Hispanic and Latino Actors and Filmmakers Still Being Left Behind in Hollywood, USC Annenberg Study Reveals

Only 8.5% of lead or co-lead roles across the top 100 movies of 2022 went to Hispanic/Latino actors, despite making up 19.1% of the U.S. population

Anthony Ramos and Dominique Fishback star in "Transformers: Rise of the Beasts" (Paramount Pictures)
Anthony Ramos and Dominique Fishback star in "Transformers: Rise of the Beasts" (Paramount Pictures)

Hispanic and Latino performers and filmmakers continue to be underrepresented in top movies. That was the key finding from a new report from the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative covering top films from 2007 to 2022. The latest study, tracing Hollywood’s efforts (or lack thereof) in terms of onscreen and offscreen inclusivity examined Hispanic and Latino representation.

This study, again led by founder Dr. Stacey L. Smith, is the third specifically detailing Hispanic and Latino representation in film. The investigation examined 1,600 top-grossing films from 2007 to 2022 and more than 62,000 speaking characters. The study also dealt with behind-the-camera representation, assessing more than 13,000 directors, producers and casting directors. Finally, the study offered a qualitative examination of Hispanic/Latino portrayals across the top films of 2022.  

To the surprise of no one paying attention, the results were not encouraging.  

Only 10 lead or co-lead roles (8.5%) across the top 100 earning movies of 2022 went to Hispanic/Latino actors. Eight of them went to women. In the 16 years evaluated, only 75 actors (4.4%) in lead/co-lead roles were Hispanic/Latino and a mere five were Hispanic/Latinas aged 45 and older. Three of these older Latinas were played by Jennifer Lopez. Less than 1% of all lead/co-lead roles since 2007 went to Afro-Latinos, while 2.6% of all lead actors were U.S.-born Latinos.  

This is despite the fact that Latinos make up 19.1% of the total U.S. population as of 2022, according to the U.S. Census.

There was not one year between 2007 and 2022 where every major distributor released at least one movie with a Latino or Hispanic lead/co-lead. Four of the seven biggest distributors had fewer than 10 films in 16 years with a Hispanic/Latino lead. Warner Bros. had the worst track record of all the studios, with only three films featuring a Hispanic/Latino lead or co-lead in a 16-year time frame. 

“There is a clear and persistent lack of stories that center on Hispanic/Latino actors and the Hispanic/Latino experience,” said lead author Ariana Case. “Despite the profusion of talent from this community, there is a clear reluctance on the part of the entertainment industry to develop and distribute these stories.”

The report also examined the nature of financial support provided to movies with Hispanic/Latino protagonists, and the influence that having a Hispanic/Latino lead or co-lead had on the box office. Across 126 films from 2021 and 2022, films with Hispanic/Latino leads received significantly fewer resources for production (median = $10 million) than films with non-Hispanic/Latinos in the lead (median = $25 million). Movies with Hispanic/Latino leads also received fewer median marketing dollars ($26 million vs. $29 million) and were shown in slightly fewer theaters (2,982 vs. 3,005).  

However, films with Hispanic/Latinos at the center received higher median Metacritic scores (71) than movies with non-Hispanic/Latinos at the center (58.5). Ultimately, though, there was no difference in 2022 box office performance between films with Hispanic/Latino leads and those without. Despite receiving less financial support from executives, films with Hispanic/Latino leads make just as much at the box office as those films without Hispanic/Latino leads, while their films have higher critical reviews. 

“These findings illuminate that Hispanic/Latino stories are supported with fewer resources. That means that not only films themselves are under-resourced, but the Hispanic/Latino actors starring in these movies probably receive lower compensation,” said Dr. Smith. “This reality adds insult to injury– not only are there few opportunities for Hispanic/Latino actors, the roles that exist are less lucrative. This reality means that sustaining a career in film is nearly impossible for Hispanic/Latino actors.”  

Turning to all speaking characters over the 16-year time frame, there was no significant change. In 2022, 5.8% of speaking characters were Hispanic/Latino. That’s barely an uptick from 3.3% in 2007. Sample-wide, 4.4% of all speaking characters were Hispanic/Latino. Of the few Hispanic/Latino characters that appeared on screen in 2022, almost 60% were male-identified.  

Moreover, only seven Hispanic/Latino characters in 2022 were LGBTQ+-identified, and more than 95% of movies from 2014 to 2022 were missing LGBTQ+ Hispanic/Latino characters. Only 1.8% of all Hispanic/Latino characters in 2022 were shown with a disability. 761 of the 800 films studied from 2015 to 2022 did not feature even one Hispanic/Latino with a disability.  

“Hispanic/Latinos are not a monolithic community, but film offers a very narrow picture that does little to communicate how diverse this group is,” said Case. “There is almost no representation of the array of communities that encompass this ethnic group. Few women, few LGBTQ+ Hispanic/Latinos, and very few Hispanic/Latinos with disabilities are shown in film.” 

Behind the camera, four male Hispanic/Latino directors worked across the 100 top films in 2022. Across 16 years and 1,600 movies, less than 5% of all directors were Hispanic/Latino. Only five of these 82 directors were women. Less than 1% of all top-grossing film directors from 2007 to 2022 were Hispanic/Latinas. Four directors across the sample were Afro-Latino. The majority of Hispanic/Latino directors (69.5%) were born outside the U.S. Only 3.3% of “Produced by” credits in 2022 and 3.1% overall were held by Hispanic/Latino producers. Fewer than 1% of all producers were Hispanic/Latina women.  

The final behind-the-scenes role examined was casting directors. In 2022, 2.9% of all casting directors were Hispanic/Latino. Only 3.5% of all casting directors in 16 years were Hispanic/Latino. In films that had Hispanic/Latino casting directors, Hispanic/Latinos filled 12.6% of speaking roles, compared to 5.2% of roles in films with non-Hispanic/Latino casting directors. A similar result was observed for Hispanic/Latino directors and producers.  

“The lack of Hispanic/Latino characters on screen is no surprise, given the dearth of Hispanic/Latino storytellers behind the camera,” said Smith. “The industry has overlooked talented members of this community in almost all roles behind the screen. This is an area where there can be immediate action and improvement.”  

The study also includes a qualitative investigation of the portrayal of Hispanic/Latino characters. The authors identified top-billed Hispanic/Latino actors across top films in 2022 and then evaluated every Hispanic/Latino-speaking character that appeared in the resulting 35 films.  

The findings revealed that stereotypes are still prevalent in top films. 24.4% of top-billed Hispanic/Latino characters were depicted as immigrants, with the same percentage (24.4%) shown as low-income. More than half (57.8%) of top-billed Hispanics/Latinos were criminals, with nearly half (46.2%) shown as violent criminals. 40% were depicted as angry or temperamental. Nearly one-third (31.1%) were sexualized. For top-billed Hispanics/Latinos, these trends have all increased significantly since 2019 and from 2017-18.  

Moving from top-billed Hispanic/Latino characters to 104 total Hispanic/Latino speaking characters assessed, slightly fewer characters (6.7%) were shown as immigrants or low-income (3.9%) but nearly one-quarter (23.1%) were criminals. Of the criminals, 45.8% used violence and 58.3% were part of an organized crime syndicate.  

Moreover, there remains a tendency to represent Hispanic/Latinos as “foreign.” Just over 15% of all Hispanic/Latino speaking characters evaluated were shown only speaking Spanish. 26.8% of characters were shown with a Spanish accent. A similar percentage (31.1%) of top-billed Hispanic/Latino characters were shown with an accent when speaking English. 

“In our previous reports, we have recorded the continual stereotyping of the Hispanic/Latino community on screen in film,” said Case. “This report is no different and reflects a stubborn view of the Hispanic/Latino experience that is rooted in outdated and mistaken beliefs. As Hollywood peddles these stories, audiences– both those who are Hispanic/Latino and those who are not– have little recourse to push back and advocate for more authentic stories.” 

The report concluded by offering a series of solutions aimed at studios, financiers, non-profit organizations, and philanthropists. Drawing on ideas presented in their previous reports, the authors argue that collective action is necessary to see change in film. 


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