A couple watching a movie

A couple watching a movie (Photo by Yan Krukau on Unsplash)

If you’ve ever found yourself captivated by the beauty of love stories on the silver screen, then you’re in for a lipstick-laced treat. Lesbian love stories, with their tender moments, heartwarming narratives, and undeniable chemistry, have been capturing hearts worldwide. It’s time to determine once and for all, which movies are the best lesbian romance movies of all time.

In a world where representation matters more than ever, lesbian romance movies provide a refreshing and much-needed perspective on love. These films beautifully portray the complexities of relationships, offering a glimpse into the unique dynamics and challenges that lesbian couples face. Whether it’s a coming-of-age tale filled with self-discovery or a mature love story filled with passion and connection, lesbian romance movies remind us that love is love, regardless of gender.

What sets these movies apart is their ability to strike a chord with viewers regardless of their sexual orientation. Love is a universal language, and lesbian romance movies showcase it in all its sweet, tender, and sometimes tumultuous glory.

From the heart-fluttering first glances to the tear-jerking farewells, StudyFinds has compiled the best lesbian romance movies, recommended by experts. These films are sure to take us on emotional roller coasters that will leave us yearning for more. Did we miss a classic? Leave a comment and let us know!

Pride flag
Pride flag (Photo by Alexander Grey on Unsplash)

The List: Best Lesbian Romance Movies, According to Fans

 

1. “Carol” (2015)

“Carol” was named the best LGBT film of all time in 2016 by The Guardian just a year after its release, and it has to be true because the movie is mentioned in nearly every list across the web.

"Carol" (2015)
“Carol” (2015)

Set in the 1950’s, the movie would have sent shock waves if it had been made during its time period. Queer in the World describes the film, “When a shy shop girl meets a rich, married sophisticate they are instantly, and perhaps surprisingly, attracted. But of course, this was not a time when two women could be together, so their burgeoning love has to hide and they struggle to find a path.”

Inspired by a novel, this story seems to translate well into film. Harpers Bazaar shares, “Based on the classic Patricia Highsmith novel The Price of Salt, Todd Haynes’s splashy film adaptation is a real treat for the senses. Rooney Mara stars as Therese Belivet, a 1950s shopgirl and aspiring photographer who falls for titular housewife Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett) when the latter accidentally-on-purpose leaves a glove at her shop counter. Cue the whirlwind romance, epic road trip, and bittersweet resolution.”

The complexity of the relationship adds emotional turmoil, according to Looper. “The film follows a photographer named Therese (Rooney Mara), who strikes up an unlikely friendship with an older woman named Carol (Cate Blanchett), which soon turns to love. Carol is currently in the middle of a messy divorce, and if her husband finds proof of her lesbian lifestyle, he could use it to take Carol’s daughter away from her. As the larger forces of society pull these lovers apart, Therese and Carol have to decide how much they’re willing to sacrifice in order to stay together.”

2. “Desert Hearts” (1986)

Lesbian film fans can’t get enough of the movie “Desert Hearts” nearly 40 years after it was released. Teen Vogue explains, “This ’80s film is lauded by many as the first lesbian story line in a film where the women ultimately end up together. The critically acclaimed movie follows the story of a young professional in the middle of a divorce who unexpectedly falls in love with a young artist.”

"Desert Hearts" (1986)
“Desert Hearts” (1986)

Although lesbian relationships were not mainstream at the time, “Desert Hearts” attempts to normalize love between women and they hit the mark. Harpers Bazaar describes it perfectly, “When university professor Vivian Bell (Helen Shaver) travels to Reno for an extended stay, she’s just doing what any woman trying to leave her husband in the 1940s would do: post up at a ‘divorce ranch’ long enough to qualify for residency in Nevada, the state with the easiest, quickest marital dissolution process in the nation. But Vivian gets more than she bargained for when she falls in love with Cay Rivvers (Patricia Charbonneau), a sculptor and the divorce ranch’s adopted daughter. One of the first wide-release films to positively portray a lesbian relationship.”

Lesbian films like “Desert Hearts” are not only entertaining, they allow women to connect openly over queer love. “This groundbreaking classic was the first time lesbians got to sit in a movie theater, with popcorn, and see a little piece of themselves on the silver screen,” shares Indie Wire. “Buttoned up and fragile, Vivian is immediately drawn to firecracker Cay Rivvers (Patricia Charbonneau), a young sculptor who is not afraid to go after what she wants. ‘Desert Hearts’ was the first lesbian movie that didn’t involve a love triangle with a man, or end in tragedy. With sweeping visuals and multiple complex female characters, the staying power of this historic film cannot be denied.”

3. “The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love” (1995)

Women discovering their attraction to other women isn’t the only basis for a lesbian film and “The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love” takes its viewers to a deeper level of lesbian emotional intimacy. A reviewer from Harpers Bazaar explains, “The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love isn’t a movie about coming out—although love interest Evie (Nicole Ari Parker) does so to her popular friends—or about overcoming homophobia, despite the fact that protagonist Randy (Holloman) lives with her aunt because her mother kicked her out of the house for being gay. Instead, it’s a sweet, earnest, wryly funny story about two teenagers falling in love for the first time.”

"The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love" (1995)
“The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love” (1995)

Lesbian love isn’t solely built around sexual attraction; often the love blooms through friendship and this film is a perfect representation of that concept. Teen Vogue writes, “In this high school movie of friendship-turned-romance, gas station employee Randy Dean (Laurel Holloman) finds a friend in popular girl Evie (Nicole Parker). Randy deals with ridicule from locals because of her sexual identity, which Evie also experiences as she and Randy find love and reveal their relationship to friends and family. It’s a tale of teenage love, coming out, and all of the ups and downs that come with it.”

Romance between women is complicated enough without adding the contrast of two women from different racial ethnicities, however, “The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love” puts together the puzzle pieces in a way that is endearing. Indie Wire shares, “Featuring an interracial romance across class lines, Maria Maggenti’s 1995 classic was years ahead of its time. Inverting the conventions of the day, the story follows an affluent Black teenager named Evie (Nicole Parker) who falls in love with scrappy white tomboy swooningly named Randy Dean (Laurel Holloman). ‘The L Word’ fans may be surprised by Holloman’s kinetic performance as the brooding gas station worker from the wrong side of the tracks, and her smoldering looks keep the chemistry palpably sweet. A charming teen romance laced with incisive commentary on class and race, this queer classic does more than hold up, it ripens with age.”

4. “Imagine Me & You” (2005)

Sometimes love doesn’t have to be tragic or teach a life lesson. “Imagine Me & You” is a film created simply for enjoyment. A reviewer from Queer in the World writes, “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.”

"Imagine Me & You" (2005)
“Imagine Me & You” (2005)

As cute rom-coms go, the plot behind “Imagine Me & You” is so sappy that it actually connects. “What if you met the love of your life on your wedding day?” asks Harpers Bazaar. “That’s what happens in Imagine Me & You when Rachel (Piper Perabo) locks eyes with florist Luce (Lena Headey)—in the middle of Rachel’s own wedding to bona fide good guy Heck (Matthew Goode). Though Rachel and Luce try their best to resist their attraction to each other, it gradually becomes clear that fate just might have other plans.”

While many movie goers believe that lesbian films should center around the hardships of being a lesbian in our society, “Imagine You & Me” allows lesbian romance to be…normal. “The reviews for Imagine Me & You are not great, and that is frankly ridiculous,” shares Vulture. “This sweet little love story stars Piper Perabo as Rachel, a woman happily engaged to a very nice man named Heck (Matthew Goode), but who only realizes what true love is for the first time after meeting the utterly charming Luce (Lena Headey). So many lesbian romance films involve death and tragedy and separation by the patriarchy or other horrible circumstances, but Imagine is just a movie filled with nice people doing their best. Life is complicated enough. There doesn’t need to be a bad guy making everything worse.”

5. “The Handmaiden” (2016)

As fascinating as watching lesbian romance films on screen can be, somehow, “The Handmaiden” managed to upgrade the genre. A reviewer from Teen Vogue writes, “This South Korean psychological thriller takes place in 1930’s Korea-ruled Japan and was directed by Park Chan-wook (SnowpiercerStoker) and stars Kim Min-hee as Sook Hee, a girl sent to be the handmaiden for Lady Hideko. What Lady Hideko—and Uncle Kouzuki, the man of the manor—don’t know if that Sook-Hee is actually the daughter of the region’s most famous thief. In a plan to steal from the family, Sook-Hee falls for Lady Hideko, and vice-versa. The story has two strong vibes: the sneaky moves of a con artist and a fragile love story between two women.”

 "The Handmaiden" (2016)
“The Handmaiden” (2016)

Although “The Handmaiden” was directed by a man, somehow the true essence of lesbian love still shines through. Harpers Bazaar shares a synopsis: “Acclaimed Korean horror director Park Chan-wook changed tack in 2016 with The Handmaiden, an adaptation of Sarah Waters’s historical lesbian novel Fingersmith. It follows a romance between Lady Hideko (Kim Min-hee) and her handmaiden, Sook-hee (Kim Tae-ri)—who is actually a pickpocket hired by a mysterious con man to convince Hideko to marry him. But Hideko has secrets of her own, and several reversals over the course of the film’s plot reveal that not all is as it seems.”

Allowing the lesbian romance to be the secondary plot of “The Handmaiden” added to its richness, with some debating over whether this is truly a lesbian romance film. “This pick might be a bit unconventional, but just go with us,” assures She Knows. “The Handmaiden is a riveting mixture of romance and thriller. Sook-Hee (Kim Tae-ri) is hired as the handmaiden of a wealthy heiress, Lady Hideko (Kim Min-hee), under the pretense that she helps defraud her of her inheritance. Circumstances, however, become complicated when Sook-Hee and Hideko fall in love with each other. It’s up to them to outmaneuver the men who seek to control them.”

Did you favorite lesbian romance movie make the list? Share your favorite in the comments!

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.

About Te-Erika Patterson

Te-Erika is the Publisher of The Feisty News for Women, the only full-service news source for women. Te-Erika is also the author of How To Love a Powerful Woman, Leave Your Baby Daddy and Loving Female Led Relationships: Relationships that Empower Women. A graduate of The University of Florida, Te-Erika enjoys a thriving career as a digital content creator that has spanned more than a decade. She enjoys chocolate, wine and solitude, and she is currently living a quiet life in Montgomery, Alabama. Follow her @Te-Erika

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