Stylist has picked 50 of cinema’s best movies about female friendships, where women laugh, cry, fight & make-up, go on road-trips and plot a murder or two
There is a very clever test – also known as the Bechdel Test – that assesses a movie’s treatment of its female characters. In order to pass the test, a movie must have at least two women who talk to each other about something other than men. Simple right?
Wrong. Given that a lot of the time getting a ring from a man is deemed the high point of women’s lives, finding movies where women have genuine relationships with each other isn’t as easy as you’d think.
But found them we have! We’ve selected 50 of the best movies about female friendship, where women laugh and cry, fight and make-up, go on road-trips and plot a murder or two.
Words: Tamsin Crimmens
Thelma and Louise
In this, the ultimate friendship movie, Thelma and Louise are bonded together in their desire to live on their own terms. And, for 129 magnificent minutes, they do. Real heroines who would kill or be killed for each other, they are icons of freedom and friendship.
A black and white indie that made huge waves at Sundance and Berlin Film Festivals back in 2012, Frances Ha centres on the life of hapless dancer Frances (Greta Gerwig) and her friendship with best buddy Sophie (Michey Sumner, eldest daughter of Sting and Trudie Styler) as she attempts to overcome her chronic arrested development.
Oh how we weep when Beaches comes on the telly. The tale of an unlikely friendship between rich debutante Hillary (Barbara Hershey) and brash child performer C.C. (Bette Midler), as they navigate the ups and downs of life – love triangles and terminal diseases included – before realising they really are the wind beneath each other’s wings.
Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion
Who doesn’t want to be friends with Romy and Michele? They make their own clothes, create amazing dance routines, watch Pretty Woman and eat crisps while flicking through Vogue. Plus they totally love each other and realise their friendship is way more important than impressing the A-Group. They also have a flip-phone, in case anyone needs to make a call.
Who isn’t in Steel Magnolias? Sally Field, Shirley MacLaine, Dolly Parton, Daryl Hannah and Julia Roberts laugh, cry and compare menfolk in a Louisiana beauty parlour and rally round each other with iron will when one of the Southern belles tragically dies.
There are many, many reasons why we love Clueless (not least Cher’s revolving wardrobe and matching plaid mini-suit) but it’s the friendship between Cher, Dionne and Tai that comes top. Hurling an insult like “you’re a virgin who can’t drive” in the middle of a fight may be harsh but who hasn’t fought with their best friend like that?
An unapologetically non-romantic drama about women and female friendships, The Help deserved every Oscar it got. Black maids Aibileen and Minny support each other through hardships and develop an unexpected bond with ambitious Skeeter, played by Emma Stone. The friendship between Skeeter and her bigoted school friends is equally compelling about how friendship changes as we mature.
First Wives Club
With Ivana Trump’s advice: “Don’t get mad. Get everything” in mind, Diane Keating, Goldie Hawn and Bette Midler unite to exact revenge on their ex-husbands. While it might be hard to find positive tales of female friendship on film, it’s practically impossible to find examples where the women are over 50. Plus they’re all hilarious which makes it a great all-rounder.
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell are a pair to be reckoned with in this classic 1950s film with its unexpectedly feminist story-line about sexually confident showgirls Lorelei Lee and Dorothy Shaw. Marilyn Monroe may have sung that diamonds are a girl’s best friend in the film but her loyalty to her buddy comes before any rich suitors.
Following four best friends on a trip to New Orleans, Girls Trip is a riot of bonding, partying and reminiscing. Unmissable.
Ghostbusters, obviously, is primarily a film about – well, busting ghosts. But at the heart of this female-centric remake is the friendship between Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones.
4 months, 3 weeks, 2 days
A gut-wrenching film about two friends sharing a flat in Romania in the late ‘80s during the last days of Communist rule. When one falls pregnant and abortion is still illegal, the women seek an illicit termination at the hands of one Mr. Bebe.
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe
There are buckets of southern charm in this sentimental movie which paints a picture of two friendships in different eras in Alabama that survive abusive husbands, seriously injured children, a murder trial and even the Ku Klux Klan.
Lady Bird and Julie go through the classic rollercoaster of teen life – but one thing stays the same, and that’s their friendship.
Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood
Screenwriter Callie Khouri (of Thelma & Louise fame) made her directorial debut with this adaptation of a pair of popular novels by author Rebecca Wells. Starring Sandra Bullock, it’s the story of a secret society of feminist empowerment and friendship dubbed the “Ya-Ya Sisterhood.”
Challenging the idea that women’s only happily-ever-after life choice is in marriage, Julia Robert’s first major film follows three teenagers working in a pizza restaurant one summer as they try to decide what route to take through life. Unfortunately the girls’ friendships with each other end up acting as a backdrop to their various romantic entanglements
The Banger Sisters
Yes, a film really does exist with a montage sequence of Goldie Hawn and Susan Sarandon giggling at Polaroids of rock stars’ private parts. Famous groupies in the ‘60s, the friends have drifted apart but reunite in style years later as only best friends can.
Me Without You
Nobody said friendship was easy. As girls in the early ‘70s, Marina and Holly form a pact to become “Harina,” inseparable best friends. Starring Anna Friel and Michelle Williams as polar opposite friends (slightly clichéd ‘wild one’ and ‘book worm’) the film explores how their friendship changes as their differences grow over three decades.
A League of their Own
“There’s no crying in baseball!” so what does Madonna think she’s doing on the field? When the men-folk were off fighting in WWII, leaving a shortage of men’s baseball teams, it’s down to Geena Davis and Rosie O’Donnell to play some ball, with a little help from their friends of course.
Based on a cult comic book, Scarlett Johansson and Thora Birch star as snarky teen buddies who tear down anyone who crosses their path with scathing (and very funny) putdowns. Their high-school graduation party “is so bad it’s gone past good and back to bad again”. They may hate everyone and everything but at least they have each other.
An all-female cast made the 1939 version of The Women a true pioneer. Joan Crawford stars as husband-stealing Crystal Allen, prompting New York’s society women to rally around their betrayed friend. The film was remade in 2008 starring Meg Ryan and Eva Mendes but it lacked the charm and wit of the original.
Waiting to Exhale
What is it about beauty salons in movie’s that bond women together? Whitney Houston stars in this surprise Hollywood hit about four affluent women who share their stories over lunches and conversations at their friend’s salon.
How to Make an American Quilt
Can you think of anything lovelier than spending the summer sewing a quilt with some old ladies who impart advice and tell stories about the good old days? Lucky old Winona Ryder did just that in How to Make an American Quilt.
The Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
In 19th-century China, seven year old girls Snow Flower and Lily are matched as laotong: bound together for eternity, and communicate by writing in a secret language between the folds of a white silk fan. Years later their descendants struggle to sustain their own childhood friendship amongst tough jobs and difficult love lives in modern-day Shanghai.
Based on the true story of a group of middle-class British friends who became overnight celebrities by posing for a nude calendar, Helen Mirren and Julie Walters star.
This quirky 1988 film stars Marianne Sägebrecht as a German woman abandoned by her husband in the Mojave Desert who is taken into a unconventional community where she forms an unlikely friendship with a café owner.
Walking and Talking
Written and directed by Nicole Holofcener (Friends with Money) this 1996 film is packed with neuroses as Laura and Amelia face an age old problem among female friends in their thirties, as one gets engaged and the other feels abandoned.
Boys on the Side
Up for a feminist road trip? Anyone unsure what that might entail can ask Whoopi Goldberg, Mary-Louise Parker, and Drew Barrymore who, on a journey to the West Coast of America, discover the bonds among women are more powerful than any of life’s obstacles.
Dreamlife of Angels
Elodie Bouchez and Natacha Regnier both won “Best Actress” honours at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival in this naturalistic drama about two women alienated from mainstream society in northern France.
Ever had one of those really intense friendships where you plot to murder people who get in your way? No? Well Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey do when their extreme bond and fantastical imaginings fuel an ultimately fatal obsession. Remarkably, the film is based on a true story; in real life Winslet’s character grew up to become a mystery novelist. Figures.
Joy Luck Club
The film version of Amy Tan’s best-selling novel about the clash between generations, the Joy Luck Club forms when four Chinese women arrive in the United States after World War II, and gather weekly to play mah-jongg and tell stories of their families.
Screened at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival, Our Song is the story of three teenage girls living in New York’s Crown Heights. Battling household chores, dreary jobs, their school closing down for asbestos removal and the demands of their (seriously good) marching band, an unplanned pregnancy is all they need.
Not your usual light entertainment, Julia was nominated for 11 Oscars in 1977 for its story of the lifelong relationship between struggling playwright Lillian Hellman (Jane Fonda) and Julia (Vanessa Redgrave), a wealthy girl who turns her back on her upbringing to battle the Nazi regime.
Now and Then
Demi Moore, Melanie Griffith, Rosie O’Donnell and Rita Wilson are friends from childhood who get together for the first time in years for a wander down memory lane to the summer of 1970, when they were 12-years-old and life was all boys, training bras and first kisses.
Nine to Five
Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton have been working nine to five for their chauvinistic, sleazy boss until they can’t take anymore and do what any sane person would: smoke pot, eat barbecue, and concoct hilarious revenge fantasies about killing him.
Set it Off
When times get tough for you and your buddies it’s tempting to turn to a life of crime. But this thriller about four struggling women who start robbing banks to escape their L.A. housing project, might put you off.
Girls Just Want to Have Fun
Pre-Carrie, Sarah Jessica Parker could be found (frizzy hair and out of control eye-brows in tow) hanging out with a totally cool and hip Helen Hunt who convinces SJP that girls deserve to have fun and she should totally sneak out at night to try out for a spot on beloved show Dance TV.
Sometimes you need a friend to push you out of your comfort zone and, while we all love a bit of ABBA, unhappy Muriel (Toni Collette) is in serious need of a wake-up call when she befriends carefree Rhonda (Rachel Griffiths), who, on a road-trip to Sydney, encourages her to take control of her life.
Girls can be mean. Boys can be mean. Hey, we can all be mean sometimes. But no one is meaner than Regina George. Based in part on a book by a professional youth counsellor, Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends and Other Realities of Adolescence, the film is brilliant at portraying the pecking order among teenage girls.
Remember when all you wanted to do was start a band with your best friends? Well, Joan Jett and Cherie Currie blazed the trail with their ‘70s female rock group the Runaways, brought to life by Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning.
Circle of Friends
Minnie Driver is one of three childhood friends from a small town in Ireland who, in 1957, come-of-age as they head to Dublin to attend Trinity College.
The Color Purple
Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker, The Color Purple stars Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey as Southern women sold into a life of servitude whose friendship allows the women to resist oppression and dominance in a world filled with male violence.
Made in Dagenham
A 2010 film dramatising the Ford sewing machinist’s strike of 1968 has a cast of flawed but brilliant women who band together to fight for equal pay for women.
Mona Lisa Smile
Anyone who’s a fan of a Hollywood wedding ending might be disappointed by Mona Lisa Smile where Julia Roberts tries to convince her Art History students that there’s more to life than bagging Mr Right.
The story of what happens when women bond in a psychiatric institution starring Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie, Girl, Interrupted was based on the autobiography of Susanna Kaysen, who spent 18 months in a psychiatric hospital.
A handful of women use their smarts and allure in the service of the French Resistance in this historical drama set during World War II.
Bring It On
They cheer and they lead, they act like they’re on speed, they’re cheerleaders. And cheerleading is a discipline like any other and requires a great deal of team-work and cooperation as Kirsten Dunst learns as she and her cheerleading buddies compete for the national championship.
The Babysitters Club
Not only friends but serial entrepreneurs, the seven members of The Baby Sitters Club are so sweet they’re almost sickly.
Hearts are warmed and feel-good endorphins are released as four talented Australian Aboriginal girls as they learn about love, friendship and war when their all girl group entertains the U.S. troops in Vietnam in 1968