WHICH 2023 BEST PICTURE NOMINEES PASS THE BECHDEL TEST?
The 2023 Academy Awards are on Sunday (or Monday, depending on your timezone). Who else is not subjecting themselves to 3 hours of awkward inside-the-toxic-industry jokes and play-the-music-already speeches? Yeah, we’re also just gonna check out Michelle Yeoh’s acceptance speech on YouTube. But there’s something to be said about having a convenient list of must-see films from the last year. Definitely not all the must-sees and (according to some of the people on our team who the Academy failed to consult yet again) not all must-sees but hey, you gotta start somewhere, so you don’t find yourself scrolling the Netflix menu for 2 hours again, right?
However, just in case you’re not really feeling the “two unnamed female characters with a collective screentime of 3 minutes and 42 seconds” kind of films these days, we figured we’ll do the grunt work and put all of this year’s Best Picture nominees through our favourite Bechdel test.
How does the Bechdel test work? Simple. To pass a movie has to meet the following criteria:
1. Have at least two named female characters
2. Have at least two of them engage in conversation
3. Have the conversation be about something other than a man.
(that last one is a particular favourite of ours)
Sounds ridiculously easy? We think so too but you might be surprised how many filmmakers seem to struggle 🙈 So, without further ado, let’s see how this year’s Best Picture nominees did…
All Quiet On The Western Front
How did it do: 0/3, ABYSMAL
Sure, it’s a war movie (famously women ceased to exist during World War I and then reappeared as soon as it was over) so we might have overlooked the lack or topic of conversation but this movie fails to even introduce any named female characters…
AVATAR: The Way of Water
How did it do: 3/3, DEBATABLE
While AVATAR: The Way of Water has quite a few female characters and they do engage in conversations multiple times (throughout the movie’s not inconsiderable 3+ hours runtime), there seems to be some debate online whether the nature of those conversations satisfies the Bechdel test. We’re giving it a passing grade but given all that its female characters are capable of and encounter, some more in-depth conversations and exploration of their stories wouldn’t have gone amiss.
The Banshees of Inisherin
How did it do: 3/3, SHOCKING
While The Banshees of Inisherin passes the test by the skin of its teeth, we were a little shocked that it was even close given its focus on the relationship between two men. While its female characters have precious few conversations, they do seem to be the only ones with any sense and Kerry Condon is very deserving of her own Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
How did it do: 1/3, SHOCKING x2
Sadly, Elvis shocks in the exact opposite way. It has a few named female characters but none of them even have a conversation with each other (not that we think it would’ve been about anything other than Elvis). Especially considering the importance of Elvis’ wife in his life and the many controversies surrounding their relationship, it was disappointing to see how little screen time Olivia DeJonge actually had.
Everything Everywhere All At Once
How did it do: 3/3, ALL THE AMAZING WOMEN EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE
If you want to watch a movie that kicks the Bechdel test’s ass like the nerdiest kid in class, look no further than Everything Everywhere All At Once. Evelyn and Joy are arguably the main characters of the movie and have many, many deeply personal and philosophical conversations. In addition to that, multiple female characters are seen in queer relationships and you know they’re not spending their time talking about guys. We’re rooting for this whole cast and crew!
How did it do: 3/3, GOOD
While the focus of the film is definitely on its male protagonist, there are multiple named female characters in The Fabelmans. What is more, they actually have journeys of their own and thus, conversations that do not revolve only around the men in their lives.
How did it do: 3/3, BRILLIANT
You need only watch Tar’s trailer to know it will pass this test easily. The film has a plethora of female characters masterfully conducted by the ever badass Cate Blanchett. It explores art and human psyche through its main female character in ways that make the task of having two named women share a conversation about something other than a man sound like a piece of cake.
Top Gun: Maverick
How did it do: 3/3, HUH
Top Gun: Maverick isn’t going to be winning any awards for its well-developed female characters but we have to give it one thing - it does do the bare minimum. It has a few female characters among its male-dominated cast and two of them, Maverick’s love interest Penny and her daughter Amelia, even manage to squeeze in a couple of conversations that are not wholly focused on Maverick.
Triangle of Sadness
How did it do: 3/3, OH WOW
While Triangle of Sadness might not be the film on this list with the most female characters having the longest philosophical discussions, it has absolutely earned its place in our 3/3 group. It puts its female characters in leadership positions on multiple occasions and allows them to discuss their dreams and desires as well as the practicalities and politics of survival and the skills they bring to the table.
How did it do: 3/3, DUH
Could you imagine if this movie didn’t make it… No, Women Talking most definitely lives up to its name. The trailer actually has only women talking, so you know we’re off to a solid start. Its characters are played by some of the best actresses today, given the kind of material that you can truly make something of and shown on their poignant and powerful journeys. So, yes, it definitely passes the test and then some.
Overall, there are some absolutely outstanding female characters and performances in these movies but some of them are also so glaringly lacking in them. Whether the Oscars hold any weight for you or not, a few of these movies really are must-sees, so make some popcorn and enjoy a weekend of cinema and join us on our socials on Monday to scream about whether one of our 3/3 films won the big one.