Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
Peter T Chattaway

Top-grossing films by female directors

7 posts in this topic

Link to our thread on 'Why Best Actor and Actress, but not Best Female Director?' (Aug 2003).

I started a thread on this at Facebook but wouldn't mind input here, too.

I'm trying to compile a list of films by female directors that have grossed at least $100 million in North America. That's a bit arbitrary, I guess -- especially given that $100 million nowadays doesn't mean what it did 25 years ago (back then, only a few films earned that much in any given year, but nowadays 30+ films do that every year) -- but box-office success is, in theory, a sign of a filmmaker's commercial viability, and nothing, in theory. breeds success like success. (Then again, the Twilight sequels were taken away from Catherine Hardwicke and given to a bunch of guys, and the Fifty Shades of Grey sequels were taken away from Sam Taylor-Johnson, too.) Maybe a more interesting list would focus on budgets rather than grosses, but budgets can be very difficult to nail down.

In any case, here's the list I've got so far, focusing on *solo* female directors. It lists the films in the order of their North American grosses, but it also includes the foreign and overseas revenues (current releases in bold; I will update those stats in the weeks to come) (updated June 18, 2017):

2017 -- Wonder Woman -- $274.6 + 297.2 = 571.8 million -- Patty Jenkins

2009 -- Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel -- $219.6 + 223.5 = 443.1 million -- Betty Thomas

2008 -- Twilight -- $192.8 + 199.8 = 392.6 million -- Catherine Hardwicke

2015 -- Pitch Perfect 2 -- $184.3 + 103.3 = 287.5 million -- Elizabeth Banks

2000 -- What Women Want -- $182.8 + 191.3 = 374.1 million -- Nancy Meyers

2015 -- Fifty Shades of Grey -- $166.2 + 404.8 = 571.0 million -- Sam Taylor-Johnson

2011 -- Kung Fu Panda 2 -- $165.2 + 500.4 = 665.7 million -- Jennifer Yuh Nelson

2009 -- The Proposal -- $164.0 + 153.4 = 317.4 million -- Anne Fletcher

1998 -- Doctor Dolittle -- $144.2 + 150.3 = 294.5 million -- Betty Thomas

2008 -- Mamma Mia! -- $144.1 + 465.7 = 609.8 million -- Phyllida Lloyd

1998 -- Deep Impact -- $140.5 + 209.0 = 349.5 million -- Mimi Leder

1989 -- Look Who's Talking -- $140.1 + 156.9 = 297.0 million -- Amy Heckerling

1993 -- Sleepless in Seattle -- $126.7 + 101.1 = 227.8 million -- Nora Ephron

2003 -- Something's Gotta Give -- $124.7 + 142.0 = 266.7 million -- Nancy Meyers

1992 -- Wayne's World -- $121.7 + 61.4 = 183.1 million -- Penelope Spheeris

1998 -- You've Got Mail -- $115.8 + 135.0 = 250.8 million -- Nora Ephron

2014 -- Unbroken -- $115.6 + 45.8 = 161.5 million -- Angelina Jolie

1988 -- Big -- $115.0 + 36.7 = 151.7 million -- Penny Marshall

2009 -- It's Complicated -- $112.7 + 106.4 = 219.1 million -- Nancy Meyers

1992 -- A League of Their Own -- $107.5 + 24.9 = 132.4 million -- Penny Marshall

2013 -- Zero Dark Thirty -- $95.7 + 37.1 = 132.8 million -- Kathryn Bigelow

2001 -- Bridget Jones's Diary -- $71.5 + 210.4 = 281.9 million -- Sharon Maguire

2004 -- Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason -- $40.2 + 222.3 = 262.5 million -- Beeban Kidron

2016 -- Bridget Jones's Baby -- $24.3 + 187.7 = 212.0 million -- Sharon Maguire

I cheated a bit by including Zero Dark Thirty, because I wanted to include Kathryn Bigelow -- the only woman to win a Best Director Oscar -- and that is her top-grossing film. And I also cheated a bit by including the Bridget Jones films, but they were big hits overseas, so maybe this list should include films that made over $100 million in North America *and* films that made over $200 million worldwide...? (In which case including Zero Dark Thirty is cheating either way, but oh well.)

If you count films that were directed by at least one woman and at least one man, then the list would also include:

2014 -- Frozen -- $400.7 + 873.5 = 1,274.2 million -- Jennifer Lee (+1 other)

2012 -- Brave -- $237.3 + 301.7 = 539.0 million -- Brenda Chapman (+ 1 other)

2016 -- Kung Fu Panda 3 -- $143.5 + 377.6 = 521.2 million -- Jennifer Yuh Nelson (+ 1 other)

1998 -- The Prince of Egypt -- $101.4 + 117.2 = 218.6 million -- Brenda Chapman (+ 2 others)

Note that all four of those co-director credits were for animated films. Note also that Brenda Chapman was famously bumped from Brave but got to keep a directorial credit even though she apparently wasn't that involved in the making of the film for the final year or two before its release.

Some people would also include the Wachowskis on one or both of these lists list because the brothers transitioned to sisters sometime after the Matrix trilogy came out, but none of their post-Matrix films have come close to $100 million (or even $50 million) in North America so far (though Cloud Atlas -- which the Wachowskis co-directed with Tom Tykwer -- did crack $100 million overseas).

So... are there any other directors I'm missing?

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What Women Want (dir. Nancy Meyers) made over $180 million in 2000.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh, good call, Meyers has *three* films in the $100m+ club (the last of which came out just a bit over five years ago). I'm adding them to the list.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A quick bit of Googling just reminded me of Mimi Leder (Deep Impact), Amy Heckerling (Look Who's Talking) and Penelope Spheeris (Wayne's World), so I've added them to the list, too.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

I've updated the list above to include Wonder Woman (which just became the first film by a female director to gross $100 million in a single weekend, assuming the estimates hold), as well as a few other films that came out over the last two years.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have updated the list to take into account the fact that Betty Thomas has directed *two* $100 million grossers, including the current North American female-directed champ, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel (the only female-directed film so far, that I know of, to gross over $200 million in North America).

Thomas's other $100 million grosser is Doctor Dolittle. Apparently I don't pay enough attention to the computer-animated animals genre.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have added the three Bridget Jones movies to the list above. None of them came close to making $100 million in North America, but they all made around $200 million overseas, give or take, so they were bona fide hits on the *global* level, at least. And yes, all three of them were directed by women.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0