Ever since I learned about the Bechdel Test, a way of measuring how women relate to each other in film, I haven’t been able to watch movies without thinking about it.
Named after American cartoonist Alison Bechdel, who laid out the rules in a 1985 comic strip, there are three conditions that must be met for a movie to pass:
1. The film must have two or more women
2. These women must talk to each other
3. About anything other than a man
The idea is so simple, and yet it’s amazing how many iconic and beloved movies do not pass, revealing that women are present in fictional works, but often only to a certain degree. Among many that fail are Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II, Avatar, the entire original Star Wars trilogy and the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
The good news is, there are also great films that do pass the test, thus portraying female characters connecting, talking to each other and sharing a relationship that exists outside of men. Here are some of my favorites:
1. Alien (1979) –Alien was the movie cited as an example when the Bechdel Test was originally created, and it is still one of my favorite sci-fi movies. The spaceship has a crew of two women, Ripley and Lambert, who discuss with each other what to do about the monster. There are also some great scenes where Ripley singlehandedly takes down the alien, challenging traditional gender norms.
2. Frozen (2013) –Like many others, I have fallen for Frozen’s wonderful charm and it is also one of the top-grossing films to pass the Bechdel Test. The story focuses on the relationship between two sisters, making it a unique Disney princess film that doesn’t just center around a princess finding her prince, and can be enjoyed at any age.
3. Frances Ha (2013) – This comedy-drama about a struggling 20-something in New York won my heart last year. It’s rare to watch a movie that truly reflects how it feels to be a girl growing up dealing with changing friendships and the struggle to define yourself as an adult, and this one succeeded.
4. Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) – This movie has a strong female lead, interesting characters and an exciting plot—and I was happy to see a scene where Katniss and Primrose, her sister, share a moment alone to talk.
5. Roman Holiday (1954) – This is one of my very favorite movies and I was also delighted to find that it passes the Bechdel Test despite being made over 50 years before many movies that have failed it. It is about a princess who runs away to experience Rome on her own, and includes a sweet scene where Princess Ann talks about the joy of wearing pajamas instead of a nightgown with her lady-in-waiting.
These are only a few great films that pass the Bechdel Test among many– and hopefully there will be many more to come!