indieWIRE has a new weekend feature: A retrospective box office chart, based on one of the top indie titles opening this weekend. Today, iW is taking a look at the track record of lesbian dramas, in honor of "Circumstance," Maryam Keshavarz's Iran-set drama about a young woman rebelling against archaic cultural norms in her sexual relationship with someone of the same sex.
Listed below are the top 10 grossing lesbian or bisexual female-themed films of all time, without adjusting for inflation. If you look at the top grossing films featuring queer themes more generally, lesbian content makes up a unsettling three of the top 30 grossers ("The Hours," "Monster," "The Kids Are All Right"). More over, two of those three feature prominent lesbian characters that are far from emotionally stable, with "Monster"'s serial killing Aileen Wuornos clearly taking that particular cake (not that there isn't a need for emotionally unstable lesbians in film, it just would be nice if there was more of a balance).
In fact, the actual list of the top grossing lesbian films is more than anything indicative of how sorry the state of lesbian representation in cinema has been. Besides the fact that so few have even been made, they often feature characters experimenting or unconfident with their lesbianism, and even more often are portrayed by ultra-feminine actresses with considerable sex appeal.
Here's the overall top ten; figures are for North America only and not adjusted for inflation. The list does not include films that feature bisexual women as lead characters in which their primary relationship in the film is with a man (or else "Frida" and "Chasing Amy" would have made the list... though some might question included examples of "The Hunger" and "Mulholland Drive" in this regard). If an oversight has occurred, kindly let iW know.
1. The Hours (2002) - $41,675,994
2. Monster (2003) - $34,469,210
3. The Kids Are All Right (2010) - $20,811,365
4. Mulholland Drive (2001) - $7,220,243
5. Kissing Jessica Stein (2002) - $7,025,722
6. The Hunger (1983) - $5,979,292
7. Personal Best (1982) - $5,672,311
8. Three of Hearts (1993) - $5,495,507
9. Bound (1996) - $3,802,260
10. Heavenly Creatures (1994) - $3,049,135