What exactly makes a film a lesbian film? Does it simply require lesbian characters, or must it focus primarily on a lesbian story lines? Trying to create a neat box in which a film will either fit or not fit is almost as impossible as creating neat boxes into which people themselves can fit.
But if you are interested in exploring the triumph and challenge of finding love, gaining acceptance and reaching self-acceptance, here are some interesting films currently available on Netflix.
Ana e Vitoria (2018)
IMDB Score 6.7/10
Based on a real-life Brazilian music duo, Anavitória, this scripted and acted biography film looks at how the band was formed, with the Ana Clara Caetano and Vitória Falcao playing themselves. The film cleverly deals with both their relationship, and responses to perceptions of their connection, creating an intriguing social commentary.
Below Her Mouth (2016)
IMDB Score 5.5/10
This Canadian drama is certainly erotic! It stars Natalie Krill and Arika Linder as two women living in Toronto who meet and start a passionate affair. This film is definitely more about sexy visuals than deep story lines, but will appeal to audiences who are looking for exactly that.
Butter Duck (2018)
IMDB Score 5.3/10
Miguel Arteta directs this experimental comedy interpretation of his own screen play which he wrote with the film’s leading lady Alia Shawkat. It is about two women who meet and want to form a relationship, and decide to get to know each other by having sex every hour, on the hour. The leads are compelling and the perspective fresh, but perhaps not as well executed as it could have been.
IMDB Score 7.2/10
Based in the 1952 romance novel by Patricia Highsmith, The Prince of Salt (later retitles Carol), it stars the impeccable Cate Blanchett and the notable talent of Rooney Mara as the two women at the centre of a forbidden affair. Set in 1950s New York, not only are lesbian couples taboo, but Blanchett’s older women is going through a messy divorce.
Ek Ladki ko Dekha toh aisa laga (2019)
IMDB Score 5.7/10
This Indian Hindi-language film is a romantic comedy and coming of age drama. The film is a collaboration between real-life father and daughter Anil Kapoor and Sonam Kapoor, who star, and is directed by Shelly Chopra Dhar. Sonam Kapoor plays young girl Sweety, whose parents want to marry her off, forcing her to think about sharing her secret passion for another woman. Will her family accept her?
Elisa Y Marcela (2019)
IMDB Score 6.6/10
This Spanish biographical romantic drama stars Natalia de Molina and Greta Fernández as two women who married in 1901, and were the first same-sex matrimony recorded in Spain. The script was penned by the film’s director Isabel Coixet and is shot entirely in black and white. Perhaps the film would have benefited from heavier editing, but still an interesting watch.
The Feels (2017)
IMDB Score 5.2/10
We are set up for a fun ride as we are invited along on Andi and Lu’s bachelorette party, played by Constance Wu and Angela Trimbur. But Director Jenée LaMarque shakes her characters and they spill out revelations over the course of a weekend that will change many of their lives. A fun romp that takes on some interesting issues.
IMDB Score 7.2/10
Not of the lesbian genre, but still sure to be of interest, Girl is a Belgian drama about a trans girl pursuing a career as a ballerina, expertly played by newcomer Victor Polster. It is inspired by the true story of trans female dancer that the writer and director Lukas Dhont encountered as a young man. The mixture of the high-pressure world of dance and the challenges of pursuing gender reassignment story and combined in a compelling story.
Growing Up Coy (2016)
IMDB Score 5.7/10
Another non-Lesbian film that has snuck its way onto the list. This is a documentary about a Colorado family as they seek to have the rights of their six-year-old trans daughter recognised, and enable her to use the girl’s bathroom at her primary school. This is the case that is credited with setting off bathroom bills across the country.
Loving Annabelle (2006)
IMDB Score 6.5/10
This romantic drama from director Katherine Brooks tells the story of a boarding school student that falls in love with her teacher. Annabelle, having been expelled from two previous schools, forms a fast connection with her new poetry teacher, who she pursues endlessly. Erin Kelly and Diane Gaidry turn in good performances as the unfortunate couple.
IMDB Score 4.7/10
Based on a play called Wind in the Violin, this Argentinian film from director Pablo D’Alo Abba shows a lesbian couple’s fight for acceptance not only by those around them, but by each other, as social differences drive a wedge between them. Good performances from Patricio Aranguren and Marina Bellati.
The Perfection (2019)
IMDB Score 6.1/10
This film is refreshing in that it features a lesbian lead, without being a film specifically about being a lesbian. However, this film is a dark psychological thriller that addresses issues of sexual abuse and mutilation that is not for the faint of heart. Set in elite school for musicians, it is in fact run as a cult where no level of depravity is banned.
Teenage Cocktail (2016)
IMDB Score 5.8/10
In this dramatic thriller directed by John Carchietta, a young lesbian couple, played by Nichole Bloom and Fabianne Therese, feel contained by their small town and by their parents and decide to run away. This leads to a series of exciting and dangerous adventures.
Three Generations (2015)
IMDb Score 5.8/10
A trans movie rather than a lesbian movie, nevertheless for anyone interested in the genre this will be a compelling watch. The movie stars Elle Fanning as Ray, a teenager wanting to transition. Mother Naomi Watts, grandmother Susan Sarandon and father Sam Trammell struggle to support Ray while learning to accept him.
Tree of Blood (2018)
IMDB Score 6.3/10
In this Spanish drama a young couple sets out to write their shared family histories, leading them to uncover dark secrets both past and present. Mystery rather than lesbian themes sit at the centre of this film, but the viewer will find it provocative and emotional.
No Longer Available on Netflix (US)
A lesbian bride to be finds herself on a rafting trip and unexpectedly meets her planned sperm donor. Back in Berlin, her fiancée is visited by her ex. While this may disappoint some fans of the genre, this film directed by Julia C. Kaiser is a movie focussing on two lesbians, but is not really a lesbian film. It is refreshing to see lesbian characters not treated as other.
IMDB Score 6.5/10
Written by Ron Nyswaner and directed by Peter Sollett, this film is based on a documentary short film of the same name about a police officer Laurel Hester who must fight to have her pension transferred to her same sex domestic partner after being diagnosed with terminal cancer. Some compelling performances from Julianne Moore and Ellen Page as always.
The Girl King (2015)
IMDB Score 5.9/10
This is a biographical drama about Kristina, Queen of Sweden, played immaculately by Malin Buska. Written by Michel Marc Bouchard and directed by Mika Kaurismaki, the film takes a look at the enigmatic queen. Rising to the throne at the age of just 6, she must struggle against conservatives to modernise her country, and to find herself.
Margarita with a Straw (2014)
This Indian drama from director Shonali Bose focuses on an Indian teenager, played by Kalki Koechlin, who has cerebral palsy and so relocates to America for university. She finds new freedom, but also develops a complex relationship with a blind girl which puts her on a journey of self-discovery.