Real Barbie fans know that the iconic blond fashion doll has had a long cinematic career, decades before Greta Gerwig’s satirical live-action movie Barbie. Barbie’s movie roots started in 2001 with the direct-to-VHS feature Barbie in the Nutcracker, and she’s since gone on to star in 41 animated movies.
People who grew up as Barbie fans after 2001 probably have their Barbie movie, the one they watched over and over again as kids and have practically memorized. But there’s more to Movie Barbie than our specific childhood favorites — her film career has gone through many different phases, from straight-up fairy-tale adaptations to hard science fiction. And also fantasy movies featuring mermaids. There have been a lot of Barbie mermaids. But one thing is constant across all Barbie movies: She’s the hero of her own story, saving the day (and often the world!) with her best friends, all while looking super cute.
So which movies hold up? Which ones truly embody the Barbie energy that has been in the zeitgeist over the past few months? Which are worthy of checking out when you exit the theater in a post-Barbie high?
As is my nature and my calling, I sat down and watched every single Barbie movie, from Barbie in the Nutcracker to 2023’s Barbie: Skipper and the Big Babysitting Adventure, and ranked every single one of them.
Quick note: I made the executive choice not to include Gerwig’s movie in the ranking. It was made with a different audience in mind than any of the films below, and more importantly, it had a much bigger budget. It just doesn’t seem fair to compare a bunch of direct-to-VHS kids’ movies to a big four-quadrant blockbuster. I also eliminated Barbie: Epic Road Trip, a Netflix interactive, since it’s more of a game than a movie. (It’s really good, though. You should play it.)
[Ed. note: This article contains minor spoilers for every one of the 41 Barbie movies.]
41. Barbie as the Island Princess (2007)
This Barbie is the sole survivor of a shipwreck who grows up alone on an island surrounded by animals!
The only thing you really need to know about this one is that apparently, the animators have never, ever seen an elephant. Uncanny animals aside, this movie’s entire premise is based on the romantic connection between two characters who barely interact! Also, that elephant…
40. Barbie: A Fashion Fairytale (2010)
This Barbie is a movie star taking a break from the spotlight and helping save her aunt’s fashion house from ruin!
After a bunch of fairy-tale retellings, Mattel Entertainment apparently decided Barbie needed to be a regular girl — but still with some magic. Thus began the era where Barbie was a movie star (cool!) stumbling onto magical secrets (cool!), except unlike the previous movies where the magic varied, the magic in this era is, like, exclusively about fashion. (Cool?)
There’s nothing inherently wrong with being fashion-forward; this is Barbie, after all. But in this particular movie, you can really see how the magical item was specifically made with a toy in mind: It’s a magical closet that transforms clothes by completely covering them in glitter. The plot is contrived around the magic closet. Compared to other Barbie movies, this one feels like it swung and missed what people actually love about the Barbie movies, which is seeing the fashion doll in a more story-driven context.
39. Barbie: A Fairy Secret (2011)
This Barbie is a movie star who gets whisked away to the fairy world after a fairy kidnaps her boyfriend!
This has the same problems as Fashion Fairytale, except that because the storyline centers around Barbie and her rival Raquelle learning to get along, it has some juicy homoerotic tension that gives it a leg up. However, their rivalry is very one-sided (Raquelle is jealous of Barbie, but Barbie is like, Uh, OK?). Once again, for whatever reason, even though Barbie and Raquelle stumble onto a world full of magical fairies, all those fairies do is make purses and shoes.
38. Barbie Fairytopia: Magic of the Rainbow (2007)
This Barbie is a fairy chosen to represent her region in an important ritual!
The best part of the Fairytopia movies is the cool world-building. To its credit, the third movie in the Fairytopia series, Magic of the Rainbow, does expand on that world in a fun way, exploring more of the unique fairy types and their powers. However, other than that, it’s a bit exhausting to see the villain pull off a plan that’s similar to what she does in the first two movies, and for the main character, Elina, to go through the same exact character journey for the third time. C’mon, girl, gain some confidence! You’ve saved the world twice already!
37. Barbie of Swan Lake (2003)
This Barbie is a soft-spoken peasant girl who gets turned into a swan while trying to save a magical forest!
I know, I know — Barbie fans may think it’s blasphemy to put this Barbie classic near the bottom of the list. But if you haven’t watched this since age 7, you might forget how many sequences are just characters dancing, rendered in bad CG! There is a wasted thread with the main character’s sister, and not a lot going on beyond the dancing. Also, even though Kelsey Grammer voices the villain, he clearly just phoned in the voice acting performance. Do better, Frasier! We saw you commit in Anastasia and Toy Story 2!
36. Barbie in the Nutcracker (2001)
This Barbie is the Sugarplum Princess!
This is the first-ever Barbie movie, and I recognize that it paved the way for sharp, girl-focused fairy-tale retellings. I also really admire how it gives The Nutcracker more of a plot, and the ballet’s protagonist, Clara, more agency. However, the plot of The Nutcracker is still really boring, and no amount of Tim Curry cackling as the Mouse King can change that.
35. Barbie and the Secret Door (2014)
This Barbie is a shy princess who discovers a portal to a magical world!
After the “Barbie is a regular girl, but also a cool movie star who stumbles upon magical fashion” era of Barbie movies of the early 2010s came the “Barbie plays a princess, and also there’s another plot thing going on” era in the mid-2010s. This time, Barbie is a shy princess named Alexa who would rather read than fulfill her royal obligations. She finds a door that leads her into a fantasy realm, which she must save. This all sounds fun on paper, but somehow, it’s a drag. The songs are forgettable, the sidekicks are some of the most annoying in Barbie movie canon, and Alexa just does not deserve the cool magical powers she gets!
34. Barbie: The Princess & the Popstar (2012)
This Barbie is a spoiled princess who convinces an overworked pop star to switch places!
For whatever reason, there have been four versions of Barbie as a princess trading places with someone — and this is the weakest one, because the princess character is a total brat. Also, it is the one that leans the hardest on the OG Barbie role-swap movie (Princess and the Pauper, we’ll get to it), to the point where it rehashes one of that movie’s songs. That choice does a disservice to the original movie — this one just isn’t as good, and the derivative qualities are just a reminder that you that you could be watching the far superior Princess and the Pauper instead.
33. Barbie & Her Sisters in a Puppy Chase (2016)
This Barbie is an older sister who majorly messes up some vacation plans!
The 2010s kicked off a new wave of Barbie movies that also focused on Barbie and her little sisters. Previous movies sometimes had a framing device where Barbie told a story to Kelly, her youngest sister. But Kelly was rebranded as “Chelsea” in 2011. Also, Barbie has two more sisters: athletic Stacy and tech-savvy Skipper.
The puppies the sisters have here were introduced in 2015’s Great Puppy Adventure, and they are the most annoying part of that movie, since they spend most of their screen time talking to each other and making dumb observations and jokes. The puppies have an even more prominent role in this one, which drags it all the way down to this placement on the list. So does the plot, where the girls get lost on an island and cannot seem to do anything right in terms of trying to find their way back to their hotel.
32. Barbie: A Perfect Christmas (2011)
This Barbie is an older sister who just wants her younger sisters to have the perfect Christmas!
This is the first of those “Barbie and her sisters” movies — Barbie’s sisters (and their full names) had long been a part of the doll canon, but this one officially introduces all the Roberts girls as part of the movie universe.
At this point, though, the movies are still kinda tied to the preexisting canon of Barbie as a movie star. (That slowly evolves, until Barbie transforms back to a regular girl in the newest movies.) There are a few references to Barbie’s previous adventures and in-universe movie roles in this one, which is less about Barbie as a glamorous fashionista and more about her role as a big sister.
The four Roberts girls get stranded in a small town on the way to New York City for Christmas. While it’s fun to see their personalities clash, there’s too much going on, as they each get A Big Christmas Arc to fulfill. Points also docked because in the big finale, Barbie wears one of the ugliest dresses she’s ever worn.
31. Barbie: Fairytopia (2005)
This Barbie is a fairy without wings, the only fairy who can save her land from falling into a villain’s clutches!
Points for the really fun and cool world-building, laid down by iconic children’s fantasy author Diane Duane. Points docked for the existence of Bibble, an annoying blue puffy animal (?) sidekick that haunts my dreams. Wingless fairy Elina embarks on a journey to save Fairytopia, encountering some gnarly 2000s-era CG friends along the way, while also learning to be confident. I love that for her.
Barbie: Fairytopia is available for digital rental or purchase on Prime Video.
30. Barbie: Mariposa (2008)
This Barbie is also a fairy who must save her land from a villain’s clutches, this time by venturing outside the safety of her home!
This is basically a better redo of Fairytopia, to the point where it even follows the same basic plot structure. It’s an improvement for a few core reasons. One, Mariposa has more of a personality than Elina. Two, the world-building is even cooler. Three, two mean fairies accompany Mariposa on her adventures, and they all eventually learn to be friends. That’s the kind of Barbie story I love. And four, no Bibble! (Well, OK, technically he’s in the framing device, so maybe I should say less Bibble.)
29. Barbie: Video Game Hero (2017)
This Barbie is an aspiring video game developer who gets sucked into her favorite mobile game and must save it from a virus!
I love that they change the art style when Barbie jumps between video game levels. That said, this one in particular feels overly didactic in a way that veers around to being patronizing. I think the target audience for this can understand that coding helps build video games, and they don’t need it explained over and over and over!
28. Barbie as Rapunzel (2002)
This Barbie is a captured prisoner who longs for freedom and loves to paint!
I feel remiss in putting Barbie as Rapunzel so low on this list, because it was my Barbie movie as a kid — the one I watched over and over and over and over, to the point where my dad still remembers the names of minor characters. But while your Barbie movie can be on the top of the personal list in your heart, as a professional, I need to acknowledge that the wonder of Barbie as Rapunzel has diminished with maturity. The movie does give the fairy tale some extra oomph, making Rapunzel a painter and giving her a magical paintbrush, but overall, it’s clunky.
27. Barbie and the Magic of Pegasus (2005)
This Barbie is a sheltered princess who must save her kingdom from being petrified by an evil wizard! Also, she discovers her older sister was turned into a horse!
Imagine the plot of Frozen, except instead of having ice powers, Elsa was turned into a flying horse 10 years ago by a lustful wizard after she rejected his advances. Also, Kristoff is a brooding jerk who gambled away his family’s money and wants to repent, in a hot kind of way. That’s all pretty exciting, but the janky and annoying polar bear companion knocks some points off. Also, the villain pales in comparison to some of the others of this era in terms of performance and memorability, though he certainly has a twisted motive.
26. Barbie in the 12 Dancing Princesses (2006)
This Barbie — and her 11 sisters — discover a magical refuge, but must ultimately leave it to save their father!
I watched this one as a kid, but I did not remember how many prolonged dancing scenes it has. Unfortunately, as with Barbie of Swan Lake, they really drag out the movie, with long sequences where nothing happens save for some dancing. The rest of the movie is pretty fun, though. Each of the sisters has her own fun hobby, and they end up thwarting their nefarious aunt with those individual talents. It’s creative, but there is just. So. Much. Dancing.
25. Barbie: The Pearl Princess (2014)
This Barbie is a mermaid with pearl powers who just wants to go to the very special ball!
Barbie has been a movie mermaid many, many times (including in the Greta Gerwig version), and this is the most forgettable of those times. All the little details of this version of an undersea world are done better in other Barbie mermaid movies. But at least the side characters here are fun — like the villain’s scrawny son, who would rather be a botanist than a bad guy, and the poisonous fish who just wants friends.
24. Barbie: Dolphin Magic (2017)
This Barbie is a regular girl… who helps a mermaid save a bunch of magical dolphins!
So Barbie isn’t a mermaid in this one, but she does befriend a mermaid named Isla. Her sisters are also there — and so is Ken, who is interning for an evil marine biologist. (You might notice that Ken is usually an afterthought in these movies, if he is mentioned at all.) Isla and Barbie have a very sweet friendship
and are definitely in love. Oh, and the puppies are back, but thankfully, this time they don’t talk.
23. Barbie: Skipper and the Big Babysitting Adventure (2023)
This Barbie is actually Barbie’s sister, who gets stuck with a summer job!
Yes, animated Barbie movies are still being made! Everything that came out since 2017 follows the canon of the Barbie Dreamhouse Adventures series, meaning that Barbie is a regular girl, and her sisters get to star in their own movies. The most recent Barbie movie as of July 2023 follows Skipper, who takes a job at a waterpark (managed by Barbie’s rival Tammy) while her sisters are off doing cooler things over the summer. It’s a fun time and more slice-of-life than a lot of the Barbie movies, but it leans a little too much on over-the-top wacky hijinks for my taste. The cool chibi-style animation switch when Skipper tells a story is fun, though!
Barbie: Skipper and the Big Babysitting Adventure is available to stream on Netflix.
22. Barbie Fairytopia: Mermaidia/Barbie: Mermaidia (2006)
This Barbie is a fairy who goes on an adventure with a mermaid to save a merprince!
This movie would’ve been way more fun if mermaid Nori got over her jealousy of Fairytopia series protagonist Elina (she thinks Elina and the merprince are an item), and instead realized Elina is the one for her. That said, this fairy/mermaid fantasy crossover is still a fun time, and it dives (ha) into the underwater world of the Fairytopia universe. Elina’s big heroic moment in this movie is probably the coolest one in the series. Really, the Fairytopia movies should’ve stopped here, instead of with 2007’s Magic of the Rainbow.
21. Barbie Presents: Thumbelina (2009)
This Barbie is a tiny fairy-like creature who must save her home from greedy land developers!
This one is less about Barbie’s character and more about the deeply lonely girl she ends up befriending. Makena is the spoiled daughter of two toy moguls who are too busy to spend any time with her. Thumbelina (the Barbie character here) agrees to create magical plant items Makena can use to win friends, in exchange for Makena talking to her parents and convincing them that they shouldn’t destroy the glade where Thumbelina and her people live. But Thumbelina realizes Makena is actually really sad and lonely and just wants to connect, and Makena slowly realizes that gaining material goods to one-up her friends isn’t a way to be happy. It’s surprisingly touching!
20. Barbie: Mariposa & the Fairy Princess (2013)
This Barbie was sent to be an ambassador after saving her kingdom, and through the power of friendship, she bridges the rift between lands!
This movie would’ve been way more fun if Mariposa and Catania were in love — a common thread in Barbie movies. When you’re a little girl playing with 20 Barbies and one or two Kens, queer relationships just sort of happen. And since many of these movies don’t have many male characters, the rich relationships between the girls just invite queer interpretations! Whether it’s deep friendships or rivalries that turn into understanding, the Barbie movies offer a lot more nuanced female relationships than many popular movies.
But anyway, this movie gains an extra edge if you read it as if Mariposa and Princess Catania are in love. There is so much wonderful tension between the two different fairy kingdoms that the extra plot with the villain, who no one even realizes is a problem until the third act, is just kinda annoying. But sending shy, bookish Mariposa to be an ambassador to a hostile kingdom where she eventually befriends the princess, and together, they use their friendship to overcome tensions between their lands? That’s a plot worthy of the best childhood Barbie games.
But best of all, there is no Bibble in this one!! We are free!
19. Barbie in the Pink Shoes (2013)
This Barbie is a ballerina who keeps making up her own steps instead of following her choreography, and then gets sucked into the world of ballet!
Every issue I’ve had with the Barbie movies that spent way too much of their run times on dancing somehow isn’t as grating in this one. It may be because this movie surprisingly highlights my absolute favorite ballet, the tragic Giselle. But also, Kristyn, the main character, spends her time traversing through different ballet stories and trying to “fix” their endings — just like she tries to improvise her dance moves instead of following the choreography. What I like most about this one is that it doesn’t reward Kristyn for blatantly disregarding artistic tradition by giving her the main part in her ballet school’s upcoming show. Instead, she finds a new path in the dance world that better fits her innovative spark.
18. Barbie in a Mermaid Tale (2010)
This Barbie is a champion surfer who discovers she is actually half-mermaid!
In this version of the “Barbie as mermaid” trope, pro surfer Merliah Summers learns that her mother was actually a mermaid, and that she’s inherited some mermaid powers, like communicating with animals and breathing underwater. Oh, and she isn’t just a mermaid: She’s a mermaid princess. Merliah must save the kingdom of Oceana from her evil aunt, who has trapped Merliah’s mother and now rules Oceana with a cruel hand. This movie is fine, but its real value is the way it richly sets the stage for the sequel, which goes above and beyond in exploring the ramifications of what happens when a long-lost half-mermaid princess returns to the throne.
17. Barbie & Her Sisters in a Pony Tale (2013)
This Barbie is a Horse Girl who must save her aunt’s failing horse camp!
And why shouldn’t Barbie connect with a rare breed of gorgeous white horses (with pink streaks in their manes) who once carried princesses around? I watched this one with my Horse Girl friend, and she says that for every weird thing this movie does with equestrian sports, it gets a bunch of specific little things right, so it all evens out. The two horse-trainer brothers who work at rival camps have the most ridiculous fake French accents in the world, and it kinda rules.
A recurring arc in the Barbie movies is that Barbie’s younger sister Skipper usually gets the one-off side romance, if only because Barbie’s destined soulmate is Ken (who isn’t actually consistently present in these movies), and Skipper is the next-oldest Barbie family sister. Pony Tale gives Skipper a very cute rivals-to-crushes arc with a snooty boy from the opposing riding school.
16. Barbie: Princess Charm School (2011)
This Barbie is a waitress, chosen to attend school with royalty!
All the fun of boarding school combined with the extra oomph of being a princess! Barbie’s character Blair is a regular ol’ girl who gets selected to train alongside future royalty. She struggles to fit in among her uppercrust classmates, but ultimately rises to the challenge. I wish the princess lessons here had more substance to them than dancing and etiquette, but hey, a training sequence revolving around balancing books on her head to improve her posture and learning elaborate ballroom dance steps is pretty fun.
However, I cannot get over the fact that every student gets a personal pixie slave, who’s basically there to cater to their every whim. What the hell? I thought Harry Potter’s house elves proved that’s a terrible idea.
15. Barbie & Her Sisters in the Great Puppy Adventure (2015)
This Barbie is an older sister who wants to save her grandmother’s town from financial ruin!
This movie would actually be a pretty fun Goonies-type adventure, where Barbie and her siblings try to find a secret treasure and save their grandmother’s little town from financial ruin. However, the talking puppies really ruin it! I know it’s The Great Puppy Adventure, but it works entirely well without the obnoxious puppies, which just drag the movie down. As I mentioned earlier, the puppies return in subsequent movies, but the people at Mattel apparently realized how annoying they were, and phased out the talking.
14. Barbie in Princess Power (2015)
This Barbie is a princess who gets superpowers and saves the day!
One of the refreshing elements of this Barbie character is that she actually has flaws she must confront. In this case, Kara is basically Tony Stark, except she’s a princess instead of a tech mogul. She gets superpowers, and with the help of her two tech-savvy best friends, she embarks on a secret double life as a superhero. But she gets a little too big for her britches, shoves people out of the spotlight because she’s concerned about her image, and treats her friends like garbage, even after they help build up her superhero itinerary. This Barbie learns a lesson by the end of the movie, though! Then she saves the day with her super-sparkly powers.
13. Barbie in Rock ’N Royals (2015)
This Barbie is a princess who accidentally swaps places with a pop star when they attend each other’s camps!
I was not expecting Rock ’N Royals to be as good as it is. This is the third of the four “Princess Barbie switches places with someone else” movies, and also the second time she specifically changes places with a pop star. This time, it’s a much looser “swap” that can be solely attributed to a paperwork mixup: Princess Courtney gets signed up for Camp Pop, while international pop star Erika Juno ends up at Camp Royal. The rivalry between the camps is over the top, but in the best way — especially after you find out that the camp leaders are actually resentful exes.
12. The Barbie Diaries (2006)
This Barbie is a regular high school girl and aspiring reporter who just wants to be cool!
If you put every PG high school movie into a blender and ran it through a janky CG strainer, you would get The Barbie Diaries. This is not a bad thing. This is the first movie to show Barbie as a regular teenager — and it came out years before the other “regular Barbie” films. The animated look of this one is inexplicably different from all the others of its era. Unfortunately, the storyline is strongly mid-2000s, which means that unlike in other Barbie movies, where Barbie finds some common footing with her rivals, the rivals here stay mean girls. That being said, if you appreciate it for the time capsule it is, it’s a gem.
The Barbie Diaries is not currently available for streaming or digital rental (unless you can access Stan). It was released on DVD in 2006.
11. Barbie: Big City, Big Dreams (2021)
This Barbie is an aspiring musician who wants to make it big in the Big Apple!
Barbie heads to a prestigious performing arts program in New York City — and learns that there’s another Barbie Roberts! This one is from New York, so they call each other “Malibu” and “Brooklyn.” I love their friendship, and the whole concept of Barbie Roberts not just being the familiar blonde Cali girl is a lot of fun. (The multiple Barbie roles also help inform Gerwig’s live-action movie.) Malibu Barbie struggles with impostor syndrome, since she doesn’t feel good enough to be part of this program, especially after she learns that one of her fellow students is actually a famous pop star in disguise.
10. Barbie: Princess Adventure (2020)
This Barbie is a regular girl who switches places with a princess!
For the first time, Barbie isn’t actually the princess character! That alone gives this version of the story a refreshing undercurrent, as a wayward princess basically guilts poor Barbie into pretending to oversee royal obligations. It’s also really fun to see Barbie’s high school friends and see a new side of Barbie, as a grounded-in-reality girl who gets sucked up into wacky adventures.
9. Barbie as the Princess and the Pauper (2004)
This Barbie is a princess whose kingdom is in financial ruin, so she has to marry a king to save it — but she gets kidnapped, so to prevent the queen’s conniving advisor from taking over, her best friend and tutor hatches a plan for a servant girl who looks just like her to take her place! (Phew!)
What does The Princess and the Pauper have that some of the other early Barbie movies didn’t? A famous actor who committed hard to the villain role. Martin Short gives his all as Preminger — there’s a reason this movie is still as popular as it is! Perhaps the sheer success and enjoyment of Princess and the Pauper is what inspired Mattel to rehash the story three more times. There is a lot more going on in Princess and the Pauper than a simple “Let’s both switch places to see how the other lives!” Because of that, it soars past its competition.
8. Barbie & the Diamond Castle (2008)
This Barbie and her best friend embark on a quest to save a muse trapped in a mirror!
This is like a Dungeons & Dragons adventure about two bards, best friends who solve problems and defeat adversaries through the power of music and friendship. Along the way, they butt heads and argue when things get hard, but they ultimately remember that the most important thing is their love for each other. That’s a true Barbie message! Also, the songs slap! I am still humming “Connected.”
7. Barbie and the Three Musketeers (2009)
This Barbie secretly trains as a musketeer with three friends and saves a prince from being assassinated!
Why did it take so long to give Barbie a sword? Why are there not more Barbie movies with swords?! Honestly, it’s a tragedy. Barbie stars as Corinne, a young lady who dreams of becoming a musketeer. (She’s also the daughter of d’Artagnan, the main character of Alexandre Dumas’ novel The Three Musketeers.) She teams up with three other girls who share the same dream, though each of them has a unique (and fashion-forward!) weapon.
6. Barbie: Spy Squad (2016)
This Barbie is a talented gymnast who gets recruited as a spy with her two best friends!
Everyone gets cool gadgets and awesome costumes and — wait, what’s that? This movie is actually about Barbie overcoming the anxiety that causes her to freeze up and the overwhelming pressure she puts on herself to succeed because she feels like everyone is depending on her? It’s nice to dive into this side of Barbie! Usually, she’s cool, calm, and confident — but the gal has so much pressure! Surely she gets anxious sometimes and messes up!
Barbie and her friends mess up in Spy Squad, but in a realistic way, not in a frustrating way. After all, they are just regular teenagers recruited by a spy agency; they’re not going to get it right away! But Barbie learns how to ground herself and get out of her own head when it comes to her anxiety, and that’s even more of a triumphant arc than taking down the bad guy.
Also, cool sparkly gadgets!!
5. Barbie & Chelsea: The Lost Birthday (2021)
This Barbie is actually Barbie’s youngest sister, who is upset about not getting a birthday celebration!
Of all the movies featuring Barbie and her sisters, this one offers the most compelling dive into their relationships. The Roberts girls and their parents are on a cruise ship — but when they cross the international dateline, they accidentally skip over Chelsea’s birthday! She’s a bit upset, especially since every single cruise activity seems to be adults-only or for older kids, so she sneaks away and has a vivid dream about trekking through a jungle with some animal friends. Which actually is an extended metaphor about Chelsea realizing that even as the youngest sister in the family, she’s strong and capable!
Meanwhile, Barbie, Skipper, and Stacie try to find her — but must ruminate on their relationship with their sister, and consider how they need to understand her a little better in order to find her. It’s probably the most tender portrayal of the Roberts sisters. Also! There is an elephant, and she looks so much better than the elephant from Island Princess. I really needed that in order to cleanse away the horror.
4. Barbie in A Christmas Carol (2008)
This Barbie is an arrogant Victorian starlet who is visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve!
I like to reimagine classic literature with a twist, whether that means moving stories into different time periods or adapting them with different genders in key roles. As such, I was thoroughly pleased with this adaptation of Charles Dickens’ endlessly adapted story A Christmas Carol, which swaps out Scrooge in favor of a vain starlet named Eden Starling.
Instead of confronting her greed and hunger for material items when the inevitable three ghosts show up, Eden confronts her arrogance and selfishness. Of all the adapted stories in the Barbie movie canon, this one strikes the right balance of keeping the story’s original heart while adding enough oomph — but without changing the basics so much that it’s an adaptation in name only. And unlike The Nutcracker, for instance, the original story is rock-solid. That alone gives Barbie in a Christmas Carol a great foundation to take Barbie adaptations to a new level.
3. Barbie in a Mermaid Tale 2 (2012)
This Barbie is the same half-mermaid pro surfer from A Mermaid Tale, but this time, she has to choose between a big surfing competition and her cultural traditions!
I’ve already waxed on elsewhere about how great this sequel is, but as a recap, Mermaid Tale 2 digs into the cross-cultural conflict of being a half-magical being who’s only recently learned about her magical side, and is finding it conflicts with her non-magical goals. Pro surfer Merliah Summers is back, and this time, she and her rival Kylie must save the underwater kingdom of Oceana. At the same time, Merliah must reckon with what it means to be a mermaid princess and also a human. It’s everything wonderful about the original Mermaid Tale, coupled with the queer tension of Barbie: Mermaidia.
2. Barbie: Mermaid Power (2022)
This Barbie is a regular girl who becomes a mermaid with her sisters and best friend in order to help carry out an ancient mermaid tradition!
Barbie has been a mermaid many, many times — and this is the most interesting case. Yes, this movie does pose a million questions about the Barbie Dreamhouse Adventures world. (Mermaids exist? Barbie and her sisters and her friend all turned into mermaids canonically?) But damn, it is a fun time! Barbie, her sisters, and her roommate Brooklyn reunite with Isla from Dolphin Magic, only this time, they all get to transform into mermaids, and they also get super-cool powers.
There’s some fun tension between the old-school mermaids and the newly turned mermaids, though they all have to get over it in order to save their underwater kingdom from an island of trash that’s heading their way. Also, the villain from Dolphin Magic returns, but she gets a redemption arc that’s actually pretty satisfying.
Barbie: Mermaid Power is available to stream on Netflix.
1. Barbie: Star Light Adventure
This Barbie, who has sick hoverboarding skills, gets chosen to help save the galaxy, because the stars are slowly going out!
I had very high hopes for this one, ever since seeing an out-of-context screencap for it on Tumblr that described it as “if Elsa from Frozen was in Mass Effect.” And folks, I am so pleased to say that Barbie: Star Light Adventure absolutely delivers in every possible way.
It’s one of the most visually gorgeous Barbie movies, giving a lush pink-and-purple makeover to typical sci-fi set staples like futuristic cities and space travel. The characters all have cool, distinct personalities and powers, and amazingly, none of them are annoying. In fact, competitive and sassy champion hoverboarder Sal-Lee is one of the best Barbie rival characters in the canon, and socially awkward master pilot Prince Leo is a worthy Designated Male Character.
The main conflict of the stars going out is actually really terrifying when you think about it, and that threat gets an extra edge when compassionate yet impulsive Barbie clashes with the more rigid and cautious King Constantine, the man who recruited a team of talented teenagers to save the stars. But Barbie and the King realize they need to work together to save the galaxy, so he isn’t the villain he’s poised to be. The threat here is more existential and runs deeper than the usual Barbie movie plot — many Barbie movies feature her trying to save a kingdom, but this time, there’s no specific bad guy. To save the universe, Barbie and her friends must start by figuring out what the heck is even going on with the stars.
This one is an epic sci-fi adventure that also happens to be super pink, sparkly, and full of girl power. It’s a perfect Barbie movie.