13 Movies That Paved The Way for Lesbian Plot Lines

In Hollywood’s early years, homosexuality was often presented as an object of ridicule and laughter. From the 1930s to the 1950s, the film industry agreed to stop featuring homosexual characters after religious and women’s groups accused them of contributing to immorality.

In the ’60s, with the beginning of the women’s and gay rights movements, the industry brought homosexual storylines back to the movies. Unfortunately, their depiction of the community was far from reality.

It wasn’t until the ’90s that the studios began producing films that portrayed the human side of gay and lesbian characters, but despite the effort, the industry has made to include gay plotlines in movies for the past two decades, there are some who still argue about the presence of characters in TV and film.

Critically acclaimed films such as “Monster,” “Brokeback Mountain,” “Blue Is The Warmest Color,” “Gia,” “The Normal Heart,” and “Carol,” to name a few, have helped many to understand our community.

What about the films that were gay before we dared have hope?

Here are 13 classic and slightly older movies we forgot had a lesbian or bisexual plotline:

1. The Children’s Hour (1961)

In this William Wyler film, Shirley MacLaine and Audrey Hepburn play “Martha” and “Karen,” two former college classmates who open a private school for girls. When one of the students, a spoiled and conniving child named “Mary,” is caught in a lie, she decides to take things even further and falsely accuses “Martha” and “Karen” of being in a romantic relationship.

2. Personal Best (1982)

Back in 1997, Ellen DeGeneres named this movie as her reason for being gay in “Ellen,” the sitcom. This classic film tells the story of a track and field start, “Chris Cahill” (Mariel Hemingway), who meets a more experienced athlete at the 1976 Olympic trials. Their gal pal-ness quickly turns to romance.

3. The Hunger (1983)

Tony Scott recruited Catherine Deneuve, David Bowie and Susan Sarandon to star in this British-American erotic horror film. The movie tells the story of a love triangle between a beautiful yet dangerous vampire, her cellist companion, and a gerontologist. Lesbian vampires are also thrown in the mix.

4. The Color Purple (1985)

Even though “Celie” and “Shug Avery” seem to have a more open sexual relationship in the pages of Alice Walker’s acclaimed novel, Steven Spielberg and Broadway decided to take a softer approach to their love connection in the 1985 film and the most recent musical revival.

5. Boys On The Side (1995)

This touching drama focuses upon the relationships of three strong and independent women. Throughout the story, “Jane,” “Robin,” and “Holly” come to love and need each other but “Jane’s” feelings turn romantic towards “Robin.”

6. Foxfire (1996)

Even though this film has no outright lesbian content, the lesbian plot line is still there. This is also the movie where Angelina Jolie and Jenny Shimizu met.

7. Tea With Mussolini (1999)

In this Anglo-Italian semi-autobiographical film directed by Franco Zeffirelli, Lily Tomlin plays “Georgie Rockwell,” an openly lesbian archaeologist.

8. Mulholland Dr. (2001)

In David Lynch’s nature, this neo-noir mystery is complicated, weird, smart and compelling. The only thing that we are 100% sure of is that two women have sex in this movie.

9. Femme Fatale (2002)

Written and directed by Brian De Palma, this film follows “Laure/Lilly,” played by Rebecca Romjin, a bad girl who manipulates and double-crosses everyone she encounters, and who happens to have a female lover, Veronia (Rie Rasmussen).


10. V For Vendetta (2005)

The Wachowski Sisters knocked it out of the park when they decided to insert a lesbian story as “Evey’s” (Natalie Portman) reason to keep fighting while she is enduring “V’s” boot camp.

11. Head In The Clouds (2004)

Penelope Cruz and Charlize Theron play “Mia” and “Gilda,” two women who love the same man, but also love each other.


12. She Hate Me (2004)

In this Spike Lee film, Anthony Mackie plays “John Henry ‘Jack’ Armstrong,” a biotech executive who gets fired from his job for exposing corrupt business practices and turns to impregnating wealthy lesbians as a way to generate money.


13. Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)

Penelope Cruz won an Academy Award for playing “Maria Elena” in this Woody Allen film, and for kissing Scarlett Johansson.