Why it’s in first place: From a purely monetary standpoint, Wonder Woman set a new standard for superheroes. Since its May 2017 release, the first major solo female superhero movie in over 10 years has become the most successful live-action movie directed by a woman (director Patty Jenkins) and the highest-grossing superhero origin film in history. Its opening weekend won Jenkins the best domestic box office debut ever for a female director ($103.3M), and its second weekend in theaters only showed a 43.2% drop in box office sales (compared to the usual 59%–60% drop-off).
So what made Princess Diana of Themyscira (played by the incredible Gal Gadot) so captivating to audiences? Her bevy of strong female role models? Her unselfconscious belief in love? The way she can casually accessorize her party dress with a sword? Absolutely, all of that.
But what truly seems to set Wonder Woman apart is her earnestness. With so much superhero fare on the market, self-aware snark and meta audience nudge-nudging have slowly begun to waterlog the lexicon. It’s as if creators can feel the audience’s fatigue. But Allan Heinberg keeps the Wonder Woman script focused on Diana’s origins as an otherworldly hero who’s chosen, and entirely dedicated to, her fate. She’s a fighter, first and foremost. Diana’s not in the business of deflective quips and one-liners; she’s in the business of marching the hell across No Man’s Land and saving that village.
Wonder Woman is still a funny, light film, balanced with naturally comedic moments — Diana discovers ice cream, loses her shit when she sees a baby, and wonders how women do battle in such constrictive modern clothing — but Jenkins doesn’t shy away from letting her lead, and the audience, feel. She wisely leans into what might read as cheesy under a less deft hand. It works, well, wonderfully.
Worldwide box office earnings: $821 million
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 92%