Every Lesbian Movie That Played at the Cannes Film Festival Ranked

The 77th Cannes Film Festival begins today and, like many cinephiles world-wide, I’ll be observing from afar as some of the best new movies — and some tragic disappointments — make their debuts. I’ll also be on the look out for any lesbian films.

See, the artsier the film festival, the more likely a movie that’s not marketed as a Lesbian Film™ will in fact be a lesbian film. Or at least have some homoeroticism. There are so many ways for movies to be queer that don’t fit into our cultural idea of what counts as LGBTQ+ cinema.

While we wait to hear what this year brings, I decided to go back through history and rank every lesbian movie that’s played in competition at Cannes.

NOTE: I use lesbian movie to basically mean any movie about our featuring queer women. As I just said, a lot of French movies are randomly a bit gay, so if I missed anything on this list, let me know!

29. The Neon Demon (dir. Nicolas Winding Refn, 2016)

Not even predatory lesbian Jena Malone can save this one for me…

28. La Pirate (dir. Jacques Doillon, 1984)

Jane Birkin and her brother play lovers and that might not even be the craziest thing about this movie. But bonkers doesn’t always equal great! And apparently director Jacques Doillon is a violent creep so this is an easy one to skip.

27. Benedetta (dir. Paul Verhoeven, 2021)

This has its defenders and maybe I need to rewatch. As I said in my review, I just expected even more blasphemy from Verhoeven.

26. Love Songs (dir. Christophe Honoré, 2007)

I love a throuple movie and this musical is fun enough in a French filled with grief sort of way.

25. Thieves (dir. André Téchiné, 1996)

Hot queer mom philosophy professor Catherine Deneuve makes this worth a watch even if its fractured heist tale doesn’t quite come together in the end.

Cannes lesbian movies: Catherine Deneuve holds Laurence Côte with a hand on her cheek

Catherine Deneuve and Laurence Côte in Thieves

24. Basic Instinct (dir. Paul Verhoeven, 1992)

This one has been reclaimed by the queers for a reason, but it’s still maybe my least favorite of Verhoeven’s classics.

23. House of Tolerance (dir. Bertrand Bonello, 2011)

A stylish and bleak portrait of the economics of sex work. I admire the form and intent — as well as the great cast — but I can’t help think Lizzie Borden’s Working Girls does it better and with more subtlety.

22. Replay (dir. Catherine Corsini, 2001)

Years before Catherine Corsini made the sensual and romantic Summertime, she made this twisted tale of a toxic friendship/relationship. I kind of love it even though I’ve maintained some objectivity with its placement here.

21. The Nun (dir. Jacques Rivette, 1966)

Starring French film icon Anna Karina, this is a properly dour portrait of Catholicism with a range of repressed, manipulated, and/or sinister nuns, including one horny lesbian.

20. Symptoms (dir. José Ramón Larraz, 1974)

Like Psycho for cis lesbians. Do with that what you will.

19. Crush (dir. Alison Maclean, 1992)

An unpleasant film repulsed by its own eroticism, a sickening swirl of guilt and trauma and abuse. But also starring a very hot Marcia Gay Harden as a bisexual nightmare.

Marcia Gay Harden in a red jacket looks at Caitlin Bossley in a baseball cap, a river behind them.

Marcia Gay Harden and Caitlin Bossley in Crush

18. Knife+Heart (dir. Yann Gonzalez)

One of the few neo-Giallo films that actually captures the magic of the genre.

17. Blue is the Warmest Color (dir. Abdellatif Kechiche, 2013)

For some, this movie would be at the bottom. For others, at the top. I’m putting it in the middle!

16. Clouds of Sils Maria (dir. Olivier Assayas, 2014)

Finally, a movie that understands the homoerotic tension that can exist when running lines with an actor. And also when Juliette Binoche is your boss. (I imagine.)

15. Julieta (dir. Pedro Almodóvar)

I think this is among Almodóvar’s most underrated films. It may be a bit fractured, but its many pieces are divine.

14. Another Way (dir. Károly Makk, 1982)

This list is filled with some very bleak movies, but this one is really worth the misery.

13. BPM (Beats Per Minute) (dir. Robin Campillo, 2017)

And speaking of misery, this portrait of AIDS activism in France doesn’t shy away from the pain of the moment, but it also finds hope in political solidarity… and dancing at the club.

Adèle Haenel wearing an Act Up Silence=Death shirt walks through a hallway with a group of men behind her.

Adèle Haenel in BPM (Beats Per Minute)

12. Maps to the Stars (dir. David Cronenberg, 2014)

It’s been ten years. We now all agree this is great, right?

11. Showing Up (dir. Kelly Reichardt, 2022)

Kelly Reichardt loves people with such frustration and depth. This movie fills my soul as an artist and a person trying my best.

10. Titane (dir. Julia Ducournau, 2021)

There are so many movies in this one movie and I love all of them.

9. Anatomy of a Fall (dir. Justine Triet, 2023)

It’s pretty fucking cool that two of the last three Palme d’Or winners were queer movies directed by women! Even cooler that they’re both masterpieces.

8. Crash (dir. David Cronenberg, 1996)

A movie that is at once completely visceral and completely intellectual. I think about it all the time. I feel about it all the time.

7. The Inheritance (dir. Márta Mészáros, 1980)

I don’t know if the homoeroticism here qualifies it for this list, but I’m including it because Márta Mészáros is one of the most underrated filmmakers of all time and this is one of her masterpieces. The best narrative Holocaust movie ever made.

Cannes lesbian movies: Isabelle Huppert kisses Lili Monori's cheek in a close up.

Lili Monori and Isabelle Huppert in The Inheritance

6. All About Eve (dir. Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1950)

One of those movies that really is as good as you remember. I just wrote about its take on lesbianism.

5. The Handmaiden (dir. Park Chan-wook, 2016)

An inspired adaptation. So fun, so sexy, so beautifully crafted.

4. Carol (dir. Todd Haynes, 2015)

Did you know you can walk around New York listening to the Carol score and it will give any activity the homosexual gravitas you deserve?

3. All About My Mother (dir. Pedro Almodóvar, 1999)

A tribute to women: actresses, transsexuals, lesbians, mothers, and any and every combination of those words.

2. Mulholland Drive (dir. David Lynch, 2001)


1. Portrait of a Lady on Fire (dir. Céline Sciamma, 2019)

There are many ways for a film to be radical. Within the subgenre of lesbian cinema, a romantic period piece about two cis white women may be an unlikely recipient of the word. But from the unique voice of Céline Sciamma, this is an explosive film, a reinvention of cinematic language through a uniquely lesbian gaze. It’s a masterpiece that grows richer with every passing year, every viewing, every time one of its images crosses my mind.

Cannes lesbian movies: Adèle Haenel and Noémie Merlant cry by the sea with their heads together and Merlant's hands on Haenel's face.

Adèle Haenel and Noémie Merlant in Portrait of a Lady on Fire

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Drew Burnett Gregory

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

Drew Burnett has written 539 articles for us.


  1. RIP to anyone who decides anatomy of a fall on a gay data solely based on the fact that it’s on the list XD that being said Portrait of a Lady on Fire changed my relationship to art so, you are correct.

  2. Hi Drew,

    I’ve been reading autostraddle for a longtime and never commented on anything before, but reading that a movie from Jacques Doillon is in this list without any warning whatsoever was a bit alarming to me.

    As a French cinephile working in the industry, that reads the news, there has been a huge opening of speech for the last few months. The actress Judith Godrèche – but also others, like Isild Le Besco – started openly speaking for the 1st time about what they lived as child-actresses who have been seriously abused by directors. One of those directors is Jacques Doillon, you can find a Variety article about it:

    It would be much appreciated if you didn’t “promote” his work. I’m not saying this in an accusing or condenscending way, as I know that it’s kinda recent news and maybe too niche to reach everyone in the world. But it feels like there is a huge French cinema- and others – metoo comeback since the beginning of the year, and it has been both apalling (to see any form of abuse so systematically anchored) and amazing (to watch – mostly women – speak openly about what they’ve kept hidden for so long and how it feels like most people want change). There is really no more place for directors like Jacques Doillon in any “top” list whatsoever, but especially on a website that talks so much about women rights, film culture etc.

    • I had no idea, so thank you for letting me know! For what it’s worth this isn’t a top list, but a ranking of every lesbian movie to play in competition at Cannes. Since the movie is at the bottom, safe to say I wouldn’t promote the film even separate from the director’s violent behavior. But I’ll still add a note!

      • Thank you Drew! I understand it’s a ranking and trying to be exhaustive. But I’m actually in Cannes right now and it still such a vibrant subject that I had to let you know.

        If you want to add another one, I believe Heart + Knife was in Official Selection as well? which is probably much more enjoyable either way :)

  3. Seeing them in a shared list like this has me thinking; would I have put The Handmaiden above Carol? Even though i LOVE Carol? Maybe!

    Excited to watch my way thru the top ten or so!

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