×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Number of Films With Female Leads Hit Record Levels in 2018

From “A Quiet Place” to “A Star is Born,” studios backed more films with female leads in 2018, according to new research. Out of the top 100-grossing movies, 40 films had women in central roles as either the main character or the co-lead, according to the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. That represented an increase of eight films from the previous year and 20 movies from 2007. It is the highest percentage of female-driven films in 12 years.

Hollywood has been under public pressure in recent years to tell more stories that feature women and people of color. Some of that advocacy appears to be producing results; recent hits such as “Black Panther” and “Crazy Rich Asians” scored with audiences in part because they were inclusive.

Actresses from underrepresented groups still don’t get the same opportunities as white actors, but data suggests that things are improving. Twenty eight of the top 100 movies of 2018 featured an underrepresented lead or co-lead, according to the report. That’s a net gain of seven films from 2017 and a 15 film gain from 2007. Last year, black or African-American actresses had five lead or co-lead roles, three mixed race actresses had lead or co-lead roles, two Hispanic or Latina actresses had lead or co-lead roles, and one Asian or Asian-American actress had a lead role. There were ethnic groups that were virtually ignored. No Native women and women from the Middle East had leading roles.

Although Hollywood is widening its aperture to include more points of views and is promoting more movies with women and people of color, there’s still room for improvement. The overall percentage of female leads in top-grossing films may have grown, but it pales in percentage to their share of the population and of the moviegoing audience. Women comprise 51% of the population in the U.S. and Canada and 50% of ticket-buyers. The same holds true with underrepresented groups, who account for 39.3% of the U.S. population. Moreover, Latinos and Asians account for a disproportionate amount of ticket sales.

Hollywood has also been accused of being ageist, particularly when it comes to actresses who often get shuffled off into grandmother roles when they are nearing middle age. To that end, researchers at USC looked at the number of protagonists that were 45 years of age or older at the time of theatrical release.  Eleven of the 100 top grossing movies, a group that includes “Halloween” and “Ocean’s 8,”  featured a female lead or co lead 45 years of age or older. That’s more than double the number from 2017 when only five of the top-grossing films had a female lead who was 45 or older.

Change in Hollywood can only come with buy-in from the major studios that produce and distribute movies. The study found that each of the seven major studios had at least one woman of color in a leading role in 2018.  All but three companies — Sony, Fox, and Warner Bros. — were near proportional representation to the U.S. population when it comes to movies with female lead characters. In terms of promoting films with underrepresented leads, the top performer was Sony, followed by Lionsgate, Paramount, and Universal.

“2018 offers hope that industry members have taken action to create content that better reflects the world in which we live, and the box office seems to have rewarded them for it,” said Dr. Stacy L. Smith, founder and director of the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, in a statement. “This data shows us that it is possible for change to be achieved– companies must not grow complacent but continue the progress they have made in 2019 and in the years to come.”

USC Annenberg’s Inclusion Initiative examines diversity in media. The group releases several reports on representation of women and people of color in a range of fields, from movie criticism to directing. Smith also helped create the inclusion rider, which is a provision in an actor or filmmaker’s contract that mandates that productions make a good-faith effort to hire underrepresented groups.

More Film

  • Wings Over Everest

    Terence Chang's 'Wings Over Everest' Set to Swell China's Rescue Film Genre

    “Wings over Everest,” a new action adventure film from veteran producer Terence Chang and “Wolf Warrior 2” producer Lu Jianmin, is poised to join the burgeoning Chinese sub-genre of rescue movies.   The Chinese- and English-language film stars Chinese actress Zhang Jingchu (“Project Gutenberg”; “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation”), Japanese actor Koji Yakusho (“Babel”; “Memoirs of a [...]

  • The Eight Hundred (The 800)

    China Film Marketing Firms Must Adapt To Internet Age, Says Huayi's Jerry Ye

    Huayi Brothers Pictures CEO and media group VP Jerry Ye made no mention Sunday of the abrupt cancellation of the premiere for his firm’s highly anticipated war epic “The Eight Hundred,” which was set to be the Shanghai Intl. Film Festival’s opening film the night before. Instead, he looked to the future at a panel [...]

  • The Meg

    Chinese Script Development Requires A Different Touch, Top Producers Say

    Leading film producers highlighted the challenges of developing good scripts in China and abroad at a panel during the Shanghai International Film Festival on Sunday. Wanda Media GM Jiang Wei (aka Wayne Jiang) recommended that producers remain aware of the real differences between the scriptwriting process for Chinese productions versus international and co-productions. The fundamental [...]

  • Lou Ye's "Spring Fever"

    Shanghai: Previously-Banned Producer Nai An Now Hails Chinese Film Funding

    At a panel on indie film production at the Shanghai Intl. Film Festival, Chinese and foreign producers discussed the shifting funding landscape for their projects over the years. Nai An, the longtime collaborator of controversial sixth generation Chinese filmmaker Lou Ye, kicked off the talk with a look back at her producing career, which has [...]

  • My Dear Friend

    Shanghai Film Review: 'My Dear Friend'

    Like a slow-acting hallucinogen, Chinese director Yang Pingdao’s audaciously strange and sorrowful feature debut works its magic so gradually that it’s with a slight surprise that halfway through you glance down and realize you’re high off the social-realist ground, suspended surreally in the air. At first a gritty tale of feckless men abandoning their families [...]

  • Agent M (Tessa Thompson) and Agent

    Box Office: 'Men in Black: International' Ranks No. 1 Overseas With $74 Million

    Sony’s “Men in Black: International” is making good on its title, leading overseas box office charts with $74 million from 56 foreign territories. Combined with its disappointing $28 million start in North America, the latest chapter in the sci-fi action series debuted with $102.2 million globally. “Men in Black: International” sees “Thor: Ragnarok” co-stars Tessa [...]

  • Agent H (Chris Hemsworth) and Agent

    'Men in Black: International' Leads Box Office With Muted $28 Million

    Hollywood seems to be coming down with a contagious case of franchise fatigue this summer, as “Men in Black: International” and “Shaft” become the latest sequels largely dismissed by moviegoers in North America. Sony’s “Men in Black: International” led ticket sales at the box office this weekend with $28.5 million, but still fell short of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content