Wouldn’t it be lovely if a
could determine whether something, or someone, was feminist? It would be the first question we asked all our Tinder dates, that’s for sure. simple, three-question test
the Bechdel Test, which was created in 1985 by cartoonist Alison Bechdel in a now-famous comic strip. Essentially, the Bechdel Test is a metric which determines whether a movie or TV series pays ample attention to its women characters. The Bechdel test has three stipulations: two named women characters need to have a conversation about something other than a man.
With a rule that simple, you’d think almost every movie would pass. But you’d be wrong. In 2016,
to meet the test’s requirements. one third of all top movies failed
Of course, passing the Bechdel Test isn’t enough to determine whether a film takes its women characters seriously. But nonetheless, it provides a critical lens through which we can reframe movies.
From swashbucklers to romantic musicals, here's how these iconic movies pass the test with flying colors (or just barely).
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(2006) Snakes On A Plane
Compared to a snake infestation, turbulence is no biggie. Luckily for the passengers on this plane, Samuel L. Jackson is there to spearhead the mission against poisonous creepy-crawlies.
When It Passes: Quickly and easily, actually. There are many named women on the airplane. Even before the plane takes off, Claire (Julianna Margulies), Tiffany (Sunny Mabrey), and Mercedes (Rachel Blanchard) groan about the unavailability of first class. And to think, their problems will only get worse from there. James Dittiger/New Line/REX/Shutterstock More
The ultimate summer blockbuster,
Jaws follows a band of New Englanders on their quest to fight a great white shark, hungry for humans’ legs (and bodies). And while most of the action is between a bunch of men on a boat, it passes the Bechdel Test — if barely.
When It Passes: Ellen Brody (Lorraine Gary) speaks the local motel owner, Mrs. Taft, about whether Ellen will ever achieve true “islander" status. Universal/REX/Shutterstock More
(2006) Children Of Men
This sci-fi film does more than pass the Bechdel Test. In
Children of Men, the fate of the world relies on one woman. For 20 years, all women have been rendered infertile, plunging humanity into a grim apocalyptic outlook. That all changes when Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey) gets pregnant, and an outlaw woman and a midwife are determined to help her deliver that child.
When It Passes: Kee speaks to Julien (Julianne Moore) and her midwife quite often, and have more urgent things to consider than men. Snap Stills/REX/Shutterstock More
(2011) The Help
In 1960s Alabama, Skeeter (Emma Stone) returns home from college with hopes of being a writer. For her first journalistic endeavor, Skeeter compiles the oral history of the Black women who work in the houses of local white families. At first, only Aibileen (Viola Davis) is willing to talk. But soon, stories emerge that will turn the white community on its head.
When It Passes: The Help doesn't just pass the Bechdel Test immediately and easily. It also fails the "Reverse Bechdel Test," which has the same requirements as the Bechdel Test — but replaces men for women. Essentially, this means no two men speak to each other during the course of the film. Dreamworks Pictures/REX/Shutterstock More
(2006) Little Miss Sunshine
Sure, everyone’s family is dysfunctional. But does
your dysfunctional family pile into a yellow van and drive to Florida so your goofy kid sister can compete in a beauty pageant? Probably not. Happy-go-lucky and blissfully naive Olive (Abigail Breslin) makes the movie.
When It Passes: Olive speaks to her mother (Toni Collette) in many instances. Olive also has a conversation with Miss California about ice cream. 20th Century Fox/Fox Searchlight Pictures/REX/Shutterstock More
(2017) Beauty And The Beast
The live-action revival of put some feminist touches on the original version. For one, Belle, not her father, is a master inventor. Beauty and the Beast
When It Passes: While the Beast and her father are on Belle's mind, she still has a conversation with Mrs. Potts and the wardrobe about the enchanted castle. Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock More
(2016) La La Land
This romantic musical tells the story of two star-crossed lovers, Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), who are
slightly more obsessed with their careers than they are with each other. While La La Land missed the Academy Award for Best Picture, it passes the Bechdel Test. We can pass that on as a consolation prize. When It Passes: The film passes in many instances, but perhaps most notably when Mia discusses going to a party with her three women roommates. Mia also discusses a potential acting role with a woman casting director. More
(2003) Kill Bill Vol. 1
In this violent Tarantino film, Uma Thurman plays the Bride, a woman who goes after a team of assassins after they tried to kill her and her unborn child. Samurai action stunts abound.
When It Passes: On the Bride’s first stop on her kill tour, she visits Vernita Green (Vivica Fox). After Vernita’s daughter Nikki comes home, the women retreat to the kitchen and the physical fight turns into a verbal one. After Nikki leaves, the Bride kills Vernita. A Band Apart/Miramax/REX/Shutterstock More
(2004) Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
Anchorman, a feud brews between newscaster Ron Burgundy and Veronica Corningstone, the newcomer who threatens to outshine him. It’s the 1970s, and the patriarchy is losing its hold in the newsroom. Mr. Burgundy doesn’t handle it with grace, but he does handle it with hilarity.
When It Passes: Veronica Corningstone speaks to an office assistant, Donna, about a cat fashion show. Snap Stills/REX/Shutterstock More
(2001) Donnie Darko
Understated at the time of their release, cult movies often produce some important cultural touch points. In
Donnie Darko, that touchpoint was a massive bunny that keeps popping up in Donnie Darko’s dreams.
When It Passes: In a conversation straight out of suburbia, Kitty (Beth Grant) visits the Darko family home and talks to Rose (Mary McDonnell) the duties required for their daughters’ dance group. This conversation spurned Donnie Darko’s famous line, “Sometimes I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion!” Dale Robinette/Flower Films/Gaylord/Adam Fields Prod/REX/Shutterstock More Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here? The Best Indie Movies You Might Have Missed The Best Documentaries Streaming Right Now On Netflix Ryan Gosling's La La Land Piano Teacher Is A Lovely (& Lucky) Woman