Lesbian Cinema: Select Films, Scenes, Themes, and Characters (LGBTQ, Lesbian)

Lesbian-Themed Movies

As directed by Robert Aldrich, The Killing of Sister George, made in 1968, is one of the most grotesque lesbian crossover films.

In the UK. pre-decriminalization dramas also included The Fox, in 1967, which suffers from the basic (and fake) premise that all a lesbian woman needs is a real man to cure her of her perverse sexual identity.

In 1963, The World Ten Times Over was one of the first British lesbian films, but it was heavily censored before its release.

Playing the titular role, Beryl Reid is magnetic in her portrayal of George, a loud, aggressive, cigar-chomping dyke who loses her job and her young lover.

The lesbian love triangle consists of a butch girl-chasing George; the predatory, sophisticated middle-class dyke (Coral Brown), and Childie, the young neurotic femme (Susannah York).

Rated X for its explicit sex scene, the film tanked at the box office, but over the years it has become an era-defining cult classic.

Some scenes were shot in an actual London lesbian bar, The Gateways Club, offering audiences rare onscreen glimpse of London lesbian culture.


Childie: Not all women are raving bloody lesbians, you know.
George: That is a misfortune I am perfectly well aware of!

Weiss’ British queer film history docu, A Bit of Scarlet (1997) is also worth watching.


The Kids Are All Right (2010)
Director Lisa Cholodenko

Lesbian cinema finally hits the big ‘O’ time with Lisa Cholodenko’s (High Art, 1998) family-friendly comedy The Kids Are All Right ratcheting up four Oscar nominations in 2011, including best picture. Annette Bening and Julianne Moore play long-term married couple Nic and Jules, who hit midlife parenting and partnership problems. The mainstream press went nuts, joyful that they had a homosexual film they could write about without unsettling their more conservative readers. Cholodenko suffered a backlash from queer corners for her inclusion of hetero sex (with beefcake Mark Ruffalo), and for her film’s advocacy of traditional family values.

Tomboy (2011)
Director Céline Sciamma

The French term for tomboy is ‘garçon manqué.’ which translates as ‘failed boy’. “I don’t need to comment, you can see how bad it is,” said writer-director Céline Sciamma (Water Lilies, 2007) on the phrase, opting to give this honest film about gender confusion an English title.

Laure/Mikael is 10 years old, her/his family has moved to a new town and we follow her/his adventures over one summer as s/he goes through the early complexities of selfhood: playing a game of football, finding s/he is attracting the attention of local girls and facing the ultimate test of wearing a bathing suit.

In France, the film was received as a family film and went on to be shown in primary and secondary schools as part of classes about cinema.

Break My Fall (2011)
Director Kanchi Wichmann

Break My Fall depicts the painful end of a loving relationship. Writer-director Kanchi Wichmann made his feature debut shooting on 16mm on the streets of east London.

Influenced by the formalism of early Chantal Akerman films such Je tu il elle (1975), it boasts music from local bands (Wet Dog, Peggy Sue) and realistic characterization of people and city in Bette Gordon’s cinema (Variety, 1983). Released in 2012, Break My Fall (together with Weekend and others) is considered part of a new wave of queer cinema, charting queer experience in all its complexities.

Lesbian Themes and Scenes

1. Mulholland Dr. (David Lynch, 2001)
2. Blue Is the Warmest Colour (Abdellatif Kechiche, 2013)
3. The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1972)
4. The Children’s Hour (William Wyler, 1961)
5. Pariah (Dee Rees, 2011)
6. I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing (Patricia Rozema, 1987)
7. Desert Hearts (Donna Deitch, 1985)
8. Heavenly Creatures (Peter Jackson, 1994)
9. Go Fish (Rose Troche, 1994)
10. High Art (Lisa Cholodenko, 1998)

LGBT love scenes:

The Color Purple

A Very Natural Thing

Something Must Break

10 great American lesbian films

10 great feminist films

10 great gay films from east and south-east Asia

10 great British gay films

10 great French gay films

10 great transgender films

10 great LGBT TV and online series

10 great films about sex

Hetero women in denial and psycho killers

Straight films, queer appeal