Maleficent Proves (Again) That People Want Female-Led Blockbusters

Now can we stop talking about this?

Can we stop talking about how female-led movies are a novelty now? As “Maleficentably proved at the box office this past weekend, earning a much-better-than-expected $70 million domestically and over $100 million internationally, the days when Hollywood could get away with saying a box office success featuring a woman in the lead are a fluke are dead, gone and should never be talked about again.

And it’s not just “Maleficent,” either. For decades, Hollywood, in its infinite wisdom, looked at major releases led by women and said, “Well, that’s not what the audience really wants,” then proceeded to point to the next flop starring a woman as evidence that these “types” of movies were a passing craze.

This is, of course, ignoring that there are a few dozen more flops led by men released every single year.

That aside, let’s take a look at the past few months, and why this insanely faulty argument should be retired, ASAP.

It all started with “Frozen” in November, which featured not one, but two female leads played by Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell. An article on BoxOffice.com wondered in the film could possibly reach the high, lofty level of animated hit “The Croods,” and grow beyond its, “core Disney female audience.”

I’d say pretty definitively, yes, the movie did grow beyond that audience. Not only did “Frozen” vastly over perform its opening weekend, it’s also gone on to become a global phenomenon grossing well over $1 billion.

Add in the success of “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” which has grossed nearly $865 million worldwide and is another female-led blockbuster, and you should have had a definitive stamp on that particular, “female-led movies don’t work” argument.

Both movies performed way better than expected, both dominated the box office for nearly a month, and both were, even more importantly, critical successes. Yet each has been shoved into the realm of “Disney princess movie,” (read: for little girls), and “YA novel” (read: for teen girls) respectively.

This, despite “Frozen” grossing more than the number two movie of 2013, “Iron Man 3,” which no one in their right minds would characterize as just a “fanboy movie” (read: for teen boys and adult man-children and no-one else).

Warner Bros.

You can also, when looking at 2013 movies, throw “Gravity” on to that pile, as the movie featured Sandra Bullock alone for the majority of the running time, and grossed $716 million worldwide. That’s more than Superman, Thor, and The Wolverine, all major male box office icons, managed in the same period.

Cut to 2014. Yes, all the current box office champs are led by men, but other than “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” they’re all underperforming. “The Amazing Spider-Man 2″ is struggling to get to $200 million domestically, a total over $50 million less than its rebooted predecessor. “Godzilla,” which looked like a huge hit a few weeks ago has started to flatline.

Only “X-Men: Days of Future Past” is exceeding expectations, currently wracking up some of the biggest tallies in the franchise’s 14 year history. Most box office pundits will point to the strength of the “X-Men” movies as a whole, or talk about how great Hugh Jackman is as a movie star. But what if, maybe, the success has something to do with fellow star Jennifer Lawrence? You know, star of the previously mentioned “Hunger Games?” Couldn’t be that, right?

Let’s go even further and add in other female-led hits this year so far, shall we? “The Other Woman” did far better than expected in its opening weekend, as did “Divergent.” And there’s a good chance “The Fault In Our Stars” may actually beat long-time box office champ Tom Cruise in “Edge of Tomorrow” when both movies hit theaters on June 6.

Yet all of these movies in 2014, plus all the ones listed above from 2013 have still been derisively referred to as flukes, and just for women. Check out this article at Variety which says that “Maleficent” is “riding ’Frozen’s’ coattails” to success. Rather than, say, people want to see Angelina Jolie give an insane performance, or the movie looked good, or any of the above.

No, the story being told is that “Maleficent” is just lucky because “Frozen” also got lucky. The argument that’s being prepped here is that the next time a female-led movie does poorly, that particular “trend” is dead at the box office.

Let me propose another story, one that should be abundantly clear after reading this article: people are tired of seeing the same white men in the same movies over and over again. People like to watch movies featuring women. And not just women: men also like to watch those movies. Kids like to watch those movies.

People like to watch movies they want to see, and sometimes those movies can, and should, star women.

Sounds kind of obvious, but clearly given articles like the one from Variety this is, for some reason, a necessary tautology to state.

Moreover, and this is the lesson Hollywood needs to learn: women are half of the world’s population. It’s not like they’re a fluke. So can we get over ourselves, dudes? Women are leading movies, they’re successful, and they’re here to stay. Let’s stop calling it a trend, and call it what it is: the world righting itself.

“Maleficent” is in theaters now, and you should see it because Angelina Jolie gives a great performance. The end.

Writer/Editor at MTV News. You can follow him on Twitter, but not in real life because that would be weird.
@azalben