Women Had Lead Role in Less Than a Quarter of Top 2017 Movies, Down From Year Before

“Wonder Woman” was an exception, new study finds

Last Updated: February 22, 2018 @ 5:02 AM

Turns out “Wonder Woman” was an exception, not the new rule in Hollywood last year. A new study has found that the 100 top grossing films of 2017 saw even fewer female protagonists than the year before, making up just 24 percent, compared to 29 percent in 2016.

According to this year’s “It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World” report by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, this low figure may come as a shock to many, as women characters gained high visibility in films like “Beauty and the Beast,” “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” and “Wonder Woman” — the three top grossing films of 2017.

“In an awards season when talk about women and gender has been top of mind, we need to separate hyperbole from reality,” Martha Lauzen, executive director of the center, said in a statement. “The numbers do not yet reflect claims of a tectonic or massive shift in the film industry.”

Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film

Women accounted for 37 percent of major characters (same as 2016), and 24 percent of speaking characters, which represents a 2 percentage point increase from 2016. Only 32 percent of films featured 10 or more female characters, while 79 percent of films had 10 or more male characters.

Sole female protagonists were more likely to appear in independent films (65 percent) than studio films, while sole male protagonists were more likely to appear in studio features (54 percent). Females were also more likely to appear in comedies and dramas (30 percent), followed by action and horror films (17 and 13 percent). Males were most likely to appear in action features.

Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film

Females also remained younger than their male counterparts — the majority of female characters were in their twenties and thirties, while the majority of males were in their thirties and forties.

The percentage of Black females increased from 14 percent to 16 percent from 2016 to 2017, while the representation of Latinas more than doubled from 3 percent to 7 percent. The percentage of Asian females increased one percentage point, to 7 percent.

The Center analyzed 2,361 characters that appeared in the top 100 top films of 2017.