10 Lesbian Films Every Queer Woman Needs to Watch
We look at some of our favourite sapphic cinematic delights, exploring everything from Ingrid Bergman classics to new wave queer films set in London’s East End.
HOT TIP: Read on, and you’ll discover a whole bunch of women film directors who aren’t Kathryn Bigelow! Follow their IMDB links provided to discover a treasure trove of films…
Ingrid Bergman’s 1966 Persona is arguably the most wonderful lesbian-themed film of all time. Actually, it’s arguably one of the best films of all time, period. It’s a story of love and obsession, with breathtaking cinematography (and, oh yeah, Liv Ullman looks pretty good in it).
2) Desert Hearts
How could ‘Desert Hearts’ not be included on this list? It was made for (relatively) very little money back in 1985, and its success meant that film studios were ever-so-slightly more willing to take a chance on backing, funding and producing LGBTQIA+ films in future. Directed by Donna Deitch and starring Helen Shaver and Patrician Charbonneau, it’s seen by many to be the first feature-length lesbian romantic film. Set in the gorgeous backdrop of a ranch in Reno, intellectual and prim professor Vivian Bell moves into a ranch owned by tough Frances Parker, but Parker’s tomboy daughter proves too distracting for Vivian to stick to her hermit’s plan…
Before the Wachowskis made Matrix, they delivered the gem that is Bound. Jennifer Tilly arranges a scheme to rob her mafioso boyfriend, helped by her ex-con lover Gina Gershon. This is a great mafia thriller where queer women own the scenes (the Wachowskis were aware of the all-pervasiveness of the ‘male gaze’ and got writer Susie Bright to take the reins on bedroom scenes).
4) But I’m a Cheerleader
In what is probably the most comedic lesbian film on this list – think Mean Girls levels of funny – Natasha Lyonne is sent to a gay camp by her friends and family to “heal her homosexuality”. However, she sorta gets feelings for Clea Duvall. Directed by Jamie Babbit, this movie also features Ru Paul, which is handy if you need an RP fix.
5) I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing
…And if you’ve heard them, those mermaids are singing an aria in honour of this queer film classic! Patricia Rozema‘s debut feature features Polly Vandersma, a fabulous character who’s shy, awkward, funny and about to get their first ever ‘proper’ job at the age of 31… Just wonderful. With impeccable taste, Patricia Rozema went on to direct Mansfield Park…
6) Show Me Love
This coming-of-age story is utterly, superbly lesbian! Agnes is a 17-year old living in a small town in Sweden. She also happens to be in love with the most popular girl in school. So few films nail what teenage life is like, and this queer movie does it perfectly.
7) Break My Fall
Ow, ow, ow. Some heartache happening right here. Break-ups can be so very painful, and this British indie film (written and directed by Kanchi Wichmann) documents the end of a painful relationship in a way that feels all too real. There’s lots of varied representation here, and the film was hailed as an example of a new wave of queer cinema.
8) Blue Is The Warmest Colour
This was the lesbian film everyone talked about in 2014. If you haven’t watched yet, stop what you’re reading and go on Netflix. It’s a three-hour love story spanning over a decade, starring the amazing Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos. It does an excellent job of poring over the minutiae of an attraction’s lifespan, but from all the media coverage you’ll no doubt be aware that aspects of the film, particularly behind the camera could be discomfort-inducing (the actresses, who were straight, said that shooting the ten-minute sex scene under the direction of Kechiche was “horrible”).
9) Reaching for the Moon
This rather quiet, elegant, beautiful film dramatises the tragic love affair of poet Elizabeth Bishop and architect Lota de Macedo Soares, and looks at how these inspiring, inspired women changed each other as well as the world.
10) Follow My Voice
This one’s a documentary (director: Katherine Linton), but nevertheless it’s a must-watch that’s sure to appeal to LGBTQIA+ activists and Hedwig and the Angry Inch fans everywhere. Follow My Voice documents the life journey of four teenagers attending the Harvey Milk School in New York – two lesbians, a gay man and a trans woman. At the same time, it’s also a documentary about the making of the Hedwig and the Angry Inch tribute album to raise money for the school. Expect music, truth, compassion and uplifting moments, as well as a searching look at the challenges faced every day by LGBTQIA+ teens.