Desert Hearts


Desert Hearts (1986)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.


Want to See

Not Interested

Add Rating
My Rating    

Desert Hearts Photos

Movie Info

Based on Jane Rule's novel Desert of the Heart (1964), Donna Deitch's narrative feature debut centers on a burgeoning lesbian romance between libertine casino worker Cay Rivvers (Patricia Charbonneau) and repressed university professor Vivian Bell (Helen Shaver) in Reno, Nevada in the late 1950s, a climate wherein being queer was...complicated. Landmark in its positive portrayal of sapphic romance and celebrated for its passionate, sensual bedroom scenes that nearly fog the camera's lens, Deitch's vision for Cay and Vivian's nuanced onscreen relationship explores the tension inherent in a sheltered woman accepting her newfound sexual self.

Watch it now


Critic Reviews for Desert Hearts

All Critics (13) | Top Critics (3)

... this is an astonishingly polished and nuanced first film. It deserves to be celebrated, not quibbled with.

Jan 4, 2018 | Full Review…

The story is not sensationalistic, although its love scene could not be more emotional. It`s a gentle story of someone being brought in from the cold.

Jan 16, 2013 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

It's not a great movie, but it works on its own terms.

Jan 1, 2000 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

It's this evocation of a homophobia-free universe that elevates Desert Hearts from mere lesbian melodrama to the most tantalizing of wish-fulfillment fantasies.

Dec 27, 2018 | Rating: B+ | Full Review…

One of the film's most fascinating features is the use of rock and country music to build a world in which there are only two human conditions: romantic fulfillment, and romantic loneliness.

Aug 6, 2018 | Full Review…

In Desert Hearts, [Donna] Deitch takes lesbian cinema back to its future.

Aug 15, 2017 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Desert Hearts

The story of an unexpected, atypical lesbian romance set in 1950's Reno, Nevada. If you're willing to overlook the low production quality and a few stiff performances, there's a very interesting film here. Helen Shaver is absolutely gorgeous and Audra Lindley (aka Mrs. Roper) impressed almost everyone with her portrayal of the loving but closed-minded stepmother. Overall, an enjoyable, unearthshattering respite from the never-ending onslaught of 'conventional' cinema.

Randy Tippy
Randy Tippy

Super Reviewer

One of the most sensitive stories for what it feels like to be a woman who loves women, "Desert Hearts" made quite a difference when it was released. Produced in 1985, it has been one of the most groundbreaking films of its time for the American audience- one of the many forward steps that the movie industry had to take in depicting homosexuals as beautiful and as intelligent beings as any person out there ('Making Love" [1982] also comes to mind), and one of the very few stories that had a happy ending for a lesbian couple at the time. Helen Shaver and Patricia Charbonneau make a wonderful couple on the screen, and the love scenes among them feel tender, real and not contrived at all, just like their romance.

Anastasia  Bartzoulianou
Anastasia Bartzoulianou

Super Reviewer

Desert Hearts Quotes

There are no approved quotes yet for this movie.

News & Features