It's the paradox at the heart of horror: with slasher victims, the possessed, and the supernaturally menaced more frequently female than not, the genre as a whole is frequently derided as misogynist. And while it's true women's bodies are frequently fetishized as they become the locus for violence, they're also
there. According to 2018 statistics gathered by Women in Hollywood, horror comes in third among all genres for featuring female protagonists. You can make a solid bet that guys are the last thing on their minds while they're trying to save their own skins, and to prove it, here are 46 of the many horror movies that pass the Bechdel test.
The Bechdel test is comprised of a simple set of guidelines. For a movie to pass: (1) It has to have at least two [named] women in it, (2) who talk to each other (3) about something besides a man.
Though far from perfect as a litmus test for feminism, it sets a (very, VERY) low bar for gender inclusivity and is a loose way of measuring the balance of female characters and their agency. Though women are more often victims than aggressors in these stories, they're also more frequently the survivors.
The role's not called the Final Girl for nothing. These movies may not possess an ideal feminist ideology, but they all pass the test, and that's something.
Aside from Carrie’s classmates, including vicious Chris (Nancy Allen) plotting against her and having plenty of locker talk (especially about prom), there’s also Carrie and her mother’s
many conversations about religion, and some about Carrie’s powers.
Who has time to talk dudes when you and your friends are solving the mystery of the home you’re in and trying to survive demonic attacks? Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman) and orphanage co-founder Esther (Miranda Otto) also talk possession, regret, and soul-transferring.
Needy (Amanda Sigfreid) and Jennifer (Megan Fox) mostly talk about their friendship, its failings, and Jennifer’s recent demonic possession way more than men, even when it comes to Needy’s boyfriend Chip (Johnny Simmons).
‘Let’s Scare Jessica To Death’
Heading to a seemingly bucolic upstate town, mentally fragile Jessica (Zohra Lampert) meets Emily (Mariclare Costello) when she, her husband Duncan and her friend Woody find her already occupying the old farmhouse they’ve bought. The ladies talk about the house they’re staying in, Emily’s mysterious past, the old photograph in the attic of a girl with a tragic past that somehow looks identical to her, and plenty more eerie doings.
Before their town blows up around them after a massive data dump reveals half the residents' secrets, Lily (Odessa Young), Sarah (Suki Waterhouse), Bex (Hari Nef) and Em (Abra) chat with each other about the internet, feminism, and each other.
Post-graduate students Helen (Virginia Madsen) and Bernadette (Kasi Lemmons) spend most of the movie talking about the urban legend Helen’s centering her thesis on; while that includes talking about the Candyman himself, it also includes urban blight, a history of the projects they work in, their careers, and their relative comfort level with sneaking around trying to uncover a possible murderer.
Depending on which reality you’re in, naive actress Betty and amnesiac Rita talk mostly about solving the mystery of Rita’s mind.
‘Spider Baby Or, The Maddest Story Ever Told’
Sisters Virginia and Elizabeth, mentally regressing as they age due to rare genetic Merrye syndrome, are frequently playing gruesome games and gossiping about their visitors: greedy cousin Emily and lawyer’s assistant Ann.
Ageless vampire Miriam Blaylock (Catherine Deneuve) seduces research scientist Sarah Roberts (Susan Sarandon) though they initially talk about Miriam’s lover (played by David Bowie), he’s out of the picture soon enough.
Alice’s work revolves around attracting and keeping her mostly male followers, but her off-time’s spent talking career and work with other female cammers, her mom, and female friends about their own lives.
After new New Yorker Frances (Chloe Grace Moretz) finds a purse on the subway, most of the film’s conversations are between her and her roommate Erica (Maika Monroe) about her sudden relationship with a lonely older woman named Greta (Isabelle Huppert). When Frances and Greta speak, it’s either about their own relationship, Greta’s history, or Frances’ mother.
Ambitious loan officer Christine (Alison Lohman) sets off her troubles after denying a mysterious woman named Sylvia her request for a mortgage extension. Christine also talks to Sylvia’s granddaughter, and tells her boyfriend’s mother and her own mother about her demonic curse.
Sisters Reggie (Catherine Mary Stewart) and Sam (Kelli Maroney) talk about the situation they find themselves in after surviving a comet that wipes out most of humanity.
Long-suffering Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis), Karen (Judy Greer), and Allyson (Andi Matichak) talk about Karen’s childhood and Laurie’s mental state, and worry about each others’ safety.
Before and after getting trapped in a mall with security robots gone berserk, Alison (Kelli Maronei), Linda (Karrie Emerson) and Suzie (Barbara Crampton) talk about escaping alive, partying, and plans to destroy the killbots.
Mom-to-be Ruth talks to her (female but unnamed) fetus about things besides getting revenge on those responsible for their husband/dad’s death, though towards that end Ruth does talk to Ella while feigning a job interview to get close to her.
Sisters Bridgette and Ginger talk art and work, classmates, and Ginger’s newfound bloodlust. Bridgette also talks to school nurse Ms. Ferry about Ginger’s violent pubescence.
In another sister-centric film, siblings Alexia and Justine talk to each other about breaking their vegetarianism and the hazing they’ve both had to endure.
While it’s hard to ask anything coherent from this absolute mind-bender of a movie, between the seven female main characters and vengeful bride house ghost, there’s many a conversation about hopes, emotions, and seeing a disembodied leg hopping around the floor that’s now a blood sea.
While there’s not too much talking in this atmospheric film, nearly all the conversations happening at the eerie Tanz Dance Academy are between new American student Suzy (Jessica Harper) and friend and roommate Sara, discussing missing female students, the strange building itself, and the school’s mysterious headmistress.
In trying to free herself from her father’s curse, Dracula’s daughter Marya ends up kidnapping Janet, her psychiatrist’s secretary. Though those two don’t talk much, Mayra discusses modeling, painting, and food after inviting the innocent and impoverished Lili to her studio, and before seducing her. She also talks vampirism with fellow high society gal Lady Hammond at a fancy dinner party.
‘Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me’
Laura and “Donna” (played by Moira Kelley as series actor
Lara Flynn Boyle didn’t want to return) have numerous conversations about life and afterlife in the week leading up to Laura's ultimate demise.
An all-female cast makes it a lot easier to pass the test, and though traumatized Sarah and estranged friend Juno do talk about Sarah's deceased husband, the group mostly discuss how to survive and interpersonal betrayals after they find themselves trapped in an unmarked cave... and that's before the Crawlers appear.
‘A Tale Of Two Sisters’
Su-Mi talks with younger sister Su-Yeon about a number of things, including their stepmother Eun-Joo, her possible abuse of Su-Yeon, and their mother's broken-necked ghost. Eun-Joo and Su-Mi discuss their own relationship; one scene at the end in particular might seem to negate the previous qualifications but the two do actually talk.
Stalked by an entity who won't stop until she's dead or sleeps with someone else (passing the entity's murderous focus along), lead Jay talks with her sister Kelly and girlfriend Yara about avoiding death, fighting the creature, and occasionally high school stuff.
Loneliness reaches psychotic levels for May, who's rejected by her short-term lovers and even her cat. Still, she talks with co-worker Polly about their relationship, Polly's girlfriend Ambrosia about what a freak May is, and if you count it as living (and May certainly does), her best friend and doll Suzie, whose voice she begins to hear.
‘Ghidora, The Three-Headed Monster’
Journalist Naoko Shindo speaks to Princess Mas Selino Salno throughout the film, particularly when Naoko rescues her from an assassination attempt. Possessed by a Venusian and predicting Ghidorah’s arrival (yep, this is a Godzilla movie folks), Princess Selino also talks to Mothra’s twin fairies, the Shobijin, who in turn communicate with Mothra (though a kaiju, she’s also canonically female).
In this mom-centric sequel, Lone
Nostromo survivor Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and lone colony survivor kid Newt talk about monsters, bad dreams, and protection. Meanwhile, Ripley and Private Vasquez talk plenty about the aliens infesting the colony, and of course, Ripley and the Alien Queen famously face off… though I’m not sure if shrieks in response count as conversation.
After a horrifying home invasion with supernatural overtones, new mom Mia ends up talking to fellow apartment tenant and bookseller Evelyn about cults, demon summoning, their daughters, and spirituality.
In seeking out her missing sister Jacqueline (Jean Brooks), Mary Gibson (Kim Hunter) runs across plenty of oddball character with something to hide, including cosmetic company CEO Mrs. Redi (Mary Newton), and Jaqueline’s former co-worker and friend Frances Fallon (Isabelle Jewel), both members of the same Satanic cult.
Reagan and her mother, actress Chris McNeill, speak to each other throughout the movie about topics not related to men, like Reagan telling her about her new imaginary friend Captain Howdy.
Mystery author Cornelia Van Gorder and her maid Lizzie become embroiled in a town’s stolen securities scandal, while a murderer nicknamed The Bat remains on the loose, using a metal claw to kill. Two women tangent to the securities case, Dale and Judy, stay with Cornelia — the four women talk about the scandal, how and where to hide, and once The Bat shows up, what to do.
‘The House On Willow Street’
Kidnapper Hazel (Sharni Vinson) talks to diamond heiress Katherine (Carlyn Burchell) about their plan to ransom her, but the oddly grimy Katherine has other plans, talking to Hazel about her own past.
After aspiring author and business heiress Edith (Mia Wasikowska) marries into the Sharpe family, she has numerous conversations with coldblooded sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain) about Edith’s sudden, mysterious illness, their childhoods, and the importance of Edith signing legal documents handing over her rights and estate.
Fashion designer/possible cat person Irena has a casual conversation with her husband’s terrified assistant Alice after the latter was stalked in a pool and found her bathrobe torn. Alice talks about the same incident to gym attendants Mrs. Hanson and Blondie, but is generally chatty throughout the film — she talks to cleaning lady Mrs. Agnew about matchbook collecting and coffee with Minnie the waitress.
The film opens with teens Becca and Katie talking about a tape that kills you if you watch it, and Katie’s sister Rachel (Naomi Watts), an investigative reporter, talks to several women from Moesko Island about a girl named Samara who might be behind it.
After a broadcast static signal drives every parent to kill their own offspring, teenager Carly discusses the attacks with her friend Riley. Carly’s mom Kendall, not yet exposed, talks to her friend Jeanne about her sister Jenna's pregnancy and being a parent. Kendall talks Jenna through the birthing process, but right after the birth they hear the static broadcast, and Kendall has to talk Jenna out of killing her new niece. When Kendall arrives home (having also been exposed to the static), she and Carly have plenty of discussions trying to kill and avoid being killed.
Though the movie features mother Renai (Rose Byrne), her mother Lorraine (Barbara Hershey), and paranormal expert Elsie (Lin Shae), they're usually talking about Renai's seemingly possessed son Dalton. The film gets a pass based on the lone conversation Renai and Lorraine have solely about moving houses again, with no mention of Dalton.
After the accidental drowning of their young daughter Christine, wife Laura (Julie Christie) travels with her husband (Donald Sutherland) to Venice. There she meets older sisters Wendy and Heather, the latter who says she’s psychic and though blind can “see” Laura’s daughter. Though they also warn Laura about her son and husband, they mostly talk visions of Christine.
Mom Adelaide talks to daughter Zora about normal teen stuff and paying attention. Once the Tethered show up, Adelaide and doppelgänger Red have plenty to talk about that doesn’t focus on men.
Naive newcomer Jesse becomes the focus of interest for makeup artist Ruby and older models Sarah and Gigi — they press her for details about her career and sex life. Later, Gigi and Jesse talk plastic surgery, while Ruby tries sleeping with Jesse as a woman is sexually assaulted next door.
Night reporter Angela finds herself amid a pandemic after following firefighters on a ride-along. The building is quarantined, and Angela interviews numerous women in the apartment building about what happened, piecing together the cause.
Waitress Eva Barnes and teen daughter Cali cross paths with couple Shane and Liz when they're all caught outside the night of the Purge. Arriving safely at Eva's coworker Tanya's house, the women discuss Eva asking for a raise, before Tanya's brutally murdered by her own sister. Eva, Cali, and Liz have numerous conversations with each other on their situation (usually dire) and how to get out of it.
Proving pre-code can stay up to code, Ruth (Fay Wray), her hypochondriac Aunt Gussie and house servant Georgiana have several conversations about the seemingly vampiric attacks happening in their small hamlet.
And finally, showing that even a movie centered around a woman's emotions and problems might not pass muster,
The Babadook skirts by on a brief part of a conversation frayed mom Amelia has with her sister Claire about her job and life, before it turns back to her son Sam and loss of her husband.
The Bechdel test isn't the sturdiest signifier of a movie's feminism, nor was that its intent. Instead, it's a good guidepost for where a genre is in relation to women, and luckily, horror has always been close to the forefront.