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2023 Sapphic Movie Recap

11 Movies from 2023 to Watch (or Avoid) for How It Handled Sapphic Representation

As the year comes to a close, I’ve certainly been wondering what I consider to be the best instances of sapphic representation in 2023. I watch plenty of films every year, and this year wasn’t any different. In theaters alone, I’ve watched almost 50 movies in total. Join me on my journey of reflection. This alphabetical list contains links to trailers, summaries, funny Letterboxd reviews, and other important information.


Disclaimer: I try my best to consume as much entertainment as possible, but I can't watch everything that exists. Please keep in mind that there are notable exclusions from this list that I’m already aware of such as Color Purple, Eileen, and Nyad. If something is missing that you feel passionate about, feel free to mention it in the comment section below. Since film discourse is more fun when it is an open conversation, I want to hear new suggestions and your thoughts on the movies seen throughout this list.


1. Anatomy of a Fall

Trailer:


Sapphic Analysis:

As early as the opening scene, there are already hints of sexual tension between the main character, played by Sandra Hüller, and another female character. The character’s sexuality ends up having a significant role in the narrative. Her sexuality is brought under scrutiny as events in the courtroom play out and the mystery of her husband’s death unfolds. 


Funny Review:

"Well I just saw the greatest acting performance or my life and it was not by Sandra Hüller or a child actor with the [redacted] bangs I've ever seen - it was by a dog so -"

-Ayo Edebiri



 

2. Barbie

Trailer:


Summary:

Most of the discourse surrounding the movie has focused on the satirical elements commenting on gender power dynamics or Barbie’s existential crisis. For me, the heart of this movie is the unconventional coming-of-age story told through the lens of an adult rather than a teen or a tween. Barbie is a doll in an adult body that acts as a vessel for the coming-of-age experience that others project on her. 


Sapphic Analysis:

Whether explicitly or implicitly sapphic, storytelling comes in different forms, including music. Billie Eilish’s song “What Was I Made For?” can be heard during a pivotal moment in Barbie. The music video for the song seems to tell a personal story about Billie’s deep connection with Barbie. Recently, Billie Eilish accused Variety of “outing her” as she accepted an award for Film Song of the Year from them.


Funny Review:

"S(he's) bro(ken)"

-Bimbim




 

3. Bottoms

Trailer:


Summary:

As seen by the official poster, the raunchy comedy pays homage to high school movies such as Revenge of the Nerds or Weird Science. It essentially updates the trope of incels trying to lose their virginity to hot girls. The central duo creates a female fight club under pretenses. Here, we get to see that teen girls can be just as idiotic and immature as teen boys, especially when the possibility of sex is involved.


Sapphic Analysis:

I prefer Emma Seligman's directorial debut Shiva Baby, about a Jewish bisexual mess, more than this highly anticipated follow-up. However, I still understand why Bottoms is making waves with the gays. My high school personality was a combo of Rachel Sennott's PJ plus Molly and Amy from Booksmart. I felt called out by Ayo Edebiri's Josie since I've also had a crush on a cute cheerleader named Isabel. 


Funny Review:

"I'm in it with my friends so"

-Ayo Edebiri





 

4. Joy Ride

Trailer:


Summary:

We have another female-led comedy on our hands. This one is the directorial debut of Adele Lim, who previously was a screenwriter for Crazy Rich Asians and Raya and the Last Dragon. Allegedly, the original title was “Joy Fuck Club” referencing the iconic ‘90s drama Joy Luck Club. Despite the title change, the movie still counts as a comedic take on Joy Luck Club that manages to differentiate itself enough.


Sapphic Analysis:

Since the comedy is often over-the-top, it’s easy to overlook the more subtle aspects of the movie. One member of the quartet, who goes by the nickname Deadeye, nonchalantly goes from she/her pronouns to they/them pronouns by the end of the movie. According to interviews, Sabrina Wu uses they/them pronouns and insisted that the filmmakers handle gender identity this way. Among the quartet, we also see characters played by queer actress Stephanie Hsu and bisexual comedian Sherry Cola.


Funny Review:

"Ashley Park goes for a Ride, With her best friends by her side. They can turn WAP, Into K-pop, Even though one is dead-eyed."

-JBird





 

5. Nimona

Trailer:



Summary:

While there were a couple of other visually stimulating animated films in 2023, this one holds a special place in my heart. With other fantasy stories, I often criticize the simplicity of the battle between good and evil. Nimona differentiates itself by depicting morality in a complex manner that reflects the real world. The title character simultaneously plays the role of the protagonist, sidekick, and antagonist.


Sapphic Analysis:

Reiterating the points made in Sapphire Society’s previous article, the animators had to overcome Disney to ensure that general viewers got to watch Nimona. The fantasy genre can be a sanctuary for marginalized groups, including the LGBTQIA+ community. Even outside of family films, I haven’t seen another movie that depicts the ostracization of same-sex relations or non-binary identities as beautifully as this story did. I praise the film for its accessible portrayal of gender fluidity.


Funny Review:

"Chloë Grace Moretz saying 'If you don't diw in this closet' is gay cinema at its finest"

-Deadgayson





 

6. Persian Version

Trailer:


Summary:

This dramedy follows a young Iranian-American bisexual woman named Leila who gets pregnant after hooking up with the lead actor of Hedwig and the Angry Inch on Broadway. As she gets closer to her due date, Leila seeks to learn more about her mother’s past. Along the way, there are moments of family hijinks, fourth wall breaking, and magic realism. If you are a sucker for a good “it’s easy to forget your parents were humans with lives before you were born” story, then you will most likely enjoy this movie.


Sapphic Analysis:

The one-night stand with Hedwig speaks for itself, but I will still say more regardless. Besides that, I found the storyline with Leila and the ex-wife to be very compelling since I can’t think of many other examples of sapphic divorces depicted in cinema. It’s interesting to think this is a semi-autobiographical account of the director’s life. Similar to Leila, Maryam Keshavarz is a bisexual filmmaker with many brothers. 


Funny Review:

"Are they trying to do too much in this movie? Maybe, but sometimes real life is the exact same way."

-Bobby Harris





 

7. Scream VI

Trailer:


Summary:

Although there is a high body count throughout every single iteration, the iconic slasher franchise is still alive. This time around the franchise takes the audience to New York City. I am not a fan of some recent decisions made, but I have fun with every movie released so far due to the blend of horror and comedy.


Sapphic Analysis:

For any Yellowjackets fans, Scream (2022) and Scream VI have given us more thriller content to watch Jasmin Savoy Brown. Gay screenwriter Kevin Williamson wrote the first, second, and fourth films in the franchise. However, audiences didn’t see explicit LGBTQIA+ representation until introducing Jasmin Savoy Brown’s character Mindy. In Scream VI, we get to see Mindy further explore her sexuality as well as wear a shirt with “Strong Femme Lead'' written on it.


Funny Review:

"My mom when Mindy mentioned that letterboxd users are probably killers: BOMBASTIC SIDE EYE CRIMINAL OFFENSIVE SIDE EYE"

-Júlia





 

8. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

Trailer:


Summary:

Despite looming questions about “superhero movie fatigue”, this sequel counters that discourse. The Spider-Man movie had big shoes to fill following the original’s win for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars. We have to wait and see whether critical acclaim and audience enthusiasm are enough for Across the Spider-Verse to duplicate that feat. Regarding the box office, the movie made over 3 times more during its opening weekend than the disappointing opening for the first film did. 


Sapphic Analysis:

Immediately after watching it in theaters, I celebrated the trans allegory with fan favorite Gwen Stacy. Across the Spider-Verse has huge multiversal stakes yet manages to make time for Gwen’s journey of coming out as a Spider-powered vigilante to her father. Within the multiverse, each universe including Gwen’s world has a distinct art style. Many have pointed out that her universe’s color scheme is blue, pink, and white, similar to the colors on the trans flag shown in her room and on her dad’s cop uniform.


Funny Review:

"Holy shit?? Lmao"

-Ayo Edebiri




 

9. The Marvels

Trailer:


Summary:

Moving onto a different comic book adaptation from 2023, we have the latest release from Marvel Studios. I know some are tired of the messy discourse surrounding this film, but it’s important to state the movie marks the end of the studio’s reign at the box office. Brie Larson as Carol Danvers, Teyonah Parris as Monica Rambeau, and Iman Vellani as Kamala Khan have their moments. The movie manages to set up storylines that have potential for the future of the Multiverse Saga in the MCU.


Sapphic Analysis:

It is difficult discussing the sapphic elements without giving spoilers. I’ve had a few conversations with people about whether what happened here counts as queer baiting. Some people may disagree with me, but I consider it so. The first half hints at the possibility of a sapphic relationship with a brief cheek kiss. Then, the second half quickly moves on to a separate comedic storyline involving a secret marriage of convenience with a prince not hinted at before the reveal. 


Funny Review:

"I'm a cat lady and so I was having a grand ole time"

-Rachel Leishman





 

10. You People

Trailer:


Summary:

The ensemble in this romantic comedy is stacked. Jonah Hill stars as a white Jewish podcaster named Ezra in a relationship with a Black Muslim stylist named Amira played by Lauren London. Ezra’s parents are Julia Louis-Dreyfus and David Duchovny, and Amira’s parents are Eddie Murphy and Nia Long. We even see Elliott Gould and Rhea Pearlman make appearances. The movie, filled with cringy interactions, makes fun of the cultural clashes caused by this relationship.


Sapphic Analysis:

Julia Louis-Dreyfus nails her role as a performative mother who claims to support everybody yet also spews microaggressions. During her first meeting with Amira, the character mentions her lesbian daughter played by Molly Gordon as an example of her acceptance. Throughout the movie, lesbian comedian Sam Jay pops up as Ezra’s fellow podcast co-host Mo. It’s difficult to decipher whether the film accidentally makes Liza and Mo token characters or is purposefully commenting on tokenism.


Funny Review:

"Romeo and Juliet but instead its the blackulets and the montajews"

-Nickyreviews





 

11. Your Place or Mine

Trailer:


Summary:

It’s been less than a year, and the movie hasn't aged well. I love a good cheesy romantic comedy, but this one might be too cliché for your liking. Many have commented on how Reese Witherspoon and Ashton Kutcher lack on-screen chemistry especially since they spend most of the movie apart in two states. The supporting cast is solid: Jesse Williams, Tig Notaro, Steve Zahn, and Zoe Chao.


Sapphic Analysis:

If I recall correctly, the movie never really explicitly addresses the sexuality of Tig Notaro’s character. The only purpose of her role is to serve as a best friend, and there isn’t much else to it. For some people, that small screen time might be enough for them to like the character.


Funny Review:

"Tig Notaro is cool"

-Kit Lazer



Let’s start with the negatives, Disney is a big media corporation that continues to disappoint me with their attempts at inclusion. Whenever a new Disney, Pixar, Marvel, or Star Wars project with an “exclusively gay moment” comes out, I always feel like Charlie Brown attempting to get the football from Lucy. In addition to that, I’m tired of tokenism in general. (Sidenote: the term “exclusively gay moment” originates from an interview with the director of the 2017 live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast


When I reached the halfway point of 2023, I wasn’t entirely satisfied yet with the movies coming out. Now, as I look back on the year, I realize that 2023 has been a good year for the LGBTQIA+ community in cinema. Besides the movies mentioned, there has also been gay representation for men in All of Strangers, Knock at the Cabin, Passages, Saltburn, and Theater Camp. We’ve seen a variety of content in different genres and sometimes even languages.


If you want more entertainment coverage from me, follow @reddcarpettalk on Instagram and TikTok.




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