Two Female Leads

Quick, name a few recent popular movies where the two top-billed stars are female.

Here’s a miscellaneous survey I just did, tallied by gender of top billed/second billed star:

  M/M M/F F/M F/F
20 biggest movies of 2007 10 10 0 0
20 biggest movies of 2006 11 7 0 2
20 biggest movies of 2005 11 7 2 0
20 biggest movies of 2004 10 9 1 0
20 biggest movies since 1977 15 5 0 0
IMDb Top 20 of All Time 15 5 0 0

There were about 110 movies with a male lead and 5 with a female lead. Of the second-billed females, nearly all are written as love interests of the first-billed man. There were over sixty movies in the sample with two male stars top-billed. The only movies with two top-billed female roles, on the other hand, were The Devil Wears Prada and Scary Movie 4.

My cousin has been working on tallying (by hand!) all movies with two top-billed female stars. She reports that there are staggeringly few of them, and the roles fall mainly in two genres: mother-daughter bonding movies and horror films.  Hollywood is not creating female heroes.

Suppose we had a generic Michael Bay/Jerry Bruckheimer movie with some evil organization (say, a shadow government headed by Dick Cheney or whatever) bent on destroying something (say, the internet). Who would you rather see battling their way through the system to stop them — another basic Bruce Willis/Denzel Washington/Vin Diesel character? Or River Tam, Sarah Connor, Lola from Run Lola Run, or Beatrix Kiddo? Not only could the film industry suck less in the examples it sets, we could have some awesome movies.

Notes: If anyone wants to expand my list into a more comprehensive and authoritative survey, I’d love to see the results. I did my tally by hand, using The Numbers for the basic lists and stars, plus IMDb and Wikipedia to get a consensus on billing order.

587 thoughts on “Two Female Leads

  1. Resident Evil has a female hero type, and she’s the main character. She even has a MALE love interest. They made three movies so far…

  2. Here’s a fucking thought.

    Maybe women just don’t make very good movies? Like, honestly, why bother pointing this out? Men are the hero archetype, they always will be. Why would you WANT women to be known for being big, bulky and full of testosterone? It’s a major feature of being male and it’s one of the main features of movies. I’m sorry to hear that you have a hard time overcoming the world. Please, when you get a grip on reality and begin to understand that there is more to life than women being the best at something, give me a shout. For the time being… shut the fuck up.

  3. Oh let’s also add this little list for you of movies that SUCK that have female leads.

    I’ll give you a few to start:

    Elektra
    Catwoman
    Aeonflux
    Ultraviolet

    There’s a place in my heart for Kill Bill though, that movie just hits all the right spots.

    But for the sake of all that is good on this planet. stop trying to put women at the forefront of the film industry. Women are not naturally big and strong like the majority of the male population. Men are (usually) born protectors and it’s going to stay like that due to nature. Have fun with your further whining though. /rant

  4. Seriously? Why so much anger, guys.

    Heroes don’t necessarily have to be ridiculously huge, bulky stereotypes. And there’s plenty of male lead films in which the main character isn’t big and bulky:

    Spiderman
    Men in Black
    Garden state
    V for Vendetta
    Moulin Rouge
    The Fantastic Four
    Harry Potter
    Lord of the Rings

    Tapping into more than just action films there, obviously.

    And films like Elektra are more focused on showing off the body and flexibility of their leads than they are telling a story. Underworld was quite similar in direction but a little better on storyline.

    Perhaps if everyone lightened up on the “Ooh, this is how movies are SUPPOSED to be made” films wouldn’t suck quite so badly just now. I mean, the best film I’ve seen in two years was a political film about aliens.

  5. wow a lot of people are crying about something so stupid!dont go to the freakin movies if you dont like them and dont read the comic strip if you cant handle freakin stick figures…jeesh its a COMIC! get a life

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  7. He would have got a different result if he had adjusted for inflation (bearing in mind that money is worth less and less every year).

    Taking inflation into account, the top grossing box office film of all time (according to Who’s who In The Movies by John Walker) is Gone With the Wind, which has a female lead. The Sound of Music (no 8) and Mary Poppins (no11) also have female leads. And if you count animated filmss with female leads, Snow White is at no.2 and Cinderella at no. 12.

  8. Laura Mulvey still is right!

    As for the Resident evil character she is sexualised to hell, she therefore is an object existing purely for the scopophilic pleasure of the male which means she isnt a true female lead in my opinion as she is powerless- just the center for voyeuristic males.
    Never mind the phallic intermediary par de excellence that is the gun….yawn!

    I think its ridiculous your results are very revealing of an industry which is just as patriarchal as it was in the 40′s.

    Thanks for posting : )

  9. These comments are full of fail. Great post…these things need to be noticed and questioned.

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  11. Thank you for this! Have you ever heard of the Bechdel test? Another awesome/scary way to see Hollywood’s lack of interest in women’s interior lives outside of being love interests.

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  13. Hmm this is fun lol I don’t get why all the super famous movies have to have male leads, but it seems that the world of games has it differently as there are many female leads, most recently in FINAL FANTASY XIII.

  14. I don’t know, doesn’t this say something about the films we’re watching, what happened to intellectual comedies, serious dramas, maybe films are like this because of a global IQ drop. Everything is action and Romcoms nowadays, sure there are a few (very) notable exceptions, but en masse we’re buying meaningless drivel to entertain ourselves (which isn’t always a bad thing). Of course women can’t be at the forefront of movies like this, we’ve unromanticized our view of strong women and the primarily chauvinist society in hollywood doesn’t seem like it’s changing that now. I think it’s not the wrong sex for the movies i think it’s the wrong movies for the sex.

  15. This says much more about moviegoers than it does about movie-makers. Hollywood is an industry like any other: it gives paying customers what they ask for. If more moviegoers start watching female-lead films, more of them will be made.

  16. s an industry like any other: it gives paying customers what they ask for. If more moviegoers start watching female-lead films, more of them were

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  18. s an industry like any other: it gives paying customers what they ask for. If more moviegoers start watching female-lead films, more of them were

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