10 Highest-Grossing Women Directed Movies: This summer has been a historic one at the box office. While hyper-masculine superhero films have dominated the past decade, this summer saw the revival of new kinds of stories and one of the biggest joint opening weekends in years with Christopher Nolan’s epic biopic, Oppenheimer, and Greta Gerwig’s Barbie. However, the importance of the weekend goes far beyond annual box-office statistics. Barbie, a story based on a controversial toy that many believed to be bland and childish, proved to be one of the summer’s most critically acclaimed and popular films. With it, Gerwig has cemented herself in the annals of film history by creating an unapologetically “girlie” movie that asks its audience big questions, but she is far from the first. Here are the ten other women directed movies which made history and became great popular art before Gerwig got her chance.
1. Frozen II (2019)
Released six years after the original film, audiences clamored to see this snow-swept tale of sisterhood. Having earned 1.45 billion dollars at the worldwide box office, the film became the second highest-grossing animated film ever. Co-directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, the film returns to the story of the two beloved Scandinavian sisters, Anna and Elsa, heading far into the forest along with Kristoff and Olaf to learn the truth about an ancient mystery in their kingdom. Influenced by Nordic mythology and indigenous Scandinavian culture, the film not only gave audiences a chance to see Anna and Elsa spend an extended amount of time together, but it also added a larger landscape to this intimate story.
2. Frozen (2013)
Frozen, which started a worldwide sensation with its hit song “Let It Go” by Idina Menzel, will go down in history as one of the greatest Disney films of the 21st century. The film follows Anna and Elsa at a traumatic time in their lives as Anna has to embark on a journey to find her estranged sister Elsa, whose magical gifts have become a curse. Not only was this film a success for co-director and sole writer Jennifer Lee, as the film grossed 1.2 billion dollars, but it also won an Oscar for the songwriting team/couples, Kristen Anderson Lopez and Robert Lopez.
3. Captain Marvel (2019)
By the time Captain Marvel was released, Marvel had already enjoyed an incredibly successful decade with films focusing on heroes like Iron Man and Captain America but never featuring a female hero as the lead. Captain Marvel changed everything when it made 1.13 billion dollars. The story follows Carol Danvers as she becomes one of the most powerful superheroes amid a galactic war. Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, who collaborated on It’s Kind of a Funny Story and the feminist historical miniseries Mrs. America, the film includes strong messages of empowerment and the importance of female friendship that were previously not seen in other Marvel films. It also features a stellar performance from Oscar winner Brie Larson.
4. Wonder Woman (2017)
Wonder Woman was a sensation that was nearly 80 years in the making. Patti Jenkins’s only directing credit before this may have been Monster, an Oscar-winning independent film about the infamous serial killer Aileen Wuornos. However, she proved to be just as adept at working on a big-budget superhero film. Offering a glimpse at Wonder Woman’s origins, the film begins in Themyscira, the woman-inhabited island that Diana is from. When a mysterious American pilot crashes there and informs them there is a war going on, she embarks on a life-changing journey. This 822 million dollars grossing film mixes the best parts of a superhero movie with the best parts of a war epic.
5. The Matrix Reloaded (2003)
The only trans woman to make the list, The Matrix Reloaded is an incredibly successful achievement for the Wachowski sisters and part of one of the most successful film franchises in movie history. The sequel takes place six months after the events depicted in the original. Keanu Reeves returns as Neo, and working in tandem with Trinity and Morpheus, he continues to lead the revolt against the Machine Army. In their quest to save humanity, they learn more about the construct of The Matrix and Neo’s role in the fate of humankind. Released four years after the original, it grossed over 700 million dollars at the box office, leading to the release of two more successful sequels.
6. Shrek (2001)
One of the first significant successes of Steven Spielberg’s Dreamworks company, Shrek remains one of the most inventive animated kids’ films in decades. Grossing 491 million dollars, Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson’s Shrek parodies the most timeless fairy tales. It opens in the swamp of a grumpy ogre named Shrek, who makes a pact to find and save Princess Fiona in exchange for the ensured privacy of his swamp. However, when he falls in love with the Princess, his life and morals are turned upside down. Thanks to Vicky Jenson and Adamson’s intelligent and cynical sense of humor, Shrek is one of the few children’s films that doesn’t talk down to kids.
7. Brave (2012)
Having grossed more than 540 million dollars as well as won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film, Brave is one of Pixar’s most successful films. Set in the mystical Scottish Highlands, a young and unruly princess and skilled archer named Merida decides to defy her land’s sacred custom and inadvertently cause destruction and turmoil in her kingdom. In order to make things right again, she seeks help from a wise witch and finds the true meaning of bravery. Starring Kelly Macdonald, Julie Walters, Emma Thompson, and directed by Brenda Chapman & Mark Andrews, it’s hard to find another exciting movie that celebrates Scottish culture and female leadership like this.
8. Alvin & the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel (2009)
In one of the rare instances where a woman takes over a successful franchise helmed by a man, Betty Thomas showed that it was indeed possible to remain financially successful. Alvin & the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel grossed 443 million dollars and kept this revived animated film series alive. Based on the popular kids’ TV show from the 1960s, The Squeakquel follows three charming chipmunks as they decide to go back to school after becoming pop sensations. When tasked with saving the school’s music program by earning 25,000 dollars in a battle of the bands, they meet their match, The Chipettes, a group of female Chipmunk singers. Introducing these independent female chipmunks gave an added spark to the franchise and made it a sequel to remember.
9. Twilight (2008)
However much of it has been made fun of and parodied throughout the years, it is impossible to deny just how successful and singular the film is. It not only grossed over 400 million dollars but also gave birth to the careers of celebrated actors Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson. Told from the perspective of Bella, a 16-year-old girl living with her dad in Washington, Twilight follows her love story with Edward, a mysterious and chivalrous teenager who is actually a 100-year-old vampire. The story may be far-fetched and melodramatic. But thanks to the brilliant direction of Catherine Hardwicke, the understated acting from Pattinson and Stewart, and even the timeless soundtrack, the film will always be a classic.
10. Pitch Perfect 2 (2015)
It’s hard to catch lightning in a bottle twice, and that‘s just what happened with Pitch Perfect 2. The original film followed the Barden Bellas, a college acapella group desperate to salvage their reputation after a devastatingly embarrassing performance the year prior. The film inspired every girl to join their own acapella group and even try playing cups. The second film finds the Bellas forced to prove their reputation again after a humiliating performance in front of the President. They finally get back on their feet when they decide to join an international singing competition. Directed by veteran actress but first-time director Elizabeth Banks, the film’s 287 million dollar gross opened countless doors for her. It allowed her to helm the Charlie’s Angels reboot and the more recent Cocaine Bear.