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Barbie passes $1bn at the box office: The highest grossing films directed by women

Barbie is storming the global box office

The highest-grossing films directed by women include Frozen and Captain Marvel, with Barbie joining the list after becoming the first film directed solely by a woman to pass $1b at the box office (Disney/Warner Bros./Marvel Studios).
The highest-grossing films directed by women include Frozen and Captain Marvel, with Barbie joining the list after becoming the first film directed solely by a woman to pass $1b at the box office (Disney/Warner Bros./Marvel Studios).

Greta Gerwig's Barbie has sailed at the box office, crossing the $1 billion mark globally just over two weeks after its official release.

The filmmaker has become the first woman to solely direct a movie that has reached $1bn at the global box office, as other films to have done so with female directors were co-directed.

Read more: Barbie review: Greta Gerwig proves that life in plastic really is fantastic

The film follows the iconic Mattel doll, played by Margot Robbie, as strange things begin to happen to her and she starts to feel an overwhelming sense of dread and even begins to fear death.

Ryan Gosling and Margot Robbie in Barbie. (Warner Bros.)
Ryan Gosling and Margot Robbie in Barbie. (Warner Bros.)

Determined to get her life in Barbieland back on track, Robbie's Barbie heads to the real world to find the person playing with her doll and making her feel this way, and Ken (Ryan Gosling) comes along for the ride.

The story has proven a veritable hit which is evidenced by its box office success against tough competition like Oppenheimer and Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One, and it is also a big win for female directors whose work can often be overlooked when compared to their male counterparts.

With Barbie's recent success at the box office, Yahoo looks back at some of the highest grossing movies of all time that were directed and co-directed by women.

The highest grossing films directed and co-directed by women

One of the earliest examples of a film directed by a woman doing well at the box office is Big which in 1988 became the first movie made by a woman to pass the $100 million mark.

Directed by Penny Marshall, the film stars Tom Hanks and led to his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor. The filmmaker went on to repeat her box office success in 1992 when sports comedy A League of Their Own earned over $132m worldwide, per Box Office Mojo, during its theatrical run.

BIG (1988) TOM HANKS, ELIZABETH PERKINS BIG 017
Big starring Tom Hanks and Elizabeth Perkins was the first film directed by a woman, Penny Marshall, to pass $100 million at the box office (Alamy)

Wayne's World in 1992, which was directed by Penelope Spheeris, also earned more than $100 million at the box office when it was originally released.

Barbie is the first movie directed solely by a woman to pass $1bn at the box office, but there are a few examples of films co-directed by women to do the same: Captain Marvel, Frozen and Frozen 2.

'Frozen 2' was left out in the cold at the Oscars 2020. (Credit: Disney)
Frozen 2, which was co-directed by Jennifer Lee, has earned the most at the box office. (Disney)

The Disney animation and its sequel were both co-directed by Jennifer Lee alongside Chris Buck. Lee has since become the chief creative officer at Walt Disney Animation Studios and her next project is Wish which she co-wrote with Allison Moore and is being co-directed by Buck and Fawn Veerasunthorn.

Read more: Wish preview: Disney's 100th anniversary film promises to be a delightful celebration

Captain Marvel, meanwhile, was the first female-led superhero film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Brie Larson portraying the titular character, and it was co-directed by Anna Boden alongside Ryan Fleck.

Larson in Captain Marvel (Credit: Disney)
Brie Larson in Captain Marvel (Disney)

This isn't the only superhero film to do well, as Patty Jenkins' first Wonder Woman movie also succeeded at the box office when it earned over £817 million in 2017.

Other big hitters at the box office directed by women include Lana and Lilly Wachowski's The Matrix Reloaded, Mama Mia!, which was directed by Phyllida Lloyd, and Sam Taylor-Johnson's adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey.

Here are the top 10 highest-grossing films at the box office directed by women:

  • 10. Brave, co-directed by Brenda Chapman and Mark Andrews - $554.6 million

  • 9. Fifty Shades of Grey, directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson - $570 million

  • 8. Mamma Mia!, directed by Phyllida Lloyd - $589.7 million

  • 7. Kung Fu Panda 2, directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson - $664.8 million

  • 6. The Matrix Reloaded, directed by Lana and Lilly Wachowski - $738 million

  • 5. Wonder Woman, directed by Patty Jenkins - $817.6 million

  • 4. Barbie, directed by Greta Gerwig - $1 billion, so far

  • 3. Captain Marvel, co-directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck - $1.129 billion

  • 2. Frozen, co-directed by Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck - $1.284 billion

  • 1. Frozen 2, co-directed by Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck - $1.453 billion

Barbie is out in cinemas and IMAX now.

Watch: Ryan Gosling surprises Greta Gerwig with Barbie flash mob for her birthday.