By: Sara Century
In theoretical Gayflix, this would be my top 22 of all lesbian movies.
Gayflix Top 22
D.E.B.S. – This movie is equal parts hit and miss for me, but that’s mostly because I over-think everything to a basically insane degree. It’s really just a delightful and adorable love story with a lot of funny moments in it, so if that’s what you need from an evening, I recommend it. I’ve also watched it about 5 times, so whatever criticisms I have would definitely need to be taken with a grain of salt.
The Fish Child – Lucia Puenzo is one of my favorite underrated directors, and this is probably her best movie, so far. It’s super dark and political, but more or less follows a woman named Lala as she falls in love with her family’s maid. When the maid is sent to prison due to Lala’s father being the shadiest person of all time, Lala goes on a journey to bust her out, and it’s just about as awesome as it sounds.
Show Me Love – Lesbian coming-of-age stories have a tendency to be overwhelmingly depressing, and this one… isn’t. It’s just really great. I highly recommend this film fo anyone that just wants to check out a cute teenage love story. I especially appreciated it after watching a series of bleak teen lesbian films: “My Summer of Love,” “Water Lilies,” and “She-Moneys,” all of which are good, but just emotionally brutal.
Aimee & Jaguar – Heartcrushing story of a Nazi’s wife and a Jewish woman that fall in love. Probably one of the great World War II films as well as one of the great lesbian films.
Brand Upon the Brain! – This is easily one of my favorite films of all time. Guy Maddin is bonkers, and his silent film inspired way of making films is going to be either a hit or a miss with you. Personally, I love it. This is definitely his best film, in my opinion. Isabella Rosellini’s over-the-top narration alone is worth the price of admission, but also amazing is the fact that a girl named Wendy dresses up like her possibly made-up twin brother Chance and seduces Guy’s sister. It rules.
Circumstance – This movie is so tragic, but so well-made. The story behind the filming of it is fascinating. Based in Iran, where it would be very illegal to make a film like this, the story follows 2 young bisexual women as they experiment with drugs and encounter intense political discourse. I would read a book about the making of this film in a heartbeat.
But I’m a Cheerleader – This movie should be on all lesbian film lists, forever, because it’s just really damn cute. It’s funny, and it’s everything you need from a movie. Also, Natasha Lyonne and Clea Duvall are lifelong crushes for me, so seeing them in any movie is a dealmaker.
Pariah – Dee Rees just directed “Bessie,” and that film only isn’t on this list because I haven’t seen it yet. I know I’m going to love it, and I flipped out when I found out that she was signed to make the long-awaited Bessie Smith biopic. The reason I got so excited was all in this film, “Pariah.” It’s her feature-length debut, and follows a butch teen named Alike as she deals with homophobia, friendship, and crushing out on girls. This movie is essential.
Picnic at Hanging Rock – This is another film that isn’t stated as being queer, but is definitely based on a young girl having an intense obsession with her friend, and there’s a whole lot of subtext to confirm a relationship between the 2. This movie has a great dreamy quality to it, and a wonderful soundtrack. It conveys tragedy in such a strange way, and is aesthetically just beautiful.
The Haunting (1963) – This is a cool horror film, but my adoration of it is definitely rooted pretty much solely in Theo, the psychic artist lesbian that is definitely one of the great unsung characters of film. I am her, and I love her.
Vampyros Lesbos – Low budget art house film about lesbian vampires that pulls out all the stops. If you’ve seen one lesbian vampire story, you’ve seen them all, but Vampyros Lesbos is, in my opinion, the greatest of the traditional lesbian vampire narratives. The soundtrack is renowned as being one of the great scores of the 1970s, and Soledad Miranda is absolutely haunting in what turned out to be one of her last roles before a tragically young demise.
The Sticky Fingers of Time – This movie is weird. It’s a little shaky, but it’s a 1st effort from its director, so that’s perfectly forgivable. The strangest part, to me, is that it seems like it ends right when the plot is starting to pick up. That said, it’s still a pretty solid sci-fi movie, and I really appreciate the characters, particularly the stunningly well-dressed and inexplicably evil ex-girlfriend character who is also the villain of the story. I really adored that character, and I wish this movie were about 3 hours longer, honestly. Still, pretty rad 90s indie film.
Fascination – Everyone that criticizes this movie just reminds me why I love it so much. If you call it low-budget, softcore porn, or a B-movie, all I can say is that those are the reasons that “Fascination” is probably the best of all the lesbian vampire movies. I just called “Vampyros Lesbos” the best, too, but “Vampyros Lesbos” follows the standard tropes of all lesbian vampire films, whereas “Fascination” just goes completely off the rails. I have a tattoo of this film, so, to say the least, I’m a fan. This film is really scary, and just beautifully shot.
Farewell My Queen – Of the many films based on the life of Marie Antoinette. I like this one the best by quite a wide margin. It follows one of Antoinette’s loyal handmaidens as she attemps to help her queen escape in her final days at Versailles. At no point is this film explicitly lesbian, but there is a heartcrushing kiss between Antoinette and La duchesse Gabrielle de Polignac that continues to haunt me. This is an incredible movie.
Kiss Me – This one is just a really straight foward, sweet love story. I almost always have issues getting into movies where the main storyline is “love is rough,” but this one’s too cute to resist.
Concussion – I’m so glad they made this movie for so many reasons. In my opinion, it’s a failure on the part of the film community not to recognize this film for it’s many unique traits. The total resistence of any resolution either positive or negative is, in a way, groundbreaking. I also praise them for telling a story about sex work that neither vilifies nor glamorizes it. Finally, the fact that it’s all about a middle-aged woman experiencing extreme lesbian bed death is the last item needed to completely sell me on this film. Really great.
Mullholland Drive – I think this is a great movie, and, on a personal note, it’s a film that really changed my life in a few important ways, acting as a sort of gateway drug to other, weirder films. I felt resistent to put it on this list, though, because I would not say that it’s portrayal of lesbians is particularly favorable, and because both women are highly sexualized for the male audience and the male characters in the movie. Then I was like, fuck it. This is a really good movie, and I’m in favor of people watching it.
Madchen in Uniform – There have been 2 versions of this film made, and either of them are adorable, they both feature fantastic performances from their casts, and they follow basically the same storyline: a young girl loses her mother, goes to boarding school, and then falls in love with her babe teacher who is like, “Ehhhhhh, you’re a BABYYYYY.” It’s a great movie, and the Nazis attempted to destroy the 1st version of this film and nearly did, so there’s yet another reason to love it.
Room in Rome – 2 babes speak in really sexy accents to each other for 2+ hours, so I don’t know if you need anything more than that to sell you on a film. I pretty much don’t.
May – Anna Faris in “May” is probably my all-time favorite predatory lesbian. She’s such a sketchball through this whole movie, but somehow so hilarious. Her comic timing is just on point, and I wish people would put her in more movies, or perhaps all movies. “May” is a super dark horror film, so don’t watch it if that’s a dealbreaker, but the Breeders are the soundtrack, and it’s a great scary movie.
Reform School Girl – Not to be confused with “Reform School GirlS” of 1986, which starred Wendy O. Williams and was just the most bananas thing I’ve ever seen. ALSO not to be confused with the original “Reform School Girl” from the 50s. This version of “Reform School Girl” is from the 90s, and it features the most 90s-looking appearance from Matt LaBlanc as the sketchy boyfriend to ever be. This is a weird film, because it’s really camp, and the acting and story are extremely stereotypical, but it transcends the bullshit because the main character is so awesome, and when she hooks up with a girl at the school, it’s actually really cute in a way I didn’t expect this move to be. Pretty great!
Persona – One of the great masterpieces of cinema history. Very dark and upsetting, but so beautiful and dreamy, and so essential in my understanding of what film can do. The relationship that develops here between “mute” actor Elisabet Vogler and her nurse is anything but healthy, but therein lies the psychological drama that drives the narrative.
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