For the first time since 1958, the three highest-grossing movies in the United States for 2017 all featured women in their lead roles, including Israeli star Gal Gadot’s “Wonder Woman” in third place.
According to year-end figures released Monday on Box Office Mojo, the top earning US domestic movies were “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” ($533 million), “Beauty and the Beast” ($504 million) and “Wonder Woman” ($412 million).
It has been 59 years since the three highest-grossing movies in the US featured women in the main role, when “South Pacific,” “Auntie Mame,” and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” topped the charts.
In each of 2017’s highest-earning movies, women are portrayed as strong characters who shape their own destiny.
“Female heroes are traditionally presented in cinematic isolation,” documentary filmmaker Annalise Ophelian told the UK’s Guardian newspaper.
“This film gives us women working side by side, women in technical positions, and of course women learning the ways of the Force,” she said.
Emma Watson, who plays Belle in “Beauty and the Beast,” told Vanity Fair that her character is “absolutely a Disney princess, but she’s not a passive character—she’s in charge of her own destiny.”
Shortly before the release of “Wonder Woman,” Gadot said that as the mother of two girls she felt proud to play a superhero and offer viewers a new role model.
“We have seen so many male-driven stories, so the more strong, female narratives we have, the better,” she told The New York Times.
Strong female characters leading the way in the box office seems a fitting end for a year in which women unmasked the sexual harassment endemic within the entertainment and media industries, highlighted by the #MeToo campaign, leading to a number of high-profile personalities losing their jobs.
Also on Monday, hundreds of top women in Hollywood — including Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lawrence to Emma Thompson, Reese Witherspoon, Shonda Rhimes Jennifer Aniston and Cate Blanchett — announced that they had formed an anti-harassment coalition called Time’s Up.
The initiative was launched with an open letter vowing support for women in the entertainment business and beyond, from janitors to healthcare workers. Time’s Up will include a legal defense fund and will advocate for legislation combating workplace harassment.
When all is said and done on January 1, the domestic box office is estimated to net out with $11.1 billion in grosses, down around 2.6 percent from 2016’s $11.4 billion, according to projections from box office tracker comScore. Looked at another way, it’s also likely to be the third-highest grossing year in cinema history.
Agencies contributed to this report.