The Three Highest-Grossing Movies of 2017 All Had One Awesome Thing in Common

Two days into 2018, and we’re still thinking about 2017. Looking back, there were some things to celebrate about the year at the movies. And they’re the kinds of things that could carry on into the new year and beyond.

For instance, the top three highest-grossing titles on the domestic box office chart — Star Wars: The Last Jedi ($533 million), Beauty and the Beast ($504 million), and Wonder Woman ($413 million) — all featured strong female protagonists. As noted by The Playlist, the last time that happened was back in 1958.

The rest of the top 10 for 2017 wasn’t too shabby with its female representation, either. The best characters of It, Logan, Thor: Ragnarok and Justice League (Wonder Woman again) were all women and young girls. Also deserving of a shout out in this category is Girls Trip with its female-focused cast — in 25th place for the year (with $115 million), it’s 2017’s top-grossing comedy.

Speaking of Girls Trip, the Malcolm D. Lee-helmed effort is also one of three movies directed by black filmmakers to gross more than $100 million domestically in 2017. This is the first year to see so many. The others are Jordan Peele’s phenomenal hit Get Out and F. Gary Gray’s Fast and Furious sequel, The Fate of the Furious.

Interestingly enough, those other two both broke the record for highest-grossing movies by a black director (without adjusting for inflation). First, Peele took the honor with Get Out making $175 million, then F. Gary Gray (who previously held the record with Straight Outta Compton) surpassed him when The Fate of the Furious earned $226 million in North America alone.

Going back to the triumphs for women, Wonder Woman is the highest-grossing movie by a solo female director, a fantastic honor for Patty Jenkins. And outside of box office, Greta Gerwig’s solo feature directorial debut, Lady Bird, is noteworthy for going about two weeks with the greatest review score on Rotten Tomatoes with a 100% from almost 200 critics.

Could we see similar victories from women and persons of color in 2018? There are plenty of exciting upcoming movies with female protagonists, from blockbuster genre vehicles like Tomb Raider, Annhilation, Red Sparrow, Ocean’s 8, Proud Mary and Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time. The heroes of the last two are also persons of color.

A Wrinkle in Time is also helmed by an African-American woman, Ava DuVernay, and she’s the first to ever work with a budget above $100 million, following in in Jenkins’s shoes for women in general. If it catches audiences right, the sci-fi fantasy could be one of the top-grossing movies of 2018.

While still relatively low compared to men, the amount of movies helmed by women also seems to be picking up in the new year. Film School Rejects counts 81 titles to look forward to, compared to the 66 listed at the start of 2017. These include hopeful blockbusters like Barbie and likely critical darlings such as the latest from Jennifer Kent (The Babadook) and Debra Granik (Winter’s Bone).

As for black directors, we may see another one or even two break the box office record. First is Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther, which will do for black superheroes what Wonder Woman did for women superheroes when it opens in February. A month later, DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time could be an even bigger hit.

Maybe we can even see more than three black directors hit above $100 million in 2018. In addition to Coogler and DuVernay definitely coming through, other filmmakers with the chance include Steve McQueen, with his heist drama Widows, and Spike Lee, whose new movie, Black Klansman, stars Star Wars baddie Adam Driver.

For more on what the new year has in store, check out the results of Fandango’s annual survey of moviegoers to see how inclusive the selections are for the most anticipated upcoming releases of 2018.