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The idea of the Bechdel test originated in a 1985 cartoon by Alison Bechdel.

In it, a character describes the test as something she uses to determine which movies she'll see. If a movie fails the test, she doesn't see it. She notes that the last movie she could actually see was 1979's Alien.

The Bechdel test comic

However, I'm not sure that Alien actually qualifies.

As I recall, there are two female characters: Ripley and Lambert. I don't remember them actually having a significant conversation in the film. The best I can remember is Ripley trying to get Lambert to pull it together after Captain Dallas is killed, and arguably, that's a conversation about a man.

Does Alien actually pass the Bechdel test?

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11  
What you've posted is only half the original comic. The full comic shows her reason for Alien passing and gives something closer to an actual punchline. –  jwodder Feb 4 at 17:26
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They don't have a one-on-one conversation about the monster, but they do discuss it in a group setting: "RIPLEY We can't go into hypersleep with that thing running loose. We'd be sitting ducks in the freezers. We have to kill it first. LAMBERT We can't kill it. If we do, it will spill its body acids right through the hull..." –  Hypnosifl Feb 4 at 17:39
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Ignore my comment above, the lines I mentioned were from the final script, but I just rewatched the same scene in the movie and they weren't there, either it wasn't filmed or it was edited out. –  Hypnosifl Feb 4 at 22:21
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@spraff, the Bechdel Test doesn't say much about the merits of any single film; it's better used as a metric for how American filmmaking as a whole is male-biased. –  Russell Borogove Feb 4 at 22:44
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I'm not remarking on th quality of IM3, but the fact that the Bechdel test is a woefully low standard for the existence of significant female characters. –  spraff Feb 5 at 13:34
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3 Answers 3

up vote 35 down vote accepted

Pass.

Ripley: "That's not our system."
Lambert: "I know that."

Also, this is a convo with >2 people but as part of it they exchange replicas with each other:

Lambert: What? And end up like the others? No … no, you're out of your mind!
Ripley: You got a better idea?
Lambert: Yes! I say that we abandon this ship! We take the shuttle and just get the hell out of here! We take our chances and … and hope that somebody will pick us up!
Ripley: Lambert ... the shuttle won't take four.
Lambert: Well, then why don't we draw straws and ...

and in Direcor's Cut only:

Lambert: [slapping Ripley] You b&^&^!
Lambert: You were gonna leave us out there!

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2  
I agree with this. Also, I don't think the Bechdel test implies no males can be present; only that the two women must directly address each other about something other than males. So a group conversation with a sub-conversation between two of the women qualifies, IMO. –  Andres F. Feb 4 at 19:02
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Found the script, and I think this scene should count, though Parker is present and has one line:

INT. BRIDGE

   Ripley in the Computer Annex.
    Lambert and Parker enter.

                             RIPLEY
              He's right about one thing.
              We've got less than twelve
              hours oxygen left.

                             PARKER
              It's all over.

    Gloom.

                             LAMBERT
              I don't know about the rest of
              you, but I think I prefer a
              painless peaceful death to any
              of the alternatives on offer.

                             RIPLEY
              We're not there yet.

    Lambert holds up a small card of spansules.
    Suicide pills.

                             LAMBERT
              We're not.  Huh.

                             RIPLEY
              I think we should blow up the
              ship.

                             LAMBERT
              I'll stick with chemicals if
              you don't mind.

                             RIPLEY
              We leave in the shuttle and
              then blow up the ship.

And, as Monty129 points out, they are technically not talking about a man if the subject is Ash, even when they discuss whether one of them has slept with him.

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4  
Nice! Regarding Ash, technically true, although given that they both believe him to be a man at that point, I think it’d be against the spirit and intention of the test to count that. –  Paul D. Waite Feb 4 at 13:33
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Although I think some of this exchange may have been cut from the film: see amazon.com/review/R3TAYOIZYU52VV/… –  Paul D. Waite Feb 4 at 13:38
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Pretty sure Ash is against the spirit of the rule. It shouldn't matter whether "he" is actually a man, but whether the women talking about him think he is a man... –  Andres F. Feb 4 at 19:03
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There have been a few Bechdel test questions in the last day or so. For future reference, there is an existing website that analyzes many movies under the test, at http://bechdeltest.com/

According to that website, Alien passes for the reasons identified above: http://bechdeltest.com/view/13/alien/

Aliens similarly passes, based on the multiple conversations between Ripley and Newt: http://bechdeltest.com/view/283/aliens/

Alien 3, however, fails the test as it lacks a second named woman: http://bechdeltest.com/view/296/alien_3/

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It's not really specified as such, but a lot of people who compare against the Bechdel Test require the two women to not be children as the age difference generally skews the possible subjects of conversation. –  phantom42 Feb 4 at 16:58
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@phantom42: It's a moot point for Aliens, since additionally Ferro and Vasquez, two female marines, talk about Ripley (if only briefly). –  gnovice Feb 4 at 17:27
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And, on a more tongue in cheek note, there's the exchange: "Get away from her, you bitch!" "Hsssss!" between Ripley and the Alien queen. –  Russell Borogove Feb 4 at 22:42
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If Ash does not qualify as a man, I think the Alien Queen definitely wouldn't qualify as a woman. Female, yes; woman, no. –  AMADANON Inc. Feb 5 at 0:36
    
Alien 3 fails on so many levels. –  John O Feb 5 at 19:30
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