Hollywood 2020: Women’s Revolution as Directors

A major revolution is taking place in Hollywood right now. After decades of trying–and failing–women are finally beginning to make a real progress toward stronger representation, if not parity, behind the cameras.

Up to 2019, only a handful of women had managed to have sustained directorial careers, in both mainstream Hollywood and the independent sector.

Mimi Leder, Patty Jenkins, Ava DuVernay, Kathryn Bigelow, Lana and Lilly Wachowski, were the only women who had been hired to direct tentpole movies with blockbuster budgets.

Male directors, even those with short or limited experience, were always enjoyed greater been handed the keys to the Hollywood kingdom after making a few — or just one, or zero — much smaller, usually independent movies. (A small sample:

Christopher Nolan with “Batman Begins,” Joss Whedon with “The Avengers,” the Russo brothers with “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” Colin Trevorrow with “Jurassic World,” Gareth Edwards with “Godzilla,” Andy Muschietti with “It,” Tim Miller with “Deadpool,” Jordan Vogt-Roberts with “Kong: Skull Island,” Taika Waititi with “Thor: Ragnarok.”

Five of the biggest titles to be released next year, including four major superhero movies, will be directed by women:

“Birds of Prey” by Cathy Yan, on February 7;

“Mulan” by Niki Caro, on March 27;

“Black Widow” by Cate Shortland, on May 1;

“Wonder Woman 1984” by Patty Jenkins on June 5;

“Eternals” by Chloé Zhao, on November 6.

This year, USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative found that up to 14 of the top 100 highest grossing films in 2019 would be directed by women.

Those films, which currently amount to 15, account for $1.23 billion in domestic grosses and $2.79 billion in global grosses for the year.

Only two of those 15, “Captain Marvel” and “Frozen 2,” both co-directed by women, are global blockbusters, however.

In 2020, just those five aforementioned tentpoles could easily dwarf 2019’s numbers, especially worldwide. Even if one or two of those films underperform, collectively these five filmmakers stand to explode the calcified conventional wisdom that has hamstrung the careers of countless women in Hollywood for generations.

It’s the kind of change that would have ripple effects throughout the industry, from a greater breadth of opportunity for women in both above and below-the-line positions to better recognition of women filmmakers during awards season.