Top-Grossing 2018 Films Had More Female and Racially Diverse Lead Roles, Study Says

Eleven films featured a female lead or co-lead from an underrepresented racial/ethnic group, three times more than in 2017, according to Annenberg Inclusion Initiative study

Last Updated: February 12, 2019 @ 7:54 AM

The 100 top-grossing movies of 2018 featured more leading roles for both women and underrepresented races or ethnic groups, according to a new study released Tuesday by Stacy L. Smith and the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative.

The study found that 40 of the top 100 films in 2018 featured a female in the lead or co-lead role, which was is an increase from 2017 (eight-plus movies) and 2007 (20-plus movies).

Meanwhile, 11 films featured a female lead or co-lead from an underrepresented racial/ethnic group, which was nearly three times as many films as in 2017.

A further 28 top movies last year featured a lead or co-lead from an underrepresented racial/ethnic group, which is another significant increase from 2017 and from 2007.

“Widows” (pictured above), “Black Panther” and “Crazy Rich Asians” are among the hit films of 2018 that featured strong female characters and diverse casts.

“2018 offers hope that industry members have taken action to create content that better reflects the world in which we live, and the box office seems to have rewarded them for it,” Smith, founder and Director of the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, said in a statement. “This data shows us that it is possible for change to be achieved — companies must not grow complacent but continue the progress they have made in 2019 and in the years to come.”

“It is encouraging that 2018 brought a 12-year high in the number of films with a female lead or co lead driving the action,” Dr. Smith continued. “Perhaps most notably, we witnessed gains for women of color as leads or co-leads. While there is still a significant amount of change to be accomplished, this represents a step in the right direction toward intersectional inclusion in storytelling.”

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