Gender and queers: F2M crossdressing filmography
Below is a list of feature films which have cross-dressing or 'amazonian' heroines; whose star/director/writer was rumoured to be lesbian or was popular with lesbians; which was about lesbians or about female bonding; had a lesbian character; was set in an all-female environment — or which, for any other reason, has ever appealed to some of the lesbians for some of the time . . .
Many of the films listed here are mentioned in the online publications on this site. Someday I'll get around to cross-linking these. In the meantime, you can locate references using the in-site search.
Most of the films are fairly easy to find on DVD or VHS and most of the rest can be found with a bit of effort (see links page for suppliers).
— Against Their Will (Karen Arthur, 1994, US, colour) TVM prison melodrama by feminist director.
— Alien (USA: 1979, Ridley Scott) Progenitor of the legendary 90s film-cycle in which Amazon-warrior, Ripley, triumphs over monstrous motherhood.
— Aliens (James Cameron, 1986, US, 137 mins, colour) Alien sequel is less arty and more of a shoot-em-up actioner with deisel-dyke Vasquez in a minor role ("Vasquez, have you ever been mistaken for a man?" jibes a fellow squaddie — "No, have you?" quips Vasquez).
— Alien 3 (David Fincher, 1992, US, 115 mins, colour) Third in the Alien series, set in a prison colony.
— Alien Resurrection (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 1977, USA 109 mins, colour) Last (so far) in the Alien cycle with the lesbian subtext getting closer and closer to the surface each time, get Ripley's crew-cut!
— All About Eve (Joseph L Mankiewicz, 1950, US, 138 mins, b/w) Fasten your seat belts . . .
— All Over Me (Alex Sichel, 1997, US, US mins, colour) Lesbian buddy film — very well-made, low-budget exploration of teenage love.
— Anne of the Indies (Jacques Tourneur, 1951, US, 87 mins, colour) Fictionalised portrait of historical female pirate Anne Bonney from RKO's finest 'B-movie' director. Anne swashes and buckles with real conviction.
— Annie Get Your Gun (USA, 1950, George Sidney) The musical version of the archetypal tomboy.
— Annie Oakley (George Stevens, 1935, US, 90 mins) Biopic with Stanwyck as a very effective Annie.
— Another Way (Karoly Makk, 1982, Hung, 109 mins) Story of a female journalist executed in 1950s Hungary for lesbianism and pro-democracy activism.
— Bad Girls (Jonathan Kaplan, 1994, US, 99 mins, colour) Sub-Thelma & Louise romp, but lots of fun.
— Baghdad Cafe (Percy Adlon, 1987, GDR, 91 mins, colour) Arty comedy with performative crossdressing.
— Ballad of Little Jo, The (Maggie Greenwald, 1993, US, 120 mins., colour) 19th-century 'fallen woman' passing for a man at the frontier. She makes a pretty lame man though, hard to imagine she'd really pass even back then.
— Bandit Queen, The (Sheknar Kapur, 1994, India, colour) Fictionalised biography of downtrodden peasant-woman who becomes a freedom-fighter. Criticised for its handling of a rape scene.
— Bar Girls (USA: 1994, Marita Giovanni) One of a genre of mixed-race lesbian romances popular in mid-90s — they sorta blend together in my mind.
— Barbarella (Roger Vadim, 1967, Fr/It, 98 mins., colour) Arty sex-romp with Jane Fonda as Amazon astronaut overturning lesbian-bitch-queen's tyranny. The all-time lesbian camp-classic.
— Basic Instinct (USA, 1992, PaulVerhoeven, colour) Sharon Stone crosses and uncrosses her legs.
— Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (Russ Meyer, 1970, US, 109 mins, colour) Cult spoof of swinging 60s and Jacqueline Susanne's lurid page-turners, featuring a trannie psycho and predatory lesbians.
— Bhaji On The Beach, UK: 1993, Gurinder Ghadha) Female bonding in British-Asian community.
— Bilitis (David Hamilton, 1977, Fr, 95 mins, colour) Godawful French schoolgirl lesbian romance. Basically, it's just soft-porn.
— Black Mama/White Mama (Eddie Romero, 1972, USA) Sexploitation remake of the 50s liberal classic The Defiant Ones in which a couple of escaped convicts (one black, one white) come to terms with racism, this time with female protagonists and in the era of the Black Panthers.
— Black Narcissus (Powell/Pressburger, 1946, UK, 100 mins., colour) Classic Freudian fantasy about British nuns in a Himalayan outpost succumbing to 'feminine hysteria'. This is still gripping as a drama as well as visually stunning British film-art at its best. When I last saw it at the BFI cinema, a hettie audience tittered in all the wrong places apparently under the delusion they were watching 'The World's Worst Movies' on Friday-nite C4. Enough to make you miss the days of tortured closets!
— Black Widow (Bob Rafelson, 1987, US, 102 mins, colour) Pro-feminist neo-noir in which female detective overidentifies with female serial-killer.
— Blonde Fist (Frank Clarke, 1991, UK, 102 mins., colour) C4-identikit tedium about working-class heroine struggling for a boxing career on US circuit.
— Blood of Dracula, The (Herbert L Strock, 1957, US, 68 mins., b/w) Sexploitation flick cashing in on the homotext to "I Was A Teenage Werewolf" in which lesbo-lustful mad scientist turns girl student into man-hating vampire. Very amusing!
— Blue Angel, The (Josef von Sternberg, 1930, Ger, 103 mins., b/w) First in the cycle of von Sternberg/Dietrich vehicles - respectable professor is destroyed by his obsession with a night-club singer.
— Blue Steel (Kathryn Bigelow, 1990, US, 102 mins., colour) Clever feminist reworking of thriller visual structure, its female protagonist was very popular with lesbians.
— Born in Flames, (USA: 1983, Lizzie Borden) Radical feminist classic in which a revolution politicises a diverse group of feminists.
— Bound and Gagged, A Love Story (Daniel Appleby, 1993, US, 101 mins, colour) Tedious sexploitation tale of bisexual love triangle.
— Bound (USA: 1996, Larry and Andy Wachowski, colour) Classic and very enjoyable inversion of the noir genre conventions. One of the best of a slew of 'lesbian noirs' of the mid-90s with a sex-scene choreographed by Susie Sexpert.
— Boys on the Side (Herbert Ross, 1995, US, colour) Another T&L spinoff, this time with the first openly lesbian, and black, character.
— Bride With White Hair II (David Wu, 1993, HK) Supernatural chop-socky sequel to Bride with White Hair (oddly enough) — crossdressing butch warrior takes on cult of evil lesbian witches. Lots of fun but get a subtitled version as the dubbed version is excruciating.
— Broken Mirrors (Marleen Gorris, 1984, ND, 116 mins) Feminist-directed exploration of sexual exploitation.
— Bull Dogger, The USA: 1923 (director uncredited) — one of a cycle of black-cast, white produced 'race movies' of the 1920s about a legendary black cowboy cited as popular with black lesbians (or 'bulldaggers' – i.e. cowboys) at the time.
— Butterfly Kiss (UK: 1995, Michael Winterbottom) Well, I thought this doomed and deranged lesbian relationship was pretty dire, but I have met lesbians who liked the film.
— Cabaret (Bob Fosse, 1972, US, 128 mins., colour) Celebrated camp musical adaptation of Isherwood's queer short story from Goodbye to Berlin, starring Liza Minelli as sexually ambiguous rebel.
— Caged (John Cromwell, 1950, US, 96 mins, b/w) One of Warner's grainy social-conscience movies set in a women's prison. Minor butch lesbian character.
— Caged Heat (Johnathan Demme, 1974, US, 84 mins., colour) Deeply dodgy but enjoyable sexploitation escape from women's prison. OTT stereotype of bitter, twisted lesbian prison governor.
— Calamity Jane (David Butler, 1953, US, 101 mins, colour) Musical camp classic in which Doris Day romances 'Mizz Adelaide' — featuring the lesbian classics Whip Crack Away and Secret Love.
— Cat Creature, The (Curtis Harrington, 1973, US, 72 mins., colour) Very silly but amusing gay-directed cult horror homage to Cat People with some rather eccentric gay cameos thrown in.
— Cat People (Jacques Torneur, 1942, US, 73 mins., b/w) Mysterious girl whom passion turns to a black panther. Cult classic from 'B'-meister, Torneur — one of the films fancifully narrated by the fey queen in Puig's The Kiss of the Spider Woman.
— Caught (USA: 1931, Edward Sloman) Seriously 'mannish' cowgirl crossdresses and smokes cigars. Sublime!
— Celluloid Closet, The (Andrea Weiss, 1995, US, colour) Feature-length documentary overview of lesbians and gays in the cinema based on Russo's seminal book of the same title (see the reading list).
— Children's Hour, The (William Wyler, 1962, US, 107 mins, b/w) Wyler remade his earlier adaptation of Hellman's play (These Three) about two teachers in a girls' school accused of lesbianism. This time, he avoided watering down the lesbian theme as a deliberate test of the PCA (Hays Code).
— China O'Brien (US, colour) Queen of USA chop-socky.
— Clair of the Moon (USA: 1992, Nicole Conn) I almost fell asleep, personally, but the film is very popular with many lesbians.
— Club des Femmes (France: 1936, Jacques Deval) Very early cinematic representation of lesbianism approved by the Daughters of Bilitis reviewer as suitably "restrained". Although I'm no particular fan of restraint, I found this well-made female-bonding melodrama set in a residential hostel for young women in the 1930s still resonant and involving.
— Color Purple, The (Stephen Spielberg, 1985, US, 154 mins., colour) Hollywoodisation of Alice Walker's novel, criticised for buffooning male characters and underplaying the lesbianism and for reproducing racist stereotypes of violent black masculinity.
— Committed (Sheila McLaughlin, 1983, US, 79 mins., b/w) Interesting, rather stark, lesbian-directed biopic of rebellious, left-wing Hollywood star, Frances Farmer, who was committed to a mental hospital. Co-directed by Tillman.
— Conan The Destroyer (Richard Fleischer, 1984, US, 103 mins, colour) The one with Grace Jones as Amazon warrior.
— Condemned Women (Lew Landers, 1938, US, 197 mins) Fairly routine womens' prison genre flick.
— Countess Dracula (Peter Sasdy, 1970, UK, 93 mins, colour) Hammer version of the Barthory lesbian-vampire legend in which the Countess impersonates her daughter, maintaining her youth by bathing in blood. Pretty dull and under par for a Hammer lezzie vampire romp.
— Crush (Alison MacLean, 1992, NZ, colour) NZ new wave tale of girl's disastrous crush on an older woman.
— Daughters of Darkness (Harry Kumel, 1971, Bg/Fr, 87 mins., colour) A cult camp classic. Luridly elegant lesbian vampires prey on an innocent bride and her depraved husband. Loosely based on the Countess Barthory myth, the more feminist among us may find the fate of the pouty femme hard to stomach.
— Desert Hearts (Donna Deitch, 1985, US, 91 mins., colour) First lesbian-directed mainstream romance feature based on Jane Rule's equally pioneering coming-out tale Deserts of the Heart. Panned by post-modernists for its niaive realism and yet much loved by lesbian audiences.
— Desperately Seeking Susan (Susan Seidelman, 1985, US, 104 mins., colour) A rather interesting take on the feminist buddy movie in which suburbanite swaps identities with bohemian performer in classic and subversive comedy of errors.
— Destry Rides Again (George Marshall, 1939, US, 94 mins., colour) Spoof western legendary for involving the aloof Dietrich in a bar-room catfight — the film revived her flagging career.
— Diary of a Lost Girl/Tagebuch Einer Velorenen (G W Pabst, 1929, Ger, 110 mins, b/w) Lesbian icon Louise Brooks plays a fallen angel in a film which includes one of the earliest representations of lesbianism (Pabst also directed Brooks in Pandora's Box).
— Dracula's Daughter (Lambert Hillyter, 1936, US, 70 mins, b/w) Female vampire with a taste for female victims, mildly amusing.
— Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (Russ Meyer, 1965, US, b/w) Well, what can you expect from Meyer — homicidal lesbian leather girls with with mega-tits go on a man-killing rampage. Gotta admit I laughed like a drain but Meyer's not to every girl's taste.
— Fatal Beauty (Tom Holland, 1987, US, 104 mins., colour) Thriller with detective played by Whoopi Goldberg on the trail of drug-gangs. Goldberg holds her own with some serious presence. Especially popular with black lesbians.
— First a Girl (Victor Saville, 1935, UK, 94 mins., b/w) Crossdressing classic — British remake of Viktor Und Viktoria with Jessie Mathews. It's a pale copy of the spiffing original and Jessie Matthews makes a hopeless butch, but it's entertaining and worth a watch.
— Fox, The (Mark Rydell, 1967, Can, 110 mins, colour) Two lesbians on an isolated farm are disturbed by the arrival of a wandering seaman. Straight critics were puzzled that the one in the skirt seemed to be the 'real' lesbian!
— Fried Green Tomatoes (Jon Avnet, 1991, US, 130 mins, colour) Much criticised for toning down the lesbian implications of the original novel by Fannie Flagg but still a female bonding classic.
— Fun (Canada, 1994, Rafal Zielinski, colour) One of the lesbian noirs of the mid-90s. Two teenaged girls meet, become intimate, and then commit a murder — well, it follows eh! Not actually a bad film though. One of the more interesting of the 90s 'lesbian noirs'.
— Georgette Meunier (Tanian Stocklin, 1989, GDR, 82 mins, colour) Feminist-directed fantasy with black-widow theme and alleged lesbian subtext (go figure for the subtext if you ask me, but maybe I dropped off?). Co-directed by Coquais.
— Girlfriends (USA: 1977, Claudia Weill) The original feminist-directed girl-buddy movie, criticised at the time for the marginalisation of its lesbian character. Interesting though and worth seeing if only as a historical landmark — or to see 'Melissa' from Thirtysomething with cute puppy fat!
— Go Fish (Rose Troche, 1994, US, b/w) Lesbian-directed romance in tongue-in-cheek, indie, style. The first by-and-for-lesbian feature to depart from the realist coming-out formula. This team went on to unleash The 'L' Word.
— Gold Diggers of 1933 (Mervyn Le Roy, 1933, US, 96 mins., b/w) Busby Berkeley depression musical; sly references to lesbianism and prostitution cited by pro-censorship lobby. Catch Ginger Rogers' monacle.
— Grief (Richard Glatzer, 1993, US, colour) Soap-style feature spoofing lifestyles of gays in the media.
— Guncrazy (Tamra Davis, 1992, US,) Feminist rape-revenge flick — very much of its time but still interesting.
— Handgun (Tony Garrett, 1982, US, 101 mins, colour) Feminist rape-revenge vs. gun lobby. See above . . .
— Haunting, The (Robert Wise, 1963, UK, 112 mins, b/w) Very effective atmospheric horror with credible and unsensationalised lesbian character approved even by DoB's The Ladder reviewer at the time. Stands up extremely well over the decades.
— Heavenly Creatures (Peter Jackson, 1994, NZ, colour) One of the better class of 1990s 'lesbian noir'.
— High Art (Lisa Cholodenko, 1998, US, colour) Urban art-scene dykes on a beautifully filmed mission to self-destruct.
— Hunger, The (Tony Scott, 1983, US, 99 mins, colour) Lesbian-classic in which lesbian vampires run through every art-house cliche of female sexuality.
— I Have Heard the Mermaids Singing (Patricia Rosema, 1987, Can, 83 mins, colour) Irritatingly precious (if you ask me) tale of female bonding in the art-world, nevertheless popular with many lesbians.
— Imitation of Life (Douglas Sirk, 1959, US, 124 mins, colour) Remake of much stronger 1934 original. A white widowed woman becomes close to her black maid and their daughters are raised together. The maid's daughter (played by a mixed-race actress in the original but by a white actress in the remake) can't accept the realities of racial discrimination and chooses to pass for white with tragic consequences.
— In Bed With Madonna (Alek Keshishian, 1991, US, 119 mins, b/w) Documents the Blonde Ambition tour if anyone's still interested.
— Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls In Love, The (USA: 1995, Maria Maggenti) One of the better of the generic mixed-race lesbian romances ('lesbian lites') popular in the mid-90s. This one actually does problematise racial coding, and gives more depth to the developing relationship between the two girls.
— Innocent Blood (John Landis, 1992, US, 112 mins, colour) Female vampire flick directed by Landis with cameos from Dario Argento and Sam Raimi, which pretty much gives you the idea.
— Internal Affairs (Mike Figgis, 1990, US, 117 mins, colour) Policier in which lesbian detective (Jackie from Rosanne) tracks down Gere's corrupt cop.
— Johnny Guitar (Nicholas Ray, 1952, US, 110 mins, colour) Camp classic in which crossdressing Crawford slugs it out with Mercedes McCambridge. Stanwyck apparently much miffed at not being offered the role — actually, I'm with Stanwyck on this one.
— Julia (Fred Zinneman, 1977, US, 117 mins, colour) New Women's Cinema archetypal girl-buddy movie based on the relationship between Lillian Hellman (author of The Children's Hour) and her Marxist friend, Julia. Much criticised for exoticising lesbianism either too much or not enough, but the film is gripping anyway.
— Killing of Sister George, The (Robert Aldrich, 1969, UK, 138 mins, colour) Classic 'inversionist' text with Beryl Reid as the nun-assaulting butch and Susannah York as babydoll femme. Nuff said!
— Lair of the White Worm, The (Ken Russell, 1988, UK, 93 mins, colour) Truly abysmal spoof horror with Amanda Donahoe as lesbo-seductive titular serpent. A bit much, even for la Russell.
— Last Island, The (Marleen Gorris, 1990, ND/UK, mins, colour) By the director of A Question of Silence — a sort of feminist Lord of the Flies as a small group which includes a lesbian is cast away on a desert island.
— Last Seduction, The (John Dahl, 1993, US, colour) One of a slew of pro-feminist reworkings of neo-noir popular in early 90s, this one is narrated from femme fatale's point of view and with the novelty twist of her survival. Doesn't strike me as hugely lesbian but popular with some.
— Leaving Normal (WEdward Zwick, 1992, US, 110 mins, colour) Sub-Thelma and Louise road movie of mild interest to lesbians.
— Legend of Lylah Claire, The (Robert Aldrich, 1968, US, 130 mins) Typically Aldrich. Whacky camp tale with plentiful perve.
— Liquid Sky (Slava Tsukerman, US, 1983) Lesbian classic punk-sci-fi, including an inimitable demonstration of (fully clothed) tribadism.
— Lilith (Robert Rossen, 1964, US, 126 mins) Psychotherapist falls in love with sexually troubled female patient. Alleged lesbian subtext — you gotta read your Freud tho!
— Lust for a Vampire (Jimmy Sangster, 1970, UK, 95 mins., colour) More LeFanu-inspired Hammer, jolly lesbian vampire lust in a girls' school.
— Maidens In Uniform/Madchen in Uniform (Leontine Sagan, 1931, Ger, 98 mins, b/w) One of the earliest sympathetic portrayals of lesbian love from the Weimar era. Set in a Prussian boarding school and allegorising the evils of Prussian authoritarianism.
— Maverick Queen, The (Joe Kane, 1955, US, 90 mins, colour) Western with female protagonism made to compensate Stanwyck who was miffed at not being cast in Johnny Guitar. Jolly enough but not a patch on JG.
— Mildred Pierce (Michael Curtiz, 1945, US, 113 mins, b/w) La Crawford in comeback Oscar success. A career-woman struggles for success but sacrifices all for spoiled daughter — many read a lesbian subtext into Crawford's careerism coupled with emotional female focus. It's a great melodrama either way!
— Mona Lisa (Neil Jordan, 1986, UK, 104 mins, colour) Jordan seems mildly obsessed with presenting black sexuality as perversity (The Crying Game). Tyson was much admired in her role as a tough, independent lesbian callgirl.
— Montana Belle (USA: 1952, Allan Dwan) Jane Russell in a blonde wig plays the notorious crossdressing female outlaw Belle Starr.
— Morocco (Josef von Sternberg, 1930, US, 87 mins, b/w) Dietrich classic with 'that kiss' dressed in topper and tails.
— Near Dark (Kathryn Bigelow, 1987, US, 95 mins, colour) Very interesting post-Rice treatment of vampire theme. The protagonist's uneasy 'redemption' is one of the great, underrated, gender-subversive moments of cinema (imho).
— Negre Angustias, La/The Black Anguish (Matilde Landeta, 1949, Mex, b/w) Pioneering Mexican woman filmmaker's exploration of tensions of race, gender, and class with crossdressing female rebel protagonist.
— Nikita (Luc Besson, 1990, Fr/It, 117 mins, colour) Psychotic girl trained as government assassin is redeemed by love. Nikita starts off promisingly enough but degenerates into sentimental normality.
— Night of the Iguana, The (John Huston, USA, 1964, 125 mins, b/w) Steamy Tenessee Williams with an implicitly lesbian character as a change from implicitly tortured queens. Not the most positive image you'll ever see, but what can you expect from the queen of gender dysphoria? Great stuff.
— Not A Love Story Canada: 1981, Bonnie Sherr Klein) Radical feminist analysis of pornography. Does just what it says on the tin.
— Oklahoma Woman (Roger Corman, 1956, US, 72 mins, b/w) Corman sexploitation western with strong female character. Not Corman at his best.
— Old Maid, The (Edmund Goulding, 1939, US, 95 mins, b/w) Gripping Bette Davis weepie in which good/bad sisters compete for daughter's love.
— Olivia (France: Jacqueline Audry) Lesbianism in a French girls' boarding school. Actually, not the usual soft porn but a sober and involving melodrama.
— Orlando (Sally Potter, 1993, UK, 93 mins, colour) Visually stunning adaptation of Woolf's lesbian fantasy but rather annoyingly het-feminist in its agendas. Ultra-femme Swinton hardly makes a credible androgyne. Didn't work for me.
— Pandora’s Box (Germany: 1929, G. W. Pabst, b/w) Earliest cinematic representation of lesbianism. Its star, Louise Brooks, was rumoured actually to be a lesbian.
— Paris is Burning (USA, 1988/9, Jenny Livingstone) Feature-length lesbian-directed documentary about crossdressing latina queens in NY. Controversial but totally mesmerising.
— Peking Opera Blues (Tsui Hark, 1986, HK, colour) Above-par chop-socky tale of an independent women's struggles against oppression in imperial China.
— Personal Best (Robert Towne, 1982, US, 127 mins, colour) Lesbian relationship between athletes. Unremarkable.
— Plainsman, The (USA: 1936, Cecil B. DeMille, b/w) Well, slap my thighs! Feisty Jean Arthur plays cross-dressing Calamity Jane in the earlier, non-singing version. Pure Principal Boy — loved it!
— Prison Stories (Donna Deitch/below, 1991, US) Interesting documentary on women in prison made by feminist and lesbian filmmakers: Deitch, Joan Micklin Silver, Penelope Spheeris.
— Privilege (Yvonne Rainer, 1990, US, 103 mins, b/w) Multi-layered exploration of issues of identity. It was criticised for use of black protagonist standing in for white filmmaker but this doesn't detract from the intelligent deconstruction going on here.
— Proces de Jeanne D'Arc, Le (Robert Bresson, 1962, Fr, 65 mins) Strong version of Joan of Arc's trial but which was criticised for eroticising the spectacle of Joan's humiliation.
— Quartier Mozart (Jean-Pierre Bekolo, 1992, Cameroon) Tale of young girl curious about gender roles who is turned into a man by local witchdoctor with comic results.
— Queen Christina (Rouben Mamoulian, 1933, US, 101 mins, b/w) Legendary cross-dressing classic beloved of lesbians — biog of the equally legendary lesbian bi Queen of Sweden with Greta Garbo looking very fetching in Cavalry togs.
— Queen of Outer Space, The (Edward Bernds, 1958, US, 80 mins, colour) Sexploitation flick in which Venus is ruled by bitter-twisted-man-hating lesbian queen with Zsa Zsa gabor as valiant leader of a het-femme rebellion. Never thought I'd be rooting against female rebels!
— Queen of the Pirates, The (Mario Costa, 1960, Italy, 79 mins) Girl pirate fights the good fight.
— Question of Love, A (Jerry Thorpe, 1978, US, 100 mins, colour) TVM issue melodrama concerning a lesbian custody battle. One of those moments when the TVM format lets a director tackle a 'tricky' topic and actually kinda touching.
— Question of Silence, A (Marleen Gorris, 1982, ND, 96 mins, colour) Classic feminist exploration of gender-power which caused a ruckus-and-a-half when originally released. Three previously unacquainted women spontaneously commit collaborative murder. A female psychologist is fascinated and challenged by the case. Women and men in the audiences appeared to have watched entirely different films.
— Rainbow, The (Ken Russell, 1989, UK, 104 mins, colour) Typically overblown Russellian/Lawrentian tale of an erotic relationship between women.
— Rebecca (Alfred Hitchcock, 1940, US, 130 mins, b/w) Hitchcock's classic adaptation of Du Maurier's lesbian fave. Very toned down but still a classic.
— Red Sonja (Richard Fleischer, 1985, US, 89 mins, colour) Camp sword-and-sorcery epic in which Amazon warrior saves the world from evil lesbian witch-queen. Very enjoyable.
— Reform School Girls (Jonathan Kaplan, US, colour) TVM rendition of the usual sexploitation girls-behind-bars themes.
— Religieuse, La (Jacques Rivette, 1967, France, 130 mins) Film version of Diderot's classic featuring evil lesbian abbess.
— Rose of Cimarron, The (Harry Keller, 1952, US, colour) Corny tale of buckskin-clad girl raised by Indians and contemptuous of 'civilised' femininity seeking revenge against killers of her parents. Unusually minimal intrusion of het love-interest and it's deadpan delivery is fun — enhanced by the Rose's particularly wooden acting.
— Rose of the Rancho (USA: 1935, Marion Gering) Don Carlos, desperado leader of a Spanish outlaw gang attacking US ranchers, turns out to be a woman in disguise.
— Ruby Gentry (King Vidor, 1952, US, 82 mins, b/w) Abandoned girl is raised as boy, and seeks revenge on small-town which snubs her independent ways. Ripping melodrama.
— Salmonberries (Germany: 1991, Percy Adlon) Beautifully shot but apparently interminable . . .
— Sammy and Rosie Get Laid (Stephen Frears, 1987, UK, 101 mins, colour) Exploration of Asian life in London tangentially featuring lesbian couple.
— Sarrounia (Med Hondo, 1986, France/Burkina Faso, 121 mins, colour) Interesting cinematic reworking the legend of a warrior queen's resistance to French colonialism.
— Scrubbers (Mai Zetterling, 1982, UK, 93 mins, colour) No-budget, improvised docu-drama set in a woman's prison. Worth it to see 'Pat' from Eastenders as a thoroughly butch screw.
— Set It Off (USA: 1996, Gary Gray) Neo-blaxploitation take on the female buddy/actioner. Routine but a good effort at covering all the lesbian cultural bases.
— Seven Women (John Ford, 1966, US, 100 mins, colour) Set in an isolated women's mission in China menaced by savage tribes; crossdressing female doctor (Anne Bancroft) takes control of the situation from screwed-up lesbian missionary. Fabulous stuff!
— Shame (Steve Jodrell, 1987, Aus, 94 mins, colour) Rape-revenge update following the success of The Accused in the States: girl is raped in macho Outback town and biking butch female lawyer singlehandedly reclaims the night. Fabulous stuff again!
— Shanghai Express (Josef von Sternberg, 1932, US, 80 mins, b/w) Dietrich/Von Sternberg classic.
— She Devil (Susan Seidelman, 1989, US, colour) Disappointing adaptation of Fay Weldon's novel from the director of Desperately Seeking Susan and starring Roseanne Barr. You'd think that combo could do better!
— She Must Be Seeing Things (Shelia McLaughlin, 1987, US, 91 mins, colour) Low-budget exploration of lesbian sexuality which caused a major ruckus on its release because of its lesbian S/M content and its failure to address the race of one of its protagonists.
— Sheena, Queen of the Jungle (John Guillermin, 1984, US, 117 mins, colour) Very corny sexploitation cashing in on the 80s craze for female protagonism. Scantily clad Tarzanette rides her zebra and brings down 'copters with a bow and arrow to defeat government corruption in an African Ruritania. Well, it passes the time.
— She's Gotta Have It (Spike Lee, 1986, US, 85 mins, b/w) Critically acclaimed first feature credited with founding New Black Cinema with its commercially successful comic exploration of black sexuality. Feminist objected to mis-representation of women's sexuality, an overly salacious rape scene, and the marginalisation of a lesbian character.
— Silence of the Lambs, The (Jonathan Demme, 1990, US, 118 mins, colour) Our Jodie as ultra-smart FBI loner tracking trannie psycho-killer. Lots of clever stuff about the visual relay.
— Silence, The (Ingmar Bergman, 1963, Sweden, 96 mins, b/w) Interminable but classic text about lesbianism. Sorry, I lack the staying power . . .
— Silences of the Palace, The (Moufida Tlatli, 1994, Fr/Tunisia, colour) Tunisian film about the stultifying effect of harem life.
— Silkwood (Mike Nichols, 1983, US, 131 mins, colour) Pro-feminist biopic of allegedly murdered anti-nuclear campaigner, Karen Silkwood, with a lesbian character seen as unusually positive for the time.
— Single, White Female (Barbet Schroeder, 1992, US, 107 mins, colour) One of the less distinguished lesbian noirs of the nineties.
— Sister, My Sister (Nancy Meckler, 1994, UK, colour) Homicidal lesbians again.
— Soldier Blue (USA: 1970, Ralph Nelson, colour) Candice Bergen's self-sufficient tomboy raised as a Native American carries an anti-Vietnam and pro-feminist theme. Liberal-revisionist western with some very disturbing massacre scenes but I was totally charmed by Bergen's sardonic protagonism when I saw this in my teens (when it was made).
— Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder, 1959, US, 122 mins, b/w) Classic crossdressing screwball — OK, OK, there're no actual lesbians in it but nobody's perfect!
— Sons of the Musketeers (aka At Sword's Point) (USA: 1952, Allen Lewis) Maureen O'Hara makes an unexpectedly decent effort at cross-dressed swordplay.
— Stage Door (Gregory La Cava, 1937, US, 93 mins, b/w) Set in a theatrical bording house for women with Katherine Hepburn and Ginger Rogers. No overt lesbianism, but unusual all-woman setting for the period and lots of fun.
— Streets of Fire (Walter Hill, 1984, US, 94 mins, colour) Fast-paced comic-strip spoof of biker-gang/teen action. Its hero has a very, very butch sidekick.
— Sword of Monte Christo, The (Maurice Geraghty, 1951, US, 80 mins, colour) Crossdressing heroine fights for the right with minimal interference from het love interest.
— Sylvia Scarlett (George Cukor, 1935, US, 94 mins, b/w) Theatrical crossdressing classic with Katherine Hepburn passing as a young man. Its girl-on-girl kiss scene was pretty risqué for the times and it's still lots of fun.
— Terminator II: Judgment Day (James Cameron, 1991, US, 136 mins, colour) Futuristic adventure with mega-female protagonism from lesbian babe of the year, Sarah Connor/Linda Hamilton.
— Thelma and Louise (Ridley Scott, 1991, US, colour) Pro-feminist road-movie/female-buddy film. The butch/femme interaction between our heroines was ecstatically popular with lesbians and the girls flew their 66 Thunderbird into lesbian legend.
— Therese and Isabel (US: 1968, Radley Metzger) French society lesbians — it's all terribly sophisticated and I find it so hard to care . . .
— Thin Ice (Fiona Cunningham-Reid, 1994, UK, colour) Dykes on ice. Unremarkable representative of the slew of mixed-race lesbian romances ('lesbian lites') of the mid-90s. Makes a change from tennis, I suppose.
— Times Square (Allan Moyle, US, 1980) Female buddy-movie whose overt lesbian content apparently ended up on the cutting-room floor. Still, it's still pretty obvious just how intimate the teen girls who run off to form punk band really are . . . Anyway, I've always got a soft spot for a doomed rebel!
— Touch of Evil (Orson Welles, 1958, US, 95 mins, b/w) Set in Mexico — celebrated cameo by Mercedes MacCambridge playing a sadistic lesbian (again!).
— Trace, The (Neija Ben Mabrouk, 1982, Tunisia, colour) A young woman resists the confines of masculinist society. Wise decision.
— Triumph of Love, The (Clare Peploe, 2001, US) Despite the best efforts of Rachel Stirling (Tipping the Velvet) and Fiona Shaw (69 on last year's 'Pink List' – no, really, 69!), frenetic crossdressing and girl-on-girl seduction, this somehow manages to be about as teasingly erotic as a bus queue. Go figure.
— Twins of Evil (John Hough, 1971, UK, 87 mins, colour) Late Hammer during its period of desperate innovation: more G-cup lesbian vampires. Pretty weak.
— Vamp (Richard Wenk, 1986, US, 94 mins, colour) Poor spoof of vampire movies much criticised for its stereotypical portrayal of Grace Jones — and it really is appalling.
— Vampire Lovers, The (Roy Ward Baker, 1970, UK, 91 mins, colour) Hammer's best shot at filming Le Fanu's Carmilla. A minor camp classic and achieves an impression of actual heat between the girls.
— Vampyres (Jose Ramon Larraz, Spain, 1974, 87 mins, NB UK VHS version heavily cut and runs at 84 mins). Lyrical, arty and rather dodgily eroticised treatment of the female vampire theme. A bit of a bloke thing if you ask me.
— Variety (Bette Gordon, 1983, US, 100 mins, colour) Feminist analysis of porn and power with script by Kathy Acker.
— Victor/Victoria (Blake Edwards, 1982, UK, 134 mins, colour) Godawful Hollywood remake of the infinitely fabulous Weimar classic Viktor Und Viktoria. Edwards tried to make squeaky-clean wife Andrews a bit racy but sooooo doesn't pull it off.
— Viktor Und Viktoria (Germany: 1933, Reinhold Schunzel) Absolute classic! Unable to find a job, Viktoria comes up with a cabaret act in which she plays a male2female impersonator whose convincing portrayal of femininity (geddit?) sets her on a meteoric rise to fame. Lots of mistaken identity hanky-panky ensues. Lots of fun.
— Waiting to Exhale (USA: 1995, Forest Whitaker) Black women's (well, man's) take on mid-90s female bonding genre. Uninspired.
— Walk on the Wild Side (Edward Dymtryk, 1962, US, 114 mins, b/w) A camp classic. Gleefully sleazy camp tale cocking a snoot at the welcome demise of the Hays Code. Stanwyck is Madam of a N'awlins brothel, Cappucine her restless lover and Jane Fonda a wide-girl hooker. Overblown Freudian metaphors agogo.
— Watermelon Woman, The (USA, 1996, Cheryl Dunye) Outstanding fictionalised documentary in which a contemporary black lesbian filmmaker searches for the 'real' persona of a much-stereotyped black lesbian actress from the 1920s.
— Weak and the Wicked, The (J Lee Thompson, 1953, UK, 81 mins, b/w) Diana Dors prison flick. Not at all bad. Who knew she could act?
— West of the Pecos (USA, 1934, Phil Rosen) Another jolly tale of female Western outlaw disguised as a man. There was a lot of it about in the 30s.
— Whispers in the Dark (Christopher Crowe, 1992, US, 102 mins, colour) Dull and dodgy thriller enlivened momentarily by Annabella Sciorra's lesbian patient masturbating in front of her.
— Wicked Lady, The (Leslie Arliss, 1945, UK, 104 mins, b/w) Gainsborough classic in which Margaret Lockwood turns cross-dressing highwayman. Had to be reshot for the US market with considerably less decolletage! Minor lesbian classic.
— Wild Flowers (Jean-Pierre Lefebvre, 1982, Can, 153 mins, colour) Pro-feminist arty female-bonding flick alleged to have lesbian subtext.
— Witches of Eastwick, The (George Miller, 1987, US, 118 mins, colour) Amusing satire on heterosexuality with female bonding theme.
— Without You I'm Nothing (John Boskovich, 1990, US, colour) Documentary of Sandra Bernhard in concert.
— Witness for the Prosecution (Billy Wilder, 1957, US, colour) Dietrich wears the trousers again - directed by the incomparable Wilder.
— Woman They Almost Lynched, The USA, 1953, Allan Dwan) Cross-dressing outlaw heroine in boots and leathers vs evil femme fatale. Cross-dressers in 30s Westerns were generally pretty tough and stood alone. In the 50s, they were typically counterpointed to an evil femme character. This 50s pattern was picked up again in the 1980s — a similarly reactionary decade which similarly followed a period of relative female emancipation. Ain't life interesting, eh!
— Women in Chains (see Black Mama/White Mama)
— Women Without Men (Elmo Williams, 1956, USA 70 mins, b/w) Social concience women's prison flick. Above par.
— Women, The (George Cukor, 1939, US, 132 mins, b/w) Sharp and snappy Anita Loos-scripted exploration of female bonding and rivalry.
— Women's Prison (Lewis Seiler, 1955, US, 80 mins) Campy prison drama with Ida Lupino as vicious (bitter, twisted, lesbian) prison governor. Lupino was one of the few women to direct Hollywood studio features in the 50s and as an actress she acquired a bad-girl/bitter-twisted-repressed image bordering on lesbian stereotyping. Surprise, surprise!
— Working Girls (Lizzie Borden, 1986, US, colour) Feminist exploration of prostitution with lesbian protagonist. It's OK but hardly earth-shattering.
— Yentl (Barbara Streisand, 1983, US, 113 mins, colour) La Streisand as Jewish girl passing as a boy to gain access to education. Hmmmm.
— Zorro's Black Whip (USA: 1944, Spenser Bennet, Wallace Grissell) More cross-dressed, Principal-Boy, female swashbuckling.