2019 was a record-breaker for women in film. Top-grossing movies with female protagonists rose to a historic high of 40%, up 9% on the previous year. And, of the 100 biggest box office hits worldwide, 12% had women at the helm.
Greta Gerwig’s Little Women made sure the year finished on a high, but let’s not forget Lulu Wang’s The Farewell, Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir, Olivia Wilde’s debut Booksmart and Kasi Lemmons’ Harriet, among others.
2020 is packed with highly anticipated films but causing more excitement than most is Wonder Woman 1984, the sequel to DC’s 2017 smash-hit, with Patty Jenkins returning to the director’s chair. With Gal Gadot and Chris Pine back again, it looks like a suitably retro second outing for Diana Prince.
Other titles directed by women this year include Sarah Gavron’s Rocks, Promising Young Woman from Emerald Fennell and Joanna Hogg’s sequel The Souvenir Part 2. And there’s these...
1. Birds of Prey, director: Cathy Yan (7th February)
Suicide Squad may have divided opinion, but Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn went down very well. Hence, we’re getting a spin-off movie that puts her at the centre of the action, as the glorious full title, Birds Of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn) makes abundantly clear.
She leads a crew of female vigilantes, including Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) and Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) to fight the evil forces of sadistic crime boss Black Mask (Ewan McGregor). Quinn’s boyfriend Joker is no more, making her the Clown Princess of Crime, and that recent trailer has ramped up the excitement for what is Cathy Yan’s second time in the director’s chair (her first movie Dead Pigs was released in 2018).
2. Emma, director: Autumn de Wilde (14th February)
Has it really been 24 years since we last saw Jane Austen’s scheming matchmaker on the screen, as played by Gwyneth Paltrow? And a quarter of a century since Clueless? Unbelievably, it is, which means a new film adaptation of this classic mix of social satire and romance – it’s definitely not a rom-com – is well overdue.
It also marks the first feature from director Autumn de Wilde – a name Austen herself would have been proud to invent – with Anya Taylor-Joy moving away from the likes of Glass and Split to busy herself with organising everybody’s lives, love and otherwise. She’s joined by Beast’s Johnny Flynn, The Crown’s very own Prince Charles, Josh O’Connor, Bill Nighy, Mia Goth and Miranda Hart. Judging from the recently-released trailer, they’re all having an insanely good time.
3. Misbehaviour, director: Philippa Lowthorpe (13th March)
In 1970, women protestors brought the Miss World final at the Royal Albert Hall to a standstill, with the live TV broadcast taken off air.
Misbehaviour is the story of how women from different backgrounds – middle-class mature student Keira Knightley, rebellious and straight-talking campaigner Jessie Buckley – came together to throw flour bombs at celebrity host Bob Hope (Greg Kinnear) and disrupt what was, at the time, one of the major events on the entertainment calendar. The award-winning TV director, with household names such as Call The Midwife and The Crown on her CV, serves up a reminder of how inequality flourished at the time, and the obstacles placed in the way of women who tried to buck the system.
4. Mulan, director: Niki Caro (27th March)
With Whale Rider’s Niki Caro at the helm, it’s unlikely that Mulan is going to be yet another Disney live-action reboot. This new version of the 1998 animation about a young Chinese woman who poses as a male warrior to save her father from military service was delayed while The House Of Mouse searched the world to find the star.
Liu Yifei, one of China’s most popular actresses, was the final choice, and she co-stars with international names including Jet Li, Donnie Yen and Jason Scott Lee. After the lukewarm reception given to its more recent re-workings, Disney must be hoping audiences will take Mulan to their hearts. Judging from the most recent trailer, they could well be right.
5. Black Widow, director: Cate Shortland (1st May)
At long last, Scarlett Johansson’s KGB-trained Natasha Romanoff gets her own movie, where we find out what she was doing between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. Aside from that, plot details are sketchy to say the least, but we do get to meet the rest of the Romanoffs, including the tattoo-covered Alexei aka the Red Guardian (David Harbour), Melina (Rachel Weisz) and, most tantalising of all, Natasha’s equally deadly counterpart Yelena, as played by Little Women Oscar nominee Florence Pugh.
And the latest trailer has given us a first look at Natasha’s newest and most deadly of enemies: the mercenary Taskmaster. Berlin Syndrome’s Cate Shortland directs what looks like an action-packed outing, with a sprinkling of that familiar Avengers humour.
6. Eternals, director Chloe Zhao (6th November)
Angelina Jolie makes her Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) debut as one of the godlike Eternals. Richard Madden, Salma Hayek, Brian Tyree Henry and Kumail Nanjiani, complete with much-publicised muscles (see below), play just some of the others, all of whom are battling to protect humanity from long-standing enemies, the Deviants. Good versus evil, then, and that’s all we know about the plot until Marvel sees fit to tell us more.
The original characters first appeared in Marvel comics back in 1976 and aren’t particularly well-known – but neither were the Guardians Of The Galaxy, and look what happened to them. Chloe Zhao steps up from low budget indie drama The Rider to direct, and anybody who was lucky enough to see that film will already have the 6th of November circled on their calendar.