Desert Hearts is a straight-up landmark in the world of lesbian film, blazing cinematic trails when it was released in 1985. It’s a beautiful, glossy Western romance that depicts two women falling in love in the picturesque desert of Reno. In 1959, Vivian (Helen Shaver) is in town to get a divorce, and is intrigued by striking, spirited Cay (Patricia Charbonneau). Cay is a lesbian and spends her time flitting from lover to lover; Vivian has left her boring academic marriage and is looking for new worlds to explore. She definitely finds them with Cay, but then their positions switch between novice and expert when Vivian wants a relationship and Cay doesn’t know how to be in one. The women’s sultry exploration then winds up at a crossroads—with the time period a considerable obstacle to their future happiness—but the pull between them is so strong that it still binds them together at the end. [Gwen Ihnat]

Maurice (1987)

If you’re a fan of Call Me By Your Name’s soulful eye contact and floppy hair, but not of its ending, we’d like you to meet Maurice. Written and directed by CMBYN screenwriter James Ivory from the novel by E.M. Forster, this sprawling, romantic period drama is set in the oppressive atmosphere of pre-WWI England, where homosexuality was not just a sin, but a crime. James Wilby stars as the title character, a middle-class bachelor who first discovers his sexuality in the arms of his schoolmate Clive, played by a young Hugh Grant. That particular affair doesn’t work out, but while Clive chooses to repress his feelings and become a “proper” Edwardian gentleman, Maurice’s journey of self-acceptance eventually leads him to true love as well. [Katie Rife]

Go Fish (1994)

Go Fish was a sleeper movie success story in 1994; it looks like an art-school graduation project, but transmits a much stronger message. Then-couple Guinevere Turner and Rose Troche wrote the screenplay about cute young lesbian Max and her search for love in Chicago’s Wicker Park, with Turner as Max and Troche directing. The main plot involves Max’s slow crawl toward a relationship with the older, shy Ely; meanwhile her friends form a kind of Greek chorus as they comment on the burgeoning relationship. Go Fish was groundbreaking as one of the very first all-lesbian films (it has about as many male speaking parts as The Women), pitching the central love story as a rom-com like any other while providing previously unseen insight into this particular chapter of urban ’90s lesbian life, as Max and Ely stroll on the Lake Michigan beach in considerable happiness. [Gwen Ihnat]

Bound (1996)

Back in the 1990s, one couldn’t open a door without hitting a twisty neo-noir. But the Wachowskis’ clever debut stood apart from the rest—not just for its technical savvy and its stylized color scheme, but for its queer and unapologetically sex-positive reworking of the archetype of the femme fatale and the classic noir triad of lust, money, and death. Violet (Jennifer Tilly), the girlfriend of a Chicago mob money launderer (Joe Pantoliano), falls for Corky (Gina Gershon), the butch ex-con who lives in the same apartment building; together, they plot to steal $2 million from the Mafia. As in their subsequent films (most famously The Matrix), the Wachowskis are more interested in creating compellingly cool fantasies than realistic characters; however, their eroticism has never been more winning or central. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

All Over Me (1997)

The story of a teenage girl simultaneously discovering the riot grrrl scene and her first queer romance makes up the arc of All Over Me, a stirring mid-’90s indie that provides an endearing yet raw look at urban adolescent life amid massive cultural sea changes. Claude (Alison Folland) learns her best friend, Ellen (Tara Subkoff), may know more than she lets on about the death of a gay musician in Claude’s building, and as their childhood friendship slowly runs afoul of their growing and changing personalities, Claude discovers a brand-new side of herself in her attraction to Lucy (Leisha Hailey), the pink-haired bassist of a local indie band. While not shying away from the melodrama of its subject matter, All Over Me avoids schmaltz and maintains an authentic and everyday tone to its exploration of same-sex love in a bold new subculture of feminist rock. [Alex McLevy]

Show Me Love (1998)

Show Me Love is the generic U.S. title cooked up for Lukas Moodysson’s international breakthrough, an acclaimed drama about two teenage girls whose mutual alienation blossoms into a friendship and then something more. In its native Sweden, the film went by the more provocative, controversial Fucking Åmål—a kiss-off to its real-world setting, a small town which naturally objected not only to seeing its name next to an expletive, but also to Moodysson’s depiction of it as a stifling, conformist hellhole its main characters can’t wait to escape. The original title does better capture the itchy frustration of take-no-shit cool kid Elin (Alexandra Dahlström) and shy outcast Agnes (Rebecka Liljeberg), whose burgeoning love story is built, at least partially, on a hatred of their hometown. But a tender coming-of-age romance under any other name would look as sweet—and Show Me Love is a fine description for the proud PDA on which the film defiantly ends. [A.A. Dowd]

But I’m A Cheerleader (1999)

From its cotton-candy color scheme to its RuPaul cameo, the overarching mood of the 1999 gay “conversion therapy” satire But I’m A Cheerleader is exaggerated, John Waters-influenced high camp. But there’s one aspect of the film that’s heartwarmingly earnest: the budding romance between Megan (Natasha Lyonne) and Graham (Clea DuVall), who can’t help falling in love even as everyone around them tries to tell them that love is wrong. Take a look at the film’s The Graduate-inspired ending and try to justify that opinion. Spoiler alert: You can’t. [Katie Rife]

D.E.B.S. (2004)

The critical levels of camp in the spy-academy spoof D.E.B.S. can’t keep the romance at the center of the plot from hitting a genuinely affecting note. The film tracks Amy Bradshaw (Sara Foster), one of four soon-to-graduate students at the top-secret training academy D.E.B.S.—that stands for “discipline, energy, beauty, and strength,” by the way—as she heads out with her team to monitor the reappearance of notorious thief Lucy Diamond (Jordana Brewster). Amy ends up accidentally confronting the criminal face-to-face—and both agent and quarry discover an unexpected attraction. The subsequent story delivers slapstick hijinks and absurdist, arch comedy (many thanks to Westworld’s Jimmi Simpson as Diamond’s henchman, Scud), but underlying it all is the earnest and sweet affection between Amy and Lucy. [Alex McLevy]

Queer As Folk (2000-2005)

Brian (Gale Harold) and Justin (Randy Harrison) danced around each other, often literally, for five seasons of the U.S. adaptation of Queer As Folk. Early on, their relationship wasn’t exactly equitable—ad exec Brian may have had Peter Pan syndrome, but Justin was an actual teen. But over the course of the series, they both grew up—and owned up to their feelings for each other. Their newfound emotional maturity led them to postpone their season-five wedding so Justin could pursue an art career in New York, but as Brian notes, the time spent apart is just that—time. Like “San Junipero,” Queer As Folk encourages its most notable lovers to exist outside of that construct. [Danette Chavez]

Imagine Me & You (2005)

Imagine Me & You is a very romantic movie, even as it tears its main relationship apart: What if, on the day you’re prepared to marry the love of your life, you fall in love with someone else at first sight? And what if that person is the same sex as you, awakening feelings you’ve never had before? While the emotional tumult is considerable, all the players are so completely charming—Piper Perabo struggling with a British accent as Rachel, who falls for her wedding florist, Luce, played by a pre-Cersei Lena Headey—you can’t help but root for them, even as Rachel’s groom (Matthew Goode) is headed for almost certain devastation. Luce doesn’t think Rachel’s ready for her first same-sex romance, particularly so close to her wedding, but Rachel proves her wrong. The film’s lovely message is that love can conquer all in whatever form it happens to take, even when the timing is really unfortunate. [Gwen Ihnat]

The Kids Are All Right (2010)

In Lisa Cholodenko’s Oscar-nominated dramedy, Annette Bening and Julianne Moore play Nic and Jules, a married couple whose domestic bliss is complicated when their teenage children (Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson) seek out their biological father. The Kids Are All Right doesn’t exactly position the bohemian sperm donor, played by Mark Ruffalo, as a fundamental threat to the the women’s marriage, even after Ruffalo’s Paul hops into bed with the bisexual Jules. (There are problems in the household before he insinuates himself into it.) All the same, the film’s bittersweet climax feels like a reaffirmation of their love story, and a rejection of the cliché of a queer woman seduced back into the straight lifestyle by the right man. Cholodenko recognizes, as surely as the characters do, that for this family to heal, Paul has to go. Sometimes, happy endings are a zero sum game. [A.A. Dowd]

Glee (2009-2015)

The never-ending pile of happy endings at the conclusion of Glee’s TV run easily stretched into the ridiculous, with flash-forward titles like “Superintendent Will Schuester,” “Vice President Sue Sylvester,” and “Tony winner Rachel Berry.” But at least standing alongside the happy couples like Mr. Schu and Emma and Rachel and Jesse are Kurt and Blaine. The teenage sweethearts got married a few episodes prior, horning in on Santana and Brittany’s nuptials to make for not just a gay wedding, but a double gay wedding. “Klaine” then go on to become successful theatrical superstars, and Rachel even agrees to carry their baby for them as surrogate. Of all of Glee’s over-the-top, neatly tied-up endings, after their frequent breakups, Kurt and Blaine’s ride off into the sunset may have been the most satisfying. [Gwen Ihnat]

Carol (2015)

Carol may be named after Cate Blanchett’s captivating New Jersey housewife—whose arrival in young aspiring photographer Therese’s (Rooney Mara) life almost immediately upends it—but the smoldering romance at the center of Todd Haynes’ Patricia Highsmith adaptation equally transforms both parties. When Carol leaves her gloves behind at the department store where Therese works, she kicks off a slow, careful pursuit built on coded gestures and gauzy, 16mm glances—one that, despite the film’s 1950s setting, feels less like fetishized repression and more like witnessing love move two people radically toward self-realization and freedom, society be damned. [Kelsey J. Waite]

The Handmaiden (2016)

In Park Chan-wook’s labyrinthine thriller set in 1930s Korea, a pickpocket is hired as the titular servant to help a con man cheat a Japanese heiress out of her inheritance. Yet lo and behold, the grifter is soon falling for her mark—and vice versa. After multiple double crosses and reversals, the Oldboy director’s lush and sensuous The Handmaiden finds the two women teaming up together, both strategically and romantically, to secure their escape and happy future together, proving once again that love conquers all, even lascivious uncles and wily cons. [Laura Adamczyk]

Being 17 (2016)

Novelistically crafted stories of personal change, usually set against a backdrop of tumultous events and changing seasons, the films of the underappreciated French master André Téchiné (Wild Reeds) rarely end on a clearly upbeat note; his eternal theme is fluidity, bittersweetly looking back on what characters were and forward to what they might become. But Being 17 is an exception. Co-written with the much younger filmmaker Céline Sciamma (Girlhood, Tomboy), the coming-of-age drama follows new classmates (Kacey Mottet Klein, Corentin Fila) in a small town at the foot of the central Pyrénées as their relationship evolves from mutual contempt to mutual attraction. With his evocative imagery and deft sense of setting, Téchiné creates a study of two characters wrestling with their feelings—sometimes literally. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

Black Mirror, “San Junipero” (2016)

Heaven is a place on earth, or rather, a Black Mirror episode, when Kelly (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and Yorkie (Mackenzie Davis) meet and fall for each other across multiple decades in a simulated reality. The chemistry between the two leads radiates throughout, regardless of what questionable fashion they’re wearing. There are several twists, not least of which is Charlie Brooker’s decision to let the happy ending stand, but perhaps the most gut-wrenching one comes when an elderly Kelly marries an ailing Yorkie. Exploring what “forever” means for lovers, “San Junipero” became a refuge for Black Mirror viewers following the 2016 election. [Danette Chavez]

Orphan Black (2013-2017)

As Orphan Black’s clones and storylines multiplied, disappeared, and reappeared over the sci-fi show’s five jam-packed seasons, one thread established early on was too good to ever let go: the one where LEDA clone no. 324B21, Cosima Niehaus (Tatiana Maslany), and then-Dyad associate Dr. Delphine Cormier (Évelyne Brochu) fall in love. Enter: Cophine. Though their chemistry was undeniable from the start, their happy ending wasn’t always, with Delphine’s loyalties—and mere existence—thrown into question during long disappearances. But in the end, the extended breaks were in the name of protecting and curing Cosima so that these two science nerds could finally truly be together. It was worth the wait. [Kelsey J. Waite]

Professor Marston And The Wonder Women (2017)

Angela Robinson’s biopic Professor Marston And The Wonder Women takes some liberties with the life story of Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston, but they’re all in the name of love. As told in the film, the relationship between Marston (Luke Evans); his wife, Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall); and their partner, Olive (Bella Heathcote), is a model of polyamorous, pansexual romantic utopia, with a shared interest in rope bondage to add that little extra touch of kink. It’s a generous, nonjudgmental story of a relationship decades ahead of its time, proposing that both love and creativity thrive when they’re allowed to grow freely. [Katie Rife]

God’s Own Country (2017)

Dubbed “Brokeback Mountain U.K.” or a “working-class Call Me By Your Name,” God’s Own Country tells the story of a young Yorkshireman named Johnny (Josh O’Connor) who’s been increasingly isolated from his peers since taking over the family farm for his ailing father. His detachment and self-destructive habits run rampant, impairing operations, until the arrival of handsome Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu), a slightly older and much more grounded migrant worker from Romania. The two forge a connection as demanding and beautiful as the North England countryside they work, ultimately making a home together there on unlikely soil—and with the tacit, touchingly unfussy support of Johnny’s family. [Kelsey J. Waite]

Love, Simon (2018)

Love, Simon is much more of a teenage coming-out story and a light romantic mystery than a full-on rom-com; closeted Simon (Nick Robinson) spends a lot of the movie mooning over an anonymous pen pal, wondering who could be at the other end of his emails. The revelation of his crush’s identity is a sweet moment that happens when the movie is nearly over, sealed with a still-too-rare kiss. But before credits roll, the movie shows the new boyfriend integrated into Simon’s life, and director Greg Berlanti seems to understand how important this is—that Simon’s coming out doesn’t just affect his prospects for romance, but his whole life. Love, Simon may be glossy, but its cheerful resolution still feels earned. [Jesse Hassenger]