Gender equality in Hollywood (as well as everything else) has been an important issue for 2018, and while the results haven’t been as clear-cut as many would like, there have been some notable changes.
For one, more and more movies are not shying away from having a female lead, finally no longer afraid of the myth that the majority of moviegoing audiences are men who want to see men lead a film.
But just as important as the quantity of female-driven films is the types of films women are starring in. More and more action films, as well as comedy, horror, thriller, and other genre movies, are starring women when typically they would star men. Having broader, more diverse types of films and protagonists is incredibly important for providing audiences, especially girls and young women looking for cinematic role models, and the following films have been shown woman can be just as successful in typically male-driven movies, if not more.
The new Star Wars trilogy has put Daisy Ridley’s Rey front and center, the first prominent female Jedi in the 40+ year old live action franchise. The filmmakers of The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi have also avoided sexualizing the character in a way many women leads tend to be in Hollywood films, which is fine — after all the series is foremost made for younger audiences.
Rey isn’t the only female Star Wars protagonist to hit theatres since Disney took over the series in 2012. Rogue One, the first one-off “Star Wars Story” to get a theatrical release, stars Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso, an outlaw loner who eventually devotes herself to a larger Rebellion.
Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman was a smash success from the start, winning over audiences of all genders and ages when she was given her own starring vehicle in 2017. The Amazonian princess wasn’t a damsel in distress but the hero of her own film, and performed the same mind-bending acts and explosive stunts as any male action hero would be expected to.
Notably, the film was also directed by a woman, Patty Jenkins, another unfortunate rarity for blockbuster films that will hopefully be remedied soon. Both Jenkins and Gadot will return for the film’s sequel, Wonder Woman 1994, out next year.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has released twenty films in the last ten years, and not a single one of them have a female superhero as its lead. That will finally change next year, with the 21st installment of the MCU — Captain Marvel. Academy Award Winner Brie Larson has been tapped to play the space-faring superhero, who has been said by Marvel to be the most powerful character in the fictional universe.
Shortly after the release of Captain Marvel, which will take place in the 1990s and co-star Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Larson will return as the character in a key role for Avengers 4.
Untitled Terminator Reboot
Another Terminator in the film is in the works, following 2015’s Terminator: Genisys. Like some of the previous films, this new iteration will once again star female action icon Sarah Connor, played for the first time since 1991’s Terminator 2 by Linda Hamilton.
Just as exciting is the casting of Mackenzie Davis as co-lead, rumored to possibly be playing the newest iteration of a Terminator robot. Davis has previously starred in Tully, Halt and Catch Fire, and Black Mirror episode San Junipero.
Dora the Explorer
Dora the Explorer, a live-action feature based on the popular Nickelodeon animated series, is currently filming, and will starring Isabela Moner in the title role. Moner previously starred in Instant Family and Transformers: The Last Knight.
The film was very important for younger girls as well as girls of color looking for a positive role model in Hollywood films. Unlike most of the other films on this list, Dora the Explorer will be appropriate viewing for all ages.
The latest sequel/version of the classic Michael Myers slasher film had a very successful theatrical run this October, and was notable for having three generations of women as its leads. Myers faced off against original lead Jamie Lee Curtis, as well as her character Laurie Strode’s daughter and granddaughter.
The film wasn’t just a success for female-driven films but also women of a certain age — another issue Hollywood has struggled mightily with — with this version of the spooky story now the highest-grossing debut for a horror movie with a female lead over 55 in history.
Disney has been making live action remakes of their most popular animated films for a few years now, but Mulan will be the first with an action-oriented female lead. Even more importantly, the studio searched far and wide for the perfect casting, and avoided any controversial “white-washing” of the role of Mulan, a Chinese folk hero. The part eventually went to Yifei Liu, a Chinese star surely soon to be an international movie star.
Ludovic Coutaud is a NYFA alum and writer. For more information, click here.