Is 2020 the year it will all change? In its latest study, “Inclusion in the Director’s Chair? Gender, Race & Age of Directors across 1,000 films from 2007-2018,” the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative identified that, of the 112 directors behind the 100 top-grossing movies of 2018, only 3.6 percent were women. Still worse: that percentage was actually down from the year before, when 7.3 percent of the top films were helmed by women. The report also found that percentage of women directors has not markedly changed over time, despite strong calls for gender parity, and the introduction of various industry initiatives aimed at shifting historical trends. You can read the full report right here.
And yet the next two years, and in particular what looks to be a game-changing 2020, could see those numbers altered in a major way. Most of those 100 top-grossing movies, of course, come from the studio world, the home of the big blockbusters, the major moneymakers, and the kind of opportunities that continue to elude the vast majority of female filmmakers working in the contemporary era. And while conversations about the need for inclusion and diversity both in front of and behind the camera have been significantly ramped up in recent years, it seems as if the coming new decade will see some of the most startling changes yet.
In 2020 and 2021, female filmmakers will make their most marked foray into popular franchise features ever, especially at Disney and Warner Bros., which have female-directed efforts in both the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Cate Shortland’s “Black Widow,” Chloe Zhao’s “The Eternals,”) and the DC Extended Universe (Patty Jenkins’ return to “Wonder Woman,” Cathy Yan’s “Birds of Prey”), along with Disney Princess tales like the upcoming live-action “Mulan.”
Other directors are getting second or third studio gigs, including Stella Meghie, Kay Cannon, and Tina Gordon, while plenty of talented filmmakers are joining the studio world for the very first time, like Emerald Fennell, Nia DeCosta, and Zoe Lister-Jones.
Warner Bros. / screen cap
While Disney and Warner Bros. have mostly turned their attention to giving female filmmakers some of their biggest outings, Universal Pictures and its specialty arm Focus Features have emerged as the current leader in women-helmed films in the next two years. And what the studio lacks in tentpole opportunities, it’s made up for with a wide variety of genres and budgets, including horror films from DeCosta and Floria Sigismondi, romances from Meghie and Kat Coiro, and a pair of female-centric features from Fennell and Eliza Hittman that will first debut at Sundance.
Paramount and Fox, however, could stand to beef up on their selections ASAP, with Paramount only having one planned feature (Reed Morano’s long-pushed-around “The Rhythm Section”) and Fox having, as of this writing, zero female-directed films on its upcoming calendar (and, yes, that includes speciality label Fox Searchlight).
It’s important to note, however, that each studio still has a number of announced films that haven’t been scheduled yet, many of which will be helmed by female filmmakers (including new projects from Ava DuVernay, Elizabeth Banks, Olivia Wilde, Maya Forbes, Lena Kahn, and Greta Gerwig). Other projects have yet to officially attach filmmakers, and perhaps women are already in line for some of those jobs. And with Sundance kicking off later this month, distributors will be hitting the trail to pick up finished films for distribution, including those helmed by women. (This year’s festival will offer plenty of options: of this year’s features, 46 percent were directed by women.)
Check out the list of upcoming female-directed features below, as divided by studio. The films listed all have a set release date (or have at least been announced as officially coming out in 2020 or 2021). As with our previous lists from 2019, 2018, and 2017, we will update as new films are added to (and sometimes removed from) various slates. As of this writing (last updated December 17, 2020), there are 25 films directed by women in the studio offing.
“The Rhythm Section,” directed by Reed Morano, released January 31, 2020
Sony Pictures Entertainment and Sony Pictures Classics
“The Broken Hearts Gallery,” directed by Natalie Krinsky, released September 11, 2020
“Yellow Rose,” directed by Diane Paragas, released October 9, 2020
“The Craft,” directed by Zoe Lister-Jones, released October 28, 2020 (VOD only)
“Cinderella,” directed by Kay Cannon, to be released February 5, 2021
“The Nightingale,” directed by Melanie Laurent, to be released December 22, 2021
“I Carry You With Me,” directed by Heidi Ewing, to be released TBD 2021
Twentieth Century Fox and Fox Searchlight
No films on schedule.
Universal Pictures and Focus Features
“The Turning,” directed by Floria Sigismondi, released January 24, 2020
“The Photograph,” directed by Stella Meghie, released February 14, 2020
“Emma,” directed by Autumn de Wilde, released February 21, 2020
“Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Always,” directed by Eliza Hittman, released March 13, 2020
“The High Note,” directed by Nisha Ganatra, released May 29, 2020 (VOD only)
“Kajillionaire,” directed by Miranda July, released September 25, 2020
“Promising Young Woman,” directed by Emerald Fennell, to be released December 25, 2020
“Marry Me,” directed by Kat Coiro, to be released May 14, 2021
“Spirit Riding Free,” directed by Elaine Bogan, to be released June 4, 2021
“Candyman,” directed by Nia DeCosta, to be released August 27, 2021
Walt Disney Pictures/Buena Vista
“Mulan,” directed by Niki Caro, released July 24, 2020
“The One and Only Ivan,” directed by Thea Sharrock, released August 21, 2020 (on Disney+)
“Black Beauty,” directed by Ashley Avis, released November 27, 2020 (on Disney+)
“Black Widow,” directed by Cate Shortland, to be released May 7, 2021
“Eternals,” directed by Chloé Zhao, to be released November 5, 2021
“Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn),” directed by Cathy Yan, released February 7, 2020
“Wonder Woman 1984,” directed by Patty Jenkins, to be released December 25, 2020 (theaters and HBO Max)
“Reminiscence,” directed by Lisa Joy, to be released TBD 2021