Bechdel-Passing Blockbusters of 2013 Made The Most Money for Hollywood

It’s time for another installment of Facts That Support Common Sense. This time around, when movies have more than just a bunch of hoinky doink dudes running around, more people like it! They’ll even pay to go see it! In a theater! Of 2013’s top 50 domestic films, the group of movies that passed the Bechdel test performed significantly better than those that did not. 1.56 billion dollars better. Now if I was someone that was in charge of things like making movies, I would pay attention even if it was $156 more. But 1.56 billion dollars? Do you know what that looks like? It looks like this:




That looks like a lot of money because it is. It’s a lot of money people aren’t making because they won’t even let two women say, “Hey, do you have a feeling you want to talk about?” “No, but I wanna talk about this sandwich I ate yesterday. The bread was stale.” A lot of these headlines are about movies with strong female characters making more money but that’s not true. That’s not what this test is about. It’s not about whether they are strong or feminist or independent or whatever hot button word you want to throw in front of ‘woman’ to make it appeal to people that care about this sort of thing. It’s not about whether they have their own storyline or feelings or sense of purpose. It’s just about them talking about something other than a dude to another woman. The bar is that low. And still over and over movies don’t clear it. At this point it’s like people pick the bar up off the ground so they can walk under it. You could cover the bar in shit and people would still be like, “Well if this what it takes for women not to be people!” Or at least that’s how it seems to me but I’m black so no one cares what I think anyway.


Jennifer Lee was the only female director in the bunch and she co-directed Frozen. So of the top 50 films, none were straight up directed by a woman, but that’s neither here nor there. Oh, no it’s definitely here. That’s my bad. Please pay attention to that fact.

I guess this is where I’m supposed to end on a positive note or whatever. I could find some obscure but hopeful fact. Maybe even assert that this will definitely make a difference to someone even if it’s solely because money talks more than women do. But sacrificing money and quality just to maintain the patriarchy happens all the time in media/life/the world so ya know what? We’ll just say see you next time on Facts That Support Common Sense. I’m Brittani Nichols. You stay classy, Autostraddle.

Aww shit that movie doesn’t pass the test, I shouldn’t quote that one huh.

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Brittani Nichols is a Los Angeles based comedy person. When she's not tweeting about white people or watching television, she's probably eating pizza. Actually, she's probably doing all three of those things concurrently and when she's not doing THAT, she's sleeping. Brittani also went to Yale and feels weird about mentioning it but wants you to know.

Brittani has written 328 articles for us.


  1. “but I’m black so no one cares what i say anyway.”

    I’m mixed race, and the only female at work (with thirty plus guys, all straight, mostly privileged white farmers, none to savvy on anything not vanilla) and i used to say/feel this all the time.
    But, movies? I am the leading freaking authority on movies and what they mean/gross/achieve at work.
    Now, when giving my opinion on anything, those boys know they better stop what they are doing and PART ATTENTION, DAMMIT! ha.
    Awesome article, Brittani. Hopefully, we’ll see more of this as studios catch on.

    • Pay attention. Pay. Not part. Not party (which auto correct tried to add just now.)
      Although party attention might be kind of awesome in and of itself.

  2. The Hunger Games! O.O

    I’m so dumb. I didn’t want to watch it at first because the huge sales of the book tricked me into thinking it was another Twilight.

    I came all over myself watching the movie. I mean… it’s about a woman who has a family, and likes and dislikes, and badass skills, and a personnality. And she starts a revolution all on her little own. And she eats squirrels.

    I’m not one to be part of a fandom… but I am currently braiding my hair while browsing on e-bay for a Mockingjay pin.

    Please excuse me now, the local Archery club just called me back for the winter beginners class.

  3. “So of the top 50 films, none were straight up directed by a woman, but that’s neither here nor there. Oh, no it’s definitely here. That’s my bad. Please pay attention to that fact.”

    Thanks Brittani.

    i don’t really feel like we’ve accomplished too much by having top grossing movies pass the bechdel test, but i suppose it’s something. can we make a new test? now that we’re passing that one, another improvement that’s not too scary, so people have a new low bar to aspire to?

  4. What’s with Gravity? I haven’t seen it and I don’t have a TV, so maybe I’m missing a thing – are there only two characters or something?

    • Gravity takes place in space. Of the three on-screen characters, two are male, one is female, and one of the men dies in the first ten minutes or so. Sandra Bullock, who plays the main character, gets the most screen time and a lot of good, interesting character development.

    • Yes there are only 2 characters, so it wouldn’t really fit here :) Well it sorta starts out with 3 characters but.. .that doesnt last

  5. I’m just really surprised that The Hangover 3 passed and Monster’s University didn’t.
    Like…what the fuck?

    • A while back, when I first saw The Fast and the Furious 6, I started laughing during one of the scenes where the two women talk to each other about some random plan they are scheming. It dawned on me that out of all the movies I’d seen that year, it was probably the only one that passed the damn test.

      The Fast and the Furious 6. Really!

  6. I find it very satisfying that the films which let women be portrayed as actual people did better than the ones which didn’t. If ‘we should let the women characters be people because women ARE people’ isn’t a strong enough motivator to make films that pass the Bechdel test (which seems to be the case, ugh), maybe $$$$ will be sufficient motivation?

  7. It’s really important to remember that the Bechdel test isn’t perfect. Pacific Rim doesn’t pass the test—but Mako Mori is one of the most well-developed, inspirational female characters I’ve ever seen. Not only is she a WOC (rare in itself for a lot of blockbusters), but she’s never once sexualized, exoticized, or reduced to window dressing or a love interest; instead, she’s a multi-faceted woman who is just as skilled (if not more skilled) than the men around her.

    This is the type of role that, literally, little boys were walking out of the theater going “MAKO! She’s so cool! I want to be like her!”

    so tl;dr while this chart is great and does show a better trend, it’s important to remember that just because something doesn’t pass, doesn’t mean it failed. (And something passing doesn’t mean it succeeded, either.)

    • I heartily disagree about Mako Mori. Pretty much everything she does in the film is motivated by the desires of a man.

      • (however, Ryan Stone in Gravity is a great example of a well-developed female character in a film that doesn’t pass the Bechdel test, if only on a technicality)

        • I don’t think Ryan Stone passes the test. Or maybe it’s just that I find the driving element behind Gravity (not going to do the spoiler thing but you know I’m talking bout her daughter) to be trite and convenient.

    • True, but the Bechdel test is less about how feminist a movie is and more about simple female representation. It seems like such an easy bar to pass – two women having a conversation – that it’s shocking that so many movies can’t pass.

  8. As video games continually shift to a more complex narrative and cinematic presentation I would be quite interested in seeing this model applied to that medium.

  9. I loved Catching Fire even more than I thought it would. Has anyone written some Katniss/Johanna fanfic? I’d devour it.

    • I want Katniss/Johanna fic suggestions too! I thought there was an awful lot of sexual tension between them, whether or not the filmmakers intended it.

      • Right! Even in the books I was like “Hmm, waiting for some hate fucking to go on.” Katniss had to have been turned on when Johanna stripped down in the elevator (stupid PG 13 rating)

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