It has been a long, long time since there has been this kind of hype for a movie. Since the announcement that Greta Gerwig would be directing a “Barbie” movie in the summer of 2021, the online and offline culture has developed Barbie fever. Fashion, aesthetics, and even lifestyles have changed because of it, from hot pink clothes on the runway, “Kenergy,” and even a Barbie Dreamhouse in Malibu. It feels like the closest thing we have to “mono-culture” in 2023, and this hype will only continue once the film goes into its wide release on July 21st. The potential magnitude of “Barbie’s” impact is reflected in its box-office predictions, which range from $80 million to $100 million during its opening weekend alone. If this turns out to be the case, “Barbie” has the chance to be one of the highest-grossing American films directed by a woman. So far, director Greta Gerwig’s features “Lady Bird” and “Little Women” have had a worldwide gross of around $300 million, which is no small feat for a pair of female-led coming-of-age films. Based on statistics provided by Box Office Mojo, there is an evident pattern within the highest-grossing movies directed by women. As expected, superheroes, animation, and sequels abound, generally reflecting the types of films that see success nowadays, regardless of director.
PITCH PERFECT 2 (2015)
WORLDWIDE GROSS: $287,144,079
Directed by co-star Elizabeth Banks, “Pitch Perfect 2” outgrossed the original “Pitch Perfect” in five days, justifying the production of a third installment and a spin-off television show. Though not exactly a critical darling, the series has helped launch several actors in stardom and success, such as Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, and Ben Platt, outside of his Broadway home turf.
WORLDWIDE GROSS: $408,430,415
“Twilight“-fever was ever-present in 2008, and understandably so. The book series had been massively successful and kicked off the vampire renaissance of the late 2000s. Directed by Catherine Hardwick, the film grossed $408,430,415 worldwide. Despite less than stellar reviews, the film tapped into the cultural zeitgeist and became inescapable in pop culture. In 2023, the series is having its own sort of renaissance among Gen-Z’s too young to see the film upon release.
ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: THE SQUEAKQUEL (2009)
WORLDWIDE GROSS: $443,140,005
Before researching this article, I had little to no expectations of what titles would or would not be included on the list. Therefore, I was caught entirely off guard when I learned that of all the films ever directed by women, “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel” would be among the highest-grossing of all time. Directed by Betty Thomas, the film was generally disliked by critics who thought it was just decent enough to be enjoyed by children. The film competed directly with Disney’s “The Princess and the Frog,” which was a relative disappointment for the animation juggernaut, an emblematic representation of the transition from traditional to computer animation.
WORLDWIDE GROSS: $488,441,368
In their feature directorial debuts, the co-directing duo Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson were the pair behind “Shrek.” Not unlike “Frozen” and “Brave,” “Shrek” dismantles the typical fairytale by asking the viewer to look past appearances. “Shrek” was the first animated film since 1953’s “Peter Pan” to compete for the Palme d’Or, and won the first-ever Oscar for Best Animated Feature.
WORLDWIDE GROSS: $540.4 million
A year before the “Frozen” fiasco began, Pixar released “Brave,” another film that encourages girls (especially princesses) to put themselves before romantic love. This decision to release the first female-led Pixar film was good, as it grossed over half a billion dollars worldwide. Like the two “Frozens” and many big-budget animated films, “Brave” was directed by a pair of directors, Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman. Chapman, an established animator, was also the first woman to direct an animated film for a major studio with “The Prince of Egypt” in 1998.
THE MATRIX RELOADED (2003)
WORLDWIDE GROSS: $741,847,937
In the past few decades, few films have impacted pop culture and the future of technology quite like “The Matrix.” Sisters Lilly and Lana Wachowski followed up their 1999 hit with “The Matrix Reloaded” in 2003. The film was the third-highest-grossing movie of the year after the Best Picture-winning “Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” and Best Animated Feature winner “Finding Nemo.” In an attempt to make the world of “The Matrix” inescapable, the third film in the franchise, “The Matrix Revolutions,” was released only six months later, having been filmed concurrently with its predecessor. The culture may have found such oversaturation a bit exhausting, and the third film understandably saw a dip in box-office performance.
WONDER WOMAN (2017)
WORLDWIDE GROSS: $822,854,286
Given the chokehold superhero movies have over the box office in the twenty-first century, it is no surprise that two of the highest-grossing female-directed films come from MCU and DCEU. There was significant anticipation for Wonder Woman’s solo debut, having already appeared in the widely panned “Batman v. Superman” just a year before. “Wonder Woman,” directed by Patty Jenkins, became not only a box office hit but also one of the best-reviewed films of the DCEU.
CAPTAIN MARVEL (2019)
WORLDWIDE GROSS: $1,131,416,446
Not to be outdone, Marvel followed up with the Brie Larson-led “Captain Marvel” just two years later and earned an extra $300 million. Co-directed by Anna Boded and Ryan Fleck, the film is the tenth-highest-grossing film of the MCU and the twelfth-highest-grossing superhero film of all time.
WORLDWIDE GROSS: $1,284,540,518
FROZEN II (2019)
WORLDWIDE GROSS: $1,453,683,476
“Frozen” and its sequel go hand-in-hand as the number two and number one spot on the list of worldwide highest-grossing films by female directors, respectively. A princess story that prioritized the love of sisters over that of princes, the first film had mass appeal to girls all over the world, likely to the ire of parents who had to endure their little ones singing ‘Let it Go’ at the top of their lungs for hours on end. Because of the first film’s major success, grossing $1,284,540,518 worldwide, the success of its sequel six years later was no surprise, eventually topping its predecessor by almost $200 million.
Have you seen “Barbie” yet? If so, what did you think? Where do you think it will fall in this list? How much money do you think it will make? Please let us know in the comments section below or over on our Twitter account. Thank you!