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Top-grossing films by female directors


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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 February 9, 2020):

2017 -- Wonder Woman -- $412.6 + 409.3 = 821.8 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

2019 -- Hustlers -- $105.0 + 52.6 + 157.6 million -- Lorene Scafaria

2017 -- Pitch Perfect 3 -- $104.9 + 79.8 = 184.7 million -- Trish Sie

2019 -- Little Women -- $102.7 + 74.5 = 177.2 million -- Greta Gerwig

2018 -- A Wrinkle in Time -- $100.5 + 32.2 = 132.7 million -- Ava DuVernay

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:

2019 -- Frozen II -- $474.3 + 958.6 = 1432.8 million -- Jennifer Lee (+1 other)

2019 -- Captain Marvel -- $426.8 + 701.4 = 1,128.3 million -- Anna Boden (+1 other)

2013 -- Frozen -- $400.7 + 873.5 = 1,274.2 million -- Jennifer Lee (+1 other)

2001 -- Shrek -- $267.7 + 216.7 = 484.4 million -- Vicky Jenson (+1 other)

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

2004 -- Shark Tale -- $160.9 + 206.4 = 367.3 million -- Vicky Jenson (+2 others)

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 but one 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

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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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.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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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.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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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

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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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.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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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.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Just a quick note to say that Wonder Woman has now passed Kung Fu Panda 2 to become the top-grossing film worldwide directed by a female director solo. (It is still behind Frozen, which was co-directed by a man and a woman.)

Overseas, however, it is still behind Kung Fu Panda 2, Mamma Mia! and Fifty Shades of Grey. (It is also a notch behind Kung Fu Panda 3, which was co-directed by a woman and a man, and it is also, of course, well behind Frozen.)

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I was recently reminded that Shrek and Shark Tale were co-directed by Vicky Jenson, so I have added those films to the list (in the "female director plus at least one male co-director" section, where all the films so far are animated films).

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Bumping this thread to note that Wonder Woman has now passed Frozen in North America and is thus, unequivocally, the top-grossing movie by a female director in North America (live action or animated, with or without a male co-director).

Globally, however, it is still behind Frozen, which made more than twice as much money as Wonder Woman overseas (and was co-directed by a man and a woman); and overseas, it is also still behind Kung Fu Panda 2, Mamma Mia! and Fifty Shades of Grey (all of which were directed by women solo).

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Just a quick note to say that I updated the list above to include Pitch Perfect 3, which has grossed over $100 million in North America.

Time will tell whether A Wrinkle in Time joins that list. It made an estimated $33.3 million this week, which is the 15th-biggest opening weekend (as far as I can tell) of any film (co-)directed by a woman, and the 10th-biggest opening weekend of any film directed *solely* by a woman, but appears to have been smaller than the studio had hoped.

   2017  Wonder Woman (dir. Patty Jenkins)              $103.3 million
   2015  Fifty Shades of Grey (dir. Sam Taylor-Johnson)  $85.2 million
   2008  Twilight (dir. Catherine Hardwicke)             $69.6 million
   2012  Pitch Perfect 2 (dir. Elizabeth Banks)          $69.2 million
   2013  Frozen (co-directed)                            $67.4 million
   2012  Brave (co-directed)                             $66.3 million
   2009  Alvin & the Chipmunks 2 (dir. Betty Thomas)     $48.9 million
   2011  Kung Fu Panda 2 (dir. Jennifer Yuh Nelson)      $47.7 million
   2004  Shark Tale (co-directed)                        $47.4 million
   2001  Shrek (co-directed)                             $42.3 million
   2016  Kung Fu Panda 3 (co-directed)                   $41.3 million
   1998  Deep Impact (dir. Mimi Leder)                   $41.2 million
   2009  The Proposal (dir. Anne Fletcher)               $33.6 million
   2000  What Women Want (dir. Nancy Meyers)             $33.6 million
   2018  A Wrinkle in Time (dir. Ava DuVernay)           $33.3 million
   2014  Unbroken (dir. Angelina Jolie)                  $30.6 million
   1998  Doctor Dolittle (dir. Betty Thomas)             $29.0 million
   2008  Mamma Mia! (dir. Phyllida Lloyd)                $27.8 million

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Just a quick note to say that I have added A Wrinkle in Time to the list, because it inched across the $90 million threshold today and, while it might not make it to $100 million, it will probably get at least as close as Zero Dark Thirty did. Note, though, that A Wrinkle in Time not only underperformed at the North American box office, but it has done *very* badly overseas.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Just a quick note to say that I have updated the list to reflect the fact that, as of this weekend, A Wrinkle in Time has joined the $100 million club in North America after all. It's still a flop overseas and worldwide, though, especially considering the amount that was spent on it.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Just a quick note to say that I have added Captain Marvel -- which was co-directed by a man and a woman -- to the list above. The $153 million that it made in North America this weekend is the biggest opening for any film (co-)directed by a woman, beating the $103.3 million that Wonder Woman (directed by a woman solo) opened to two years ago.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Just a quick note to say that Captain Marvel (co-directed by a man and a woman) is now the 2nd-highest-grossing film co-directed by a woman overseas and worldwide (behind Frozen, which was also co-directed by a man and a woman), and it is now the top-grossing live-action film (co-)directed by a woman overseas and worldwide (previous champs: Mamma Mia! overseas and Wonder Woman worldwide, each of which was directed by a woman, solo, without any male co-directors). Captain Marvel still ranks behind Wonder Woman in North America.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Just a quick note to say that Hustlers earned $33.2 million over the weekend, which gives it (i) the 2nd-best opening of any R-rated film directed by a woman (behind Fifty Shades of Grey), (ii) the 10th-best opening of any live-action film (co-)directed by a woman, and (iii) the 16th-best opening of any film (co-)directed by a woman, as far as I can tell. (The live-action films are in bold below.)

   2019  Captain Marvel (co-directed)          $153.4 million
   
2017  Wonder Woman (dir. Patty Jenkins)              $103.3 million

   2015  Fifty Shades of Grey (dir. Sam Taylor-Johnson)  $85.2 million
   2008  Twilight (dir. Catherine Hardwicke)             $69.6 million
   2012  Pitch Perfect 2 (dir. Elizabeth Banks)          $69.2 million

   2013  Frozen (co-directed)                            $67.4 million
   2012  Brave (co-directed)                             $66.3 million
   2009  Alvin & the Chipmunks 2 (dir. Betty Thomas)     $48.9 million
   2011  Kung Fu Panda 2 (dir. Jennifer Yuh Nelson)      $47.7 million
   2004  Shark Tale (co-directed)                        $47.4 million
   2001  Shrek (co-directed)                             $42.3 million
   2016  Kung Fu Panda 3 (co-directed)                   $41.3 million
   1998  Deep Impact (dir. Mimi Leder)                   $41.2 million
   2009  The Proposal (dir. Anne Fletcher)               $33.6 million
   2000  What Women Want (dir. Nancy Meyers)             $33.6 million

   2019  Hustlers (dir. Lorene Scafaria)           $33.2 million
   
2018  A Wrinkle in Time (dir. Ava DuVernay)           $33.1 million

   2014  Unbroken (dir. Angelina Jolie)                  $30.6 million
   1998  Doctor Dolittle (dir. Betty Thomas)             $29.0 million
   2008  Mamma Mia! (dir. Phyllida Lloyd)                $27.8 million

Time will tell if Hustlers ends up joining the $100 million club. Given how it kept surpassing all the estimates before and at the beginning of the weekend, though, I'd say it has the momentum to do so -- for now, at least.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Just a quick note to say that Hustlers has joined the $100 million club and has thus been added to the list at the top of this thread.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Just a quick note to say that I have added Frozen II to the list of films that were directed by a woman and at least one man. Its estimated $127 million opening was second only to Captain Marvel among films co-directed by women.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Just bumping this thread to note that Frozen II is now the top-grossing film co-directed by a woman both domestically and worldwide, beating previous champ Captain MarvelWonder Woman remains the top-grossing film directed by a woman solo (i.e. without a male co-director).

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Just a quick note to say that I have added Greta Gerwig's Little Women to the list as it is only a few days away from joining the $100 million club.

Gerwig's Little Women currently ranks 30th among 2019 releases at the North American box office.

Gillian Armstrong's Little Women grossed $50.1 million and ranked 27th among 1994 releases.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Just a quick note to say that Birds of Prey earned an estimated $33.3 million over the weekend, which, if the estimate holds, would give it (i) the 2nd-best opening of any R-rated film directed by a woman (behind Fifty Shades of Grey), (ii) the 10th-best opening of any live-action film (co-)directed by a woman, and (iii) the 17th-best opening of any film (co-)directed by a woman, as far as I can tell. (The live-action films are in bold below.)

   2019  Captain Marvel (co-directed)          $153.4 million
   2019  Frozen II (co-directed)               $130.3 million
   
2017  Wonder Woman (dir. Patty Jenkins)              $103.3 million

   2015  Fifty Shades of Grey (dir. Sam Taylor-Johnson)  $85.2 million
   2008  Twilight (dir. Catherine Hardwicke)             $69.6 million
   2012  Pitch Perfect 2 (dir. Elizabeth Banks)          $69.2 million

   2013  Frozen (co-directed)                            $67.4 million
   2012  Brave (co-directed)                             $66.3 million
   2009  Alvin & the Chipmunks 2 (dir. Betty Thomas)     $48.9 million
   2011  Kung Fu Panda 2 (dir. Jennifer Yuh Nelson)      $47.7 million
   2004  Shark Tale (co-directed)                        $47.4 million
   2001  Shrek (co-directed)                             $42.3 million
   2016  Kung Fu Panda 3 (co-directed)                   $41.3 million
   1998  Deep Impact (dir. Mimi Leder)                   $41.2 million
   2009  The Proposal (dir. Anne Fletcher)               $33.6 million
   2000  What Women Want (dir. Nancy Meyers)             $33.6 million
   2020  Birds of Prey (dir. Cathy Yan)        $33.3 million

   2019  Hustlers (dir. Lorene Scafaria)           $33.2 million
   
2018  A Wrinkle in Time (dir. Ava DuVernay)           $33.1 million

   2014  Unbroken (dir. Angelina Jolie)                  $30.6 million
   1998  Doctor Dolittle (dir. Betty Thomas)             $29.0 million
   2008  Mamma Mia! (dir. Phyllida Lloyd)                $27.8 million

Birds of Prey's first-weekend gross is nearly identical to that of Hustlers -- but, unlike Hustlers, which did better than expected and benefited from positive word-of-mouth, Birds of Prey did a lot worse than expected (tracking suggested an opening around $55 million, and the studio had estimated more conservatively that it would open around $45 million, which still turned out to be too optimistic). So whereas Hustlers joined the $100 million club in the end, Birds of Prey is unlikely to go that high.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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