Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Top Female Buddy Films That Aren't 'Thelma & Louise' & The Bechdel Test

The Hathor Legacy recently posted a really interesting blog called 'Why Film schools teach screenwriters to fail the Bechdel test'.

For the unknowing, the Bechdel test derived from a cartoonist named Alison Bechdel. In one of her comic strips, two women characters talk about what movie they're going to see and one says she only sees a movie if a) there is more than one female (named) character in it and b) the two females must have a conversation that is involving something OTHER than a man.

It seems silly, until you look at the top ten box office sales for the past weekend and discover... wait a minute, is there EVER more than ONE female prominent figure in a high grossing movie?

This week, we have Mamma Mia, which raised our curve, but honestly: Dark Knight, Hancock, Hellboy II, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Wanted, Get Smart - is there ever any more than just ONE featured female in any of these? Do they talk to ANY other women?

Recently one entertainment president, following the 'disapointing' success of "The Brave One" cited that there would be no more female fronted big-budget films because 'there's no money in it'. Really? I mean, let's put this into perspective and remove 'female' and substitute: male. or black. or hispanic. Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? And yet, he got away with it, because that's how Hollywood thinks.

Things are slightly better in television. The sucess of Alias, The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Le Femme Nikita and other female oriented action series proves that a female can front a franchise, but why is there such a long way to go in movies? Why can we never have more than one woman in a film?

This is especially frustrating for screenwriters, because you want to write from within yourself and yet you're often told to sell yourself short to write for a 'formula'. Some, like Diablo Cody, manage to break the code and give us gems like 'Juno' but other times, we take well written dramas like 'Women's Murder Club' and wittle them down to 'Sex & the City! With Guns!'.

Females are so much more than that.

To celebrate this idea, I've put together a small list of five movies that featured women talking to each other about things OTHER than men. These aren't the only films out there, and some are certainly not the best, but there should be more of them, that's for sure.

And no, Thelma & Lousie isn't on this list. Why? Because it's on EVERY list when someone brings up 'female driven movies' and I don't think (SPOILER ALERT!) a movie where the women go on a rampaging crime spree and then pitch themselves over a cliff rather than live in a man's world (/SPOILER ALERT) is the definintion of the world's best female buddy film. Until I see Rush Hour 10 or Bad Boys 12 end the same way, I'm not buying it.

1. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes - imdb link - clip on youtube

It's really too bad that Jane Russel and Marilyn Monroe never made another movie together. In this one? They were pure odd-couple gold. Dorothy is a no-nonsense fun-loving gal who performs with her best friend, gold-diggin, show-stopping Lorelei. Lorelei is engaged to marry a lovable doof of a millionaire, but when he allows her to go on a cruise , her love of money and diamonds and rich men may get them both tossed into the poor house on their sequined behinds.

What's wonderful about this film is their fierce devotion to each other. No matter who's wrong, or who's right, who's in love and who isn't, they steadfastly remain best friends with nary a catfight in sight. Isn't that refreshing?

Memorable Quote:
Dorothy Shaw: Honey, did it ever occur to you that some people just don't care about money?
Lorelei Lee: Please, we're talking serious here.

2. FEDS - imdb link - clip on youtube

Another odd-couple comedy that is sadly underrated, this film starred Rebecca De Morney and comic Mary Gross as the lone two female cadets who have been accepted into the FBI. One a jock, the other a brain, they come together when they face sexual discrimination and learn to fight for what they deserve: the right to be FBI agents.

Just a lot of fun. It's hard to find, but if you do, take a look. You'll get a lot of laughs and you'll be cheering for the girls in the end.

Memorable Quote:
Ellie: “I hope the people of United States of America will be able to sleep better knowing that women like us have guns- thank you.”

3. Romy & Michelle's High School Reunion - imdb link - clip on youtube

A modern classic and with good reason. These best friends-without-a-clue are lovable losers who decide to attend their high school reunion to show up the mean girls who tormented them in high school. The problem: they don't have much to show them up with. With fake jobs, fake suits and fake stories, they head back and discover nothing is more impressive than just being yourself.

Dumb and Dumber with a heart, it's just a fun, silly film with a penchant for the outcast.

Memorable Quote:
Romy: Isn't it weird when you're not friends with your friends anymore? I mean, Michele and I just fell out of touch about two hours ago.

4. Resident Evil Trilogy - imdb link - clip on youtube

Not all female buddy films are comedies. The Resident Evil films features ultimate Mary Sue 'Alice', an agent who has been infected with a virus and battles zombies. In each movie, she gets a team of ragband fighters who work with her, and each time, we get another ass-kicking female who shares quips and gunfire with the ambivalent heroine. Hey look! More than one woman in a film! Kicking ass! Taking names! It can be done!

Memorable Quote:
Alice: You won't have to wait that long, boys. Because I'm coming for you. And I'm gonna be bringing a few of my friends.

5. The Heroic Trio - imdb link - clip on youtube

Hong Kong Action Hero Michelle Yeoh broke ground in the eighties and nineties when she starred in a slough of sucessful action flicks that proved that females were ass-kickers too. One cult favorite is 'The Heroic Trio' and featured not just Michelle, but Hong Kong Legend Maggie Cheung and Hong Kong's version of Madonna, the deceased Anita Mui (RIP).

In a dark version of the world, an evil Eunich steals the newborn sons from terrorized couples, with the help of the mysterious 'Invisible Girl'. But Hong Kong has an Action Hero in the form of 'Wonder Woman' who teams up with mercenary for hire Theif Catcher to stop the crime and in the process, learn the true identity of Invisible Girl. When the three woman finally come together to stop the Eunich, they become the ultimate crime fighting team.

It's a dark, dark fantasy, but features amazing actresses and strong performances from all the leads. Definately worth watching if you're looking for some good female roles played with conviction. But I would avoid the sequel 'the Executioners', because if you think THIS one is depressing, baby? You ain't seen nothing yet.

Memorable Quote:
Theifcatcher (while keeping the other two from falling off a cliff): Um... EXCUSE ME? Can you two please hurry up and make a decision?!

Any films I missed? what are your suggestions?


  1. Slightly off the topic: Bechdel is cartoonist Alison Bechdel. HUGELY great stuff :)

  2. Crap, left that part out, didn't I? I should point that out as well. Thanks!

  3. Feds is available to watch live on Netflix. Great list-- Gentlemen Prefer Blondes has been one of my favorites since I first saw it.

  4. Oh. MY GOD. You listed The Heroic Trio.

    I watched that movie when I was a very young girl. Never found out what it was called. Thank you. OH MY GOD. This brings back memories.

  5. Kill Bill? Even though the plot revolves around the Bride's relationship with Bill, she does have several lively conversations with other women, in which they discuss killing each other.

  6. Do lesbian romances count? (E.g. Better Than Chocolate, Lost and Delirious, Gray Matters, etc.) On the one hand they genuinely do have two (and usually more than two) women talking about all sorts of things, but since the focus is still romance it's not exactly opening all sorts of roles to women...

  7. Sorry, Misty, but Dark Knight has Detective Ramirez (a woman of color, at that!) talking to Barbara Gordon AND Rachel Dawes. Though mentioning male characters in the conversation, their dialogues are about getting to safety and avoiding assassination... or are they? True, neither conversation is very long or in-depth, but they are key plot points featuring strong, rounded (Ramirez and Dawes, at least) characters.

  8. Doesn't Rachel get killed off too?