Why it took so long for Hollywood to make a great female-led superhero movie

Patty Jenkins WW Warner Bros final

Though Wonder Woman is one of the most well-known superhero characters ever to appear in a comic books, it took 75 years for Hollywood to finally get its act together and bring her to the big screen. 

It seems to have been worth the wait. Warner Bros.' "Wonder Woman" opens Friday as not just the jewel of the studio's fledging DC Comics Extended Universe division but arguably one of the best superhero movies ever made. (The movie currently has a score of 97% on Rotten Tomatoes.)

Which begs the question: Why have movie studios avoided making female superhero movies for so long?

"There are certainly a lot of reasons, and many of them are depressingly [related to] sexism," Patty Jenkins, director of "Wonder Woman," told Business Insider in a recent Facebook Live interview. "But money moves the world and I think the tentpole industry started and there was a belief system, that was true for a long time, that teenage boys were driving that."

In Hollywood's recent craze for superhero movies, which kicked off around 2002's Tobey Maguire-starring "Spider-Man," the movies were geared for the late-teen/early-20s male. There were attempts to try to cater to females in that time, too, as with Halle Berry in "Catwoman" (2004) and Jennifer Garner in "Elektra" (2005). But both were busts critically (9% and 10%, respectively, on Rotten Tomatoes) and financially (worldwide $82.1 million and $56.6 million, respectively). 

hunger games diversity"I really do think the trepidation was there were failed attempts and then that wasn’t who you were targeting for such a massive movie, so I think that has really changed," Jenkins said.

The shift started with the success of "The Hunger Games" franchise, headed by Jennifer Lawrence. The four films, based on a young-adult book series, took in close to $3 billion worldwide and proved that audiences actually want to see action movies headed by women. That, along with the recent greenlighting of female-centric superhero movies (Captain Marvel and Batgirl, among others, are in the works), has made this the perfect moment for "Wonder Woman" to prove that girls can kick butt just as much as the boys do.

"I think it’s beautiful because actually the superhero genre has always had a bunch of great [female] superheros," Jenkins said. "And it's funny and interesting that there’s anything new about doing Wonder Woman 75 years later. We have always loved her so I hope it’s the beginning of many more."

Watch our complete interview with Patty Jenkins below:


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