Downsizing Movie

These 9 Popular Films Flunk the Bechdel Test—Here’s Why!

By: Matt

In today’s cinematic landscape, you’d think it’d be a slam dunk for films to hit a simple mark like the Bechdel Test. For those catching up, this test just needs two women in a film to chat about something besides a man. Sounds easy, right? Yet, surprisingly, many box office smashes still fumble this pass.

Let’s roll the tape on how nine popular flicks measure up.

1. “Downsizing” (2017)

Downsizing Movie

Paramount Pictures

In “Downsizing,” the innovative concept of shrinking humans to save the planet offers a unique backdrop for exploring complex themes. However, the film primarily focuses on Paul and his male-centric journey, with significant female characters like Audrey and Ngoc Lan relegated to roles that support his narrative.

Their potential for discussions about societal impacts, personal choices, or ethical dilemmas remains untapped, as their conversations never stray far from topics directly involving Paul or echoing his concerns.

2. “The Imitation Game” (2014)

The Imitation Game Movie

Black Bear Pictures

“The Imitation Game” brings the pivotal role of Joan Clarke as one of the few female codebreakers during WWII into the spotlight.

Despite her contributions, the film limits her interactions to those with Alan Turing or concerning him, missing an opportunity to showcase her potentially rich exchanges with other women in the team about their shared struggles or triumphs in a male-dominated field, which would have added a layer of depth to the historical narrative.

3. “A Star is Born” (2018)

A Star is Born Movie

Warner Bros. Pictures

This iteration of “A Star is Born” tells a deeply personal tale of love and loss, with Lady Gaga’s character navigating fame alongside Bradley Cooper’s troubled star. While their romance is front and center, the film sidelines the interactions among its female characters, who are mostly seen in relation to or talking about the male lead.

This focus limits the narrative from exploring the industry’s challenges from the women’s perspectives or their personal growth outside of romantic entanglements.

4. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (2014)

The Grand Budapest Hotel Movie

Fox Searchlight Pictures

“The Grand Budapest Hotel” is a visually rich and tightly woven story centered around its male protagonist, with a vibrant supporting cast that includes several intriguing female characters. However, their roles often orbit around discussions and schemes involving male characters.

Even when Agatha, the baker with a critical secret, appears, her interactions are closely tied to male-driven plots, thus neglecting her potential for independent agency or dialogues with other women.

5. “The Avengers” (2012)

The Avengers Movie 2012

Marvel Studios

In “The Avengers,” the inclusion of powerful female superheroes such as Black Widow and Maria Hill promised a dynamic ensemble. Yet, their potential for leading standalone conversations about tactics, aspirations, or personal struggles is overshadowed by their roles within a male-dominated team, discussing threats and strategies almost exclusively linked to their male colleagues.

6. “Nope” (2022)

Nope Movie

Universal Pictures

“Nope” captivates with its suspenseful storyline and innovative horror elements, focusing on a brother and sister facing inexplicable events. Despite the strong presence of female characters, their dialogue is confined to reacting to the male-driven narrative or discussing plans orchestrated by male characters.

The film misses the opportunity to delve into their perspectives or fears independently of the male context.

7. “Blonde” (2022)

Blonde Movie

Plan B Entertainment, Inc

“Blonde” explores the tragic and complex figure of Marilyn Monroe with an intense focus on her interactions with the men who dominate her life.

While the film could have explored her relationships with other women in the industry or her family, these are either overlooked or merely skimmed over, with discussions primarily revolving around her male relationships.

8. “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” (2023)

The Super Mario Bros. Movie

Universal Pictures

While “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” brings a beloved video game to life, it largely centers on Mario and Luigi’s adventures. Princess Peach, though a central figure, primarily interacts in the context of needing rescue or discussing the brothers’ next moves.

Her potential for developing an independent storyline or engaging with other female characters is largely ignored, reinforcing traditional roles rather than expanding her character.

9. “Oppenheimer” (2023)

Oppenheimer Movie

Universal Pictures

“Oppenheimer” focuses on the dramatic and tense development of the atomic bomb, spotlighting the men who led the project. Female characters are sparse and their minimal interactions are centered on discussing these leading men or their decisions.

This not only limits their narrative presence but also fails to explore any substantive discussions among these women about their own experiences or the ethical dimensions of the project, leaving a gap in the portrayal of historical events from a female perspective.

Each of these films, despite their narrative strengths and cinematic achievements, illustrates how easy it is for female characters to be sidelined or stuck within male-centric dialogues, underlining the importance of conscious scriptwriting that values diverse and independent female voices.