Lights, Camera, Action, FAIL: Bechdel Test Proves Women Not Represented in Hollywood Films

2010 was suppose to be the year for women in Hollywood.

Kathryn Bigelow won Best Director for her work in the The Hurt Locker, the first woman to ever receive this accolade.

Sandra Bullock won Best Actress for The Blind Side, the first film of all time with a female lead to gross over $200 million at the box office.

Mo’Nique won Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Precious, another film that broke box office records scoring over $100,000 per theater in the first weekend of its limited release in 18 theaters.

These leading ladies did us proud but did movies this year past do the same? Do they ever?

The Bechdel Test created in 1985 to measure the presence of women in films can help us find the answer. The test asks that you answer the following three questions while judging a movie:

  1. Does the movie have at least two named women in it?
  2. Do these two women talk to each other?
  3. Do the women talk to each other about something other than men? 

Simple enough but unfortunately the majority of movies fail. According to (a site which does not seem to capture a comprehensive list of all movies in a given year) only 7 out of 21 movies listed so far this year make the cut. Not a good sign.

Let me be clear on something though. This test is only intended to measure the presence of women in movies – not whether it is a feminist movie or one that steers clear from gender stereotypes or ideas. It simply measures whether women appear in a given movie at all and if they do if they discuss topics besides men, which it appears is often not the case. That means that women who do appear in movies are either nameless or only talking about men, or worse, both.

This helpful video from Feminist Frequency explains it all perfectly:

If we really want Hollywood to embrace women then we need more movies that not only pass the Bechdel Test but ones that explore the full spectrum of experiences women encounter – not just the ones that include conversations about men.

Does your favorite movie past the test?

Image used with a Creative Commons license.


Beng Kiat Low
low beng kiat6 years ago


Inez Deborah Altar

Eventually one has to be human not just female

Kay L.
KayL NOFORWARDS6 years ago

It would be nice to see the list referenced to see which movies failed or passed before going to see them in the theatre or buying DVDs.

Morgan G.
Morgan Getham6 years ago

Need some clarifications in order to judge my own collection:

1. Do girls count, if they are integral to the plot, independently developed characters, and have their own lines? (For example, it would hard to imagine Hayley Mills' "The Trouble With Angels" as not qualifying.)

2. For science fiction films, do female aliens count? In the absence (or dearth) of humans, sometimes all you have is aliens. But it is usually not hard to tell males from females there. How about sentient (or semi-sentient) computers?

For films based on historical events, especially major battles, it's really tough to get females into them in a meaningful way. Throughout most of history, war was pretty much a male endeavor.

Marianna M.
Marianna M.6 years ago

noted thanks

Mike K.6 years ago

not really sure if this proves a point

corinne ramsden
corinne ramsden6 years ago

good article

Sarah Nicol
Sarah Nicol6 years ago

I just looked over at the first shelf of films I have - 5/15 pass the test - but Bridget Jones' Diary, one of them, has her main focus being on men, and everything else on the back-burner (although this IS based on a book), another is Closer, when the two female characters talk - but it's only light chat which is essentially a mask and is actually about a man. VERY disappointing.

alicia m.
alicia m.6 years ago

12The Feminist Frequency (Or More To The Point Not) In Movies. The Bechdel Test
Society & Culture (tags: movies, women )

gail d.
gail dair6 years ago

Thanks for post