An imperfect measurement, a painfully low hurdle, a useful talking point —
the Bechdel Test is many things to many people, but its rules remain simple and straightforward as its 1985 comic-strip inception. To pass it, a movie has to have a) at least two women in it who b) talk to each other c) about something besides a man. That's it! Yet many movies coming out, even today, fail to meet just the first piece of criteria. These 24 recent movies pass the Bechdel Test, however, and taking a look at them together raises questions about what exactly that means.
Famously the movie
Gravity, starring and focused on Sandra Bullock's astronaut surviving impossible odds, doesn't pass the test — there's no other woman in the film for her to talk to. Does that mean the film is anti-feminist? Flawed? Instead of taking it as full and definitive judgment, the Bechdel Test is best seen as a litmus. It asks for the bare minimum of female involvement and interiority. If a film's focus isn't on women, like Bechdel-failing Call Me By Your Name, that doesn't necessarily mean the film itself is sexist. But if the majority of Hollywood output isn't passing the floor-level bar for female inclusion, that points to a larger systemic problem that needs taking care of.
The films below all feature women talking to each other about not-dudes. It's not that hard of a metric to reach, yet, still rare enough that we're pointing them out.
course a heist movie featuring four outstanding women is going to pass the test. How else would they plan the heist? They do talk about their deceased husbands, the motivation for taking on the gig, but they have their own problems too.
'To All The Boys I've Loved Before'
While the film's main focus is on Lara Jean dealing with love letters and relationships, she talks to her friends about work, a movie they're working on, and, you know, other things friends chat about.
'Ralph Breaks The Internet'
Vanelope and Shank, a rough driver from Slaughter Race, have a number of conversations about life and friendship.
barely squeaks by on a technicality, as Ally talks stage instructions with stage manager Gail before running out to face the crowd. Take that brief exchange away and it doesn't pass the third step.
While the film's filled with female characters, most of them
are talking about the hero and villain and what they're up to. Still, a conversation about the safety of the princess and queen helps this Marvel movie pass every step of the way.
This one is a slam dunk. An all-female team of scientists enter a strange zone known as the Shimmer. Once inside, they're all business, and there's no dudes to even talk about. Natalie Portman's character is not about to bring up the mysterious reappearance of her husband that secretly motivated her volunteering.
'Can You Ever Forgive Me?'
Though much of the film features celebrity biopic scribe-turned-forger Lee Israel talking to and working with her friend Jack, men aren't the main focus personally or sexually, save as accomplices.
Though the film's chockablock with excellent actresses conversing with each other, this is another close call as the majority of their conversations, overtly or otherwise, revolve around the possibility of dating and marrying lead dude Nick.
There is a
lot going on in this film and very little of it is about dating and boys, though there is a fascination with the role of the oldest son. Still, there are mother and daughter talks about death, a mom talking to a family friend about grief... So, this movie passes the test, though that'll be the furthest thing from your mind come the ending.
Surprise surprise — another all-lady heist movie, another pass of the Bechdel with flying colors. Lady Heist Movies: the perfect film subgenre?
Wait, maybe make that witch-centric horror. This film features very few dudes and plenty of ladies obsessed with their craft.
The leading lad and his lady talk about black liberation at the movie's start, but after that it's mostly focused on two guys infiltrating the Klan: one of the reasons the Bechdel is a flawed metric more useful as a jumping-off point.
Two women vying for the favor of the Queen? Of
course they're not going to talk about or focus on guys. There's still interaction with and talk about potential roadblocks and intrigues, but these two women have their blinders on to men most of the time.
Despite the film focusing mostly on a woman, the conversations not about men are few and far between, especially if you count the two kids she's watching and her employer's divorce weighing heavily. Still, talking with family about their land, and a girlfriend about movies, gets
Roma a pass.
Guys are mentioned, but it's mostly self-confidence, friendship, and body image issues explored in this story of a gal entering her town's local beauty pageant.
For gawky Kayla, being cool is the subject of discussion with a number of classmates more often than it is boys.
'The Spy Who Dumped Me'
While guys got them into this mess, the sheer need to survive has these besties talking a lot less about dudes and more about how to spy.
A close mother-daughter relationship ensures this film passes with flying colors. Also I'm going to assume the Meg's herself is a lady too.
In this film that absolutely drops any kind of corporate accountability, the awful corporate head demands a doomed scientist get data and samples at risk of her own life. Both just happen to be female.
'Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!'
Another secret to passing the Bechdel? Mother-daughter relationships, since they give ladies something to talk about besides dudes (though they come up too).
A film that combines mother-daughter relationships with horror's need to convey information to stay alive! Also, main man Mike Meyers is the silent type.
Bianca and Mary Anne talk marriage and pregnancy — not exactly the female liberation one would hope for, but the Bechdel's just about having women with agency
Numerous ladies in this isolated cult town talk shop, trade information, and try to figure out how to get away from this nightmarish place.
Despite a heavy focus on virginity, there are enough women and a lone mother-daughter conversation about going to college for this film to pass.
As you can take away from this erratic mix of films, the Bechdel Test works best as a starting point, not a line in the sand, for how well a movie incorporates women and their agency.