10 Highest-Grossing Female-Led Movies, Ranked

Over the past few decades, Hollywood has been witnessing a gradual shift in the portrayal of female characters in films, resulting in the emergence of a new era of female-led movies. These movies not only showcase women as powerful protagonists but also generate significant box office revenue.

The success of these female-led movies can be due to their beloved source material, catchy songs, strong female lead characters, and impressive special effects. The expansion of their respective franchises has captivated audiences around the world. By breaking barriers and shattering box offices, Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Frozen IIhave changed the filmmaking game with actresses leading the charge.

10 ‘Alice in Wonderland’ (2010) – 1.02 billion

Image via Disney

Directed by Tim Burton, 19-year-old Alice Kingsleigh (Mia Wasikowska) returns to the magical world of Underland to reunite with her friends like the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) and save the world from the tyranny of the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter).

Related: The 10 Most Iconic Female Characters in Tim Burton Films

This 2010 fantasy adventure movie is an extension of the beloved source material of Lewis Caroll novels Alice’s Adventures in Wonderlandand Through the Looking Glass. The technique of live-action and CGI animation create stunning visual effects that the audience truly enjoyed. With huge worldwide box office success, it re-ignited the trend of “adult” fairy tale movies.

9 ‘Finding Dory’ (2016) – 1.02 billion

Dory and her parents in Finding Dory
Image via Disney

This computer-animated movie is the sequel to the popular Disney movie, Finding Nemo. It follows Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) as she embarks on an epic journey to find her parents with the help of her friends Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (Hayden Rolence). With the trail leading to the Marine Life Institute, she realizes she must save her mom and dad from captivity.

With Dory being a fan-favorite sidekick, the sequel was bound to be a hit. Throughout the movie, Dory brightens the ocean with her happy-go-lucky exterior, but her emotional story is what truly enchants its audience of all ages. As they venture through a magical under-sea world, the characters teach us life lessons filled with heartwarming humor and charm.

8 ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ (2016) – 1.05 billion

Rogue One ending scene
Image via Disney

The first standalone Star Wars story brings a new narrative prior to its beloved original trilogy. Scientist Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) is forced to work as the Empire’s lead engineer on the most potent weapon in the galaxy, the Death Star. His daughter, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) must join a group of resistance fighters to steal the plans of this moon-sized space station for the Rebel alliance.

Free of any expectation, the audience received a fresh take on a new Star Wars story despite its misleading movie trailer. It is more than a simple spin-off, but tells a tale separate from the Skywalker story, bringing the people who have risked their lives for the greater good under the spotlight. As a stunning prequel to Episode IV, the necessity of the Empire being taken down made the story much more important.

7 ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ (2019) – 1.07 billion

Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley as Kylo Ren and Rey in 'Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker'
Image via Lucasfilm

To conclude the nine-part Skywalker saga, Disney released the third installment of the Star Wars sequel trilogy. With the evil Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) returning from the dead, Rey must finalize her Jedi training with Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). The Resistance led by Finn (John Boyega) and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) will take their final stand against the First Order in the Sith world, Exogol.

Related: From ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ to ‘Rise of Skywalker’: The 10 Best Live-Action Lightsaber Duels in ‘Star Wars.’ Ranked

Critics felt as if the movie was more of a fan service rather than focusing on telling an iconic Star Wars story. With beloved prequels and original characters coming back, Disney provided amazing visual effects but traded the specific arcs of the main characters to rely on nostalgia. Although it’s sad to see the ending of the Skywalker era, new stories within the universe are more than welcome.

6 ‘Captain Marvel’ (2019) – 1.13 billion

Captain Marvel building up cosmic energy.
Image via Marvel

A former United States Air Force pilot, Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), was exposed to the energy of the Tesseract after the destruction of the Light-Speed Engine. In the accident, she obtained cosmic powers and was turned into an extraterrestrial Kree warrior. With the help of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Danvers tries to uncover her past as she tries to end the intergalactic war between her people and the Skrulls.

As the first Marvel Cinematic Universe movie to feature a female lead, it gave an outstanding introduction to a new female superhero. Academy Award winner, Larson was praised for her performance as it set up Danvers to become a major player in the MCU. It fits perfectly into the franchise, tackling female empowerment and representation.

5 ‘Beauty and the Beast’ (2017) – 1.26 billion

Image via Disney

In the small town of Villeneuve, Belle (Emma Watson) is taken prisoner by the Beast (Dan Stevens) in his castle. After some time, she befriends the castle’s enchanted staff and finds a way to see more than the Beast’s hideous exterior. As they begin to learn more about each other, she sees the kind heart and soul of the true prince that hides on the inside. If they can fall for each other, the Beast’s curse can be reversed.

This live-action re-telling of the classic romantic Disney animated movie is considered one of the highest-grossing live-action musical movies. It takes classic characters and conforms them to a new audience. The ability to stay true to its original music and advanced stunning visuals proves how timeless the story truly is. Praised for its cast’s performance, it provides insight into the importance of inner beauty and the power of love.

4 ‘Frozen’ (2013) – 1.28 billion

Frozen Ana Elsa
Image via Disney

Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s 1844 fairy tale The Snow Queen, the movie tells the tale of Princess Anna (Kristen Bell) as she teams up with an iceman named Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his reindeer Sven, and a snowman named Olaf (Josh Gad) to find her beloved sister, Elsa (Idina Menzel), who had accidentally trapped their kingdom in an eternal winter with her ice powers.

Related: From ‘Planes’ to ‘Frozen’: 10 Popular Animated Movies Turning 10 in 2023

This empowering story of sisterhood takes the audience through a story of two sisters who experience every stage of life together from playing when they were younger to ignoring each other for nearly a decade but always supporting each other. As the first Walt Disney Animation Studios film to win Best Animated Feature, the killer soundtrack of catchy singalong songs such as “Let It Go” and brilliant animation appeals to such a wide audience from children to adults.

3 ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ (2017) – 1.33 billion

Daisy Ridley as Rey and Adam Driver as Kylo Ren in Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Image via Lucasfilm

The second installment of the Star Wars sequel trilogy continues as Rey seeks help from the legendary Luke Skywalker in order to help the Resistance fight against Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and the First Order. With the Resistance fleet in danger, General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), Finn, and Poe Dameron lead their squads and attempt to escape a First Order attack.

The Last Jedi‘s stunning visuals offer an entertaining spectacle as the audience gets to explore the Star Wars universe further. Although it seemed a little all over the place, the subversion of expectations, unforgettable Star Wars quotes, and interesting character development led to great box office numbers.

2 ‘Frozen II’ (2019) – 1.45 billion

Anna and Elsa in Frozen 2
Image via Disney

Three years after their first adventure comes to the sequel of Frozen. Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, Sven, and Olaf must travel to an Enchanted Forest after Elsa unintentionally awakened the elemental spirits, causing the whole kingdom to evacuate. In order to set things right, they must understand the origins of Elsa’s magical powers.

Following in the footsteps of the original, it was easy to assume that this movie would become a hit. Although it isn’t as magical as the first, Frozen II had an engaging storyline, amazing animations, and truly lovable characters that audiences of all ages enjoyed. Whether you laugh, cry, or cringe, Disney’s box office numbers prove that they truly know how to tell a good story.

1 ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ (2015) – 2 billion

Image via Lucasfilm

Thirty years after Return of the Jedi, General Leia Organa searches for her brother, Luke Skywalker while Poe Dameron retrieves a map of Skywalker’s location. With the help of Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhe), Rey, Finn, and Dameron, they work with the veterans of the Rebel Alliance to fight the successor to the Galactic Empire, the First Order and Kylo Ren.

This continuation of the Star Wars franchise introduced new characters but also brought back a few beloved characters from the original trilogy. The impressive visual effects made the universe feel even more alive than the past movies. The excitement of a new trilogy brought in new and old fans to make this the highest-grossing female lead movie.

Keep Reading: From ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ to ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’: The 10 Best Female-Led Movies of 2022

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