It's official: 2016 was a historic year for women at the movies, thanks to the likes of Moana and Star Wars.

A study has shown that 29 per cent of protagonists in the top 100 movies at the box office in 2016 were female.

It's a record high for women in movies, rising from 22 per cent in 2015 and 16 per cent in 2002.

"We have now seen over and over and over that female characters, when done well, they're good box office," Martha Lauzen the centre's director, told Variety.

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"They're not being relegated to a single genre like romantic comedies. Their fate is not tied to the fortunes of a single genre, and that suggests a more stable pattern."

The number rises to 37 per cent when it comes to females as major characters, the study from San Diego University's Centre for the Study of Women in Television and Film revealed.

It leaves 54 per cent of movies with male leads, and 17 per cent with equal ensembles.

Last year saw several high profile movies with female protagonists, most notably Rogue One, the Star Wars spinoff that saw Felicity Jones lead an ensemble of diverse characters.

The all-female Ghostbusters remake, which received an intense internet backlash before it had premiered, also helped with, alongside animated films Finding Dory and Moana.

However, despite the increase of representation, the diversity figures are mostly the same between genders, with 76 per cent of female characters white, just one percentage point down from white male characters.

Source: Warner Bros

This year promises to be another good year with the release of Wonder Woman - DC's first female superhero movie in decades.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi will see the return of Daisy Ridley's Rey, and female-led sequels A Bad Moms Christmas and Pitch Perfect 3 are also scheduled for release before the end of the year.