Through The Gender Lens: One Century of Cinema History

Data Analysis of 6,000 Movies and Their Bechdel Test Scores. From Pauvre Pierrot  (1892) to Jurassic World  (2015).

Started as a joke in Alison Bechdel's comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For  (1985), the Bechdel Test is now one of the standards used by critics to assess gender bias in movies. To pass the Bechdel, a movie must meet 3 criteria: it has to have at least two women in it (1), who talk to each other (2) about something besides a man (3).

In this resource, we analyzed Bechdel Test information about almost 6,000 movies released between 1892 and 2015. For each movie, we pulled in information from IMDb (such as director, genre, actors, plot keywords...). We then matched the films to information we collected from bechdeltest.com about whether the movies had passed the three criteria.

Caveat: The test is by no means a definitive tool to judge whether a movie presents empowering female role models, or whether a movie that passes the Bechdel Test is gender-balanced. But the test does offer a convenient and useful way to analyze sexism in the movie business.


Last Update: July 22, 2015

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Class of 2014: for the first time since 2009, a drop in percentage of movies passing

Only 58% of 264 movies released in 2014 and surveyed on bechdeltest.com have at least two named women characters talking to each other about something other than a man. This is a 10 percentage point drop from 2013 and a stop of a positive trend that began after 2009 when a steadily increasing number of movies started passing the test. Last year also recorded the lowest share of passes in more than a decade.

Percentage of surveyed movies passing the test

Note: Data is likely influenced also by the sample size. We excluded years prior to 1930 due to the fact that there's rarely more than 10 movies per year surveyed for those years. Keep this in mind and click here to see the sample size for each year.

In 20% of the 2015 movies, the female characters never speak to each other

And this doesn't count the 8% of movies that don't even have two female characters who could engage in a conversation. Nor does it account for the another 8% of 2015 movies where women characters do talk to each other... but only about men!

Movies grouped by Bechdel Test Outcome Details, filtered for 2015


Bechdel Test Outcome of movies released between 1892 and 2015

Note: Data is likely influenced also by the sample size. For example, there's rarely more than 10 movies per year for those released before the 1930's. keep this in mind and click here to see the sample size for each year.

Having female characters talk to each other is apparently the biggest obstacles to passing the test, nowadays. The number of movies having less than two named female characters has generally been declining over the years. Yet almost every year, at least half of the movies failing the test did so because its female actresses didn't engage in a conversation between them.

Why Movies Fail the Bechdel Test - Percentage Breakdown of Total Movies that Failed Each Year

Note: Data is likely influenced also by the sample size. For example, there's rarely more than 10 movies per year for those released before the 1930's. keep this in mind and click here to see the sample size for each year.

On average, since the 1940s, lack of girl-to-girl conversation has been the main characteristics of movies failing the test.  From the '70s to today, it always accounted for more than half of the fails, on a decade-long average.

Actually, women failing to talk to each other is pretty common in general, affecting 22% of all the almost 6,000 movies. The number peaked in the 1970's, when almost a third of the movies released in that decade and analysed on bechdeltest.com failed to have women engaging in a conversation with members of the same sex. (Note: this even excludes movies with less than two female characters!). And even today, things aren't much better. Still more than a fourth of the movies released in the 2010's has two or more female characters ho never speak to each other!

Breakdown of movies which fail the test - Percentage of total movies surveyed, aggregated per decade

Chart excludes decades with less than 100 movies surveyed

Of films with 'family' in the plot, 74% pass. Only 48% of those with 'career' do

Movies with "family" in the plot grouped by Bechdel test outcome 

Change the filters to customize the visualization and get more insights. 

Movies with "career" in the plot grouped by Bechdel test outcome 

Change the filters to customize the visualization and get more insights.

Six movies of 2015 where women talk to each other only to discuss men

All surveyed movies, filtered for 2015 and for women failing to talk to each other about something other than a man


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