Women in Film: A Data Analysis of 1500 Movies on Bechdel Test Criteria 

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 Silk we analyzed Bechdel Test information about almost 1,500 movies released between 2010 and 2014. 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.

In a separate collection of data, We also visualized selected data from the 2013 report by the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism "Gender Inequality in 600 Popular Films". 

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.



Do little girls get enough role models? Bechdel test score of animation pictures released in the last 4 years.

Many of the movies targeted at children lack female characters entirely - let alone girl protagonists.  Bechdel Test scores for animation movies are slightly worse on average than the average for all movies released between 2010 and 2014.   About 40% of the animation features of the last years fail the Bechdel test, compared to 34% of all films. 

However, children are clearly more impressionable and many child psychologists feel that early media exposure has a strong impact on shaping self-perception and awareness. Hollywood, perhaps, should be making a stronger effort to ensure that films for children pass the Bechdel Test. 

Animation Movies without two named women / without women talking to each other / without women talking to each other about something beside men

Use the filter(s) to discover information for a specific subset of the data. Click "Explore" to customize the visualization, transform the pie chart into another graph, and/or choose what variables and filters to plot.

60% of the 2010 - 2014 Animation movie pass the Bechdel test. Slightly less than the pass rate of all movie genres (63%)

Use the filter(s) to discover information for a specific subset of the data. Click "Explore" to customize the visualization, transform the pie chart into another graph, and/or choose what variables and filters to plot.

A higher percentage of pictures are passing the test over time. Still, in 25% of 2014 films, there are less than two female characters or they don't talk to each other. 

The trend suggests that more movies are scoring better on the Bechdel Test. In the stack chart below, each bar shows the total annual breakdown of Bechdel Test criteria for films released in that year, as well as the pass/fail percentage. In particular, more and more films have at least two named female characters, one of the three Bechdel criteria. In 2014, however, the film industry slid backwards on Bechdel criteria #2 - female characters who talk to each other. Even as the number of films released that have two or more named female characters rose slightly from 2013 to 2014, 8% fewer films released in that period pass the second Bechdel Test criteria.  

Pass vs. Failed Bechdel Test Criteria distribution of surveyed movies 

Note: To interpret correctly this data, keep in mind that the database doesn't contain a constant number of movies for each release year. Read more about it here

Women talk to each other only about men in about 44% of the surveyed films released in 2014.

Today most movies have at least two named female characters (1357 out of the 1453 in the sampled for 2010-2013). But it's surprising that in 530 movies the female characters actually don't talk to each other about anything besides men. This percentage is even higher for 2014 than previously: of the 175 surveyed movies released last year, 44% of them have women who only discuss the opposite sex! Thats compared to 32.5% in 2013, a rather large 12.5% slide in the wrong direction. 

Number of movies passing each criteria of the Bechdel test

Use the filter(s) to discover for a specified year, or reset them for the 4 year overview. Click "Explore" to customize the visualization, transform the pie chart into another graph, and/or choose what variables and filters to plot.

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The data used for this Silk is available under CC BY-SA. Download it here.

The Silk team built this as a demonstration project. You can contact us at feedback@silk.co