If you're wondering how to spend this International Women's Day (and you aren't marching for women's rights or petition the government to address the gender pay gap until later), why not watch a great movie instead? Oh right, yeah, because it's so tricky to find a really good film that's actually female-positive, and you don't want to spend International Women's Day watching Irréversible...
You're in luck because below we have the 25 best movies that pass the Bechdel Test. Don't know what that is? Named after cartoonist Alison Bechdel, who first featured the test in her 1985 comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, the Bechdel Test outlines three rules which a movie must pass to be considered female positive. Does the movie have at least two, named women in it? Do these named women speak to each other? Do they talk about something other than a man?
A surprising number of great movies fail the Bechdel Test (LOTRs doesn’t even come close) and just because a movie passes it, doesn’t mean it’s good (How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days), so we’ve come up with a list of 25 genuinely good movies which pass. Oh, and we’ve picked movies which pass with flying colours because Die Hard’s Holly Gennaro may talk to her housekeeper Paulina about her children for five whole seconds, but that doesn’t mean it’s a female positive movie. It is still a great movie though, so make sure you check it out on our best action movies list.
25. Bend it Like Beckham (2002)
The movie: Jess loves football, but she comes from an orthodox Sikh background, which means her traditional parents want her to give up playing and go to university, become a doctor, and marry a “nice Indian boy”. When she meets Jules, a fellow female footballer, she can’t help but join the local women’s football team, but this causes major problems for her home life and Jess finds herself torn between what she wants and her family’s expectations.
How it passes: Both the main characters are named women, who talk to each other a lot about football, their families, and yes, occasionally boys. The movie also includes Jess’ sister Pinky and a whole host of other named women on the football team, and besides that, the basic message of the movie is that women can do anything... even become professional footballers. Lauren O’Callaghan
24. Frozen (2013)
The movie: When Princesses Elsa and Anna’s parents die, Elsa must become Queen, but during her coronation party everyone finds out that she’s been secretly hiding powers (which she can use to freeze anything) all this time. Scared her people will turn on her, she runs away and loses emotional control plunging the Kingdom into an eternal winter. Now it’s up to Elsa to find her and help her get control of her powers so she can unfreeze their home.
How it passes: It’s true that Frozen only has two named female characters, but the movie is literally about them and their relationship to each other. Although they spend a good portion of the film apart they still manage to have a many conversations about important things like their love for each other and saving their Kingdom from a perpetual winter. Lauren O’Callaghan
23. Chicago (2002)
The movie: The all-singing, all-dancing movie adaptation of the stage musical Chicago sees Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Richard Gere sing their hearts out as two female jazz stars/murderesses and the amoral lawyer trying to get them off.
How it passes: The two leads, and indeed the majority of the cast, are women and the only time they really talk about men is when they briefly explain their crimes or discuss trying to get Gere’s Billy Flynn to represent them. More than that, all the women are fiercely strong and morally questionable, presenting a version of women not often seen in the cinema. Lauren O’Callaghan
22. Children of Men (2006)
The movie: This dystopian movie paints a bleak picture of a future where humanity has lost the ability to reproduce. Amongst civil unrest and economic collapse, Theo unwittingly becomes responsible for a young pregnant refugee, Kee, who he must protect against all odds. As the first woman to become pregnant in years, she carries an extremely precious cargo and faces danger on all sides.
How it passes: Don’t let the name fool you, Children of Men passes the Bechdel Test with flying colours. Kee talks to revolutionary leader Julian and her midwife Miriam at many points throughout the movie, and it’s almost never about a man. Plus, the entire film is about a young woman and her pregnancy (which could save the world), and the fact that the main character is a man is more incidental than anything else. Lauren O’Callaghan
21. Kill Bill Vol 1. (2003) and Vol. 2 (2004)
The movie: The Bride is hellbent on - surprise surprise - killing Bill because he and his assassins tried to kill her and her unborn child many years ago. She’s got a bit of a grudge. The movies follow The Bride as she kills her way through the list of assassins who targeted her, working her way up to Bill - their boss and her former lover.
How it passes: Although we don’t hear The Bride’s real name until about halfway through the second movie, her codename is enough to set her apart as a named character. And by god, is she an unforgettable one. Her pregnancy is discussed with the surprisingly sympathetic assassin Karen Kim, plus her last talk with O-Ren Ishii in the snow in particular is touching as they gradually admit their respect for each other. Finally, the mother/daughter scenes have nothing to do with Bill and everything to do with The Bride realising that the reason for her revenge - her dead child - has actually been alive all this time. Zoe Delahunty-Light
20. Ghost World (2001)
The movie: Best friends Enid and Becky spend the summer after high school trying to figure out what they’re doing with their lives and along the way they meet a lonely, middle-aged man named Seymour, who Enid strikes up a friendship with. While Enid occupies herself with finding him a girlfriend, she and Becky grow further apart.
How it passes: Ghost World is basically all about the friendship between super sarcastic teen Enid and her best friend Becky. They discuss many different topics through the film, including the trajectory of their lives after graduating high school, but rarely men. Lauren O’Callaghan
19. Hidden Figures (2016)
The movie: Following the careers of the ‘human computers’ Katherine Goble, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughn, Hidden Figures explores the rampant racism (and sexism) the three figureheads endured during their time working at NASA during the space race. As well as showing that they kicked ass at the lab at the same time.
How it passes: This one’s obvious. The three women talk about their work launching Project Mercury into space (ranging from aerospace engineering, to analytical geometry, to calculating trajectories, to phenomenally advanced maths), as well as about the professional obstacles in their way due to the prejudiced attitudes of their male, white co-workers. Zoe Delahunty-Light
18. Bridesmaids (2011)
The movie: Annie’s best friend is getting married so naturally she’s Maid of Honor. The only problem is, there’s another bridesmaid trying to muscle in on her territory. With Kristen Wiig and Rose Byrne going head-to-head in this hilarious bridesmaid-off, expect a lot of laughs and plenty of super awkward moments.
How it passes: It’s easy to see how Bridesmaids passes the Bechdel Test - all the main characters are women and they talk about almost everything but men - but on the surface, it doesn’t seem that female positive. Despite all the bitchy girl-on-girl crime that goes on though, at its heart this film is about female friendships and how complicated they can be. It’s not always pretty, but it’s a true representation of female relationships. Lauren O’Callaghan
17. The Hunger Games (2012)
The movie: In this particular post-apocalyptic world, children are sent to battle to the death on TV. Each of the 12 districts must send one boy and one girl into the fight, and our heroine, Katniss Everdeen, actually volunteers to be the female tribute for Sector 12, in place of her younger sister. Cue epic action sequences, horrendously troublesome gameplay tactics, and even a little bit of romance.
How it passes: The Hunger Games actually passes the Bechdel Test in the very first scene. After a chat of what The Hunger Games actually means, Katniss comforts her sister Primrose, who’s had a bad dream. But it goes much further than this, with Katniss having a variety of conversations with other women, ranging from her mother and Rue, to the delightfully colourful Effie Trinket, and only once does a romance get mentioned in one conversation between Katniss and Rue. It’s much more about familial love and, you know, surviving. Sam Loveridge
16. Ghostbusters (2016)
The movie: The 2016 Ghostbusters film is technically the third film in the franchise, but actually serves as a reboot, replacing the four main male characters with female alternatives - played by Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones. As with previous Ghostbusters movies, the ‘busters are tracking down some ghosts who are wreaking havoc in New York.
How it passes: Brilliantly, there’s not a romantic relationship in sight in Ghostbusters. The squad’s a little more preoccupied with ghost bustin’ than affairs of the heart, and casually saving the world from an evil menace. Although there is some discussion about the beauty of Chris Hemsworth’s character at some points - and how ditzy he is. Sam Loveridge