Chart: Movies with strong female roles make more money

After analyzing the top 50 biggest box office movies of 2013, Versha Sharma and Hanna Sender have an innovative money-making tip for Hollywood: Make more movies starring women. Revolutionary, right?

Roughly one third of the films they looked at passed the Bechdel Test–meaning they included at least two female characters, who talk to each other about something besides a dude. Let’s take one quick second to mourn the fact that it is 2014 and people are still making movies that fail to meet this very, very low standard. Ok, now the good news: The films that passed the test brought in billions of dollars more than the ones that didn’t. Check out the breakdown after the jump. 

Chart of top 50 box office hits according to whether passed Bechel Test

Perhaps the hand-wringing about whether movies about women kicking ass will possibly appeal to male audiences can finally stop?

Maya DusenberyMaya Dusenbery is so bored of dude-centric movies.

Atlanta, GA

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director in charge of Editorial at Feministing. Maya has previously worked at NARAL Pro-Choice New York and the National Institute for Reproductive Health and was a fellow at Mother Jones magazine. She graduated with a B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. A Minnesota native, she currently lives, writes, edits, and bakes bread in Atlanta, Georgia.

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Editorial.

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  • Lynda

    The inclusion of Fast & Fursious 6 (although god help me, I love that franchise) on this chart helps illustrate both the flaws in the Bechdel Test as a litmus test for a film with strong female characters – AND the ridiculousness of a Hollywood system that still finds it so hard to pass.

  • Shelly

    Let’s look at a couple of of these films.

    Pacific Rim fails Bechdel, yet it stars a WOMAN OF COLOUR WHO KICKS ASS as a protagonist, along with a racially diverse cast. And it made less money than most of the others — almost all of which feature a predominantly white cast — probably because most of the cast are lesser known.

    On the other hand, Frozen passes Bechdel, yet the story on which it’s based is both whitewashed (none of the original story’s characters were white) AND malewashed (there were eight women total in the original; only two in the film).

    Passing Bechdel doesn’t necessarily mean a film is feminist-friendly. Failing Bechdel doesn’t necessarily mean a film isn’t feminist-friendly. I would be willing to bet that most of the films that passed Bechdel are far from feminist-friendly.

    • neuroradical

      I don’t think the usefulness of the Bechdel test is that it determines whether or not an individual film is feminist-friendly though. It is a commentary on Hollywood as a whole, not really on individual films. The same is true about this graph. No one is arguing the G.I. Joe: Retaliation was a feminist film, the argument being made is that nearly 30 years after the original comic strip that inspired the Bechdel test as we know it, Hollywood still continues to produce a significant number of films that can’t even pass the extremely low bar that was the punchline of the strip. It appears that films that do pass that low bar appear to make more money than films that don’t. Why are there not more films that pass the test?

      I’d also take some issue with your characterization of Frozen as not feminist-friendly. I will concede your points about whitewashing and malewashing and I think those are valid critiques, but I would also point out that Frozen is the only film I have seen this year in which you could really cut out all of the male characters and the main plot would basically remain intact. The men in that movie are important for side stories at best and most are completely superfluous.

  • Morwen Edhelwen

    I like the idea of more female lead as much as the next feminist blogger, but my inner academic is screaming at the confusion between correlation and causation.