The Most Inclusive Films – Adobe Foundation Releases a First-of-Its-Kind Inclusion Study

While the iconic Festival de Cannes gathers filmmakers from all over the world to celebrate premieres, it’s also the perfect time to draw attention to important topics in our industry. In collaboration with the Adobe Foundation, Dr. Stacy L. Smith and the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative have just released The Inclusion List – a new data-driven study, which ranks the 100 most inclusive films with theatrical release in the last years. The honors also went to chosen distributors and 8 producers, who have taken inclusion seriously and been a driving force for industry change. Let’s take a look at some names and exciting findings from this report.

The main goal of this study was to inform, challenge, and congratulate the entertainment industry, alongside pointing out the blind spots, where inclusivity needs a greater focus. To put together this impressive list, researchers took 376 theatrically-released films from 2019 to 2022, analyzed both their cast and crew, and gave scores according to different inclusion indicators. The idea behind it is also to fuel conversations and plans of action, that will help underrepresented groups to share their stories in the future.

At Adobe, we believe that when more diverse stories are told, the world becomes a more equal and vibrant place.

Stacy Martinet, a quote from Adobe’s release post

Image source: USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative

How did they rate the most inclusive films?

Every ranked film could earn up to 20 points – 10 for cast inclusion and 10 for crew inclusion. The former included such indicators, as gender, race/ethnicity, LGBTQ+, disability, and age. Researchers looked, at how those groups were represented among leading and all the speaking characters. At the same time, the crew metrics evaluated gender and race/ethnicity across 10 key positions behind the camera, as listed below:

The crew metrics. Image source: The Inclusion List

As casting directors and costume designers historically have a “gendered” nature, the evaluation of their roles got a different approach. Each film received a point if a credited individual in this position was a POC, and could get an additional one when its director was a woman of color.

After a thorough ranking process, the authors of the study put together the so-called Inclusion List, which consists of three main sections:

  • Top 100 Inclusive Films
  • Top inclusive Distributors
  • Top 8 inclusive Producers

Films that made it to the top

The first proud place went to “The Woman King” – a historical drama by Gina Prince-Bythewood which is based on true events and tells a remarkable story of the all-female military unit Agojie in West Africa, fiercely fighting against French Colonists. The film has got a total of 14 points out of 20.

A film still from “The Woman King” by Gina Prince-Bythewood, 2022

This emotional journey is closely followed by the comedy-drama “The Farewell”, written and directed by Lulu Wang. The A24 film shows a Chinese-American family, members of which learn that their grandmother is dying from cancer and decide to stage a fake wedding to gather everyone, instead of telling her the truth.

A film still from “The Farewell” by Lulu Wang, 2019

Among the other 100 most inclusive films there are also this year’s Oscar winners like “Everything Everywhere All at Once”, or “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”. That shows, that inclusive storytelling resonates among society in major ways. Besides, the movies, which made it to the top, span a big variety of stories, time periods, and genres, proving, that we can make any art form inclusive.

Another exceptional fact from the report – seven of the top 10 films on the Inclusion List were directed by women of color. Seven of ten! I guess, it shows us better than any words, who fights for diversity in filmmaking in the first place.

Distribution companies that care about inclusion

Among large distributors, who bring stories to wide audiences, the best result showed Universal Pictures, taking top honors with 22 films on the list. The second and third places went to Sony Pictures Entertainment and Warner Bros. Pictures accordingly. A24 outran its competitors in independent distribution, showing 9 high-rated inclusive movies.

Additionally to it, eight producers got special acknowledgment for landing 3 or more films in the study report. This section included Will Packer, James Lopez, and Jordan Peele, to name a few.

What’s next?

This new ranking is a great chance to celebrate films, distribution companies, and people, who drive change in our industry. But also, behind the list, is a huge analytic work, which allows us to see where are the possibilities for the next steps. Thus, the researchers examined the percentage of white men, white women, underrepresented men, and underrepresented women across each behind-the-scenes position in the rankings. And then, they compared the 100 most inclusive films to the ones with the biggest earnings from the cinema release in the same time frame. The results demonstrate very clearly, where further work needs to be done.

The list is already publicly available. You can read about the most inclusive films, as well as the report methodology, and other learnings from the study here.

Please do so and let us know, which films you have seen from this list. Do you also pay attention to the representation of different groups in your projects? How does the topic of inclusion concern you and your work? Let’s talk in the comments below!

Feature image: film stills from the first four ranking films on the Inclusion List: “The Woman King” (2022), “The Farewell” (2019), “Zola” (2021), “Harriet” (2019).

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