Boarding schools seem to be a hotbed of sexual experimentation, at least that’s how it seems from watching them on film. Interestingly, it’s a trend that doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. We’ve seen all-girls dormitories as a plot device since the 1930s, and yet there have been three released in the last year alone. Is it a coincidence that four out of eight of our Best Lesbian Boarding School Movies are directed and/or written by out women, two of which are said to be based on real life stories? Seems as if boarding schools might not be punishment as much as they are places to find your first love.
Based her own real life story, playwright Christa Winsloe penned the play-turned-film about a 14-year-old pupil with a crush on her female teacher. Although this movie version stripped the relationship down to be rather tame, a 1958 remake was a little more outwardly gay and inspired another film on this list, Loving Annabelle.
Watch this one if: you like foreign or black and white films with more subtext than actual sex.
Piper Perabo and Jessica Pare shared a bed and a secret romance until some of their peers found out. Lesbian director Lea Pool told the sad story of Tori’s (Pare) going back into the closet and Pauly’s (Perabo) descent into madness because of it.
Watch this one if: you enjoy tragic love stories or seeing budding starlets like Mischa Barton and Emily Van Camp before they were household names.
Based on a novel of the same name, Mary Harron (who co-wrote American Psycho with Guinevere Turner and also wrote I Shot Andy Warhol about lesbian Valerie Solanas), The Moth Diaries follows 16-year-old Rebecca as she tries to save her best friend Lucie from the grip of lesbian vampire Ernessa (Lily Cole). I won’t tell you if she succeeds.
Watch this one if: you like spooky tales and don’t mind some blood and gore.
Out co-writer/director Francesca Gregorini created one of the most recent boarding school stories starring Rooney Mara and The New Normal‘s Georgia King as former friends who don’t get along when they meet again as teenage pupils. But it’s Amy Ferguson who plays the baby dyke on campus, who is tricked into revealing her sexuality in a bathtub scene with Georgia’s character Victoria.
Watch this one if: You don’t mind Rooney Mara taking up most of the screentime, but like to see a subplot about a tomboy finding herself alongside her more sexually secure friends.
Out director Katherine Brooks told the story of a new student at a Catholic boarding school who falls for her teacher Simone. Simone’s partner recently passed away, but she can’t help but fall for Annabelle, who is suave beyond her years. This causes some trouble when another student begins to suspect something is up between the two — and it doesn’t help that Annabelle’s dad is a member of the Senate.
Watch this one if: you are looking for a true lesbian love story.
She’s the Man
Amanda Bynes plays Viola Hastings, who wants to play soccer so bad, she dresses in drag to join the team at an all-male boarding school. As “Sebastian,” Viola finds herself the object of a female classmate’s affection. But it’s Channing Tatum who is Viola’s love interest, not Laura Ramsey.
Watch this one if: you like gender-bending comedies that don’t usually end up very lesbian at all.
Sheila Kohler‘s novel inspired this film about a teacher (played by Eva Green) in the 1930s who falls for a student; but this time, the feelings are not reciprocated. Juno Temple stars as another student who spies Miss G doing something she shouldn’t and things get darker.
Watch this one if: you want to be creeped out or enjoyed Notes on a Scandal.
All I Wanna Do
Set in the 1960s, the film was about an all-girls school that was about to change to be co-ed — until a group of students decided to take action. The cast was all-star, including Kirsten Dunst, Rachael Leigh Cook, Gabby Hoffman and out actress Heather Matarazzo. Although there wasn’t anything explicitly lesbian in the film, at the very end updates are given on each of the characters, including sexpot Tinka (played by Monica Keena), who ends up coming out later in life. So watch the movie looking for clues!
Watch this one if: you liked Now & Then or stories of young women working together while hijinks ensue.
What’s interesting about these films is they all share another likeness: They focus on upper class, privileged white women. Surely there are more stories and other settings to be told in cinema. In the meantime, enjoy this subgenre and all of its offerings.