Despite its glamorous allure, it is no secret that the Hollywood world still suffers from severe flaws; underrepresentation of women in the industry is just one of them. But it seems that there is something shifting lately even in this slow-moving old-fashioned universe of studio head executives and blockbusters – the rise of a talented ensemble of actresses, female directors, and producers that seem bent on changing the way things are. Among them, we picked five that truly stand out to compile our list of the five most influential women in Hollywood today.
- Emma Watson
She made her acting debut in the celebrated and beloved Harry Potter film series and from 2001 to 2011 she starred as the female lead character Hermione Granger in all eight movies of the wider magical franchise that lately produced even a Broadway musical – but she quickly showed that she was perfectly capable of escaping the curse of child actors and break out of the confines of the role that made her famous.
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Born in Britain, she decided to continue her education alongside her acting career and went on to study in Oxford and graduate with a BA in English literature from Brown University in 2014. Meanwhile, she starred both in more indie-vibe films like The Perks of Being a Wallflower and in blockbusters like the live-action adaptation of the Disney classic Beauty and the Beast. Yet further to her acting achievements, she was also chosen as Women Goodwill ambassador by the United Nations and serves as a public advocate of the UN Women HeForShe campaign that urges men to promote gender equality.
- Kristen Wiig
Kristen Wiig barely needs an introduction: she spent a good seven years from 2005 to 2012 being a regular on the hit sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live on NBC while she has starred in critically acclaimed movies such as The Martian alongside Jessica Chastain and Matt Damon and received eight Emmy Award nominations during her prolific career. Yet in recent years, Wiig has been involved in some films that played with the interesting and powerful idea of taking concepts typically thought of as movies with male leads and reinventing them.
In 2011, she co-wrote and starred as the lead character of an all-female cast in Bridesmaids – a hit both with the box-office and the critics, receiving both a Golden Globe Nomination for Best Comedy and an Academy Award Nomination for Best Original Screenplay. The film’s appeal was so great that it inspired a wide range of merchandise, from hoodies and pillowcases to online games like slots with a Bridesmaids theme and seemed to push things forward with regard to all-female casts in blockbusters. Last year, she did it again, by starring in the all-female reboot of the Ghostbusters supernatural comedy classic alongside Bridesmaids co-star Mellisa McCarthy.
- Patty Jenkins
Often it is the people behind the wheel rather than in the limelight that may prove the most influential. This proves especially true in the case of Patty Jenkins, who made a splash as a director with the female-led Monster in 2003. The critically acclaimed film won its protagonist Charlize Theron an Academy Award and Golden Globe for her performance and still holds a rare 82% on Rotten Tomatoes.
This year, Jenkins made a wonderful comeback as the director of Wonder Woman, starring Gal Gadot. The film mostly reverses the gender roles typically depicted in superhero movies, as Wonder Woman keeps saving Steve Trevor; besides making a statement, Jenkins seems to be onto something in terms of storytelling because the film cashed in $800 million in the box office, became one of 2017’s biggest hits, and inspired DC to rethink its entire cinematic universe. Jenkins herself has made a point about advocating women’s rights and called her film “a call to action”.
- Lena Waithe
Master of None, the outstanding comedy series on Netflix, should be celebrated for many things, including its focus on diversity and sensitive social issues, all presented with a view on increasing visibility and a generous splash of humor. Lena Waithe is partially responsible for the show’s success: besides starring on the show as Denise, a gay black woman who is friends with protagonist Dev (the show’s creators actually rewrote the part from that of a straight white woman after casting Waithe to match her own past), she co-wrote the season 2 episode Thanksgiving that won the series an Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series.
Waithe made history with her Emmy award as the first black woman to win one for comedy writing. She also thanked her “LGBTQIA family” and urged viewers to remember that the things that make us different are truly “our superpowers”.
- Daisy Ridley
It is a marvelous day when it seems that the new face of the Star Wars franchise, a mostly male-dominated world, could very well be a girl: Rey, a scavenger who joins the Resistance forces in 2015’s The Force Awakens. Portrayed by Daisy Ridley, Rey brings a new flair to sci-fi heroines: inquisitive, fun and brave, she inspired fans across the globe and quickly placed herself at the forefront of the new trilogy.
Daisy Ridley is a fresh entry into the female leading actresses in Hollywood and she seems like a strong voice to add to the fold. Besides starring in this year’s remake of the classic Agatha Christie murder mystery Murder on the Orient Express, she has beenalso cast in 2018’s Ophelia as the title character besides Naomi Watts. Not a bad start at all!
There are many more examples out there of women who drastically change things in the entertainment business; and with each new influential female role model, more trailblazers are born!