Because I’m so used to sifting through garbage streaming shows or nondescript indie movies for a sliver of a lesbian storyline, #20Gayteen felt completely overwhelming. This year was brimming with queer female characters in film and TV — and not even trash ones! Like, unforgettable, progressive, cherished and lovable women.
From lesbian superheroes, to teenage coming out stories, and badass, murderous bisexuals, this year gifted us with a slate of on-screen queer characters I’ll remember for years to come—and surprisingly, just two of them were played by Rachel Weisz.
Here are the best lesbian, bi, and queer women characters on screen in 2018.
Karolina Dean – Marvel’s Runaways
I don’t necessarily love this character, but Karolina Dean (Virginia Gardner) is TV’s first leading lesbian superhero, so she’s important. On the Hulu show, Karolina and her fellow “runaway” Nico (Lyrica Okano) had a series of endearing will-they-or-won’t-they moments, and even shared a cute kiss. However, their relationship didn’t necessarily feel believable to me. Nonetheless, I’m grateful for a lesbian protagonist in a Marvel show—their track record with LGBTQ representation is lackluster but improving.
Anissa Pierce – Black Lightning
If we’re talking queer superheroes, Anissa Pierce could beat the fuck out of Karolina Dean. Anissa (Nafessa Williams), AKA Thunder on DC’s Black Lightning, is one of the most powerful lesbian characters I’ve seen on TV—both physically and emotionally. She’s tough and brawny without sacrificing her femininity, she’s a role model, and she’s smart as hell. As TV’s first black lesbian superhero, Anissa is not only a phenomenal character, but a historic one. Plus, she gets to have nudie makeout sessions with pretty girls on The CW.
Cheryl Blossom – Riverdale
Played by Madelaine Petsch, Riverdale’s local girl ginger came out as bisexual in a heartbreaking (using that term lightly) storyline about gay conversion therapy this year. Cheryl spent 2018 serving cherry red lipstick, queer girl tantrums, and depraved bisexual realness. And honorable mention to her girlfriend Toni Topaz (Vanessa Morgan), the CW’s in-house snake jewelry-wearing, pink-haired, leather jacket-sporting bisexual, who is officially a queer style icon.
Kate Messner – Everything Sucks!
Set in the ’90s, Everything Sucks! captured all the nostalgia and ennui of the decade, and gifted us with a teenage lesbian coming out story. Kate Messner, played by Peyton Kennedy, was a Tori Amos-obsessed high school student who falls for the hottie actress in the drama club. I say “was” because Netflix canned the show after just one season. But joining Kate through her whirlwind romance, her first Tori concert, and getting busted masturbating to a magazine was surely a sugary treat.
Nonnie Thompson – Insatiable
You’d be hard-pressed not to fall for the lovable and endearing Nonnie in Netflix’s polarizing comedy series Insatiable. Played by the vibrant Kimmy Shields, Nonnie endures the classic “falling in love with your best friend” storyline. However, it’s a “classic” for a reason—because the phenomenon is so fucking prevalent in queer culture. Nonnie tore my heart out, chewed it up, and stomped on it, all while charming me to death with her puppy love crush, which she parlays into a powerful and independent character arc by the end of the season. I’ll watch Drew Barrymore movies with you any day, Nonnie Thompson.
Kat Edison – The Bold Type
Kat Edison, played by Aisha Dee, is an incredible queer character because her queerness simultaneously has nothing to do with her character, and yet has everything to do with her everyday life. It’s an important and rare balance; I loathe when critics say “I wish the character was gay, but the show isn’t about her being gay,” because it completely negates the very real struggles of the queer experience, but I also resent when a character’s entire personality is tokenized as “the lesbian one.” On Freeform’s The Bold Type, Kat’s friends treat her baby gayness like it’s NBD, and she explores new queer experiences with tact and excitement—something that’s both unrelatable to me and extremely inspiring.
Peach Salinger – You
Shay Mitchell, a queer fan fave who also played gay on Pretty Little Liars, played the role of Peach Salinger on Lifetime’s You, which follows a stalker, Joe (Penn Badgley), who’s obsessed with Peach’s best friend. Here’s the clincher: So is she. Peach is a pretentious, fabulous, toxic, iconic Manhattan socialite and the (fictional) queer heir to J.D. Salinger. She was hands down the most enjoyable and watchable part of this feminist stalker show—a phrase I never thought I’d say.
Anya Thorensen – Annihilation
Admittedly, this Alex Garland sci-fi thriller wasn’t for everyone. But it was extremely for me. Gina Rodriguez, who came out as queer this year, plays the butch, badass, queer action hero I feel like I’ve waited a lifetime to see. The mere existence of Anya felt rebellious—we never see queer, MoC, latinx women in major studio movies, especially as protagonists. But Anya herself was bold and intrepid. Moments before embarking on a suicide mission into the mysterious “shimmer,” an inexplicable phenomenon that kills everything it envelops, Anya tries to shoot her shot with another woman on her team, Lena, played by Natalie Portman. Nice.
Ronit Krushka – Disobedience
I think we can all agree that 2018 was the year of Lesbian Rachel Weisz. I used to think Julianne Moore was my favorite movie dyke, having played a breadth of queer characters in four films. But then Rachel Weisz blew in like a gay sharknado with not one, but two extremely Sapphic films in a year. The first is Disobedience, in which the Academy Award-winning actress plays Ronit, a queer woman who escaped the homophobic Orthodox Jewish community in her youth. The cosmopolitan photographer returns home for her father’s funeral, and unexpectedly rekindles the teenage romance that led to her exile years ago. Then she sweeps Rachel McAdams off her lesbian feet and spits in her goddamn mouth. Rachel Weisz, you gay bitch, please expand on your queer works in 2019 or lesbians will start dropping dead from unquenched thirst—not to be dramatic.
Jeri Hogarth – Jessica Jones
Karolina Dean of Runaways would’ve been a hell of a lot more exciting if the second season of Marvel’s Jessica Jones wasn’t released on Netflix the same year. Played by the stunning Carrie-Anne Moss, Jeri Hogarth was one of the many 2018 power lesbians who I wanted to be savagely murdered by. The cut-throat lawyer had a turbulent love life in season one after cheating on her wife with her secretary. Season two brought Jeri more heartbreak, but it’s OK, because she wore suits and glared at people, which is literally all I want to do.
Casey Gardner – Atypical
Netflix killed it this year with dope queer female characters—especially teenagers. Season two brought a queer storyline for the show’s leading lady, Casey, played by out queer actress Brigitte Lundy-Paine. Casey is one of my favorite queers of the year because of her baggy tomboy outfits, but also because her romance with Izzie (Fivel Stewart) was the purest, loveliest, most innocent and organic queer relationship on TV in 2018. I have a giant crush on their crush. At the end of Season 2, the girls finally hold hands after an excruciatingly close almost-kiss, and I can’t wait to see what unfolds for them next season.
Stephanie Boucher – Red Sparrow
Red Sparrow was trash. But because it was so trash, Mary-Louise Parker’s iconic lesbian character went overlooked and underappreciated. Stephanie Boucher is a compromised Chief of Staff to a U.S. senator, who’s willing to sell intelligence to a hot female Russian spy because she’s so corrupt and pussy-blind—all that, wrapped up in a chic pink peacoat and aviator sunglasses. I’ve been an MLP stan since her Weeds days, so I may be biased, but her demanding, vodka-swigging, cigarette-toting candor was one of the most delicious things I’ve watched on-screen all year. Some Stephanie Boucher greatest hits include the phrase “Being in a room with me is of fucking value,” selling out her country for money and lesbian sex, and quipping, “Why are Russian women so sexy? All the men look like toads.” We stan.
Lou – Ocean’s 8
Look, Cate Blanchett didn’t play explicitly gay in anything this year, and queer women are literally starved for more queer Cate Blanchett content. However, I believe that the LGBTQ community has opened their arms and accepted her Ocean’s 8 character as canonically queer, so Lou deserves a spot in the Top 5. Cate Blanchett has more sexual tension with Sandra Bullock in this movie than I’ve had with anyone, ever, even in my dreams. She has a jaw-dropping wardrobe, including but not limited to an unforgettable velvet, emerald three-piece suit, a baby blue suit that made my mouth water, and chef’s whites—which weirdly did it for me. Lou is more naturally handsome and charismatic than any man on planet Earth. The fact that Lou didn’t fuck any women in this movie is honestly insulting, but her emergence as a Suitlord on-screen, in addition to her numerous noteworthy red carpet appearances, was worth the inconsequential lesbianism.
Theodora Crain – The Haunting of Hill House
Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House was the first horror show or movie I’ve watched since Kate Hudson’s The Skeleton Key in 2005, but a bunch of Twitter stans said the show was gay, so I did the right thing and watched the shit out of it. Not only is Theodora Crain the most lesbian name in the history of lesbianism, but her character is rapturous to watch. Played by the magnetic Kate Siegel, who is bisexual IRL, Theodora is a tortured soul with intimacy issues—which like, get in line. Her blue eyes are a stark contrast with her black soul, which constantly urges her to reject love and affection. After growing up in the titular haunted house, Theodora developed the ability to touch any person or object and “feel” their trauma. Because it can be so triggering, she wears gloves, and actively pushes people away, both emotionally and physically. Her character is extremely relatable to all queer women, because we all think we’re witches, and we all carry more trauma than Seattle Grace. But Theodora has hot lesbian sex scenes, the best of which comes when she decides to open herself up and finally asks of her partner, “Touch me.”
Emily Nelson – A Simple Favor
After seeing Blake Lively play Emily in A Simple Favor, I started questioning everything, specifically: is the Depraved Bisexual trope really…that bad? All I know is, watching Blake Lively in Paul Feig cosplay, sporting Silver Lake Lesbian Hats, three-piece suits, and a pimp cane was the most euphoric movie-going experience I had in 2018. Emily is a manipulative, psychotic bisexual who wraps an innocent school mom, Stephanie Smothers (Anna Kendrick), into her twisted world by seducing her, and quite easily, I might add. Emily has a sprawling painting of her own bush hanging in her living room. She preys on the innocent and bicurious. She carries herself with the confidence of a wealthy, straight, white man, and is truly unlike any character I’ve seen on-screen. I think it’s safe to say that this was not only Blake Lively’s most triumphant performance to date, but also, Emily was essentially the grown-up Serena van der Woodsen we’ve waited a decade to see. We are so vastly unworthy of Emily and her outfits.
Lady Sarah – The Favourite
Lesbian Rachel Weisz strikes again. Probably my favorite film moment of the year was when Rachel Weisz, as the ruthless Lady Sarah, grabbed Olivia Colman by the throat, shoved her against her bedpost, and whispered, “Are you scared?” To quote Wonder Woman, “I’m both frightened and aroused.” Lady Sarah is likely Rachel Weisz’s best role ever, or at least most exciting. Watching her patronize men with a gleeful smirk, shove her tongue down Queen Anne’s throat, and throw books at Emma Stone was pure bliss. Not to mention her outfits, which were a marvelous cross between “ladylike” busty dresses and masculine menswear. And when she pointed a gun at Emma Stone, I wanted to stand in front of it—not because I wanted to save Emma, but because I wanted Rachel Weisz to murder me. And honorary mention to Olivia Colman as Queen Anne, who was the whiniest, most toxic and yet accurate portrayal of a queer woman I’ve ever seen on film. Bless this movie. Spit in my mouth, Lady Sarah.
Villanelle – Killing Eve
Speaking of women I want to be murdered by… Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Killing Eve was a triumphant, gleeful dance through queer hell. If you’ve been on Twitter even once this year, then you’ve probably seen a stray lesbian post a GIF of Jodie Comer as the fatal and queer Villanelle. From her now-infamous puffy pink dress, to her serial killer eyes, lesbian trysts, and excruciating sexual tension with Eve (Sandra Oh), Villanelle was the psychotic queer woman we both needed and deserved this year. BBC’s Killing Eve touched on something that has scarcely been explored in TV or film, and that’s female obsession.
MI6 agent Eve Polastri, who also gets an honorary mention on this list, becomes head-over-heels, mind-numbingly plagued by Villanelle, an assassin she’s tracking for both personal and professional reasons. Jodie Comer’s performance was bewitching, sexy, jarring, and terrifying, and she infused this character with a lovability and pathos unlike any other. It’s so rare that we even get to see queer female characters in a leading role in film or TV, and when they’re this purely good, it feels like the stars have aligned. 2018 was all about wanting to be savagely, irreversibly mutilated by queer women, and to that I say: Villanelle, assassinate me, you coward.