Obviously, romantic comedies are focused primarily on the love story between the main couple, which means that most of the dialogue is between or about the leads and their relationship. But many of these films also feature solid bonds between women, whether they're friends, family, or otherwise.
These 22 rom-coms even pass the Bechdel test, which means that they 1) have at least two named women characters who 2) talk to each other 3) about something besides a man.
Though the requirements to pass the Bechdel test are quite minimal and seem easy enough to check off, many, many
films fail to meet that standard. But — perhaps surprisingly — a number of rom-coms do meet the criteria, and even go above and beyond. From moms and fairy godmother-figures to sisters and besties, three-dimensional female characters exist in a good number of love stories and have distinct, very meaningful exchanges with their equally strong and well-drawn peers.
Now, not all of the movies below are free of problematic plot points. None of them are perfect. But they all celebrate some form of sisterhood — whether by blood or by sorority. These 22 romantic comedies pass the Bechdel test, and then some.
The friendship formed between Beverly Hills high school students Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone), her best friend Dionne (Stacey Dash), and clueless new girl Tai (Brittany Murphy) is undeniable. Though a lot of the time they do talk about boys and getting into relationships with the men of their dreams, they also talk about school, "proper" etiquette, and what they perceive to be self-improvement.
Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) and the bond she shares with her sorority sisters, and her newfound friend Paulette (Jennifer Coolidge) is part of what makes
Legally Blonde a feminist masterpiece. Elle doesn't just talk about her ex-boyfriend with these women. With her sisterhood, she discusses the important matters of running their house, and with Paulette she talks about everything that's going on in a turbulent time in her life, a.k.a. law school. She also eventually befriends Warner's (Matthew Davis) fiancée Vivian (Selma Blair), and they have a little chat about self-worth.
F.B.I. Agent Gracie Hart (Sandra Bullock) is forced to go undercover as a pageant contestant, despite her disdain for everything beauty pageants stand for. But in the process she gets to know the girls more and comes to realize that they lead much richer lives that she assumed.
'10 Things I Hate About You'
10 Things I Hate About You is a modern rendition of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew. And while that plot line isn't exactly feminist, and the focus of the film is still largely on Katarina Stratford (Julia Stiles) and Patrick Verona (Heath Ledger), in the end Kat and her sister Bianca (Larisa Oleynik) come out with a better sibling relationship as they talk through their issues. Kat and her best friend Mandella (Susan May Pratt) also seem to choose to talk about everything besides boys.
Mia Thermopolis (Anne Hathaway) and her best friend Lilly Moscovitz (Heather Matarazzo) are thick as thieves. They talk about anything and everything with each other — from the annoying popular kids at school to what's going on in their own homes. And so, obviously, when Mia finds out the life-altering fact that she's the Princess of Genovia and heir to the Genovian throne, Lilly's one of the first people that she runs to.
When Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan) first arrives at North Shore High School, social outcasts Janis Ian (Lizzy Caplan) and Damian (Daniel Franzese) teach her about the ins and outs of the school. And while Cady does talk to Janis about her crush on Aaron Samuels (Jonathan Bennett), the majority of their conversations are about their plot to take down Regina George (Rachel McAdams). Once Cady also successfully infiltrates "The Plastics," she manages to befriend Gretchen (Lacey Chabert) and Karen (Amanda Seyfried) and convinces them to overthrow Regina.
Young Jenna Rink's (Christa B. Allen) only real friend is her neighbor Matt (Sean Marquette), and her only interaction with other girls was with the popular Six Chicks led by Tom-Tom (Alexandra Kyle) who only uses her for their homework. But when she suddenly finds herself "30, flirty, and thriving," Jenna (Jennifer Garner) learns that she's "friends" with grown-up Tom-Tom/Lucy (Judy Greer) because they work together at fashion magazine Poise. She also befriends a young girl named Becky (Renee Olstead) in her apartment building, with their first real convo in the elevator being about cute shoes and dresses.
Sam's (Hilary Duff) always had fellow diner waitress and her dad's good friend Rhonda (Regina King) on her side. She talks to her about everything from the torture her evil stepmother (Jennifer Coolidge) and stepsisters subject her to to missing her late father to her plans for her high school's masked ball. Rhonda is basically her fairy godmother.
In this modern rendition of
Twelfth Night, Viola Hastings (Amanda Bynes) with the help of her friends Kia (Amanda Crew) and Yvonne (Jessica Lucas) hatches a plan for her to pass off as her twin brother Sebastian (James Kirk) in order to prove that she's just as good — if not better — than men when it comes to soccer. Her main girls are there to support her through her transformation process with their magician of a makeup artist friend Paul (Jonathan Sadowski), and are always there to help her on days where she has to play both Sebastian and Viola. Later, she also finds an ally in fellow debutante and her roommate's crush Olivia (Laura Ramsey).
Though best friends Claire (Emma Roberts) and Hailey (JoJo) love to swoon and stare at beach town hottie Raymond (Jake McDormand), they also confide their secrets to each other and have the difficult conversation about going their separate ways as Hailey's family moves to Australia. When mermaid Aquamarine (Sara Paxton) enters their lives, they become an inseparable threesome.
'Angus, Thongs, And Perfect Snogging'
Georgia (Georgia Groome) and her friends, Jas (Eleanor Tomlinson), Ellen (Manjeeven Grewal) and Rosie (Georgia Henshaw) are all trying to navigate teenage life in the small town of Eastbourne. They all help each other with boy problems, but also with other coming-of-age concerns like puberty and awkward bangs phases, as well as the change coming with Georgia's dad accepting a job in New Zealand.
Rebellious Malibu girl Poppy Moore (Emma Roberts) forms an unexpectedly genuine friendship with her dorm mates Kate (Kimberley Nixon), Kiki (Sophie Wu), Drippy (Juno Temple), and Josie (Linzey Crocker) as they help her accomplish her mission to break all the rules in their British boarding school in order to get expelled. And while the headmistress's son, Freddie (Alex Pettyfer), becomes a point of interest, their conversations include a wide variety of topics, including sex, Poppy's life in the U.S., lacrosse, and the bully of a prefect Harriett (Georgia King).
Annie (Kristen Wiig) and her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) don't get a lot of opportunities to have one-on-one talks, despite Annie being the maid of honor in Lillian's wedding. But Annie does wind up spending a lot of time with bridesmaid Helen (Rose Byrne), who seems to be undermining her at every turn. And though their relationship is very negative at first, this film passes the Bechdel test because they do not, in fact, talk about men. Most of their conversation is centered around bridal entourage activities.
Olive Penderghast's (Emma Stone) best friend Rhiannon (Alyson Michalka) does talk her ear off about "losing her virginity," guys, and sex. It doesn't take long for Rhiannon and Olive's friendship to crumble after Rhiannon accuses Olive of cheating with her boyfriend. But Olive's relationship with her mom Rosemary (Patricia Clarkson) is very strong, and shows a lot of depth in terms of talking about getting through high school, and surviving social crucifixion because of your sexuality.
This movie is, supposedly, the total opposite of talking about men 24/7. And although many men are part of Alice's (Dakota Johnson) story, Robin (Rebel Wilson) also teaches her about how to have fun as a single woman living in New York City.
The story centers on Ryan (Regina Hall), Sasha (Queen Latifah), Lisa (Jada Pinkett-Smith), and Dina (Tiffany Hadish) as they all go on a girls trip together to the Essence Festival in New Orleans. And beyond talking boyfriends/husbands/love lives, they also need this trip to work through their issues as a girl gang.
'The Incredible Jessica James'
Aspiring playwright Jessica James (Jessica Williams) is living life as a newly-single woman in New York with her best friend Tasha (Noël Wells). And that involves talking about vibrators, sexuality, and just life in general. With female empowerment being front and center in this film, Jessica's break up with her former flame Damon (LaKeith Stanfield) and her complicated friendship with Boone (Chris O'Dowd) take the back seat.
When Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) is introduced to the crazy rich world of Singapore's high society by her boyfriend Nick Young (Henry Golding), she gets overwhelmed so it's a good thing she has women who have her back. While her college friend Peik Lin (Awkwafina) talks her through the dos and don'ts of interacting with the Singaporean elite, Nick's cousin Astrid (Gemma Chan) helps comfort her when it comes to her insecurities regarding Nick's family.
'To All The Boys I Loved Before'
Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor) not only has her BFF Christine (Madeleine Arthur) to talk to about her woes in life. She also has her sisters Margot (Janel Parrish) and Kitty (Anna Cathcart) to laugh with about their dad's poor cooking skills, talk with about her terrible driving, and dig deep with to process the loss of their mom.
Though the premise on the movie does have a lot to do with setting up Harper's (Zoey Deutch) editor Kirsten (Lucy Liu) with Charlie's (Glen Powell) boss Rick (Taye Diggs), Harper also manages to turn her strained relationship with Kirsten around by the end of the film. They have a serious talk about career, and about what it means to fight and work hard for a story.
At the center of
Someone Great is a broken romantic relationship, but really the story is focused on the friendship of Jenny Young (Gina Rodriguez) and her girlfriends Erin (DeWanda Wise) and Blair (Brittany Snow). In an attempt to get Jenny out of her post-breakup funk, they pull out every stop to have the time of their lives on one epic night out.
Though Sasha Tran (Ali Wong) and Marcus Kim (Randall Park) are the childhood besties most highlighted in the film, there's also Sasha's long-time friend and now-manager Veronica (Michelle Buteau). Aside from talking about men, pregnancy, and life, they also talk shop.
These films don't just have strong female leads. They also have supporting women characters of substance and important female friendships. So invite your own support system over and share these Bechdel-passing rom-coms with them.