movies & entertainment

Women In Lead Hollywood Films That Grossed Over Billion Dollar At Box Office

Karthika S Nair | Jul 30 2019
Image credits:bpcreation

Women have been breaking the glass ceiling across the film industry in the last two decades. For a long time, it was presumed that women cannot generate revenue as much as men in the field of cinema unless she caters to the male gaze. Majority of the writers and directors over the years have been men, showcasing heroism of men. In mainstream Hollywood, the number of female directors is less than 8%. Apart from that the number of female producers is 26% and writers are 16% when compared to men. 

With the male domination, there is a natural tendency to write male-centric stories which appeal to the male audience. However, breaking this unwritten rule in the industry many directors and writers came forward women centric move appealing to both genders.

Today with the emergence of TimesUp initiative and more mainstream writers and directors, women are bringing forward their stories to the audience.

Actress Brie Larson, who essayed the role of Captain Marvel, said that the notion that women in the world film scenario are incapable to generate revenue at the box office is no longer valid. As long as it is a good film with great content, people will go to the theatres to see the film. 

As of now, 39 Hollywood films have grossed over a billion dollars at the global box office. Out of that 10 are women-centric films. Which means that a good 25% of films that garnered over a billion at the box office have women in the lead. 

Here are the ten films that grossed over a billion US dollars at the global box-office. 

 1. Titanic (1997) 


Director James Cameron is known for bringing badass women on-screen such as Sarah Connor from the 'Terminator' series, Ellen Ripley from 'Aliens' and Neytiri from 'Avatar'. 'Titanic' was the highest-grossing film of all time until it was overtaken by 'Avatar' in 2009 and recently by 'Avengers: Endgame' (2019). It is also one of the most prominent women-centric films to win an Oscar for best picture. The movie features Rose (Kate Winslet) an upper-class woman who is tired of her elite conservative lifestyle and wants to live freely. She meets and falls in love with Jack (Leonardo Dicaprio), a poor migrant who depends on his paintings for a living. 



The story is presented through the narration of elderly Rose (Gloria Stuart) about her experience while she was on the 'Titanic'. We see Rose freeing herself from her abusive fiance and controlling mother. We see the horrors through Rose’s eyes while Titanic was sinking. Jack motivates Rose to survive no matter happens. Jack’s words motivate her to live her best life and to live and think out of the box.

Kate Winslet was nominated for Best Actress at the Academy Awards. 

 2. Star Wars: Force Awakens (2015)


'Star Wars: Force Awakens' was one of the first films to introduce a female protagonist in a mainstream franchise. While the classic trilogy is about Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), the stage puts Rey (Daisy Ridley) in the centre. Rey is depicted as a persistent and determined young woman who wants to learn about the force and the ways of the Jedi. 

She was shown as a Scavenger but then her hidden talents are exhibited as she faces danger with her allies BB-8 and Finn John Boyega.


The notable moment is when she wields the lightsaber for the first time while facing the main villain Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). 

'Star Wars: Force Awakens' is directed by JJ Abrams and is the first film in the franchise to gross over two billion dollars at the box office globally. Actress Carrie Fisher had told Daisy Ridley not let her get affected by male gaze during her journey in the franchise. 

"You should fight for your outfit. Don’t be a slave like I was. It’s hard to date once you’re a big ‘Star Wars’ star because you don’t want to give people the ability to say, ‘I had sex with Princess Leia'," said Fisher to Ridley in an interview they had together. Fisher was referring to the slave costume she had to wear in 'Star Wars: Return of the Jedi'. 

 3. Star Wars The Last Jedi (2017)



Episode eight of the 'Star Wars' franchise 'The Last Jedi' received both candies and brickbats. Feminist critics lauded the film for giving the female characters ample voice in the film and is regarding as one of the best feminist narratives in the franchise. The film is still had Rey's (Daisy Ridley) journey in focus and is the farewell tribute to actress Carrie Fisher who played the iconic Princess Leia in the franchise. Brickbats came in the form of fans who despised the way in which a beloved character was handled in the film. 

Apart from that, in a bizarre development, the sexist male trolls slammed the depiction of strong women and even released a "cut" version of the film which excluded all the female characters.

'Last Jedi' grossed over a billion dollars at the box office and received favourable reviews. It was lauded for diversity in cast and empowered women and their involvement in the story. 

 4. Frozen (2013)



‘Frozen’, written and directed by Jennifer Lee, is one of the first animation films featuring a female protagonist to gross over a billion at the global box office. It is currently the highest-grossing animated film of all time and the highest-grossing musical. The film won two Oscar awards including the Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song for "Let It Go".

‘Frozen’ tells the story of a fearless princess who sets off on a journey alongside a rugged iceman and his reindeer to find her estranged sister. The film was lauded for the depiction of female friendship. Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel play the lead roles as Princess Anna and Queen Elsa respectively. 

The song “Let it go” became a pop-culture phenomenon and the success of ‘Frozen’ led to ‘Frozen Fever’ showing the immense popularity among youngsters. 

 5. Beauty And The Beast (2017)


'Beauty and the Beast' is the live-action remake of the 1991 blockbuster film. The film has 'Harry Potter' actress Emma Watson in the lead role as Belle and Dan Stevens play the Beast. Emma Watson is a feminist in real life and was part of several campaigns including the 'HeForShe' campaign. Watson is regarded for bringing in the feminist perspective in the film. 



Belle is a bibliophile who longs for an adventure. After her father was imprisoned by the Beast for trespassing, Belle takes his place in the castle to free him. Belle then bonds with the Beast and they fall in love. Belle's love for the Beast breaks his curse.

'Beast and the Beast' grossed over a billion at the box-office and it is the second highest-grossing of the year 2017. Emma Watson's performance was well received by the audience and the critics. 

6. Captain Marvel (2019)

 'Captain Marvel' silenced the film pundits who believed that superhero films featuring women or minorities cannot succeed at the box office. 'Black Panther' (2018) and 'Captain Marvel' broke the glass ceiling as the Marvel introductory superhero films to gross over a billion at the global box office. Although, 'Ant-man and the Wasp' became the first woman-centric Marvel film, 'Captain Marvel' is the first solo film focussing entirely on a woman. 



The film features the story of Carol Denvers, a military pilot who ends up with the aliens after an accident that left her with powers. 

She becomes involved with Nick Fury and SHIELD. The film shows how the 'Avengers' initiative began and how Fury came up with the name. 

It is currently the second-highest-grossing film of 2019 and the ninth-highest-grossing superhero film of all time as well as the 22nd highest-grossing film overall. Oscar-winner Brie Larson essayed the role of Captain Marvel. 

 7. Finding Dory (2016)



Directed by Andrew Stanton, 'Finding Dory' is the sequel of the 2003 Oscar-winning animated film 'Finding Nemo'. 'Finding Nemo' introduced the breakout character Dory, a regal blue tang fish with a short-term memory loss. Eventually, a film was made about Dory.

Ellen DeGeneres brings Dory to life with her voice. DeGeneres was a trailblazer as one of the celebrities to come out as gay publicly. 'Finding Nemo's' success was a big career boost for her at the time. DeGeneres wanted a film for her character Dory and had been talking about it in her famous talk show 'Ellen Show'.

'Finding Dory' explores Dory's childhood with her parents and how she lost her way. The film then pieces together her first accidental meeting with Marlin (Albert Brooks) who was trying to find his lost son Nemo. 

It is the second Pixar film to gross over a $1 billion at the global box office after 2010's 'Toy Story 3'.

 8. Alice In Wonderland (2010)


'Alice in Wonderland', directed by acclaimed fantasy movie director Tim Burton, started a trend of live-action fairy tale and fantasy films being green-lit, particularly from Walt Disney Studios in 2010. The film shows Alice, as a teenager, who falls into the Wonderland and has many experiences. 

Alice is shown to be feminist and rebellious in her life. She is against the corset and she talks back. She watches her brother in law who cheats on his wife. At the same time, she finds the nerve to say no to a man who asks for her hand in marriage. 

Alice is shown to be extremely ambitious and wants to join the shipping business at a time when women's role was reduced to being a good wife and mother.



All of these traits are discovered after she falls into a Wonderland where she is prophecised to be the killer of the vicious beast Jabberwocky and save Wonderland. 

Mia Wasikowska plays Alice, with Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, Helena Bonham Carter as the main villain Red Queen and Anne Hathaway as White Queen Mirana. 

The film was marketed in actor Johnny Depp's image as he was a big box office star at the time and a dear friend and collaborator of Tim Burton. However, the film was noted and lauded for the empowered heroine and but it was slammed for not keeping up with the spirit of the original 'Alice in Wonderland'. Wasikowska became an acclaimed actress after the film.

 9. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)



'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story' started the trend of spin-off films within the 'Star Wars' franchise with its success at the box-office. Directed by Gareth Edwards, it narrates the story of Jyn Erso played by Oscar-nominated actress Felicity Jones who was detained by the Empire for her crimes but she as eventually freed by the rebellion. 

The film shows the rebels led by Ersa who discovered a weakness in the Death Star, a weapon used by the Empire to destroy an entire planet, and their attempts to bring the information to rebel princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) leading to the events as shown in 'Star Wars' (1977).

'Rogue One' grossed over $1 billion worldwide. It is the 30th highest-grossing film of all-time, the second-highest-grossing film of the year 2016, and the third-highest-grossing film in the 'Star Wars' franchise.

 10. Zootopia (2016)


'Zootopia' shows a determined female bunny entering a male-dominated profession. Directed by Byron Howard and Rich Moore, the story follows Judy Hopps, voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin, an optimistic rabbit from Bunnyburrow who is a newly appointed member of the Zootopia Police Department. 'Zootopia' opened to the record-breaking box office and earned a worldwide gross of over $1 billion, making it the fourth-highest-grossing film of the year 2016.


American Film Institute named 'Zootopia' as one of the top ten best films of 2016 and it received an Academy Award, Golden Globe, an Annie Award for Best Animated Feature Film.

Disney Parks announced earlier in 2019 that a themed area based on 'Zootopia' is in development at Shanghai Disneyland Park. 'Frozen' director Jennifer Lee also contributed to the story.