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10 Famous Films That Surprisingly Fail The Bechdel Test

Some of the most popular films of all time fail The Bechdel Test, and often for reasons you may have never considered.
The Social Network
By  · Published on November 11th, 2013

The Bechdel Test, if you’re not familiar with it, is a benchmark for movies developed by Alison Bechdel in 1985. For a movie to pass The Bechdel Test, it must contain just one thing – a scene in which two or more named female characters have a conversation (that is, back and forth dialogue) about anything at all besides men. Anything, even if it’s something stereotypically feminine, like shopping or shoes. It could be about dog poo. It doesn’t matter.

Sounds simple, right? Then it might be kinda shocking to find out that out of 2,500 movies, only about half pass the test. And to be clear, passing doesn’t mean the movie’s good or bad. Failing the test doesn’t mean the movie’s evil or anti-woman, or that passing makes it some sort of strongly feminist movie. It’s just to get people thinking about gender and how it’s presented in film. In fact, the example Bechdel gave as a film that passed the test was Alien, simply because Ripley and Lambert have a brief conversation about the alien. (Let’s ignore the fact that the alien was a walking penis-monster, as this was before the Xenomorphs had established sexes – the Queens weren’t introduced until 1986’s Aliens.)

But it’s still surprising to find out that some of the most popular films of all time fail the test, and often for reasons you may have never considered.

10. The Social Network

Mark Zuckerberg and his buddies spend two hours screwing over each other and everyone else around them in pursuit of Facebook billions, apparently in an attempt to prove that nerds can’t have friends.

Why it fails the test:

None of the women in the movie ever talk to each other. In fact, they’re kinda just flat characters who the male characters ignore or bang in bathrooms when it’s dramatically appropriate. Aaron Sorkin, the film’s writer, actually commented on the lack of three-dimensional female characters in an interview with Stephen Colbert, saying that the women are “prizes”. Aw, Sorkin, you charmer, you.

9. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II

Harry and his friends (several of whom are female) begin making their final moves to take down Lord Voldemort. They confront him, defeat him, age weirdly, and everyone lives happily ever after.

Why it fails the test:

None of the female characters in the film actually have a conversation. They trade quips a few times, like when Prof. McGonagall makes a comment about “always wanting to use that spell” to Mrs. Weasley when she brings the stone statues to life, or when Mrs. Weasley calls Bellatrix a bitch…but no one actually responds and, y’know, talks. They might as well be talking to themselves (or, more likely, the audience).

8. Avatar

A paraplegic dude gets his brother’s hand-me-down remote control alien, falls in love with another alien, fights off a bunch of humans, and decides he likes being an alien more, because apparently he thinks living on a planet full of terrifying animals and waiting for the humans to come back sounds like a good time.

Why it fails the test:

Like Harry Potter, there are a few brief moments where female characters say a single line at each other, but they don’t actually hold a conversation…except in one scene, where Neytiri and her mother have a drawn out discussion. The only problem is that the conversation is about Jake, who, you probably noticed, is a man. You were so very close, James Cameron.

7–5. The Original Star Wars Trilogy

A kid on a distant planet finds out about a magical “force” from an old man and he learns to be a Jedi and they fight against the Empire and yada yada. Honestly, if you don’t know this, then I hope that 35-year coma was really peaceful and lovely.

Why it fails the test:

There are only three named female characters in the original trilogy with speaking roles – Princess Leia, Aunt Beru, and Mon Mothma, one of the leaders of the Rebel Alliance. In three films, none of them says a word to each other. Seriously, George, why is the whole galaxy a sausage fest? Do those bacta tanks grow babies, too?

An extra big kick in the nuts to Star Wars fans: The prequel trilogy actually passes the test (partially). Padme speaks to Shmi Skywalker in Episode I and to her handmaidens at various points in Episode II, and in both cases, they discuss things other than men. (Episode III does still fail, though. No females speak to each other in that one.)

4–2. The Entire Lord of the Rings Trilogy

A hobbit gets caught up in a huge war when he has to take a magic ring right to the bad guy’s front door. If you’re behind on this one, too, then I’m honestly kinda surprised you even know what movies are. Why are you here?

Why it fails the test:

Despite having three strong female characters in Arwen, Eowyn, and Galadriel, they’re all in completely different parts of Middle Earth and they never even meet, much less talk to each other. Seriously, in the entire 10-hour trilogy, no two female characters ever actually speak to each other. Considering the fact that the entire population of New Zealand is in these movies, it kinda seems statistically impossible.

1. Run Lola Run

Lola must figure out how to come up with 100,000 Deutsche Marks in twenty minutes or her boyfriend will be killed. The film follows three different possible outcomes for her actions and explores her relationships and interactions with the people and the world around her.

Why it fails the test:

Despite Lola being considered one of the most well-rounded female characters ever put to film, Run Lola Run still fails The Bechdel Test for one simple reason – Lola never has a conversation with another female at any point in the movie. She talks to her father, her boyfriend, the security guard at her father’s bank…and not a single woman.

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