Lesbian films have played a crucial role in representing and exploring queer experiences on the big screen. They have helped increase visibility, promote acceptance, and provide a platform for LGBTQ+ stories to be shared. However, there’s still a long way to go before we get the amount we deserve. So it’s important to support where possible and watch each one that comes out, upvote it on IMDB, and NEVER, EVER stream illegally. You got that?!
While the concept of “best” is subjective (lol), here are some widely acclaimed lesbian films that have made a significant impact. We’ve also included some epic indie lesbian films too. So get cosy and get these on. We’ve included a good selection but if we’ve missed any then do let us know by commenting below. Oh, and before you make your way through the below, we update this article regularly, so add it to your bookmarks and come back often.
If you only care about where you can watch them, then head to our other article on lesbian movies on Netflix and Amazon Prime.
Our Best Lesbian Films List
Released in 2015, this film is definitely worth a watch.
This is Desiree Akhavan’s debut indie film and you might recognise her from her series on Channel 4, The Bisexual. The Bisexual was written, directed by, and starred Akhavan. She also directed The Miseducation of Cameron Post which is another great film, so we know she’s got the gay-ness and indie-ness covered.
Appropriate Behaviour tells a story of a twenty-something New Yorker who has just broken up with a man and decided she would like to explore her sexuality. Que some fucking funny awkward moments.
Butter Duck is about two women, who seem to be very dissatisfied with the shitshow they see in the dating world and relationships in general, so they decide to spend 24 hours together, in the hope to find a new intimacy.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a movie about an artist, her subject, and their slow-burning, intense love affair.
At the start of the film, we see Marianne teaching Art to students in Paris. One of her students is nosey and stumbles across a portrait. This portrait then transports us to the past and the love story begins.
Directed by Celine Sciamma who captures the tense anticipation between the two main characters with such elegance and class which only a female director could do.
If you like this Director why not check out her other movies, Tomboy, Water Lilies, and Girlhood.
Based on a book that was published in 2002 called Fingersmith. The book was originally set in Victorian England. The book and film tell a story of deception between an heiress, a conman, a pickpocket, and a pornographer. With a love story bubbling up underneath.
Director Park Chan-Wook is best known for his psychological thrillers. Renowned for his vengeance trilogy, Sympathy for Mr Vengeance, Oldboy, and Lady Vengeance. This film is also surreal, and violent, with a fair bit of eroticism. It’s bloody brilliant and we don’t want to give too much away so crack on and watch it.
The Duke of Burgundy
This is about two women within a BDSM relationship, unlike Fifty Shades of Grey another film based on BDSM that is obvious and trashy, this film is told as if it were a lucid, gothic, sex dream in which you might wake up confused and in a hot sweat.
The story centres around Evelyn who comes to clean Cynthia’s ivy-covered mansion (somewhere in Europe in possibly the 70s) and underwear every day, she is then told it isn’t good enough.
The dreamlike world that Peter Strickland creates is completely void of any men. Even though this erotica is directed from a males perspective there’s no nudity, the sex is about mutual pleasure and tenderness (unlike some other lesbian films directed by men)
Princess Cyd came out in 2017 and was only released on iTunes and Amazon. It is a coming-of-age story about the relationship between Cyd and her aunt.
The story is about Cyd who goes to stay in Chicago to escape her depressed Dad. She stays with her aunt, who’s a writer, for the Summer when Cyd embarks on a romantic relationship with a lesbian barista.
It’s a slow but touching story on relationships.
Starring Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams it tells the story of a woman who has been ostracised by her Orthodox Jewish community, returning home for her father’s funeral.
As the story unfolds we begin to understand why the woman has been ostracised and we see an old affair begin between them.
But I’m a Cheerleader
Directed by Jamie Babbit, this satirical comedy tells the story of a teenage cheerleader named Megan who is sent to a conversion therapy camp when her family suspects she is a lesbian. The film explores themes of self-acceptance, sexuality, and the absurdity of attempting to change one’s sexual orientation. “But I’m a Cheerleader” is celebrated for its humor, wit, and poignant social commentary.
Blue Is the Warmest Color
Directed by Abdellatif Kechiche, this French film follows the intense relationship between two young women, played by Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux. The movie explores the challenges they face as their connection evolves over time. “Blue Is the Warmest Color” received widespread acclaim, particularly for the performances and its portrayal of passion and heartbreak.
Directed by Todd Haynes, this film is based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel “The Price of Salt.” Starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, it tells the story of an unexpected love affair between an older woman and a young photographer. “Carol” beautifully captures the complexities of forbidden love and received critical acclaim for its performances, cinematography, and sensitive portrayal of LGBTQ+ themes.
Directed by Jenée LaMarque, this comedy-drama revolves around a bachelorette weekend where Andi surprises her partner, Lu, by revealing she’s never had an orgasm. As their friends gather, the weekend takes unexpected turns and forces the couple to confront their insecurities. “The Feels” offers a lighthearted yet insightful exploration of sexuality and communication.
The Watermelon Woman
Directed by Cheryl Dunye, this pioneering film is a semi-autobiographical exploration of the filmmaker’s journey to uncover the story of an elusive Black actress from the 1930s known only as the “Watermelon Woman.” Mixing fiction and documentary elements, the film tackles race, sexuality, and the lack of representation in mainstream media.
Directed by Dee Rees, this American drama follows Alike, a young Black lesbian navigating her identity and relationships in a predominantly heterosexual environment. The film explores themes of self-discovery, family acceptance, and finding one’s voice. “Pariah” received critical acclaim for its authentic representation and heartfelt performances.
Butterfly (Hu Die)
This Hong Kong film tells the story of two women, Flavia and Yip, who navigate their evolving relationship amidst societal expectations and personal struggles. “Butterfly” is celebrated for its poetic visuals, introspective storytelling, and sensitive portrayal of same-sex love in a conservative society. Directed by Yan Yan Mak.
Directed by the Wachowskis (Lana and Lilly), this neo-noir crime thriller stars Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon as two women who plan a heist to escape their troubled lives and fall in love along the way. “Bound” is celebrated for its stylish direction, strong performances, and portrayal of a lesbian relationship in a genre typically dominated by heterosexual narratives.
Imagine Me & You
Directed by Ol Parker, this British romantic comedy explores the complications that arise when a woman (Piper Perabo) realizes she’s attracted to a florist (Lena Headey) on her wedding day. The film is praised for its light-hearted and feel-good approach to queer love and has gained a devoted following within the lesbian community.
Loving Annabelle is a 2006 American romantic drama film directed by Katherine Brooks. The film tells the story of Annabelle (Erin Kelly), a rebellious and troubled teenager, and Simone (Diane Gaidry), her strict and dedicated poetry teacher at a Catholic boarding school.
The film explores the forbidden love and emotional connection that develops between Annabelle and Simone, as they navigate their feelings amidst societal expectations, institutional constraints, and their own personal struggles. Annabelle’s unruly behavior and emotional instability present a challenge for Simone, who must balance her professional responsibilities with her growing affection for her student.
A romantic comedy-drama film directed by Alice Wu. The story revolves around the lives of three generations of Chinese-American women living in New York City’s Chinatown.
The film primarily focuses on the relationship between Wilhelmina “Wil” Pang (Michelle Krusiec), a young surgeon, and Vivian Shing (Lynn Chen), a ballet dancer. Wil, a closeted lesbian, struggles to come to terms with her sexual orientation while dealing with her traditional and conservative Chinese-American mother, Hwei-Lan Gao (Joan Chen).
Water Lillies (Original title: “Naissance des Pieuvres”) is a 2007 French coming-of-age drama film directed by Céline Sciamma. The film explores the lives of three teenage girls who navigate their burgeoning sexuality and complex emotions during a summer synchronized swimming competition.
The Kids Are All Right
This film portrays the complexities of family, love, and identity. It delves into themes of parenthood, marriage, sexual orientation, and challenges.
The Kids Are All Right is a 2010 American comedy-drama film directed by Lisa Cholodenko. The film follows the lives of a modern family headed by same-sex couple Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore), who have two teenage children conceived through artificial insemination using the same sperm donor.
When their daughter Joni (Mia Wasikowska) turns 18, her younger brother Laser (Josh Hutcherson) convinces her to contact their sperm donor, Paul (Mark Ruffalo), against their mothers’ wishes. As Paul becomes involved in their lives, his presence starts to impact the family dynamics and exposes underlying tensions and desires within their relationships.
DEBS is a 2004 action-comedy film directed by Angela Robinson. The story follows a group of young women who are part of an elite secret spy organization known as the D.E.B.S. (Discipline, Energy, Beauty, and Strength). The D.E.B.S. are trained to fight crime and maintain justice.
The film focuses on the character of Amy Bradshaw (Sara Foster), a talented and dedicated D.E.B.S. agent who begins to question her role in the organisation after a chance encounters with Lucy Diamond (Jordana Brewster), a notorious criminal mastermind. As Amy and Lucy develop unexpected feelings for each other, Amy finds herself torn between her duty as a D.E.B.S. agent and her growing attraction to Lucy.
DEBS combines elements of action, comedy, and romance, offering a lighthearted and tongue-in-cheek take on the spy genre. It explores themes of identity, love, and the conflict between personal desires and professional responsibilities. With its witty dialogue and playful tone, “DEBS” offers a fresh and entertaining twist on the traditional spy movie formula.
The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love
The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love is a 1995 romantic comedy-drama film written and directed by Maria Maggenti. The film follows the unlikely love story between Randy Dean (Laurel Holloman), a working-class tomboy and high school student, and Evie Roy (Nicole Ari Parker), an affluent and popular African-American girl.
Randy, a rebellious and openly lesbian teenager, finds herself drawn to Evie, who initially dismisses her advances. However, as they spend more time together, their differences begin to dissolve, and a deep emotional connection forms between them. The film explores their relationship and the challenges they face as they navigate societal expectations, family dynamics, and the prejudices they encounter.
Desert Hearts is notable for being one of the first mainstream films to portray a lesbian relationship in a positive light.
A 1985 romantic drama film directed by Donna Deitch. Set in the 1950s, the film tells the story of Vivian Bell (Helen Shaver), a recently divorced English professor who travels to Reno, Nevada for a quick divorce. While staying at a ranch, she unexpectedly falls in love with Cay Rivvers (Patricia Charbonneau), a free-spirited and confident young woman.
As Vivian explores her newfound feelings for Cay, she begins to question societal norms and expectations. Their relationship blossoms amidst the backdrop of the conservative and traditional values of the time, leading both women to face internal conflicts and external pressures.
The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister
The film delves into Anne’s complex relationships, particularly her romantic involvement with her neighbor, Ann Walker (Anna Madeley). As their connection deepens, Anne faces challenges from societal expectations, her own ambitions, and the resistance of those around her who seek to suppress her true identity.
Set in the early 19th century, Anne Lister (Maxine Peake) returns to her family estate, Shibden Hall, after several years of travel. As a woman ahead of her time, she is determined to take charge of her own destiny and live according to her desires. Anne is openly lesbian and embarks on passionate affairs with women, documenting her encounters and innermost thoughts in her coded diaries.
Aimee & Jaguar
Aimee & Jaguar is a 1999 German drama film directed by Max Färberböck. Based on a true story, the film takes place in Berlin during World War II and follows the forbidden love affair between Felice Schragenheim (Maria Schrader), a Jewish woman, and Lilly Wust (Juliane Köhler), a married woman and mother who is married to a Nazi officer.
Felice, using the codename “Jaguar,” is a member of an underground anti-Nazi resistance group. She meets Lilly, known as “Aimee,” at a social gathering, and the two women are immediately drawn to each other. Despite the risks and dangers involved, they embark on a passionate love affair, finding solace and happiness in each other’s arms during a tumultuous time.
It’s Swedish, it’s classy, and it’s a classic. A woman finds herself attracted to another woman and so here we go with the chaotic romance – that’s what we’re here for right?
Summertime – La belle saison
Set in 1970s France, Summertime follows Delphine, a young woman in her twenties, from rural France, who moves to Paris and falls passionately in love with Carole, a feminist leader. The film explores the challenge of both feminism and lesbianism in rural France in the 70s. It also includes a fair amount of sex and nudity, which is a bonus… If that’s what you’re looking for ;).
Me, Myself & Her – Io e lei
This Italian film breaks down the relationship between Federica and Marina. The couple is in conflict as to whether they want to be open about their relationship or keep it a secret. There’s nothing new about this film that isn’t in any other lesbian film already, but the acting is great. Oh, heads up, you’ll probs going to need subtitles.
If you liked this article, why not suther educate yourself in all things lesbian and read our article on Lesbian TV Shows?
There are probably loads more lesbian films so if we’re missing any then let us know in the comments section below.
Love Team Nonchalant x
Last Updated on 21st May 2023 by Nonchalant Magazine
I can’t see any other comments – I was hoping for a passionate debate about these movies.
So Carol – looks ravishing but cold emotionally. What is it about Carol that makes Therese fall for her?
Disobedience – required viewing for any woman. Epic, awesome. All the emotion that Carol lacked.
Blue – beautiful realism. As with Below Her Neck, I don’t know why we are not allowed to have baser instincts satisfied – BHN written and directed by WOMEN.
Imagine You and Me. Gorgeous!
I adored Kiss Me, really captured the joy of love for me.
Loving Annabelle – ok, not great – watch Therese And Isabelle (1968) instead.
A few you missed – Summertime (La Belle Saison), written and directed by Women is simply divine, check it out now.
Io e lei (Me, Myself & Her) – older women love story. Ditto Elena Undone.
A little gem is A Date for Mad Mary – Americans may need subtitles!
Of course Portrait of A Lady on Fire, simply perfection.
Thanks for your input. We’ve had the content team update the article. Do let us know if you come across any others and we’ll be sure to have them included.