Steve Rogerson follows up his two articles on the best lesbian movies of all time with a further selection, all of which could have made the original list. There is quite a mix here, from the fun to the violent, from sexy to tragic, and in one case just surreal. And there is at least one gross out moment.
Another ten great lesbian movies
In the third article of the series, a look at ten more of the best lesbian films of all time
But what type of movie is a lesbian movie? For this article, the definition given in the first article still works and that is a film in which a lesbian relationship or the subject of lesbianism is central to the plot.
The films here are listed in alphabetical order.
Alena (played by Amalia Holm) moves from a poor school to a posh school, but while some look down their noses at her and bully her, one girl strikes up a special friendship. Alena though is still haunted by what happened at her old school. Directed by Daniel di Grado, this Swedish film is a gripping mix of horror and love.
This surreal South Korean film sees Kap-suk Seo play sushi chef Park Bong-Ja, whose life is turned upside down when she befriends a teenage prostitute (played by Yi-yeong Shim), whom she finds sleeping in her bed. Throw in a cult leader who is murdered and a policeman who has a crush on Bong-Ja and the mix is set. This at first looks a bit jolly, and it does have some genuine funny moments, but as Bong-Ja and the young woman become closer, the story of her dark past is slowly revealed.
Based on the 1952 novel The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith, this film is set in 1950s New York and stars Cate Blanchett as Carol, who takes a fancy to shop assistant Therese (played by Rooney Mara). This is a slow burner, but gripping. Carol is going through a divorce and her husband Harge (played by Kyle Chandler) is trying to deny her access to their daughter because of Carol’s poor moral standards, that is she prefers women. Watch out too for the delightful Sarah Paulson as Carol’s friend Abby.
On learning of her father’s death, Ronit (played by Rachel Weisz) returns to London from where she had exiled herself after her father discovered her having sex with her best friend Esti (played by Rachel McAdams). Esti is now married to Dovid (played by Alessandro Novola), who is in line to take over as rabbi from her father. But the orthodox Jewish community within which they moved knew of the scandal that had driven her away. Ronit and Esti find they still have feelings for each other and Dovid’s world starts to unravel. Directed by Sebastián Lelio and based on the novel of the same name by Naomi Alderman, the film had its premiere at 2017 Toronto International Film Festival.
Duck Butter (2018)
Directed by Miguel Arteta, this is a very intense film focusing exclusively for large parts on the two lead characters – Naima (played by Alia Shawkat, who co-wrote the screenplay with Arteta) and Sergio (played by Laia Costa) – who decide to spend 24 hours having sex once every hour. The problems start as tiredness and niggles impinge on what they are doing and the whole film becomes rather uncomfortable. For those who do not know what duck butter is, Google it and prepare to be grossed out, but don’t worry, there is no actual duck butter in the film. I am not saying you won’t be grossed out by something in the film, but not that.
High Art (1998)
A Canadian-American indie film, High Art was written and directed by Lisa Cholodenko and stars Radha Mitchell as Syd, a young journalist who discovers photographer Lucy (played by Ally Sheedy) living in the flat above. They start working together and one thing leads to another with the slight complication that they both have existing partners. There is a lot of drug taking in this slow-moving, atmospheric movie, and it is that which earns the film its 18 certificate.
Based on the short story “Jambula Tree” by Monica Arac de Nyeko, this tells the story of Kena (played by Samantha Mugatsia) and Ziki (Sheila Munyiva), daughters of rival politicians in a district of Nairobi. Their relationship blossoms, but it is not easy to be open about their feelings in a discriminatory society, especially when the discrimination turns violent. A slow-moving, hard-hitting drama.
Sexual Tension: Violetas (2013)
This movie is made up of six short films, each exploring the art of seduction. First, two young women end up sharing a room in a hostel. But who is seducing whom? A shop assistant offers advice to a woman buying clothes, including in the changing room. A man and two women on a picnic, but when the guy goes for a swim, one woman fantasises about the other, but the reality is a little different. In a coffee shop, a guy gets frustrated when his girlfriend pays more attention to the waitress than him. Two escorts hired for a threesome with a client find each other a bit more interesting. And, finally, two former school friends now grown up get to know each other a little better.
Teenage Cocktail (2016)
Written and directed by John Carchietta, this film tells the story of two seventeen-year old girls – Annie played by Nichole Bloom and Jules played by Fabianna Therese – who start a relationship and want to run away together, but need money. They start doing webcam shows to earn cash and then decide to take it step further. The bond between the two grows as the film moves on but they take things a little further and danger looms. It had its premiere at South by Southwest in 2016 before being picked up by Netflix.
The Handmaiden (2016)
This South Korean film tells the same story in three parts, the first looking at the same scenes from different points of view. Set in the 1930s during the Japanese occupation of Korea, the story concerns a plot by a conman to win the favour of a rich Japanese lady Lady Hideko (played by Kim Min-hee), marry her, have her committed to a madhouse and steal her fortune. His partner in crime is Sook-hee (Kim Tae-ri), who becomes the lady’s handmaiden. But Hideko and Sook-hee find a certain attraction to each other. This film has more twists and turns that you first realise. Fun and sexy.
Which is best?
They are all good in their own ways, otherwise they wouldn’t have been on this list. For those who like the action slow, then Carol and Rafiki have to be considered, though the latter comes with a hefty dose of violence too. The twists and turns in The Handmaiden are delightful, but my favourite is Disobedience; it is just quality.
Feel free to suggest not just your own favourite in the comments but other films that should have been included in either this or the first two selections. If there are enough, this trilogy may gain a fourth article.