Now, An Updated Edition Of The 102 Best Lesbian Movies Of All Time

When we put together our list of the 100 Best Lesbian Movies of All Time in the summer of 2015, we didn’t anticipate needing to revise or update it at any point — I mean it was hard enough to find 100 excellent lesbian/bisexual/queer films that came out between “the beginning of time” and that summer. But, indeed additional films have been released or re-discovered, and, my friends, it has come time to debut a revised edition of our very successful original list.

In addition to including more recent releases, this list also takes into account suggestions and feedback from readers on the original — you’ll see some inclusions you missed before, and you’ll also see some things re-ranked or removed altogether. For example, it was pointed out that Tipping the Velvet and Fingersmith were not movies but miniseries, despite what young lesbian maidens in the U.S. were lead to believe. It was argued that Kissing Jessica Stein does indeed deserve a spot despite the lead character turning out to be straight. So many of you lobbied for the inclusion of When Night is Falling that I had to surrender to your cries, and so many disagreed with our ranking of I Can’t Think Straight that I had to re-watch it and re-rank it. It was also pointed out many that Room in Rome was missing, for which I have only this to say: BECAUSE IT IS TERRIBLE.

Those examples are just some of the many adjustments made in reaction to your direct feedback. Undoubtedly, you will still take issue with most of this and that’s okay, I’m fine.


There are some movies often lumped in with the “lesbian” category that are actually films about trans boys or men that you won’t see here, such as the excellent Boys Don’t Cry, Tomboy and By Hook or By Crook. 

We also ranked the films not only on how good they are, but on diversity as well as the quality of the gay lady storyline and characters. For example, Chasing Amy — an objectively decent movie containing many laughs and a nice fisting demonstration — didn’t make the list, as it promotes the dangerous idea that a lesbian is just a woman who hasn’t met the right man yet. Objectively, The Hours is a better film than most of the ones ranked higher than it, but queer female sexuality was not central to the film.

We also left out films that relied solely on lesbian subtext or eliminated or sidenlined a lesbian storyline that was present in the book it was based on (A League of Their Own, Fried Green Tomatoes, Ghostbusters, The Color Purple) or where the lesbian character was so small or her sexuality was so subtle that you could watch the film and not even remember that there was a queer involved (e.g., Sunshine Cleaning, Boys on The Side).

The term “lesbian movies” is used in the headline because that is the most popular search term for people looking for films about women who like other women, but these movies feature women of all sexual orientations besides “straight.”

Please remember that when you disagree with rankings, it is best to do so with extra punctuation, lots of all caps, and well-honed insults.

114. Below Her Mouth (2016)

our review // lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 23%
Directed By: April Mullen
Written By: Stephanie Fabrizi
Starring: Erika Linder, Natalie Krill

This film earned high marks for going all-in with lesbian sex, and gets a spot on this list for that alone, despite being, at times, difficult to endure. However, if we’d seen this in high school when we were figuring out our sexualities and weren’t already bored by its stale tropes, excruciating dialogue and the utter cliche of the lead character, it’d probably change our lives and make us all the lesbians we are today; but much earlier!

113. Girltrash: All Night Long! (2013)

lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance


Rotten Tomatoes score: N/A
Directed by: Alex Martinez Kondracke
Written by:  Angela Robinson
Starring: Michelle Lombardo, Gabrielle Christian, Mandy Musgrave, Rose Rollins, Kate French, Clementine Ford, Malaya Rivera Drew, Jessica Chaffin

There was a lot of drama around the release of this film, and we do stand with Angela Robinson, who did not approve the final cut of the movie. But it’s still pretty cute and worth a mention — it’s a rock musical chock-full of ladies you love to see play gay, like the lead actresses from South of Nowhere and Kate French, Malaya Rivera Drew, Clementine Ford and Rose Rollins from The L Word.

112. A Perfect Ending (2012)

lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: N/A
Directed by: Nicole Conn
Written by: Nicole Conn
Starring: Barbara Niven, Jessica Clark

Nicole Conn is a prolific lesbian filmmaker and, to be honest, usually her name on a title is a pretty good indication that we’re not watching a good movie. But a lot of queer women swear by her movies and love the heck out of ’em so we felt obligated to include at least one! If Pretty Woman had a baby gay baby with Nicholas Sparks, the result would be A Perfect Ending, a drama about a call girl with a heart of gold and an artist’s temperament who falls in love with a “straight” WASPy housewife who is dying of cancer. The ending may be perfect, but it’s sad as heck.

111. Entre Nous / Coup de foudre (1983) (France)

lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score:
Directed by: Diane Kurys
Written by: Olivier Cohen, Diane Kurys & Alain Le Henry
Starring: Miou-Miou, Isabelle Huppert, Guy Marchand

This story of two young married women who realize how unfulfilled they are in their marriages when they fall in love with each other takes place in the 1950s, with flashbacks set in World War II, when one of the women was placed in an internment camp for Jews. Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film.

110. Puccini For Beginners (2007)

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Rotten Tomatoes score: 51%
Directed by: Maria Maggenti
Written by: Mari Maggenti
Starring: Gretchen Mol, Justin Kirk, Elizabeth Reaser

This “screwball comedy of sexual confusion with lesbian inclinations” was made by Maria Maggenti, who also made The Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls In Love. It’s not a masterpiece, but out actress Sarah Croce and her two friends enjoyed watching it while eating Italian food, so.

109. Gray Matters (2006)

lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: 8%
Directed by: Sue Kramer
Written by: Sue Kramer
Starring: Heather Graham, Tom Cavanagh, Bridget Moynahan, Molly Shannon, Saffron Burrows

Heather Graham stars in this cheesy, adorable rom-com about a ballroom dancer who falls in love with her brother’s girlfriend.

108. My Friend From Faro / Mein Freund aus Faro (2008) (Germany)

lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: N/A
Directed by: Nana Neul
Written by: Nana Neul
Starring: Anjorka Strechel, Lucie Hollmann

Just your classic German tale of a tomboy who assumes the identity of a Portuguese guy named Miguel after she plows down a pretty girl in the street.

107. Better Than Chocolate (1999) (Canada)

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Rotten Tomatoes score: 38%
Directed by: Anne Wheeler
Written by: Peggy Thompson
Starring: Wendy Crewson, Karyn Dwyer

Better Than Chocolate is not without flaws. It’s cliched and over-the-top; there’s a trans woman character played by a cis man; and the poster looks like some kind of Lisa Frank fever-dream, all of which we can probably chalk up to it being a film from the ’90s. If you can get around that, you can enjoy this endearing and charming love story about a girl who drops out of college to work at a lesbian bookstore, much to the adorable confusion of her chocolate-addicted mother. Fun fact: the actor who played the trans woman character also played Bob Corbett on Bomb Girls and Henrik on Orphan Black.

106. Almost Adults (2017)

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A cute film that delivers some light charm with minimal offensiveness, starring Elise Bauman of Carmilla as lesbian tomboy femme Mackenzie and Natasha Negovanlis as her best friend Cassie, the last girl in the world not to notice that Mack is gay as hell.

105. Tru Love (2014)

lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: N/A
Directed by: Kate Johnston, Shauna MacDonald
Written by: Kate Johnston, Shauna MacDonald
Starring: Kate Trotter, Peter MacNeill

The May/December romance at the heart of Tru Love is but one of the many complex relationships in this surprisingly layered film. Winner of nearly a dozen awards across the U.S., Canada, Ireland, and India, Tru Love might just make you want to believe in soul mates. Or fall asleep. Depends on your style.

104. The Sea Purple / Viola di Mare (2009) (Italy)

lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: N/A
Directed by: Donatella Maiorca
Written by: Donatella Maiorca
Starring: Valeria Solarino, Isabella Ragonese & Ennio Fantastichini

In this stunning 19th century period film, the powerful quarrymaster’s daughter falls in love with her childhood friend Sara when she returns to the remote Mediterranean island where they both grew up. Their affair scandalizes the island.

103. The Intervention (2016)

lgbtq lead ensemble // lgbtq romance  // our review //

Rotten Tomatoes score: 80%
Directed by: Clea DuVall
Written by: Clea DuVall
Starring: Clea Duvall, Natasha Lyonne, Cobie Smulders, Melanie Lynskey

Clea Duvall directed this weekend-at-the-summer-house film about four couples of mostly old friends who plan a weekend away together to stage an “intervention” on one of the couples, who they’ve agreed needs to divorce. Obviously over the course of the weekend we realize that all these couples are dysfunctional and probably shouldn’t judge. It’s worth it to see Clea Duvall and Natasha Lyonne play a couple again and just to witness excellent performances from your favorite actresses, although the film’s central conceit never really earns its existence and the backstories of the characters often ring a little hollow.

102. When Night is Falling (1995) (Canada)

lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: 50%
Directed by: Patricia Rozema
Written by: Patricia Rozema
Starring: Pascale Bussieres, Rachael Crawford

“My favourite film simply because it unashamedly clings to an impossible optimism,” wrote commenter Marriane. “I mean, come on … the dog comes back to life to the strains of the Hallelujah chorus. It was this kind of optimism that saw marriage equality germinate, take root and flower.”

101. Portrait of a Serial Monogamist (2016)

lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: 67%
Directed by: Christina Zeidler & John Mitchell
Written by: Christina Zeidler & John Mitchell
Starring: Diane Flacks, Robin Duke

Elsie is a forty-year-old Jewish lesbian in Toronto who— after getting her heart broken at the tender age of 12  has bounced from serious relationship to serious relationship all her life, refusing to be single and perfecting her exit strategy. The film opens with Elise breaking up with her current girlfriend of five years and, for the first time in her life, finding herself unable to walk out the door of one monogamous situation and into the arms of another one. Heather Hogan called it “one of the best-written lesbian movies I’ve ever seen… incisive and very, very funny.”

100. Love My Life (2003) (Japan)

lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: N/A
Directed By: Koji Kawano
Written By: Hiroko Kanasugi, Ebine Yamaji
Starring: Asami Imajuku, Rei Yoshii, Ira Ishida

Based off the josei manga by Ebine Yamaji, Love My Life was a favorite of many commenters on our original list. “The joy of the film, aside from the relationship between the main character and her girlfriend,” Rhea said, ”is the one between her and her father as she learns more about him and her mother’s past.

99. Antonia’s Line (1996)

lgbtq ensemble characters // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: 64%
Directed by: Marleen Gorris
Written by: Marleen Gorris
Starring: Willeke van Ammelrooy, Els Dottermans, Jan Decleir

This multi-generational film that explores the lineage of a World War II widow named named Antonia, who returns to her hometown to take care of her ailing mother. Danielle refuses to take a husband, but does want to have a child. After getting pregnant and giving birth, Danielle ultimately falls in love with her genius daughter’s tutor.

98. Daphne (2007) (UK)

lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: N/A
Directed by: Clare Beavan
Written by: Amy Jenkins, Margaret Forster
Starring: Geraldine Somerville, Elizabeth McGovern

Daphne is exactly the film you need, if the thing you’re missing from your life is Downton Abby’s Elizabeth McGovern in a depressing-as-fuck period drama about the unrequited lady loves of novelist Daphne DuMauier.

97. My Mother Likes Women / A Mi Madre Le Gustan Las Mujeres (2002) (Spain)

lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: 45%
Directed by:Daniela Féjerman, Inés París
Written by: Inés París, Daniela Féjerman
Starring: Silvia Abascal

Long-divorced Sophia gathers her three daughters to share the news that she’s fallen in love! Hurrah! That love is the sapphic sort. Not-so-Hurrah.

96. Who’s Afraid of Vagina Wolf? (2013)

lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance


Rotten Tomatoes score: N/A
Directed By: Anna Margarita Albelo
Written By: Michael Urban, Anna Margarita Albelo
Starring: Agnes Olech, Carrie Preston, Guinevere Turner

A little bit quirky, and a little bit navel-gazey, this grown-up comedy looks at what it means to really have it all. Plus it has an all-female cast, one of whom literally romps around on stage wearing a vagina costume. If that’s not what you’re looking for in a film, you’re on the wrong list, my friend.

95. The Hunger (1983)

lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: 46%
Directed by: Tony Scott
Written by: Tony Scott
Starring: Catherine Deneuve, David Bowie, Susan Sarandon

Lesbian vampires? Check. Susan Sarandon? Check. David Bowie? Check. Major shoutout in The Miseducation of Cameron Post? CHECK CHECK CHECK.

94. Rough Night (2017)

lgbtq ensemble characters // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: 45%
Directed By: Lucia Aniello
Written By: Lucia Aniello & Paul W. Downs
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell, Ilana Glazer, and Zoë Kravitz

There’s a lot about this film, on the surface, that might turn you off — but if you give it a chance, you might be surprised by how those things actually play out! Yes, the writing is often clumsy and there are some annoying, ridiculous plot holes. But it’s also a cute, funny and surprisingly feminist movie entirely about women with a non-chalant lesbian front-and-center (played by Ilana Glazer) who gets one of the film’s only rewarding romantic storylines.

93. The Summer of Sangalie (2015) (Lithuania)

// our review // lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: 71%
Directed by: Alanté Kavaïté
Written by: Alanté Kavaïté
Starring: Julija Steponaityte, Aiste Dirziute

Summer love blooms between two teenagers in Lithuania who meet at an aerobatics show — a girl who dreams of being a pilot who’s spending the summer at her family’s lake house and the bohemian photographer and clothing designer she’s drawn to.

92. Drool (2009)

lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: N/A
Directed by: Nancy Kissam
Written by: Nancy Kissam
Starring: Jill Marie Jones, Laura Harring, Ashley Duggan Smith

A dark comedy that touches on abuse, assault and murder, but manages to be fun about it all.

91. Citizen Ruth (1996)

mainstream movie // lgbtq female ensemble characters

Rotten Tomatoes score: 80%
Directed By: Alexander Payne
Written By: Jim Taylor, Alexander Payne
Starring: Laura Dern, Mary Kay Place, Swoosie Kurtz, Alicia Witt, Kelly Preson, Kurtwood Smith, Burt Reynolds

A true product of its time that unfortunately remains relevant today, Citizen Ruth sees Laura Dern playing an unemployed, homeless addict who finds out she’s pregnant after an arrest, and then ends up in the middle of an abortion debate. On one side are the anti-coice zealots and the other, a group of pro-choice activists lead by an ambitious lesbian couple. There’s no sex or romance and sexual orientation isn’t tackled head on, but Swoozie Kurtz and Kelly Preston are an adorable pair with a whole bunch of lesbian friends, which at the time was a pretty cool thing to see.

90. Red Doors (2007) (China)

lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: 59%
Directed by: Georgia Lee
Written by: Georgia Lee
Starring: Jacqueline Kim, Tzi Ma, Elaine Kao, Freda Foh Shen

Red Doors tells the story of Ed Wong, a Chinese-American retiree who is coming to terms with his three daughters growing up. One of his daughters, Julie, falls in love with an actress. They struggle to reconcile their sexuality with their parents’ demands on their romantic lives.

89. Cloudburst (2013)

lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: 100%
Directed by: Thom Fitzgerald
Written by: Thom Fitzgerald
Starring: Olympia Dukakis, Brenda Fricker, John Dunsworth

Ever wonder what would happen if Thelma and Louis were elderly lesbians? Cloudburst is the answer.

88. The Chinese Botanist’s Daughters /Les Filles Du Botaniste (2006) (China)

lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: N/A
Directed by: Sijie Dai
Written by: Sijie Dai, Nadine Perront
Starring: Mylène Jampanoï, Xiao Ran Li

Li Ming, an orphan of the Tangshan earthquake, finds a home with renowned and reclusive botanist. Li instantly connects with her new benefactor’s daughter, An. Soon their friendship turns into a secret and sensual love affair.

87. Bumblef*ck USA (2014)

// our review // lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: N/A
Directed By: Aaron Douglas Johnston
Written By: Cat Smits, Aaron Douglas Johnston
Starring: Cat Smits, Heidi M. Sallows, Jef Smith, John Watkins

Alexa moves from Amsterdam to a small U.S. town to film a documentary to help her make sense of her gay best friend’s suicide. While she’s there, she falls in love with a woman for the first time in her life. It only takes one summer for Alexa’s life to change forever.

86. Itty Bitty Titty Committee (2007)

lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: 38%
Directed By: Jamie Babbit
Written By: Tina Mabry, Abigail Shafran
Starring: Nicole Vicius, Clea DuVall, Melonie Diaz, Daniela Sea, Marissa Ramirez

After getting dumped by her girlfriend, Anna meets a young feminist named Sadie who invites her to join Clits In Action (CiA) and forget her romantic woes. As Anna embraces radical activism, she also finds herself falling for Sadie, who is in a longterm relationship with an older woman who belongs to a more mainstream feminist organization.

85. You and Me Forever (2012) (Denmark)

lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance
Rotten Tomatoes score: 80%
Directed by: Kaspar Munk
Written by: Kaspar Munk
Starring: Julie Andersen, Frederikke Dahl Hansen, Emilie Kruse

Laura and Christie are best friends forever, until a rebel named Maria arrives on the scene and starts stealing Laura away.

84. Kissing Jessica Stein (2002)

lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: 84%
Directed by: Charles Herman-Wurmfeld
Written by: Heather Juergensen, Jennifer Westfeldt
Starring: Heather Juergensen, Jennifer Westfeldt

Jessica Stein is frustrated by her dating experiences with men and decides to give women a shot when she connects with another woman who’s also never been in a lesbian relationship before. Funny, honest and down-to-earth, this romantic comedy was written by the two best friends who also star in the film.

83. Mädchen in Uniform (1931) (Germany)

// our review // lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance


Rotten Tomatoes score: 100%
Directed By: Leontine Sagan, Carl Froelich
Written By: Christa Winsloe, Friedrich Dammann
Starring: Emilia Unda, Dorothea Wieck, Hedwig Schlichter

Considered by many to be the first lesbian film, Mädchen in Uniform explores the relationship between a teenage boarding school student and one of her female teachers. Does that sound like the plot of Loving Annabelle to you? That’s because it is!

82. The Truth About Jane (2000)

lgbtq story // lgbtq leads

Rotten Tomatoes score: N/A
Directed by: Lee Rose
Written by: Lee Rose
Starring: Stockard Channing, Ellen Muth

We loved Stockard Channing as Rizzo, and we loved her as First Lady Abigail Bartlett. Now we have to love her as a mother unable to believe that her daughter Jane is in fact not too pure to be pink. Stockard delivers yet another knockout performance in The Truth About Jane, earning a nomination from the Screen Actors Guild for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries. This may have been the first queer movie you ever saw — it was for many of us!

81. I Can’t Think Straight (2008)

// our review // lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: 16%
Directed by: Shamim Sarif
Written by: Shamim Shaif, Kelly Moss
Starring: Lisa Ray, Sheetal Sheth

This is another film that lesbians either love or hate, but this is the film that opened our hearts forever Lisa Ray and Sheetal Sheth, as they played Tala and Leyla, two women from very different backgrounds that fall in love on accident. Tala is a Jordanian Palestinian woman living in London and planning her wedding. Leyla is a British-Indian who is dating Tala’s BFF. They fall in love, fall apart, and fall back together again. It’s very sweet and pretty dang sexy.

80. Signature Move (2017)

Rotten Tomatoes score: 100%
Directed By: Jennifer Reeder
Written By: Lisa Donato, Fawzia Mirza
Starring: Fawzia Mirza, Shabana Azmi, Sari Sanchez

A Pakistani-American lawyer’s widowed mother has just moved in, and spends her days watching television and badgering her daughter about finding a nice man to marry. But Zaynab has other things on her mind — like Alma, the Mexican-American woman she’s falling for. Alma’s mother, it turns out, is a former professional Luchadora, which is of great interest to Zaynab, who has just taken up wrestling herself.

79. Monster (2004)

mainstream movie // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: 82%
Directed by: Patty Jenkins
Written by: Patty Jenkins
Starring: Charlize Theron, Christina Ricci, Bruce Dern

Based on the real-life story of serial killer Aileen Wuornos, Monster is an Academy Award-winning crime drama about a sex worker who killed six men during the late ’80s and early ’90s. Charlize Theron plays Wuornos, and Christina Ricci plays Tyria Moore, Wuornos’ girlfriend. It’s an excellent film, but it’s not ranked higher because its portrayal of lesbiansim isn’t exactly the most flattering!

78. The Journey / Sancharram (2005) (India)

lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: N/A
Directed by: Ligy J. Pullappally
Written by: Ligy J. Pullappally
Starring: Suhasini V. Nair, Shruiti Menon, K.P.A.C. Lalitha

In an Indian village where arranged marriages are just a way of life, Kiran falls in love with her friend Delilah.

77. Reaching For The Moon (2013)

// our review // lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

reaching-for-the moon
Rotten Tomatoes score: 65%
Directed By: Bruno Barreto
Written By: Julie Sayres, Matthew Chapman
Starring: Miranda Otto, Gloria Pires, Tracy Middendorf

Reaching For The Moon is based on the relationship between American poet Elizabeth Bishop and Brazilian architect Lota de Macedo Soares, whose passionate, tumultuous love affair took place in Petrópolis between 1951 and 1967.

76. Loving Annabelle (2006)

our review // lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: N/A
Directed By: Katherine Brooks
Written By: Olivia Bohnhoff, Katherine Brooks, Karen Klopfenstein
Starring: Diane Gaidry, Erin Kelly, Ilene Graff

A Catholic boarding school teacher falls in love with one of her students. It’s the plot of Mädchen in Uniform with more on-screen lesbian sex shenanigans and electric guitars.

75. The Duke of Burgundy (2015)

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Rotten Tomatoes score: 93%
Directed by: Peter Strickland
Written by: Peter Strickland
Starring: Chiara D’Anna, Sidse Babett Knudsen

The “lesbian BDSM movie you’ve been waiting for” details the daily sexual routines between the very kinky Evelyn and her lover Cynthia, who wants a more conventional relationship with Evelyn.

74. Yes or No (Yak Rak Ko Rak Loei) (2012)

lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

à??à? 3.jpg
Rotten Tomatoes score: N/A
Directed by: : Sarasawadee Wongsompetch
Written by: : Sarasawadee Wongsompetch
Starring: Sucharat Manaying, Suppanad Jittaleela

This Thai film looks at a relationship between two students from different backgrounds: Kim, a masculine-of-center lesbian, and Pie, who hails from a traditional family that doesn’t approve of gay people. Despite Pie’s prejudices toward Kim, they grow closer and closer and ultimately fall in love.

73. Personal Best (1982)

mainstream movie // lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: 77%
Directed by: Robert Towne
Written by: Robert Towne
Starring: Mariel Hemingway, Scott Glenn, Patrice Donnelly

Fun fact: This is the movie Ellen cited as making her gay when she came out on her sitcom in 1997. This classic film tells the story of track and field star Chris Cahill who meets an more experienced athlete at the ’76 Olympic trials. Their gal pal-ness quickly turns to romance. Like most older lesbian films, it doesn’t have a happy ending.

72. Lianna (1983) (Canada)

lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: 86%
Directed By: John Sayles
Written By: John Sayles
Starring: Linda Griffiths, Jane Hallaren, Jon De Vries

Lianna is dated, absolutely. It hails from the same year Mr. T joined The A Team, for crying out loud. But the story of self-discovery and general gal-palling stands the test of time, even if you do have to put up with some really (really) bad hair to get to it.

71. Blue Gate Crossing (2003) (Taiwan)

lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: 83%
Directed by: Yee Chih-yen
Written by: Yee Chih-yen
Starring: Joanna Chou, Bo-Lin Chen, Shu-hui Liang, Lun-Mei Guey

According to commenter Jelena, this “tender, unusual” story of a love triangle between two teenage girl best friends and a boy swimming champ features a refreshing and unexpected teen lesbian awakening.

70. Spider Lilies / Ci Qing (2007) (Taiwan)

lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: N/A
Directed by: Zero Chou
Written by: Zero Chou
Starring: Rainie Yang, Isabella Leong

Spider Lilies won the Teddy Award for Best Feature Film at the Berlin Film Festival. It tells the story of Jade, a cybersex worker, and Takeko, a tattoo artist, who awaken each other’s repressed sexuality and fall in love. Take that, cursed tattoo!

69. The Secret Diaries of Ms Anne Lister (2010) (UK)

lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: N/A
Directed By: James Kent
Written By: Jane English
Starring: Maxine Peake, Anna Madeley

Following the success of the miniseries Fingersmith and Tipping the Velvet, BBC filmed another queer period piece, this time about real-life lesbian lady Anne Lister. Lister was a Yorskshire landowner in the 19th century and an early industrialist. She also loved the ladies. The screenplay is based on the 4,000,000 words Lister wrote in her diaries in her lifetime. (The lesbian exploits were written in cipher!)

68. Laurel Canyon (2002)

mainstream movie // lgbtq ensemble character

Rotten Tomatoes score: 68%
Directed by: Lisa Cholodenko
Written by: Lisa Cholodenko
Starring: Frances McDormand, Christian Bale, Kate Beckinsale

Kate Beckinsale plays Alex, a young MD student who leaves her husband to get into a polyamorous relationship with her husband’s mom and his mom’s boyfriend. Writer/director Lisa Cholodenko says the film was inspired by the Joni Mitchel’s “Ladies of the Canyon.”

67. Heavenly Creatures (1994) (New Zealand)

mainstream movie // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: 94%
Directed By: Peter Jackson
Written By: Fran Walsh, Peter Jackson, Frances Walsh
Starring: Kate Winslet, Melanie Lynskey, Sarah Peirse, Diana Kent

Peter Jackson’s critically acclaimed film details the obsessive (and ultimately) fatal relationship between Juliet and Pauline, who meet when they are 13 years old and fall in immediate love with each other. They spend most of their time writing about their fictional world, Borovnia, and projecting themselves into it. In real life, Juliet grew up to become famous novelist Anne Perry.

66. Karmen Gei (2001) (Senegal)

lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: 79%
Directed By: Joseph Gaï Ramaka
Written By: Joseph Gaï Ramaka
Starring: Jeinaba Diop Gai, Magaye Niang, Stéphanie Biddle

Pansexual “social outlaw” Karmen surprises her captors at a women’s prison when she seduces warden Angelique and flees for the Dakar underworld. Eventually, a love triangle emerges between Karmen, Angelique and police corporal Lamine and things get progressively more complicated from there.

65. Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2009) (Sweden)

mainstream movie // lgbtq lead

Rotten Tomatoes score: 86%
Directed By: Niels Arden Oplev
Written By: Nikolaj Arcel, Rasmus Heisterberg, Nicolaj Arcel
Starring: Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace

Adapted from Stieg Larsson’s best selling trilogy of novels, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo focuses on bisexual hacker Lisbeth Salander, who suffers brutal sexual abuse at the hands of her foster care supervisor and ultimately becomes the investigative partner of Mikael Blomkvist, a famous newspaper reporter who is hired by an eccentric millionaire to solve the decades old case of his missing granddaughter. Their trail leads them to (surprise!) more sexual abuse. (Larsson’s novel was titled Men Who Hate Women in the native Swedish version.)

64. AWOL (2016)

// our review // lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: N/A
Directed by: Deb Shoval
Written by: Deb Shoval, Karolina Waclawiak
Starring: Lola Kirke, Breeda Wool, Dale Soules

“Talking about class can be ugly,” wrote Sarah Fonseca in her glowing review of AWOL, a love story set in a rarely-portrayed rural landscape and confronts new conversations issues of class, race and gender. “Yet as AWOL asserts, when you dare to comment, sometimes it frees up room for beauty to unfurl.”

63. Pretty Persuasion (2005)

mainstream movie // lgbtq leads

Rotten Tomatoes score: 32%
Directed By: Marcos Siega
Written By: Skander Halim
Starring: Evan Rachel Wood, Ron Livingston, Jane Krakowski, Selma Blair

Evan Rachel Wood sparkles like a narcissistic little diamond in this mindfuck of a Mean Girls film. Pretty Persuasion hits all the triggers—sexual assault, racism, and suicide to name a few—and plenty more taboos besides. It’s got some important things to say about agency and sexuality, if you can make it through the racist rants to get there.

62. Four-Faced Liar (2010)

// our review // lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: N/A
Directed By: Jacob Chase, Samantha Housman
Written By: Marja-Lewis Ryan
Starring: Marja-Lewis Ryan, Daniel Carlisle, Todd Kubrak

Four-Faced Liar spends most of its time hanging out in an area that makes me every so slightly uncomfortable: straight girl in a committed relationship with a guy starts fooling around with the nearest lesbian. Too often, the lesbian is a screeching vulture flapping around the edges while the straight girl actually ends up with the boy, but Four-Faced Liar is actually nuanced enough to make it work.

61. Young and Wild / Joven y Alocada (2012) (Chile)

lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: N/A
Directed By: Marialy Rivas
Written By: María José VieraGallo, Marialy Rivas, Pedro Peirano, Maria-Jose Viera Gallo, Sebastián Sepúlveda
Starring: Alicia Rodríguez, Aline Küppenheim, María Gracia Omegna

Despite being raised by strict Evangelicals, Daniela gets kicked out of her church for being a fornicator. Young and Wild may be a Chilean film, but its authenticity is universal. Nothing is tied up in a neat little bow, but then life rarely is. Daniela is sexy, gorgeous, and likes to kiss pretty girls. Count us in.

60. The Incredibly True Adventures of 2 Girls In Love (1995)

// our review // lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance


Rotten Tomatoes score: 67%
Directed By: Maria Maggenti
Written By: Maria Maggenti
Starring: Laurel Holloman, Nicole Ari Parker

Before she was The L Word‘s Tina Kennard, Laurel Holloman landed on our screens as Randy Dean, an underachieving high school student who falls in love with an affluent girl from her high school. It’s so sweet and the ending is so happy it’s hard to believe this movie even exists, let alone was filmed a decade before The L Word.

59. BFFs (2014)

// our review // lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: N/A
Directed By: Andrew Putschoegl
Written By: Andrea Grano, Tara Karsian
Starring: Larisa Oleynik, Sean Maher, Pat Carroll

This fun buddy-movie-slash-romcom “takes female-driven to a whole new level,” according to out comedian Brittani Nichols, who wrote in her review of the film, “It’s a narrative that opens the doors for the discussion of sexual fluidity without making it corny or annoying and the best part of all is it’s funny.” It’s the story of two friends who fake being a couple to use a free trip to a Couples Retreat and discover while pretending to be girlfriends that there might be more to their friendship than they previously considered.

58. The First Girl I Loved (2016)

// our review // lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: 86%
Directed by: Kerem Sanga
Written by: Kerem Sanga
Starring: Dylan Gelula, Brianna Hildebrand, Mateo Arias

A Sundance award-winning coming-of-age film about a misfit who falls for the cute softball star at her high school — and her best friend Clifton feels threatened by their budding connection. “It captures the heart-pounding terror of becoming someone, the one-way nausea of committing to yourself,” writes Indiewire.

57. Blue is the Warmest Color (2013) (France)

// kate’s review // mainstream movie // lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: 91%
Directed By: Abdel Kechiche
Written By: Julie Maroh, Abdel Kechiche, Ghalya Lacroix, Ghalia Lacroix
Starring: Léa Seydoux, Adèle Exarchopoulos

Perhaps the most controversial lesbian film of this century, Blue Is the Warmest Color was decried as pornography by some, an exploitative film dominated by the male gaze by others and heralded as the greatest queer film of all time by others. It is based on the graphic novel of the same name, and while it embraces the coming of age queer themes of the source material, it zigs in a completely different direction in the end.

56. Concussion (2013)

// our review // lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: 74%
Directed By: Stacie Passon
Written By: Stacie Passon
Starring: Robin Weigert, Maggie Siff, Jonathan Tchaikovsky

When you were watching Mad Men, did you wish Maggie Siff would get off Don Draper’s D and get under a hot girl? If so, Concussion is the film for you!

55. Stud Life (2012) (UK)

lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: N/A
Directed By: Campbell Ex
Written By: Campbell Ex
Starring: T’Nia Miller, Kyle Treslove, Robyn Kerr

Not even an obviously teensy budget can break this gorgeously acted film about a stud finding love, grappling with shifting friendships, and figuring out what it means when the rules you set for yourself are the very things that stop you from getting what you want most.

54. Fire (1996) (India)

lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: 87%
Directed By: Deepa Mehta
Written By: Deepa Mehta
Starring: Shabana Azmi, Nandita Das, Kulbhushan Kharbanda

I’ve heard it said that the best way to write a good story is to put your favorite character in a tree and throw rocks at them. For Radha and Sita, two Indian women stuck in loveless and demeaning marriages, rocks are the least of their problems. One of the first Indian film to explicitly portray homosexuality, Fire has faced an avalanche of controversy. Banned books (and films!) do it better.

53. Valencia (2013)

// our review // lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

valencia Rotten Tomatoes score: N/A
Directed By: Peter Anthony, Sharon Barnes
Written By: Peter Anthony, Sharon Barnes
Starring: Shawna Elizabeth, Annie Danger, Tanya Wischerath

A once in a life time collaboration, Valencia The Movie/s is what happens when twenty-one (!) queer filmmakers each create a short film depicting one chapter of Michelle Tea’s 2000 Lambda Literary Award winning novel of the same name. It’s almost too cool to be believed, and Gabby declared it “the most masterful dyke-centric artsy-weirdo film I’ve ever seen.”

52. Water Lilies (2008) (France)

lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: 77%
Directed by: Céline Sciamma
Written by: Céline Sciamma
Starring: Pauline Acquart, Adèle Haenel, Louise Blachère

Perhaps more than any other film on this list, Water Lilies perfectly captures the heart-wrenching truth of sexual awakening, jealousy, and lust. And if that’s not enough to make you sit down with this gorgeous French film, how about the fact that Adele Haenel, who won a César Award for her portrayal of Floriane, fell in love with her female director Celine Sciamma on the set of Water Lilies and they’re still together to this very day?

51. Farewell, My Queen (2012) (France)

mainstream movie // lgbtq leads

Rotten Tomatoes score: 92%
Directed By: Benoît Jacquot
Written By: Chantal Thomas, Benoît Jacquot, Gilles Taurand, Gilles Taurant
Starring: Diane Kruger, Léa Seydoux, Virginie Ledoyen, Xavier Beauvois

If you’re looking for a fictional account of the last days of Marie Antoinette, in which she seduces the young woman who reads to her, well, this movie is for you!  It features Diane Kruger and a pre-Blue Is the Warmest Color Léa Seydoux as Sidonie Laborde, Marie Antoinette’s reader.

50. Summertime / La Belle Saison (2016) (France)

lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: 92%
Directed by: Catherine Corsini
Written by: Catherine Corsini & Laurette Polmanss
Starring: Cécile de France, Izïa Higelin, Noémie Lvovsky

This gorgeous film set in 1971 tells the story of a young woman from the French countryside who moves to Paris to get away from her parents, where she falls in with a group of politically engaged feminists and eventually falls in love with Carole, their leader.

49. Rent (2005)

mainstream movie // lgbtq female ensemble characters // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: 46%
Directed By: Chris Columbus
Written By: Stephen Chbosky
Starring: Anthony Rapp, Adam Pascal, Jesse L. Martin

Based on the long-running Broadway musical of the same name, Rent explores the lives of several East Village artists — many of them queer — living during the AIDS crisis in New York City in the late ’80s. The show-stopping “Take Me (Or Leave Me)” is a rousing number between Maureen, a bisexual performance artist who loves to flirt and get wild, and her girlfriend, Joanne, a lawyer who loves lists and stability.

48. Mullholland Drive (2001)

lgbtq leads

Rotten Tomatoes score: 81%
Directed By: David Lynch
Written By: Joyce Eliason, David Lynch
Starring: Naomi Watts, Laura Harring, Justin Theroux, Ann Miller

It’s tough to describe this neo-noir mystery beyond alerting you that it’s a David Lynch film with a non-linear narrative and lots of twists and turns: complicated, weird, smart, compelling. Naomi Watts plays Betty Elms, an aspiring actress new to Los Angeles who becomes friends with Rita, an amnesic played by Laura Harring, who’s been hiding from the world in Elms’ aunt’s apartment. Everything that happens next is too intense and bizarre to sum up, but rest assured: women have sex in this movie.

47. Set it Off (1996)

mainstream movie // lgbtq ensemble characters

Rotten Tomatoes score: 63%
Directed By: F. Gary Gray
Written By: Takashi Bufford, Kate Lanier
Starring: Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, Vivica A. Fox

Four women fed up with the options available to them as black women band together to damn the man and perform their own bank heists. Queen Latifah plays lesbian character Cleo, and the film also shows the relationship between her and her girlfriend, Urusula. AfterEllen called it “one of the greatest girl-power/female-solidarity flicks around and a true trend-starter from 1996.”

46. Foxfire (1996)

mainstream movie // lgbtq female ensemble characters

Rotten Tomatoes score: 30%
Directed By: Annette Haywood-Carter
Written By: Elizabeth White
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Hedy Burress, Jenny Lewis, Jenny Shimizu

If My So-Called Life took Dawson’s Creek out behind the gym and put a baby in it, and that baby was a slightly unhinged Angelia Jolie, it would be called Foxfire. Jenny Shimizu plays a lesbian and Angelina Jolie’s character is pretty queer, too — the set of this film is where those two actresses fell in love and Jolie realized she was bisexual. The story of the close bonds groups of female friends from, especially in the face of adversity, is something we all understand on a bone-deep level.

45. Boy Meets Girl (2014)

// our review // lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: 83%
Directed by: Eric Schaeffer
Written by: Eric Schaeffer
Starring: Michael Welch, Alexandra Turshen, Michelle Hendley

Mari found Boy Meets Girl imperfect, but also groundbreaking and heartwarming: “Ricky is sweet and smart and quirky and cute, and I dare you all not to have a crush on her by the end of the film. She’s also a whole person, with feelings and dreams and heartbreaks and desires all her own that don’t necessarily have anything to do with being trans. While she is feminine, she’s far the hyper-femme stereotypes, with a definite tomboy spirit. She’s perhaps one of the most nuanced, least stereotypical trans characters that has ever been portrayed in film.”

44. High Art (1998)

our review // mainstream movie // lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: 72%
Directed By: Lisa Cholodenko
Written By: Lisa Cholodenko
Starring: Radha Mitchell, Ally Sheedy, Patricia Clarkson

Syd’s boyfriend James isn’t nearly as intriguing as the tragically talented lesbian drug addict photographer Lucy who lives in her building — with her girlfriend, German actress Greta. A relationship between Syd and Lucy begins brewing, changing both of their lives forever.

43. D.E.B.S. (2004)

// our review // lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: 38%
Directed by: Angela Robinson
Written by: Angela Robinson
Starring: Jordana Brewster, Sara Foster, Meagan Good

Carly said of this queer take on a crime caper, “D.E.B.S. is like the Little Engine That Could of lezzy films. D.E.B.S.’s small budget and subsequent green screen overdose gives it a campy and silly look which I totally love. The script and the acting are decent and the soundtrack is fantastic. Unfortunately it’s pretty tame as far as the girl-on-girl action goes, but what we do see is adorable and feels realistic. Did I mention Jordana Brewster? Yow. If you like girls with guns, you’ll love this coming-of-age girl-meets-girl love story, set amongst spy missions and national security.”

42. Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same (2012)

lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: 89%
Directed By: Madeleine Olnek
Written By: Madeleine Olnek
Starring: Susan Ziegler, Susan Ziegler, Jackie Monahan, Cynthia Kaplan

It’s super weird and super super smart. Even after it’s over, you’re not sure what you watched, but you’re glad you watched it.

Note: We did not include the film Foxy Merkins, by the same creators, as several of our writers found it to contain horrifying racist violence.

41. The Fish Child / El Niño Pez  (2009) (Argentina)

lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: N/A
Directed By: Lucía Puenzo
Written By: Lucía Puenzo
Starring: Inés Efron, Mariela Vitale

La Guayi is working as a live-in maid for Lala’s wealthy Argentinean family when Lala falls in love with her — and grows increasingly jealous of and angry at La Guayi’s other paramours. When Lala’s father is killed and Lala flees her home in search of La Guayi, she begins learning the truth about the girl she’s so obsessed with. Based on Lucía Puenzo’s novel of the same name, the film is a dark and engrossing drama.

40. Stranger Inside (2001)

TV movie // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: N/A
Directed By: Cheryl Dunye
Written By: Catherine Crouch, Cheryl Dunye
Starring: Yolonda Ross, Davenia McFadden, Rain Phoenix, Mary Mara

Stranger Inside is a hard, gritty, look at life inside a women’s correctional facility, and it’s not all Norma toast and Laverne Cox doing your hair. I won’t spoil the ending for you, but it almost made me miss Piper.

39. The Watermelon Woman (1997)

lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: 100%
Directed By: Cheryl Dunye
Written By: Cheryl Dunye
Starring: Cheryl Dunye, Guinevere Turner, Valarie Walker

The Watermelon Woman is the first feature film to be directed by an out black lesbian, which is reason enough to give it a shot. But beyond that, it’s a warm and sexy film that explores several lesbian relationships while peeling back some of the layers of how we think about race, how we have historically thought about race, and the intersectionality of both of those with queer culture. Not too bad for a film made with a $300,000 budget.

38. Pride (2014)

// our review // mainstream movie // lgbtq story (mostly gay men) // lgbtq female ensemble characters

Rotten Tomatoes score: 92%
Directed By: Matthew Warchus
Written By: Stephen Beresford
Starring: Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Dominic West

A British historical dramedy based on the true story of LGBT activists who came together to support British miners during their 1984 strike. The B-story of the film focuses on the real-life activist group, Lesbians Against Pit Closures.

37. Drifting Flowers (2008) (Taiwan)

lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: N/A
Directed by: Zero Chou
Written by: Zero Chou
Starring: Pai Chih-Ying, Serena Fang, Chao Yi-lan, Yi-Ching Lu

Drifting Flowers seamlessly weaves together three stories—stories of love, of jealousy, of loss, to create a lush and visually stunning film. It can edge towards cliché at times, but it’s filled with so many tender and funny moments that a little cliché is easy to forgive.

36. Grandma (2015)

mainstream movie // lgbtq lead

Rotten Tomatoes score: 92%
Directed by: Paul Weitz
Written by: Paul Weitz
Starring: Lily Tomlin, Julia Garner

Lily Tomlin plays Elle, a writer and academic who spends a day with her granddaughter triyng to find $600 for an emergency abortion directly after breaking up with her much younger girlfriend. Lily Tomlin shines, because Lily Tomlin always shines, because she is perfect.

35. The Runaways (2010)

// our review // mainstream movie // lgbtq leads //

Rotten Tomatoes score: 68%
Directed By: Floria Sigismondi
Written By: Floria Sigismondi
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning, Michael Shannon

Based on Cherrie Curie’s memoir Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway, the film explores the relationship between Currie and Joan Jett during the time they spent together on the road in their all-girl 1970s rockband. It passes The Bechdel Test many times over.

34. Margarita With a Straw (2014)

// our review // lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: 92%
Directed by: Nilesh Maniyar, Shonali Bose
Written by: Nilesh Maniyar, Shonali Bose
Starring: Kalki Koechlin, Revathy

“Yes, this is a ‘disabled person discovers their sexuality’ movie, but Laila is never healed (literally or figuratively) by that discovery,” wrote Carrie Wade in her review of Margarita With a Straw, a love story between two disabled women of color, “presented without sensationalism or pandering.”

33. The Kids Are All Right (2010)

// our review // mainstream movie // lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: 93%
Directed By: Lisa Cholodenko
Written By: Lisa Cholodenko, Stuart Blumberg
Starring: Julianne Moore, Annette Bening, Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasikowska, Josh Hutcherson

Nic and Jules are a successful lesbian couple living in Los Angeles with the two kids they each had from the same sperm donor. The kids track down the sperm donor and he weasels his way into their lives and into Jules’ pants. The movie has a (gay) happy ending, and critics loved it. It was even nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. Queer women, however, engaged in heated debates about the film all over the internet. It is loved and loathed by our community in equal measure.

32. All Over Me (1997)

// our review // lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: 85%
Directed By: Alex Sichel
Written By: Sylvia Sichel
Starring: Alison Folland, Tara Subkoff, Wilson Cruz

Ah, the ’90s. When riot grrrl was in full swing and hating your best friend (who makes out with you) for having a boyfriend was all the rage. Come for the amazing soundtrack, stay for Leisha Hailey with pink hair.

31. Life Partners (2014)

// our review // mainstream movie // lgbtq lead

Rotten Tomatoes score: 62%
Directed By: Susanna Fogel
Written By: Joni Lefkowitz, Susanna Fogel
Starring: Leighton Meester, Gillian Jacobs, Kate McKinnon, Gabourey Sidibe

Leighton Meester is absolutely adorable in this comedy about two co-dependent best friends — one straight, one gay — who have to learn a new way to navigate their relationship after one falls in love.

30. Desert Hearts (1985)

// our review // mainstream movie // lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: 83%
Directed By: Robert Louis Stevenson, Donna Deitch
Written By: Jane Rule, Natalie Cooper
Starring: Helen Shaver, Patricia Charbonneau, Audra Lindley, Andra Akers

This was one of the first mainstream movies to have a lesbian storyline, which means it was pretty controversial and is a bonafide CLASSIC. Based on the classic novel by Jane Rule, this understated drama is the story of straightlaced Columbia professor and divorcee Vivian, who escapes her life and ends up falling for cowgirl Cay.

Rachel wrote of the film, “One of the best and most moving things in the entire movie is the way that, through the voices of all the women in the film, heterosexual relationships are subtly critiqued – not for the sake of some big gay agenda, but because this is set in 1958 and truthfully there was a whole lot the institution of marriage just didn’t do for women back then. Being gay isn’t presented as the answer to relationship or matrimonial issues, but there is a way in which Vivian and Cay’s relationship feels honest and genuine because it’s outside of the structures of patriarchy that can sometimes make it hard to really respect or support a partner of the opposite sex.”

29. If These Walls Could Talk 2 (2000)

// our review // mainstream TV movie // lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: N/A
Directed By: Jane Anderson, Martha Coolidge, Anne Heche
Written By: Alex Sichel, Sylvia Sichel, Anne Heche, Jane Anderson
Starring: Ellen DeGeneres, Nia Long, Vanessa Redgrave, Sharon Stone, Chloë Sevigny

Like the original film, this HBO-produced sequel follows the lives of three different couples who live in the same house in different time periods. Only, this time, they’re lesbians! You know that clip of Michelle Williams and Chloë Sevigny making out that you always see all over Tumblr and YouTube? Yeah, that’s from this.

28. Appropriate Behavior (2014)

// our review // lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: 98%
Directed By: Desiree Akhavan
Written By: Desiree Akhavan
Starring: Desiree Akhavan, Rebecca Henderson, Halley Feiffer, Anh Duong

This film is so witty and smart and cool I can hardly believe it’s real! Written by and starring bisexual actress Desiree Akhavan, Appropriate Behavior starts when its protagonist’s relationship ends, sending her into a spiral as she tries to figure out what she’s doing with her life and how that fits in with what her family wants for her.

27. Unveiled / Fremde Haut (2005) (Germany)

our review // lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: 80%
Directed by: Angelina MacCarone
Written by: Angelina Maccarone, Judith Kaufmann
Starring: Jasmin Tabatabai, Anneke Kim Sarnau

An Iranian woman, Fariba, is caught having an affair with a married woman and flees to Germany to avoid using persecution, but once her forged papers are uncovered, the only way she can stay in Germany is by taking on the identity of a male refugee. And then she meets a girl. Intense and authentic love scenes ensue.

26. Annihilation (2018)

our review // mainstream movie // lgbtq female ensemble character

Rotten Tomatoes score: 87%
Directed By: Alex Garland
Written By: Alex Garland
Starring: Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny and Oscar Isaac

In Annihilation, a biologist, psychologist, physicist, anthropologist, and paramedic enter the shimmer — a mysterious and expanding sector marked by increasingly unnerving mutations — and at some point, Gina Rodriguez steals the show as a confident nd muscly soft butch lesbian with an undercut who opens a beer bottle in that way where you slam it against a table edge with your hand. (Kayla)

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

lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: N/A
Directed By: Avi Nesher
Written By: Avi Nesher, Hadar Galron
Starring: Adir Miller, Ania Bukstein, Fanny Ardant, Guri Alfi, Michal Shtamler

In Israel, two orthodox students fuck the patriarchy and learn a lot about themselves in the process. It’s tender and feminist and complicated and heart-wrenching and unlike any lesbian movie you’ve seen before.

24. Mosquita y Mari (2012)

// our reviews // lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: 92%
Directed By: Aurora Guerrero
Written By: Aurora Guerrero
Starring: Fenessa Pineda, Venecia Troncoso, Laura Patalano

Fans of Benjamin Alire Saenz’s Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe will love this tender, earnest story of friendship, attraction, and family. As Gabby wrote, the film “find[s] the bits that makes us who we are and blast[s] them onto a screen.”

23. My Summer of Love (2004)

our review // lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: 90%
Directed By: Pavel Pavlikovskiy, Pawel Pawlikowski
Written By: Pavel Pavlikovskiy, Michael Wynne, Pawel Pawlikowski
Starring: Natalie Press, Emily Blunt, Paddy Considine, Dean Andrews

My Summer of Love won not only a BAFTA, but also a place in all of our hearts for casting Emily Blunt as a lesbian with some pretty intense love scenes. A twisted lesbian with a warped sense of a good time, but some people are into that. Each to their own, ladies.

22. Atomic Blonde (2017)

our review // mainstream movie // lgbtq lead // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: 77%
Directed By: David Leitch
Written By: Kurt Johnstad
Starring: Charlize Theron, David Percival, Sofia Boutella, John Goodman

A stylish “high-stakes, global action-thriller” about spies that sees Charlize Theron kicking a lot of men, rocking incredible hair, and having a genuine relationship with another hot tough girl. It’s definitely a certain type of movie — high-stakes, global action-thriller about spies — but even if that’s not your jam, it’s sexy as hell, and pretty incredible for a film like this to have a bisexual protagonist like Lorraine.

21. Imagine Me & You (2006)

our review // mainstream movie // lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: 32%
Directed By: Ol Parker
Written By: Ol Parker
Starring: Piper Perabo, Lena Headey, Matthew Goode, Anthony Head, Celia Imrie

In a sea of depressing, soul-crushing lesbian films, Imagine Me & You stands alone as the mainstream rom-com where the girl gets the girl. Even the straight dudes are good guys in this movie!

20. V For Vendetta (2005)

mainstream movie // lgbtq female ensemble characters

The lesbian love story between Valerie and Ruth, persecuted for their sexual orientation, is what inspires a closeted gay television host to start a revolution that is eventually finished by Natalie Portman’s Evey. In a dramatic departure from the usual state of affairs, the film amped up, rather than toned down, the source material’s queerness.

19. Princess Cyd (2017)

// our review // lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: 82%
Directed by: Stephen Cone
Written by: Stephen Cone
Starring: Jessie Pinnick, Rebecca Spence, Malic White

A character study of two women who clumsily and gently brush up against each other and find new happiness because of it — and in the process, one of them simply realizes she likes girls.

18. Dope (2015)

mainstream movie // lgbtq female ensemble character

Rotten Tomatoes score: 89%
Directed by: Rick Famuyiwa
Written by: Rick Famuyiwa
Starring: Kiersey Clemons, Shameik Moore

Kiersy Clemons co-stars as Diggy, the masculine-presenting lesbian best friend of protagonist Malcom and their other bestie, Jib. Together, the trio of ’90s-loving geeks used to getting bullied on the daily are invited to a cool party hosted by drug dealers, setting off a chain of events that get the kids in real deep with criminal activity and unsavory characters with no awareness of their own ridiculousness. It’s a charming, entirely original, politically conscious coming-of-age tale cast in dreamy California light and draped in eye-popping fashion with a killer soundtrack to boot. If the lesbian storyline/character was more central, it’d definitely be in the Top 10.

17. The Hours (2002)

mainstream movie // lgbtq ensemble characters

Rotten Tomatoes score: 81%
Directed By: Stephen Daldry
Written By: David Hare
Starring: Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, Nicole Kidman

Based on the Pulitzer-Prize winning book by Michael Cunningham, The Hours uses “Mrs. Dalloway” as a point of connection for three interconnected stories happening in three different time periods, including Virginia Woolf’s own. There are so many brilliant lines and quotable monologues that the story is just the icing on this highly literary cake. (And we’re making the cake so Daddy knows that we love him, remember.)

16. Gia (1997)

our review // mainstream TV movie // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

gia lesbian movie
Rotten Tomatoes score: 92%
Directed By: Michael Cristofer
Written By: Jay McInerney, Michael Cristofer
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Elizabeth Mitchell, Eric Michael Cole

Like so many lesbian movies on this list, this HBO biographical film about model Gia Marie Carangi is sexy and sweet and also harrowing and miserable. The love scene between Elizabeth Mitchell and Angelina Jolie, though, is one for the record books. It’s the reason half the lesbians over the age of 35 realized they’re gay.

15. Suicide Kale (2015)

// our review // lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: N/A
Directed by: Carly Usdin
Written by: Brittani Nichols
Starring: Jasika Nicole, Brittani Nichols, Brianna Baker, Lindsay Hicks

Jasmine and Penn, a brand-new couple, find themselves at a very confusing lunch when they find a suicide note beneath the mattress of their hosts, Jordan and Billie. This funny fresh feature was shot in a few days on no budget, which says a lot about the raw talent on display here and about how many talented women are just waiting in the wings waiting to see what happens f the

14. Battle of the Sexes (2017)

// our review // mainstream movie // lgbtq lead // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: 85%
Directed by: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris
Written by:  Simon Beaufoy
Starring:  Emma Stone, Steve Carell, Andrea Riseborough

It’s a comedy about a charming, washed-up, middle-aged gambling addict looking for a little notoriety and one more hustle. It’s a period drama about a group of women athletes trying to get equal pay and a little respect. It’s a sports movie, complete with breathless action sequences, overwrought crowd reactions, and a soaring score. It’s a biopic about a legend. And it’s one of the best lesbian films we’ve ever seen.

13. Professor Marston & The Wonder Women (2017)

// our review // mainstream movie // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: 87%
Directed by: Angela Robinson
Written by:  Angela Robinson
Starring:  Luke Evans, Rebecca Hall, Bella Heathcote, Connie Britton

Writer/director/longtime lesbian favorite Angela Robinson did a really subversive thing with the most talked-about period film of the fall of 2017: she brought an ardent screenplay, a soaring score, and unapologetically gauzy sunlight to bear on the story of the man, his wife, and their lover who created the most iconic female superhero of all time in the hopes that she would prepare the world for matriarchal rule — with a healthy side of bondage.

12. Kyss Mig/Kiss Me (Swedish) (2011)

lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: N/A
Directed By: Alexandra-Therese Keining, Therese Keining
Written By: Alexandra-Therese Keining
Starring: Liv Mjönes, Krister Henriksson, Lena Endre, Joakim Nätterqvist, Josefine Tengblad

Oh, you know, just your average 33-year-old straight-engaged woman who accidentally falls in love with her soon-to-be stepsister when she meets her for the very first time. Mia’s dumb boyfriend Tim never stood a chance.

11. The Handmaiden (2016) (Korea)

lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: 94%
Directed by: Chan-wook Park
Written by: Chan-wook Park, Seo-Kyung Chung, Chung Seo-Kyung,
Starring: Min-hee Kim, Tae-Ri Kim, Jung-Woo Ha,  Cho Jin-Woong

Inspired by Sarah Waters’ “Fingersmith,” this highly-decorated seductive thriller takes place in 1930s-era colonial Korean and Japan, where a young woman on a secluded estate develops a sexual relationship with her new handmaiden.

10. Bound (1996)

our review // mainstream movie // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: 92%
Directed by: The Wachowskis
Written by: The Wachowskis
Starring: Jennifer Tilly, Gina Gershon, Joe Pantoliano

Violet and Corky decide the best way to be together and break free from their pasts is to steal $2 million of mafia money. The plot and the violence are cartoonishly over the top, but the lesbian sex scenes are for real. They were choreographed by the legendary Susie Bright, who received a cameo in the film for her help teaching Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon how to scissor.

9. Aimee & Jaguar (2000) (Germany)

our review // lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

aimee and jaguar lesbian movie
Rotten Tomatoes score: 90%
Directed By: Max Färberböck
Written By: Erika Fischer, Max Färberböck, Rona Munro
Starring: Juliane Köhler, Maria Schrader, Heike Makatsch, Johanna Wokalek

Set in Berlin during World War II, Aimee & Jaguar is a fictional account of the real lives of  Lilly Wust and Felice Schragenheim. One is a Jewish mother working with an underground organization to fight the Nazis; the other is the wife of a Nazi soldier. Their relationship is intense and wonderful and unspeakably tragic. You’ll have to watch Imagine Me & You ten times after you watch this to feel better.

8. Bessie (2015)

// our review // mainstream TV movie // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: 88%
Directed by: Dee Rees
Written by: Dee Rees, Christopher Cleveland, Bettina Gilois
Starring: Queen Latifah, Khandi Alexander

“Bessie is the role of a lifetime for Queen Latifah,” wrote Gabby Rivera in her review. “She’s never been more poised, emotionally raw and free in her skin in any other role.” In Dee Rees’ biopic about the most popular female blues singer of pre-Depression America, Bessie’s relationships with women aren’t glossed over or pushed aside.

7. Freeheld (2015)

// our review // mainstream movie // lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: 48%
Directed by: Peter Sollett
Written by: Ron Nyswaner
Starring: Julienne Moore, Ellen Page

This tearjerker tells the true story of Laurel Hester, a New Jersey police detective diagnosed with cancer who is prohibited from leaving her pension to her domestic partner, car mechanic Stacie. They take their case to court, struggle for equality, and look real cute together.

6. Pariah (2011)

// our coverage of pariah // lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

pariah lesbian movie
Rotten Tomatoes score: 93%
Directed By: Dee Rees
Written By: Dee Rees
Starring: Adepero Oduye, Pernell Walker, Wendell Pierce

Despite violent opposition from her mother, who wants her daughter to dress femininely and be straight, 17-year-old Alike prefers to express herself with androgynous clothes and liking girls. When her mother refuses to accept her, she has to choose between staying and trying to gain her mother’s approval or leaving for college early to start a new life. We were big fans of this one.

5. Show Me Love / Fucking Amal (1999) (Sweden)

// our review // lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

fucking amal lesbian movie
Rotten Tomatoes score: 90%
Directed By: Lukas Moodysson
Written By: Lukas Moodysson
Starring: Alexandra Dahlstrom, Rebecca Liljeberg, Rebecka Liljeberg

In the small town of Amal, Sweden, two girls with very different personalities find that they have a pretty big thing in common. (Spoiler alert: It’s liking girls.) Elin is a popular, social butterfly. Agnes is an openly gay depressed recluse. The two of them decide to take a five-hour ride to Stockholm to solve all their problems, and fall in love along the way.

4. Circumstance (2011) (Iran)

lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: 86%
Directed By: Maryam Keshavarz
Written By: Maryam Keshavarz
Starring: Nikohl Boosheri, Sarah Kazemy, Reza Sixo Safai

In Tehran, Atafeh and her orphaned best friend, Shireen, fall in love, despite her brother’s growing obsession with Shireen and the religious beliefs of her family. This story is full of youth but also sexuality, and family and rules and an underworld where people can be who they are. The two girls at the center are being torn really strongly in a few directions, sometimes almost violently so, but can’t seem to untangle from each other or from their familial obligations.

3. Saving Face (2005)

// our review // lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: 87%
Directed By: Alice Wu
Written By: Alice Wu
Starring: Michelle Krusiec, Joan Chen, Lynn Chen

A multi-generational romantic comedy about a lesbian surgeon and her pregnant, unwed mother trying to find the courage to follow their hearts instead of their family’s expectations. There is nothing to dislike about this movie and if you haven’t seen it, you should remedy that immediately.

2. Carol (2015)

// our review // our extensive coverage of Carol // mainstream movie // lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance

Rotten Tomatoes score: 94%
Directed by: Todd Haynes
Written by: Phyllis Nagy
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson

Heather Hogan thinks that Carol is the best lesbian movie of all time! In fact, she thinks it’s the best movie of all time, full stop! It’s based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Price of Salt, and the only reason it didn’t win the Academy Award for Best Picture is because it doesn’t focus on the feelings or pleasure of one single man for one single second. Waterloo!

1. But I’m a Cheerleader (1999)

// our review // lgbtq story // lgbtq leads // lgbtq romance


Rotten Tomatoes score: 34%
Directed by: Jamie Babbit
Written by: Brian Wayne Peterson and Jamie Babbit
Starring: Natasha Lyonne, Clea DuVall, RuPaul

We’re surprised that the critics didn’t fall for this charming, campy, smart and timeless lesbian movie because we sure did. But I’m a Cheerleader is so many things: a cute love story, an exploration of the coming out experience, a delightfully wacky take on the real-life horrors of gay conversion therapy and, above all, hilarious. It’s also legendary for its battle with the MPAA, who wanted to slap an NC-17 on the film ’cause apparently girl-on-girl culture and female masturbation are downright obscene. After a few rounds of edits, it earned an R, hit movie theaters, and began its legendary claim on our hearts.

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Riese is the 36-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key power lesbian and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2488 articles for us.


  1. I literally clicked the link to this article while debating whether Girltrash: All Night Long was likely to have made the cut due to the drama surrounding the film’s release and the fact that it’s, uh, trashy but very entertaining and fun, and I did not have long to wait to find out!

  2. Yep, that’s why I have a great collection of Asian and European LGBTQ movies.

    So, big fan of Lisa Cholodenko? Taking High Art of the equation, the Nicole Conn thing about not watching a good movie applies totally to her.

    Thank you for including El Niño Pez. Lucía Puenzo’s XXY is also worthy of watching.

  3. Let’s not forget the delightful Swedish film, Show Me Love (Fucking Åmål) from 1998.

    Rotten Tomatoes score: 90%
    Directed and written by: Lukas Moodysson
    Starring: Alexandra Dahlström, Rebecka Liljeberg

  4. Heh, our number ones are homogeneous.

    I have been waiting to use that word in sentence with queer positive intentions since middle school.
    Did not think my bucket list would get shorter this year. :p

    • Well, technically, homogeneous wouldn’t be the right word if you mean that your number one is exactly the same as the one on this list. It would be true to say that all of the movies on this list are homogeneous because they are all lesbian or of the same kind (maybe that’s not true though, according to Riese’s rules).

      In terms of a word from the chemistry lexicon, I though maybe you’d say that you have a cis number one with Riese. However, cis is a Latin prefix that actually means “on this side of”, so I don’t think that’s technically right. If you’re looking for a strictly scientific or mathematical term, I’d stick with “equal”. But, if you’re looking for something in Latin then maybe “idem” would work. So your and Riese’s number one choices are idem.

      • You don’t have to be this person.
        I have been you, and no appreciates it when you bring scholarship into a joke unless it’s going to make it funnier.
        Especially when it was a joke come up by an 11 year old CHILD that like call certain humans by the trinomial name of our species because I knew it would make them tattle on me like 6 year old and get laughed at by the teacher.

        I dunno if you’re spectrum, just like to share your knowledge, or are trying to lord over me.
        So eh, 11 year old me wasn’t a cunning and knowledgeable linguist, but please leave silly harmless jokes go.

          • Sensitive to people that love toss knowledge around in a way that won’t be appreciated, yes.
            Being that kid wasn’t fun and being the way as adult is not more fun.

            But okay you don’t appreciate my concerned perception that you’re socially awkward etc.


          • So, just to be clear, you mean to tell me that you are so hurt that I pointed out your misuse of the word “homogeneous” that you will attack my character and call me names? And, I’m the jackass?


          • Homogeneous. Homo geneous. HOMO GENIUS.

            a joke exploiting the different possible meanings of a word or the fact that there are words that sound alike but have different meanings.

          • Chassis, you realize that the person who called you a jackass (me) is a completely different user than the person who you acted like a jackass to, right? Or is it just you against the world and it doesn’t matter if anyone other than yourself exists?

            No one cares if you’re right. People care if you’re a kind person who can engage in good faith without looking to score points with your pedantry. It matters how you make people feel in a community — at this point, you’re trolling.

    • Beware: a list of “best lesbian movies” that lists more than 10-25 is still going to have plenty of garbage lez movies on it. Read some of those descriptions/warnings carefully before committing.

  5. It always makes me sad to see Fucking Åmål top lists like this. It’s not a bad film, it’s just that I can’t at all share the positive, heart-warming feelings people have about it.

    I was the same age as Elin and Agnes when the film came out in 1998, living in the same kind of community in the same culture, and my school had a private screening at the cinema. Like Agnes, I was bullied and depressed. I had a crush on a girl sitting on the opposite end of that screening. I was terrified that I might be a lesbian, because one more thing that made me different and made my life difficult was more than I could handle. Sitting there, with these thoughts and the general attitude towards homosexuality in 1998, surrounded by bullies and the entirety of my social life which I could in no way escape for the next few years… I didn’t see any of the uplifting courage others have talked about, I just saw that being gay was about being alone, targeted and exposed. For me, the film didn’t end as the credits rolled, because I knew exactly the kind of hell that awaited them around the corner, and I knew that being brave for five minutes that one day didn’t fix anything.

    That said, I’m definitely not blaming Fucking Åmål for the fact that I clung to heterosexuality as if though I were drowning and it was a lifeboat when I finally developed a boy crush the following year—there’s a whole slew of other 1990’s reasons for that.

  6. nice list. loads to check out. but what about ALONG CAME LOLA (LGBT version of Run Lola Run), ELENA UNDONE, OUT AT THE WEDDING and ROOM IN ROME? Well worth watching. more so than a lot of the films that made this list. I am personally over all the depressing films we usually get served and love it when we get a half decent flick that has a happy ending and is fun to watch.

  7. I feel like I’ve been so burned by bad 90s lesbian movies at this point (always Wolfe movies, ALWAYS movies that I streamed from years and years before I came out) that I can’t even look at these movie covers without feeling pangs of PTSD.

  8. whoa. I had no idea how few lesbians movies I’d actually seen, but this list has educated me.

    A not lesbian but kind of sort of queer movie I like is Victor/Victoria. Julie Andrews, ya’ll.

    I’ll have to watch “The Hunger” post haste because Catherine Deneuve.

    I think my number one is probably the Handmaiden. I just loved that movie. I love seeing movies like that in a theater full of straight people (which I did). I like to look at them react to the graphic sex. It’s like original twitter.

  9. Ok, I know this could be an impossible task and I can’t seem to find a post if that was already done, but I would loved to see a list of films “that relied solely on lesbian subtext”.

    You had a great start with A League of Their Own, Fried Green Tomatoes, Ghostbusters and The Color Purple (I still think that we need to remake this films and maken totally Lesbian Movies). I can add Bend It Like Beckham, Thelma & Louise and, of course, Muriel’s Wedding, for me the queerest film of all times

  10. Just popping in to say: THANK YOU for the high ranking of “Pariah”. That movie came out just I was, ahem, “coming out”. And as a black queer 20something in Brooklyn… even though Alike was a teenager, I felt so seen in her story. If in 30 years someone were to ask me, what was the movie that best encapsulated black queer Brooklyn in the late aughts/ early 2010s- that is 100% the movie I would point them to. It’s a cultural artifact. A moment in time.

  11. I think it’s perfect that the (revised) list of best lesbian movies includes so many terrible and depressing ones. Finding a movie rental place (ah, the days of vcrs and dvds) that had a queer section was a blessing and a curse. So many hopeful nights that ended in horrified disbelief! I love that Saving Face made it in the top 3. And But I’m a Cheerleader is perfect.

    I remember liking a movie about Thanksgiving maybe? There was cooking. With Julianna Margulies and Kyra Sedgwick. Pretty sure nobody died and the lesbians stayed together, which would’ve made it Oscar worthy in my mind no matter how bad it may have actually been.

  12. Oh, and moving on from my love letter to Pariah… I was so excited to see SUCH high rankings for both Bessie and (surprisingly! I didn’t see this coming!) Dope!

    I agree whole-heartedly with Gabby’s “Bessie” review. I remember sharing it widely on social media when the movie first premiered. It was the most comfortable and honest I have ever seen QL in a movie, and it was a magnificent sight to behold. Also the queer history of the Harlem Renaissance is not highlighted nearly enough- in either queer or black circles.

    If you haven’t seen Dope- YOU SHOULD SEE DOPE!!! It’s one of my Top 10 favorite movies of all time! It’s so quirky and original and it takes black nerds seriously in all their geeky joy. It’s on Netflix- so you have no excuse. SEE THIS MOVIE!!!

    (And also: YAY SET IT OFF! That is one of the biggest tearjerkers of all time. High up there with Beaches on my list for female friendship movies that will both empower you and tear your heart up and you will love so much that you will watch it again and again and again)

  13. I might be the only person that liked Room in Rome, it wasn’t flawless but it was one of those film that let me forget everything else. Could also be that I have a soft spot for magic realism (When Night is Falling!).

    The only other film I think is missing on the list is Auf der anderen Seite/The Edge of Heaven (Germany/Turkey).

    Nonetheless a great list!

  14. No The World Unseen? Has the same two actresses from I Can’t Think Straight. Personally, I think Carol should get top spot because WOW. This movie was so stunning it made me break my “going to the cinema to watch the same movie again” record, which is now 6. I saw it SIX times in theaters because it was THAT GOOD and it was SO STELLAR that when my mom came for a visit, I dragged her out to watch it even though there’s a lengthy sex scene and I can barely handle watching a movie with my mom where people are kissing let alone full on sex but Carol was THAT MAGNIFICENT that I just had to share the awesomeness. I’m still peeved it did’t get more rewards and recognition. I also think DEBS should be higher…at least in the top 15. Then again since it’s the first ever queer movie I ever saw I’ve a soft spot for it.

  15. really appreciate the update and there are a few here I will add to my watch list!

    what I really want more than anything is a list of lesbian movies where the 2 (or more) central love interests already know they’re gay and to just forget about the whole sad coming out angst for a few sweet minutes!

    freeheld was groundbreaking to me in that sense but also very sad in a whole other way… so I guess I have to make appropriate behaviour my no. 1 as the only gay film I’ve ever seen which features out people and a non-sad ending!! please help me find more/everybody make a film about your average queer lives, post-hetero-oriented-angst, thanks

  16. I’ve seen my summer of love twice and that move still a bit weird to me. Like something about it has an air of creepiness(and not really in a good way). Also, the end I am still not 100% sure about. I did like the acting though.

    I am kind of surprised there isn’t any of those Israeli women and Arab and/or Muslim woman fall in love(or the less common, Muslim and Christian fall in love during war), Romeo-Juliet type movies on this list.


    (I’ve just realized I’m too lazy to come up with well-honed insults).

    Thanks for this beautiful list.

  18. (I was waiting to see if there would be a V-Day feelings open thread but since it looks like there won’t, I’ll post this here.)

    Happy Feb. 14th (whatever it may mean to you) Autostraddle community!! I made you a thing because I love you.

  19. I will say this a forewarning, but Amiee and Jaguar made me cry for like 2 hours straight after watching it. Really, tragic story that was well acted. Also, don’t watching it alone like I did, watching it with someone you can hug.

  20. Is there a specific reason why Nina’s Heavenly Delights isn’t on the list?

    Oh, sorry, I fail to follow the instructions in the introduction.


    (I’m not going to include insults, because you’re simply too fabulous for taking the time to put this together).

  21. I Can’t Think Straight is amazing, definitely in my personal top 10. It is cheesy and I love it.

    Also, how about some love for Nina’s Heavenly Delights? Cheesy lesbian romance AND food porn!

    In the “regular good not ridiculous good” category, echoing demand for The World Unseen.

  22. Question!! Has anyone seen “All About E”? I wanted to watch it but it’s not on this list is it terrible? It looks super fun and I’m guessing no one dies, but I guess I could be wrong about that.

  23. I didn’t see the original list so I read through the summary of criteria. In that summary it was stated that trans films like Boys Don’t Cry would not be included but then you included Boy Meets Girl? It’s been a while since I’ve seen many of these movies but after Brandon was outed as a girl, he and Lana had sex again and were going to run off together.
    As for the movies on the list, I’ve probably seen less than half (there are a lot of foreign/independent ones that I never even heard of) and I WAS surprised where the ones I did see, the more “mainstream” lesbian ones (i.e.with notable stars) stood on the list and the other mainstream films (that were made with a budget and came out in theaters) that have a lesbian but didn’t contribute to the plot.

    THE WORST MOVIE is Loving Annabelle, and a good handful of movies that I love were lower (or is it higher? they had a higher number than #70) on the list. Blue is the Warmest Color I could not watch in 1 sitting, it took about 5 stops and starts to get through that one.

    DEBS at 37, come on! Yeah the green screen was a hot mess but that made it funnier. But when I saw Imagine Me and You (19) was NOT even TOP 10 I was like what the hell is #1 because I seemed to have scrolled past a lot of the movies I know and could only think of a couple more to be on the list. Freeheld at #7, really? Top 3 are all good movies, and I would keep them in at least the top 10 but DEBS and Imagine Me and You are my faves.

    Jenny’s Wedding, Alto, A Girl Thing (though this might be a mini series), What’s Cooking?, Out at the Wedding, The Perfect Family (which I didn’t see but remember reading about it on AfterEllen) and maybe even an Amy Adams movie (not Sunshine Cleaning). I’m sure there are many more that I can’t think of at the moment. Good List, I should check out some more (which is to say I’ll probably just re-watch some of my old favorites.)

  24. Interesting list, but a few things…to exclude such classics as “The Children’s Hour,” “The Fox” and “The Killing of Sister George” is doing a great disservice to your older readers. I also wished I had known about this..I would have pleased ask to have the TV movie I wrote about back in September “The War Widow” be considered for inclusion in this list. Although technically not a theatrical release, it was a pioneer in positive depiction of a lesbian relationship. One final thing: “Carol” at number two and “But I’m a Cheerleader” at number one? Hell no. oh HELL HELL HELL no….

  25. Again, I know these were theatricals, but “Losing Chase” with Helen Mirren and Kyra Sedgewick was one of the most beautiful movies of the last 20 years. It should be included in a future update. While made for Showtime, it had a short theatrical run..UPDATE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  26. I love love love “Go Fish”. It’s one of my very favorites. Does anyone else agree? I wish it had made the list. I really respect the reasons some films were left out, but can’t think of any reason why this one would be (correct me if I’m not thinking of something obvious). Did it just not make the cut?

    I also liked “The World Unseen”, but I could definitely understand reasons for leaving that off.

    Also “Clouds of Sils Maria”… but I know that one’s all subtext 🙂

  27. Autostraddle has been sleeping on it but definitely watch and talk about Elvis and Madona, it’s so cute, sweet, campy and gay and has a lesbian plot involving a trans woman.
    Also the new Palestinian movie, In Between, has a lesbian character/plot that is a lot more explicit than the lesbian plot in Caramel (a movie about lebanese women).

    Love this list esp since Pariah and Saving Face are on the top of the list!!

  28. This is a great list, and now I want to try watching all of them! You can’t please everyone but this is a great recommendation and now I have 102 things to watch. I really love the international representation 🙂

  29. That’s not the plot of Show me Love is it? I don’t remember them going to Stockholm at all. At one point they thumb down a car (not a euphemism) and it seems like that’s going to happen but then the guy driving the car sees them kissing, asks if he’s on candid camera (because girls only kiss for a joke, right?!) and kicks them out, back to Amal.
    Great film though. Great list too. Sorry, I mean…WORST REVIEW. PLOT WRONG.


      But if we reason this through a bit, they did technically *decide* to take a five hour ride to Stockholm as stated, and the 90 seconds or so that they were actually in the car on the way to Stockholm could technically have been the point at which they fell in love, who are we to say? And in that case we’d both have egg on our faces because this summary would be absolutely accurate, inasmuch as it never actually alleges that they participate in the remaining four hours and fifty eight and a half minutes of the journey.

      HOWEVER, this defence is very much predicated on the journey to Stockholm *actually taking five hours*, which I do not believe is ever stated in the movie and which I have no way of independently corroborating (is Amal even a real place..?), so it still seems a gloomy possibility that this summary is, as originally suspected, fake news 🙁

      Otherwise 10/10, loved the film and the summary.

  30. I find it fascinating to see how and when people get attached to these movies; a list like this is hard to assemble because we have such diverse experiences of viewing context.
    I barely even finished DEBS and don’t understand its appeal at all, but I saw it in my mid-twenties. I am attached to When Night is Falling, because I first saw it as a 15 year old. Now I find it a bit ridiculous, but my nostalgia still obscures my judgment.

    Saving Face is solid and stars Joan Chen and requires no nostalgia.

  31. I’m delighted that Lianna is still solidly on the list. That great scene after she finally “realizes” and walks down the street and just sees every woman as a lesbian is such a great encapsulation of that revelation afterglow.

  32. Seconding the calls for The World Unseen – come on, not anywhere in the top 100? Also I can’t think straight all the way down at #74?? Also DEBS should have been higher, but I’ll pick my battles 🙂

    Thank you for including Circumstance and Saving Face, and for *not* including Room in Rome or Jenny’s Wedding.

    So many new films for me to watch…

  33. The only thing that would make this list better is if there were some indication of which films will leave you feeling emotionally devastated after watching (or at least a warning on the ones where a lesbian dies). I’m really keen on a having a cheesy gay movie night, but I’m not in the best emotional state for an unexpected tearjerker right now.

    I know the obvious rom-com/happy-endings – But I’m a Cheerleader, I Can’t Think Straight, Imagine Me & You, and Saving Face – but I’m searching for something new that’ll give me those same warm’n’fuzzy feelings.

  34. So proud of myself for seeing most of the top ones, but thanks so much for all the new suggestions! I wish my girlfriend would put up with watching half-decent to good lesbian movies with me, hahaha. I’m surprised Imagine Me and You isn’t higher, though, I feel like it got demoted!

  35. But where’s “THE WORLD UNSEEN”?
    Seriously I’m really surprised not finding that movie here. Especially when they have I Can’t Think Straight (Lisa Ray and Sheetal Sheth are just, epic), because TWU is better than it.
    I even brought the book and read it after seeing the movie. I was so hooked on it, forever my top 5 of “lesbian” movie.

  36. Obviously Carol should be #1 because Carol is everything, and I’ve seen it now like 20 times I guess?, and I will never be over it. and because it inspired Heather Hogan’s brilliant act of resistance on the airplane, and just for THAT it should be #1.

  37. Great list, thank you for putting it together. Me too, I miss “Nina’s Heavenly Delights”, though. To me, it’s one of those feel-good movies like “Imagine Me & You” or “I Can’t Think Straight” that I can watch over and over again.

    Also, thank you for including so many international movies. A lot of lists like this that are put together by American websites, usually barely include any foreign language movies. (One thing about “Aimee & Jaguar”, though: Felice, the Jewish woman in the film, is not a mother. Only Lily, the soldier’s wife, has children.)

  38. Next time you update this, I’d love to see a couple scales – maybe just quality of movie 1-10, quality/amount of lesbian content 1-10, quality/amount of non-cis/white/American content 1-10, and one adjective to describe how the movie leaves you feeling. Some of the movies I don’t know don’t have enough info with them for me to know anything about whether I’d want to see them or why, and some of the movies I do know I think people might get the wrong impression about if the only info they had was from this list.

    For example, Pride is one of my new favorite movies but it has very little lesbian content, and I think the description here is misleading. Yes, there’s a bit about the lesbian subgroup, but it’s mostly portrayed as ladies being ridiculous and divisive. I would not recommend the movie at all for someone looking for a good lesbian movie, although I’ve been recommending it all over the place as just a great movie, despite how it treats the lesbians.

    Also surprised that Lost and Delerious didn’t make it on here, i get the objections to it but also I think it’s the first movie I saw that showed teenage girls being in love in a really tender and believable way…and also fairly realistic sex between them. Plenty of these films have terrible endings.

    But thanks for doing all this work! I agree on the top ten for the movies I’ve seen, and will need to finally see the others now. This is a super great resource.

  39. How about Women who kill (2016) by Ingrid Jungermann? it got a 100% on rotten tomatoes. And I saw someone mention Even cowgirls get the blues, if nothing but for the soundtrack by k.d.lang.

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