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The Top-Grossing, Bechdel Test-Passing Movies

On Tuesday, we investigated the Hollywood myth that movies featuring women prominently do worse at the box office than movies that don’t. The data we looked at didn’t support that claim, and we also found that films with more prominent female characters received substantially lower budgets than films without those women.

We analyzed the intersection of two databases —, which inventories box office data, and, which records films’ Bechdel Test ratings. The Bechdel Test is a three-point exam that quantifies the presence of women in a film by judging movies against three criteria: 1) Does the film have at least two named female characters? 2) Do two named female characters have a conversation at any point? And 3) Is that conversation about something other than a male character?

We relied on the median throughout our research to factor out runaway blockbuster successes and failures at both ends of the spectrum. But in case you were wondering what the most commercially successful Bechdel Test-passing films are, here’s a short list to add to your Netflix queue. All numbers are rounded and in 2013 dollars.

Film Box Office
1 Titanic $3,171,930,973
2 The Exorcist $2,111,900,000
3 Jurassic Park $1,669,900,000
4 Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace $1,408,300,000
5 Grease $1,383,600,000
6 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone $1,282,600,000
7 Independence Day $1,213,900,000
8 Transformers: Dark of the Moon $1,163,900,000
9 Shrek 2 $1,155,500,000
10 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets $1,138,400,000
11 Alice in Wonderland $1,094,200,000
12 Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End $1,079,700,000
13 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix $1,059,400,000
14 Frozen $1,050,400,000
15 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 $1,021,600,000
16 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince $1,014,500,000
17 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban $982,400,000
18 Despicable Me 2 $970,700,000
19 The Matrix Reloaded $935,100,000
20 Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen $908,200,000


Walt Hickey was FiveThirtyEight’s chief culture writer.