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Chick Flicks: The 25 Highest-Grossing Movies with Female Leads

Let’s compare and contrast two lists today: the 25 top grossing movies of all time, and the 25 top grossing female-led movies of all time. Maybe when all this is done we’ll learn a little something about women’s representation in the media. Probably not though! You want to learn facts, go watch Bill Nie.

Okay, first, the easy part. Movies that pass the Bechdel test (meaning that two female characters with names talk to each other about something other than a man) are bolded.

The 25 Top Grossing Movies of All Time (U.S. Box Office)

1. Avatar (starring Sam Worthington) [$760,505,847]

2. The Avengers (starring Robert Downey, Jr.) [$615, 996,809]

3. Titanic (starring Leonardo DiCaprio) [$600,779,824]

4. The Dark Knight (starring Christian Bale) [$533, 316, 061]

5. Star Wars (starring Mark Hamill) [$460, 935, 665]

6. Shrek 2 (starring Mike Meyers) [$436,471,036]

7. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (starring Henry Thomas) [$434,949,459]

8. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (starring Ewan MacGregor) [$431,065,444]

9. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (starring Johnny Depp) [$423,032,628]

10. Toy Story 3 (starring Tom Hanks) [$414,984,497]

11. The Hunger Games (starring Jennifer Lawrence) [$405,882,323]

12. Spider-Man (starring Tobey Maguire) [$403, 706,375]

13. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (starring Shia LeBeouf) [$402,076,689]

14. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (starring Daniel Radcliff) [$380,955,619]

15. Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (starring Hayden Christensen) [$380,363,555]

16. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (starring Elijah Wood) [$377,019,252]

17. Spider-Man 2 (starring Tobey Maguire) [$373,377,893]

18. (Info not available! Does this pass?) The Passion of the Christ (starring Jim Caviezel) [$370,270,943]

19. Jurassic Park (starring Sam Neill) [$356,784,000]

20. Transformers: Dark of the Moon (starring Shia LaBeouf [$352,358,779]

21. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (starring Elijah Wood) [$340,478,898]

22. Finding Nemo (starring Albert Brooks) [$339, 714,367]

23. Spider-Man 3 (starring Tobey Maguire) [$336,530,303]

24. Alice in Wonderland (starring Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp top billed) [$334,185,206]

25. Forrest Gump (starring Tom Hanks) [$329,691,196]

So, in terms of lead actors, that is one homogenous-ass list. Only two of these movies have female main characters (The Hunger Games and Alice in Wonderland) and only one of those two gave top billing to a woman. Only two of them (Toy Story 3 and Finding Nemo) star actors who were age fifty or older at the time the movie was made, and both of those are animated, because who wants to look at crow’s feet, am I right? None of them star an out actor, which is a shame but not too surprising. What is more surprising is that none of them star an actor of color, either! What? Come on, America. You’re killing me here. Only 2/5 of them pass the Bechdel test, which is extra depressing when you think about how low a bar the Bechdel test actually sets. Seriously, all that has to happen is an interaction like:

Mary-Jane: Good morning, Aunt Mae. How are you?

Aunt Mae: Fine. Nice weather we’re having.

Mary-Jane: Yep! Well, see you later.

THAT WOULD GET YOU A PASSING GRADE ON THIS DAMN TEST. And less than half of these movies have even THAT level of female representation. Grim.

Now, moving on to the 25 top grossing female-led movies of all time!

It was a little difficult to pin down what makes a movie female-led. For instance, Tilda Swinton got top billing on The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but she really can’t be described as the lead– the three children (only one of whom is female) seem to share that title equally. Hayley Steinfeld clearly played the protagonist of True Grit, but Jeff Bridges got top billing. Similarly, Mia Waskowska played the clear protagonist and title character of the 2010 Alice in Wonderland reboot, but Johnny Depp got top billing and was more prominently featured in the ad campaign. It’s a tricky business,  but, for my purposes, I’ve decided to only count a movie as female-led if (what I consider to be) the film’s protagonist is female, and a female also received top billing.

Once again, bolded movies pass the Bechdel test.

1. The Hunger Games (starring Jennifer Lawrence) [$405,227,711]

2. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (starring Kristen Stewart) [$300,523,113]

3. New Moon (starring Kristen Stewart) [$296,619,304]

4. (? Anybody know whether this one passes Bechdel?) Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Pt. 1 (starring Kristen Stewart) [$281,275,991]

5. The Blind Side (starring Sandra Bullock) [$255,950,375]

6. Twister (starring Helen Hunt) [$241,688,385]

7. My Big Fat Greek Wedding (starring Nia Vardalos) [$241,437,427]

8. The Exorcist (starring Ellen Burstyn) [$204,565,000]

9. Brave (starring Kelly Macdonald) [$208,774,173]

10. Tangled (starring Mandy Moore) [$200,807,262]

11. Monsters Vs. Aliens (starring Reese Witherspoon) [$198,332,128]

12. Twilight (starring Kristen Stewart) [$191,449,475]

13. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) (starring Adriana Caselotti) [$184,925,485]

14. Beauty and the Beast (1991) (starring Paige O’Hara) [$171,301,428]

15. Chicago (starring Renee Zellwegger) [$170,684,505]

16. The Help (starring Emma Stone) [$169,705,587]

17. Bridesmaids (starring Kristen Wiig) [$169,076,745]

18. The Proposal (starring Sandra Bullock) [$163,947,053]

19. The Sound of Music (starring Julie Andrews) [$163,214,286]

20.(? Not sure if this one passes, either.) Scary Movie (starring Anna Faris; Carmen Electra top billed) [$156,997,084]

21. Sex and the City (starring Sarah Jessica Parker) [$152,637,269]

22. Snow White and the Huntsman (starring Kristen Stewart) [$152,589,315]

23. Lilo & Stitch (starring Daveigh Chase) [$145,771,527]

24. Mamma Mia! (starring Amanda Seyfried; Meryl Streep top billed) [$143,704,210]

25. Juno (starring Ellen Page) [$143,492,840]

First, the good news: 19 of these 25 movies passed the Bechdel test. I guess that’s not surprising since if your main character is a lady it’s a lot easier to slip up and accidentally have her talk to another lady about, you know, lady-stuff, whatever that is.

But once again, zero people of color, zero out actors, and this one only has one top-billed actor over age fifty: Ms. Meryl Streep in Mamma Mia! At least she got to actually appear on screen, unlike Hanksy and Brooksy.

It’s also a little disheartening to look at the amount of money these movies made. Avatar, the top-grossing movie of all time, made a little less than twice what The Hunger Games, the top-grossing female-led movie made, and #25 on the female-led list (Juno) made about a third the amount earned by #25 on the general list (Forrest Gump).

I’d love to hear any analysis any of my readers might have of these numbers. I’m but one human, and I don’t really know what to make of these statistics I have gathered!

Part 2: The 25 Highest-Grossing Movies Starring People of Color coming soon!


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The 50 Best Songs of the Past 5 Years

In your perusing of this list, you may notice that I have defined the past 5 years as 2007-2011, seemingly disregarding the current year all together. The reason for this is simple: I can’t do math. Oh, well. There probably haven’t been any good songs this year anyway.

50. “&” – Tally Hall (Good & Evil)

49. “Na Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na)” – My Chemical Romance (Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys)

48. “Greenback Boogie” – Ima Robot (Another Man’s Treasure)

47. “I Don’t Care” – Fall Out Boy (Folie a Deux)

46. “America’s Suitehearts” – Fall Out Boy (Folie a Deux)

45. “Property” – Say Anything (Say Anything)

44. “Unstoppable” – Foxy Shazam (Foxy Shazam)

43. “Animal” – Neon Trees (Habits)

42. “(Coffee’s for Closers)” – Fall Out Boy (Folie a Deux)

41. “Bang the Doldrums” – Fall Out Boy (Infinity On High)

40. “Once in Awhile” – Don’t Stop Or We’ll Die (One of the Gang)

39. “Folkin’ Around” – Panic at the Disco (Pretty. Odd.)

38. “Never Meant to Know” – Tally Hall (Good & Evil)

37. “20 Dollar Nose Bleed” – Fall Out Boy (Folie a Deux)

36. “Nine in the Afternoon” – Panic at the Disco (Pretty. Odd.)

35. “A Little Piece of Heaven” – Avenged Sevenfold (Avenged Sevenfold)

34. “One Day, Robots Will Cry” – Cobra Starship (¡Viva la Cobra!)

33. “Wowee Zowee” – Two Tongues (Two Tongues)

32. “The Truth Is, You Should Lie With Me” – Say Anything (In Defense of the Genre)

31. “Effect and Cause” – The White Stripes (Icky Thump)

30. “Thriller” – Fall Out Boy (Infinity On High)

29. “You Were Good In Your Time” – Morrissey (Years of Refusal)

28. “Fuck You” – Cee-Lo Green (The Lady Killer)

27. “Somebody That I Used To Know” – Gotye (Making Mirrors)

26. “Henrietta” – The Fratellis (Costello Music)

25. “Prostitution is the World’s Oldest Profession (And I, Dear Madam, Am A Professional)” – Cobra Starship (¡Viva la Cobra!)

24. “Toy Boy” – Mika (The Boy Who Knew Too Much)

23. “That’s How People Grow Up” – Morrissey (Years of Refusal)

22. “Kiss with a Fist” – Florence + the Machine (Lungs)

21. “Girl with One Eye” – Florence + the Machine (Lungs)

20. “Home” – Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes (Up From Below)

19. “The World Should Revolve Around Me” – Little Jackie (The Stoop)

18. “You Don’t Know What Love Is (You Just Do As You’re Told)” – The White Stripes (Icky Thump)

17. “Out of the Blue” – Julian Casablancas (Phrazes for the Young)

16. “Hum Hallelujah” – Fall Out Boy (Infinity On High)

15. “Wanna-Be Angel” – Foxy Shazam (Foxy Shazam)

14. “Happy Ending” – Mika (Life in Cartoon Motion)

13. “Fresh Attitude, Young Body” – Bomb the Music Industry! (Scrambles)

12. “Pacific Coast Highway” – Hole (Nobody’s Daughter)

11. “Guilty Pleasure” – Cobra Starship (¡Viva la Cobra!)

10. “Disloyal Order of Water Buffaloes” – Fall Out Boy (Folie a Deux)

9. “Animals” – CocoRosie (The Adventures of Ghosthorse and Stillborn)

8. “Killin’ It” – Foxy Shazam (Foxy Shazam)

7. “‘The Take Over, the Break’s Over'” – Fall Out Boy (Infinity On High)

6. “Grace Kelly” – Mika (Life in Cartoon Motion)

5. “That Green Gentleman (Things Have Changed)” – Panic at the Disco (Pretty. Odd.)

4. “Ludlow St.” – Julian Casablancas (Phrazes for the Young)

3. “Werewolf” – CocoRosie (The Adventures of Ghosthorse and Stillborn)

2. “Dog Days Are Over” – Florence + the Machine (Lungs)

1. “Oh Lord” – Foxy Shazam (Foxy Shazam)

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The 25 Best Buffy the Vampire Slayer Episodes, Pt. 4: #10-1

Alright. I know everyone has been on the edge of their seat waiting for me to finish up this damn Buffy list. I know I have, and my ass is starting to get pretty sore. From sitting on the edge of my seat, you see. That’s not how chairs are supposed to work.

Anyway, the final installment is here, but first, an announcement:

Lenny of Lenny Tunes and I have created a podcast in which we discuss our mutual favorite thing in the world, television. It’s called Secret Lover (1), and I don’t care what your favorite podcast is; you’re about to trade up.(2) You have your choice of downloading and/or streaming it on iTunes or Podbean! Lucky you!

And now, on to the thrilling conclusion of my list of the 25 best episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Images are from unless otherwise noted.

10. Tabula Rasa (06×08)

Anya: What? I’m just saying what everyone’s thinking, right baby?
Xander: You are attractive and have many good qualities.

The delightfulness of this everybody-gets-amnesia episode is undercut only slightly by the fact that no one would have gotten wacky magical amnesia in the first place if Willow weren’t an abusive girlfriend. The highlights of the episode are watching Spike and Giles decide they must be a father and son and then try to work out their issues, and watching Giles and Anya make out. Heehee. Plus, bonus Michelle Branch!

9. Intervention (05×18)

Buffybot: Angel’s lame. His hair grows straight up and he’s bloody stupid.

Awww, Buffybot. You’re all I need in life. This episode is great because it provides the sexy visual of Spike-on-Buffy action without forcing you to think about the unpleasant emotional reality of that couple. Plus, the readouts on Buffybot’s screen are hilarious (“Willow, best friend, gay [1999-present]” and “Positions1 Positions2 Positions3 Positions4” are two of my favorites.)

8. Passion (02×17)

Buffy: Giles didn’t set this up. Angel did. This is the wrapping for the gift.

I love a good Angelus episode. This has Giles going through one of the most horribly heart-wrenching moments of the entire series. My only complaint is the goddamn narration by Angel and/or Angelus that bookends the episode. Yeeeeeesh.

7. Innocence (02×14)

Angel: I got a message for Buffy.
Buffy: Then why don’t you give it to me yourself.
Angel: Oh, it’s not really the kind of message you tell. It sort of involves finding
the bodies of all your friends.

More Angelus. Yes please.

6. Surprise (02×13)

Oz: I’m gonna’ ask you to go out with me tomorrow night, and I’m kinda nervous about it, actually. It’s interesting.
Willow: Oh, well, if it helps at all, I’m gonna say ‘yes’.
Oz: Yeah, it helps. It creates a comfort zone.

Who doesn’t love thinking about teenagers losing their virginity? Um… it’s a great episode anyway.

5. Who Are You (04×16)

image from Buffy World

Buffy (in Faith’s body): Stop inching. You were inching!
Giles: Look, I know what you’re going to say, and, and…
Buffy (in Faith’s body): I’m Buffy.
Giles: All right, I didn’t know what you were going to say, but that doesn’t make you any less crazy.

This body-swap episode is especially amazing because of the skill with which Eliza Dushku and Sarah Michelle Gellar are able to impersonate each other. We’re all friends here, and I feel like I can be real with you guys, so I’ll just say it: Faith’s a terrible character. But, that said, this largely Faith-centered episode successfully sucks you in and makes you care about her. Nice.

4. Once More, With Feeling (06×06)

Sweet: Something’s cooking, I’m at the griddle/I gave Nero his very first fiddle.


3. The Body (05×16)

Anya: I don’t understand! I don’t understand how this all happens. How we go through this. I mean, I knew her, and then she’s… there’s just a body, and I don’t understand why she just can’t get back in it and not be dead anymore. It’s stupid. It’s mortal and stupid. And Xander’s crying and not talking. And I was having fruit punch, and I thought, well, Joyce will never have any more fruit punch, ever. And she’ll never have eggs or yawn or brush her hair. Not ever. And no one will explain to me why.

This episode is beautiful and amazing. Too bad it’s horribly depressing and I never want to watch it again.

2. Restless (04×22)

Giles: Everybody that Willow’s ever met is out in that audience, including all of us. That means we have to be perfect.

This episode simultaneously reflects what dreams are like, explores the inner thoughts of the Scooby Gang, produces some of the weirdest, funniest lines of the entire series, AND seriously creeps me out every time I watch it. Now that’s good Buffy.

1. Hush (04×10)

(image from Buffy World)

Spike: Like I’d bite you, anyway.
Xander: Oh, you would.
Spike: Not bloody likely.
Xander: I happen to be very biteable, pal. I’m moist and delicious.
Spike: All right, yeah, fine. You’re a nummy treat.
Xander: And don’t you forget it.

It’s hard to come up with a good quote for this episode, since the vast majority of it is silent, but the above interaction between Spike and Xander is pretty adorable. I hardly even have to defend this episode since it’s widely regarded by Buffy fans as the best episode, so I guess I’ll just reiterate that it’s perfect and leave it at that.


(1) A reference to Homer Simpson’s immortal line about television: “Teacher. Mother. Secret lover.”

(2) Loving homage to a joke by comedian Anthony Jeselnik. Do y’all know about Anthony Jeselnik? I didn’t used to like him, but he’s beautiful and I’ve come to associate his face with his humor and, well… time makes fools of us all.

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