Only 5 of the Top-Grossing Films Since 2007 Were Directed by Black Women—and 2 Were From Ava DuVernay

Director Ava DuVernay attends the Official Academy Screening of A WRINKLE IN TIME on March 8, 2018 in New York City.
Director Ava DuVernay attends the Official Academy Screening of A WRINKLE IN TIME on March 8, 2018 in New York City.
Photo: Brad Barket (Getty Images for The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences)

We’re making some progress, but we have quite a ways to go.

In a recent study conducted by USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative (pdf), 2017 showed a notable increase in black filmmakers within the top 100-grossing movies of that year. Fourteen percent of the directors in that coveted group were black, which is a 270 percent increase over 2017 and a 200 percent increase since 2007.

A “whopping” 16 black directors helmed projects in the top 100 movies of 2018, which is a record within the entire timeframe of the study, according to Daily News.

“All of the activism and attention surrounding the issue of diversity, inclusion, and belonging has shown that the time has come,” said Dr. Stacy L. Smith, co-author of the study, entitled Inequality in 1,100 Popular Films: Examining Portrayals of Gender, Race/Ethnicity, LGBT & Disability from 2007 to 2017 (pdf). “This is the first time we’re reporting a major change in representation behind the camera.”


It’s true, #OscarsSoWhite certainly placed the drive toward inclusiveness at the forefront in a way we hadn’t seen before. And yet, how far have we actually come?

Women, in general, were given the shitty end of the 2018 top 100-grossing movie stick, with only four women sitting in the director’s chair in this high moneymaking group. Only one of those four was black: Ava DuVernay, for A Wrinkle in Time.

“Women aren’t given as many chances to be hired again by studios, and that makes it more difficult for women to see this as a career path they can pursue in order to provide for themselves and feed their families,” noted study co-author Dr. Katherine Pieper.

Of the 1,200 top-grossing films between 2007-2018, only 4.3 percent of all directors were female. Intersectionality played a key role here, too, because only five were directed by black women, three by Asian women, and one by a Latina, IndieWire confirmed.


Because representation matters, it’s important to name names. The black women directors who served as auteurs behind the top-grossing films between 2007-2018 are:

Ava DuVernay

Gina Prince-Bythewood

Sanaa Hamri

Stella Meghie

DuVernay gets the crown for having two of the top-grossing films in the last twelve years, as Selma ranked in the top-100 in 2014. As a champion of black women in filmmaking, I’m sure this is bittersweet for DuVernay, since she’s always here for more black women getting their deserved shine at the helm.


Another troubling statistic: Only 18 percent of producers behind the top 300 movies of the last three years were women, with only 1.6 percent being women of color. Producers identifying as men of color represented 9.8 percent during that same timeframe.


If we get into other crew members behind the camera, Variety pointed out:

The numbers were even starker when it came to below-the-line positions, the term for crew members who aren’t producers, writers, or directors. Men comprised 97% of cinematographers, 84.5% of editors, 81.7% of production designers, and 97.7% of composers.


Would trying to pick out the black women in the mix raise my blood pressure? It’s very likely.

Do better, Hollywood.

Staff Writer, Entertainment at The Root. Sugar, spice & everything rice. Equipped with the uncanny ability to make a Disney reference and a double entendre in the same sentence.

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Rooo sez BISH PLZ

There will be little progress until POC start acknowledging the sexism and misogynoir in “the community”, stop living in denial, and stop parroting the exceptionalism of those four in order to stay in denial as opposed to confront the problem.

I’m as sick and tired of men of color who refuse to acknowledge sexism - and maybe even more sick and tired of their WOC enablers - as I am of white women who refuse to acknowledge racism (and y’all got plenty of words for them, so it’s literally even more amazing when you go all Bird Box in refusing to acknowledge the former).

Men of color can play Spot the Exceptionalism quicker than a blink when white people point at Barack Obama and Oprah in a desperate attempt to excuse away their racism but all of a sudden have literally no response when confronted with the questions “What about the racism you internalized? What about the sexism your consistent history of choices demonstrates?” like they just had several lobotomies and all the double PhDs in film studies and MFAs and MBAs they were just waving in your face done disappeared.

Somebody wake me when “the community” is ready to actually deal constructively with all of this.