7. Me Without You (2001, Sandra Goldbacher)
Pulling away from the positive examples of female friendship and the greatness of it all, this film depicts the story of toxic friendships, which are quite common and exist everywhere. Capturing the psychological experiences that are associated with toxic people, especially best friends, Me Without You, follows these moments from childhood through adulthood. The friendship between Holly and Marina starts at age 12 and follows them for roughly 28 years.
Holly is a Jewish girl who lives with a conservative mother, whereas Marina lives in a lenient household allowing her to do her own thing. The two become friends as they are neighbors and develop a very strong connection quickly.
Holly develops a crush on Marina’s older brother Nat which stirs up jealousy in Marina. In different stages of their friendship, Holly is seen as heavily influenced by Marina and often it is Marina and her actions that dictate the state of their friendship. After multiple instances where Marina displayed selfishness and lack of consideration for Holly or their friendship, Holly confronts Marina and declares that she can no longer be her friend. Marina exclaims “there is no me without you,” but Holly leaves anyways.
Years later, they are shown to be civil and friendly but for the sake of their two daughters who appear to be best friends. The toxicity of their friendship is wrapped up in that one line “there is no me without you.” That kind of codependence resonates with that of an addict or consistently abused spouse, but it is the one who both created that need and who damaged it that cries for help.
The film is raw and true, which makes the relationship between Holly and Marina hard to deal with sometimes, but like a car crash, it becomes hard to look away when tragedy is in reach.
8. Fried Green Tomatoes (1991, Jon Avnet)
A narrative structure that involves two stories varying in location, time, and characters, this film works to tell the tale of significance of support, unconditional love, and companionship through the relationships of four women.
The first story of friendship comes from the relationship established between Ruth and Idgie. After the death of Idgie’s older brother and Ruth’s boyfriend, Buddy, the two develop a deep attachment to one another through resistance and understanding.
Through monumental changes and decisions in their lives, they eventually vow to always stick together and Idgie makes it clear she will always take care of Ruth, no matter what. Although their friendship borders a fine line between romantic and platonic, it always remains platonic and immensely pure. Life lessons are exchanged between the two and their incredible devotion to one another influences the development of the second friendship between Evelyn and Ninny.
Evelyn and Ninny spark a friendship in present day when Evelyn meets Ninny in a retirement home. Ninny’s immediate interest in Evelyn suggests that she is alone and doesn’t have many people to converse with, but also highlights her energetic spirit and love of storytelling. As she begins to tell Evelyn the story of Ruth and Idgie, the two become closer and inseparable.
The stories of Ruth and Idgie and Ninny’s encouragement, sparks a revelation within Evelyn of her self-worth and significance creating a new confidence in her. She decides that like Idgie vowed to take care of Ruth, she is going to take care of Ninny and she ends up freeing her from the home.
The film tackles domestic abuse, racism, sexism, single motherhood, death, sacrifice, and honor in relationship to the two pairs of friends and the obstacles that are constructed through these topics are never threatening but supplemental.
9. Persona (1967, Ingmar Bergman)
Persona is a strange film to use when talking about female friendship on screen, but it’s worth it. The dynamic between Alma, a young nurse and Elisabet, an actress who has become mute without any reason is very bizarre and complex.
Alma is assigned to take care of Elisabet who has no medical diagnosis for her inability to speak, so the two set out to spend some solitude in the medical administrator’s beach house. Alma works diligently to spark an interest in Elisabet and possibly some form of communication beyond her blank stares.
Sharing personal stories about her fiancé and her unhappiness within their relationship, Alma develops a fascination and interest in becoming closer to Elisabet. When Alma reads a letter Elisabet has written to her husband, she discovers that Elisabet has been studying her like a character and Alma becomes distraught sending her into a rage attack on Elisabet. The two fight over the letter and Elisabet’s rejection of Alma’s help and friendship.
It’s clear that there is no acquaintance or friendship that has developed between the two, but there is a very interesting relationship that is present. A reflection of each other, their desires, their fears, their secrets, etc. shows that the two are just trying to be someone different than who they are. They see stark difference in one another which brews the tension between them, however they are virtually very similar and alike in their endeavors and beliefs.
Self-awareness becomes apparent after the two create scenarios that require the other to sit with themselves and the things they have done or said for awhile, and other realizations surface as the film concludes. Alma and Elisabet would not be classified by conventional standards as friends, but there is a very important and distinct relationship between the two women that should be noted when referencing female friendship in cinema.
10. Beaches (1988, Garry Marshall)
Oh, Beaches. One of the most iconic friendship films in the history of cinema, Beaches narrates the story of a 30 year friendship between two very different women. C.C. Bloom and Hillary Whitney become friends by a chance meeting when they are kids in 1958. It is visually apparent that they come from two totally separate walks of life, but their immediate excitement about one another kickstarts a lifelong friendship that isn’t always neat.
Following a mess of heartbreak, distance, jealousy, career changes, and divorce, C.C. and Hillary reunite and realize that they discovered themselves through their friendship, whether it was present or not.
From pen pals to roommates, best friends to enemies, and all of the rise and falls of most friendships, the two keep their words of being friends forever when Hillary falls ill and asks C.C. to take care of her and her daughter if anything is to happen. Realizing how selfish she has been and the effect it has on the people in her life, C.C. agrees to try and be a better person for the sake of Hillary’s daughter.
There is a strong sense of passion and love written in the narrative of this film. It is a story that has a Hollywood touch to it, but still feels natural and resonates with anyone who has that one person in their life who has been there and always will be, no matter what.
11. Bridesmaids (2011, Paul Feig)
Funny, witty, brilliant, and a buddy film about women, Bridesmaids depicts the various stages of women in life and the different types of friendships you develop through those stages. Centered on the wedding of main character Annie’s best friend Lillian and the duties of being the Maid of Honor, this film delivers A+ comedy while tackling emotional moments between two best friends.
The characters range from Annie who is a creative baker who lost everything when her business went under, Lillian who is Annie’s best friend since childhood who has her life somewhat together and tries to follow the right thing to do, Helen who is Lillian’s friend through connections established from her fiance’s work, Rita who is Lillian’s married, cynical cousin who is suffocated by the fact that she is the mother to three boys and doesn’t live for herself anymore, Becca who is a naïve, Disney loving, idealist who is a newlywed in a marriage that appears unfulfilling, and of course, Megan who is the crude, confident, loud sister of Lillian’s fiancé, and the source of most of the comedic relief.
The strongest element of friendship in this film is the competition aspect that Annie fuels with her insecurities. The established, solid friendship between Annie and Lillian is threatened by Helen’s involvement in Lillian’s life and wedding. Annie’s financial status, loneliness, and codependence on Lillian create tension that erupts into event ruining and friendship straining problems.
The fact that Annie puts everything into her friendship with Lillian makes their fallout that much more painful than it typically would be, because when she loses her spot in the wedding and her only friend, everything is gone.
In the end, the film concludes with a strong sense of community between the bridesmaids and a clear cut understanding of their places and their importance is displayed. Relationships with other people are mended, formed, and developed through the concrete idea of friendship executed in this film, so it suggests the significance of female friendship on screen.
12. Now and Then (1995, Lesli Linka Glatter)
Now and Then is a coming of age film that centers on the events that occur one summer between four best friends. This film promotes the excellence of being rich in company of multiple friends, instead of one singular best friend.
The ups and downs of growing up, especially within a group of friends is captured within this film. With an all-star cast, Now and Then remains relevant to audience members and is accessible to any age, which helps close any generational gaps that might form when talking about friendships in different time periods.
The four friends include Samantha who narrates the film and is projected as the weird, science nerd who likes supernatural things, Roberta who is the resident tomboy who was raised by her father and older brothers, Tina aka “Teeny” is an only child who dreams of being a famous actress to supplement the lack of attention she receives at home, and Chrissy, who is the naïve, sheltered friend that is always worried about doing the right thing.
Varying in style, background, and personalities, the four girls still hold together a very strong friendship with one another. Although there are closer friendships broken into pairs between Roberta and Chrissy and also with Samantha and Teeny, the glue that holds that group together is their unconditional love for one another.
After years of being away from their hometown, Samantha and Teeny return to see the birth of Chrissy’s first born. Roberta became a doctor and stayed in the hometown. After recapping that summer and watching Chrissy give birth, the four friends vow to stay in touch and come back again sooner, because the time spent that summer changed their lives forever and without that they might not have had the success they all had individually.
13. The Craft (1996, Andrew Fleming)
Another film centric around a group of misfits, the Craft follows four high school girls who have a serious interest in witchcraft and practice the craft amongst themselves. Sarah, the fourth member of the group, moves to the area after she was involved in some trouble and initially shows that she possesses some natural power which the other girls pick up on.
The other girls are Nancy who is angry and power hungry but comes from a poor background, Bonnie who is sensitive and timid since she suffers from severe scarring on most of her body, and Rochelle who is continuously bullied for her race by the popular students at her school. During a ritual, the girls test out spells that are mainly directed at people who have tormented them in some way.
After the spells appear to be working, they take a turn for the worse and create issues within the group. Nancy’s desire to possess ultimate power results in an overwhelming greed which causes her to become apathetic towards everyone. This angers the other girls and Sarah decides to take charge and stop Nancy.
The dynamics within the group are typical to most high school cliques, however there is a very strong sense of tension between everyone. Power structures and positions are the biggest issues in their friendships, because the needs to not only possess authoritative positions, but to have the ability to control their lives and those involved is very detrimental.
There is a distinct latching on to anyone who can deliver hope and leadership which gets tossed between Nancy and Sarah, but ultimately when the group disassembles, it is only Bonnie and Rochelle who remain attached and bound by insecurities and inability to exist on their own.