The Bechdel test is a useful tool, and it's a test that many blockbusters fail. The test, which is designed to determine whether a movie has made a genuine effort at female representation, has three rules or components. The first is that the movie has to have two named female characters (shockingly uncommon). The second rule is that they have to talk to each other, and the third is that the conversation can't be about a man. It doesn't seem like it should be that hard. Even so, many more movies fail than you might expect.
There are some big movies that pass, though. To be clear, that doesn't necessarily mean those movies are putting women at the center of things. The Bechdel test is the bare minimum, and although there are plenty of surprising films that pass the test, not all those movies are necessarily great at representing female characters. In 2019, all movies with more than five characters should pass this test easily. Here are a few movies that do pass that might surprise you.
Avengers: Infinity War is one of the biggest movies of all time, but it's a little surprising that the movie manages to pass the Bechdel test. It's true, there are a number of powerful female characters in the cast, but the Avengers are still an overwhelmingly male team. Although the female characters in the series are often well-developed, they don't get many chances to interact with one another in meaningful ways.
In Infinity War, they got that chance. Of course, it probably helps that the movie is more than two and a half hours long. That kind of run time leaves plenty of time for conversation.
The thing most people remember about Jurassic Park is the dinosaurs, and the reasons for that are fairly self-evident. The film's use of CGI was magnificent, but it isn't accompanied by a dearth of female characters. Even so, the film manages to pass the Bechdel test.
Perhaps that's fitting, considering Laura Dern's iconic performance in the film, and the way it has endured in pop culture. Although it's more than 25 years old now, it's not dated, at least not in regards to the Bechdel test. Hopefully, that helps preserve the movie's legacy, which has spawned an entire sequel series in recent years.
As beloved as the Harry Potter series is, it's undoubtedly a little heavy on dudes. The series did give us Hermione Granger, of course, a memorable heroine largely because she's one of the only main characters who seem to know what's going on.
Still, it may be a little surprising to learn that the very first installment in the franchise passes the Bechdel test.
20th Century Fox
Even though it made quite a bit of money, The Phantom Menace is widely regarded as a pretty massive failure, as is the rest of the prequel trilogy. Even so, it's notable that Phantom Menace does a little bit better with female representation than you might expect. Even though most of the film's central characters are men, it still somehow manages to pass the Bechdel test.
Of course, Natalie Portman's Padme has a strong presence in all three films, even if her character doesn't always have a ton to do besides pine for Anakin. Still, she managed to pass the Bechdel test, so that's something.
Independence Day is probably best remembered today for blowing up the White House, and as a result, it's often seen as a pretty male-dominated film. To some extent, that impression is accurate. After all, the movies biggest stars are almost all men, but many forget that there's an entire subplot that revolves around two women.
As a result, Independence Day manages to pass the Bechdel test, which may speak to its limitations. Even in a movie where men drive all of the primary action, the test can still be passed. It's the lowest possible bar, one that should work as a baseline instead of an end goal.
The Transformers movies feel like the ultimate boy movie. They're driven almost entirely by explosions and the goal is basically to watch big robots punch one another. Even movies like this can pass the Bechdel test, in spite of co-lead role being occupied by Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.
No one would ever describe director Michael Bay as a feminist, and it's possible that some of his movies pass the Bechdel test by accident. It certainly doesn't seem like representation is on his mind when he's shooting a movie. Of course, that's not the way things should be, but that hardly seems to matter to him.
Jack Sparrow is not notorious for his strong feminist bent. The third Pirates of the Caribbean movie, At World's End, doesn't seem like the kind of film that would pass the Bechdel test. After all, it climaxes with a rainy sword fight and a wedding on the precipice of a whirlpool. It's more than a little bombastic.
Even so, the series is notable for giving its central female character, Elizabeth Swann, quite a bit to do. She takes part in the fighting, becomes a fierce captain in her own right, and she gets to talk strategy with other powerful women.
The Incredibles 2 did incredibly well at the box office in 2018, and it also did a great job representing what it might be like to be a female superhero. Mrs. Incredible takes center stage in this second film, and gets the chance to discuss the nature of heroism with the movie's villain, who is also a women.
The first Incredibles was a little light on Mrs. Incredible, but this sequel more than makes up for it. It also proves that female superheroes can be just as powerful as their male counterparts, and often a lot more clever, too.
This may be a tale as old as time, but that also means that it's not dripping with strong female characters. In the live-action version that was released in 2017 and made a ridiculous amount of money, there's some extra padding that allows the film to pass the Bechdel test.
The film updates Belle, who was already a progressive heroine, in other notable ways. She gets more of a history and more agency. It, of course, helps that she's played by Emma Watson, who is a fierce feminist in her own right. Updating the story in this way clearly paid off, and kept the story from feeling too problematic — even if it's about Stockholm Syndrome with some serious beastiality undertones.
Look, Alice in Wonderland isn't a good movie. In fact, it's a pretty bad one. But that almost makes it more surprising that it passes the Bechdel test. At times, it can feel like Johnny Depp is the film's only actor, but that's not actually the case.
In fact, despite its many flaws, the movie actually has a number of prominent female characters, and there's nary a love interest in sight. That's one of the few virtues of the movie, which is pretty hard to watch mostly because it's so hard to look at, but also because it's a frightfully dull affair.
Captain America: Civil War is a movie about two male best friends who just can't see eye to eye. As a result, they do a lot of fighting. The movie doesn't have a ton of time to explore why each character chooses the side they choose in the war between Iron Man and Captain America, and as we've already established, most of the Avengers are men.
Still, the movie managed to pass the Bechdel test, probably thanks to the presence of characters like Scarlet Witch and Black Widow. The Marvel universe still has a long way to go with female representation, but the fact that it's conscious of female characters is a start. Captain Marvel, FTW, but we're getting ahead of ourselves, aren't we?
In Furious 7, The Rock breaks out of an arm cast by flexing. That's the kind of movie we're talking about here. It's filled to the brim with machismo and its action sequences are both awesome and totally insane. All of these qualities might make the movie seem like a bro-fest, but the Furious movies have always been good about focusing on the family at the film's center, and that family is diverse in every way imaginable.
That's why Furious 7 passes the Bechdel test with relative ease. There are several prominent women in the cast, and their not just concerned about the men.
Batman is a notoriously sullen and lonely dude, but one of the best things about The Lego Batman Movie is the way it plays with that idea. In the movie, Batman is forced to interact with people he hates, and work with others to save the day.
While most Batman movies might not pass the Bechdel test, this one does, in part because Batman is forced to form a super-team. These other heroes aren't all white men, and they illuminate how ridiculous it is to try and do everything by yourself, no matter who you are. Everyone could use a little help.
Logan is about an aging white dude who comes to grips with his own mortality. The movie works in large part because it's so sorrowful, but its dour tone is coupled with a cast made up of mostly men. Even so, the movie affords plenty of opportunities for women to interact with one another.
Believe it or not, all of the movie's conversations don't revolve around the central character, and the movie is better for that. The movie is undoubtedly about an aging superhero, but it's also about a world that's dying, and the young people that might bring it back. Thankfully, those young people are more diverse than their predecessors.
The Shrek series might not be the first place you look when you're trying to find movies with great representation. After all, they're movies about a sloppy ogre who falls in love with a princess. Shrek 2, though, is actually one of the highest-grossing films in existence that also passes the Bechdel test.
Although there are many people who love both Shrek and its sequel, in certain respects, Shrek 2 is a step above the flick that came first. It certainly doesn't hurt that the movie has more prominent roles for women. Telling stories with more diverse characters can only make those stories more interesting.
Grease is the story of two people falling in love. Because the movie is pretty consumed with that story, you might be slightly surprised to learn that the movie passes the Bechdel test. Of course, many of the best parts of Grease come from the subplots, and that's where the best female representation happens as well.
At the end of the day, most people come to Grease to have some fun watching colorful songs. If you come looking for a little bit more than that, though, you may not be entirely disappointed. It seems like Grease might have a little something for everyone.
If anything, Jurassic World has a worse reputation with representation than the original film. And yet, like that film, it also passes the Bechdel test. While Bryce Dallas Howard certainly plays a central role in the film, this speaks more to the test's limitations than anything else.
Even in movies that have central male characters, where a woman is framed running away from a dinosaur in heels, the Bechdel test can still be passed. That's why it can't be the end of conversations about representing women in Hollywood. The Bechdel should start that conversation, and give filmmakers a chance to tell female-centric stories much more frequently on a large scale.