One of our favourite sub genre of movies are lesbian ones, and we’re not afraid to admit it. Films and television shows featuring a hot lesbian character gets us hot under the collar in more ways than one! We love the idea of a girl who is willing to put it all out there, get up and close and personal with another chick, but go home and want to be with a man. Maybe that makes us selfish, but let us hold onto this fantasy!
The truth is, in a television and film world continually dominated by the same remakes, filmmakers and stories, narratives about LGBT characters has offered new ways around old stories. For so much of pop cultural history these stories were too taboo to be seen in any kind of mainstream film or television show, so it’s only in the past couple of decades that the experiences and stories have been a storytelling option. In many countries, homosexuality is still illegal and still has dire consequences. Representation matters.
While in an ideal world, part of this representation would involve having more LGBT actors having equal opportunities to their heterosexual counterparts. We don’t live in that world, and aside from featuring some of our favourite actresses on this list, most of these movies and television shows are actually pretty good, too.
15. Naya Rivera – Glee
Glee wore out its welcome well before the first season was up. What began as a potentially groundbreaking show with a sinister streak quickly turned into a bizarre pastiche of musical theatre and after school specials. It’s not a great television show. The cast though, was always great and we always had a special spot in our heart for Naya Rivera, who played Santana Lopez on the show. Santana’s storyline on the show largely dealt with her struggles with her sexuality as she came to terms with being gay, in particular, her struggle in coming out of the closet. While Rivera has hinted in several interviews that she may have a bisexual streak, she has never openly dated another woman. She is now married and has a child with fellow actor Ryan Dorsey.
14. Dakota Fanning – The Runaways
Now that Kristen Stewart is officially out, only one half of The Runaways qualified for this list. Bringing to life Cherrie Currie, real-life lead singer of The Runaways, Dakota Fanning also portrayed some of the singer’s lesbian desires. While ostensibly bisexual, Cherrie swung both ways, including spending more than a few intimate nights with her bandmate Joan Jett, with Kristen Stewart in the lead role. A better than average biopic, the film deals with the hard knocks life of sex, drugs and rock and roll. In real life though, Dakota Fanning is very much straight. While infamously private, she has reportedly been dating her boyfriend, male model Jamie Strachan, since 2013 when she was just nineteen years old.
13. Alyson Hannigan – Buffy The Vampire Slayer
One of the first times many of us were exposed to a lesbian character on television, Alyson Hannigan‘s turn as Willow broke many television boundaries. While it was only in the third season of the show that we start to get the hint that Willow may be wrestling with some same-sex desire, her relationship with Tara becomes an integral part of the show over the later seasons. A refreshingly sincere love story, Willow and Tara turned out to be the most stable and loving couple on the whole series, even amidst some ups and downs. In real life, Alyson Hannigan has been married to a different Buffy co-star, Alexis Denisof, who played Wesley. The pair has been together since they met on the show. They married in 2003 and have two daughters together.
12. Cher – Silkwood
This choice is a deep cut, going back all the way to the early 1980s. Say what you will about Cher, she remains one of the biggest stars in any industry in the entire world. She has always been a gay icon due to her flamboyant cult of acceptance, extravagant costuming, and acceptance of her son Chaz, being transgender. That being said, Cher is straight and as far as we know always has been. In the movie Silkwood though, she plays a very different version of herself, as she portrays the shy and demure lesbian roommate to the more outspoken Meryl Streep. A film about unions and politics, Silkwood might not be to everyone’s tastes, but it is a forward thinking film and Cher gives a great performance. While at the time of the film’s release she was only just starting her acting career, she ended up earning a golden globe for her performance.
11. Piper Perabo – Lost and Delirious
While a lesser-known film (maybe it’s because it’s Canadian), Lost and Delirious is a great lesbian love story set in an all girls private school. While the most high-profile star of the movie is Mischa Barton of The OC fame, Piper Perabo is the film’s real star. At the heart of the unconventional romance, Perabo gives a nuanced and beautiful performance of love and desire under forbidden circumstances. The movie does not treat lesbianism as pure novelty, but as true love that faces unusual challenges that most straight couples will never experience. The movie also makes the love scenes incredibly hot, so it’s worth seeing for that, too. Perabo won huge acclaim for her role, which led to some high-profile roles in movies like Coyote Ugly, The Prestige and Looper. In spite of her incredible performance of a young woman dealing with her lesbianism, Perabo is straight and married her husband Stephen Kay in 2014. She is nonetheless a huge supporter of LGBT rights and is a close friend and frequent co-star of Lena Headey (who also appears on this list)
10. Gina Gershon – Bound
Without question, Bound is one of the sexiest movies ever made. Not only is it super hot though, it is an incredibly tight and edge-of-your-seat exciting thriller from the makers of The Matrix (The Wachowskis feature debut to be exact). Jennifer Tilly finds herself longing to escape her criminal lifestyle and falls head over heels in lust for lesbian ex-con Gina Gershon. The pair conspire to steal some sweet, sweet mafia money and start their new life together. Considered one of the more realistic depictions of lesbian relationships to ever be on screen, the movie stands up very well two decades after it was made. In the mid-1990s, Gina Gershon was one of the hottest women alive, and this might be her sexiest role ever. She absolutely nails her androgynous erotic symbol, and creates a really singular character. Gershon has never been tied romantically to another woman.
9. Lena Headey – Imagine Me and You
Lena Headey is no stranger to playing lesbians on screen, playing at least three by our count! Rather than put them all up on the list though, we decided to go with our favorite, in Imagine Me and You. While before this film she had done a number of small films, her most high profile role being Brothers Grimm (which, let’s face it was forgettable) before she appeared in Imagine Me and You as a lesbian. The movie is not particularly well known but acted as a great springboard for her future career. Critics really took note of her performance and she earned huge praise for her role in the movie. A romantic comedy, the film is about two women who meet during one of their wedding days (the other role was filled by Piper Perabo). Headey might play a lot of lesbians on screen, but has only ever been tied romantically to men.
8. Natasha Lyonne – But I’m A Cheerleader
But I’m a Cheerleader may be the first time that Natasha Lyonne plays a lesbian on screen but it’s far from the last time. One of the most beloved characters on Orange is the New Black, she is a very different kind of lesbian in the 1999 film But I’m a Cheerleader. This bubblegum pink colored comedy is about a teenage girl whose family stages an intervention because they believe she’s gay. While she denies it strongly, they send her off to cure the gay away camp where she learns they were right all along and falls in love with a beautiful fellow camper. With this early film role, Natasha Lyonne demonstrates why we have fallen in love with her so much in OITNB, she is wickedly charming and loveable. In spite of the fact that Lyonne has played gay more than once on screen, she is straight and has been dating actor Fred Armisen for at least a year. Over the years she’s been connected to a number of high profile actors like Edward Furlong and Adam Goldberg. Some have suggested that Lyonne did date her But I’m a Cheerleader co-star Clea DuVall (the pair have locked lips on a number of occasions) but neither own up to being anything but straight.
7. Naomi Watts – Mulholland Dr.
Mulholland Dr. is one of the weirdest movies we’ve ever seen. While recently named the best film of the 21st Century, not even critics can agree what actually happens in the film. Still, in spite of being incredibly difficult to follow with a lot of surreal imagery, it’s a beguiling movie that features some of the hottest scenes in modern cinema. In the film, Naomi Watts plays an aspiring actress who meets a mysterious brunette suffering from amnesia. The pair are on a quest to make it in Hollywood, find out who the brunette really is and along the way they get quite intimate. Director David Lynch is a master of suspense and sensuality, and he helps create some of the best love scenes ever committed to film. Watts is very convincing in her hunger for her brunette alter-ego, but in real life, she only dates dudes. Over the years she has been connected with Heath Ledger, but has been in a serious relationship with actor Liev Schreiber since 2005, the couple has two kids.
6. Jennifer Beals – The L Word
Flash Dance might not be the big hit it once was, but Jennifer Beals‘ dance scenes on stage and in auditions remain pertinent elements in pop culture just because they’re so steamy. While Beals struggled to live up to the instant fame, her career really seemed to take off on The L Word. Beals, who seems to defy aging, plays Betty Porter on The L Word. The show has a huge cult following, and surprisingly, most of the women who played on it are straight. While Beals is straight she has done a lot of work supporting various LGBT charities and organizations, and was named Celebrity Grand Marshal at the 2006 San Francisco Pride Parade. Beals has been married a number of times to different men and has never been rumored to have dated a woman.
5. Eva Longoria – Without Men
Eva Longoria has been hot for decades, and Without Men is a weird trainwreck of a movie that most people have never heard of. A comedy about a small and isolated latin American town where all the men are suddenly taken away by communist guerillas. With only women left in town, they of course, turn to each other for comfort. Not a full on lesbian drama or romance, there are still quite a number of scenes where Longoria’s character develops strong feelings for another woman. Initially played for laughs, their longing and love for each other only intensifies over the course of the film. While perhaps under similar circumstances Longoria might at least try her luck with another woman, in real life, she only dates and marries men.
4. Laura Prepon – Orange is the New Black
Laura Prepon was hot enough to come up against Mila Kunis on That 70’s Show and walk away unscathed. She was hot enough we considered for a hot moment watching her play serial killer Karla Homolka in Karla. Thankfully, Orange is the New Black came along and we finally got a role suited for her amazing looks. Prepon completely embodies the role of Alex and you feel entirely why Piper can’t get enough of her body even though Alex keeps throwing her under the bus. Prepon just oozes an intelligent and in control sexuality that few women do, and we honestly forget she isn’t actually gay because she’s that good. She has been connected to a number of Hollywood actors, including former co-star from That 70’s Show Christopher Masterson, who played Hyde.
3. Rooney Mara – Carol
An understated lesbian drama set in the past, Rooney Mara plays one-half of the 1950s era lesbian romance. Mara manages to be both adorable and incredibly hot in everything she appears in. In the film, Mara plays a girl who is unaware of her burgeoning interest in women and has to be coaxed into a relationship with Carol (Cate Blanchett) before she realizes that’s what she really wants. Understated and incredibly hot, the movie amplifies the forbiddenness of their relationship for extra sexy results. Mara has long been a crush of ours, ever since she appeared in the not-so-great A Nightmare on Elm Street remake (we even thought she was crazy hot in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). One of our favorite actresses period, she is not gay in real life. Since 2010 she has been dating Charlie McDowell, film director and son of Malcolm McDowell.
2. Angelina Jolie – Gia
Angelina Jolie might have become something of the butt-end of a joke since she’s focused more on her charitable work and become more reclusive. But the comedy surrounding her has more to do with how devastatingly beautiful and perfect she seems than something really worth laughing about. Early in her career, Angelina Jolie took up the mantle to play the title role of Gia. The tragic true story of one of America’s first supermodels, Gia Marie Carangi, who fell in love with her makeup artist Linda. Their passionate romance comes alive on screen and the tragedy of Gia choosing drugs over love adding a bittersweet note to the whole affair. Jolie does officially identify as bisexual and was rumored to have an intense relationship with Jenny Shimizu. While most people who identify as bisexual are that way for life, even during long and sustained relationships with people of the opposite sex, most of her relationships with women came during her crazy youth.
1. Olivia Wilde – The OC
Olivia Wilde is our ultimate girl crush and it breaks our heart that she’s currently taken – though, to be fair, we are pretty happy she ends up with funny guy Jason Sudeikis. We were first introduced to Wilde’s exotic beauty back in the early 2000s when she first appeared on The OC, and not unlike the guys on the show, we were breathlessly taken aback by her incredible beauty. On the show, she locked lips with two leading ladies, Mischa Barton and Ashley Greene — sustaining a long-term relationship with the former. The show was ahead of its time in a lot of ways by how it depicted gay relationships by making them seem incredibly normal and sensual. There was very little stigma around them and the show did not shy away from showing it all. In a pretty fun interview with her husband, she was asked which leading lady she preferred smooching with, to which she answered: “I joked about inspiring a young generation of lesbians, but I do think it represented an alternative lifestyle for young women that I don’t think had been fairly represented enough in young, soapy drama so I’ll say Mischa. Two thumbs up!”