An Exhaustive List of References in ‘Barbie’

This post contains spoilers for Barbie

During the filming of Barbie, Margot Robbie’s production company LuckyChap hosted a film festival of sorts for the cast and crew that would serve as inspiration for the movie. Robbie, the star of Barbie and its producer, had long discussed with writer-director Greta Gerwig how the visual palette of the film would draw from images ranging from the stagecraft of 1950s musicals to the color pops in Jacques Demy films. And the movie’s many jokes riff on some of the most popular moments in cinematic history, from the introduction of 2001: A Space Odyssey to The Matrix and even (surprisingly) The Snydercut of Justice League.

It’s virtually impossible to compile an exhaustive list of every single reference made in Barbie. Gerwig and her partner and co-writer Noah Baumbach have stuffed it with so many gags and nods to various pieces of art that only multiple viewings will reveal all of the film’s secrets. But here is every Easter egg that we could find.

More from TIME

Read More: Our Cover Story on Barbie

2001: A Space Odyssey

The internet has been chattering about this one ever since the first teaser trailer for Barbie dropped. That spot spoofed 2001′s famous opening scene by replacing apes with little girls smashing their baby dolls when they discover the first doll who looks like an actual grown woman: Barbie.


On a plot level, Gerwig and Baumbach are drawing inspiration from the Greek myth of Pygmalion (as written by Ovid), a sculptor who creates a statue meant to represent the perfect woman and then falls in love with his own creation. The story has been adapted many times over, including in George Bernard Shaw’s play of the same name and the musical My Fair Lady. In this case, Ruth Handler is the creator and Barbie is supposed to represent the perfect woman. Gerwig explores the impossibility of a single doll representing an entire gender, not only by adding a multiplicity of Barbies to the movie (played by different actors) but by showing how Barbie’s supposed perfection rubs some of the human girls who play with her the wrong way. Like the statue Galatea in Pygmalion, Barbie eventually does “come to life” by venturing into the real world, learning about death, and trading her Dream Life for an existence that’s more flawed but rewarding.

Read More: Why It Took 64 Years to Make a Barbie Movie

The Philadelphia Story

Gerwig told Letterboxd that she asked Margot Robbie to watch Katharine Hepburn’s performance in The Philadelphia Story as inspiration for Barbie. In that movie, the incomparable Hepburn plays a woman who is worshipped by men, like a goddess, because she is so cold and distant. It is only when she begins to fall apart emotionally in the film that she discovers something new about herself. Similarly, Gerwig envisioned a movie in which Barbie’s perfect world is punctured by thoughts about mortality, and it’s only then that Barbie begins to discover the beauty of life.

The Wizard of Oz

A classic tale of a young woman venturing into an unknown land, Barbie is kind of Wizard of Oz in reverse: Barbie travels from what we would consider a wonderland to the real world. Barbieland has a pink brick road in place of a yellow brick road, and if you look closely you’ll see The Wizard of Oz is displayed on the marquee of the Barbieland cinema.


Barbie’s getting-ready routine pays homage to another fashion-forward blonde, Alicia Silverstone’s Cher, brushing her hair and browsing her high-tech closet in Clueless. In the Architectural Digest tour of Barbie’s Dreamhouse, Robbie talks about how Clueless set the high bar for cinematic closets, one that the crew of Barbie tried to meet. Just like Cher, Barbie will go on to discover that there is a deeper meaning to life than clothes.

Read More: We’re Ignoring the Real Reason Barbie Might Dominate the Box Office

An American in Paris

Barbie’s mornings also mimic how Gene Kelly’s character wakes up and gets ready in American in Paris. Gerwig actually references quite a few Gene Kelly movies in Barbie. We’ll talk about Singin’ in the Rain later.

The Truman Show

Gerwig talked to The Truman Show director Peter Weir about how he shot his movie about a man unknowingly living on a reality TV set. Not only does Barbieland mimic the artificiality of The Truman Show in concept, but Gerwig and Weir discussed how to physically light their sets to capture that feeling.

The films of Jacques Demy

Gerwig has credited the French filmmaker with inspiring how she layered colors (particularly different shades of pink) in Barbie so everything would pop instead of clash. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, The Young Girls of Rochefort, and Model Shop all served as aesthetic inspiration.

Read More: How Greta Gerwig Got Barbie—From the Clothes to the Dream House—Just Right

Saturday Night Fever

The disco number at the beginning of the movie (which is briefly interrupted by Barbie querying her fellow dolls as to whether they ever have thoughts of death) is an homage to John Travolta’s dances in Saturday Night Fever, down to the costuming.

The Red Shoes

Kate McKinnon plays Weird Barbie—a Barbie that’s been played with too hard and so has a wonky haircut and marker scribbles all over her face. When Robbie’s Barbie begins having thoughts of death, the other Barbies in Barbieland urge her to visit Weird Barbie for answers. Gerwig modeled the scene of Barbie walking up the stars to Weird Barbie’s abode on a scene from Emeric Pressburger and Michael Powell’s 1948 romantic drama The Red Shoes. The soundstage feel of that movie heavily influenced the look of Barbieland.

The Matrix

Weird Barbie is the mystical guide you see in a typical adventure movie, laying out the quest. At the end of her spiel, Weird Barbie offers Robbie’s Barbie two options, represented by two shoes: Choose the stiletto heel and stay in Barbieland or choose the Birkenstock and venture into the real world. It’s a riff on the Red Pill-Blue Pill moment from The Matrix.

Read More: Every Single Barbie Partnership That We Could Find


While Barbie is on the run in the real world, the Mattel executives are endeavoring to put her back in her box. The smell of said box triggers a Proustian sense memory from Barbie of her birth. (In Remembrance of Things Past, a bite of a madeleine has a similar effect on a character.) Will Ferrell’s CEO character then cracks a joke about how poorly “Proust Barbie” sold.

The Shining

When Barbie ventures from Barbieland into the real world to figure out why she is suddenly having thoughts of death, she discovers that a mom named Gloria (America Ferrera) has been playing with her and has essentially imprinted on Barbie. When they meet, they realize they’re having the same thoughts of death, of depression, and of cellulite. Gloria’s daughter, when she discovers this information, asks her mom if she and Barbie are “shining” right now, a reference to the mystical ability to establish a telepathic connection in the Stephen King’s horror story The Shining.

Top Gun

When Barbie returns to Barbieland, she finds that the beach where the Barbies usually play volleyball has been overrun by Kens. The Barbies are instead serving as fawning cheerleaders. It’s the first hint that the power dynamics of the matriarchal Barbieland have suddenly flipped. You cannot have a bunch of Kens playing shirtless beach volley ball on the beach and not be referencing that scene in Top Gun.

Sylvester Stallone’s penchant for mink coats

Sylvester Stallone apparently had a thing for fur, often donning mink coats and fuzzy vests in the ’70s. When Ken discovers the patriarchy, he adopts the look in a bid for macho cool.

Read More: How Greta Gerwig Is Leading By Example

The Snydercut

Yes, Barbie makes fun of Mattel. But the movie gets in a few barbs directed at studio Warner Bros. as well. When the Kens turn Barbieland into a Kendom, they essentially hypnotize the Barbies into becoming housewives. Gloria, Barbie, and others have to remind all the zoned-out Barbies that they’re actually accomplished writers and doctors and politicians in order to overthrow the patriarchy in Barbieland. When one of the Barbies, played by Alexandra Shipp, wakes up from her daze, she says, “It’s like I’ve been in a dream where I was really invested in the Zack Snyder cut of Justice League,” which if you followed the toxic (male-driven) online campaign around that movie as closely as I had to for work, is pretty hilarious.

The Godfather

Once each Barbie snaps out of her daze, she is sent to distract a Ken while another Barbie is stolen away and reprogrammed by Robbie’s Barbie and Gloria. Issa Rae’s President Barbie pretends to be interested in Simu Liu mansplaining Francis Ford Coppola’s cinematic masterpiece The Godfather. In one of the funnier line readings in the film, she asks “Oh, are you watching The Godfather,” putting the emphasis on the wrong syllable to seem ditzy. Liu’s Ken jumps at the chance to talk over the entire movie in a bid to impress her.


The Barbies eventually trick the Kens into breaking into two factions and fighting one another. The fight turns into a dance-0ff, and Ken’s numbers in Barbie have a “Greased Lightnin’” vibe, especially when Ken wears all black like Travolta.

West Side Story

The other ultra-famous musical involving rival gangs: one can’t help but think during the Battle of the Kens of the many different iterations of the rumble in West Side Story, which usually mashes up dance and fight choreography.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

When the realize they’ve been tricked, all the Kens ride on imaginary horses across the Kendom. The sight gag recalls a famous recurring joke in Monty Python and the Holy Grail in which the knights ride fake horses while their squires hit coconuts together behind them to imitate horses’ feet.

Singin’ in the Rain

An Exhaustive List of References in 'Barbie'

The entire aesthetic of Barbieland has a purposeful Golden Age of Hollywood feel to it. The backdrops, including the sky, are hand-painted to give the movie that specific feeling of soundstage musicals from the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s. When the Kens are fighting on the beach the background suddenly changes to a pastel background with the Kens dressed in monotones. They perform a rather balletic number which, set against that backdrop, recalls Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse’s famous dream-within-a-dream dance in Singin’ in the Rain.

Read More: The Long, Complicated, and Very Pink History of Barbiecore

The Sistine Chapel

As Greta Gerwig shared with me for TIME’s cover story on Barbie, there are two shots in the movie in which Barbie’s hand touches that of Ruth Handler, Barbie’s creator. The trajectory of their hands is modeled after the specific positioning of God’s and Adam’s hands in Michaelangelo’s Creation of Man painted on the Sistine Chapel. In this case, Ruth Handler is God to her creation, Barbie, who as a doll has long represented all women.

More from TIME

Related Posts