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50 iconic onscreen female friendships

  • 50 iconic onscreen female friendships

    Dating back to the early years of the film industry, female friendships made their way into some of the industry's top films, from comedies to dramas. Using IMDb ratings from July 2019, Stacker looked at 50 iconic female friendships depicted on celluloid. From a 1939 film based on a play by American writer and politician Clare Boothe Luce, in which there are no men in the entire ensemble cast, to a 2010 film by acclaimed feminist writer, director, and actress Lena Dunham, in which the stark realities of money and ambition in contemporary New York foil even the closest of friendships, each of these 50 friendships illuminates something nuanced and new about female friendships.

    Far from the stereotypical portrayals of female friendships as revolving around men and featuring nothing but supportive camaraderie, they weave these friendships into far richer and more complicated tapestries that have resonated strongly with audiences, especially females. The friendships span the full range of human emotion, from envy to encouragement, from estrangement to reconciliation, from extreme sadness to extreme joy.

    The one thing they all have in common is their insistence that no matter the eventual status of the relationships, or whatever pitfalls or travails have complicated or derailed the women's bonds, the depth of feeling underlying the relationships could not have mattered more to the women involved. The friendships often lifted the women above their less-than-ideal circumstances and were transformative and significant enough frame the stories for the film's viewers through the powerful lenses of those friendships.

    Read on for 50 iconic onscreen female friendships.

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  • Waiting to Exhale (1995)

    - Director: Forest Whitaker
    - IMDb user rating: 5.8
    - Metascore: data not available
    - Runtime: 124 min

    Forest Whitaker's directorial debut tells the story of four African American women who are best friends and help each other navigate the trials and tribulations of their lives—particularly as it pertains to their love lives. Each woman in “Waiting to Exhale” wants to be in romantic relationships with men, but for their own reasons are experiencing difficulty. They ultimately realize that the power of female friendship offers them much of what they were looking for with men. The film is particularly significant in cutting against the traditional Hollywood trope of the happy ending for women involving finding a man, and in proving to studio heads and the public at large that the lives of black women could be a big box office draw.

  • This Is My Life (1992)

    - Director: Nora Ephron
    - IMDb user rating: 6.0
    - Metascore: data not available
    - Runtime: 105 min

    Writer Nora Ephron's directorial debut, “This Is My Life,” focuses on a cosmetics saleswoman named Dottie who leaves cosmetics to pursue her dream of becoming a stand-up comedian. When her career takes off, Dottie leaves her two daughters, Opal and Erica, largely in the dust. Erica and Opal lean on each other to navigate the abandonment and acquire the familial structure they desire all on their own. The choice to have the daughters' friendship grow specifically because of the abandonment of their mother is an unconventional and distinctly feminist choice, given traditional narratives surrounding motherhood, encouragement, and the primacy of family above all else.

  • Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (2011)

    - Director: Wayne Wang
    - IMDb user rating: 6.1
    - Metascore: 42
    - Runtime: 120 min

    Set in 19th-century China, “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan” charts the life of Lily, who lives through four Qing dynasty emperors. Throughout practical Lily's life, she and her best friend—the more free-spirited and contrarian Snow Flower—confide in each other as they endure the foot-binding, classism, and sexism common at the time. The women are ultimately torn apart for a period thanks to pernicious forces stronger than they, but reunite on Snow Flower's deathbed. The film was particularly important for its portrayal of Asian women who did not fit the stereotype of being submissive or weak, suggests New York Times writer Tatjana Soli; the film was critically acclaimed for its nuance and boldness.

  • Romy and Michele's High School Reunion (1997)

    - Director: David Mirkin
    - IMDb user rating: 6.2
    - Metascore: 59
    - Runtime: 92 min

    The classic American comedy “Romy and Michele's High School Reunion” focuses on the titular characters preparing for their 10-year high school reunion. Neither Romy nor Michele has found success in their careers or love lives and invent fabulous lives for themselves to convince former classmates how well they're doing. The film has become a cult classic since its release, not least for its feminist shades; female friendship trumping romantic love, and self-love and self-expression trumping all.

  • Tiny Furniture (2010)

    - Director: Lena Dunham
    - IMDb user rating: 6.2
    - Metascore: 72
    - Runtime: 98 min

    Aimless recent art school graduate Aura is bumbling around her hometown of Manhattan when she runs into Charlotte, her childhood best friend, who is now a recovering drug addict. Although their lives have taken dramatically different turns, the pair become fast friends again and help each other navigate the perils of trying to make art and make a life in 21st-century New York. Like the writer, director, and star Lena Dunham herself, the film “Tiny Furniture” has been acclaimed by feminists, particularly for its focus on women who are far from perfect, but still worthy of audiences' care and attention.

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  • Girls Trip (2017)

    - Director: Malcolm D. Lee
    - IMDb user rating: 6.2
    - Metascore: 71
    - Runtime: 122 min

    “Girls Trip” follows four female friends, otherwise known as the Flossy Posse, who have drifted apart, and go to a music festival in New Orleans with the goal of reconnecting. The film allows the financial successes and failures of the four women to intersect with their friendship, going against the grain of the old-fashioned narrative that relationships are always more important to women than money. Critics appreciated the nuances of film, as did audiences—"Girls Trip" was the first film with writers, a director, producers, and a leading cast of African Americans to make more than $100 million at the box office.

  • Mystic Pizza (1988)

    - Director: Donald Petrie
    - IMDb user rating: 6.3
    - Metascore: 60
    - Runtime: 104 min

    “Mystic Pizza” follows the lives of two sisters and their close friend as they come of age working in a pizza parlor called Mystic Pizza. At the film's outset, the three are focused on their love lives and their futures far away from the pizzeria, but as the film progresses, each realizes that the restaurant—and each other—are more important than they had realized. The film has become a 20th-century classic, so much so that the Mystic, Connecticut restaurant on which it is based has become a tourist attraction.

  • The Craft (1996)

    - Director: Andrew Fleming
    - IMDb user rating: 6.3
    - Metascore: data not available
    - Runtime: 101 min

    Supernatural horror movie “The Craft” centers around four outcast girls at a California high school who turn to witchcraft to deal with their feelings of alienation and boredom; although the witchcraft soon grows out of hand and proves to be the group's undoing. The film has been praised by critics, including the New York Times' Stephen Holden, who wrote in 1996 about its “celebration of adolescent nonconformity and female independence.” The film has since become a cult classic.

  • The First Wives Club (1996)

    - Director: Hugh Wilson
    - IMDb user rating: 6.3
    - Metascore: 58
    - Runtime: 103 min

    Based on a best-selling novel of the same name, “The First Wives Club” focuses on three divorced female friends who set out to get revenge on their ex-husbands for having left them for younger women. The film is praised by women for its lack of focus on men, despite the inclusion of men in the plot, and for laser-focusing instead on women helping each other stand up for themselves and their self-actualization.

  • Queen of Earth (2015)

    - Director: Alex Ross Perry
    - IMDb user rating: 6.3
    - Metascore: 77
    - Runtime: 90 min

    The critically acclaimed psychological thriller “Queen of the Earth” is set in a lake house retreat featuring two old friends who come together for a week. Over the course of the film, it becomes clear that one of the two friends is distinctly not well after the death of her father and the dissolution of a relationship. The film is noteworthy for treating the problems of women as devastating enough to lead to real psychological horror, without diminishing the power a female friend has to help and to hold the other's pain.

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