20 highest grossing films of 2016: How many pass the Bechdel Test?
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As we look ahead to another year in film – one that will give us everything from problematic bondage (Fifty Shades Darker) to murderous Rachel Weisz-led Du Maurier intrigue (My Cousin Rachel) - we've crunched some numbers to find out how many of the world’s top grossing films of the past 12 months pass the Bechdel Test.
The Bechdel Test – widely recognised as an indicator of a film's inclusivity in terms of women, if not always of its overall quality – is defined by the following:
Two named women
Who speak to each other
About something other than a man.
Seems fairly straightforward – right?
Well, not really. What the Bechdel Test itself actually includes can be debatable. What happens, for instance, if a woman speaks to another woman, whose answer addresses a group – as happens in Captain America: Civil War? Or if one if the women speaking is only named via her employee badge, as is the case in Jason Bourne?
Both of these films feature in 2016’s top 20, and both are questionable because of this ambiguity.
We don't have the answers to these anomalies on the Bechdel scale, but we’ll do our best to navigate around them.
Here are the 20 most lucrative films, worldwide and from the past 12 months, based on figures from the-numbers.com and Box Office Mojo, in ascending order.
20. The Legend of Tarzan.
Jane (Margot Robbie) is the only female character, so Legend of Tarzan fails at its very first Bechdel hurdle.
Does The Legend of Tarzan pass the Bechdel Test? No – fail
19. The Angry Birds Movie.
We don't have much to say about this. If our research is to be believed, the internet doesn't either.
Does The Angry Birds Movie pass the Bechdel a Test? No – fail
18. Independence Day: Resurgence
Independence Day’s second outing shows far more diversity than its 1996 predecessor. This doesn't save the film overall, however. Despite its inclusivity, reviews were savage.
Does Independence Day: Resurgence pass the Bechdel Test? Yes – pass
Possibly the biggest fail on this list. Ice Age: Collision Course has only one female character, who dies with little fanfare.
Does Ice Age: Collision Course pass the Bechdel Test? No – fail
16. Jason Bourne.
Dubious. Jason Bourne does have two (named) central female characters, but they don't speak to each other. However, one of them (Alicia Vikander) does converse with a hotel receptionist, identified by her name tag as “Leslie”. Does it count if the woman isn't named verbally? Hollywood Reporter thinks not, and since this encounter is fleeting and hardly essential we’re inclined to agree with them.
Does Jason Bourne pass the Bechdel Test? No – fail (with caveats)
Warcraft has been praised for its essential female characters, something not often seen in its genre.
Does Warcraft pass the Bechdel Test? Yes – pass
14. Kung Fu Panda 3
The consensus is a fail on this one.
Does Kung Fu Panda 3 pass the Bechdel Test? No – fail
13. X Men: Apocalypse
X Men tends to do quite well in Bechdel terms, and this outing features lots of strong female characters conversing with each other.
Does X Men: Apocalypse pass the Bechdel Test? Yes – pass
12. Mei Ren Yu
A film about a mermaid should pass, right? Especially when it's the highest grossing film in Chinese history?
Well actually... we don't know. Our correspondent has failed on this one. If you do know whether Mei Ren Yu (aka The Mermaid) features two named women speaking to each other about something other than a man, please do let us know.
Does Mei Ren Yu pass the Bechdel Test? TBC.
11. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Even the trailer passed, so we know we’re onto a good thing here.
Does Rogue One: A Star Wars Story pass the Bechdel Test? Yes – pass
10. Doctor Strange
Tilda Swinton and Rachel McAdams might have starred, but it's hard to have an interaction when one of you is unconscious.
Does Doctor Strange pass the Bechdel Test? No – fail
9. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Yes, says herstoryarc.com – when former auror Tina speaks with President Seraphina at the US ministry. Indiewire agrees.
Does Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them pass the Bechdel Test? Yes – pass
8. Suicide Squad
All issues of sexism and tiny shorts aside – does Suicide Squad actually pass?
Sadly, it doesn't appear so. Feministelizabethan has investigated, and reports that the only two-sided interaction is between Harley Quinn and Enchantress, and they discuss the Joker. So that's that.
Does Suicide Squad pass the Bechdel Test? No – fail
Women fight each other in Deadpool, but there isn't any two-sided verbal interaction going on. Since female characters are extremely capable in this film, many could see this as a missed opportunity.
Does Deadpool pass the Bechdel Test? No – fail
6. Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice
Although this iteration of Batman achieves two Bechdel points, in that two of its female central characters (Martha Kent and Lois Lane) do speak to each other, it ultimately fails because their conversation is entirely about Clark Kent.
Does Batman vs Superman pass the Bechdel Test? No – fail
5. The Secret Life of Pets
A female dog and a female cat interact. They discuss a male dog. Nope.
Does The Secret Life of Pets pass the Bechdel Test? No – fail
4. Jungle Book
The Jungle Book has two female characters – a wolf and a snake – but they never meet.
Does The Jungle Book pass the Bevhdel Test? No – fail
Some have argued that animals are animals, not women. This argument is largely redundant. Zootropolis passes this test.
Does Zootropolis pass the Bechdel Test? Yes – pass
2. Finding Dory
Many, many aquatic lady creatures talking to each other here. Hurrah.
Does Finding Dory pass the BechdelTest? Yes – pass
1. Captain America: Civil War
We end with a debatable one. In an early scene, Black Canary addresses Scarlet Witch, who responds by addressing a group. Pass by a whisker? Indiewire says yes.
Does Captain America: Civil War pass the Bechdel Test? Yes (probably)
So, what have we learnt? Well, two things are evident – action movies are doing ok at this whole letting women speak thing. Kid's films – not so much.
Of our list, around 40% pass the Bechdel Test – which offers plenty of room for improvement this year. Fingers crossed 2017 ups its game...