From biopics and tragic white period pieces to coming-of-age stories, erotic thrillers, and romantic comedies, these are the movies about queer women that actually move us.
Only four movies on the list were directed by men, and at least a dozen were directed by queer women, proving that when it comes to telling stories about queer women, no one does it better than us. Three queer directors, Alice Wu, Angela Robinson, and Dee Rees, each have two films in the top twenty.
Here are Out Magazine's picks for the twenty best movies about lesbians and queer women.
Queer filmmaker Aurora Guerroro brings us this understated and gorgeous film that tells a story we don't often get to see- that of queer Latinas. Following two teen girls as they fall in love, and featuring great performances by both actors, this movie is perfect for a summer afternoon.
Jessie Pinneck is great and gorgeous as a queer teen who spends her summer in Chicago. This movie has super cute flirting and gender stuff, and the relationship between Cyd and the aunt that she's living with is great. One thing I love about this movie is how being gay doesn't cause any problems, it's just a queer girl trying things out.
This is a hilarious teen sex comedy about a group of parents who try and stop their daughters from completing a sex pact on their prom night. Gideon Adlon plays Sam, one of the three girls who is gay, and her relationship with Angelica, a cape and face glitter wearing girl in her class played by Ramona Young is one of the most realistic depictions of the awkwardness of teen lesbianism there is.
Park Chan-Wook directed this stunning adaption of Fingersmith where the new handmaiden of a Korean noblewoman plots with the woman she's serving to run away after they fall in love. Few films ever are as gorgeously shot. The Handmaiden is one of the best international films in recent years.
Desiree Akhavan's debut movie owes a lot to Girls, but creates it own legacy as a new type of movie about bisexual women. Being one herself, writer/director/star Akhavan brings a sense of realness and humor to the subject that's usually missing from movies about bisexual women.
One of the best high school comedies in recent years features Kaitlyn Dever as a lesbian high school senior, but the movie's not about her coming out or struggling with her sexuality, it's about her trying to have a great last night of high school. Queer actress Beanie Feldstein also stars in a Golden Globe nominated role.
Alice Wu’s followup to Saving Face, which we’ll see later on the list, is a queer high school retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac and is one of the best movies of 2020. All the lead actors give great performances and Wu’s terrific script, which was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award, lifts the movie up to heights rarely reached by this kind of movie.
The earliest movie on the list, this German film from 1931 is one of the first depictions of a lesbian romance on screen. While the story, about a student falling in love with her teacher at an all-girls school, might not stand up, this is a classic of queer cinema and a movie you shouldn't miss.
The first of two Dee Rees movies in our top ten, Bessie is a biopic of legendary bisexual blues singer Bessie Smith. This movie features one of Queen Latifah's all-time best performances in the title role and features Mo'Nique as Ma Rainey. If you love queer history, this is the movie for you.
Another film by Angela Robinson, who made D.E.B.S., this movie tells the true-life story of the creator of Wonder Woman and the two women he was in a polyamorous relationship with. Rebecca Hall and Bella Heathcote give beautiful performances as two women in love with each other and the same man. This is a great history of not only queer relationships, but the women who inspired the creation of one of the greatest superheroes of all time.
Before they made The Matrix, the Wachowskis made Bound, an erotic thriller starring Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon as two women who fall in love and try to doublecross the mob. This movie is pure lesbian gaze as our two leads flirt, make love, and come out on top. There's no way anyone other than two lesbians could have made this movie.
The definitive and best White Lesbian Tragic Period Romance is of course, directed by and starring queer women. Céline Sciamma wrote and directed the movie about a painter falling in love with a woman she's supposed to paint a portrait of. If you like longing, firtive glances, and slow burning romance, this is the perfect movie for you.
Cheryl Dunye's love letter to Black lesbians is also a hilarious mockumentary. Dunye plays a version of herself, a Black lesbian working at a Philadelphia movie store, who wants to find the identity of an early Black actress credited simply as "The Watermelon Woman." Dunye films the lesbian community the way only a lesbian could. It's beautiful, it's loving, it's funny, and it's incisive. This is a perfect film.
Lesbian director Jamie Babbit brought us this campy classic about teens in conversion therapy. What could be a horrifying premise (and often is in these kinds of movies) instead turns into a hilarious and hijinks-filled love story. This movie also introduced queer women everywhere to Clea DuVall and solidified her as an all-time lesbian icon. This movie is an indelible part of the queer movie canon.
Alice Wu is back again, this time with her romantic comedy about a Chinese-American surgeon navigating love and coming out to her traditional mother and community. This movie is sweet, sexy, and funny and features one of my favorite couples in any lesbian movie. Plus, it's a rare movie where two queer women of color actually end up together. I love everything about this movie.
There are few filmmakers like Dee Rees, and when it comes to movies about queer women, she is unparalled. Adepero Oduye is brillaint as a 17 year old Black lesbian embracing her identity and trying to start her life. While parts of the semi-autobiographical film are hard to watch, all of it is worth it. There are few films as powerful, triumphant, and beautiful as this one. Dee Rees is a powerhouse, and Pariah is her queer masterpiece, so far.