10 Movies To Watch If You Like ‘Barbie’

Movies like Barbie

10 Movies to Watch if You Like ‘Barbie’ (2023): During a time when most people appear hyper-aware in keeping up with new and trendy things, it’s rare for culture to surround itself with one particular film. The hype surrounding the Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling starrer, “Barbie,” proved that audiences would still massively respond to a movie that’s not based on any established film franchise or comic book. Although the movie is technically based on a famous IP, filmmaker Greta Gerwig brings a maximalist satirical angle to the story. The response has been a resounding acclamation from critics as well as the audience – something that’s echoed into the film’s box office numbers; the movie has now crossed the $750 million mark at the global box office, providing to be one of the biggest hits of the post-pandemic era.

Needless to say, Gerwig’s third feature film has proven to be a towering success. What’s even more fascinating is seeing the indie filmmaker achieve this milestone at such an early point in her career – a testament to the earnest feminist voice she’s able to translate through her deeply human stories. While poking fun at the ridiculousness of the excesses imposed by the machinery of showbiz and capitalism, the movie also pays homage and borrows from pop culture in refreshingly clever ways. In this piece, let’s take a look at 10 influential movies that you need to see that inspired Gerwig’s vibrantly metamodern movie Barbie, or at least share its DNA.

1. The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Movies like Barbie - The Wizard of OZ

Let’s be honest, almost every musical or fantasy movie out there in some way, shape, or form will be influenced by this Victor Fleming film. Although over 80 years old, “The Wizard of Oz” revolutionized cinema by combining Technicolor and fantasy storytelling with a music score so memorable that it’s become an inseparable part of pop culture. More importantly, the unique characters have much more in common with Barbie than you think. Eagle-eyed viewers spotted Easter eggs in the Barbie trailer, which could suggest that the movie will be a modern-day, Barbie-inspired retelling of the classic tale.

Following the devastation wrought by a tornado, Dorothy’s (Judy Garland) house is carried away into the whimsical land of Oz. When she asks the Wizard to help her return home, she is led on a quest down the Yellow Brick Road with encounters that would forever change her notions about the real world. It’s incredibly entertaining, immensely quotable, and forms the bedrock philosophy of most fantasy movies, including the one faced by stereotypical Barbie in Greta Gerwig’s film. 

2. Little Women (2019)

Movies like Barbie - Little Women

Greta Gerwig has almost defined the quintessential coming-of-age journey for a contemporary woman. With her sophomore feature, she brought a Louisa May Alcott classic story to its brimming visual fruition with supreme grace. “Little Women” follows the story of the March sisters, primarily following the fiery writer Jo March (Saoirse Ronan) as she relives her family memories leading up to the publication of her first-ever story.

It’s pretty spectacular that a second-time director was given a budget like this, let alone the backing of a major studio. Gerwig more than delivers upon invigorating the dormant spew of mediocre period dramas we had been getting since the late 2000s. Her stellar re-imagination of the classic proved just how well she is at writing strong women. Apart from an extraordinary Ronan, who gives one of the best monologues in a period drama, the film also features other A-listers, including Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, and Eliza Scanlen, as Jo’s sisters Meg, Amy, and Beth. Bob Odenkirk plays their father, Laura Dern, their mother, and Timothee Chalamet as a delightful Laurie.

3. Clueless (1995)

One of the most talked about and praiseworthy aspects of “Barbie” has been its immaculate production and costume design. The one film that comes to mind is Amy Heckerling’s cult-classic teen comedy, “Clueless.” Mona May, the costume designer of this 1995 film, achieved timeless looks in the movie, blending high fashion with the girls of Beverly Hills. It simultaneously captures the zeitgeist of an era without restricting itself to it.

The movie basically serves as the most accessible starter pack for many girls, so it won’t be any more of a trouble to watch this with both your guy and girlfriends. Much like Barbie, Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone) is famous and possesses almost every outfit known in (her) world. The protagonists also go on journeys of self-discovery, realizing how good they had it and how fragile relationships can be.

4. Paddington Dualogy (2014, 2017)

Paul King’s spectacular “Paddington” films bring everyone’s most lovable bear in the world to life. Paddington (Ben Whishaw) uses his eagerness to do well in order to help the Brown family and their neighbors. While nothing could beat the boundlessly inventive first film in the saga, the second film surprisingly pushes the magical realism of it all even further as the bear faces off with Phoenix Buchanan (played by none other than Hugh Grant) to acquire a unique pop-up book for his aunt.

The Paddington movies stand as a testament to how great family movies can transcend the subgenre rather than settling for its limitations. They remain nonchalantly glorious, thematically layered, and life-affirming in the most wholesome way possible. It’s a sheer visual feast and warrants its place on the list due to the impeccable aesthetics of it all.

5. Toy Story Quadralogy (1995-2019)

Pixar is known for pioneering the animation genre in America, but there would always be a pre and a post – “Toy Story” era. The fact that the plot for the first film – which was released 28 years ago – basically echoes beat-to-beat in the screenplay for “Barbie” further compounds its timeless quality.

While every entry since the second film had Barbie as a crucial character in the narrative, “Toy Story 2” deals with the realities of aging and whether or not it’s better to be an immortal toy or to live in the present. Building upon the same dialectical conundrum, the third and fourth films deal with the notions and consequences of growing up while acknowledging that change is inevitable, even for near-immortal toys. It remains more earnest than most films on the list because despite being a ‘kids’ film,’ it never beats you over the head to hammer its message home. That’s one thing that breathes life into its otherwise inanimate subjects.

6. The Truman Show (1998)

Gerwig and the cast for “Barbie” have been pretty open regarding the influence of “The Truman Show” in the genesis of the film’s origin. A film that in itself was inspired by “The Twilight Zone” and Sidney Lumet’s classic, “Network.” This Jim Carrey film follows the life of a man, conspicuously named Truman Burbank, who isn’t aware that his world is actually a TV show broadcasted globally through cameras set all around him.

Soon, he starts to suspect that his entire existence is a sham, packaged to serve as the world’s foremost reality show. Directed by Peter Weir, with a presciently satirical script from Andrew Niccol, the film remains a modern classic that has inspired multiple similar films that deal with such constructed realities and notions of self-discovery.

7. Life-Size (2000)

Movies like Barbie - Life-Size

The early 2000s were the era when computer animation started colliding into fictional worlds, allowing filmmakers to expand upon the fantasy genre. But the success of “Toy Story” also allowed studios to build upon their IPs. Here came “Life-Size,” a Disney movie that reflects on the impact made by dolls like Barbie while making a case for them in the modern world.

The film follows Casey Stuart (Lindsay Lohan), who attempts to use magic in order to bring her deceased mother back alive. However, when the spell is accidentally interfered with, her toy doll (Tyra Banks) is brought to life instead. Cases are made against the superficiality of glamor as proposed by marketing, while statements about the vague platitudes of inner beauty are preached. It’s certainly not aged well. But it marks an important place to look at how far we’ve come in showbiz and entertainment (even when the didacticism may still exist). If only the Gerwig film had the song “Be A Star” be a part of its giddy world.

8. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)

Movies like Barbie - The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

It only makes sense for a heightened pastel-colored film from one of the most acclaimed French directors to be on the list that primarily inspired “Barbie.” The colors superbly aid the surreal nature of this Jacques Demy film, and the story examines the separation of a young woman (Catherine Deneuve) from her lover after he’s sent to war.

Apart from its thematically rich story, it was mainly the textured spatiality of this 1964 musical that inspired Gerwig and her crew to draw from the vibrant palette of the movie. Although it may have aged like a fine wine while clearly inspiring modern-day musicals, the film was highly experimental for its time, where literally all of the dialogue — including mundane conversations and emotional confrontations — are sung in front of picturesque backdrops.

9. Splash (1984)

Movies like Barbie - Splash

According to an early report by Deadline dating back to 2018, Warner Bro’s “Barbie” was described as “a fish-out-of-water story à la Splash and Big, whereby Barbie gets kicked out of Barbieland because she’s not perfect enough, a bit eccentric and doesn’t fit in.” Thus, Ron Howard’s fantasy romance starring Tom Hanks as a young man who falls in love with an actual mermaid (Daryl Hannah) comes across as the most convenient choice on the list.

The inspiration is so huge that it made Gerwig use some mermaids (played by the pop star Dua Lipa and former WWE fighter John Cena in the film) in her movie. What stands out the most about Howard’s fantasy telling is the ease with which he treads the movie’s tone. Just like Gerwig’s film, it’s the conviction behind the camera and the commitment of the actors on screen that aids in tactile on-screen chemistry between Hanks and Hannah, and that’s precisely why you should watch it.

10. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Since the first teaser for “Barbie” had dropped, fans had taken to social media to point out an unlikely choice of heavily homaging it with Stanley Kubrick’s Sci-Fi epic. Soon it became clear that the heavy-handed approach was indeed to reinforce the contrast between fantasy and darkly twisted reality that guided most of Barbie’s journey.

But it may not be all for the jokes and references. As we know, Gerwig is by far one of the most competent writers we have in Hollywood today. That’s precisely why the choice of homaging this revolutionary film speaks to much of the way in which Barbie herself questions her triviality in Barbieland once she comes face to face with the rapidly growing technological world. Let’s not get more into the reasons why you need to watch this philosophically rich film, though, as it would give Gerwig a (reasonable) excuse to poke fun at the self-proclamation of this piece in the potential sequel.

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Aryan Vyas

Aryan Vyas is a film critic who shares an equal fascination towards science and philosophy. Alike most cinephiles, he too believes that films carry the potential of acting as windows to peep into different cultures in search for the human condition. He has written for publications such as High on Films, Film Companion and Asian Movie Pulse. Through his write-ups, he looks at the artform through a sociopolitical lens, as he believes art is always better consumed knowing the subtext.