June 17, 2024

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Barbie director Greta Gerwig says watch these movies next

Greta Gerwig’s Barbie is finally upon us, and audiences love it. The comedy starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling as the eponymous doll and her maybe-boyfriend Ken has made big money at the box office, with audiences and critics both effusively praising the film’s extravagant production design and pitch-perfect soundtrack alongside Robbie’s and Gosling’s sensational performances.

Greatness never occurs in a vacuum, and that goes especially for Gerwig’s film. Speaking to Letterboxd prior to the film’s premiere, the director cited over 30 movies that inspired her while working on the film, from musicals and fast-talking comedies starring Gene Kelly and Cary Grant to films directed by such cinematic icons as Federico Fellini, Stanley Kubrick, Jacques Demy, and Pedro Almodóvar.

If you’re aching for more Barbie-like entertainment, we’ve pulled together a list of where you can stream or rent nearly all of the films Gerwig has cited as inspiration. Classics like A Matter of Life and Death, All That Jazz, and Oklahoma! are sadly unavailable online, but trust us — there’s plenty here to keep you occupied.


Gold Diggers of 1935

A row of pianos played by women in identical gowns in Gold Diggers of 1935.

Image: Everett Collection

Year: 1935
Run time: 1h 35m
Director: Busby Berkeley
Cast: Dick Powell, Adolphe Menjou, Gloria Stuart

Gerwig mentioned Gold Diggers of 1935 in the same breath as Fred Zinnemann’s 1955 adaptation of the musical Oklahoma! as a film that most inspired her approach to filming dance sequences in Barbie. Gold Diggers of 1935 centers on the romantic antics of a group of guests at a luxurious resort hotel, among them an eccentric millionaire, a wealthy heiress, and a stage director. “[The film] has this one really surreal dance number with a bunch of steps, Gerwig told Letterboxd. “There’s, like, a million tap dancers that go through each other. It’s kind of unreal.”

Gold Diggers of 1935 is available to rent on Amazon, Apple, and Vudu.

2001: A Space Odyssey

A man in a space helmet stares up at rows of red illuminated columns of light.

Image: Warner Bros. Pictures

Year: 1968
Run time: 2h 29m
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Cast: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, Douglas Rain

Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi opus has exerted a nigh monolithic (pun intended) influence over the medium of film and cinematic storytelling since it first landed in theaters in 1968. Among the film’s most iconic moments are that of its first scene, wherein a tribe of hominins first encounter the alien artifact that seemingly grants them the power of intelligence. The influence on Barbie is obvious to anyone who has seen the first trailer for the film, wherein a group of young girls standing in a valley similar to the one seen in 2001: A Space Odyssey first encounters the doll that would change the history of children’s toys forever.

2001: A Space Odyssey is available to stream on Max, or available to rent on Amazon, Apple, and Vudu.

An American in Paris

(L-R) Leslie Caron and Gene Kelly in An American in Paris.

Image: Everett Collection

Year: 1951
Run time: 1h 54m
Director: Vincente Minnelli
Cast: Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, Oscar Levant

Gerwig is a big fan of Gene Kelly. As she told Letterboxd, “When I was growing up, Gene Kelly was my crush, which was weird.” Not weird at all, Greta; after all, he’s a canonical Hollywood dreamboat!

Gerwig singled out the opening scene, in which Jerry wakes up in his tiny apartment and gets ready for the day, as a inspiration. “There was something so satisfying about watching him go through his morning routine — that was one of the morning routines I loved. Even though Barbie has much more of an expanse, I was like, ‘This is a great opening,’” Gerwig told Letterboxd. “Then they have Leslie Caron in these very graphic, beautiful shots against an entirely purple room or an entirely green room; she’s going through her day. It was these flourishes that were almost surreal in that film.”

An American in Paris is available to rent on Amazon, Apple, and Vudu.

And the Ship Sails On

Two elderly men standing with their hands on the wheel of a ship in And The Ship Sails On.

Image: Triumph Releasing/Everett Collection

Year: 1983
Run time: 2h 8m
Director: Federico Fellini
Cast: Freddie Jones, Barbara Jefford, Victor Poletti

Federico Fellini is not quite the first name you’d think of as a possible inspiration for Barbie. The Italian filmmaker (and avid comic book fan) is one of the most influential directors of the 20th century, known for such eccentric and captivating masterpieces as La Strada, La Dolce Vita, and his 1963 magnum opus . Gerwig cites Fellini’s 1983 comedy-drama And the Ship Sails On as an inspiration for her approach to crafting the more surreal, practical effects of Barbie — in particular the fake sea effect as seen in Fellini’s film.

And the Ship Sails On is available to stream on Criterion Channel.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

A giant spaceship hovering above a small valley with a mountain in the distance in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Image: Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment

Year: 1977
Run time: 2h 18m
Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Richard Dreyfuss, Teri Garr, Melinda Dillon

Gerwig cites Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi drama as one of her favorite movies and a key inspiration for Barbie. Speaking to Letterboxd, she explained that the film is “about this maniacal belief in something that seemed sort of crazy, but was actually true.”

Close Encounters of the Third Kind is available to stream on Tubi and Pluto TV, or available to rent on Amazon, Apple, and Vudu.

Grease

(L-R) Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta behind the wheel of a car in Grease.

Image: Paramount/Everett Collection

Year: 1978
Run time: 1h 50m
Director: Randal Kleiser
Cast: John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, Stockard Channing

Barbie owes a visible debt to the anachronistic flair of Grease, Randal Kleiser’s classic romantic musical starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. “Grease is great,” Gerwig told Letterboxd. “It’s a musical about the 1950s, but made in the 1970s and everybody’s 30. Love it.”

Grease is available to stream on Max, or available to rent on Amazon, Apple, and Vudu.

Heaven Can Wait

Warren Beatty playing a flute beside a woman in a field in Heaven Can Wait.

Image: Paramount/Everett Collection

Year: 1978
Run time: 1h 41m
Director: Warren Beatty, Buck Henry
Cast: Warren Beatty, James Mason, Julie Christie

In between the fantastical music numbers and wacky set-pieces, Gerwig’s Barbie is punctuated by genuine moments of existential questioning and despair. Heaven Can Wait, the 1978 drama directed by and starring Warren Beatty, was one of the films Gerwig looked to for inspiration in that regard. “One thing I love about Heaven Can Wait is it’s extremely high concept, but it’s always human,” Gerwig told Letterboxd. “There’s nothing about it that makes you feel distanced from it. It totally works, even though in some ways it seems sort of wacky, but when you’re watching, it’s so beautiful.”

Heaven Can Wait is available to stream on Pluto TV, or available to rent on Amazon, Apple, and Vudu.

His Girl Friday

(L-R) Rosalind Russell and Cary Grant talking on seperate phones beside one another in His Girl Friday.

Image: Columbia Pictures/Everett Collection

Year: 1940
Run time: 1h 32m
Director: Howard Hawks
Cast: Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy

The classic 1940 screwball comedy stars Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell as a formerly married newspaper editor and reporter who fall in love again while investigating the execution of a bookkeeper convicted of murder. His Girl Friday is one of the most iconic examples of the transatlantic accent, a distinctive fast-talking affect originated to imitate the hustle and bustle of upper-crust metropolitan elites. “His Girl Friday is one of the best fast-talking movies of all time,” Gerwig told Letterboxd.

His Girl Friday is available to stream on Prime Video, or available to rent on Amazon, Apple, and Vudu.

Model Shop

Anouk Aimée in sunglasses standing in front of a glass window with magazines plastered on the surface in Model Shop.

Image: Everett Collection

Year: 1969
Run time: 1h 37m
Director: Jacques Demy
Cast: Anouk Aimée, Gary Lockwood, Alexandra Hay

Gerwig lists not one, not two, but three Jacques Demy films as principal influences on Barbie. Demy’s flair for carefully constructed worlds with an emphasis on bright colors and complementary costume choices is apparent in Gerwig’s own approach to the pink-saturated wonderworld of Barbie and her friends.

Model Shop is available to rent on Amazon, Apple, and Vudu.

Modern Times

Charlie Chaplin trapped in the gears of a machine in Modern Times.

Image: Everett Collection

Year: 1936
Run time: 1h 27m
Director: Charlie Chaplin
Cast: Charlie Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, Henry Bergman

Charlie Chaplin is the master of cinematic physical humor, a trait evident in nearly of all his films, though especially apparent in this 1936 satirical romance comedy. Barbie’s various stunts and chase sequences owe a debt to the inspiration of Chaplin’s character The Tramp, as Gerwig tells Letterboxd in her interview.

Modern Times is available to stream on Max and Criterion Channel.

Mon Oncle

Monsieur Hulot with his hands on his hips starring at an irritated man in a modernist garden in Mon Oncle.

Image: Criterion Channel

Year: 1958
Run time: 2h 35m
Director: Jacques Tati
Cast: Jacques Tati, Jean-Pierre Zola, Adrienne Servantie

Jacques Tati is a master of environmental comedy, known for his elaborately constructed set-pieces that foreground the delightfully clashing personalities of his characters while mischievously critiquing the absurdity of modern society. “Jacques Tati is the king of the slow joke,” Gerwig told Letterboxd. “The way those movies unfold are just so perfect. I always thought of Mattel as existing slightly in Jacques Tati’s world.”

Mon Oncle is available to stream on Max and Criterion Channel.

Pee-wee’s Big Adventure

Pee-Wee Herman (Paul Reubens) staring up at a Red T-Rex standing next to a bicycle surrounded by darkness in Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.

Imager: Warner Home Video

Year: 1985
Run time: 1h 30m
Director: Tim Burton
Cast: Paul Reubens, E.G. Daily, Mark Holton

Tim Burton’s feature-length adaptation of Paul Reubens’ iconic children’s TV character heavily inspired the fantastical set-pieces and comedic rhythm of Gerwig’s own Barbie. “There’s that section where he gets on a train and is a tramp on a train and sings songs, then he gets bored of it and falls off the train and it takes 60 seconds,” Gerwig told Letterboxd. “It’s hilarious, but it’s just a really short thing.”

Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure is available to rent on Amazon, Apple, and Vudu.

Playtime

Monsieur Hullot (Jacques Tati) staring down at a room filled with cubicles in Playtime.

Image: Criterion Collection

Year: 1967
Run time: 1h 55m
Director: Jacques Tati
Cast: Jacques Tati, Barbara Dennek, Rita Maiden

As mentioned previously, Tati’s work was a major inspiration for Gerwig’s Barbie. Playtime is often cited as Tati’s magnum opus, following the director’s bumbling protagonist Monsieur Hulot (played by Tati himself) as he wanders throughout a modern Parisian cityscape cramped with a dioramic assortment of hilarious and strange set-pieces.

Playtime is available to stream on Criterion Channel, or available to rent on Amazon and Apple.

Rear Window

James Stewart as L. B. Jefferies looking through the lens of his camera in Rear Window.

Image: Paramount Pictures

Year: 1954
Run time: 1h 52m
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Cast: James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Wendell Corey

Alfred Hitchcock’s mystery-thriller about a photographer in a wheelchair who may or may not have witnessed the murder of one of his neighbors in his apartment block is not only one of the director’s most iconic and oft-imitated films, but a surprising influence on Barbie. In her interview with Letterboxd, Gerwig cited the practical construction of the film’s sets and backgrounds as an inspiration while working on her own film.

Rear Window is available to rent on Amazon, Apple, and Vudu.

Saturday Night Fever

John Travolta dancing in Saturday Night Fever.

Image: Paramount Home Entertainment

Year: 1977
Run time: 1h 59m
Director: John Badham
Cast: John Travolta, Karen Lynn Gorney, Barry Miller

Barbie is a lot of things: not quite a musical and not quite a drama, but a mish-mash of several different genres with a heavy emphasis on music. Gerwig cites Saturday Night Fever as an influence on her vision for Barbie as a movie supported by an amazing soundtrack. “Saturday Night Fever obviously has this incredible soundtrack by the Bee Gees. […] I thought Barbie seemed so disco to me in her heart, because Barbie’s sort of — and I will say this as a lover of Barbie and disco — a little bit dorky in the best way,” Gerwig told Letterboxd. “Saturday Night Fever was a movie that was driven by music, but not a musical. I guess we’re half of a musical.”

Saturday Night Fever is available to stream on Prime Video and Paramount Plus, or available to rent on Amazon, Apple, and Vudu.

Singin’ in the Rain

Gene Kelly dancing in a raincoat with an umbrella in Singin’ in the Rain.

Image: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Year: 1952
Run time: 1h 43m
Director: Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly
Cast: Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds

Gerwig cites Singin’ in the Rain as not just one of her favorite movies, but her very favorite. It’s no surprise, then, that the film would have an abundant influence on her work on Barbie. “There are so many great things in Singin’ in the Rain, but the dream ballet inside of the dream ballet is one of the most incredible, beautiful, completely unhinged things.”

Singin’ in the Rain is available to stream on Max, or available to rent on Amazon, Apple, and Vudu.

Splash

Two people embracing in a kiss underwater.

Image: Touchstone Home Entertainment

Year: 1984
Run time: 1h 51m
Director: Ron Howard
Cast: Tom Hanks, Daryl Hannah, Eugene Levy

“Splash is another movie that is utterly charming and works emotionally, even though it’s so high concept and it’s down to Daryl Hannah and Tom Hanks, who are so great,” Gerwig told Letterboxd. “I’m sure the tagline was, like, ‘Fish Out of Water.’ It felt like a crossing-worlds movie… It’s one I’ve loved since I was a kid, too.”

Splash is available to stream on Disney Plus and MGM Plus, or available to rent on Amazon, Apple, and Vudu.

The Earrings of Madame de…

A woman staring into a mirror in The Earrings of Madame de….

Image: Criterion Collection

Year: 1953
Run time: 1h 45m
Director: Max Ophüls
Cast: Charles Boyer, Danielle Darrieux, Vittorio De Sica

Gerwig cites Max Ophüls’ 1953 romantic drama film as an inspiration on Barbie for its beautiful camerawork. “I mean, I can’t believe some of those shots. They’re just extraordinary; it’s always a reminder of what we’re all going for.”

The Earrings of Madame de… is available to stream on Max and Criterion Channel, or available to rent on Amazon and Apple.

The Godfather

Marlon Brando as Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather (1972).

Image: Paramount Pictures

Year: 1972
Run time: 2h 55m
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Cast: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan

Francis Ford Coppola’s crime drama masterpiece is one of the most celebrated films of the 20th century, so it’s only natural that Gerwig would find a way to fit a nod to The Godfather in her work on Barbie. If you know, you know.

The Godfather is available to stream on Paramount Plus, or available to rent on Amazon, Apple, and Vudu.

The Ladies Man

A wide-shot of a man walking into a house where every floor is visible in The Lady’s Man.

Image: Paramount Home Entertainment

Year: 1961
Run time: 1h 35m
Director: Jerry Lewis
Cast: Jerry Lewis, Helen Traubel, Pat Stanley

Jerry Lewis’ 1961 comedy about a man who takes up a job at a women-only boarding house after breaking up with his girlfriend is a key influence on Gerwig’s Barbie, particularly in its diorama approach to set design and iconic opening moments. “They built this house that was cut out, and then they moved around the rooms with a camera in this one continuous shot with all these girls getting ready,” Gerwig told Letterboxd. “It’s incredible. That’s where I got the idea for the mirror that has nothing in it that you look through, and it’s just her.”

The Ladies Man is available to stream on Showtime, or available to rent on Amazon, Apple, and Vudu.

The Philadelphia Story

(L-R) Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart, and Cary Grant in The Philadelphia Project.

Image: Criterion Collection

Year: 1940
Run time: 1h 52m
Director: George Cukor
Cast: Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart

Gerwig cited the 1940 comedy The Philadelphia Story as an influence on Barbie, not just for her love of Cary Grant, but as a inspiration for Margot Robbie’s portrayal of Barbie. “One of the reasons I loved it — and I said to Margot to watch it for Barbie because Katharine Hepburn describes herself as being a Grecian statue or something — is she’s unflappable and then she starts falling apart, and that’s actually where she finds herself,” Gerwig told Letterboxd. “It was actually already one of Margot’s favorite movies; she already had that in her back pocket, as it were.”

The Philadelphia Story is available to rent on Amazon, Apple, and Vudu.

The Red Shoes

Moira Shearer in The Red Shoes.

Image: Criterion Collection

Year: 1948
Run time: 2h 15m
Director: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Cast: Anton Walbrook, Marius Goring, Moira Shearer

The 1948 British drama about a ballerina who is forced to choose between her love for her career and her love for a composer is a dominant inspiration for Gerwig’s Barbie. “The Red Shoes [is] all over the movie. There’s a shot of her walking up to that house, which I wanted it to feel like that when Barbie walks up to [Weird Barbie’s] house. Ryan Gosling wears a pair of glasses that are the cat-eye glasses that the director wears in it, because I was like, ‘How stylish and bold that that man’s wearing cat-eye glasses — it’s so fun.’ Then Ryan was like, ‘Can I wear cat-eye glasses?’ and I was like, ‘You definitely can,’ and then he had two on.”

The Red Shoes is available to stream on Max and Criterion Channel, or available to rent on Amazon and Apple.

The Truman Show

Truman (Jim Carrey) looking in his bathroom mirror camera in Truman Show

Image: Paramount Pictures

Year: 1998
Run time: 1h 43m
Director: Peter Weir
Cast: Jim Carrey, Laura Linney, Noah Emmerich

Peter Weir’s contemporary existential comedy about a man who discovers that his entire life has been a carefully orchestrated “reality” TV show shares a lot in common with the spirit of Gerwig’s Barbie. “I had to include The Truman Show both because I watched it again before I made this movie, and because Peter Weir very generously got on the phone with me before I started shooting, and he talked to me for a long time about how he shot it and how they made it work.”

The Truman Show is available to rent on Amazon, Apple, and Vudu.

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

Catherine Deneuve clutching the door of an apparel shop in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.

Image: Criterion Channel

Year: 1964
Run time: 1h 31m
Director: Jacques Demy
Cast: Catherine Deneuve, Anne Vernon, Nino Castelnuovo

As mentioned previously, Jacques Demy was a huge influence on the production design of Gerwig’s Barbie. “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg [is] an amazing movie and astonishingly beautiful,” Gerwig told Letterboxd. “I loved the use of color and the surrealness. Rodrigo Prieto and I — he shot the film and he’s one of the greatest DPs who ever lived — were talking about that layering of the colors and how you’d shoot five different shades of pink or red in one shot and not have it overwhelm anything, that you feel like there’s separation, but that it’s vibrant. Everything feels painterly, and that was a big part of it.”

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is available to stream on Max and Criterion Channel, or available to rent on Amazon and Apple.

The Wizard of Oz

(L-R) The Tinman, Dorothy, the scarecrow, and the cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz.

Image: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

Year: 1939
Run time: 1h 42m
Director: Victor Fleming
Cast: Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger

The iconic 1939 musical fantasy starring Judy Garland is an obvious inspiration for Gerwig’s film about a girl transported to a world beyond her imagination. “In our movie, we have the Pink Brick Road instead of the Yellow Brick Road,” Gerwig told Letterboxd. “We also have beautiful painted backdrops of horizons. We executed it like they would’ve done in the ’30s and ’40s and ’50s soundstage musicals. It was something that we kept returning to. I always love the ending where there’s a ceremonial quality.”

The Wizard of Oz is available to stream on Max, or available to rent on Amazon, Apple, and Vudu.

The Young Girls of Rochefort

(L-R) Delphine (Catherine Deneuve) and her sister Solange (Françoise Dorléac) seated on a couch in pink and yellow outfits in The Young Girls of Rochefort.

Image: Criterion Collection

Year: 1967
Run time: 2h 5m
Director: Jacques Demy
Cast: Catherine Deneuve, George Chakiris, Françoise Dorléac

Jacques Demy’s musical comedy about two extravagantly dressed sisters pining for love was a key influence on Gerwig’s Barbie, particularly for the film’s many flamboyant costume designs. At one point in the film, Barbie sports a hat similar to the sisters’ own.

The Young Girls of Rochefort is available to stream on Max and Criterion Channel, or available to rent on Amazon, Apple, and Vudu.

Twentieth Century

(L-R) John Barrymore and Carole Lombard in Twentieth Century.

Image: The Criterion Channel

Year: 1934
Run time: 1h 31m
Director: Howard Hawks
Cast: John Barrymore, Carole Lombard, Walter Connolly

Gerwig cites Howard Hawks’ screwball romance Twentieth Century as an influence on Barbie’s heightened sense of emotion-driven comedy. “Margot reminds me of Carole Lombard and Ryan reminds me of John Barrymore in how funny he is. There are scenes where they’re just screaming at each other; I was like, ‘This is perfect.’ There’s a heightened, dramatic thing that John Barrymore does that I showed to Ryan, then he took that and put it in our movie.”

Twentieth Century is available to rent on Amazon, Apple, and Vudu.

Wings of Desire

Bruno Ganz as an angel sitting on the shoulder of a winged statue in a helmet holding a spear and a wreath in Wings of Desire.

Image: Criterion Collection

Year: 1987
Run time: 2h 8m
Director: Wim Wenders
Cast: Bruno Ganz, Solveig Dommartin, Otto Sander

Among the wide breadth of Gerwig’s inspirations, Wings of Desire might feel like the oddest film to cite as an inspiration for Barbie. It’s a romantic fantasy about an angel that falls in love with a trapeze artist and renounces his immortality in order to spend the rest of his existence on Earth with her, and Gerwig describes the film as an influence for the simple fact that it features conversations with an angel — and that’s it!

Wings of Desire is available to stream on Max and Criterion Channel, or available to rent on Amazon and Apple.

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

Carmen Maura speaking into a red corded telephone, looking visibly distraught in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.

Image: Criterion Collection

Year: 1988
Run time: 1h 28m
Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Cast: Carmen Maura, Antonio Banderas, Julieta Serrano

Pedro Almodóvar’s 1988 black comedy about a television actress who embarks on a journey of self-discovery in order to get to the heart of why her lover left her is commonly referred to as one of the director’s best. In the case of Gerwig’s Barbie, the film was an inspiration for its distinctive set design and method of layering colors on screen.

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown is available to stream on Freevee, or available to rent on Amazon, Apple, and Vudu.