Cynics may scoff, but Barbie is the continuation of all manner of strands of film history, a fact made even more evident by writer/director Greta Gerwig sharing a list of 29 movies that influenced the upcoming doll blockbuster.
Talking to Letterboxd, Gerwig talked about the many movies that made an impact on her, and what they meant with regards to her much-anticipated Barbie movie. It’s a genuinely impressive tour of 20th century movie history, and demonstrates just how much Gerwig is a fan of cinema as a medium, and the potential it has. Ready to be surprised by what it takes to make a Barbie? Take a look at some surprising movies that influenced Barbie and Greta Gerwig's thoughts behind them - as well as a full list of all 29 movies Gerwig has shared that have influenced her work on Barbie.
How did The Wizard of Oz influence Barbie?
“It does something I wanted to emulate, which — it’s these incredible sound stages, and these painted skies, and this sense of, I say, ‘authentically artificial,’ which I think is very beautiful and emotional,” Gerwig explained. “It was something that we kept returning to.”
How did A Matter of Life and Death/The Red Shoes influence Barbie?
“They sort of exist in a category of their own. They’re inventive and theatrical and also cinematic,” Gerwig explained. “I thought a lot about the lighting of A Matter of Life and Death. At the beginning, when she’s talking to the pilot, there’s all this light that flashes on her face of different colors, which I was thinking about at the end of the movie.” In terms of The Red Shoes, “There’s a shot of her walking up to that house, which I wanted it to feel like that when Barbie walks up to Kate’s house.”
How did Singin' in the Rain influence Barbie?
“There’s so many great things in Singin’ in the Rain, but there’s the dream ballet inside of the dream ballet [which is] one of the most incredible, beautiful, completely unhinged things,” Gerwig joked. “There’s a space when he’s dancing with Cyd Charisse in this space with the stairs, and she’s got that long white scarf that floats up. That was sort of how we wanted to model a certain Ken ballet.”
How did An American in Paris influence Barbie?
“In the opening, he lives in the tiny apartment and everything folds into everything else. And there was something so satisfying about watching him go through his morning routine. That was one of the morning routines that I loved,” Gerwig said. “Even though Barbie has much more of an expanse, I was like, ‘This is a great opening.’”
How did The Ladies Man influence Barbie?
“They built this house that was cut out, and they moved around the rooms with a camera in this one continuous shot with all these girls getting ready,” Gerwig said about the Jerry Lewis-directed comedy. “It’s incredible, and that’s where I got the idea for the mirror that has nothing in it that you look through, and it’s just her.”
How did Saturday Night Fever influence Barbie?
“I thought Barbie seemed so disco to me, actually, in her heart, because Barbie’s sort of — and I will say this about disco as a lover of disco — Barbie and disco? Little bit dorky in the best way,” Gerwig suggested. (Noting that, of course, dorky isn’t a bad thing. Saturday Night Live “had that quality,” she continued.
Greta Gerwig's 29 movies that influenced Barbie
- Twentieth Century (1934)
- Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
- Modern Times (1936)
- The Wizard of Oz (1939)
- His Girl Friday (1940)
- The Philadelphia Story (1940)
- A Matter of Life and Death (1946)/The Red Shoes (1948)
- An American in Paris (1951)
- Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
- The Earrings of Madame de... (1953)
- Rear Window (1954)
- Oklahoma (1955)
- Mon Oncle (1958)
- The Ladies Man (1961)
- The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)
- 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
- The Godfather (1972)
- Saturday Night Fever (1977)
- Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
- Heaven Can Wait (1978)
- Grease (1978)
- All That Jazz (1979)
- And the Ship Sails On (1983)
- Splash (1984)
- Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)
- Wings of Desire (1987)
- Women on the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988)
- The Truman Show (1998)
The full video can be viewed here, and contains much more Gerwig commentary about the movies listed above, and the one piece of advice that Peter Weir, who directed The Truman Show, offered Gerwig about what she shouldn’t do when making the movie.
What age is the best age to see Barbie? Over 12, at the very least, it would seem…