Star Wars in Perspective: The Diversity Gap in Sci-Fi Movies

In honor of tonight’s release of Star Wars: Episode VII, we thought we’d revisit our Diversity Gap Study on sci-fi and fantasy blockbusters. Star Wars is shaping up to be not only one of the biggest movies of the year but also potentially one of the biggest movies of all time, with ticket sales already shattering records.

For Star Wars fans, there is much to celebrate. And for fans of diversity in Hollywood, even more so: the film features British-Nigerian actor John Boyega as one of the leads. Boyega has been getting a lot of buzz since his role was announced (along with some racist comments from the Dark Side – par for the course when it comes to diverse casting of franchises, it seems), and is joined by Guatamalan-American actor Oscar Isaac, who also plays a major role. Lupita N’yongo will also star as an alien pirate, though we won’t see her face. 

John Boyega in Star Wars. (Credit: Star Wars)
John Boyega in Star Wars (Credit: Star Wars)

Director JJ Abrams acknowledged the importance of casting diversely, telling 60 Minutes, “When we started casting the movie, it felt incredibly important to me that the movie look like the world in which this movie is being released.”

Given some of the great diversity in TV and films over the last year, the casting of Star Wars may not seem revolutionary. But historically, in the context of the top-grossing sci-fi movies of all time, it is still huge. Take a look:

Sci-Fi Diversity Gap in Movies Infographic

Here are some key statistics based on the top 100 domestic grossing sci-fi and fantasy movies:

• 8% of films star a protagonist of color 

• Of the 8 protagonists of color, all are men; 6 are played by Will Smith and 1 is a cartoon character (Aladdin)

• 0% of protagonists are women of color and just 14% of protagonists are women 

• 0% of protagonists are LGBTQ

• 2% of protagonists are people with a disability

If Star Wars becomes one of the top-grossing movies in this genre of all time–which it is certainly on track to do–it could put a dent in some of these numbers. And just as importantly, it will give Hollywood yet more proof that audiences are ready and willing to see great blockbusters with diverse leads. Star Wars, all we can say is: May the force be with you.

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