Writing an article on TEN great female friendship movies was such a dumb idea. There are at least ten more I want to include, and the list keeps growing. I set myself an impossible task and now I’ve been at my desk for a week choosing my favourite kid over and over again.
It’s also really hard to define a female friendship movie – do frenemies count? Sisters? How about a bunch of badass Widows who pull off a Heist? A or a group of strippers who get rich off the sleazy men they dance for? I say yes to all of the above, which is probably why choosing ten was such a nightmare. Hence, you’ll find an honourable mention roll call at the bottom of this piece.
I feel it’s important to note the reason I did choose it: because female buddy films and stories about it are what give me energy and life. Hollywood would have us believe that it is only in sexual relationships that you find romance – not so. Any woman worth her mates will tell you heartbreak, support, love, pain, competitiveness and disappointment come as standard, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. This list should give a decent mix of all of the above.
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)
Oh, Marilyn… how you stole my heart from the moment you wiggled on screen. The friends here are just two little girls from little rock ie showgirls and besties. Lorelei Lee (Monroe) and Dorothy Shaw (Jane Russell) go on a trip to Paris before Lorelei marries her rich beau, but his father sends a private detective to follow her. To be fair, she is an outrageous gold digger so he’s not being a total creep, just trying to make sure she doesn’t cheat on his son. The two women romp and roll through this glamorous spectacle of a film which is probably most well known for the iconic, “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend”. Dorothy delivers sardonic one-liners to her pal throughout and has an unmissable song called “Aint Nobody Here for Love”, which feels like a precursor to many of Madonna’s videos and routines.
The story here follows this fabulous couple of gal pals as they try to beat the men who want them to fail, and ultimately they all fall in love. Double wedding alert!
Director: Howard Hawks
Steel Magnolias (1989)
Dolly Parton, Sally Field, Julia Roberts, Darryl Hannah, Olympia Dukakis and Shirley Mac-GODDAMN-Laine. We do not need any more reasons to watch, and yet more reasons there are. This film was seen as nothing more than a chick flick upon its release, because it’s essentially about a group of friends who commune at the local hair salon and support one another through heartbreak, loss, marriage, death and everything in between. It is hilarious, heartwarming, joyful and examines female friendship in all its forms.
These women get cross with one another, they lead different lives and choose different paths – but the love and respect they have for one another binds them and saves them. It is a film that goes to the root of what it is to be human – I defy you to watch Sally Field’s ending monologue without sobbing, but moments later you’ll be laughing through those tears. And as our spiritual leader Dolly says “laughter through tears is my favourite emotion”. Available on Netflix. Treat yourself.
Director: Herbert Ross
What is it about the late 80s that produced such classic female friendship films? Something in the water perhaps. Which is a perfect segue into a film that starts by the ocean in Atlantic City and ends by the ocean in California. If you’ve seen it, you’re probably already in tears just thinking about that ending, and if not… sorry but you just have to. I’m not spoiling it for you.
Two girls meet as children, write letters for many years and eventually, are reunited as adults. They fall in and out of friend love over the rest of their lives – the beauty here is in the romance and fluctuation of their bond. When they fight, it hurts. That’s what you get when you’ve got powerhouse actors like Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey at the helm.
Midler plays Cece Bloom, a larger than life singer/actor/performer and force of nature who breathes life into every inch of the film. And despite the fact that you will cry…you’ll laugh a lot too.
Director: Garry Marshall
Thelma & Louise (1991)
Is there anyone who hasn’t seen this buddy road trip film? Unlikely. Is there anyone who doesn’t love this film? Also no. Iconic is an understatement – which is why the recent 30th anniversary screenings became an international event, with many pairs of pals dressing up as the dynamic duo. Ripped jeans, tank tops and handguns is my costume of choice, too.
On the off chance that you’re a Martian who has just landed on earth, I’ll recap: Thelma (Geena Davis) and Louise (Susan Sarandon) plan a road trip that goes awry after Thelma is raped. The two women turn the tables on the attacker and their ensuing escape becomes the most glorious crime spree ever committed to film. Lest we forget, this is the film that launched the career of Brad Pitt as the most outrageously beautiful cowboy ever to have walked the earth. Sure, he was a bad boy but we forgave him. And rewound the VHS over and over again to check out those abs…
Director: Ridley Scott
Muriel’s Wedding (1994)
The film that made every teen of the 90s discover a love of Abba and Toni Collette. It’s strange now to imagine a world before loving Toni Colette, but that was the reality we lived in back then. Muriel is a frumpy outcast in her own family, treated like a fool by all who know her – especially the girls she went to school with. So hard to figure out why she lives in a dream world and has trouble socialising…isn’t it?!
One day, she decides she has had enough and hightails it away from home with some contraband, to start a new life in the big city. It’s here she meets exciting new pal Rhonda, who shows her a whole new world. Muriel’s obsession with getting married gets in the way though, and they lose one another along the way…. But just wait for the triumphant ending, when she finally sticks it to the bullies. Glorious.
Director: P.J. Hogan
Heavenly Creatures (1994)
Kate Winslet was an unknown actor when Peter Jackson cast her in this twisted film about two pals whose love for one another spirals out of control. She shone as the delusional and bright Juliet, who drags her best friend Pauline into dangerous behaviour. The Oscar-nominated screenplay by Jackson and his wife, Fran Walsh tells the real-life story of obsession, fantasy and murder. It is at once brilliant and horrifying, a real indication of Jackson’s talent for nuance.
Female friendship is rarely shown like this, as the deep and powerful force which can drive two humans to behave in an inhumane way. It’s a brave story to tell, and the film feels as though it does justice to the intensity of their bond. I’d love to know what the real-life women would say about it now…
Fun Fact: Juliet changed her name after serving her prison sentence and is now an author, living in London. Actually, that fact wasn’t that fun. Interesting though.
Director: Peter Jackson
The Craft (1996)
I love a good American High School horror movie. If it’s about female friendship, even better. A troubled but gifted newcomer to a Catholic girls’ school is welcomed into the fold by a trio of outcasts, who practise magic on those who upset them. On the 25th anniversary of this witchy classic, it feels fitting to celebrate this dark and twisted gang of girls.
Let’s start with the fashion – it’s fair to say that I’ve been dressing like it’s the 90s since the 90s and these well-heeled teenagers could be part of the reason why. They look a bit like Cher Horowitz if she went emo. Yes, it’s that good. Next: the magic. It’s dark, devious and mostly suggested. Because we all know the thing you can’t see is WAY scarier.
Last but far from least – the friendship. It’s a four-way boxing ring of back-stabbing, bitchiness and hexing like there is no tomorrow.
Director: Andrew Fleming
Whip It (2009)
This epic roller derby adventure about a misfit called Bliss (Elliot Page) who is trying to deal with small-town woes and who finds her tribe with a bunch of skaters. It’s full of joy, struggle and awesome action. Drew Barrymore’ female directorial debut, this film watches Bliss come of age and start to emerge from the cocoon of beauty pageants which her mother wants her to embrace. Marcia Gay Harden gives us a wonderfully nuanced mother figure, whose frustrations we understand, despite the things we wish she would stop saying and doing.
In her newfound gang, Bliss meets a bunch of skate-hard-play-hard ladies and realises she is exactly where she is meant to be. That doesn’t come without its knocks though, as they put her through her paces to toughen her up for the roller derby. Their skating names are one of my favourite things about this film: Smashley Simpson (Drew Barrymore), Iron Maven (Juliette Lewis) & Maggie Mayhem, (Kristen Wiig) are just a few. And just look at that cast list!
Director: Drew Barrymore
The Help (2011)
At the core of this story about an aspiring author who decides to write a book detailing the African American maids’ point of view, is a friendship between Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis) and Minnie Jackson (Octavia Spencer), which is built on trust and respect. These two maids hold each other through the indignity they are subjected to, by white women who hold them down.
Though there is a touch of the white saviour about the lead character Skeeter, she is brought to life by the ever-adorable Emma Stone. After discovering that the woman who raised her has been cruelly dispatched by her mother, she uses the small amount of power she has to try and amplify the voices of the maids in her community. There is a lot of nastiness between different groups of women here, which only serves to highlight further the joy and love when it occurs.
The kindness and warmth between Minnie and her new boss, Celia is a gently growing and beautiful thing. There are more than a few punch the air moments here, but be prepared to cry a lot, especially when you realise how recently this history is.
Director: Tate Taylor
The Heat (2013)
We all know that when you see Paul Feig is at the helm, you’re in for a good time. This gem is the kind of buddy comedy I love – one where the friendship is a slow build. Arrogant, methodical special agent Sarah Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) is paired with renegade Detective Mullins (Melissa McCarthy) and at first, the bad kind of sparks fly. They struggle with their different methods of approaching the case at hand and things seem to keep going wrong for them at every turn. Of course, as with every great buddy movie, once they find mutual respect for one another, the case turns around.
There is a lot to love about this film. The performances are sublime, (how could they not be with two of the most excellent women working in film?), it’s laugh out loud hilarious throughout, and the two cops are both brilliant at their jobs. We see them kick ass again and again. A notable mention is a scene in which they get riotously drunk and perform an excellent dance routine to “Groove is in the Heart” – prepare to laugh until you cry. Female friendship at its finest.
Director: Paul Feig
Support the Girls (2018)
For some strange (commercial) reason, this film was poorly marketed as a sort of “gross out comedy set in Hooters”, and therefore, didn’t make the waves it deserved…which is a real shame, because it is a gorgeous study of a woman, Lisa (Regina Hall) who lives her life in support of her tribe. If you want to see the best aspects of female friendship, look no further.
Lisa puts her co-workers first at every turn, guiding them and supporting them despite what she may feel about their life choices. It’s a loving portrait of working women, which highlights their struggles in a way not often seen on screen. Everyday women who have to fight to make rent, to stay in relationships, to keep going in dead-end jobs. It’s an ode to the mundanity which most of us deal with every day, and I love it for that. There’s no saviour riding in on a white horse in a blaze of glory here – the saviour was there all along and she is so much more fascinating for it.
Director: Andrew Bujalski
Female Friendship Films – Honourable Mentions
If this female friendship movies list leaves you desperate for more, please consider some of the following equally excellent choices: Mystic Pizza, A League of Their Own, Mean Girls, Wine Country, Widows, Hustlers, Sisters, Calendar Girls, Bachelorette, Thunder Force. And there are LOADS more too – let us know what ones you love via– email@example.com or on our socials.