Certain films go down in history as defining moments in cinema, and as representation on screen has made slow strides towards matching the real world, pretty much every film about lesbian romance is a landmark. In 2015, Carol was one of those films. It tells the story of the romance between Therese (Rooney Mara), a young department store shopgirl, and Carol (Cate Blanchett), a suburban woman in the middle of a divorce. Directed by Todd Haynes, the movie follows Therese and Carol as they pursue their mutual attraction through coded language — and then let their relationship flourish.
In an essay for New York, Frank Rich notes that the film allows its audience to "realize how much we don’t know about a past that unfolded in the shadows until not very long ago." He also points out that "lesbians rarely receive the same measure of attention as gay men in our culture, pop culture included." However, five years later, things are getting better. Most recently, Portrait Of A Lady On Fire has stepped up to continued this important progress. But the on-screen history of romance between women goes back a long way — at least to 1931. So, in honor of A Portrait Of A Lady On Fire, we decided to explore that rich history, from the crass and exploitative to the mature and thoughtful. Click ahead for our list.