Bechdel Test Success

by ELENA HELMERS-WEGMAN '15


The Bechdel Test took America’s movie theaters by storm in 2013. This revolutionary idea was conceived by Alison Bechdel as a way to evaluate how female-friendly a film is. Movies can pass this test by having:

  1. at least two women

  2. at least two women who talk to each other

  3. at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man.

While this is seemingly simple, there is an alarmingly high amount of mainstream movies that fail miserably at this evaluation.

Last year, 36% of the 50 most successful movies actually passed the Bechdel test. Simply put, only 18 of America’s top movies last year featured women who talked to one another about something that wasn’t a man. To be clear, men are not bad. Men are good! There are just many other people, ideas, and events that are also important to women, and the media not accurately representing this sends the harmful message that men are, in fact, the only thing women think about and live for.

The Bechdel Test, however, has not only pointed out the lack of legitimate female representation that surrounds all of us. Essentially, this test is also proving that movies which meet the test’s qualifications are more successful and make more money. Representing women in a fair way is actually in Hollywood’s favor.

About half of the movies in the chart below passed the Bechdel Test, more or less. These movies grossed a combined total of $4.22 billion in the US box office. On the flip side, about half of the movies did not pass. These movies made about $2.66 billion in America. This is just a little over half of what their female-friendly counterparts made. If directors want to make a successful and profitable movie, the better option now is to portray women in a more holistic and respectful light. These new, exciting findings seem to be showing that sexism no longer sells in Hollywood.