The Bechdel test, originated in Alison Bechdel’s 1985 comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For (she credits the idea to her friend Liz Wallace and the writings of Virginia Woolf), is a basic metric for determining the level of gender bias in a film. It asks three simple questions:
Does a movie contain two or more women characters? Do those women talk to each other? And if so, do they discuss something other than a man?
The test, of course, presents a low bar and is a deeply imperfect measurement of any kind of feminist achievement—“oh my god, Becky, look at her butt” would pass, as we’ve previously noted. And yet, a shocking number of films, particularly those made by men, do not come anywhere close to passing. As Polygraph wrote in 2016: “Birdman fails. Avatar fails. Fucking Toy Story fails. On bechdeltest.com, a site for crowdsourcing Bechdel Test results, about 40 percent of films don’t pass. It’s a sad state since women exist in life, like, half the time.”
We initially set out to compile a list of our favorite films that pass the Bechdel test—using the later-added requirement that the women characters be named—but that list would’ve had to include movies like A League of Their Own that are such obvious passers as to render the test useless. Perhaps it’s more interesting to take a look at the films you may not expect would clear this bar, but somehow did.
So Jezebel presents for discussion: the 18 most surprising movies that pass the Bechdel test.