Upon joining TikTok, Aria Velz saw a need for content about films that represent the queer community. That’s how The Critical Lesbian was born.
“Queer Movie Podcast” called Velz, “the authority on lesbian films on TikTok.” Since starting the account, Velz has amassed more than 120,000 followers.
This Pride Month, Velz shares her recommendations for your next movie night.
Print and play Velz’s lesbian movie bingo here.
Queer film recommendations from ‘the authority on lesbian films on TikTok,’ Aria Velz
The one to watch if you are going to watch any off this list
- “Summerland” (2020)
A family-friendly World War II-era film set during the London Blitz, “Summerland” encompasses universal themes. Velz thinks a lot of viewers can connect with characters Frank or Alice no matter their sexuality because of this.
“[‘Summerland’] really hits the longing for community and longing to be open with yourself, while also being a very satisfying story about friendship and love,” Velz says.
The queer classics
- “Desert Hearts” (1985)
“Desert Hearts” is as classic as you can get. The film follows a university professor who moves to Reno to obtain a quick divorce and ends up meeting a woman there.
- “The Children's Hour” (1961)
“[‘The Children’s Hour’ is] sad. It's pretty dire,” Velz says. “But it's such a big, big, important piece of queer cinematic history.”
- “The Watermelon Woman”(1996)
The ones with happy endings
- “Billie and Emma” (2018)
“[Queer women] want to be seen and validated and told that they can find love. I think sometimes that means for mainstream movies that are not as tightly packed, there's a lot more judgment of them,” Velz says. “And I don't really blame them. That's not a fault of queer women. That is a fault of like an industry that has not done as much work to make queer women feel very seen and validated.”
- The “Fear Street” Trilogy (2021)
- “Imagine Me and You” (2005)
- “Saving Face” (2004)
“Saving Face” was one of the first Hollywood films to center Chinese Americans and quite literally “changed [Velz’s] life.”
- “Yes or No?” (2010)
- “The Happiest Season” (2020)
Velz knows this pick is her most controversial opinion, but she “thinks ‘Happiest Season’ is a disproportionately maligned film.” She loves this movie because it portrays something that she and many others have gone through during the holidays.
The ones that highlight transgender stories
- “Alice Júnior” (2019)
In this Brazilian coming-of-age film, a teenage YouTuber who goes to Catholic school embarks on a journey toward her first kiss.
- “Bit” (2019)
- “Boy Meets Girl” (2014)
This film is “probably the closest to a standard rom-com with a trans woman,” Velz says.
- “Paris Is Burning” (1990)
This iconic documentary focuses on the fabulous ballroom culture in New York City and the intersectional communities that take part in it. A great watch if you are interested in voguing or watch the show “Pose.”
The campiest queer films
- “But I'm a Cheerleader” (1999)
A young Natasha Lyonne, RuPaul, and Dante Basco (the voice of Zuko from “The Last Avatar”) star in “But I’m a Cheerleader.” This hilarious, satirical film is so iconic it inspired a MUNA music video with Phoebe Bridgers.
- “Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same” (2011)
Quite succinctly, the film is one part McCarthy-era Red Scare, another part science fiction, and part love story.
- “Jennifer's Body” (2009)
Megan Fox is a “full on bi-con” in “Jennifer’s Body,” where she portrays a possessed cheerleader with a thirst for flesh.
The most underrated queer films
- “My Days of Mercy” (2017)
- “The Secrets” (2007)
This Israeli film follows a woman from a strict religious household that meets another woman at a seminary. Of all the films, “The Secrets” is one Velz feels is the most underrated of all time.
- “High Art” (1998)
- “Women Who Kill” (2016)
Velz strongly believes if this film was released today instead of six years ago, it would be a massive hit, especially for the lesbian community.
- “Tell it to the Bees” (2018)
The movies that will make you cry
- “Gia” (1998)
“Gia,” starring Angelina Jolie, follows the tragic life of one of the first supermodels, Gia Carangi. Velz says, “If you want a good cry, you should watch ‘Gia.’ ”
- “The Edge of Heaven” (2007)
The film revolves around a Turkish man trying to find the daughter of his dad’s former girlfriend in Istanbul. “The Edge of Heaven” won the Prix du scénario award at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival.
- “Lost and Delirious” (2001)
The most shocking mind bends
- “Mulholland Drive” (2001)
“Mulholland Drive [is] 100% the mind f******* f*** in the world,” says Velz.
- “The Handmaiden” (2016)
Nothing is what it seems in this Korean psychological thriller.
- “Fingersmith” (2005)
The most queer coded — the gayest straight films
- “Bend It like Beckham” (2003)
- “Ocean's Eight” (2018)
A classic heist movie that has so much lesbian subtext Velz filmed a TikTok of her wife’s reaction to the film.
- “Fried Green Tomatoes” (1991)
- “Top Gun” (1986) (Digital intern Rosa Pyo’s hot pick)
The chemistry between Tom Cruise and any man in this film is off the charts. No further questions.