There's no question that 2017 was an important year for women in Hollywood. Many in the industry stood up against the sexual predators allowed to work in it for far too long. The offscreen strides were hugely important, but it turns out that that onscreen women were also having an excellent year. According to the blog Women and Hollywood, the top three of the highest-grossing domestic films of 2017 starred women.
Hollywood? You're officially out of excuses.
According to data from Box Office Mojo and reported by Women and Hollywood, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which boasts Daisy Ridley as space heroine Rey, grossed the highest earnings of 2017. Not too shocking, considering this is a Star Wars flick, but given that Ridley was on the receiving end of a ton of sexist criticism after landing the role in The Force Awakens, it's particularly cool to see the film earn the top slot.
Following behind that is Disney's live remake of Beauty and the Beast, which updated its bookish Belle (Emma Watson) to include a passion for invention. (You can criticise the original fairytale for its potentially problematic relationship, but you can't deny that Belle is very much a strong, independent woman in the 2017 version of the story.)
Coming in third is Wonder Woman, which Vanity Fair reports is also the highest-grossing live-action female-directed film in the world. But it's also much more than that: Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman is an action heroine who does not rely on her physical strengths alone to save the world. She's fundamentally kind, strong-willed, and optimistic. She doesn't rebuff "womanly" characteristics as a superhero — instead, those are her strengths.
Money talks, and if these box office numbers are saying anything, it's that women-led films are just as likely to be a smash success as those with men in the starring roles. That's important, especially considering that, according to data collected by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, women were the protagonists in just 29% of films in 2016. (White women, meanwhile, made up 76% of all women characters.)
That is unacceptable — but hopefully, 2018 is the year where Hollywood finally catches on. After all, it's not just these top three films that got audiences and critics buzzing last year. In November, Lady Bird was the best-reviewed film on Rotten Tomatoes. Girls Trip, the first comedy since 1994 to star four Black women, was a huge box-office success. The Pitch Perfect franchise, which released its third instalment in December of 2017, just crossed the $500 million dollar mark globally.
It's amazing that the top three earners last year were women-led, but really, should we be so surprised? Audiences are recognising women-led films and shelling out money to see them, and there's no reason why that shouldn't continue in 2018.