6. The First Wives Club (1996) - $256 million
The stars: Bette Midler, Diane Keaton & Goldie Hawn
Age on film’s release: 51 / 50 / 51
The story: A blueprint for the success of Meryl Streep’s recent romantic comedies, the film may have made a selling point of its stars’ relatively advanced progress through their romantic travails, but it worked - the film posted huge numbers, tapping into a previously neglected audience.
5. Driving Miss Daisy (1989) - $259 million
The star: Jessica Tandy
Age on film’s release: 80
The story: Not everyone was comfortable with this hugely popular tale of a wealthy white woman and her black chauffeur. But few doubted the performance of Jessica Tandy, which eventually made her the oldest ever Best Actress Oscar nominee and winner - an impressive statistic in her case, but perhaps also proof that we are not exactly comfortable as a species with telling stories about people in life’s final stages.
4. On Golden Pond (1981) - $290 million
The star: Katherine Hepburn
Age on film’s release: 74
The story: Katherine Hepburn took top billing but famously shared screen time with fellow legend Henry Fonda and his daughter Jane. Hollywood pounced, awarding Oscars to both Hepburn and Fonda Senior - in the process allowing Hepburn to break records with an unprecedented fourth Best Actress statuette.
3. Something’s Gotta Give (2003) - $267 million worldwide / It’s Complicated (2009) - $314 million worldwide
The star: Diane Keaton / Meryl Streep
Age on film’s release: 57 / 60
The story: A double entry for two Nancy Meyers rom-coms. Meyers is one of very few female writer / directors making commercial films about the love lives of women in her age bracket. These numbers show how ridiculous it is that there are not more like her - the figures for both are up there with all but the most super-saturated of blockbusters.
2. The Devil Wears Prada (2006) - $363 million
The star: Meryl Streep
Age on film’s release: 57
The story: Here’s where it all started for Meryl Streep’s renaissance as a major commercial star. Anne Hathaway was the film’s arguable lead, but Meryl received both star billing and the lion’s share of plaudits, including a Best Actress Oscar nomination - a rarity for any comic performance. Industry observers were shocked by the film's opening weekend grosses - and Meryl has never looked back.
1. Mamma Mia (2008) - $635 million
The star: Meryl Streep
Age on film’s release: 59
The story: Who else? Of course, it was hardly Meryl alone that led “Mamma Mia” to such extraordinary box office returns - a certain band named ABBA may have helped in that regard. But the film’s bumper business - at the heart of a worldwide recession - was fuelled by women making repeat visits to this tale that gleefully hinges on the romantic forays of Streep's exuberantly liberated character.
Critics be damned - what audiences got from this film, and indeed most of the films on this list, they don’t find at their multiplex very often. But as the above list confirms, the problem is most certainly one of supply and not demand.