Art has proved to be one of the most effective ways to bring about a deeper understanding and acceptance of homosexuality. Lesbian-themed films not only explore the dynamics of alternative sexual choices but show them to be as meaningful and life-affirming as straight relationships. So here is a list of top ten lesbian movies ranging from the contemporary to the classic.
The Kids Are All Right
This recent film about two lesbian moms has already proved its mettle by winning two Golden Globe Awards – for Best Motion Picture and Best Actress – as well as receiving four Oscar nominations. The Kids Are All Right is about a lesbian couple struggling with all the stresses and strains of bringing up kids while trying to save a relationship at the same time. The film is a revelation about the beauty, the potential pitfalls and the strength that exist as much in a lesbian relationship as in any straight marriage.
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Released in 1985, Desert Hearts was one of the first lesbian films to be introduced to a mainstream audience. Based on the novel Desert of the Heart by writer Jane Rule, the film is about a free-spirited sculptor who falls for an older woman, a staid professor of English at Columbia University. Set in the 1950s against the desert landscape of Reno, the film was also one of the earliest to depict a satisfactory ending for both characters forming a lesbian couple.
But I’m a Cheerleader
One of the funniest lesbian films, But I’m a Cheerleader is about a young woman Megan who is forced to go to a homosexual rehabilitation camp by her parents when the latter get suspicious that she is a lesbian. Once at the camp she tries hard to fit into the heterosexual mould but then meets a college student Graham and discovers to her surprise that she is indeed attracted to other women. The 1999 film is about artificial constructions of masculine and feminine identity and how young people are forced to conform to them.
Famous for their Matrix film series, the Wachowski brothers made Bound as early as 1996. The film is a dark crime thriller about two women who meet up, fall in love and along the way hatch a plan to steal $2 million in drug mafia money. Bound figures in any must-watch list of lesbian movies on account of it being one of the sexiest films of the genre.
Kissing Jessica Stein
Tired of dating uninteresting men, 28 year-old Jessica Stein on an impulse answers a woman-seeking-woman personals ad. She meets a stylish art gallery worker who is also exploring her own bisexuality. The two women hit off and find that they enjoy being with each other. Now only if Jessica can overcome her confusion about her sexuality! This 2001 film is a delightful romantic comedy and perfect if you are planning a home movie date with your own lesbian lover.
Better Than Chocolate
This 1999 Canadian film has it all – politics, humor, great music and excellent performance by its cast. Better Than Chocolate is about a young woman who is struggling to come out to her mother and brother even as she is on the threshold of a promising new relationship. The protagonist’s secretly budding romance also introduces her family to a host of new experiences, most of which appear to be “better than chocolate”.
Released in 1994, Go Fish is a film set in contemporary Chicago about the inter-relationships of a small group of lesbian friends who are looking for love and community. At the forefront is the budding intimacy between two women Max and Ely who must iron out cultural differences and long-distance partnerships before they can be together. The film was part of the 1990s wave of lesbian themed cinema and was directed by Rose Troche who co-wrote the script with her then-girlfriend Guinevere Turner.
The Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls in Love
The title of this film says it all but to go into greater details, it is a sweet story of two high school girls from opposite ends of the social and cultural spectrum. One of them Randy works at a gas station and living with her lesbian aunt and her lover is no stranger to different forms of love. The other Evie however drives a swanky Range Rover, is coveted by all boys at the school and lives with her upper-class cultured mother. When these two girls fall in love and realize it, all hell breaks loose. The film is not only one of the best lesbian movies but also a great coming-of-age story filmed with humor and sensitivity.
I’ve heard the Mermaids Singing
A great product from art house cinema, I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing released in 1987 to rave critical reviews. Narrated by the protagonist Polly, who is socially awkward and has barely managed a job at an art gallery, the film explores her relationships with a lesbian couple, Gabrielle and Mary as well as her own attempts to find creative success in photography. After a series of events which include heartaches and reconciliation, the plot ends in a dream sequence where the three women enter a fantasy world of beauty and peace, probably a metaphor of the understanding they have reached with each other.
The Watermelon Woman
Combing the issues of homosexuality and race, this 1996 feature film was the first film to be made by a lesbian woman of color, Cheryl Dunye. Autobiographical in parts, the film is about a young black woman who works as a secretary at a video store by day while trying to make a film by night. Cheryl is intrigued about a black former Hollywood actress who was relegated to doing “mammy” roles during the 1930s and decides to tell her story through a film. The Watermelon Woman is a sensitive film which talks about cultural history but at the same time it has delightful moments of humor which make the film deeply positive.