The Bechdel Test

Representation of Women

in Hollywood and Film

What is the Bechdel Test?

The Bechdel Test (also known as the Bechdel Rule or Mo Movie Measure) is a simple assessment used to indicate the active presence of women in Hollywood films and measure their dynamic character profile. It was originally coined by Alison Bechdel in the comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For in 1985. Through three rules, it forms a relatively simple baseline for female representation in film:

  1. There must be at least two women,
  2. Who talk to each other,
  3. About something other than a man.

Easy enough, right?

A Look at the Top Ten Grossing Films of 2016

Bechdel Test at the Box Office

Which of the top 10 grossing movies from 2016 passed the Bechdel test? Click the bars to select your answers.

A Closer Look Into

Breaking Down the Dialogue

Examining the number of words spoken by each character, divided by gender and role

Behind the Scenes

Gender inequality persists in film crews
Although the majority of the top ten movies from 2016 passed the Bechdel Test, only a few passed with more than a couple lines of dialogue. Furthermore, all of the top ten grossing movies featured male-majority casts, and nine out of the ten films consisted of male-dominated dialogue. This imbalance can also be examined within the film crews; none of the top ten films were directed by a woman, and every movie had more male than female writers. Through this data, the lack of female representation in popular media becomes evident.

What was the first year in which a majority of films passed the Bechdel test?

Enter your guess:


A Look At The Bechdel Test Over Time

More movies pass, but the film industry still struggles to meet a low bar

Drag over the area chart to view a specific time period.

What Can We Do?

The issue is clear: there's a lot to be done for female representation in film. While the historical rates of success in passing the Bechdel Test demonstrate some progress, the test is an incredibly trivial baseline for a movie to meet; one non-male centered conversation between two female characters should not be a difficult task. Additionally, accomplishing Bechdel's benchmark in no way guarantees that the film (with its cast, crew, and content) truly promotes gender equality.

Still, the test serves as an intuitive evaluation for whether a film ignores the importance of diverse representation in media. It's our duty to push for diversity and representation not just out of moral obligation, but to instill values of equality in media consumers of all generations.

About Us

This was a final project for Harvard's CS171 course in fall 2018, created by Jess Eng, Cassandra Kane, Lucy Li, and Jarele Soyinka.

To learn more:

  1. View this project on GitHub
  2. Read our process book
  3. Watch the screencast below



Data Sources

  1. Box Office and Bechdel Test Results: The Next Bechdel Test
  2. Cast and Crew Gender Breakdowns: The Next Bechdel Test
  3. Dialogue Breakdowns: 2016 Movie Dialogue
  4. Bechdel Test Over Time: Bechdel Results, Genre Data


  1. "The Rule" by Alison Bechdel, from the comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For
  2. "Domee Shi Thinks Kids Can Handle Dark Stories" from The New York Times
  3. "Debbie Allen Discusses Her Many Roles in ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Season 12" from Variety
  4. "Ana Lily Amipour" from Jason Ward
  5. "Amma Asante Has Been Quietly Mentoring Fellow Female Filmmakers in Hopes of Changing Hollywood’s Equality Problem" from Indie Wire
  6. "Ava DuVernay Shares Secret to Her Fabulous Locs" from HypeHair

Thank you to the CS171 course staff and especially our advisor, Nam Wook Kim, for all their help with this project!