Earlier this year, Scarlett Johansson made a statement. She said, “having a franchise with a female protagonist driving it is such a rare opportunity,” and while I don’t agree with the context with which Scarlett Johansson offered this view-to defend her casting in Ghost in the Shell-her point in a wider sense is still valid.
There *is* a massive gap between the amount of male-led movies and female-led movies being made, even more so when you throw race into the mix, and especially in the science-fiction genre.
Sci-fi is one of the most popular subjects of literature and film, offering up fantastical worlds that transport us across time and space and often wildly predicting the future of our own world and the unknown.
More often than not, a man leads these cinematic explorations, both in front and behind the camera, but as the movie industry continues the trend of rebooting old films for a modern audience, there’s no reason why the same couldn’t be done for some sci-fi classics, with a woman leading the way this time.
So here’s ten movies Hollywood may want to give the remake/reboot treatment, this time with a central female perspective:
Paul Verhoeven’s 1997 film wasn’t every critic’s cup of tea, with Robert Ebert describing it as “one-dimensional” and “pitched at 11-year-old science fiction fans.” They seemed to have missed the satirical point of the movie, which follows a high school jock, in the 23rd century, as he enlists into the Federal military service to enter an intergalactic war between humans and an alien insectoid species they not so fondly refer to as “bugs.” These bugs might seem like the villains, and Johnny Rico the hero, but actually it’s humans’ right-wing military effort to colonize other planets that is really the problem, a military modelled on the Nazis. Considering the current political climate in the US, a remake of Starship Troopers would be pretty apt, but it would be interesting to see the role of Rico played by a woman, navigating not just the politics of war, but the gender politics of serving your country or, in this case, planet.
Leading lady suggestions: Zendaya, Chloe Moretz, Lana Condor
This 2000 sci-fi horror is arguably Vin Diesel’s best leading role, playing a deadly criminal forced to team up with his prison transporters after they crash land on a desert planet infested with creatures that want to eat them. The film is not without its faults, and in some ways comes across as a melting pot of sci-fi tropes taken from better movies; however, there is room for change in the rather simple, yet entertaining plot that could definitely be ironed out and strengthened in a remake. This is not just in the recasting of Riddick, but also in the supporting cast whose characters don’t show much development as the movie goes forward. With a strong female lead and a diverse range of supporting characters, a Pitch Black remake could shine brighter than the original.
Leading lady suggestions: Emily Blunt, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Rutina Wesley
20th Century Fox revealed their plans for a remake of David Cronenberg’s 1986 remake of the 1958 film of the same name back in March with J.D. Dillard lined up to direct. Cronenberg’s film featured Jeff Goldblum as scientist Seth Brundle and Geena Davis as science reporter Veronica Quaithe who he becomes romantically involved with after she begins documenting the progress of his teleportation device. After one teleportation attempt, Seth’s DNA becomes fused with a fly’s that had entered the device with him, and he aggressively begins transforming into a terrifying man-fly. Though The Fly was, and still is, critically-acclaimed, it would interesting to see a version showing what a woman’s mind and body would go through if she suffered the same fate as Seth. It would also be great to see the sexist character of Stathis Boran (John Getz), Veronica’s ex and editor, cut from the movie, as he definitely didn’t deserve to go from villain to hero after his terrible actions throughout.
Leading lady suggestions: Rebecca Hall, Lupita Nyong’o, Frieda Pinto
Back to the Future
I absolutely adore this movie, and I’m pretty sure most of the English-speaking world does too, but there’s no replacing Michael J. Fox or Christopher Lloyd as Marty McFly or Doc Brown. So, a Back to the Future continuation would be the only way to reignite the franchise, and, thanks to the time-travelling plot, there’s so many ways it could be done. Marty’s great-great-granddaughter could team up with a descendent of Doc Brown’s and go on a time-travelling adventure back to 2017, which could incorporate elements from Back to the Future II as well as real life pop culture references of the time. Get someone like Issa Rae to pen the script and Amy Heckerling to direct and you’ve got some serious remake gold waiting to happen.
Leading lady suggestion: Yara Shahidi, Jane Levy, Billie Lourd
Robert Longo’s 1995 adaptation of William Gibson’s short story was sadly not received well by critics, despite it having some brilliant dystopian ideas about the future of technology and the Internet and its effect on the human race. Keanu Reeves played the titular character, a mnemonic courier, whose brain has been turned into a data storage device to allow him to transport sensitive information to whoever’s willing to pay. The film was highly influenced by East Asia, and the Japanese version of the film did far better at the box office than in the States, so if the movie was remade using today’s visual effects technology and based on the Japanese cut, it could succeed where the original failed. And given its similarities to Ghost in the Shell, a new Johnny Mnemonic could provide the opportunity for an Asian actress to take the lead in a cross-cultural franchise which they had previously been denied.
Leading lady suggestions: Rinko Kikuchi, Karen Fukuhara, Tao Okamoto
E.T. is always going to be a classic of children’s sci-fi cinema, and to some it’s Steven Spielberg’s greatest film ever. Telling the story of a lonely young boy who befriends an extraterrestrial, the movie addresses the timeless themes of loss, friendship and family, but there’s so much more that the story could offer if given the opportunity to be remade and taken out of a suburban white setting. A 21st century update could see E.T. discovered by a lonely young girl, overcoming the death of her father, while dealing with racial tensions in a working class neighborhood. In the same way that Dwayne Johnson wants to appeal to a more diverse audience that can relate to his remakes of Jumanji and Big Trouble in Little China, an E.T. remake could do the same.
Leading lady suggestions: Quvenzhané Wallis, Madison De La Garza, Aubrey Anderson-Emmons
Set in a world where aliens (called Newcomers) have crash-landed on Earth and call LA their home, Alien Nation sprinkles sci-fi on the buddy cop genre by pairing a human detective (James Cann) with the first alien one (mandy Patinkin) to investigate a homicide. Last year it was confirmed that Jeff Nicholls would be writing and directing the remake, which will hopefully allow two women a chance to appear in this sort of buddy cop film. The Heat is probably the last time we saw two women team up in a cop film, and with a similar premise about to be seen in Netflix’s Bright (starring Will Smith as a human cop and Joel Edgerton his orc partner), Nicholls may want to swap the genders in his version of Alien Nation.
Leading ladies suggestions (alien/human): Olivia Munn/Alison Janney, Ilana Glazer/Taraji P. Henson, Krysten Ritter/Jada Pinkett Smith
Warner Bros are planning to relaunch The Matrix franchise, the seminal sci-fi series created by The Wachowski Sisters and which followed Keanu Reeves’ Neo, Laurence Fishburne’s Morpheus, and Carrie-Anne Moss’ Trinity in their fight against a race of sentient machines using humans as their energy source. According to some reports, Michael B. Jordan is being lined up to take the central role, but after seeing Carrie-Anne in action in the original trilogy, it would be great to see a woman take the lead in a film based on stories from The Animatrix series. Maybe the relaunch could center around Jue from the “Final Flight of the Osiris,” or Cis from “Program,” or even a female perspective of “The Second Renaissance” for Matrix prequel films. There is so much scope for the franchise, which given the personal experiences of its creators, could offer far more representation for non-white cis males.
Leading lady suggestions: Cynthia Erivo, Elodie Yung, Pom Klementieff
Ethan Hawke and late River Phoenix’s feature film debut did not do well at the box office, but there’s everything to like about the concept. They played two friends who manage to build a spacecraft to explore space and run into some government agents and extraterrestrials on their journey. Paramount is currently developing a remake of the kids’ sci-fi flick, and what better way to inspire young girls to aspire to be more than princesses than a film showing them that the pursuit of science is its own adventure?
Leading ladies suggestion: Siena Agudong/Marsai Martin, Madison Pettis/Rowan Blanchard, Mackenzie Foy/Millie Davis
Efforts to remake the 1976 film (based on William F. Nolan’s 1967 dystopian novel) have been ongoing since the 1990s, with directors Bryan Singer and Nicolas Winding Refn both joining and leaving the project in the years since. Even Ryan Gosling was at one point set to play the titular role, originated on screen by Michael York, but dropped out along with his Drive director in 2012. A new script is being written by Colony co-creator Ryan Condal, which is said to be based more on the novel than the film, set in a dystopian society where citizens are executed upon their 21st birthday. Those who try to escape their untimely death are tracked down by sandmen, like Logan-5, but in the lead-up to his own execution, he has a change of heart and goes on the run himself. There’s nothing in the story to indicate Logan couldn’t be played by a woman, and there was even a report in 2015 that suggested Warner Bros were planning to gender swap the lead too, so here’s hoping Condal got the memo (if there was one).
Leading lady suggestions: Zoe Kravitz, Sophie Turner, Elle Fanning