17. Passion Fish (Dir. John Sayles, 1992)
Sayles’ Passion Fish follows May-Alice Culhane (Mary McDonnell), a soap opera actress who was paralyzed during a car accident. Having given up on life, May-Alice tortures/scares off caretaker after caretaker, until Chantelle (Alfre Woodard) comes to live with her. The two women confront their own personal demons and form a friendship that transcends race, class, and gender.
16. Fried Green Tomatoes (Dir. Jon Avnet, 1991)
Flashing between two different decades, Fried Green Tomatoes is a queer film that implies a homosexual subtext between the characters of Idgie (Mary Stuart Masterson) and Ruth (Mary-Louise Parker) – though the original novel is a lot more explicit about the lesbian relationship. With Idgie’s penchant for masculine clothing and Ruth’s abusive husband, the friendship between the two women allows them to challenge the societal roles that they were assigned in life.
15. 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days (Dir. Cristian Mungiu, 2007)
Set in Romania in the 1980s, Mungiu’s 4 luni, 3 saptamani si 2 zile (4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days) follows Otilia (Anamaria Marinca), a young women who tries to help her friend, Gabita (Laura Vasiliu), get an abortion. With his minimalist style, Mungiu explores the psychological effects of two women trying to get around the oppressive laws of their country.
14. Postcards from the Edge (Dir. Mike Nichols, 1990)
Based on Carrie Fisher’s novel of the same name, Postcards from the Edge fictionalizes Fisher’s crippling addiction and her antagonistic relationship with her famous mother, Debbie Reynolds. Fisher and Reynolds’ respective counterparts, Suzanne (Meryl Streep) and Doris (Shirley MacLaine) traverse a minefield of failed relationships, pill popping, and show tunes. As Suzanne goes down the road toward recovery, she soon starts accepting her own flaws as well as those of her flamboyant mother.
13. Bound (Dirs. The Wachowskis, 1996)
Before they were known for creating The Matrix, the Wachowskis created a sleek film with two lesbian lovers at its core. Bound is a hot and sexy drama about Corky (Gina Gershon), an ex cop and current plumber who begins a relationship with Violet (Jennifer Tilly), a mob moll. With Tilly’s exasperated voice and Gershon’s androgynous features, the women forge an erotic attraction to one another.
This is one of the more intense queer couplings of the 90s, not so much in its nuanced depiction, but more so in its carnal sexuality.
12. Beaches (Dir. Gary Marshall, 1988)
A signature “chick flick” and a staple of Bette Midler’s filmography, Gary Marshall’s Beaches follows the tender bond between Hillary Whitney (Barbara Hershey) and CC Bloom (Bette Midler) from their initial meeting on the boardwalk to their tearful final moments together. The film not only produced Midler’s infectious “Wind Beneath My Wings,” but it created a wonderful depiction of two people who connect, disconnect, and reconnect over mutual triumphs and tribulations.
11. Diabolique (Dir. Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1955)
Proclaimed to be one of the greatest Hitchcock films that Hitchcock never directed, Les diaboliques (Diabolique) is a tense thriller whose suspenseful cat-and-mouse game keeps you on the edge of your seat. Christina (Vera Clouzot) teams with her husband’s lover, Nicole (Simone Signoret), to kill the sadistic husband in question. They succeed in their plans, but a strange series of events makes the women think that the dead may not stay buried.
With Christina’s fragility and Nicole’s aggressive nature, the two form an unorthodox relationship that leads to a terrifying climax.
10. Autumn Sonata (Dir. Ingmar Bergman, 1978)
Boasting astounding performances by its central actors, Höstsonaten (Autumn Sonata) is a blistering portrait of a mother-daughter relationship gone awry. After years of absence, Charlotte (Ingrid Bergman) visits her daughter, Eva (Liv Ullmann). The two catch up, but their conversations slowly transform into discussions of abandonment issues and fame mongering. Autumn Sonata, like most Bergman films, ends on a pessimistic note, depicting a familial relationship that exists more in name than action.
9. Heavenly Creatures (Dir. Peter Jackson, 1994)
Based on a true story, Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures follows two teenage girls whose love for one another leads to homicidal consequences. Juliet (Kate Winslet) and Pauline (Melanie Lynskey) form a bond over fantasy and literature, but the intrusive nature of their parents causes the girls to conceive a murderous plot. The film’s mixture of romance, fantasy, and bloodlust transforms its material into something so horrifying, yet pathetic (in the pathos sense).