12 Movies That Celebrate Sisterhood

Prepping for a girls' night in? We've got you covered with an eclectic list of gems for every occasion that you can watch with your besties.

by | March 30, 2023 | Comments


Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis in Thelma & Louise (1991)

(Photo by ©MGM)

Women love women. We form sisterhoods out of necessity, alliance, comradeship, love, and mutual respect. This is not to discount any good men out there — they’re to be loved for their own merits. But the movies that reflect the bond between woman-identifying individuals deserve to be celebrated because it’s a bond grounded in true affection. These fictional, fully fleshed-out women reach through the screen and offer their hands in solidarity to those of us who, for example, needed a bit of inspiration to get out of bed every godforsaken pandemic morning even as we were pummeled by life’s unfair twists and turns.

Thankfully, there’s a movie for every occasion, and there’s always room on the couch for a friend. With that in mind, we’ve made a cheat sheet to help you decide what to watch with your sisters, blood-related or not. These female-driven films span generations and genres and mean different things to different people, but all have something in common: Found family makes life not just bearable but meaningful and even fun. Headlining one of these classic titles are Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda, who are still at it, reminding us that good friends age like a good cab. Their newest collaboration, Moving On, is currently in theaters, but if you prefer to stay at home (or your responsibilities keep you there), gather your besties in front of the TV and celebrate sisterhood with these gems instead.

Forget diamonds — these showstopping showgirls’ loyalty and cunning are a girl’s best friends. Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell play old friends from the “wrong side of the tracks,” and together they’re unstoppable; Lorelei’s ambition and Dorothy’s unapologetic nature will win over the most skeptical heart. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ stunning set design, stylish wardrobe, and acrobatic choreography are also quite brilliant. This one’s best watched with sparkling spirits, both the drinking and the human sort.

Valerie Mairesse and Therese Liotard in One Sings, the Other Doesn't (1977)

(Photo by Everett Collection)

French New Wave pioneer Agnès Varda wrote and directed this radical film centered on two people whose friendship is woven through the historical fabric of women’s rights in France. Pomme (the one who sings) and Suzanne (the one who doesn’t) reconnect through an unplanned pregnancy, and their bond blossoms even when life takes them apart. This film captures the woman experience like no other; sometimes it hangs fluffy and loose like a flowery hippie gown, and sometimes it feels like the dress is lined with barbed wire. Clearly, womanhood is not for the fainthearted and is best survived with friends. Decant a bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape to share with an activist-minded amie, and journey through ‘70s France with Valérie Mairesse and Thérèse Liotard.

Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, and Dolly Parton (in her first feature film role) literally take down “The Man” in this classic office comedy best watched with a work bestie on a Friday night after a long week. Though it’s infuriating we’re still fighting for equal pay, the loyal friendship that blossoms out of the women’s shared interest for justice and the fantasy revenge scenes sweeten up the brew (since the rat poison didn’t do the trick). 9 to 5 certainly proves that work drama is best dealt with by mamas.

What’s wilder than Thelma and Louise’s trip is that, at the time of its release, some critics felt the film was an anarchist manifesto for bra-burning feminists. To us, this is true love at its finest. Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon are so alive in this film that it feels like the audience is along for the lawless ride. However, a smarter alternative to committing a crime spree would be to watch the film on a Saturday night with your most feminist friend (or, at least, one who could use a jolt of inspiration) from the safety a couch. Box of tissues required; tequila and butt-kicking cowgirl boots optional.

Kieu Chinh, Ming-Na Wen, Tamlyn Tomita, Tsai Chin, France Nuyen, Lauren Tom, Lisa Lu, and Rosalind Chao in The Joy Luck Club (1993)

(Photo by Everett Collection)

Adapted from Amy Tan’s novel, this culturally transcendent film deals with generational trauma, and its quiet joy lies in the strength of the sisterhood on display. The relationship between these women is complex and universal — no one can hurt you like those you love — yet their sense of community overcomes their differences. The stellar cast includes Tsai Chin, Lisa Lu, Rosalind Chao, Lauren Tom, Tamlin Tomita, and Ming-Na Wen. Gather your life-long friends, aunties (or titis), and Māmā (媽媽) to honor those who blazed the trails before us.

Boys on the Side certainly has its soapy moments, but it still holds up as the ultimate testament of chosen family. Whoopi Goldberg, playing a queer musician, hitches a ride with the “whitest human in America,” played by Mary Louise Parker, and they pick up wild child Drew Barrymore and end up on the lam. Their journey is filled with laughter, confessions, and tears. Tackling themes like sexual fluidity and HIV, the story was revolutionary at the time. This was a first step (baby steps are often wobbly) towards normalizing things that needed to be normalized. Keep the boys and the tissues on the side and invite that polar opposite soul sister to bawl those eyes out.

America Ferrera, Amber Tamblyn, Alexis Bledel, and Blake Lively in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (2005)

(Photo by ©Warner Bros.)

Garment sharing among friends has skyrocketed since Traveling Pants debuted, and if a teenage movie can inspire this kind of tradition in real life, it deserves to be on this list. Most importantly, sisterhood is front and center here — it’s right there in the title. Alexis Bledel, America Ferrera, Blake Lively, and Amber Tamblyn are on the cusp of womanhood, coping with all that entails plus grief and loss in a pair of slim-fitting jeans that, like good friends, are one-size-fits-all. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is the best kind of cheese and pairs perfectly with the best kind of gals.

We all have that friend who gets obsessed with the wrong person, and sometimes we need to go along for the ride to realize that we’re just as flawed. Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor play two working girls in Los Angeles who show up for each other when it counts, because what spells friendship more than taking the wig off your head for a friend in need? Sean Baker’s film is equal parts funny and poignant, proving that putting sisters before misters is not only wise, but immensely rewarding. Call your edgiest bestie and sub the popcorn for donuts – bonus points if you find watermelon-flavored ones.

Any movie with Queen Latifah, a dance-off, and a public golden shower demands our attention. At the core of this capital R-rated raunchy comedy are a group of old friends who genuinely love and respect one another despite occasional differences. After all, overcoming conflicts only makes us stand stronger in solidarity. Regina Hall, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Tiffany Haddish share the screen with the Queen and prove that having a Flossy Posse makes life go saucy. This one is probably best savored during a sleepover so everyone can enjoy a stiff cocktail. Make sure to invite your most bashful friend so you can see her squirm through the grapefruit scene. Just remember to hold the pineapples.

Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein capture that in-between stage where you feel like a lightning bug inside a jar about to be released with the aplomb of, well, a teenager. Living on the periphery of what’s supposed to be cool, these two on-screen besties are a sheer delight to watch, so much so that you’ll miss them when the credits roll. This is a must-watch with your HS bestie while you toast the talented women who made it: Olivia Wilde, Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susana Fogel, and Katie Silberman. We see you, and you clearly see us.

Written and Directed by Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman is the ultimate love letter to friendship — what’s more committed than avenging your best friend? Carey Mulligan is the vigilante bestie in need of a friend as she fights against toxic frat-bro masculinity, and we’re here for her. Though not an easy watch, the movie has a dark levity that your smartest friend will appreciate and a theme that could inspire soulful conversations afterwards.

Not only does Black Widow have the most memorable opening sequence of any MCU film, it’s got the dynamism of not two but three phenomenal leads: Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, and Rachel Weisz. Sure, they get off to a rocky start – trust needs to be earned after so many years apart – but the bond between these women transcends deep-rooted lethal allegiances. A sister’s love is like no other, and though this kinship doesn’t necessarily mean sharing DNA, it requires giving up your favorite vest after freeing an army of brainwashed female assassins. Watch with your most kick-ass friend or the one who gives you the must guff. You know, your chosen sister.

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