Although the majority of the winning films follow the Hero’s Journey pattern, there has been a significant increase in Heroine Journey films in recent years. In the past several years, the Academy Award winning film makers have also gravitated toward movies that involve ambiguous journeys (The Shape of Water) or resist concluding a journey arc (Moonlight and Parasite). We believe this trend is based on an increasing recognition (at least by artists) of the complexity of an interconnected global world. Our review of these movies also reinforces our observation that literature and films with Heroine Journey arcs most often involve female protagonists and/or men who are marginalized due to prejudice or an unusual characteristic.
|Hero or Heroine’s Journey?||Winning Film||Hero or Heroine’s Journey?|
|1990||Dances with Wolves||Hero’s Journey|
|1991||The Silence of the Lambs||Heroine’s Journey|
|1993||Schindler’s List||Hero’s Journey|
|1994||Forrest Gump||Hero’s Journey|
|1996||The English Patient||Heroine’s Journey|
|1998||Shakespeare in Love||Hero’s Journey|
|1999||American Beauty||Hero’s Journey|
|2001||A Beautiful Mind||Heroine’s Journey|
|2003||The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King||Hero’s Journey|
|2004||Million Dollar Baby||Hero’s Journey|
|2006||The Departed||Hero’s Journey|
|2007||No Country for Old Men||Hero’s Journey|
|2008||Slumdog Millionaire||Hero’s Journey|
|2009||The Hurt Locker||Heroine’s Journey|
|2010||The King’s Speech||Heroine’s Journey|
|2011||The Artist||Heroine’s Journey|
|2013||12 Years a Slave||Heroine’s Journey|
|2016||Moonlight||Hero’s Journey toward Heroine’s Journey|
|2017||The Shape of Water||Hybrid Journey|
|2018||The Green Book||Heroine’s Journey|
The Silence of the Lambs: female protagonist
The English Patient: female protagonist
A Beautiful Mind: male protagonist who is mentally ill
Crash: multiple outsider protagonists and overall story examines racial prejudice from many angles
The Hurt Locker: a male protagonist with PTSD. This story plays with the border / point of view relevance of Hero’s Journey and Heroine’s Journey narrative.
The King’s Speech: male protagonist with a speech impediment
The Artist: male protagonist who is literally without a voice
12 Years a Slave: disenfranchised African American male protagonist who is enslaved.
Spotlight: a Hero’s Journey narrative arc with heroine’s journey elements for some characters
Moonlight: Hero’s Journey arc with twist at the end; best friend chooses heroine’s journey. Main characters are marginalized by class and race.
The Shape of Water: A fantasy that can be interpreted as hero’s journey or heroine’s journey depending on how magical elements are interpreted. Main characters are marginalized by disability and species (metaphor for all marginalized people treated as non-human).
Parasite: Aborted Hero’s Journeys; characters appear to be following hero’s journey arc, but film maker aborts journeys and characters end up dead or where they started. Central theme of story and characters’ lives is class.