4 movies that actually get female friendships right

Illustration of two women
Margueritte Ross/Staff

Related Posts

There is a very clever mechanism, the Bechdel test, which assesses a movie’s treatment of its female characters. In order to pass this test, a film must have at least two women who talk to each other about something other than men. Simple, right?

Wrong. Given that getting a ring from a man is often deemed the high point of a woman’s life in cinematic depictions, finding films in which women have genuine relationships with each other isn’t an easy task. But found them we have! 

The Daily Californian has curated a list of the best female friendships in movies. In these films, women are allowed to laugh, cry, fight, make up and everything in between. All of these films have fantastic relationships between women at the core of their respective screenplays, which is something worth celebrating.

“Booksmart” — Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever)

Written and directed by Olivia Wilde, “Booksmart” is an intelligent, modern approach to female friendship in its most heightened and fraught state: high school. Molly and Amy are soulmates, the kind that young people — especially women — treasure so much during their teen years, a time which is soul-crushingly intense. During these years, there’s pressure to focus on your future while still trying to enjoy the present, which can be frustratingly cruel and equally exciting. There are only a few ways to get through this kind of isolating experience, and one of the most rewarding ones is to lean on a best friend. The pair has clung to one another to make it to graduation, focusing their efforts on studying and school council (Molly) and activism (Amy) to ensure success. They’ve eschewed romance or social outings for all four years of high school because they didn’t need all that: they had each other. This alone — the relationship between two wide-eyed girls simply looking to enjoy themselves at the most epic party of all time — is what sets “Booksmart” apart.

“Clueless” — Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone), Dionne Davenport (Stacey Dash) and Tai Frasier (Brittany Murphy)

Cher and Dionne are friends because they both know what it’s like for people to be jealous of them. Tai has never had straight friends before — until she finds the perfect duo to blow off steam with. Amy Heckerling’s film adaptation of Jane Austen’s 1815 novel “Emma” has become iconic, setting the standard for all the teen rom-coms that followed. Unlike its successors, the plot of “Clueless” does not focus on evil, popular girls tearing each other down in order to get a guy. Instead, the movie centers around rich, complicated and funny female friendships. Cher, Dionne and Tai are “rollin’ with the (female) homies.” At their core, what defines these characters is their relationships with other women.

“The Princess Diaries” — Mia Thermopolis (Anne Hathaway) and Lilly Moscovitz (Heather Matarazzo)

“The Princess Diaries” is the story of Mia, a painfully shy and awkward 15-year-old who discovers that she is heir to the Genovian throne. After Mia discovers the truth about her royal status in a foreign country, Lilly is right there by her side to help her navigate fake friends and etiquette classes. Mia and Lilly are two peas in a pod because they don’t fit in with the snooty, preppy jerks or the high-strung jocks at their high school. Even though Lilly feels that their friendship is threatened by others who would like to exploit Mia’s new notoriety, she stands by her best friend and believes in her ability to lead and make a difference in the world. Lilly may envy Mia’s heritage, but she’s not worried about Mia doing the wrong thing as a princess. In fact, when Lilly realizes why Mia’s makeover happened, Lilly is thrilled for her and even admits to needing an attitude adjustment. Their friendship feels genuine because the pair is able to relate to one another like childhood friends, looking past their fatal flaws to root for each other’s successes.

“Someone Great” — Erin Kennedy (DeWanda Wise), Jenny Young (Gina Rodriguez) and Blair Helms (Brittany Snow)

“Someone Great,” written and directed by Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, starts where most romantic comedies end: after the guy gets the girl. The movie kicks off with a relationship montage, set gloriously to Lorde’s “Supercut.” Nine years later, the girl, Jenny, lands her dream job at Rolling Stone in San Francisco. The guy breaks up with her because he doesn’t want to be in a long-distance relationship. Then the film really begins, with Jenny’s friends Erin and Blair rallying around her during this difficult time. In the films of the past, someone like Jenny would probably be presented as a frigid, career-obsessed woman who can only be happy once she’s settled for an aimless man. “Someone Great” is about falling out of love, yes, but mostly, it’s about female friendship and not picking a man over one’s career. Robinson takes her film’s main character, and that character’s ambitions, seriously. “Someone Great” is a witty movie centered around a dynamic trio that makes the audience want to cry and dance interchangeably; it’s the cinematic equivalent of listening to a Lizzo song on repeat.

Contact Salma Gomez at [email protected].