Film Forward

The Top 3 Highest-Grossing Movies Of 2017 Had One Important Thing In Common

We hope it's a sign of things to come.

The ways we watch TV and movies have evolved, and it's time for the talent in front of and behind the camera to do the same. Film Forward speaks on the initiatives to diversify the film industry and the stories it tells. New articles premiere every second Thursday of — and throughout — the month.

For the first time in nearly 60 years, women-led films topped the domestic box office in 2017. According to The Wrap, the top three highest-grossing films of the year featured female leads, which hasn't happened since 1958.


Star Wars: The Last Jedi ended the year with $517 million, taking the top spot from previous box office champion Beauty and the Beast, released in March. Daisy Ridley and Emma Watson led the films as Rey and Belle, respectively. Third place went to summer blockbuster Wonder Woman, which starred Gal Gadot as the title heroine and also featured a female director, Patty Jenkins.

The Wrap cited Box Office Madness and Box Office Mojo to show that it's been 59 years since women led the top three movies. In 1958, the highest-grossing films were the musical South Pacific, starring Mitzi Gaynor; the comedy Auntie Mame, starring Rosalind Russell; and the Tennessee Williams adaptation Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, starring Elizabeth Taylor.

This year's numbers prove what many have already known — that films led by women can attract audiences and make money. Hopefully, it's a sign of things to come. As The Wrap points out, several of 2018's most anticipated titles feature female leads or directors, including Tomb Raider, starring Alicia Vikander, and A Wrinkle in Time, which stars actress Storm Reid as the young protagonist, alongside Oprah Winfrey, Mindy Kaling, and Reese Witherspoon in supporting roles.

However, there's still more work to be done — not only to improve women's representation on screen, but also to provide more opportunities for women working behind the camera. Additionally, as at least one Twitter user has pointed out, all three leads in the year's top movies were White women. Truly equal representation shouldn't exclude women of color.

This issue was recently raised on Twitter after a magazine cover featuring six White actresses declared "a shift in focus" in "the way many stories are told." Jessica Chastain, one of the women featured on the cover, responded to the criticism, calling it a "sad look" and acknowledging, "The industry needs to be more inclusive in its storytelling." She added that it was "TERRIBLE that I can't think of at least 5 female lead films with woc this year."

Hopefully, 2018's box office winners will look even more diverse.


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