To pass the Bechdel Test – named for Alison Bechdel, the wonderful writer and artist of Dykes to Watch Out For – a movie must meet three basic criteria:
- It has to have at least two women in it
- Who talk to each other
- About something besides a man
This would seem like a fairly simple test to pass, but a lot of movies fail, as is detailed here.
Of course, passing the rule (or not) doesn't tell you whether it's a good movie, or even really indicate what the movie says about women, but it's striking how many movies fail the test.
For example: Avatar, The Social Network, Inception (there is some disagreement about that one), The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (The Girl who Played with Fire is not listed, but it would pass), Inglourious Basterds (there's disagreement, but it's a fail), and Kick-Ass.
By the way, some movies which do pass the test are: Machete, all four "Resident Evil" movies, Watchmen (there's disagreement, but based on what I remember it's a pass), The Golden Compass, both "Kill Bill" movies, and both "Narnia" movies. The "Lord of the Rings" movies fail, of course. Three-fourths of the "Alien" movies pass.
Gone Baby Gone isn't listed, but I think it's a pass. The Town is apparently a fail. The "Lara Croft" movies are notable for not having any female characters at all other than Croft herself.
I read one review of Up in the Air that specifically mentioned the Bechdel test, saying how rare it was to see a movie that passed it.
Let Me In is apparently a fail, (Abby asking at the hospital desk which room her "father" is in doesn't count since the woman behind the desk is not a named character). Let the Right One In (the original) is more complicated. [spoilers follow]
As I say, this is just one aspect of a movie, not any sort of definitive judgment of its value. But it is striking how many of the movies which do pass manage to squeak by based on one short scene (sometimes only two lines of dialogue).
And it's not that difficult to have a lot of such scenes, and in a really great movie. Let me direct your attention to Gosford Park, for example.
And the story does contain a few conversations between different female characters, about subjects other than men.