Barbie isn’t just a love letter to the famous doll, it’s also a love letter to movies themselves. Director Greta Gerwig’s film is filled with cinematic references, homages, and tributes. That wasn’t a total surprise. She has discussed the many, many films that influenced Barbie. But the neon pink-filled film had even more callbacks than we expected. While we’re sure we’ll be finding even more of them when we see the Barbie movie again, these famous Hollywood movie references stand (and sometimes dance) as our favorites.
2001: A Space Odyssey
Stanley Kubrick’s legendary sci-fi classic loomed large over Barbie‘s opening scene. Literally. A giant version of Margot Robbie’s toy changed the world forever.
Her arrival lifted children out of the stone age and into a new modern era, same as Kubrick’s infamous black monolith did with apes, in a parody that was as meaningful as it was funny.
The Seven Year Itch
Stereotypical Barbie’s unplanned skirt lift while floating off her house was an obvious homage to Marilyn Monroe’s iconic subway vent scene in 1955’s The Seven Year Itch. This moment was brief but considering the film’s themes it was also touching.
Singing in the Rain
The Kens civil beach war transformed into a musical number that reunited the men of Barbieland, in a memorable sequence that hearkened back to Hollywood’s golden age. While it felt like a tribute to the musicals of that era, its dreamlike quality felt especially inspired by Singing in the Rain‘s “Broadway Melody” number. (And according to Gerwig that’s just one of many ways Gene Kelly’s filmography influenced the film.)
Saturday Night Fever
The film’s other big dance number also paid tribute to a different blockbuster. Barbie’s small/gigantic fully-choreographed, clap-heavy dance party was the neon pink answer to the John Travolta-led disco classic.
Will Ferrell’s role as Mattel’s CEO certainly felt like a callback to a similar movie about toys who live in their own imaginary fantasy world, The LEGO Movie. But another one of his film’s that clearly inspired Barbie got a more direct tribute. Stereotypical Barbie got a Buddy-style sendoff like Ferrell’s did in Elf. She got a snow globe goodbye from a Mermaid like the one Buddy got from the narwhal.
The Wizard of Oz
Not only was the classic promoted on Barbieland’s theater marquee, Barbie traveled down a pink brick road to the real world in a reversal of Dorothy’s journey down a yellow brick one to Oz.
The arrival of the patriarchy in Barbieland/Kendom was exactly what happened in Pleasantville. The real world infected the utopian realm with all of the angst, problems, and issues of humanity. Just like the 1998 movie, that ultimately made Barbieland a better, more fulfilling place to live.
Okay, seriously, did Gloria and Stereotypical Barbie shine together a la Danny Torrance and Dick Halloran in The Shining? It sort of seemed like they did! Second question: was Barbie secretly just an ode to Stanley Kubrick?
Every filmmaker who shows a rearview mirror with a warning about objects being closer than they appearing during a high speed chase knows exactly what they are doing: they’re referencing Jurassic Park. It makes sense Barbie did, too. It shares (dino) DNA with Steven Spielberg’s thriller masterpiece. Both feature the real world clashing with a fantasy world. Only instead of prehistoric monsters Barbieland features neon pink homes without running water and the patriarchy.
How do you convey a land previously run by women has now been turned into a world dominated by men who think they’re powerful and want to show off to one another while celebrating their masculinity? By recreating Top Gun‘s infamous beach volleyball scene, a sequence so rife for a parody it has always felt like one itself.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League
We’re not going out on much of a limb to say Zack Snyder’s biggest fans probably didn’t appreciate Barbie‘s joke about his Justice League movie having a strange hold over a certain segment of its fandom. But it’s not exactly brave to say those who don’t like the director’s DCEU movies and his most vocal fans probably liked it very much.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Just because a movie is an unquestioned beloved classic doesn’t mean it can’t still get skewered for being a big part of proverbial guy culture. Monty Python and the Holy Grail definitely fits that bill. That’s why it was so perfect seeing the newly reunited Kens pretending to ride back to Barbie’s DreamHouse on imaginary horses just like the knights in the legendary sketch group’s 1975 comedy.
Everything we said about Holy Grail also applies to The Godfather. Men can (and do) use even the greatest films of all-time for evil/annoying women. You’ll know which ones do just that. They’ll be the ones who get upset about this specific reference.