It happens sometimes: someone asks you what lesbian movies you’d recommend and suddenly you… draw a blank.
It’s not that you aren’t interested in lesbian film, or you don’t want to reel off a list as long as your arm, it’s just you can’t think of anything at that moment.
The truth is, there are great lesbian movie titles out there – and luckily nowadays they don’t all feature cliched man-haters or a woman deciding she’s more into men after all -- but maybe you just haven’t come across enough of them.
So we’re here to help, with a list of some of the best lesbian movies that you really should already have seen.
In this article we will cover...
Come on, you must have seen this one. Desert Hearts is one of the most iconic lesbian movie titles because it was the first film about a female same-sex relationship that didn’t involve a man or a tragic ending: utterly groundbreaking.
Set in Reno, Nevada, it follows the blossoming love between a reserved English professor and a young, impulsive sculptor. Vivian Bell divorces her husband and heads West, where she meets Cay Rivvers, whose energy and boldness starts to draw her out of her shell. With stunning scenery and complex characterization, this is a classic for good reason. Watch it now!
A less well-known movie, perhaps, but still deservedly on this list, this low-budget comedy offers a quirky take on lesbian culture. Set in Chicago, a coffee shop acts as the starting point for relationships with plenty of twists and turns.
Filmed in black and white, it’s a fresh picture that addresses modern aspects of life within the lesbian community, like negotiating girl bars and maintaining friendships. The writers, Rose Troche and Guinevere Turner, were fed up of watching lesbian films that looked nothing like their actual lives and this was their response: a successful one, we’re sure you’ll agree. Watch it now!
What better addition a list of lesbian love movies than one set in one of the most romantic cities in the world, Rome. Set over the course of one night in a hotel room in Rome, the film shows the development of a connection between Alba and Natasha. It’s intimate, it’s passionate and it’s also pretty darn erotic.
It’s a powerful and intense portrayal of how love can surprise us at the unlikeliest of times and in the most unexpected of places. The journey through the night brings them to a sense of freedom within their secret tryst. Expect to still be thinking about it long afterwards. Watch it now!
No list of lesbian movie titles would be complete without this cult classic -which also makes our list of the best gay comedy films. Megan is a cheerleader whose family decides she’s gay and sends her to ‘True Directions’, a conversion camp, to get it coached out of her. Unsurprisingly it backfires when she meets the outsider Graham and a whole cast of camp characters.
It’s unapologetically quirky and fun, taking the quintessential American background and having fun with it with a candy-colored retro aesthetic and off-the-wall scenarios. At the heart of the satire is a sweet love story! Watch it now!
OK, strictly speaking this film is not about the lesbian love story as much as the relationship between a 16-year old girl and her independent aunt in Chicago, but we thought it was worth including on the list just to give you a cool and alternative suggestion for movie night. Something that no one’s heard of but everyone will like.
Plus, amidst the rich and well-developed characters there is a hint of a coming-of-age love story between Cyd and cute Katie, whose sexual relationship is treated in a refreshingly understated and matter-of-fact way. The female characters are strong and realistic, leading to empathetic depictions of the relationships between women, sexual or not. Watch it now!
Perhaps one of the best things about David Lynch’s psychological thriller is that what got people talking was not necessarily that racy lesbian scene between Laura Harring’s amnesiac femme fatale and Naomi Watt’s bright-eyed Betty.
What is so great about Mulholland Drive is that it features two women in a nuanced and complex relationship but doesn’t act like it deserves a gold star for this. It acknowledges their connection as valid while concentrating on exploring numerous themes (not to mention completely baffling the viewer – in a good way!). Watch it now!
This is one of those rarest of unicorns, a light hearted lesbian rom com. Sweet, kind and completely free of bad intentions, it’s the perfect feel-good movie for a cosy film night. Rachel locks eyes with Luce as she walks down the aisle on her wedding day, but as the two keep getting thrown together they can’t deny their attraction.
It’s got every rom com trope in the book but, quite frankly, we love that. Why should heterosexual couples be the only ones who get to almost-kiss in the rain? There’s a great cast as well, and plenty of fun! Watch it now!
This is a super-cute mid-90s film set in New York that has all of the best teen movie features – an uncool kid who’s actually fun and alternative starting a romance with popular, pretty kid – except this time with two girls falling in love. We love the bright, 90s color palette and aesthetics and the acting is authentic and honest.
It’s a great portrayal of first love and all the excitement and problems that come with it. Randy and Evie introduce each other to music and books, navigate each other’s families and write about their first kiss in diaries. It’s classic teenage stuff, but also highlights the importance of acceptance – of yourself and from those close to you. Watch it now!
A light-hearted New York rom-com kicking off with a single girl on the quest for love: so far, so mainstream. The twist is that here the title character answers a personal ad written by a woman and is surprised to find herself falling for her.
The way the film captures the confusion and excitement of early romance keep this film relatable, although some might wish for a slightly different ending (no spoilers, we promise!). Nevertheless, this is a charming addition to your list of lesbian movie titles to recommend. Watch it now!
This Swedish film manages to tell a love story without being corny. Sure, you might think you’ve heard the story before: engaged/married woman finds herself attracted to another woman, cue romance and chaos. But this offers a fresh take with excellent performances and gorgeous cinematography.
Mia and Frida are attracted at their parents’ engagement party and when they find themselves together on the island of Fyn in Denmark their chemistry develops into something deeper. With sensual love scenes, authentic dialogue and a brilliant soundtrack, this is one of the most romantic lesbian movies of recent years and one that you’ll want to watch again and again. Watch it now!
This coming-of-age film caused a considerable stir when it was released, and went on to win a Palme d’Or, deservedly so. It is completely immersive and absolutely heartbreaking as it charts the relationship between Adèle and Emma from Adèle’s high school years to her mid-twenties.
Adèle is an introverted teenager when she sees blue-haired Emma crossing the street in Lille and is instantly attracted. As their bond deepens and then fractures the film portrays love, lust, and betrayal with unflinching honesty. Yes, the sex scenes are graphic and intense, but this is not all there is to the film – the performances of the two main actresses beautifully convey their yearning. Watch it now!
A sumptuous film that fully conveys the joy and pain of longing, Carol is an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s The Price of Salt. Set in 1950s Manhattan, it tells the story of an unlikely romance between a timid shopgirl (played by Rooney Mara) and a wealthy and sophisticated married woman (Cate Blanchett).
Mara and Blanchett perfectly convey the emotions of the two women falling for each other but bound by the social conventions of the time and features tender and intimate lesbian scenes. Sarah Paulson also gives an energetic performance as a wise friend on hand to dish out advice.
As the critics pointed out, this shouldn’t be described as one of the most romantic lesbian movies, but one of the most romantic movies made full stop. Watch it now!
Summertime, or La Belle Saison in the original French, can be your intellectual addition to your list of lesbian love movies. Not only does it tell you about the women’s lib movement in 1970s France, it also tells a beautiful and tragic love story between two young women who have to overcome family and community prejudice.
The two actresses have a natural chemistry that carries the plot and makes you totally invested in their relationship as it struggles to survive outside pressures. When Delphine arrives in Paris from rural France she meets Carole and the two tentatively begin a relationship. Its sun-drenched romance and passion make it a secret gem in any film collection. Watch it now!
This film has more young girls falling in love in summer, although this time with some seriously dark undertones. Although it might not seem like the obvious choice for a romantic movie night, the tender and passionate love story between the two bored teenagers in a long, hot summer holiday.
Working class Mona and middle-class Tamsin meet by chance near their homes in Yorkshire and spend more and more time together, eventually beginning a relationship that takes in eternal oaths at rivers and evokes the confusion of being a teenager. Although it might not be perfect, it perfectly conveys a mood and you can’t help but be immersed in their story. Watch it now!
Perhaps you’ve read Sarah Waters’ historical fiction novel Fingersmith, but did you know it had been adapted for the big screen?
Adapted, in fact, to almost be almost unrecognizable – the setting changed from Victorian England to Japanese-occupied Korea, the slight tawdriness replaced by cold beauty.
It’s a mystery that manages to be both sinister and erotic, showing a demure Lady slowly falling for her lively handmaiden, who also happens to be part of a plot for tricking her out of her inheritance.
Passion, struggle and some dark humor combine to make a film you won’t forget in a hurry. Watch it now!
Based on a 2006 novel of the same name by the wonderful Naomi Alderman (have you read The Power yet? You should!), this totally absorbing film depicts the blossoming relationship between two women in the London Orthodox Jewish community. Coming home for her father’s funeral, Ronit (played by Rachel Weisz) is reunited not only with the conservative community she fled from, but with a former love, Esti (played by Rachel McAdams), now married to Dovid. Disobedience sensitively explores issues of identity, sacrifice and love.
It probably wouldn’t be quite as moving without the incredibly powerful performances by McAdams and Weisz, showing their passion and their inner conflict as they reembark on their affair. It’s thought-provoking, rich and sexy – a must for your next intellectual movie night. Watch it now!
This is an intense movie and – we’re not going to lie – it isn’t for everyone. Why so intense? Well, it takes the audience with the two protagonists on their attempt to fast-track a new relationship by spending a solid 24 hours together. The aim is to foster intimacy, but the results aren’t exactly what they expect. It’s an experimental film co-written by Alia Shawkat, who also stars (she’s Mabel from Arrested Development all grown up), and the title seems designed to embarrass those who recommend it!
The two main actresses carry the film, conveying the depth of emotion they feel for each other and the ways they trip themselves up perfectly. If you ever had a doomed romance in your 20s, this film will speak to you. It was actually shot in 24 hours as well, so it feels really authentic, leaving you slightly light-headed by the end of it. When you need a lesbian love film with a difference, download this one – just maybe not with a brand-new partner! Watch it now!
Films like 2004’s Saving Face don’t come along often, which is a real shame. It manages to tackle serious issues – coming out within a more conventional Asian-American community, falling in love for the first time – but with a lightness of touch that results in a charming romantic comedy. A successful Chinese American surgeon, Wil, balances her life in New York between her mother, who keeps trying to set her up with men, and her blossoming romance with Vivian, a dancer.
The relationship between Vivian and Wil is really realistically portrayed (although this was 2004, so it feels a little underdeveloped) and the complicated mother-daughter interactions are also very well done. Most importantly, this film gave Asian-American lesbians a chance to see themselves in a mainstream movie. Watch it now!
This German film is not one for a light-hearted movie night, but is one of the most tragic lesbian love films you’ve never seen. Based on a true story, Aimée & Jaguar is set in Berlin during World War 2 and depicts the love affair between a Nazi housewife, Lilly, and a Jewish woman undercover, Felice. As you can imagine, this is no rom-com. As their attachment deepens, their environment becomes ever shakier and the script truly conveys the vulnerability of falling in love on a knife-edge.
It’s not only the script that does all of the hard work, however. The performances of the two lead actresses – Juliane Köhler and Maria Schrader – are exceptional, with their yearning, desire and tenderness emotionally conveyed. Bring tissues. Watch it now!
It would be totally basic to say this is the lesbian Call Me By Your Name, although this Lithuanian movie also captures the heady, sun-filled days of a summer of love. It’s dreamy, tender and, OK, a little bit corny – but we loved it anyway! Auste, local teen, meets 17-year-old visitor Sangaile when she sells her a raffle ticket at a stunt show. Bonding over their love of stunt airplanes, the two girls soon find themselves in the intoxicating midst of a summer romance.
It’s hugely heartfelt and deeply immersive. Anyone who’s ever had a teenage passion (er, hello, all of us!) will recognise that sense of passion and nothing existing aside from the other person. What’s more, the gorgeous camera work will have you booking a ticket to Lithuania (or nearby Riga + Tallinn…). Watch it on a first date to show off your art-house movie credentials and boost the romantic atmosphere! Watch it now!
Starring our heroine Ellen Page, this movie might slightly stretch the use of the term ‘lesbian love film’ but it’s a Romeo and Juliet-esque story of love across the divide, with a big difference. Page plays a young woman whose father is on death row, campaigning against the death penalty, while Kate Mara is Mercy, a lawyer and pro-capital punishment protester. It might sound like an odd concept, but at least it’s original!
The film is saved from any mawkishness by the performances of the two leads, who have incredible chemistry. Meeting at protests around the country, their attraction grows even as the stakes get higher. It’s perfect for when you need a tear-jerking lesbian romance with a sense of humour that will get you thinking – we all have movie nights like that, right? Watch it now!
You probably haven’t heard about All About E, LGBT Austrian road-movie about a Lebanese lesbian DJ on the run with her husband of convenience. Now you’ve heard that description, we’re betting you won’t rest until you’ve seen it – good choice. E is a top DJ who takes off with a bag of cash she finds at her apartment, although this could just be an excuse to escape from her life.
In the closet to her parents, it turns out this self-censorship is what broke her and the lovely Trish up. When she decides to hide out at Trish’s, avoiding the club owner who wants that bag of cash back, it seems that their love has not simply gone away. Sensual love scenes and complex decisions follow. Like all good road movies, this one has a stellar ending – but we’re not going to give it away! Watch it now!
If you’re in the mood for a super-cheesy lesbian love film, look no further! Don’t let that description put you off, though. While it’s a little corny at times, Tell It To The Bees is a lush period drama about two women falling in love in provincial, post-war Scotland. Holliday Grainger (who we would watch in basically anything, to be honest) plays Lydia, a young mother who forms a bond with the new doctor in town, Jean, played by Anna Paquin.
Jean is a beekeeper, and connects with Lydia’s son Charlie through these buzzing messengers. The bees also act as symbols of the natural forces that hold Jean and Lydia in their sway. Naturally, the conservative town does not approve. The early parts of the film, as they flirt, gaze and fall in love, are particularly moving and sweet. Watch it now!
This is another on our list that isn’t for everyone and devotees of Virginia Woolf might have a thing or two to say about it. From the moment Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf meet at a party, they begin a tug-of-war romantic relationship. Gemma Arterton plays flirtatious Vita, courting Virginia through letters and determined to succeed in her campaign. Elizabeth Debicki plays Virginia Woolf herself, more reticent and stubborn.
It’s got modern music, weird CGI sequences and a backdrop of the Bloomsbury set to keep things entertaining. While some think that it’s a rather tame depiction of what could have been quite a passionate love affair, we love the understated connection between the two women, who want to have creative careers as much as they want to have an epic love story. Give it a shot if you want something a bit unusual for your next film night in – but maybe line up one of the others on this list in case Vita and Virginia doesn’t hit the spot. Watch it now!