maria Garcia, and it’s easy to see why. Her performance is subtle and arresting, a character created out of moments of quiet. While Sánchez, the other actors, and the stunning cinematography are the primary draw for the film, the film is not lacking in narrative focus. It may be a slow-burn but its unique story is effectively told.

Drifting Flowers

dir. Chou Zero, 2008
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Genre: drama, romance // Rating: ★★★

A femme rides on the back of a motorcycle with her arms wrapped around a masc.

Lesbian filmmaker Chou Zero’s trio of intersecting queer tales are about love, friendship, and identity. As much about gender as it is about sexuality, the film is at its best when focusing on the character Diego played by Chao Yi-lan. In the present Diego is a masc heartthrob, but in the past we see her struggle to define her identity beyond the expectations of woman. It’s a moving film that saves its best section for last.

Drool

dir. Nancy Kissam, 2009
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Genre: drama, comedy // Rating: ★★1/2

Jill Marie Jones sits next to Laura Harring and holds her hand.

At times delightfully campy, at others rather off-putting, this low-budget comedy stars Girlfriends’ Jill Marie Jones and Mulholland Drive’s Laura Harring as lovers on the run. Kissam has cited John Waters as one of her key inspirations and that’s clear in the boldness of the work and its extremely dark sense of humor. But ultimately the film is rather wholesome as it creates a world where new family structures can arise from abuse.

Dry Ground Burning

dir. Joana Pimento, Adirley Queirós, 2022
Unavailable
Genre: drama, experimental // Rating: ★★★1/2

Two women smoke cigarettes while sitting against a mattress that's leaning against a wall.

At once both a documentary about the criminal resistance in Bolsonaro’s Brazil and a dystopic epic about a queer women oil gang, Dry Ground Burning is as mesmerizing as it is indefinable. Real-life sisters Chitarra and Léa play versions of themselves as they grapple with their limited options and the dangers of turning to crime. Some moments feel like a cinema verité portrait of the two women reconnecting after Léa’s six years in prison, other moments feel straight out of an action movie. While hardship is ever-present, the two women still find comfort in family, biological and chosen, as well as some fun nights of queer partying. Reminiscent of Lizzie Borden’s 1983 masterpiece Born in Flames, this is a film with a form as radical as the women at its center.

The Duke of Burgundy

dir. Peter Strickland, 2014
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: drama, romance // Rating: ★★★

A woman sits in a chair while another woman scrubs the floor next to her.

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.

Emilia

dir. César Sodero, 2020
Unavailable
Genre: drama // Rating: ★★★

A woman smokes a cigarette with the car window half down.

Lesbian teachers being inappropriate with students is one of the oldest and most complicated tropes of queer women cinema. Some entries are salacious, some explore the realities of abuse, and some try to do both at once. This film does neither, opting instead for a colder, more observational approach. The titular character is lost in her twenty-something second adolescence ennui and while her emotions don’t justify her repeated bad behavior they do make it compelling to observe. This film works as well as it does because its star Sofia Palomino finds nuance and meaning in every moment. It’s a remarkable central performance you’ll want to watch no matter what Emilia is doing — no matter how sad or uncomfortable it makes you.

Entre Nous

dir. Diane Kurys, 1983
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Genre: drama, romance // Rating: ★★★

Miou-Miou and Isabelle Huppert sit across from a table playing cars. Huppert is looking down holding a card. Miou-Miou is holding a cigarette and looking at Huppert.

While the lesbianism remains implicit, this is still a beautiful movie about love and obligation. Miou-Miou and Isabelle Huppert are heartbreaking as two women whose deep connection pulls them away from the men in their lives. It’s slow and chaste — at least in its queerness — but this delicate film is a tribute to love between women.

Eva + Candela

dir. Ruth Caudeli, 2018
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Genre: drama, romance // Rating: ★★★1/2

Two women lean their heads against each other in red lighting.

Ruth Caudeli’s debut feature is both a devastating breakup film and an announcement of an exciting new talent in queer cinema. Most sad films about queer women are sad due to tragedy or oppression, so it’s a relief to watch a film that’s sad because sustaining a relationship is just really hard! While falling in love and falling out of love, Alejandra Lara and Silvia Varón are brimming with chemistry. It’s painful to watch them fall apart because they make so much sense when they’re together.

Everything Everywhere All at Once

dir. Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert, 2022
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: drama, comedy, sci-fi, action // Rating: ★★★1/2

Stephanie Hsu in an elaborate sci-fi white outfit with a royal collar stands in a white liminal space with other people dressed in white robes behind her.

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.

The Favourite

dir. Yorgos Lanthimos, 2018
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: drama, comedy // Rating: ★★★

Olivia Colman dressed like a queen stands behind a blind-folded Rachel Weisz.

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.

The Fear Street Trilogy

dir. Leigh Janiak, 2021
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: horror // Rating: ★★★1/2

Kiana Madeira stands in the dark on the phone

What makes The Fear Street Trilogy go from a solid good time to a grand cinematic event is its understanding that intelligence and fun are not antithetical. Like The Slumber Party Massacre Trilogy, Fear Street doesn’t make us choose between campy horror and an engagement with reality. It’s proof that “good politics” are also good storytelling. A lot of slasher movies are about trauma and PTSD but these films go a step further and explore the trauma that can be carried in land and among a community. They are films made by people who know the horror genre and know the horrors that exist in our real world. Together this knowledge results in a trio of movies with more developed characters and more resonate plots than we often see in the genre. This isn’t just horror with queer characters — it’s queer horror. It’s about things that should really scare us — generational trauma and income inequality. Pretty good for a series that also features a devastating kill with a bread slicer.

The Feels

dir. Jenée LaMarque, 2017
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: comedy, romance // Rating: ★★★

A group of friends sit in a jacuzzi laughing.

Constance Wu playing a lesbian is probably enough of a pitch to get you to watch this breezy Netflix comedy — and it should be! She’s great as always and she has a nice chemistry with co-star Angela Trimbur. The movie is sweet and affirming as it acknowledges how different our bodies function and the necessity for communication during sex. Ever Mainard gives a standout comic performance and provides some much needed butch energy to this gay bachelorette party comedy.

Fire

dir. Deepa Mehta, 1996
Unavailable
Genre: drama, romance // Rating: ★★★

A woman rests her head against another woman with orange fabric behind them.

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.

The Firefly

dir. Ana Maria Hermida, 2013
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Genre: drama, romance // Rating: ★★1/2

Two women walk next to each other while drinking iced coffee with long straws.

A film as much about grief as it is about queer love, Ana Maria Hermida’s debut is about a woman who develops a relationship with her brother’s fiancée in the wake of his death. The two women bond over their shared mourning and shared love and eventually find a way forward together. With magic realist touches and a heavy script, the movie is rich in drama, but it mostly earns its earnest ambitions.

The First Death of Joana

dir. Cristiane Oliveira, 2021
Unavailable
Genre: coming-of-age, drama // Rating: ★★★

A young girl lies next to a body of water with her eyes closed as another young girl hovers over her blowing on her hair.

Stories of young queers investigating the gay pasts of their relatives is its own subgenre. What is it about these quests that hold so much interest for us in our lives and in fiction? Is it the validation of knowing you’re not the only one? The explanation for why you are the way that you are? The connection to biological family that can become so fraught when coming out in a world that wants you to stay in? As the titular protagonist of Cristiane Oliveira’s beautiful coming-of-age story investigates the life of her late great aunt, she is also investigating herself. It doesn’t really matter what she discovers about this relative. She must learn what so many of us learn — that it really is about the journey.

First Girl I Loved

dir. Kerem Sanga, 2016
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: coming-of-age, drama // Rating: ★★★

Two girls look at each other in red lighting.

This coming-of-age drama is as much about consent as it is about queer discovery. Dylan Gelula plays Anne who begins to explore her first lesbian relationship in the aftermath of assault. The film opens itself up to the messiness of the interactions it displays and highlights how our culture’s broken ideas around sex, gender, power, and identity lead to so much pain. It’s a heartfelt, heartbreaking film that still finds time for sweetness. (And it has a great cameo from Cameron Esposito at the end.)

The Fish Child

dir. Lucia Puenzo, 2009
Our Review // Unavailable
Genre: coming-of-age, drama // Rating: ★★★

Two women lie in a candle lit bathtub together.

Based on her own novel, Lucia Puenzo’s film is a painful love story about two young queer women separated by race and class. Lala is from a wealthy family and has been having an affair with Ailin, her family’s maid. Their desire to escape pushes them to crime and Lala must face the naïveté of her fantasies while Ailin tries simply to survive. Inés Efron and Mariela Vitale are fantastic and fantastic together and make the film work even when the plot takes some difficult to believe turns.

Flaming Ears

dir. Ursula Pürrer, A. Hans Scheirl, Dietmar Schipek, 1992
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: sci-fi, experimental // Rating: ★★★

A person in red latex stands with their back to the camera looking at a dark city.

“In the year 2700, the year of the toads, Asche was a burnt-out city.” So begins a film that is both a queer artifact of early 90s Austrian cinema and one that still feels daring 30 years later. Despite being shot on super 8, the recent restoration is beautiful — if you can find beauty in punk dystopia. Flaming Ears is about a comic book artist named Spy whose quest for revenge against nymphomaniac/pyromaniac, Volley, gets interrupted when she encounters Volley’s girlfriend, Nun, who happens to be a reptile-obsessed alien in a red latex suit. If that plot summary sounds bonkers, it’s nothing compared to the presentation. This is a true work of avante-garde queer art that features furniture humping, disembodied hands, DIY-looking miniature set pieces, and BDSM sex parties.

Forgotten Roads

dir. Nicol Ruiz Benavides, 2020
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Genre: drama, romance, sci-fi // Rating: ★★★1/2

Two older women cuddle in bed.

This movie has EVERYTHING. A 70-something lesbian rediscovering her sexuality. Another 70-something lesbian who is married to a man but moonlights as a queer lounge singer. Gays, against all odds, learning how to drive. UFOs. Yes. UFOs. Nicol Ruiz Benavides’ debut film is emotionally accessible and artistically esoteric and that combination makes for an incredible viewing experience. It’s rare to get movies about older queer women — it’s even rarer to get a film about older queer women that takes risks like this film. Lucky for us the risks pay off for a unique and meaningful viewing experience.

The Four-Faced Liar

dir. Jacob Chase, 2010
Unavailable
Genre: drama, comedy, romance // Rating: ★★1/2

Two women touch noses in winter outfits.

Written by and co-starring The L Word: Generation Q showrunner Marja-Lewis Ryan, this is a lowkey dramedy about a group of early twenty-somethings stumbling their way through love. Ryan plays a lesbian who acts just like her straight male bestie and falls for a “straight” girl. As all of their relationships are challenged and reconfigured, the film questions what it is the characters really want and whether they’ll ever find it.

The Fox

dir. Mark Rydell, 1967
Unavailable
Genre: drama, romance // Rating: ★★★

A close up of two women kissing.

One of the earliest portrayals of a queer women couple on-screen, Mark Rydell’s adaptation of the D.H. Lawrence novella of the same name surprises even as it dabbles in tropes. Sandy Dennis and Anne Heywood play Jill and Ellen, two women who live together and raise chickens in a relatively happy partnership. Ellen feels a certain ennui, but Jill’s only concern is the literal fox in their hen house. The metaphor manifests in the arrival of a man named Paul played by Keir Dullea who is terrifying in his determination to split them up. But this poetic, complicated film isn’t the expected 1960s story of a queer woman choosing a man — at least not so simply. The film is as much about gender as it is about sexuality and it deserves a greater reputation as a classic of lesbian cinema due to its performances, its craft, and its commitment to queer complexity in an era where that was so rarely allowed on screen.

Foxfire

dir. Annette Haywood-Carter, 1996
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Genre: coming-of-age, drama // Rating: ★★★★

A young Angelina Jolie in bluish/purple lighting looks at another girl who reaches toward her lips.

Number 43 on our Best Lesbian Movies of All Time list. Read more.

Freak Orlando

dir. Ulrike Ottinger, 1981
Unavailable
Genre: drama, experimental // Rating: ★★★

Two women wearing outlandish outfits hold hands in a grassy field and look up at a man standing on a pillar.

While Sally Potter’s Tilda Swinton-starring adaptation of the Virginia Woolf classic is a trans cinematic masterpiece, Ulrike Ottinger’s even more unconventional take is a trans masterpiece, a lesbian masterpiece, and a freak masterpiece. Starring Magdalena Montezuma as Orlando and Delphine Seyrig as her subject of desire, this movie told in disjointed, surreal chapters is unlike anything else you’ll ever see. It’s a testament to Ottinger’s skill and creativity that her chaotic vision remains such a delight even when it’s lacking in any logic except her own. Who needs logic when you have a queer gender-bending fantasia?

Fresh Kill

dir. Shu Lea Cheang, 1994
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Genre: drama, sci-fi // Rating: ★★★1/2

Sarita Choudhury and Erin McCurty sit next to each other.

When we talk about the New Queer Cinema of the 90s, we should talk about Fresh Kill. It’s the exact kind of radical art that defined that movement — just less male and less white. Starring Sarita Choudhury and Erin McCurty as a lesbian couple in Staten Island in an alternate present or near future, the film is a bold critique of capitalism and ecological disaster. Throughout its surreal touches and haywire tangents, its characters live real queer lives. There are so many interesting ideas and stylistic flourishes on display but its the people at its center inhabit these ideas that make it one of the most underrated masterpieces of a decade full of them.

Frida

dir. Julie Taymor, 2002
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Genre: drama, period piece // Rating: ★★1/2

Salma Hayek as Frida Kahlo leans over and touches a woman at a diner.

While the script is paint-by-numbers Hollywood biopic, this telling of Frida Kahlo’s life is elevated by Julie Taymor’s visual inventiveness and Salma Hayek’s moving performance. The film largely focuses on Kahlo’s relationship with Diego Rivera, but it’s also explicit about her bisexuality with multiple moments of her lusting after or being with women. It doesn’t quite reflect Kahlo’s own unique creativity, but for this genre of movie it’s a success.

Gia

dir. Michael Cristofer, 1998
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: drama // Rating: ★★★

Angelina Jolie and Elizabeth Mitchell kiss against a wooden door.

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.

Girl with Hyacinths

dir. Hasse Ekman, 1950
Unavailable
Genre: classic, drama // Rating: ★★★1/2

A blonde woman looks down and a brunette looks at her while smoking a cigarette. The image is Black and White and they're shrouded in shadows.

One of the earliest lesbian movies ever made, this Swedish noir may began with suicide but the central mystery is far more nuanced than how it initially appears. Eve Henning (best known for Ingmar Bergman’s debut Thirst, that has another of cinema’s first lesbian characters) plays Dagmar Brink, a sad and lonely woman whose life comes to a tragic end. Completely alone, she leaves her belongings to her neighbors who begin a Citizen Kane-like quest to learn more about the mystery woman who lived next door and Alex, the supposed love of her life. Now, as we know, Alex is a gay name, so it’s easy for us to guess where they go wrong in assuming Alex is a man. However, the layers of this film go beyond the usual tragic lesbian trope resulting in a work of art that’s more than just ahead of its time.

Girl Picture

dir. Alli Haapasalo, 2022
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: coming-of-age, drama // Rating: ★★★

Two girls almost kiss on a dark dance floor.

Alli Haapasalo’s coming-of-age movie about three teen girls is told across three Friday nights. The first Friday night Mimmi and her coworker go to a house party where Mimmi encounters Emma and has a magical gay evening. Whether they’re dancing to Perfume Genius and Tove Styrke or having the best sex of their young lives, Haapasalo gives us a young couple that feels authentic and worthy of audience squealing. The ways in which Mimmi and Emma differ feel like ways they can grow together. The story is reminiscent of other coming-of-age movies, but the performances and specificity of the characters — as well as the clever structure — elevate the film as a whole. It’s a snapshot of a moment in time — for these three girls, for girlhood in general.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

dir. Niels Arden Oplev, 2009
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Genre: thriller, mystery // Rating: ★★★

Noomi Rapace dressed in black looks behind her.

If there’s one reason the Swedish adaptation remains the favorite among most queer women it’s Noomi Rapace. The movie itself may not be as formally accomplished as Fincher’s redo, but Rapace makes Lisbeth Salander instantly iconic. She’s gritty and fierce in a way so many badass Hollywood heroines are not. There’s nothing pretty about her take on Salander and that makes her all the more alluring.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

dir. David Fincher, 2011
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: thriller, mystery // Rating: ★★★

Rooney Mara in a black with a mohawk sits against a big window.

Many questioned the necessity for another adaptation of the popular Swedish crime novel, but David Fincher delivered a film that was more polished, more narratively sound, and perfectly attuned to his attention to detail. And can we really have too much Lisbeth Salander? Rooney Mara’s take on the highly competent, ever vengeful, deeply dreamy bisexual hacker is far more vulnerable — possibly weaker, possibly just more human, depending on your affection for the original.

Glen or Glenda

dir. Shirley Wood, 1953
Watch It
Genre: drama, experiental // Rating: ★★★1/2

Bella Lugosi sits in a chair and lifts his hands in the air next to a trans woman in a long dress.

Shirley Wood is usually known by her deadname and is usually known as the supposed “worst director of all time.” But for anyone who’s trans or is familiar with the trans experience, her debut is a weird and wonderful film about transness made at a time of misinformation. Amidst the formal experimentation, Bela Lugosi playing God, and lots of other weirdness is the story of a woman in love with another woman. It’s remarkable that we have a movie about transness from this era made by an actual trans person. It’s deserving of celebration, not ridicule.

Go Fish

dir. Rose Troche, 1994
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Genre: drama, comedy, romance // Rating: ★★★

A close up of a woman kissing another woman's neck.

Low-budget and 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.

Goldfish Memory

dir. Elizabeth Gill, 2003
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Genre: drama, comedy, romance // Rating: ★★★

Two women kiss in a cafe while a man looks at them through the window.

Like Love, Actually, but Irish, gay, and riddled with commitment issues this ensemble romantic comedy follows the lives and intersecting relationships of several delightfully messy people. Equally split between gay, lesbian, and straight romances, some storylines work better than others, but all of the actors are charming and the film is smarter about love than most of these kinds of romcoms.

Good Manners

dir. Juliana Rojas, Marco Dutra, 2017
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: drama, horror // Rating: ★★★★

A woman with long hair leans forward and licks the mouth of a woman with short hair.

Number 23 on our Best Lesbian Movies of All Time list. Read more.

Grandma

dir. Paul Weitz, 2015
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: comedy, drama // Rating: ★★★1/2

Lily Tomlin and Julia Garner lift their thumbs up on the side of the road.

Lily Tomlin was gifted the part she was born to play in Elle, stubborn wisecracking lesbian grandma of pregnant Sage. As they attempt to get Sage an abortion, Elle is forced to reflect on her own life. Tomlin is so funny and so tender, landing every joke with gusto and every emotional beat with depth. The movie also has a stellar supporting cast with Julia Garner as Sage, as well as Laverne Cox, Marcia Gay Harden, John Cho, Judy Greer, and Sam Elliot. It’s a sweet film that Tomlin makes into something more.

The Half Of It

dir. Alice Wu, 2020
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: coming-of-age, drama, comedy // Rating: ★★★★

Two girls lie on their bakes in a small pond.

Number 17 on our Best Lesbian Movies of All Time list. Read more.

The Handmaiden

dir. Park Chan-Wook, 2016
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: drama, thriller, romance // Rating: ★★★★

A woman with a gloved hand brushes hair out of the face of another woman standing in front of her.

Number 11 on our Best Lesbian Movies of All Time list. Read more.

Happiest Season

dir. Clea DuVall, 2020
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: drama, comedy // Rating: ★★1/2

Kristen Stewart stands next to Aubrey Plaza.

Make the yuletide gay! And maybe emotionally abusive? Look, not only did just about every queer online watch this holiday Hulu blockbuster when it was first released, every queer online seemed to have a very strong opinion about it. Was it the lesbian Christmas movie we’ve long-deserved? Or was it a secret horror movie about a girl more concerned with her homophobic family than Kristen Stewart? No one could agree but there are a few things we can agree on: it changed the landscape for lesbian Christmas movies and Aubrey Plaza as Harper is our forever crush. Sure, it would’ve been a fun twist for Plaza and Stewart to end up together. But holiday movies aren’t exactly known for their twists! With a great cast and familiar beats — and again, worth repeating, Aubrey Plaza — this movie seems guaranteed to out-live the discourse.

The Haunting

dir. Robert Wise, 1963
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Genre: horror // Rating: ★★★1/2

Two women cower together on a bed.

The first and most loyal adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s novel is a remarkable work of understated horror cinema. Julie Harris plays Nell, a bitter and lonely woman who signs up to participate in a study of the paranormal in the wake of her mother’s death. One of the other participants is Theo, a gay woman with ESP and endless confidence. Claire Bloom plays her with an easy charm, and her character ends up being a foil to Nell — queerness as a metaphor for freedom. Due to these stellar performances, some excellent wide angle photography, and Robert Wise’s low-budget horror roots, this film stands out even amongst decades of imitators.

Hearts Beat Loud

dir. Brett Haley, 2018
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: coming-of-age, comedy, musical // Rating: ★★★

Kiersey Clemons and Sasha Lane lie in bed and look at each other.

Reversing the usual parent-child dynamic, this indie comedy casts Kiersey Clemons as a studious teen and Nick Offerman as her dad who just wants to jam. The relationship between their characters is lovely and the music they create together is genuinely good. Clemons is such a joy to watch and listen to and her romance with Sasha Lane is one of the best parts of the film. Unfortunately the subplots given to Offerman are less compelling, but that’s not enough to take away from the movie’s heartwarming charm.

Heavenly Creatures

dir. Peter Jackson, 1994
Our Review // Unavailable
Genre: coming-of-age, drama, horror // Rating: ★★★1/2

Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey in pastel dresses hold hands.

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.

The Heiresses

dir. Marcelo Martinessi, 2018
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Genre: drama // Rating: ★★★

A woman gives an older woman a puff from her cigarette while sitting together in a car.

Slow and artful, the weight of emotions underneath this film settle in with melancholic surprise. Chela and Chiquita are two older upper-middle class lesbians whose 30 year partnership is interrupted when Chiquita goes to jail due to fraud. Broke and lonely, Chela begins offering rides to her older neighbors — and one younger woman with whom she develops a bond. Ana Brun is stellar as Chela — much of the film is just watching Chela in silence and Brun gives a performance worth watching. This is a sad film without resolutions, but its melancholy is equaled by its power.

Hide and Seek

dir. Su Friedrich, 1996
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Genre: coming-of-age, experimental // Rating: ★★★★

Three young girls sit on a bench together.

Number 26 on our Best Lesbian Movies of All Time list. Read more.

High Art

dir. Lisa Cholodenko, 1998
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: drama, romance // Rating: ★★★★

Ally Sheedy takes a picture of Radha Mitchell 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.

Holy Camp!

dir. Javier Ambrossi, Javier Calvo, 2017
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Genre: coming-of-age, musical // Rating: ★★★★

A teen girl leans against a bed laughing as she listens to a nun.

The highest rated musical on this list, Javier Ambrossi and Javier Calvo’s truly unique movie lives up to its English title. But it’s not the camp that surprises — after all this is a movie where God appears singing Whitney Houston songs — it’s the depth. This story of two friends at a Catholic camp takes so many turns and is so filled with queer creativity, you might have no idea what you’ve just watched when the credits role. But the experience of the film — and oh my is it an experience — all serves an exploration about desire, faith, giving oneself to change, giving oneself to horniness, and what can happen when we open ourselves up to the possibilities life presents. The soundtrack is incredible, the visuals are stunning, and the whole thing is just so horny and Catholic and gay. Sorry, did you miss the part where God literally sings Whitney Houston songs??

Holy Trinity

dir. Molly Hewitt, 2019
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Genre: comedy, romance // Rating: ★★★1/2

A person in a red nun costume holds their partner in a red devil costume on a leash.

Writer/director/producer/star Molly Hewitt’s debut feature about a dominatrix who huffs a magic aerosol can and begins communicating with the dead is a truly inventive work of queer queer queer cinema. With two non-binary leads (Hewitt and Work in Progress/The Politician heartthrob Theo Germaine), imaginative low budget production design and costumes, and the setting of Chicago’s queer scene, Hewitt has made a film with a spirit that recalls the best of the 90s queer cinema. It’s funny, it’s sexy, it’s weird, and, best of all, it’s filled with references and nuance cishet people could never understand.

The Hours

dir. Stephen Daldry, 2002
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Genre: drama, period piece // Rating: ★★★

Nicole Kidman as Virginia Woolf lies on the ground.

Based on Michael Cunningham’s perfect novel, this Oscar-winning adaptation mostly does justice to the trio of intersecting queer stories. Nicole Kidman plays Virginia Woolf and her devastating performance is more than her fake nose. Meryl Streep plays a modern day woman named Clarissa, affectionately referred to as Mrs. Dalloway by her friend who is dying of AIDS-related causes. The middle story is the most explicitly gay. Julianne Moore plays a woman in the 50s desperate to be a better mother, fighting off feelings for her neighbor, and suddenly consumed with the book Mrs. Dalloway. This section feels chaste compared to the book — Moore and Toni Collette lacking a certain chemistry — but overall the movie is still a beautiful meditation on depression, loss, and the desire to live truthfully. Also the score by Philip Glass is incredible.

House of Hummingbird

dir. Kim Bora, 2018
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Genre: coming-of-age, drama // Rating: ★★★★

 A woman sits next to a girl in a hospital gown and a bandage on the side of her head.

Number 47 on our Best Lesbian Movies of All Time list. Read more.

How to Blow Up a Pipeline

dir. Daniel Goldhaber, 2022
Our Review // Unavailable
Genre: drama, thriller // Rating: ★★★★

A group of young people sit around a fire in the dark.

By transposing the radical ideas of its source material into the structure of a heist movie, this work of cinematic collective action becomes as entertaining as it is important. All movies are propaganda and sometimes explicitly political films can end up feeling cheap and manipulative. There is nothing cheap here — except maybe its well-used indie film budget. The sharp writing is matched by Tehillah De Castro’s cinematography, Gavin Brivik’s score, Daniel Garber’s editing, and one of the best — and queerest — young casts assembled in years. This is like Ocean’s 8 except it’s actually a good movie and the stakes aren’t a necklace at the Met Gala but the fate of our planet. Oh and it’s explicitly gay. Not only is its queer relationship central to the film but there are a lot of queer women involved in the project — actor Sasha Lane, actor and writer Ariela Barer, producer Isa Mazzei. Exciting, meaningful, smart. This is queer genre cinema at its very best.

The Hunger

dir. Tony Scott, 1983
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: drama, horror // Rating: ★★★1/2

Catherine Deneuve lifts Susan Sarandon against a wall.

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.

I Can’t Think Straight

dir. Shamim Sarif, 2007
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: comedy, romance // Rating: ★★★1/2

Two women lie in bed and almost kiss.

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.

I Shot Andy Warhol

dir. Mary Harron, 1996
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Genre: drama, period piece // Rating: ★★★

Lili Taylor as Valerie Solonas looks at the camera.

Director Mary Harron and actress Lili Taylor do a phenomenal job capturing Valerie Solanas in all her complications. It’s a portrait of a subculture and a period of time and an exploration of what happens when some outsiders are too outside even for the outsiders. It’s unfortunate that the movie is less successful in its portrayal of Candy Darling, but overall it’s still a stellar film.

I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing

dir. Patricia Rozema, 1987
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Genre: drama, comedy // Rating: ★★★★

A woman in a white sweater and button down sits at a cluttered desk.

Number 27 on our Best Lesbian Movies of All Time list. Read more.

If These Walls Could Talk 2

dir. Jane Anderson, Martha Coolidge, Anne Heche, 2000
Unavailable
Genre: drama // Rating: ★★1/2

Michelle Williams and a butch Chloe Sevigny look at each other.

The three stories that make up this iconic HBO film certainly vary in quality. Jane Anderson’s 1961-set tale of a lesbian in mourning is simple and heartbreaking, while Anne Heche’s present day portrayal of Ellen Degeneres and Sharon Stone having a baby is cringeworthy at best. But it’s the middle section set in 1972 that makes the film what it is. Martha Coolidge’s love story between Michelle Williams and a very butch Chloë Sevigny is fun and sexy and explores questions of class and gender identity within lesbian circles. It also has an incredible supporting cast that includes Natasha Lyonne and Nia Long. The whole film can be watched by completists, but it’s this section that deserves true praise.

Imagine Me & You

dir. Ol Parker, 2005
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: comedy, romance // Rating: ★★★★

Two women in knit beanies stand close together.

Number 38 on our Best Lesbian Movies of All Time list. Read more.

In Between

dir. Maysaloun Hamoud, 2016
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: drama // Rating: ★★★★

A woman holding a cigarette leans over and kisses another woman sitting on the same bed.

The trio of women at the center of Maysaloun Hamoud’s debut film couldn’t be more different. Leila is a high femme lawyer hoping to find love with a man who won’t control her. Salma is a lesbian DJ with parents desperate to marry her to a man. And Nour is a conservative student engaged to be married. But all three women are stubborn and determined to live lives beyond heteropatriarchy, beyond Israeli-occupation. The film captures the specific pain of managing multiple marginalized identities and provides a path forward – there may be no escape, but we can support each other in the struggle.

The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love

dir. Maria Maggenti, 1995
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: coming-of-age, comedy, romance // Rating: ★★★1/2

A femme girl and a butch girl kiss.

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.

Itty Bitty Titty Committee

dir. Jamie Babbit, 2007
Unavailable
Genre: comedy, drama // Rating: ★★1/2

Two women look off camera with graffiti "her parts" and cartoon boobs in the background.

It might be goofy, dated, and a bit all over the place, but there’s still a lot to enjoy in Jamie Babbit’s lesbian movie about a newcomer to a feminist action group. Melonie Diaz plays Anna, a goody two shoes who falls hard for cool girl Sadie and in the process gets radicalized. It’s a fun movie with a great ensemble cast and it’s truly just so gay.

Je, Tu, Il, Elle

dir. Chantal Akerman, 1974
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: drama, experimental // Rating: ★★★★

Two nude women embrace in bed.

Number 8 on our Best Lesbian Movies of All Time list. Read more.

Jennifer’s Body

dir. Karyn Kusama, 2009
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: comedy, drama, horror // Rating: ★★★1/2

Amanda Seyfried and Megan Fox kiss in bed.

Poorly marketed and unfairly maligned upon its release, Karyn Kusama and Diablo Cody’s already cult classic has finally started to get the praise it deserves. With Cody’s signature wit and Kusama’s sharp style, this horror-comedy/rape-revenge/queer-teen-girl-friendship movie is a deadly delicious treat. Megan Fox is excellent in a role that plays with her celebrity and the expectations placed upon her and Amanda Seyfried is perfect as her best friend literally named Needy Lesbian — okay, fine, Needy Lesnicki. The original film was supposed to be even more explicitly gay but even with the studio-influenced version we still get one steamy make out and lines like: “Do you buy all your murder weapons at Home Depot? God you’re butch!”

The Journey

dir. Ligy J. Pullappally, 2004
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Genre: drama, romance // Rating: ★★★1/2

A girl with wet hair kisses the cheek of another girl.

This tale of two women who find friendship as children and forbidden love as adults follows some familiar lesbian movie beats. But Ligy J. Pullappally centers her characters’ unique personalities and their environment’s complex reaction, ultimately ending up with a film that’s authentic and moving and beautiful from beginning to end. Suhasini V. Nair and Shrruiti Menon give very different, equally accomplished performances and their decades long bond is believable in every moment.

Jules of Light and Dark

dir. Daniel Laabs, 2018
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: drama // Rating: ★★★

A young woman with sparkles on her face looks off in purple lighting.

Winner of the Grand Jury prize for Outstanding American Feature at Outfest 2019, Daniel Laabs’ debut feature is about two lost individuals forming an unlikely connection. Tallie Medel is phenomenal as Maya, a heartsick lesbian struggling in the aftermath of a car accident. She befriends Freddy, a lonely gay man with an estranged daughter, played by Robert Longstreet and the film cuts back and forth between their two storylines. While a bit underwritten and at times as lost as its characters, the film ultimately works because of its central performances and Laabs’ impressive visual style.

Kajillionaire

dir. Miranda July, 2020
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: drama, comedy, thriller // Rating: ★★★

Gina Rodriguez kisses Evan Rachel Wood who has 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.

Karmen Geï

dir. Joseph Gai Ramaka, 2001
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Genre: drama, musical // Rating: ★★★1/2

Two women draped in fabric sit across from each other.

This reimagining of the opera Carmen is bursting with energy and sexuality. The titular temptress is made pansexual underlining her freedom and offering quite a few delicious moments. The music is incredible, the visuals are stunning, and Djeinaba Diop Gai’s central performance is as magnetic as this character deserves. While the film still ends in the expected tragedy, this version more than any other seems to really respect Karmen and her sexual freedom.

The Kids Are All Right

dir. Lisa Cholodenko, 2010
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: comedy, drama // Rating: ★★★

Julianne Moore has her arm around Annette Bening.

Not the most beloved by the lesbian community, this Oscar-nominated movie from lesbian filmmaker Lisa Cholodenko might be due for reevaluation. While some were put off by one of the film’s married lesbians having an affair with a man, the messiness of the affair and the family dynamic all contributes to the film’s themes about marriage and queer families. It’s a funny movie with great performances from Julianne Moore, Annette Benning, Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasikowska, and Josh Hutcherson. It might not be the most groundbreaking film, but ten years later its missteps feel a lot less worrisome.

The Killing of Sister George

dir. Robert Aldrich, 1968
Unavailable
Genre: classic, drama // Rating: ★★1/2

A sad woman dressed as Charlie Chaplin stands in front of a younger woman with mime makeup.

Robert Aldrich’s film is a landmark of lesbian cinema, but it’s brutal to watch. It perpetuates the trope of the bitter old lesbian with none of the pleasures of similar films. But as a movie it’s quite good with a devastating performance from Beryl Reid. It’s worth watching for her performance and for its historical importance even if it leaves a sour taste.

Kiss Me

dir. Alexandra-Therese Keining, 2011
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: drama, romance // Rating: ★★★

Two women almost kiss at the bottom of a staircase.

While featuring many lesbian movie clichés, Alexandra-Therese Keining’s film stands out due to its writing, its phenomenal lead performances from Ruth Vega Fernandez and Liv Mjönes, and some exceptionally well done sex scenes. The story may be simple, but the chemistry at its core is special.

Kissing Jessica Stein

dir. Charles Herman-Wurmfeld, 2001
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: comedy, romance // Rating: ★★★1/2

Two women kiss on a couch.

Neurotic Jewish comedy but make it bicurious! This romcom written by and starring Jennifer Westfeldt and Heather Juergensen is a delight from beginning to, well, not quite the end. Yes, the ending is frustrating to most even all these years later, but it doesn’t take away from how funny and genuinely moving most of the film remains. The whole movie has a really joyous warmth to it and Tovah Feldshuh gives an especially tender performance as Jessica’s mom. The landscape of lesbian cinema has widened in the past two decades making this film’s final twist much less egregious — if still disappointing to many.

Knife + Heart

dir. Yann Gonzalez, 2018
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Genre: drama, horror // Rating: ★★★1/2

A woman with a black vinyl jacket stands in front of an ad for teeth whitening.

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.

Knocking

dir. Frida Kempff, 2021
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Genre: horror // Rating: ★★★

Shot from above a woman looks up pressed against a wall.

Frida Kempf’s debut narrative feature is a different kind of queer horror movie. It’s about a woman named Molly who leaves a psychiatric hospital to start a new life in a new apartment. Her trauma is hinted at in dreamy flashbacks — kisses from her lover on the beach, the terrifying expanse of the sea. There was an accident. The grief and the guilt — and likely some pre-existing mental illness — caused a psychotic episode. But now she’s trying to be better. This is a simple, effective thriller that largely takes place within the confines of Molly’s claustrophobic apartment. Kempff’s direction and star Cecilia Milocco’s performance place us in Molly’s head. As she unravels, we unravel, and the whole experience is deeply unsettling. This is not a fun genre film. This is a sad and visceral foray into one woman’s mind.

Laurel Canyon

dir. Lisa Cholodenko, 2002
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Genre: drama // Rating: ★★★

Frances McDormand looks at Kate Beckinsale.

While light on queer content, Lisa Cholodenko’s film about a free-spirited record producer and her straight-laced son is an understated and effective drama. Frances McDormand and Christian Bale are great as mother and son and Kate Beckinsale is dreamy as the son’s fiancée who just might have more interest in his mom and her boyfriend than her husband to be.

Leading Ladies

dir. Ruth Caudeli, 2021
Our Review // Unavailable
Genre: drama, experimental // Rating: ★★★

Marcela Robledo hugs Ana María Otálora who hugs Silvia Varón in red lighting.

The various plots of Leading Ladies — with their backstabbing, cheating, and litigious consequences — would fit right in on The L Word. And yet they couldn’t feel more different. Director Ruth Caudeli trusts her audience to follow along and to care without forcing or over-explaining any narrative threads. She is a queer woman making work for other queers and that’s felt in every beat. With its handheld cinematography, improvised dialogue, limited setting, and unconventional structure, Leading Ladies feels like a lo-fi experiment as much as it does a feature film. But abandoning the anchors present in most features isn’t a shortcut — it’s a challenge. It’s hard to make life’s quiet dramas riveting — Caudeli and her cast accomplish just that.

La Leyenda Negra

dir. Patrícia Vidal Delgado, 2020
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Genre: coming-of-age, drama // Rating: ★★★1/2

A teen girl does the makeup of another teen girl with spray painted letters on the wall behind them.

Patrícia Vidal Delgado’s gorgeous Black & White debut feature is political cinema at its best. Telling the story of a queer girl whose immigration status is affected by a new Trump administration policy, Delgado understands that the most effective political films don’t feel like Political Films — they feel like stories about people. Monica Betancourt gives a phenomenal performance as Aleteia, a teenage girl filled with righteous fury at her circumstances and tender love for her new friend and crush, Rosarito played by Kaileil Lopez. Watching Aleteia and Rosarito find unexpected connection and first queer feelings is a delight. They deserve a world without borders and binaries where they can be free to explore the young love blossoming between them. This is a love story, a friendship story, a cry for change. This is a movie about two queer Latinx teenagers who deserve better.

Lianna

dir. John Sayles, 1983
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Genre: classic, drama // Rating: ★★★1/2

Two women lie in bed smiling.

Surprisingly tender and complicated for a lesbian movie written and directed by a straight man, this classic of queer cinema follows the titular character through her first gay love and heartbreak. Rather than framing Lianna’s coming out as intrinsically tied to her crush on Professor Ruth, she’s forced to reckon with her identity and ultimately do so alone. Linda Griffiths is so lovely to watch on-screen as Lianna navigates her desires and disappointments. It’s a sad movie, but within that sadness is a sense of hope — a sense that someday Lianna will find love and do so as an individual.

Life Partners

dir. Susanna Fogel, 2014
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: comedy, drama // Rating: ★★1/2

Tomboy Leighton Meester sits next to straight couple Gillian Jacobs and Adam Brody.

A twist on the lesbian in love with her best friend trope, Leighton Meester’s Sasha never falls for Gillian Jacobs’ Paige — but she is jealous when Paige starts dating Tim played by Adam Brody. This is a sweet exploration of codependent friendships with casually resonant lead performances and a great supporting cast of Gabourey Sidibe, Abby Elliot, Beth Dover and Kate McKinnon.

Liz and the Blue Bird

dir. Naoko Yamada, 2018
Watch It
Genre: coming-of-age, drama // Rating: ★★★

An animated girl playing a musical instrument looks over at another girl playing a musical instrument in the foreground.

A spin-off of the anime series Sound! Euphonium and based on the same novels, Naoko Yamada’s beautiful tale of high school longing is overwhelmed with high school feeling. Mizore is shy and awkward and devastatingly in love with her popular best friend Nozomi. They’re in band together and are tasked with performing a solo based on a story called Liz and the Blue Bird. Yamada cuts between our central story and the titular story itself as they blend the minutely real with fairy tale expanse. The animation is stunning and the attention to detail places us squarely in Mizore’s state of obsession. Queer women are still largely absent from animated movies — especially ones appropriate for children — and this provides one of the rare exceptions. Words like gay and lesbian may not be used but the love and desire is more than explicit. This is a film about letting go of those you love — a message needed by adolescents and us all.

Lizzie

dir. Craig William Macneill, 2018
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: drama, horror // Rating: ★★1/2

Kristen Stewart and Chloe Sevigny kiss in period clothing.

Chloë Sevigny was reportedly disappointed with the final results of this long-gestating project, but any movie focusing on a romance between her and Kristen Stewart can’t be all bad. In fact, the movie is pretty good largely because of its two central performances. But as the maudlin tale drags on one is left wondering what might have been if those two performances had a script with a bit more depth and a director with a bit more ingenuity.

Lost and Delirious

dir. Léa Pool, 2001
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: coming-of-age, drama // Rating: ★★★

Two teen girls kiss.

Loved by some, hated by others, Léa Pool’s boarding school dyke drama is as heightened as its angsty teens. Piper Perabo plays soft butch heartthrob Paulie Oster who is desperate to sonnet and fence her way into Jessica Paré’s heart. The dialogue is corny and the symbolism is heavy handed, but the story is told through the eyes of Mischa Barton’s younger new student and with that brings a level of naïveté to the whole approach. If you love falcons and feelings this movie might just be for you.

Love and Other Catastrophes

dir. Emma-Kate Croghan, 1996
Unavailable
Genre: comedy, drama // Rating: ★★1/2

Two women sit next to each other having a conversation.

If Whit Stillman was an Australian lesbian this is the movie he’d have made. But he didn’t have to because Emma-Kate Croghan made it instead! Snappy dialogue and fun performances make for a fun movie that will either endear you or repulse you depending on your tolerance for film students discussing intellectual topics as they navigate their messy love lives. It helps when those film students aren’t all straight and aren’t all men that’s for sure!

Love My Life

dir. Koji Kawano, 2006
Unavailable
Genre: coming-of-age, drama, romance // Rating: ★★1/2

Two girls pass a candy back and forth while kissing.

If you don’t read the plot description for this otherwise low-key lesbian coming-of-age romance, the coming out scene will be one of the most surprising ever filmed. It’s a twist that adds a fascinating layer to the story and the movie is at its best when exploring this complexity and Ichiko’s relationship to her family. Her chemistry with Eri is really sweet and actors Rei Yoshii and Asami Imajuku are fun to watch in the roles. The plot is a bit convoluted with conflict that feels manufactured, but it’s still very enjoyable.

Love, Spells and All That

dir. Ümit Ünal, 2019
Our Review // Unavailable
Genre: drama, romance // Rating: ★★★1/2

Two women sit on a rock with their backs to the camera looking out at a coast surrounded by trees.

Ümit Ünal’s intimate romance tells the story of Eren who returns to her hometown ready to declare her still-burning love for her adolescent girlfriend, Reyhan. But for Reyhan — who holds far less economic privilege — love, especially forbidden love, is something she cannot afford. This conflict is heightened with two phenomenal performances by Selen Uçer as Reyhan and Ece Dizdar as Eren. They embody their characters — and their characters’ histories — in full. The twenty years is felt in every line and glance. There’s also magic in the setting itself. This beautiful Turkish island — with all the weight it holds for these characters — is a location that’s easy to fall in love with. Ünal is patient in his writing and directing. He trusts his actors and his setting and it results in a film that is at once both wholly naturalistic and bursting with fantasy.

The Lure

dir. Agnieszka Smoczyńska, 2017
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Genre: drama, horror, musical // Rating: ★★★1/2

Two young women with long fish tails suck the nipples of an older woman with red hair who also has a long fish body.

This genre-bending mermaid musical horror movie was likely not intended to be about a gay trans girl and her straight trans girl best friend — Michalina Olszanska and Marta Mazurek who play the central mermaids, Gold and Silver, are both cis. And yet with its literal bottom surgery and riff on The Little Mermaid — a trans girl favorite — it’s no surprise that it’s left such an impression on the community. But beyond this imposed subtext this is still a weird and wonderful work of queer cinema that includes a sung-through scene of lesbian fish sex that makes The Shape of Water look like Mr. Limpet.

Lyle

dir. Stewart Thorndike, 2014
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Genre: drama, horror // Rating: ★★★1/2

Gaby Hoffman runs down a Brooklyn street pregnant and crying.

Stewart Thorndike’s tight and terrifying horror movie is as much about grief as it is exploring the messiness of placing a queer woman in the plot of Rosemary’s Baby. The movie asks a lot of questions without providing answers, but what it does provide is a breathtaking horror experience led by an animalistic performance from Gaby Hoffmann.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

dir. George C. Wolfe, 2020
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Genre: drama // Rating: ★★★1/2

Viola Davis as Ma Rainey stands behind Taylour Paige.

Director George C. Wolfe and screenwriter Ruben Santiago-Hudson combine their stage and screen brilliance to create this August Wilson adaptation that knows when to expand and knows when to stew in its theatricality. This is not a film about queerness per say — its focus is more the creation and appropriation of Black art — but Wolfe, Santiago-Hudson, and greatest actress alive Viola Davis ensure the queerness of the film. There is no subtext. Ma Rainey’s relationship with Dussie Mae played by Taylour Paige is made explicit and her queerness is made an integral part of her character. Lesbian romance films are obviously great, but it’s worth celebrating a film that focuses on a queer woman’s art and how race, gender, and sexuality impact how she creates and moves through the world.

Mädchen in Uniform

dir. Leontine Sagan, 1931
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Genre: classic, coming-of-age, drama // Rating: ★★★★

A woman bends down to kiss a girl wearing white pajamas.

Number 10 on our Best Lesbian Movies of All Time list. Read more.

Make a Wish

dir. Sharon Ferranti, 2002
Our Review // Unavailable
Genre: comedy, horror // Rating: ★★★

A woman looks up as her tent caves in.

Like The L Word, if it didn’t take six seasons for the dykes to start killing each other, Sharon Ferranti’s lesbian slasher is a delicious gem. Low-budget and pulpy, this movie is certainly not cheap on character development or intracommunity gags. Even the premise — a lesbian goes camping with all her exes who she cheated on because they’re all still friends and then they start dying one by one — feels unique to our world. Considering Rita Mae Brown wrote Slumber Party Massacre, lesbians aren’t strangers to the slasher genre, but this still remains the most lesbian of them all.

Manji

dir. Yasuzô Masumura, 1964
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Genre: classic, drama // Rating: ★★★★

A clothed woman looks up at a nude woman.

Number 22 on our Best Lesbian Movies of All Time list. Read more.

Margarita with a Straw

dir. Shonali Bose, 2014
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Genre: coming-of-age, drama, romance // Rating: ★★1/2

Two girls sit a dinner table laughing.

Queer disabled representation is almost non-existent in media which makes this film’s triumphs all the more exciting, and its failures all the more frustrating. It allows its lead character the freedom to make mistakes, to explore her sexuality in all its messiness, and go beyond the narratives usually forced on disabled characters by abled filmmakers. Unfortunately the writers and directors are abled and even more unfortunately so are the lead actresses. One has to wonder if some of the film’s missteps, such as sexualizing a caretaking situation and having the blind character touch faces, as well as some of its more saccharine moments, would’ve been avoided if disabled people were actually involved in the making of the film. The movie is funny and sexy and sweet, but when it comes to disabled representation we still have so much further to go.

Mars One

dir. Gabriel Martins, 2022
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Genre: drama // Rating: ★★★★

A young woman sits on a bed next to her little brother in orange lighting.

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.

Memento Mori

dir. Min Kyu-Dong, Kim Tae-Yong, 1999
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: coming-of-age, horror // Rating: ★★★★

A girl walks along the roof of a school next to another girl who is seated.

Number 41 on our Best Lesbian Movies of All Time list. Read more.

Miao Miao

dir. Cheng Hsiao-Tse, 2008
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Genre: coming-of-age, romance // Rating: ★★★

Two girls in school uniforms ride on a bike together.

If you watch this movie hoping for the teen girls at its center to be together you’ll be disappointed. But if you watch this movie to witness the kind of adolescent yearning queer teens know intimately then you’ll be pleased. It’s a classic tale of lesbian girl meets probably bi girl meets probably gay boy who is probably in love with his ex-bandmate. No one really knows what they’re doing or how to express their feelings, but with its poppy soundtrack and jarring editing Cheng Hsiao-Tse seems to embrace the messy adolescent perspective of his characters. The characters feel what they want so deeply, but feeling what you want and articulating what you want are far from the same thing. Adolescence is hard no matter what, but queer adolescence is another level of confusion.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post

dir. Desiree Akhavan, 2018
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Genre: coming-of-age, drama // Rating: ★★★★

Chloe Grace-Moretz stands on a counter singing into a makeshift microphone.

Number 21 on our Best Lesbian Movies of All Time list. Read more.

The Mitchells vs. the Machines

dir. Michael Rianda, 2021
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Genre: coming-of-age, comedy // Rating: ★★★1/2

An animated teen girl with glasses and black nail polish leans back in front of a rainbow while wearing a red puppet.

While Disney is still bragging about their exclusively gay moments and NOT giving Elsa a girlfriend, Sony and Netflix have gifted us with this funny, emotional, and delightfully inventive queer kids movie. Katie Mitchell (voiced by Abbi Jacobson) is a teen filmmaker ready to escape her town where nobody understands her and go off to film school to find her people. Unfortunately, her plans get interrupted by her dad — oh and the robot apocalypse. Katie must learn to accept her biological family while still knowing she has a chosen family out there she needs too. Her queerness may be subtle but this is a wildly enjoyable step toward the queer kids movies we deserve.

Mommy is Coming

dir. Cheryl Dunye, 2012
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Genre: comedy // Rating: ★★★★

A woman with short hair points a gun with a condom around it at another woman with short hair in the back of a cab.

Number 39 on our Best Lesbian Movies of All Time list. Read more.

Monster

dir. Patty Jenkins, 2013
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Genre: drama // Rating: ★★★

Charlize Theron and Christina Ricci sit next to each other and cry.

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.

Mosquita y Mari

dir. Aurora Guerrero, 2012
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: coming-of-age, drama, romance // Rating: ★★★★

Two girls lie on the hood of a car laughing.

Number 46 on our Best Lesbian Movies of All Time list. Read more.

Moving On

dir. Paul Weitz, 2022
Unavailable
Genre: comedy, drama // Rating: ★★★

Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda stand next to each other wearing sweaters.

Like their previous work together in Grandma, Paul Weitz and Lily Tomlin’s second collaboration has greater ambitions than showcasing Tomlin’s singular talents. If, ultimately, Tomlin still ends up its greatest success — along with fellow legend Jane Fonda — that’s because there’s just so much talent to show. This traumatic farce explores the decades long effects of sexual assault and homophobia. It’s also a delightful good time. Through most of its runtime, it balances its tones and plots with a deft touch. Despite the occasional misstep in its final act, it’s still a lovely, quietly ambitious movie. As long as Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda are still working, they should keep working together — especially with material this rich, nuanced, and just plain hilarious.

Mulholland Drive

dir. David Lynch, 2001
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Genre: drama, experimental // Rating: ★★★★

Naomi Watts and Laura Harring look in a mirror together.

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. It’s certainly not devoid of male gaze, but if you’re gonna pick a male’s gaze you could do worse than David Lynch.

Multiple Maniacs

dir. John Waters, 1970
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Genre: classic, comedy // Rating: ★★★★

Divine talks to Mink Stole with her arms on her waist.

Number 42 on our Best Lesbian Movies of All Time list. Read more.

MURDER and murder

dir. Yvonne Rainer, 1996
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Genre: drama, romance, experimental // Rating: ★★★★

Two older women with short hair laugh next to each other.

Number 18 on our Best Lesbian Movies of All Time list. Read more.

My Days of Mercy

dir. Tali Shalom-Ezer, 2017
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Genre: drama, romance // Rating: ★★★

Elliot Page rests his head on Kate Mara's shoulder.

Capital punishment romance is a tough sell, but three stunning performances from Elliot Page, Kate Mara, and Amy Seimetz, and endless chemistry between Page and Mara, make this movie more watchable than its premise. It’s certainly emotional, but rarely maudlin, avoiding too much melodrama by focusing on the characters as people. There are moments of humor and even a few stellar sex scenes.

My Mother Likes Women

dir. Daniela Fejerman, Ines Paris, 2002
Unavailable
Genre: comedy, drama // Rating: ★★1/2

Two women sit on a piano bench together.

Finding a balance between pathos and farce, this movie about three sisters and their newly out mother is a messy delight. Leonor Watling is impossible not to love as the anxious Elvira and while the film is more centered on her than her mother’s queer relationship, it’s still a funny and moving film about figuring out one’s identity. It’s also pretty clear that Elvira herself is bisexual — no matter what her creepy male therapist says.

My Summer of Love

dir. Pawel Pawlikowski, 2004
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Genre: coming-of-age, drama // Rating: ★★★

A girl rides on the back of a bike with her arms around another girl.

What begins is a quiet and tender queer coming-of-age love story takes a darker turn, as characters get increasingly untrustworthy and violent. It’s beautifully shot and has moving performances from Natalie Press and Emily Blunt, in her breakout role. It may not be the happiest queer film, but it’s not without hope, and the journey is worth it.

Nina’s Heavenly Delights

dir. Pratibha Parmar, 2006
Unavailable
Genre: comedy, romance // Rating: ★★1/2

Two women kiss with The New Taj written behind them.

This sweet Indian-Scottish romcom is silly and sentimental, but it’s also a pleasure to watch. It has solid performances from Shelley Conn and Laura Fraser, a fun and breezy script, and a few great dance numbers. Beautiful lesbians and food porn are indeed heavenly delights and this movie has plenty of both.

Nope

dir. Jordan Peele, 2022
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Genre: action, horror // Rating: ★★★1/2

Keke Palmer in Nope wearing a white shirt with a red heart and cartoon wolf in the center.

Jordan Peele’s alien invasion masterpiece is so funny and so entertaining that it’s easy to ignore just how audacious it is. Beyond its grand visual achievements, it is structurally inventive and thematically dense. Like Us, this is a film with a lot on its mind in ways that continue to unravel through thought and discussion. Oh and it stars the one and only Keke Palmer getting to play her whole queer self. Maybe someday there will be a director’s cut where she at the very least flirts with Barbie Ferreira but even in the theatrical release she is explicitly queer. It’s not the point and yet in a movie partially about who is centered in film history and who is forgotten, this aspect of her character cannot be ignored.

The Novice

dir. Lauren Hadaway, 2021
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Genre: drama, sports // Rating: ★★★★

Isabelle Fuhrman tears athletic tape with her teeth as she looks up at her coach while sitting with her teammates. She wears a black headband and red sweatshirt, her bloodied hands already wrapped in tape.

Before writing and directing her masterful debut, Lauren Hadaway worked in sound. Once you know this, it makes sense why her film’s rowing instructions get stuck in your head like a pop song. Legs body arms. Arms body legs. It’s dialogue as rhythm, thoughts as rhythm, mental illness as rhythm. This film is not about novice rower Alex Dall as much as it is her. The movie’s sound design and score — along with accomplished cinematography and editing that knows when to cut and when to hold — place us in her mind and body. We don’t need exposition. We want her to win because we are her. We feel her pain because she’s in pain. The oft-told suggestion “show, don’t tell” only uses half of cinema’s tools — Hadaway uses them all. And while none of this technical achievement would work without a performance to match, Hadaway has just that in Isabelle Fuhrman. Together they’ve created a visceral cinematic experience. Nearly forty years after Personal Best, here’s a sweaty queer sports movie that’s as twisted and bloody as we are. Queerness is an escape — it’s everything else that’s the problem.

Novitiate

dir. Margaret Betts, 2017
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Genre: coming-of-age, drama, period piece // Rating: ★★★1/2

A young woman in white sitting in bed below a cross holds hands with a nun.

Religion is often framed as the enemy in queer films making Margaret Betts’ debut all the more unique. Margaret Qualley plays a young woman who decides to become a nun much to her nonreligious mother’s horror. There are clear parallels between this conflict and the conflict many queer people face when coming out. The subtext becomes text and we see how the lines between faith and queerness are not as distinct as we sometimes think. Melissa Leo gives a grand and horrifying performance as the harsh Reverend Mother desperately trying to hold onto her own way of life in the face of Vatican II. Utilizing this specific moment in history, Betts creates a startling film about commitment to self in the face of societal judgement.

Olivia

dir. Jacqueline Audry, 1951
Our Review // Unavailable
Genre: coming-of-age, drama // Rating: ★★★★

A woman sits on a bed next to a girl with her hand around her head.

Number 14 on our Best Lesbian Movies of All Time list. Read more.

The Other Side of the Underneath

dir. Jane Arden, 1972
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Genre: drama, experimental, horror // Rating: ★★★★

A figure with a long red nose, bald head, and scary makeup holds dentures in The Other Side of the Underneath.

Based on her stage production, A New Communion for Freaks, Prophets, and Witches, Jane Arden’s uncategorizable masterwork was named by Autostraddle as featuring the scariest queer horror movie moment of all time. Far from your average scare fare, this film oscillates between the uncanny terror and joyful surrealism inspired by the headspace of its protagonist with schizophrenia. Arden herself struggled with mental illness and campaigned against the psychiatric treatments of her time. Those experiences are on full display here — the horror coming as much from the external “care” as the protagonist’s inner mental state. Equal parts queer magic, political fury, and arlecchino nightmare clowns, it’s time this underground classic took its rightful place on the surface.

The Owls

dir. Cheryl Dunye, 2010
Unavailable
Genre: drama, experimental, mystery // Rating: ★★1/2

A butch woman holds two glasses in the doorway with a femme woman lying down in the foreground.

After a six-year hiatus, icon Cheryl Dunye returned with this flawed but interesting work of lesbian cinema. At only a little over an hour, it acts as a comeback for Dunye, a postmortem on 90s queer cinema, an exploration of generation gaps in the queer community, and an examination of the differences between transmasculine people and butch lesbians. It may not work as well as Dunye’s other films appearing further down this list, but it’s still fascinating.

Parallel Mothers

dir. Pedro Almodóvar, 2021
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Genre: drama // Rating: ★★★1/2

Close-up from the side of Penelope Cruz on her back with her eyes closed. A young woman with short blonde hair lies next to her watching.

Womanhood has been a front for so many facets of Pedro Almodóvar’s own life. But in his latest masterpiece womanhood is a front for even more. Janis (Penélope Cruz once again giving birth, playing queer, and doing career best work for Almodóvar) is a photographer whose great-grandfather was killed by Franco’s regime. She gets pregnant and at the hospital meets Ana (Milena Smit), a teenager giving birth at the same time. The years pass and the plot turns with reliably Almodóvarian melodrama. Spoiler: Ana cuts off her hair, dyes it blonde, and becomes super gay. This is a movie about the importance of living in the past — not out of nostalgia, but out of accountability. It’s Almodóvar’s complicated reverence for his mother, unabashed reverence for lesbians, and reluctant reverence for his own femininity, that result in a story where queer women are the only ones capable of interrupting cycles of generational trauma.

Pariah

dir. Dee Rees, 2011
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Genre: coming-of-age, drama // Rating: ★★★★

Two girls laughing in a red-lit room.

Number 3 on our Best Lesbian Movies of All Time list. Read more.

Passing

dir. Rebecca Hall, 2021
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Genre: drama, period piece // Rating: ★★★1/2

Tessa Thompson looks at Ruth Negga, her reflection in the mirror behind them.

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.

Pepi, Luci, Bom

dir. Pedro Almodóvar, 1980
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Genre: classic, comedy // Rating: ★★★1/2

Carmen Maura looks at another woman as that woman gets peed on.

Pedro Almodóvar’s first masterpiece is also his film most focused on lesbians. An irreverent comedy that’s also a sort of rape/revenge movie, this one certainly isn’t for everybody. But if you’re open to its tone — and its content — you’ll find a laugh-out-loud hilarious, surprisingly emotional movie about women trying their best to survive and have some fun along the way. If you’re into movies where a lesbian pees on a cop’s wife then this one is for you!

The Perfection

dir. Richard Shepard, 2018
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Genre: horror // Rating: ★★1/2

Allison Williams and Logan Browning kiss against a wall.

This isn’t a great film, or even a good film, and it’s offensive in a myriad of ways. But what it lacks in quality and morals it sure does make up for in thrills. If you’re in the mood for a gory shockfest that also has cello playing lesbian sex between Allison Williams and Logan Browning, then this movie won’t disappoint.

Persona

dir. Ingmar Bergman, 1966
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Genre: drama, experimental // Rating: ★★★★

Bibi Andersson rests her head on Liv Ullmann's chest.

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.

Personal Best

dir. Robert Towne, 1982
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Genre: drama, sports // Rating: ★★★1/2

Two women arm wrestle lying on the floor.

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 still a noteworthy film about two fiercely competitive women. Come for the sweat on perfectly toned muscles, stay for the specificity of a Cap4Cap romance.

Petit Mal

dir. Ruth Caudeli, 2022
Our Review // Unavailable
Genre: drama, experimental, romance // Rating: ★★★

A woman lies in bed with her arms around her two girlfriends who are making eye contact.

Ruth Caudeli continues her already prolific career of intimate, experimental works of queer expression with this semi-autobiographical tale of a throuple. Caudeli, Silvia Varón, and Ana Mariá Otálora, real-life girlfriends and regular collaborators, all play versions of themselves. Much of the film’s runtime is concerned with the difficulties within the relationship but that never feels like commentary on throuples or polyamory. In fact, it’s long-distance that presents the largest challenge. It’s not that the film shies away from the specific joys and challenges of a throuple — it’s just done in a way that doesn’t attach value or judgment. There is still a lack of grounded queer cinema about polyamory and it’s a thrill to have a movie like this that not only fills that representational gap but does so with Caudeli’s unique cinematic style.

The Pirate

dir. Jacques Doillon, 1984
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Genre: drama // Rating: ★★1/2

A woman kisses another woman who has her head leaned back.

This lesbian movie starts the drama at 100 and then turns it up. It’s as French as it is over-the-top as it is gay gay gay. Only the French would cast Jane Birkin in a love triangle with another woman and a man PLAYED BY HER BROTHER. It’s a brutal, unpleasant movie, but its magnetism is undeniable.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire

dir. Céline Sciamma, 2019
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Genre: drama, period piece, romance // Rating: ★★★★

Two women in 18th century dresses embrace in golden light.

Number 6 on our Best Lesbian Movies of All Time list. Read more.

Portrait of a Serial Monogamist

dir. Christina Zeidler, John Mitchell, 2015
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Genre: comedy, romance // Rating: ★★★

A woman smiles while riding her back around Toronto.

This anti-romcom follows the titular serial monogamist (and break-up expert) as she attempts to remain single, while longing for her ex and a barista crush. It’s light-hearted, Jewish, and Canadian. The film is as noteworthy for its relatable plotline as it is for its portrayal of the Toronto queer scene.

Princess Cyd

dir. Stephen Cone, 2017
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Genre: coming-of-age, comedy, drama // Rating: ★★★★

A nonbinary person kisses the back of a girl in a red bikini.

Number 31 on our Best Lesbian Movies of All Time list. Read more.

Professor Marston & the Wonder Women

dir. Angela Robinson, 2017
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Genre: drama, period piece, romance // Rating: ★★★★

A man demonstrates a rope tie on a woman's wrist while looking at another woman.

Number 16 on our Best Lesbian Movies of All Time list. Read more.

The Prom

dir. Ryan Murphy, 2020
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Genre: coming-of-age, musical // Rating: ★★★

Two girls dance outside at a high school in neon lights.

The rare big budget musical to focus on lesbians, Ryan Murphy’s Broadway adaptation is star-studded, sentimental, and filled with the kind of simple optimism ready-made to melt the hearts of former closeted theatre kids everywhere. This is a movie with lots and lots of zaz, but underneath all that glitz and glamour is the story of two small town lesbians who just want to be together — who just want to be themselves. In a cast of big names — like literally Meryl Streep — it’s IRL queers and on-screen newcomers Jo Ellen Pellman and Ariana DeBose who make the movie sing. The movie’s message might be simple, but high school is simple. Messy and complicated and tragic and scarring and hopeful and simple. Open your unruly heart to these teen lesbians and you’ll be dancing and singing your way into a future of possibility.

Puccini for Beginners

dir. Maria Maggenti, 2005
Our Review // Unavailable
Genre: comedy, romance // Rating: ★★1/2

Two women look up off camera.

Maria Maggenti’s very New York City romcom about a complicated love triangle is filled with charm due to some witty dialogue and great performances from Elizabeth Reaser and Gretchen Mol. Reaser’s Allegra is a self-identified lesbian afraid of commitment who suddenly falls for a man… and his ex-girlfriend. Chaos, of course, ensues. It’s not deep, but it is delightful.

Rafiki

dir. Wanuri Kahiu, 2018
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Genre: coming-of-age, drama, romance // Rating: ★★★★

Two girls, one with pink hair and the other in a pink hat, laugh while next to each other on a boat.

Number 30 on our Best Lesbian Movies of All Time list. Read more.

Reaching for the Moon

dir. Bruno Barreto, 2013
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Genre: drama, period piece, romance // Rating: ★★★

Two women cuddle on a bed with a champagne glass in the foreground.

Elizabeth Bishop and Lota de Macedo Soares’ relationship was far from peaceful and this movie shows it in all its messy glory. Miranda Otto and Glória Pires play the headstrong women and they’re both magnetic to watch in their brief moments of joy and in their frequent states of conflict. It’s a film about depression, substance abuse, and the creative process — and how all three affect romantic relationships.

Red Doors

dir. Georgia Lee, 2005
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Genre: comedy, drama // Rating: ★★★

A family sits around a table eating food.

This dramedy about a dysfunctional Chinese-American family is an absolute delight. Elaine Kao plays Julie Wong, the family’s middle daughter, a gay medical student who falls for a famous actress. Their romance provides the film’s sweetest storyline. It’s a touching film about family and the constant struggle to live life from a place of truth.

Les Rendez-vous d’Anna

dir. Chantal Akerman, 1978
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Genre: drama // Rating: ★★★★

A woman on a train rests her head on her hand.

Number 28 on our Best Lesbian Movies of All Time list. Read more.

Rent

dir. Chris Columbus, 2005
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Genre: musical // Rating: ★★1/2

Idina Menzel wraps her arms around Tracie Thoms in a crowd of people.

Even fans of the musical would likely agree — or especially agree — that this adaptation doesn’t quite have the same magic as the show. But it does still have Idina Menzel as bisexual dreamboat/nightmare Maureen and isn’t that enough?? Rent means so much to so many queers and while the movie may have disappointed it still deserves recognition for capturing part of that legacy.

Replay

dir. Catherine Corsini, 2001
Unavailable
Genre: drama // Rating: ★★★

A woman in a loose sweater places her hands on another woman's chest.

Catherine Corsini would go on to make the far more romantic Summertime, but first she made this twisted tale of obsessive love. Nathalie and Louise are childhood friends unwilling to admit their feelings for each other. Louise is especially taken and over the course of decades alternates between full commitment and spiteful abandonment. This is a painful movie about jealousy and the cost of internalized shame.

Ride or Die

dir. Ryuichi Hiroki, 2021
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Genre: drama, thriller // Rating: ★★★

Kiko Mizuhara looks up through her wet red hair.

Based on the popular manga Gunjō, Ryūichi Hiroki lesbian romance is bonkers and gratuitous in the best ways. While probably too long, the first half hour and the last half hour, and the chemistry between Kiko Mizuhara and Honami Sato, are good enough to justify the rest of the journey. If you want to complain about this movie having a “male gaze” or whatever — you wouldn’t be totally unjustified, but at least don’t erase that it was written by a woman, Nami Yoshikawa. This may not be the most authentic lesbian movie (whatever that means) but it’s about big, irrational feelings and what’s gayer than that?

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

dir. Jim Sharman, 1975
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Genre: classic, comedy, horror, musical // Rating: ★★★1/2

The silhouette through red fabric of two people about to kiss.

This musical cult classic isn’t usually associated specifically with queer women — but it should be! It’s safe to say Tim Curry’s Dr. Frank-N-Furter, the sweet transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania is, um, trans, and she’s very clearly bisexual. She has sex with Barry Bostwick’s Brad Majors and Susan Sarandon’s Janet. And damnit she also seems to have a sexual history with all of her henchmen and women. She may play into the predatory, less than consensual, murderous transfemme trope, but Rocky Horror is too campy to be taken so literally. Add in Columbia and Magenta all over each other during “Touch Me” and an orgy with all the characters at the end and it’s no wonder this one-of-a-kind musical has excited queer women and non-binary people for almost fifty years.

The Runaways

dir. Floria Sigismondi, 2010
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Genre: drama, musical, period piece // Rating: ★★★

Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett playing guitar.

Elevated by stellar performances from Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning and artful direction from Floria Sigismondi, this conventional music biopic tells the rise and fall of all-girl rock band The Runaways. It may fall into some of the genre’s silly tropes (watching Michael Shannon come up with “Cherry Bomb” on the spot is… an experience), but overall it’s a sexually fluid celebration of rock music and a cautionary tale of music industry misogyny.

Salmonberries

dir. Percy Adlon, 1991
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Genre: drama, romance // Rating: ★★1/2

A young kd lang in a blue robe kisses an older blonde woman.

All you really need to know about this movie is it stars kd lang. Yes, that kd lang. She plays an Inuit woman who has taken on a male identity to work as a miner in Alaska. She falls in love with an East German widower librarian much older than her and the two form an unlikely friendship/eventual romance. It’s a slow and odd film about identity and the past that doesn’t totally work but is endlessly fascinating.

Saving Face

dir. Alice Wu, 2004
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: comedy, drama, romance // Rating: ★★★★

Two women dancing looking into each other's eyes.

Number 2 on our Best Lesbian Movies of All Time list. Read more.

Second Star on the Right

dir. Ruth Caudeli, 2019
Our Review // Unavailable
Genre: comedy, drama // Rating: ★★★★

A woman cries behind the wheel of a car.

Number 33 on our Best Lesbian Movies of All Time list. Read more.

The Secrets

dir. Avi Nesher, 2007
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Genre: drama // Rating: ★★★

Two girls sit at a table with a pile of open books.

This story of two young women discovering queerness at a Jewish seminary is complicated by their encounter with a mysterious older woman eager to atone for her sins. Naomi and Michelle are both headstrong and brilliant even if Naomi is studious and conservative and Michelle is a rule-breaking, reluctant student. They quickly go from enemies to friends to lovers to co-conspirators as they assist this French stranger in her atonement. It’s a complicated film about faith and love and commitment to principles all in the face of patriarchy.

Set It Off

dir. F. Gary Gray, 1996
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: action, drama // Rating: ★★★★

Jada Pinkett Smith, Queen Latifah, Vivica A. Fox, and Kimberly Elise sit on a roof together.

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.

Set Me Free

dir. Léa Pool, 1999
Unavailable
Genre: coming-of-age, drama // Rating: ★★★★

A girl with her eyes open lies in bed next to a boy and a girl cuddling while asleep.

Number 34 on our Best Lesbian Movies of All Time list. Read more.

Shiva Baby

dir. Emma Seligman, 2020
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: comedy // Rating: ★★★1/2

Rachel Sennott walks down a suburban street with Molly Gordon.

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.

Shortbus

dir. John Cameron Mitchell, 2006
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Genre: comedy, drama, romance // Rating: ★★★★

A woman is kissed on the neck by another woman while a man from the other side grabs her boobs.

John Cameron Mitchell’s second film is most well-known for its unsimulated sex. But to say this movie is about sex is to say this movie is about all the things that come with sex — no pun intended. It’s about intimacy and emptiness and searching and, yes sure, orgasms. This is an ensemble film filled with lots of genders and sexuality, but at its center is Sook-Yin Lee’s Sofia, a couple’s counselor who has never experienced an orgasm. Her search takes her away from her husband and into a friendship with a melancholy dominatrix, a sex party where she’s coached by a room of lesbians, a makeout with real life icon Mx. Justin Vivian Bond, and eventually a threesome that might just be what she needed all along. American cinema is prude and a film like this was inevitably going to be consumed with its own controversy, but ultimately Mitchell’s film is a sweet tribute to the queer journey — when the journey itself is as important as the destination.

Show Me Love (Fucking Åmål)

dir. Lukas Moodyson, 1998
Unavailable
Genre: coming-of-age, romance // Rating: ★★★★

Two girls sit next to each other on the floor with some distance between each other.

Number 15 on our Best Lesbian Movies of All Time list. Read more.

Signature Move

dir. Jennifer Reeder, 2017
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Genre: comedy, romance, sports // Rating: ★★★1/2

Fawzia Mirza rests her head against a woman with the city behind them.

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!!

Simone Barbès or Virtue

dir. Marie-Claude Treilhou, 1980
Unavailable
Genre: classic, drama // Rating: ★★★1/2

A woman in a dress pulls a woman in a dress shirt and black vest toward her for a kiss. A male bartender speaks to another woman in the background.

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.

A Simple Favor

dir. Paul Feig, 2018
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: comedy, mystery, thriller // Rating: ★★★1/2

Anna Kendrick holds a camera and looks up at Blake Lively in a tux.

A neo-noir comedy with a queer twist, this expertly plotted seduction is all about Blake Lively in suits, Blake Lively in suits, and Blake Lively in suits. Anna Kendrick is so funny and compelling as we watch her oscillate between lust and envy, wanting to consume Lively, but settling for a friendship, a kiss, and then an obsession. With every turn the movie deepens, increasing in intrigue, leading to an explosive — if not very gay — finale. Oh also Linda Cardellini plays a lesbian.

Spider Lilies

dir. Chou Zero, 2007
Unavailable
Genre: drama, romance // Rating: ★★★

A close up of two women about to kiss.

Winner of Best First Feature at the 2007 Berlin Film Festival, lesbian filmmaker Chou Zero’s romantic drama is a striking film. Years after a sudden tragedy, a cam girl and a tattoo artist — and former childhood sweethearts — navigate their conflicting boundaries and familial obligations as they try to reconnect. Chou’s style is poetic and dreamlike always turning back to her heroines’ interior lives.

Stranger Inside

dir. Cheryl Dunye, 2001
Unavailable
Genre: drama // Rating: ★★★

A woman looks down at another woman sitting on a prison bed.

While more conventional in form and structure than much of Cheryl Dunye’s work, there’s still a lot to admire about this straight forward drama. Yolonda Ross is great as Treasure, an 18-year-old who meets her mother for the first time in prison. Dunye spent four years researching women’s prisons before making this project and that work is clear in the world that she builds for her characters.

The Strings

dir. Ryan Glover, 2020
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Genre: drama, horror, musical // Rating: ★★★★

A close up on Teagan Johnston wearing red eye make up, their hair blowing in the wind, and a winter coat around them.

More Chantal Akerman than your average cabin in the woods thriller, cinematographer Ryan Glover’s directorial debut is arthouse horror with an emphasis on the arthouse. And yet the deliberate pace is manageable when the form and subject are this compelling. The movie follows Catherine, a queer musician isolating at a remote cabin after a break up — a break up break up and a band break up. Catherine is played by musician Teagan Johnston, who also wrote the film’s songs. They have a casually watchable on-screen presence which is useful because we spend most of the movie doing just that — watching them drive, watching them drink, watching them write music. But what begins as lonely and mundane ultimately builds to moments of absolute terror. This movie has ghosts, this movie has great music, this movie has incredible cinematography, and, best of all, this movie has queer make outs.

Stud Life

dir. Campbell X, 2012
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Genre: comedy, drama // Rating: ★★★

A stud kisses a femme with the London cityscape behind them.

This low-budget slice of queer London life centers on a black stud named JJ who vlogs about her experiences. Her best friend is a white gay man and the film focuses on that friendship and JJ’s new relationship with humor and sharp accuracy. There’s some casual transphobia and whorephobia, but it feels true to the messy characters trying to figure out how to navigate their community. Overall this is a really stellar film that feels grounded in a specificity we rarely see on screen.

Suicide Kale

dir. Carly Usdin, 2016
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: comedy, drama // Rating: ★★★★

Jasika Nicole and Brittani Nichols stand across from each other looking serious and leaning on furniture.

Number 36 on our Best Lesbian Movies of All Time list. Read more.

The Summer of Sangaile

dir. Alante Kavaite, 2015
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Genre: coming-of-age, drama // Rating: ★★★1/2

Two girls lie in a field of wildflowers together.

This is a lush and sensual film. The cinematography does not simply capture the beautiful scenery and costumes and actors, but heightens their beauty. This is a film about depression and self-harm and self-destruction, yet the beauty that surrounds them and the beauty of their love is enough to fight off the demons. It’s rare that a film that deals this harshly with mental illness doesn’t feel the need to lessen its love story. Depression isn’t romanticized, it’s a hurdle, but it’s a hurdle that’s possible to clear.

Summertime

dir. Catherine Corsini, 2015
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Genre: drama, period piece, romance // Rating: ★★★1/2

A young woman lies her head on a nude woman's stomach.

France! Lesbians! Feminism! This properly warm period piece follows Delphine, a sheltered rural queer, who falls in love with older activist Carole in 1971. It’s a celebration of first love, collective action, and the people who pave the way towards self-discovery. Izïa Higelin and Cécile de France are so gorgeous and hot together and give heartbreaking performances and the movie is just bursting with romance in every sense of the word.

Tahara

dir. Olivia Peace, 2020
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Genre: coming-of-age, comedy // Rating: ★★★★

A girl with an autumnal tree behind her looks down at another girl.

Number 49 on our Best Lesbian Movies of All Time list. Read more.

Take Me for a Ride

dir. Micaela Rueda, 2016
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Genre: coming-of-age, drama // Rating: ★★1/2

Two girls hold hands and life them in the air.

A simple coming-of-age movie about queer teen love in Ecuador, Take Me For a Ride works because of the precise cinematography and the chemistry between lead actors Samanta Caicedo and Maria Juliana Rangel. The drama remains low-key and the film feels like a personal snapshot.

TÁR

dir. Todd Field, 2022
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: drama // Rating: ★★★

Cate Blanchett conducts an orchestra.

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.

Thelma

dir. Joachim Trier, 2017
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Genre: coming-of-age, drama, horror // Rating: ★★★

A girl lies in bed looking at the back of another girl who is sleeping.

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.

Therese and Isabelle

dir. Radley Metzger, 1968
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Genre: classic, coming-of-age, romance // Rating: ★★★

Two girls rest their heads against each other.

A landmark of lesbian cinema caught between Violette Leduc’s poetic truth and director Radley Metzger’s male gaze, this is an imperfect yet worthy work. This boarding school tale of young love avoids most of the tropes associated with similar stories, trading in plot for extended sex scenes, lush narration, and a visual representation of haunting memory. The second half of the film is especially stunning, for its time, yes, but for our time as well.

This Place

dir. V.T. Nayani, 2022
Unavailable
Genre: drama, romance // Rating: ★★★1/2

Devery Jacobs as Kawenniióhstha looks at Priya Guns as Malai in soft pink and blue lighting with one hand touching her hair.

V.T. Nayani’s debut is a lesbian romance that has never been told. The romance itself is an escape, a connection, a reminder to both women that they can’t move forward until they look back. The conflicts of the film do not come from the usual tropes but rather from the scars of colonialism, the challenges of immigration, the fights recently fought, and those left to fight. This is the rare lesbian film with an interracial relationship that doesn’t include a white person, but to celebrate that alone is to ignore the real achievement: the specificity in how the film portrays the cultural backgrounds and individual characters of Malai (Priya Guns), a Tamal woman whose family immigrated from Sri Lanka, and Kawenniióhstha (Devery Jacobs), a Mohawk woman whose father (whom she never met) is Iranian. The film is as much about their separate explorations of their pasts as it is the connection they find with each other. All of these threads of story are balanced deftly, always grounded in the people, the cultures, the places, and the time periods on display. The performances and the filmmaking create a palpable intimacy on-screen, between the romantic leads, between the families. Even as the film deals with serious topics, a warmth pervades.

Titane

dir. Julia Ducournau, 2021
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: drama, horror // Rating: ★★★1/2

Agathe Rousselle lies on white carpet stairs in a turquoise tank top looking up.

Car fucking, the Macarena, the metal hairpin, the bathroom sink transformation, the roommate slaughter — Julia Ducournau’s Titane is a film that invented its own mythology. So many details and moments demanded a place in our collective film consciousness, but Titane’s deepest achievements are found in the subtleties. Ducournau knows genre and she uses her shock and awe to seduce us into her twisted — and melancholy — exploration of gender and family. This isn’t a movie with answers. It’s an exploration. It’s a feeling. It’s a confounding work of art. It’s worth celebrating something so moving, so horrifying, so entertaining, so puzzling. Ducournau is an artist who is so confident in her ideas and in her form. If you’re open to it, she’ll take you for a ride.

To Faro

dir. Nana Neul, 2008
Unavailable
Genre: coming-of-age, drama, romance // Rating: ★★★

A girl runs on the beach holding hands with a tomboy.

Melanie dreams of going to Portugal to live out all her queer dreams. But instead she’s stuck in a small German town at a job she hates. When she meets Jenny and is mistaken for a boy she decides to take on the alter ego of Miguel, a sweet Portuguese boy that quickly wins Jenny’s heart. This results in a tender — but at times harrowing — tale of sexual and gender discovery. The twist that Jenny is younger than she first says adds an unnecessary uncomfortable element to the whole movie, but it’s still an affecting coming of age drama.

Tomboy

dir. Céline Sciamma, 2011
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Genre: coming-of-age, drama // Rating: ★★★★

A young person dressed as a boy stands against a pale blue wall next to a girl standing in front of a grassy background.

The quietest film of genius lesbian filmmaker Céline Sciamma’s already staggering career, Tomboy tells the story of 10-year-old Laure who is mistaken for a boy and begins to go by Mikael. Sciamma doesn’t clarify Laure/Mikael’s identity, instead living in the soft interiority of her protagonist’s exploration. They feel uncomfortable as a girl — or at least as the kind of girl they’re expected to be — and they long for the acceptance they are granted as Mikael. Tomboy was not originally included on this list, because it’s easy to read a trans male narrative onto Mikael. But just as Sciamma never provides easy answers, the film does not find easy categorization. Its resonance with queer people of many genders made it previously feel like an absence and now a worthy inclusion. Zoé Héran’s performance at the center of the film is one of the best by a young performer in recent years. This is a tender and beautiful film about queer childhood — its many hardships and its small moments of joy.

Tove

dir. Zaida Bergroth, 2020
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Genre: drama, period piece // Rating: ★★★

Alma Poystï leans her arms and head on a table with a pen in her mouth.

While this biopic of Moomin creator Tove Jansson is relatively straightforward, it’s elevated by a casual gay angst and a strong central performance from Alma Poystï. It follows Jansson as she struggles between her desire to be a serious artist and her increasing Moomin fame. Meanwhile, she has a series of relationships with people of various genders as she continues her pursuit for a truly free life. That freedom is felt especially in the party scenes that welcome us into Jansson’s bohemia. A fun fact is Jansson was a Leo sun, Pisces moon, Libra rising, so the dyke drama is on full display. An even more fun fact is ALL THREE of her love interests featured in this movie were Aquariuses!

The Truth About Jane

dir. Lee Rose, 2000
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: coming-of-age, drama // Rating: ★★1/2

A girl laughs eating an ice cream cone next to her mom.

Corny and wholesome — but still affecting — this coming-of-age movie follows Jane as she falls in love for the first time and comes out to her family and school. At its best when focusing on Jane’s relationships with queer mentors played by RuPaul and Kelly Rowan, it’s a simple but sweet tearjerker. Her tenuous relationship with her mother played by Stockard Channing is painfully relatable even as it alternates between realistic and heavy-handed.

Two of Us

dir. Filippo Meneghetti, 2019
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: drama, romance // Rating: ★★★

Two older women look at each other in golden light.

There are two reasons to suffer through this tale of star-crossed elderly lesbians: Martine Chevallier and Barbara Sukowa. These two performances take a well-made maudlin story and make it an epic weepy worth crying over. They create characters we immediately care about and the love they show together feels real and lived-in. There are not nearly enough queer films focusing on older characters and while this may not be the most satisfying fill of that gap, it’s still noteworthy. The world may be against these two women but they do not accept their fate. They fight for their love, they fight for each other. It’s a beautiful — if painful — journey.

Unpregnant

dir. Rachel Goldenberg, 2020
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Genre: coming-of-age, comedy // Rating: ★★★

Two girls screaming out the top of a car on a desert highway, from Unpregnant.

A pro-choice friendship comedy, Rachel Goldenberg’s road trip romp is juggling a lot of tones. But its combination of silly and serious works, because of the two stellar performances at its center. Haley Lu Richardson and Barbie Ferreira create characters that are easy to root for and a chemistry that’s a joy to watch. Ferreira is queer IRL and she just feels so queer in every moment here. It’s exciting that we’re at a place where so many teen movies have at least one queer character — even more exciting that so much of young Hollywood is queer and can openly play those parts. The central love story of the film is the platonic one between the friends but fret not Ferreira still gets a crush and a kiss — with a monster truck driver played by Betty Who!

Unveiled

dir. Angelina Maccarone, 2005
Unavailable
Genre: drama, romance // Rating: ★★★

Two women in beanies stand among leafy crops.

Jasmin Tabatabai gives a phenomenal performance in this story of an Iranian lesbian pretending to be a man and seeking asylum in Germany. It’s a difficult and heartbreaking film, but writer/director Angelina Maccarone resists easy dramatic choices in favor of a melancholy complexity.

V for Vendetta

dir. James McTeigue, 2005
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Genre: action, drama // Rating: ★★★1/2

Natalie Portman looks up with a shaved head and gloved hands on her shoulder.

Trust the Wachowskis to center queerness in a big budget action movie adaptation of an Alan Moore graphic novel. While Natalie Portman’s Evey and Hugo Weaving’s masked V aren’t queer — explicitly anyway — in extended flashback we watch how the film’s authoritarian government separated Valerie, played by Natasha Wightman, from her lover. It’s Valerie’s story that inspired V and inspires Evey, and ultimately inspires us, the audience. This lesbian love story is the emotional center of this film about revolution in the face of tyranny. It’s a fitting addition to a remarkable body of work from queer trans women sisters Lilly and Lana Wachowski — officially as screenwriters and rumored as co-directors.

Valencia

dir. Clement Hil Goldberg & others, 2013
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: comedy, drama, experimental // Rating: ★★★★

Angelina Jolie from Gia with Michelle Tea's glasses pasted over her face.

Number 48 on our Best Lesbian Movies of All Time list. Read more.

Vampyros Lesbos

dir. Jesus Franco, 1971
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: classic, horror // Rating: ★★★1/2

A woman looks up wide eyed as another woman bites her neck.

The most well-known and most accomplished of 1970s lesbian vampire sexploitation, Franco’s appropriately named film is a bonkers explosion of guilty pleasure male gaze. The leftover-from-the-60s score and imagery that ranges from boats to scorpions makes for a silly and captivating viewing experience. Soledad Miranda is impossible to resist as a performer and a vampire.

Violette

dir. Martin Provost, 2013
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Genre: drama, period piece // Rating: ★★★

Two women sit across from each other at a French café.

An accomplished and thoughtful biopic led by a remarkable performance from Emmanuelle Devos, this retelling of the life of Violette Leduc is an excellent introduction to one of the great queer women writers in history. The film largely focuses on Leduc’s personal and professional relationship with Simone de Beauvoir as the two women rise in literary esteem. It’s a rather chaste film considering Leduc’s work but it’s still an interesting look at a troubled yet accomplished artist.

Vita and Virginia

dir. Chanya Button, 2018
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Genre: drama, period piece, romance // Rating: ★★★

Elizabeth Debicki and Gemma Arterton almost kiss.

While not quite the masterpiece these two icons deserve, there’s still a lot to love about this bold retelling of one of queer history’s greatest love stories. With a discordant score from Isobel Waller-Bridge, Chanya Button’s film refuses to stay in the past, ensuring its tale of women writers, polyamory, and unsustainable connection feels alive and current. Elizabeth Debicki and Gemma Arterton are a pleasure to watch and ultimately the film is as much about these individuals as writers as it is about them as lovers.

Walk on the Wild Side

dir. Edward Dmytryk, 1962
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: classic, drama // Rating: ★★★1/2

Jane Fonda pleads with Capucine who has her back against a window.

Barbara Stanwyck has a hot gay energy in most of her work, but only in this film did she actually play a lesbian. Unfortunately, the character is cruel and controlling in a sad way, not a sexy way. But this film that often feels like Tennessee Williams-lite isn’t lacking in pleasures. Jane Fonda’s scrappy sex worker Kitty Twist more than makes up for the story’s more maudlin elements. And even if she isn’t given the opportunity to embrace her sex appeal, Stanwyck humanizes the trope with the deep pain of an unhappy woman dissatisfied with her life’s circumstances.

Water Lilies

dir. Céline Sciamma, 2007
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: coming-of-age, drama // Rating: ★★★★

Two girls make eye contact in a school gym shower.

Number 25 on our Best Lesbian Movies of All Time list. Read more.

The Watermelon Woman

dir. Cheryl Dunye, 1996
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Genre: comedy, drama // Rating: ★★★★

Cheryl Dunye stands next to Guinevere Turner in a video store.

Number 5 on our Best Lesbian Movies of All Time list. Read more.

Welcome to the USA

dir. Assel Aushakimova, 2019
Unavailable
Genre: drama // Rating: ★★★1/2

Two women talk with a snowy backdrop behind them.

This is the only Kazakh film on this list and it’s always such a treat to get a window into a new country’s lesbian culture and cinema — especially when the film is this good. The title alludes not to the film’s setting, but to the future destination of the protagonist Aliya, wonderfully portrayed by Saltanat Nauruz. She has won the green card lottery and is beginning to say goodbye to a home she resents. Saltanat Nauruz is wonderful as Aliya. This subtle film is largely effective because of her performance. The whole film feels culturally and personally specific even as it explores issues many queer people face such as obligation vs. desire. It isn’t plot-heavy, but what’s on screen lingers long after it ends.

Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy

dir. Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, 2021
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: drama, romance // Rating: ★★★★

Fusako Urabe and Aoba Kawai stand on an elevated train platform holding hands.

The first “short story” in Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s triptych is called “Magic (or Something Less Assuring).” It’s a fitting subtitle for a movie that’s technically a series of realist conversations yet somehow crackles with the energy of an epic fairy tale. These are love stories, lust stories, stories of regret. They feel so regular until they feel like so much more. All three sections of the movie are beautiful, but it’s the last section — the gay section — that makes the film such a triumph. In a film of unlikely connections, Natsuko (Fusako Urabe) and Aya (Aoba Kawai) form the strangest and most beautiful. We can’t predict the lives we’ll lead, but we can appreciate the connections we make along the way. This is not a love story between two people — it’s a love story with the act of love.

When Night is Falling

dir. Patricia Rozema, 1995
Unavailable
Genre: drama, romance // Rating: ★★★

Two women kiss against a wall.

Silly melodrama and lesbian movie tropes are simply a mask for a queer poetic vision in this love it or hate it drama from Patricia Rozema. Pascale Bussières’ uptight Christian college professor and Rachel Crawford’s sexually forward circus performer are magic together finding just the right chemistry for the movie’s specific tone. With endless creative flourishes, Rozema set out to make a film about queer desire and either you’ll want to mock it or live in it — or maybe both.

Who’s Afraid of Vagina Woolf?

dir. Anna Margarita Albelo, 2013
Watch It
Genre: comedy // Rating: ★★1/2

Anna Margarita Albelo wears a vagina costume as Guinevere Turner and another woman stand behind her.

Anna Margarita Albelo’s unique comic sensibility is on full display in this funny, charming movie based on a fictionalized version of herself. Low-budget and a bit all over the place, Albelo’s film works due to her committed performance, an endless formal inventiveness, and its unashamedly lesbian world. Also Guinevere Turner and Janina Gavankar co-star and Albelo spends much of the movie dressed in a vagina costume. What else do you need to know?

Wild Nights with Emily

dir. Madeleine Olnek, 2018
Our Review // Watch It
Genre: comedy, period piece // Rating: ★★★1/2

Molly Shannon lies in bed with another woman.

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.

Wild Things

dir. John McNaughton, 1998
Watch It
Genre: drama, thriller // Rating: ★★1/2

Denise Richards and Neve Campbell kiss in a pool.

The erotic thrillers of the 90s aren’t lacking in girls kissing. Many of our gay awakenings were born out of male gaze exploitation flicks with little interest in our interior lives and more interest in our exterior titties. But with all its nonsensical twists, this movie best known for its threesome scene and its pool makeout, emerges as the standout. Queer characters of this era weren’t only villainized, but punished, their gayness often minimized. But — spoiler alert — Wild Things lets its lesbians win. In its attempt to place twist on top of twist on top of twist it seemingly stumbles into an end that’s kind of radical: gay Neve Campbell sailing off into the sunset.

A Woman Like Eve

dir. Nouchka van Brakel, 1979
Watch It
Genre: drama, romance // Rating: ★★★

Two women kiss on a staircase.

Both ahead of its time and a product of its time, Nouchka van Brakel‘s classic is as much a work of feminism as it is a work of lesbianism. Monique van de Ven plays Eve, a housewife who has had enough. Her husband sends her on a beach vacation so she can collect herself and keep doing his laundry and instead she meets Liliane, a lesbian who lives on a commune. Maria Schneider plays Liliane with a dykey allure, a sexual autonomy robbed from her more famous roles. For Eve, Lilian and lesbianism provide not only new love but an alternate life, one where she’s more than just a wife and mother. The challenge becomes balance — can Eve maintain her new life off the commune? How can she live outside mainstream society while still living within it?

Women Who Kill

dir. Ingrid Jungermann, 2016
Watch It
Genre: comedy, romance, thriller // Rating: ★★★1/2

Ingrid Jungermann looks scared as Sheila Vand walks behind her.

Part romcom/part thriller, Ingrid Jungermann’s film is about the scariest subject of all: commitment. With great performances from Jungermann, Sheila Vand, and a stacked supporting cast, the film balances all its conflicting tones. It becomes a solemn meditation on love and vulnerability, but it’s hilarious along the way.

Working Girls

dir. Lizzie Borden, 1986
Watch It
Genre: drama // Rating: ★★★★

Four women squeeze into a tight kitchen. Two are wearing professional attire, one is wearing a tank top, and one just has on 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.

The World Unseen

dir. Shamim Sarif, 2007
Watch It
Genre: drama, period piece, romance // Rating: ★★1/2

Two women kiss in bed.

Shamim Sarif’s period melodrama based on her own novel is a corny love story — in all the best ways. Set in apartheid era South Africa, Sarif places her lovers in the context of several relationships banned by the racist and homophobic state. Lisa Ray and Sheetal Sheth have so much chemistry and Sheth is especially great as she gallavants around in pants giving speeches about feminism. Its message of acceptance is not particularly deep or radical, but Sarif knows exactly the kind of film she’s trying to make and she does so excellently.

Yes or No

dir. Sarasawadee Wongsompetch, 2010
Watch It
Genre: comedy, drama, romance // Rating: ★★1/2

A femme sits next to a tomboy in a dorm room.

With a cheesy score and endless adolescent feelings, this popular Thai film about a “normal” girl and her “tomboy” college roommate will make you feel 18 again. This movie may send a terrible message to baby butches in love with their lowkey homophobic seemingly straight girl roommates, but it’s simply too adorable to resist.

You & Me Forever

dir. Kaspar Munk, 2012
Unavailable
Genre: coming-of-age, drama // Rating: ★★1/2

Two girls laugh as one drinks from a glass.

Brutal and filled with heterosexual sex, nevertheless this film is noteworthy for its realistic portrayal of teenage confusion. The protagonist isn’t sure why she’s so taken with the bisexual new girl in school, but she’s quickly at her mercy. The film painfully portrays how susceptible closeted queer people can be to manipulation and the immense cruelty of teenage girls.

Young & Wild

dir. Marialy Rivas, 2012
Watch It
Genre: coming-of-age, drama // Rating: ★★★

Two girls almost kiss.

This sexually explicit coming-of-age movie follows Daniela, a painfully horny teen living in an evangelical household in Chile. She writes about her escapades (and her family) on her popular blog, but her feelings are more complex than her blog might lead on. Her guilt increases as sex turns into bisexuality turns into infidelity. With a range of specific sex scenes and well-drawn relationships, the film is a painful and inspiring tale of desire.


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Drew Burnett Gregory

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

Drew Burnett has written 330 articles for us.

26 Comments

  1. Any love at all for “Blow Dry”? As one can tell from the (poorly-made, IMO) trailer, it doesn’t center it’s lesbian couple (Rachel Griffiths and Natasha Richardson). But their story is very poignant, and in the end, it’s a positive story of blended-family.

  2. Thank you for this list, there are plenty of recent and older titles I wasn’t familiar with, and a good reminder of a lot of movies I’ve enjoyed. I also have quite a few titles to submit for consideration which I will come back to do!

  3. Following on from the above, these are my fave suggestions to add:

    April’s Shower – low budget
    and of its time, but sweet
    The Baby Formula –
    mockumentary, interesting concept
    of both women being pregnant at
    once, not to mention the “science”
    behind it
    Being John Malkovich – I’ve seen
    Jude Doyle’s read of this as a trans,
    rather than lesbian, film but I can’t
    recall without a rewatch how it
    comes across, certainly a very
    original film
    Bye Bye Blondie – very
    mainstream-style romance with
    major French actors
    Clouds of Sils Maria – YMMV on
    the explicitness of the queer content
    but a fantastic film that feels so
    queer. I love how Juliette Binoche’s
    character traverses the entire gender presentation spectrum like that ‘futch’ meme.
    Dual – lovely quiet Slovenian film
    about two women who connect
    briefly
    The Edge of Heaven – classy German-Turkish film with a lovely lesbian couple, though not a happy film at all
    A Family Affair – a low-budget
    2000s Jewish family coming out
    film
    French Twist – this film is very French!
    The Girl Who Played With Fire
    and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest – these sequels to the
    Swedish film are the better stories
    for me and the middle one (at least)
    has more explicit queerness.
    Ghostbusters – it’s a small part of the movie but Holtzman’s queerness is clear
    Girl, Interrupted – the kiss between Winona and Angelina in this movie is my root
    Girltrash: All Night Long – I know this didn’t turn out quite the way the director wanted it, but I think it’s such an enjoyable film in a class with DEBS
    Henry and June – sexy, serious, literary
    Jamie and Jessie Are Not Together – cute musical romcom
    Kaboom – it’s a trip
    Kinsey – it’s a small role but Lynn Redgrave is so powerful as an older woman with a beautiful “it gets better” story
    The Laramie Project – play adaptation with various queer characters
    Laurence Anyways – gradually developing love story between a trans and a cis woman

    The Monkey’s Mask – I don’t love this film but it’s one of the biggest Australian lesbian films, and an adaptation of an excellent book
    The Mountain/Fjellet – slow burn romantic drama
    Nathalie… and Chloe – I love the complex screenplay of the original, but I also love the explicit sexiness of the remake so they each have their advantages
    The Other Side of the Bed and
    The Two Sides of the Bed – Spanish musicals with the tone of 8 Women although I can’t vouch for how they’ve aged. In the first film, one of two male friends thinks his girlfriend is cheating on him with her lesbian friend. In the second, both girlfriends are indeed cheating and in love with each other.
    Prey for Rock and Roll – rock music drama with some heavy storylines and a bunch of queer women
    The Ring Thing and That’s Not Us
    – interesting, low-budget Canadian
    talkies. One is about and the other
    features a lesbian couple.
    Room in Rome – I know many
    don’t consider this a good film, but I
    find it romantic and sexy and enjoy
    the lush hotel and the music
    The Spanish Apartment and its
    sequels Russian Dolls and Chinese
    Puzzle – the lesbian here is never
    the main character, but we get to see her love life and her close friendship
    with the male character as she grows over the years
    Tru Loved (2008) – early and cute
    example of a portrayal of lesbian
    parents of a teenage kid
    Vivere – don’t remember this well
    but it was a thoughtful drama
    What’s Cooking – an early holiday
    movie with lesbian representation
    Wild Side – a must-watch for fans
    of Bound. Not as good but very very
    similar and came out the same year.
    A classic Antz/A Bug’s Life
    situation!

  4. thank you so much for this, Drew. actually I had been waiting for this sort of thing. <3 merci. I love your passion for cinema, I guess you are partially responsible for my own exploration of cinema

  5. https://flashbak.com/a-time-before-netflix-vintage-tv-movie-of-the-week-adverts-365256/

    “A triad of lesbian movies aired in the late 1970s: (1) The War Widow (1976), about a woman who falls for another gal while her spouse is off fighting in World War I. (2) This little gem from 1977 starring Barbara Hershey as a lesbian on trial for murdering her blackmailer. And, finally, (3) the 1978 drama A Question of Love which was hugely popular and paved the way for a tidal wave of lesbian TV flicks in the 1980s.”

    In (2) Barbara Hershey and Diana Scarwid have a sizzling jail scene in “In the Glitter Palace/ A Woman Accused.” As a reviewer noted, “I had to give it two stars just because it was so much fun to see Chad Everett get tromped by misanthropic lesbians in a bar.” There’s also also a corrupt closeted lesbian judge.

    Sadly the transfer for VHS/DVD has trash audio. Hopefully someday it will get a proper release.

  6. This is so cool, if you haven’t seen these lesbian movies you should definitely watch them and possibly add them to this list as well. Elisa y Marcela (2019), amazing movie, and then Desire (AKA “Q”, 2011), only certain parts of that one were amazing if you know what I mean.

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