8. Muriel’s Wedding (Dir. P.J. Hogan, 1994)
The late 80s and early 90s saw an influx of Australian films hitting the international market, including P.J. Hogan’s brilliant Muriel’s Wedding. Muriel (Toni Collette) is a social outsider who is prone toward embezzlement, but her newfound friendship with Rhonda (Rachel Griffiths) helps Muriel get out of her comfort zone and find happiness elsewhere.
The film features some tragic moments that challenge the women’s friendship (including Rhonda’s paralysis and Muriel’s “double life” at a wedding shop). Yet the film still gives viewers hope that these two women, whose friendship formed over their mutual love of ABBA, can triumph over any societal expectations.
7. Daisies (Dir. Vera Chytilova, 1966)
Banned in Czechoslovakia for its depiction of wasted food, Sedmikrasky (Daisies) is a subversive tale of two women, Marie I (Jitka Cerhova) and Marie II (Ivana Karbanova), who decide to become as corrupt as the world around them. They frolic, dance, drink, and destroy everything in their path (including a lovely banquet). The film’s subtextual message of political and social corruption is believed to be the driving force behind its ban, but Chytilova knew that her characters would still resonate with viewers.
6. 3 Women (Dir. Robert Altman, 1977)
Though the title refers to three central female characters, the film primarily focuses on the tumultuous relationship between two women, Millie (Shelley Duvall) and Pinky (Sissy Spacek). As they discover one another’s quirks and personal boundaries, the two women begin to swap personalities.
3 Women brought about an end of Altman’s power in Hollywood (he infamously received funding for his film without having a script, just a rehashing of a dream that he had), but it also represents his ability to craft complex female characters.
5. Ghost World (Dir. Terry Zwigoff, 2001)
Enid (Thora Birch) and Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson) are two friends who detach from the world. Their friendship, in spite of its antisocial implications, is instantly relatable and enjoyable. A chance meeting with Seymour (Steve Buscemi), along with the opposing interests of the two friends, drastically alter the lives of these central characters and throw their friendship into a tailspin.
4. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Dir. Howard Hawks, 1953)
Lorelei (Marilyn Monroe) and Dorothy (Jane Russell) are two singers who meet gentlemen admirers along their way to Paris. The iconic pairing of Monroe and Russell became an instant classic, as the women sing to a room full of shirtless gymnasts and later boast that “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.” Yet beneath their homosocial friendship is a subtext of homosexual desire (many queer theorists and viewers like to believe that Dorothy is Lorelei’s protective butch admirer).
3. Grey Gardens (Dirs. Ellen Hovde, Albert Maysles, David Maysles, and Muffie Meyer, 1975)
Sporting revolutionary costumes amongst the debris of a crumbling mansion, Grey Gardens follows Little Edie and Big Edie Beale, two socialite shut-ins who still hold on to their delusions of grandeur. The Maysles’ documentary is astonishing in its frankness and raw depiction of this antagonistic mother-daughter duo. Yet in spite of the women constantly butting heads, there is still an emotional core that allows them to rely on each other for emotional support.
2. Thelma and Louise (Dir. Ridley Scott, 1991)
One of the best feminist films of the 90s, the titular characters of Thelma and Louise form the ultimate female duo. After Louise (Susan Sarandon) shoots a man who was trying to rape Thelma (Geena Davis), the two women flee from the police and from a sexist system that will throw them in jail without listening to their side of the story. The film is an intriguing depiction of two women who forge a friendship outside of patriarchal society, and ultimately choose death over returning to sexist oppression.
1. Persona (Dir. Ingmar Bergman, 1966)
Bergman reached new heights of psychosexual formalism with Persona, an experimental arthouse film that took the world by storm. The film explores the relationship between an actress, Elisabet (Liv Ullmann), and her nurse, Alma (Bibi Andersson), who reside in a seaside home to help Elisabet recover from a nervous breakdown.
Along with its iconic images (especially that of Elisabet pulling Alma’s hair back), the film reveals a predatory relationship between the two women, the effects of silence, and the artificial nature of cinema. Persona exists in a dreamlike trance, slowly showing the women transforming into one another.
Author Bio: Jose Gallegos is an aspiring filmmaker with a B.A. in Film Production/French from USC and an M.A. in Cinema, Media Studies from UCLA. His main interests are the French New Wave, Left Bank Cinema, and Spanish Cinema under Franco. You can read his film reviews at nextprojection.com and view his film poster collections at discreetcharmsandobscureobjects.blogspot.com.