If there is a relationship that could always use more exposure in film, it’s that been the friendships struck up by women. From the special, intimate bonds you find as teenagers in throes of puberty and high-school angst, to the imagination set wonders of childhood, to the life long companionship that forms once your friendship has survived into adulthood. It’s a relationship that isn’t valued enough and with the YA adaptation Before I Fall hitting theaters this week, we looked back at 25 of the best films about female friendship.
A League of Their Own
“There’s no crying in baseball” as said by Tom Hanks may be the most famous quote from the quintessential 90’s feel good film directed by Penny Marshall, but it’s far from what should be the most memorable aspect of the film; the camaraderie. From Geena Davis to Rosie O’Donnell the entire ensemble carries a tremendous amount of chemistry with one another, building a genuine camaraderie among a group of women facing down a sport that didn’t want them in the first place.
A Little Princess
There are plenty of memorable moments in Alfonso Cuarón’s A Little Princess about a young girl seemingly orphaned while under the care of a cruel headmistress, but one of the greatest moments of the film come after Sara and her best friend Becky console their empty stomachs with the idea of a spectacular feast. It’s followed by the two awaking to see that the wonders they’d created in their head had materialized, a moving moment within itself, but it’s a way the two girls comfort one another in the face of tragedy and hardship that rings the loudest. Already a film that should go in any feminist film starter kit, it’s the relationships they build throughout the film that end up having the audience returning to re-watch it over and over again.
The tagline alone seems fairly ridiculous and when the cast consists of a pre-Scream Queens Emma Roberts and Jo Jo of all people, there’s little hope as the credits begin that Aquamarine is going to be much better than anything a Disney Original Movie could produce. Much to my surprise (and I’m sure many others) the film was a delightful little romp. The mermaid aspect of the film was cheeky and helped create an emotionally charged dynamic between the three young female friends that made us more invested in their happiness.
Bend it Like Beckham
While I’ve yet to be convinced that the romance wasn’t in fact between Parminder Nagra’s Jess and Keira Knightley’s Jules, Bend it Like Beckham still succeeds in proving that female friendships can be just as integral to a persons growth as romantic entanglements. Case in point, Jonathan Rhys Meyers’s character Joe, the center of a slightly one sided love triangle, is completely eclipsed by the narrative Jules and Jess go through. Seeing that friendship projected through a sports movie gives it an extra layer of excitement.
This writer refuses to believe that there are people out their who don’t like the surfing sports movie Blue Crush by director John Stockwell, because how couldn’t it be a pre-teen must watch? A film where the romance actually seems tacked on compared to the dynamic between the three friends as Kate Bosworth’s lead trains for a big competition, it’s a film that would’ve been benefited had it allowed for even more time between the trio of women trying to achieve their goals.
Who else got teary eyed when Kristen Wiig’s Annie and Maya Rudolph’s Lillian had their big fall out at the latter’s bridal shower?
No, just me?
With the tremendous amount of palpable chemistry between Wiig and Rudolph aiding in building a relationship that feels lived in and tangible, Bridesmaids might have romance in it’s roots but the biggest laughs and moments of emotional resonance come from the eclectic group of women who have all come together as the aforementioned bridesmaids. Allowing the women to be silly, to poke fun at one another and to be emotionally ugly in their fear of change, Bridesmaids understands the nuance that comes with female friendships, especially as people grow older and sometimes, unfortunately, apart.
Bring it On
Another repeat must watch for anyone who has the millennial labeling, Bring it On is yet another film that also is often unfairly derided for it’s synopsis alone (
hello pesky sexism). In reality, the film is working with a wonderfully clever script, a female dominated cast and performances that understand how to toe the line between sincere and humor so that they’re poking fun at their characters misdoings and not the film itself.
Amy Heckerling’s Clueless should be given greater attention than it already is for it’s iconic one liners, the inclusion of Hollywood pariah Stacey Dash and Cher’s closet which was enviable to any teenage girl, ever, growing up in the 90’s. It plays with the ideas of vapid and vain teenage girls that are often unfairly portrayed as monsters in teen movies in a manner where we understand the actions they’re making and are able to sympathize with the ultimate fall out. Alicia Silverstone and Brittany Murphy are comedically brilliant in the film and in Cher’s case, despite being somewhat self-serving, we always believe that she has Tai’s best interest at heart.
Finally receiving the Criterion Collection release it deserves, Terry Zwigoff’s Ghost World , with all of it’s off beat humor and oddball protagonists, understands the hardship and heartbreak that comes with the fissure of time as friends drift apart. This is portrayed expertly through Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson’s characters and their relationship throughout.
Few films in the past ten years have captured the effortless ease that comes with being among friends and the giddiness that comes with finding happiness in a group than Celine Sciamma’s 2015 film Girlhood. Lead by what should’ve been a star making performance by Karidja Toure as Marieme, Girlhood plays with gender and racial politics with ease, demonstrating what happens when girls come together to work through a male dominated world where their gender always places them in the way of threat.
A film much more clever than the trailers and synopsis may allude to, the Amanda Seyfried and Megan Fox female agency horror movie Jennifer’s Body plays with the intimacy shared between two women and how abrupt that intimacy can end. It’s just that in this case rather than growing up and moving away, Jennifer (Fox) has turned into a boy consuming demon. It’s all about the layering in this one, and while some of the shots of the actresses might seem tantalizing rather than critically skewering, the underlying themes of women and being allowed ownership over their own body rings through.
A bit of deep cut if you’re not used to exploring films outside of the popular culture wheelhouse, Tetsuya Nakashima’s Kamikaze Girls from 2004 makes a great case for coming of age films that focus on the relationships between friendships alone. One of the greatest coming of age film of all time in the classic Stand By Me, one primarily focused on the bonds of boyhood friendships. What wouldn’t we give for a similar one but with female protagonists? Playing with the odd couple dynamics with a distinct visual edge, this is one to add to your watch lists.
More than anything there isn’t a list about young women and their relationships that doesn’t include the Tina Fey penned Mean Girls and we weren’t going to be the first to not include it. Aging remarkably with quotes that we don’t even realize were born from this film still permeating today, the film is a generational classic for a reason. It’s another instance where the love interest plays second fiddle to to exhaustive portrayals of women-teenage girls to be exact-and the fraught and loving relationships they can have with one another, even if they also want to rip one another’s hair out.
At times equally heart wrenching as it is unflappably joyous, do not let the spirited movie poster of P.J. Hogans film mislead you because this is no romantic comedy. Instead it’s a film that examines the crisis of self-identify and self-love that comes when you’ve overcome a family and group that made it their mission to take you down a peg. Desperately wanting to feel loved in order to find some form of self-redemption, Toni Colette’s Muriel is often a tragic character who is only brought a sense of lightness and camaraderie through her new friend, Rhonda (Rachel Griffiths). I’ll let this scene do the talking.
Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion
Stressful situations are always easier when you have a friend by your side to deal with them, an idea made abundantly clear in the hilarious Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion. Unless you’re magically successful in your 20’s the 10 year High School reunion could strike a chord of panic into anyone’s heart, making the mischief these two get into all the more commendable and envy inspiring.
Thelma and Louise
Now a staple for any film that’s focus is primarily on the relationships between women, Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis star as an Arkansas waitress and housewife who after shooting a rapist, take off to hit the road and outrun anyone who might be on their tail. There’s a reason why this Ridley Scott picture is something of a must watch for anyone just getting into film, and having two against the grain female protagonists in the leading roles only make it more of an exciting watch.
Generally speaking, there should always be more horror movies that star young women in high school. Why? Because it’s already such a tense and frightful environment that it’s not hard to take a general atmosphere of unease and turn it into strictly thriller. The 1996 cult classic The Craft understands that teenagers can be scary and exploit it. Also, any film that fully utilizes the strange specificity of Fairuza Balk is a must watch.
The Edge of Seventeen
One of the newest additions on this list, Kelly Fremon Craig’s The Edge of Seventeen was an instant classic in 2016 upon it’s release. It was certainly one more people should’ve watched in theater to get the full experience. Hailee Steinfeld plays Nadine, a socially awkward teen whose life is turned upside down when her best friend (Haley Lu Richardson) starts dating her perfect older brother (Blake Jenner). Steinfeld and Richardson’s friendship feels emotionally potent and lived in, their affection as real as their anger towards each other when things go south.
A rather slept on psychological drama starring Game of Throne’s Maise Williams , Carol Morley’s The Falling is a film that will linger in your psyche long after it’s ended. The film manages to resonate with even a casual viewer with it’s haunting visuals and eerily incandescent score by Tracey Thorn but especially with the tragically intimate relationship between Williams’s Lydia and the magnetic Abbie played by Florence Pugh. Loss is deeply explored along with the mournful experience of growing up in a house where your friends are the closest thing you have to a stable and loving family.
A breakout hit from 2016, Anna Rose Holmer’s The Fits is an eclectic and non-linear means of storytelling, so much so that it would be easy to forgive an audience member for being so captivated by the visuals to miss some of the underlying themes of girlhood. Some of the most joyous moments in the film come from Toni (an extraordinary Royalty Hightower) making friends with other girls on the dance team she’s found herself on.
A biographical coming of age story based on the conception of the rock group of the same name, The Runaways, Floria Sigismondi didn’t just give Kristen Stewart one of her finest roles yet with her portrayal of Joan Jett, but also explored friendship tensions while in the spotlight. Dakota Fanning as Cherie and Stewart share a palpable chemistry as we watch the quieter moments of the scene defying and defining rock stars.
The Sisterhood of Night
If you dig deep into the depths of Netflix you’ll find The Sisterhood of Night , a delightful film directed by Caryn Waechter that explores the idea of a Salem Witch Trial in a modern day setting. Setting more adventurous female characters in a subdued and conservative town isn’t new territory for film, a medium that’s always loved their small town hero stories, but the way the girls handle their newfound notoriety is. In particular there’s a special moment when all of the girls come together at the end to celebrate their femininity in a breakout dance across town.
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
A must watch for that very specific time in your life when your friends are your everything and your lifeline when everything else around you goes to shit, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, silly premise and all, is a must see when you’re in your teens (though I’d be curious to see what a newcomer would think of it in their 20’s).
Walking and Talking
Director Nicole Holofcener has always possessed a keen interest in depicting women going through the mundane aspect of life’s every day problems with an experienced and wise point of view and her debut, Walking and Talking, set her on the road to that path of storytelling. A story of two friends who are going from spending every day with one another to finding other romantic life partners strikes a chord in just how seamless that transition from single to married life can be.
Never have I ever been more inclined to take up roller derby after watching Drew Barrymoore’s playful and poignant Whip It starring Ellen Page. A wide array of dysfunction is on display in her film about a misfit looking to find her place in a world while her mother would prefer her be a debutante. What’s so wonderful about the film is that the relationship Page’s character has with her seemingly projected to be romantic interest pales not accidentally but purposefully. It’s her relationships with her mother, her best friend, her adversary and her league (all women) that make this film so beautifully immersive.