Comedic, satirical and visually stunning, the “Barbie” movie is one of the most anticipated films of the summer. But don’t drive straight to the movie theater just yet! In order to properly enjoy the film, first take a seat and refresh your memory on Barbie’s lore by enjoying the films of Barbie’s past.
Directed by Greta Gerwig and starring Margot Robbie as Barbie and Ryan Gosling as Ken, the movie takes everything kids love about their favorite childhood toy and adapts it into a live action format. In an ideal world, audiences would have watched all the existing animated films growing up, but if you are on a time crunch, I suggest seeing at least three to five classics to arm yourself with an understanding of Barbie’s world.
As an essential part of my childhood, “Barbie as the Island Princess” and “Barbie as Princess and the Pauper” are the best movies to catch up on. Both of them feature Barbie as an actor in fairytales, bringing the audience into a whole new world of fantasy and fun. The former follows Barbie as Rosella, who was stranded on an island as a child and grows up with a love for the animals and nature that surround her. I remember watching this movie for the first time, seeing Rosella’s dress, and instantly being enamored. “Barbie as Princess and the Pauper,” on the other hand, takes Mark Twain’s original story and adapts it to the Barbie universe. As one of the most beloved movies in the fandom, it stands out because Barbie plays two roles — Princess Anneliese and Pauper Erika. These films are a part of the older generation, revered for their nostalgia and iconic status in Barbie lore.
However, “Barbie: Princess Charm School” has a place in my heart — I felt so engrossed in the story growing up. The film follows Blair Willows as she navigates life at a magical school that she was invited to attend via lottery. Although it was part of a different generation of Barbie films, it’s just as meaningful. The setting of the school, with its purple, crystal-like lockers lining the halls and grand ballrooms fit with chandeliers, made the school feel like a dream that I wanted to a a part of — one where spells and friendship ruled over all. Watching it back now, the film brings a sense of nostalgia that makes me love it even more. The important thing to take from these movies is that Barbie is an iconic character who values friendship, kindness and generosity. She does not shy away from her femininity, and instead leans into it as a strength to guide her through her adventures.
Lastly, before screening “Barbie,” viewers should check out Gerwig’s previous work. By crafting female-driven stories that are emotionally complex, Gerwig attracts young women to theaters in a unique fashion. “Little Women” and “Lady Bird” are both essentials in the Gerwig binge spree; however, my favorite movie of hers is “Frances Ha.” Set in modern-day New York, it follows a young woman through the rollercoaster that is her life as she, like most young adults, is just trying to figure it all out. Throughout these movies, Gerwig explores the intricacies of existing as a woman. She delves into the problems of teenage girls and young women alike to make them feel heard and seen. Gerwig carries this idea into “Barbie,” as the trailers and press present the movie as a feminist retelling of the classic childhood toy. The movie is intentionally bright and colorful with fun costumes that embrace girlhood to the maximum. The target audience is girls and women, something that the movie seems to lean into completely.
In the end, the most important thing to remember before watching the “Barbie” movie is that it is supposed to be fun! Whether you are dressing up as your favorite vintage doll or seeing it as a double feature with the equally anticipated “Oppenheimer,” remember to enjoy the moment — because films like this are one in a million.