In 2013, audiences were more than happy to pay to see women play more than token characters on the big screen.
Last week, entertainment site Vocativ crunched the numbers and found that of the 50 highest-grossing films in 2013, only 36% passed the Bechdel test — which measures how substantial female roles are by asking if a film features two or more women characters who speak to one another about something other than a man). The good news is that the films that did pass collectively brought in $4.22 billion dollars at the U.S. box office; the non-passing films took in only $2.66 billion. That’s a full $1.55 billion more for the Bechdel winners, which seems like a clear victory for women in films.
Of course, it should be noted that the Bechdel test was intended to illustrate the very basic level at which gender biases operate in movies; it’s not meant as an end goal or guiding principle. Slate quite rightly asks why “[i]n 2014, we are still whooping with delight when movie studios depict a woman sharing a snippet of non-dude-focused conversation with another woman? This is not exactly a high bar.”
It’s certainly not enough to pass the Bechdel test with the bare minimum — we’d like to see many female characters having many conversations about something other than men — yet, as the statistics of Vocativ’s breakdown show, there are still many movies that fail to clear the basic requirements of the test.
Which got us thinking: which movies in 2014 would not only pass the test, but feature great female characters and succeed at the box office. (And, hopefully, inspire Hollywood executives to increase the ratio of Bechdel-approved films out there.) While we’d love to be surprised with even more examples, here are a few contenders that we’re betting will not only pass with flying colors, but will make a killing at the box office:
Why we think it’ll pass the Bechdel Test: This is a no-brainer, as even the trailer passes the Bechdel test multiple times. Yet, even if we didn’t have that preview, the movie would still be a safe bet. First of all, it stars Shailene Woodley and having a female in the lead role boosts a film’s chances of passing the test. Also, the themes of the film — courage, bravery, surviving in a totalitarian society — all but promise intense conversations about ideas, not individual men.
Why we think it’ll do well at the box office: In the vein of the Hunger Games, Divergent is a dystopian future film about a strong girl and is based on an insanely popular YA-trilogy by Veronica Roth.
2. Veronica Mars
Why we think it’ll pass the Bechdel test: Kristen Bell as Veronica Mars is the heart-and-soul of this franchise and though there’s going to be plenty of romantic tension, Veronica not only has more on her mind than men, she also has other women in her life.
Why we think it’ll do well at the box office: While it might not be a blockbuster, this movie’s very existence is due to its intense fan-base, who were responsible for funding the project through Kickstarter. People will be seeing this movie.
Why we think it’ll pass the Bechdel test: Another no-brainer. We all remember the story of Sleeping Beauty well enough to know there’s some female-to-female conversation and this reimagining obviously isn’t going to change that. The only characters to even appear in the trailer are female — and they speak to one another.
Why we think it’ll do well at the box office: One of Hollywood’s biggest actresses, Angelina Jolie is routinely a big box-office draw. (I mean, The Tourist of all films made $67.6 million in the U.S. alone.) We’re pretty confident that this film will draw crowds.
4. Jupiter Ascending
Why we think it’ll pass the Bechdel test: Though it’s an action/sci-fi film — not exactly a genre that’s been traditionally women-friendly in the past — Jupiter Ascending places a woman, Mila Kunis as Jupiter, in a pivotal role, which offers more opportunity for some woman-to-woman conversing to take place. Though the rest of the film’s cast is pretty male-heavy, the trailer offers just enough dialogue to make us pretty confident there will be at least a few Bechdel-passing moments.
Why we think it’ll do well at the box office: A summer-premiere date and a cast that could have been pulled from a “Who’s Hot” list are clues that this movie might be a big draw at theaters in 2014.
5. Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1
Why we think it’ll pass the Bechdel test: Again, this is a film with a woman in the lead role. Also, this is the third installment in the Hunger Games franchise, and if it’s anything like its predecessors, it’ll pass with flying colors.
Why we think it’ll do well at the box office: Even if we didn’t take into account the success of the two previous Hunger Games films or the ready-built fan-base that have been reading the source-material books for years, we’d still be positive the movie would do well at the box office because of JLaw.