2019 was biggest year ever for Hollywood blockbusters with female leads

An annual study reveals top grossing films featuring female protagonists rose from 31% to 40% in 2019, marking a historic high


The latest figures from the annual It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World’s report mark a record high for Hollywood blockbusters with female leads in 2019.


The study, carried out by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film in San Diego, reveals top grossing films featuring female protagonists rose to 40 per cent in 2019 (that’s a 9 per cent increase from 2018’s figures).

Perhaps unsurprisingly, films that had women directors and/or writers were more likely to feature a “higher percentages of females as protagonists, in major roles, and as speaking characters.”

The news is especially relevant in the wake of the BAFTA Film Awards coming under fire for lack of representation. The awards failed to nominate a woman for the Best Director category and didn’t count a single person of colour across its acting nominations.

The study focuses on Box Office Mojo‘s list of top 100 grossing films of 2019 in the US. Some of the films featured include Captain Marvel, Frozen 2 and Joker.

The in-depth study not only looked at female leads, but also female major characters (which it defines as those who “appear in more than one scene and are instrumental to the action of the story”), breaking them down into age, ethnicity and occupation.

The results are not as positive overall, with female characters 12 times less likely to have an identifiable job than their male counterparts and mostly being designated as white (68 per cent, as opposed to 20 per cent black, 7 per cent Asian and 5 per cent Latina).


In films with at least one woman in the director’s chair or writers room, females comprised 58 per cent of protagonists. In films with exclusively male directors and/or writers, females accounted for just 30 per cent of protagonists.