The much-awaited Barbie movie featuring Margot Robbie is set to dazzle audiences soon. Helmed by the brilliant Greta Gerwig, who’s known for delivering cinematic masterpieces, the film has garnered commendations since its debut on July 9.
Through the beloved film-lover’s hub, Letterboxd, fans have unraveled the cinematic gems that influenced this year’s most vibrant summer blockbuster. From classics like The Philadelphia Story to the enchanting The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, it’s clear Gerwig drew inspiration from these masterpieces. For the complete list and a detailed interview, click here.
1. ‘The Umbrellas of Che rbourg’ (1964)
The whimsical, pastel-hued films of French director Jacques Demy have clearly left their mark on the Barbie movie. A standout influence is Demy’s “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg,” where the storyline follows young Genevieve, played by Catherine Deneuve, navigating love and heartbreak as her lover is dispatched to war.
Greta Gerwig didn’t stop there; she also drew inspiration from “Young Girls of Rochefort” and “Model Shop.” The aesthetic touches of these films are evident in the Barbie movie’s production design, even down to Robbie’s hairstyle reminiscent of Deneuve’s iconic look. “Demy’s films are just astonishingly beautiful. The colors, the dream-like quality – it’s all so painterly,” Gerwig gushed. She further discussed how these elements influenced the visual storytelling of her latest project, adding a touch of that signature surrealness.
2. ‘The Truman Show’ (1998)
The concept of a man, played by Jim Carrey, unknowingly living inside a simulated reality for almost 30 years is a story many recognize. This iconic Peter Weir film, “The Truman Show,” with its gripping storyline and immersive set design, feels like a must-watch precursor to Barbie.
It’s no wonder “The Truman Show” found its way onto Gerwig’s list of inspirations. And it seems she agrees, saying, “I had to mention ‘The Truman Show’. Not just because I revisited it before filming Barbie, but also because Peter Weir kindly shared insights with me over a call. He discussed the filming process and the magic behind bringing the story to life.”
3. ‘The Wizard of Oz’ (1939)
“The Wizard of Oz,” with its groundbreaking use of Technicolor, remains a cherished classic. The tale of young Dorothy Gale, played by Judy Garland, and her dog Toto’s adventures after a tornado whisks them off to the enchanting Land of Oz, is a must-watch for all ages.
Given the vibrant hues in “Barbie,” especially the dominant pink, it’s no shocker that this iconic movie was a source of inspiration. The filmmaker remarked, “It embodies something I aimed to capture — that genuine-yet-constructed feel, which has its own unique charm and emotion.” She further mentioned they approached “Barbie” in the style of the classic musicals from the ’30s to ’50s. “We kept circling back to that era’s soundstage musical approach,” she explained.
4. ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ (1952)
Singin’ in the Rain, co-directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, stands out as a timeless movie musical. With Kelly in perhaps his most memorable role, the film delves into the life of a silent film actor navigating the choppy waters of 1920s Hollywood’s shift to sound, all while falling for a vibrant chorus girl.
Gerwig gushed about the film, declaring, “Singin’ in the Rain is hands down my top pick. The sheer brilliance of the dream ballet sequence, especially the mesmerizing dance with Cyd Charisse and that ethereal white scarf, blew me away.” She hinted that this particular scene heavily influenced a dreamy dance number with Ken in her upcoming film.
5. ‘An American in Paris’ (1951)
Vincente Minnelli’s captivating musical romance, featuring the iconic Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron, remains a standout in the genre. Set against the backdrop of post-war Paris, the story follows an American ex-GI turned painter who finds himself smitten with the delightful Lise Bouvier.
Gerwig was particularly struck by the film’s opening sequence and its dreamlike quality. She remarked, “Watching Gene Kelly’s character breeze through his morning was such a treat. Although Barbie covers a broader narrative, that scene set the tone perfectly for me.”
6. ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ (1968)
Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey is a cinematic masterpiece that delves deep into the evolution of mankind, set against the backdrop of space exploration. It traces the intriguing discovery of an artifact on the moon and a subsequent space mission to Jupiter to uncover its origins.
When the first teaser for the Barbie movie dropped, fans were quick to spot the unmistakable nods to Kubrick’s epic— from the familiar landscapes and music to the striking image of a giant Barbie gazing at children playing with retro dolls. Gerwig, when discussing the inspirations behind her blockbuster, acknowledged the influence of 2001: A Space Odyssey, aptly remarking, “The connection speaks for itself.”
7. ‘The Red Shoes’ (1948)
The Red Shoes is a captivating tale centered on the world of ballet. It dives deep into the emotional struggle of a budding ballet dancer, torn between her burning passion for dance and the love of her life.
Gerwig has expressed her admiration for the film, noting its unique flair. It’s not just a movie; it’s an experience that blurs the lines between theater and cinema, teeming with enchanting visuals and imaginative production. In her eyes, it stands out as a genre-defying classic that’s both theatrical and deeply cinematic.
8. ‘Playtime’ (1967)
Jacques Tati’s 1967 comedy, “Playtime”, is a delightful romp through a high-tech Paris. It tracks the quirky Monsieur Hulot, portrayed by Tati himself, alongside a group of American tourists. Meanwhile, a soon-to-open restaurant/nightclub races against time, as its construction lags behind.
The filmmaker heaps praise on “Playtime”, lauding Tati’s genius for crafting slow-burning humor. The meticulous set design of the movie reminded her of “Barbie”. She mentioned, “It feels as if Mattel’s universe overlaps with the whimsical world Jacques Tati created.”
9. ‘His Girl Friday’ (1940)
In Howard Hawks’ classic screwball comedy “His Girl Friday”, Cary Grant plays a New York newspaper editor who goes to great lengths to prevent his investigative reporter ex-wife, portrayed by Rosalind Russell, from remarrying.
Gerwig has often expressed her admiration for the film, particularly noting its rapid-fire dialogue. Given the snappy exchanges in the “Barbie” trailer, it’s evident that “His Girl Friday”, one of the golden era’s best, played a significant role in inspiring that aspect of her film.
10. ‘The Ladies Man’ (1961)
Jerry Lewis stars in and directs the 1961 comedy, “The Ladies Man.” The film humorously chronicles the adventures of a naive graduate who unwittingly takes a job in a house full of young women.
One of the standout elements of “The Ladies Man” is undoubtedly its imaginative opening and remarkable set design. Gerwig too has been vocal about her admiration for it. She remarked on the ingenuity of the film, noting, “They designed this unique house with a cutout view, allowing the camera to seamlessly move through rooms capturing the girls as they prepared for their day.” She credits this film for inspiring a particular mirror shot in her own work, saying, “That’s where I got the idea for the mirror that offers a clear view, highlighting just the subject.”
11. ‘Saturday Night Fever’ (1977)
John Travolta shines as a 19-year-old Italian-American in “Saturday Night Fever,” a standout film from the 1970s. The movie dives deep into the life of Tony Manero, a young man navigating the uncertainties of life after high school. Much like in Barbie, Tony seeks solace and escape from his dilemmas on the dance floor.
John Badham’s film is not just remembered for its compelling narrative but also for its infectious disco soundtrack – an element that seems to have inspired the musical beats in Barbie. The director of Barbie once remarked, “I always envisioned this film having a killer soundtrack.” She playfully added, “In my eyes, there’s something inherently disco about Barbie. And I say this with all the love for both – Barbie and disco have a delightful touch of dorkiness.”
12. ‘The Philadelphia Story’ (1940)
George Cukor’s 1940 romantic comedy “The Philadelphia Story” is a whirlwind of wit and charm. Starring Katharine Hepburn as a wealthy woman on the brink of remarriage, the plot thickens when her ex-husband (played by Cary Grant) and a sharp-witted reporter (James Stewart) enter the scene.
During a chat with Letterboxd, Gerwig highlighted how “The Philadelphia Story” played a pivotal role in shaping her latest project. Both she and Robbie hold a deep admiration for the film, particularly drawn to a scene where Hepburn likens herself to a Grecian statue. On pondering whether Cary Grant could bring life to the character of Ken, Gerwig, with a twinkle in her eye, quipped that the Hollywood legend “could undoubtedly breathe life into any role.”
13. ‘Splash’ (1984)
Ron Howard’s fantasy romance “Splash,” featuring Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah, holds a special place in Gerwig’s inspirational roster. The film tells the tale of a young man (Hanks) who reconnects with the mermaid (Hannah) who saved him during his childhood.
While it might not come as a surprise to many that “Splash” influenced Gerwig (especially given the mermaid-themed scenes in “Barbie” starring pop sensation Dua Lipa and WWE’s John Cena), what truly resonated with Gerwig was the movie’s innate charm. Despite its high-concept narrative, the film tugs at the heartstrings, primarily because of the compelling performances by Hanks and Hannah. Gerwig mused that the movie probably carried the tagline “Fish Out of Water,” perfectly capturing its delightful merging of worlds.