Top Ten ’90s Movies Beloved by Girls Who Turned Out Gay

The coming out process always involves a little bit of historical re-contextualizing — your emotional attachments to your female best friends or your unexamined aversion to the way men smell in the morning suddenly take on new meaning when looking backwards through brand-new homo-tinted glasses. Your pop-cultural loves are no exception.

Today we look at some of the early-to-mid ’90s films that defined the youths of young queers born in the ’80s. These aren’t gay films, because well, there really weren’t many gay films back then (not like there really are now either though), but films with undertones or secret stories that queers heard loud & clear whether the mainstream knew it or not.

If you like this list, you’ll also like our list of Badass Girl Team movies, which celebrates flicks about girl gangs, girl sports teams, and otherwise group-related girl activities.

Regardless of when you grew up, what were the films that define your queer retrospective? And why do so many of ours star Whoopi Goldberg?


Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)


This story is multi-generational, jumping around from the past to present day. We love us some Jessica Tandy and Kathy Bates (her quip about car insurance in this one is classic), but let’s be honest, Mary Louise Parker and Mary Stuart Masterson are the real meat of this movie. Their characters meet when they are super young and obvs fall in love. Idgie is a classic dyke, but Ruth tries out the straight thing for a while. Of course, her marriage fails miserably, and the two women end up reuniting. Collective awwwws all around, especially for Idgie’s adorable over-protectiveness and devotion.

This is one of those “coded” movies that passes as hetero to all of those unenlightened viewers. But to those of us who were looking for a bit more under the surface, the relationship between Ruth and Idgie will give you everything you need. At least, for a fairly PG movie. And of course, if you’ve read the book by Fannie Flagg, it’s abundantly clear that these two women were actually in love. Rumor has it that the actresses wanted to make things a lot more explicit, but Hollywood just wasn’t ready. It also provides a handy straight/gay test: just ask a girl her thoughts on this movie for some extra clues on her orientation!


A League of Their Own (1992)

A League of Their Own is the gayest not-gay movie of all time. Rosie O’Donnell and Madonna play best friends, and the rest of them are farm girls who don’t fit in and just want to play baseball. I mean, COME ON. I know they all go out to a bar and dance with dudes, and yeah Madonna is boy crazy. But remember, this was in the 1940s. What else is a girl to do?

Gay or not, we love the story of women stepping up to the plate (see what I did there?) and taking over such a traditionally masculine arena.


Little Women (1994)

Jo March, played by ’90s heroine Winona Ryder, is The Tomboy Archetype. With an emphasis on the bonds between sisters and the women-without-men wartime household, this film warmed the cockles of many queer hearts.


Girls Town (1996)

Though largely ignored by mainstream audiences (who can only handle so much girl power), this indie cult film quietly caught on amongst teenage girls and indie film circuits for its stark and female-focused portrayal of urban American life. A tight group of female friends is torn up when their best friend commits suicide, which they later discover was prompted by a rape she never told them about. Basically it’s about how girls bond with other girls to protect themselves from the slings & arrows of the men and the families that neglect them. Also, there is a lot of flannel, sports jerseys, and serious overall action.

The soundtrack gets bonus points for featuring queer faves like PJ Harvey, Salt-n-Pepa & Queen Latifah.


Now and Then (1995)


I remember this movie sold out when we went to see it in the theater, which was devastating, so we all had to buy tickets for some other crap and sneak in, where we sat in the back in the unoccupied wheelchair area in a girl-packed room.

The film centers on four grown women who’ve spent all their life trying to recapture the youthful energy they felt at the age of 12 in the summer of 1970 “when everything started to change,” like right before there was puberty and dating and boys and all those other things, let alone marriage & babies & other hetero trappings. The four girls, played by iconic ’90s girl actresses Christina Ricci, Thora Birch, and Gaby Hoffman, along with Ashleigh Aston Moore (Moore stopped acting in 1997, and tragically died at the age of 26 in 2007 from pneumonia and bronchitis), fought boys who talked shit, played boys’ games and weren’t afraid to get scrappy.

Extra gay points for Rosie O’Donnell as the grown-up Christina Ricci character, Roberta, who was originally supposed to be a lesbian although that storyline was edited out by producers wary of controversy. Demi Moore was dashing in her menswear and her daughter Rumer, who now plays gay on 90210, appeared as Demi’s daughter in Now and Then. ALSO, our dear Haviland Stillwell was an extra/stand-in.


How to Make an American Quilt (1995)

Want the weird girls to see your normal-looking movie? Cast Winona Ryder. While How To Make An American Quilt is essentially about a young woman, Finn (Ryder), who’s about to marry this dude (Dermot Mulroney), it’s also about a how group of women learned to navigate the world while still maintaining a close, if sometimes rocky, friendship with one another. Lesbians love that stuff.

The character of Finn is kind of brooding, confused and agitated. She sulks around in over-sized t-shirts and messy hair. She has feelings. She writes! She’s like us, but straighter. Anne Bancroft is quietly badassy, as per ushe, and Maya Angelou is calming and perfect, probably just like IRL.


Boys on the Side (1995)

Hello, hi! Even the title is kinda gay! Then you’ve got an actual lesbian musician, played by Whoopi Goldberg (ahem), a slightly neurotic woman who ends up screaming CUNT! in the kitchen (Mary-Louise Parker, Fried Green Tomatoes la la laaaa), and crowd favorite, Drew Barrymore, just more or less being herself, I think.

Three women on a road trip, sharing their feelings. Topless Drew Barrymore! Laughter and tears! The Indigo Girls! Nineties lipstick! Southwestern landscapes! There is so much processing and bonding in this movie, it’s almost like it’ll never end (just like a real lesbian relationship!). But it does end, and it’s sad, because you know Jane loved Robin so so much. But Holly’s hair is still super cute, so it’s ok!


The Craft (1996)

Three high school girls (Fairuza Balk, Neve Campbell and Rachel True) — all social outcasts and slightly bitter — are practicing witchcraft with minimal results. Enter Sarah (Robin Tunney), a semi-depressed new girl with suicidal tendencies and a few secrets. When the gals finds out that Sarah’s a real witch, they invite her to be the all-important fourth member of their coven and shit gets crazy. There are a few epic scenes involving large insects and hair loss, then everyone learns about karma!

This movie had a lot to offer the young queer: cute girls in short black skirts and tight shirts, bonding, friendship and revenge. And of course we all went out and bought a book of spells and some black lipstick, even if we never got around to forming a coven.


Practical Magic (1998)

This one centers on a New England family — mainly two sisters, Sally (Sandra Bullock) and Gillian (Nicole Kidman) — rumored to be witches. Their aunts, played by Stockard Channing and Dianne West, and Sally’s two daughters round out the almost entirely female cast. The men in the movie are mostly foils and usually die pretty quickly/repeatedly. Basically, Sally and Gillian go through a bunch of terrible things, along the way learning a lot about each other as sisters and also how to be happy with or without men.

This whole movie is about female empowerment and all the special benefits you get from being a woman. The witchcraft thing just adds another badass layer. The film portrays witchcraft as a special, girls-only club, which is obvs something lesbians can relate to.

Yeah, all of the women in this movie are somehow related, so this isn’t lesbianism at face value. But we like how these ladies are bonded together in extra deep ways, probably because they drink so much tequila together (hello, Midnight Margaritas sounds like the best family tradition ever).


Sister Act (1992) & Sister Act 2 (1993)

Um, hello NUNS IN A CONVENT, my name is Whoopi Goldberg, and I have come to make you SING AND DANCE in unison and revive the spirits of the townspeople who aren’t nearly as gay I MEAN FUN as y’all are! And let’s not forget the sequel, Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit (1993), which featured a young Lauryn Hill as one of the students Whoopi Goldberg has to come whip into shape like she did with the nuns.

Seriously did anyone besides the homos love the sequel, maybe not. We loved the sequel.


Foxfire (1996)

Girl gang taking revenge on the men who have wronged them, as headed up by sexy leather-clad ambisexual ringleader played by Angelina Jolie, with backup by indie heartthrob Jenny Lewis and a lesbian chick played by lesbian model Jenny Shimizu.

This movie was so gay that it even turned Angelina Jolie into a bisexual. It was on the set of Foxfire that Angelina met her first girlfriend, Shimizu.


A’ight ladies, time to kick & scream about your favorites!

Riese is the 38-year-old Co-Founder and CEO of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key Jewish 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 2843 articles for us.

178 Comments

  1. Pingback: Las mejores diez películas de los 90 con connotaciones lésbicas

  2. So this thread is 4 years old and there are multiple Angelina and Winona movies here, but no one thinks to mention Girl, Interrupted??? It’s even in the nineties! One of my biggest 90’s favs along with Practical Magic, A League of their Own, The Craft, and Now and Then. Looks like I will have to get watching on some of these others!

  3. To continue with the theme of this thread being outdated, I watched Fried Green Tomatoes this afternoon for the first time and then Googled something about the Idgie and Ruth as love interests and this article was second in the search results. The article and comments that followed confirmed my thoughts on the Idgie-Ruth relationship. I wish I’d seen this film sooner, and I intend to read the book. I saw Now and Then at a friend’s birthday party on VHS when I was 7 in 1997 and all of us bonded over it. I had no conscious understanding of its subtext, but I definitely wanted to be Roberta and was fascinated by the duct-tape binding scene. I saw Practical Magic and The Craft in middle school at lunchtime in “video club” (where a select few of us went to avoid the student government rallies, elections, and football/cheerleader scene). I discovered Boys on the Side thanks to IMDB after the Weeds series finale (I love Mary Louise Parker), and Whoopi Goldberg has been one of my favorite actors to watch since I saw Sister Act (1 & 2) as a child. Oh and come to think of it–as a pre-teen I watched every episode of the short-lived series Kate Brasher and idolized Mary Stuart Masterson (who played Idgie in Fried Green Tomatoes.

  4. While I’ve not seen all the films on this list, I agree with all the ones I have seen. However I believe there are several missing that certainly helped me come to terms with not only my sexuality but also my desire to see strong successful women that didn’t let society or it’s misogynistic norms bring them down.

    Thelma & Louise (1991)
    Heavenly Creatures (1994)
    Bound (1996)
    Gia (1998)

    Some others that I can’t recall right now.

  5. yeah, I’m shocked there was no mention of “Thelma & Louise” or “Just One of the Guys.” but seriously, what about “Josie & the Pussycats”? could Rachel Leigh Cook & Rosario Dawson be any more lesbionic in that movie?? seriously, every time they’re on screen together, it’s like, “gay. gay. SO gay! just make out already!”

  6. I saw a number of these in the theater as a kid. I especially enjoyed Fried Green Tomatoes as a 9-year old. I loved The Craft in Middle School I never saw Foxfire, even with my crush on Angelina Jolie after Hackers so that’s on my to watch list now.

  7. This is a great list! Loved most of these as a kid.

    But I just want to point out that Angelina Jolie was prooooobably bi even before she met her first girlfriend since bisexuality is an identity that is not dependent on who you are currently dating. ?

  8. This list is totally accurate but I feel like these lists ALWAYS forget “Gold Diggers: Thr Secret of Bear Mountain” and the wonderful female friendship of Christina Ricci and Anna Chumsky in this film. I mean, new girl in town ditches her new friends and the boys who want her attention for the girl from the wrong side of the tracks? It doesn’t get better than that.

    • “Idgie is a classic dyke, but Ruth tries out the straight thing for a while.”

      Right! Wouldn’t “bisexual” be a more obvious conclusion than “straight and then lesbian”? Haha, hi, we exist!

  9. Have people read Practical Magic the book? The story in the book is *far* more complex and multi-generational. When the movie came out I preferred the book *so much* (but that didn’t stop me watching it about 10 times!)

    It’s by Alice Hoffman.

  10. Oh gosh, Fried Green Tomatoes. Be still my heart. That was a movie that spoke to me so much when I was still in the closet. Because I was terrified of getting caught watching anything overtly gay, the only woman-on-woman things I tended to let myself see were pictures or quick clips of women kissing, all aimed at pleasing men. I even remember zipping through the facebook groups created by dudes/for dudes that were called “I love lesbians” and things like that. I thought it would be easier to close out of a browser like that… and of course I always remembered to delete the history.

    Then I saw Fried Green Tomatoes and I was so moved. I knew right away that it was a love story, and it was the first thing that ever made me feel like women in love could be something pure – something that didn’t need to be ashamed of itself, something to cherish, something beautiful. It didn’t need to be exploitative or over-sexualized (for men’s eyes). I have since seen and loved many lesbian movies (Carol and Saving Face are my favorites), but FGT will always hold a special place in my heart. I still think it’s one of the greatest romances ever put on film.

  11. Pingback: The Worst Years – New Things Scare Me

  12. I feel like Little Women was the first movie I ever saw at the cinema? Although maybe it’s just the first one I remember, because Jo March was such a boss. I basically aspired to be her, minus the gross old professor. Also, Jo was based on Louisa May Alcott, and Louisa May Alcott was probably a homo and definitely a ‘spinster’, so.

Contribute to the conversation...

Yay! You've decided to leave a comment. That's fantastic. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated by the guidelines laid out in our comment policy. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation and thanks for stopping by!