Although 2021 had some major films directed by women, the number of female directors in Hollywood’s top 250 films has decreased compared to 2020.
the Celluloid ceiling report for 2021 shows that the number of female directors in top films of the year has dropped compared to 2020. 2020 has seen filmmakers directing projects in all areas of the industry, from period literary pieces like Autumn to Wilde Emma to horror thrillers like Floria Sigismondi’s Turning to big-budget superhero shows like Cathy Yan’s Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of Harley Quinn). The year culminated with the 2021 Academy Awards, where Chloé Zhao received the Best Director Oscar for nomadlandbecoming the second woman to win this award.
Even with the decrease, 2021 has seen high-profile films directed by women. The Horror Reboot candy manwhich ended up being the No. 20 domestic film of the year, was directed by Nia DaCosta, who is now directing the next Captain Marvel following Wonders, coming in 2022. She is also the first black woman to direct a film that reached No. 1. Two of the four Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase 4 entries were also directed by women: Black Widow was helmed by Cate Shortland and Eternals was directed by the decorated Chloé Zhao (although she did Eternals before his Oscar win).
Through Variety, the Celluloid Ceiling reported that the number of films directed by women in the box office top 250 rose from 18% to 17%. When the scope is reduced to the top 100 movies, the change is even more drastic, dropping from 16% to 12%. However, in better news, when production roles such as writers, executive producers, producers, editors and cinematographers are added to the tally, it’s a slight increase, up to 25% compared to 23% in 2020.
Two important factors complicate this data. First, when measuring the top 100 box office movies, this excludes streaming features from platforms like Netflix, which have a slightly higher rate of female directors. For example, this year’s top contender for the awards, Jane Campion’s The power of the dogis not in the top 250 as it is a Netflix movie and only received a limited theatrical release.
Second, 2020 may have been a good year for female directors, but the pandemic has dramatically changed the shape of that year’s top 100 box office. Many impending big-budget blockbusters have been delayed until 2021 or later, so the movies that occupied the top 250 as measured by Celluloid ceiling looked very different from other years. Now that the charts are once again filled with big-budget mastheads, this drop likely reflects the fact that studios are still resisting women directing these biggest blockbusters. This is obviously something the organization is working to change, but it’s likely consistent with previous years rather than overtly worsening.
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