I’ll be honest with you, dear readers. This hasn’t been a huge year for lesbian, bi, and queer cinema. Titles were few and far between to begin with, and there was no Carol-type blockbuster in 2017, or a Moonlight for wlw. There was also a lack of significant roles for queer women of color. 2018 is looking promising with big movies backed by big stars like Disobedience, My Days of Mercy and Vita and Virginia. That being said, there still were some excellent films starring lesbian, bi, and queer characters (and sometimes actors) and here are the best of the bunch. (While some of these films hit the festival circuit in 2016, they were not available for wide release until 2017. I’ve also included links to where you can watch them yourself.)
The Carmilla Movie(directed by Spencer Maybee): Carmilla, Laura and the gang are back in this highly anticipated movie, and this time they were all grown up. Based on the popular webseries, Smokebomb Productions brought the beloved characters back for a feature length film, filled with intrigue, guest stars, and yes, even some racy love scenes. Instead of going the traditional route, the film raised much of its budget via crowd-sourcing, and brought the movie straight to audiences online. Stars Natasha Negovanlis and Elise Bauman proved they could command the big screen as well as Youtube, and brought their characters to life in a brand new way. The movie even inspired a movement called #GayItForward, where fans bought movie bundles for other fans so everyone in the Carmillaverse could have a chance to see their favs in action.
Thelma (directed by Joachim Trier ) This Norwegian film is already being talked about for a Best Foreign Language Oscar nomination, and it’s easy to see why. It’s a chilling film that borders on horror and suspense, with some queer romance built in. Thelma (Eili Harboe) is a shy college student, away from her protective and religious family for the first time. One day while studying in the library, she catches sight of Anya (Kaya Wilkins) and it affects her in a way that she could never have imagined. As her feelings deepen, her awakening telekinetic powers do as well. Yes, it’s been called the lesbian Carrie, because both young women are undergoing a sexual awakening and have untold power, but that’s where the similarities end.
Signature Move(directed by Jennifer Reader): It’s about time that actress and writer Fawzia Mirza became a household name, and with this gem of a movie, she’s on her way. Mirza plays Zaynab, a closeted lawyer who lives with her mother (the legendary Shabana Azmi), and attempts to have some semblance of a secret social life away from her mother’s plans to marry her daughter off. When a client pays Zaynab in wrestling lessons, she finds herself becoming bolder and more open to new experiences. She also meets Alma (Sari Sanchez), who she falls pretty hard for. Family, love, and acceptance are at the heart of this film, and it’s one of the only releases this year to feature QWOC leads.
AWOL (directed by Deb Shoval): This tale of love and loss is as beautiful as it is frustrating. Joey (the lovely Lola Kirke) is looking for a way out of her dead-end town and figures the Army will give her a chance at a life and an education. But when she meets the married mother of two, Rayna (the underrated Breeda Wool), Joey throws her plans into upheaval for a chance at love. Based on a short film of the same name, this movie is a bittersweet ode to young and reckless love, with excellent performances by Kirke and Wool.
Battle of the Sexes(directed by Jonathan Dayton andValerie Faris) This Emma Stone led feature was probably the biggest of the group, getting major studio release and backing, and playing in major theatre chains across the country. Stone played lesbian tennis star Billie Jean King in this biopic, and it was one of her best performances to date. The chemistry she had with stylist Marilyn (Andrea Riseborough) was sizzling, even if their romance was fairly muted. It does, however, win 2017’s award for Sexiest Haircut Scene.
A Date for Mad Mary (directed by Darren Thornton): This Irish gem was a real sleeper in 2017. On the festival circuit for what seems like forever, Mad Mary was finally made available to the masses through Wolfe Video this winter. The impulsive and aimless Mary (played by the very charming Seána Kerslake) is fresh out of prison after serving time for assault, and just in time to serve as the maid of honor in her best friend Charlene’s wedding. When it becomes clear that things have changed in the time she’s been away, Mary has to begin looking outside of her relationship with Charlene, and building a life for herself. Part of that is being open to love, even if it’s with someone that she didn’t expect.
Professor Marsten and the Wonder Women(directed by Angela Robinson): Riding hot on the heels of the blockbuster Wonder Woman, out filmmaker Angela Robinson was able to release her ode to the man and women behind the Amazonian warrior. While the film struggled in theatres and received some backlash for its storyline (the granddaughter of William Moulton Marsten says that the women were platonic), it was an overall well-received film by critics with fabulous performances by Rebecca Hall and Bella Heathcote. Stories if polyamory are rare in modern cinema, and this treated the relationship between the three with care and respect.
Princess Cyd (directed by Stephen Cone) This indie film has garnered positive attention and reviews from other queer sites. This coming of age tale stars stage actor and newcomer Jessie Pinnick as Cyd, a high school student who spends part of the summer in Chicago with her aunt while looking at colleges. While there, she and her aunt bond over Cyd’s late mother, and Cyd crushes out on a barista named Katie. Katie is played by queer and non-binary actor Malic White. A little slow at times, there is still a lot to love about this film that celebrates love and growing, no matter how old you are.
What were your favorite lesbian, bi, and queer films of 2017?
Dana Piccoli was the Managing Editor of Bella Media Channel until March of 2020. She's been an entertainment writer and pop culture critic since 2012, and has contributed to such fine sites as The Mary Sue, Curve Magazine, The Portalist, Decider and more. When she's not writing for the site, you can catch her on stage, moderating panels and hosting events. Her debut queer romance novel, Savor the Moment, is available now.