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Barbie - Everything You Need To Know

Making a movie based on a toy line can be a lucrative undertaking, as the "Transformers" movies can attest. And while plenty of people had reservations about building a franchise on LEGO bricks, those movies have been met with both financial and critical acclaim. Sure, for every "LEGO Movie," you have a "Battleship," and there are plenty of toy-based movies that never got off the ground in the first place, but when you have a toy tie-in, you've got some solid ground to build on. That's especially true when your movie is about the most famous toy ever made.

Enter "Barbie," a live-action story about a doll that's as beloved as it is controversial. A "Barbie" movie has been in development for a long time now, with the likes of Amy Schumer and Anne Hathaway being attached over the course of its development. But now, "Barbie" is almost here, and the end product looks truly magnificent — a poppy treat for the senses that's nothing like you would've expected. We've no doubt "Barbie" will be one of the best films of 2023, largely thanks to its impressive cast and the incredibly talented auteur calling the shots. If you want to learn more about what's sure to be a masterpiece of incredibly silly but actually smart filmmaking, read on for what we know so far about 2023's "Barbie."

When will Barbie be released?

If you're a movie lover, then you've no doubt circled July 21 on your calendar. After all, it's the most important day of 2023. Why's that? Well, on that day, two phenomenal films will hit theaters at the same time and go head to head for box office dominance. July 21 will play host to "Barbie" — a colorful, zany comedy — and Christopher Nolan's "Oppenheimer" — a grim, heavy biopic. Regardless of which film does better, it's a win-win for cinephiles, as both films look like they're going to be absolutely exceptional.

What is the plot of Barbie?

When it comes to the movie's plot, the official "Barbie" website has provided a short-but-sweet summary, which reads, "To live in Barbie Land is to be a perfect being in a perfect place. Unless you have a full-on existential crisis. Or you're a Ken."

Unfortunately for our ever-smiling hero, it looks like she's having that aforementioned crisis. In the film's official trailer, we see how her perfect life is falling apart. Her morning shower is ruined by a sudden surge of cold water. While she used to easily float down from the roof of her house into her cute Barbie car, now she's just falling straight to the ground. And instead of feet that always perfectly mimic the shape of a high heel shoe, suddenly, her soles are flat on the ground — the horror.

Most alarming of all, Barbie is suddenly haunted by thoughts of death. Hoping to find answers to life's big questions, she decides to venture out into the real world, with a stowaway Ken tagging along. Unfortunately, this is frowned upon by the executives at Mattel, the company that makes Barbie toys. When our blonde hero leaves Barbie Land behind, the suits do everything in their power to hunt her down. Will they put her back in the box before Barbie can figure her life out?

Who is starring in Barbie?

"Barbie" features one of the best casts we've seen in a long time. Margot Robbie stars as the titular doll, which is perfect casing as she looks exactly like Barbie. And since Robbie has played wildly varied characters in projects like "The Suicide Squad," "I, Tonya," and "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood," we know her spin on the iconic character will be something unique.

Of course, you can't have Barbie without Ken, and Ryan Gosling is stepping into the role of the blonde boy toy. Similar to his on-screen counterpart, Gosling looks like a walking, talking Ken doll. And while he excels at playing quiet, brooding men, a la "Drive," he's also great at over-the-top comedy, as evidenced by "The Nice Guys."

As for the rest of the cast, this is where things get incredibly funny. Most of the actresses are all playing different versions of Barbie, and most of the actors are playing various versions of Ken. For example, Issa Rae, Emma Mackey, Dua Lipa, Alexandra Shipp, Ana Cruz Kayne, Nicola Coughlan, Kate McKinnon, Hari Nef, Ritu Arya, and Sharon Ronney are all playing Barbie, albeit with different titles and wardrobes. (For example, Rae is President Barbie, Arya is a Pulitzer-Prize–winning Barbie, and Dua Lipa is Mermaid Barbie.)

Playing a whole host of Kens — whose defining characteristic seems to be the fact that they're all just Kens — we've got Simu Liu, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Ncuti Gatwa, and Scott Evans. Michael Cera of "Arrested Development" fame also lives in Barbie Land, but he's a bit of an oddball. Instead of playing a Ken, Cera is playing Allan, a character based on a discontinued 1960s toy that was made to be Ken's best friend. Similarly, Oscar-winning screenwriter Emerald Fennell will play Midge, another less-famous toy who was at one point canonically married to Allan.

Oh, you thought we were done with the cast? Not even close. Will Ferrell will play the CEO of Mattel, Helen Mirren will narrate the movie, and other non-doll characters will be played by America Ferrera, Ariana Greenblatt, Jamie Demetriou, and Connor Swindells. Rhea Perlman of "Cheers" fame will also show up, and famed wrestler turned actor John Cena will appear in "Barbie" as a merman.

Who is writing and directing Barbie?

"Barbie" marks Greta Gerwig's third film as a director, but while she's only helmed three movies, Gerwig is one of the most exciting filmmakers in Tinseltown. She first sat down behind the camera for "Lady Bird," the Saoirse Ronan coming-of-age dramedy that earned multiple Oscar nominations, including one for best picture and two for Gerwig — best director and best original screenplay. She then reunited with Ronan for a beloved adaptation of "Little Women," which earned a best picture nod at the Academy Awards and also nabbed Gerwig an Oscar nomination for best adapted screenplay.

In other words, when Gerwig gets involved with a project, you can bet that film will turn out to be gold — even a concept as crazy as "Barbie." While a guest on Dua Lipa's podcast, "At Your Service," Gerwig talked about her experience making the upcoming film, saying, "It was terrifying. ... That feeling that I had was knowing that it would be really interesting terror. Usually that's where the best stuff is. ... Anything where you're like, 'This could be a career-ender,' then you're like, 'Okay, I probably should do it.'"

Gerwig will also be writing the script, alongside Noah Baumbach, her romantic partner. Similar to Gerwig, Baumbach is also a highly respected director, having helmed movies like "The Squid and the Whale" and "Marriage Story." The two previously collaborated on projects like "Frances Ha," "White Noise," and "Mistress America."

Is there a trailer for Barbie?

The trailers for "Barbie" have all been pretty incredible. The first "Barbie" teaser was a hilarious homage to "2001: A Space Odyssey," with a tribe of little girls ditching their baby dolls when a gigantic Barbie shows up on the scene, standing in for "2001's" eerie monolith. The second "Barbie" trailer got even zanier, complete with Beach Boys tunes, the bright pink hues of Barbie Land, and every character greeting our bubbly blonde protagonist with a cheerful "Hi, Barbie!"

However, it's the film's official trailer that really drives home the plot — showing the cracks that are starting to show in Barbie's seemingly perfect life. With thoughts of death swirling around her head, Barbie is given a "Matrix"-like choice by Kate McKinnon's character. She can either pick the high heel and stay in her regular life or pick the sandal and go on a journey of exploration. After a bit of prodding, Barbie sets out on a highly stylized journey to the real world, with Ken tagging along for the ride.

Of course, as the trailer shows, the real world is no cake walk. Mattel executives are hunting Barbie down, the kids she meets aren't impressed by her, and she even winds up in jail. However, as she searches for meaning, Barbie never gives up hope, and the trailer promises that this wacky comedy is going to go to some serious places, with one wise character telling Barbie, "Humans only have one ending. Ideas live forever."

What will Barbie be rated?

While "Barbie" won't receive a for-all-ages G, it won't receive the big bad R either. Instead, the Motion Pictures Association has rated "Barbie" with a PG-13 for "suggestive references and brief language." That doesn't come as much of a shock, as the film's trailers have indicated the movie is aiming for a wide audience. They've also hinted at the material that's gotten the movie its rating — double entendres, some lightly adult jokes, and some sexist behavior from some of the male characters. In other words, while "Barbie" might not be appropriate for the youngest members of the family, it's probably just fine for everyone 13 and above.

Dreamhouse hunters

The Barbie Dreamhouse is a legendary estate, and the "Barbie" movie design team has done the palace extra proud — and extra pink. Production design and set decoration dream team Sarah Greenwood and Katie Spencer drew inspiration from midcentury modern mansions and real-life toys, plus director Gerwig's references — which, according to Architectural Digest, range from the bold "Pee-wee's Big Adventure" to the pastel-powered fever dream of "An American in Paris." The result is a Dreamhouse that looks like "Mad Men" meets Nicki Minaj.

The design of the Dreamhouse is inspired by "the Kaufmann House," a Palm Springs home designed in 1946 by Richard Neutra. While Neutra's work favors neutral shades, Greenwood and Spencer had a mandate of their own to follow: think pink. The team used so much pink paint it caused an international shortage, but not all of that paint was on the Dreamhouse itself. The beautiful backdrops that surround Barbie Land are hand-painted, not CGI, partly in keeping with what Gerwig calls the "authentic artificiality" of Barbie's world.

The home is full of bright colors and toy-like details. Even Barbie's closet is clearly designed to match the packaging of clothes sold separately. Still, a quick glance at Barbie's movie home shows that there is a price to be paid for living a "perfect" life. "​​Dreamhouses assume that you never have anything you wish was private," Gerwig explains to Architectural Digest. "There is no place to hide."


Barbie and Batman have a lot in common: names that start with "B," extreme wealth and style, their own personal "superpowers," the ability to leap from tall buildings, and absentee parents — so it only makes sense that they also share the same automotive tastes. The "Barbie" movie's Dream Car was designed by the same artists who made the Batmobile for Robert Pattinson's "The Batman."

"All of the people who made the action vehicles had just finished making like the Batmobile. They were so psyched to get that pink paint out," Greta Gerwig said at a CinemaCon panel (via CinemaBlend.) "'We're gonna top the Batmobile.' I was like, 'Let's do it.'" While this batty collaboration has us hoping for an influx of street-legal hot pink Batmobiles, we won't hold our breath — unless it's for another potential, electric, and real-life Barbie car tie-in.

Barbie's movie ride is a custom pink electric Corvette. Eagle-eyed viewers of the "Barbie" trailers can spot an electric charging port and a blue-highlighted "EV" in the "Chevrolet" script on the side of the Dream Car. When Fox News reached out to Chevrolet regarding possible real-life Barbie cars, Chevrolet provided a response: "Barbie and Corvette have had a long-standing relationship and we're excited to build on that in the 'Barbie' movie. More to come on this and some other surprises." Autoevolution reports that GM has confirmed that electric Corvettes are slated for release soon — so why shouldn't some be pretty in pink?

Pink skies ahead

Barbie and pink go together like white on rice. But production design and set decorator collaborators Sarah Greenwood and Katie Spencer had to get the right pinks for the "Barbie" movie — pinks that would sustain the dreaminess of Barbie's world, as well as convey the playful, toy-like tactility of her "real" life.

Finding the perfect pink was no easy task. "It was epic dealing with the painters, mixing the right colors," Greenwood tells IndieWire. Finally, the designers narrowed their scope from 100 pinks to a range of 10 to build the look of the film. "This is Rodrigo at his pinkest," Greenwood added, referring to director of photography Rodrigo Prieto. Gerwig named the color palette "Techni Barbie," in reference to "Technicolor," a suite of film color processes that was popular with movie musicals like "The Wizard of Oz" and "The Red Shoes."

Prieto, who shot "Brokeback Mountain" and "The Irishman," is no stranger to colorful films. He also shot "The Wolf of Wall Street," "Broken Embraces," and "Amores Perros." His artistry across styles is put to use by the "Barbie" movie. "We wanted to create a distinctive look for Barbie, for her world, as opposed to the real world," Prieto tells Vogue. While we barely get a glimpse of the "real" world in the "Barbie" movie, one thing's for sure — when Barbie's there, she's not in pink Kansas anymore.

Sounds like a perfect day

The only way Barbie can have a "giant party with planned choreography and a bespoke song" every night in Barbie Land is with a stacked soundtrack. So far, Nicki Minaj, Ice Spice, Lizzo, Kid LAROI, HAIM, Charlie XCX, Tame Impala, Ava Max, Dominic Fike, KAROL G, PinkPantheress, Khalid, and FIFTY FIFTY are confirmed to grace the soundtrack with their pink and powerful presences. Maybe we'll even get more of Aqua than the sample used in the movie trailer implies.

The album is executive produced by hitmaker Mark Ronson, who personally requested Dua Lipa work on a song for a major set piece in the movie. According to his own Instagram post, Mark Ronson DM'd Dua Lipa a request to work on the movie, calling the movie "hilarious." Dua's song will score a 60-person dance scene in the movie. "Dance the Night" also has its own music video, featuring a cameo by Greta Gerwig.

While the "Barbie News"-themed "Barbie the Album" cover promises "more Barbies and Kens to be announced," there's one more Ken musician we're excited about — the Kennest Ken of them all, Ryan Gosling. While this might shock some fans of the actor, others might be familiar with his musical side from "La La Land" and "Lars and the Real Girl," or his former band Dead Man's Bones. Real ones know Gosling's come a long way from his "Mickey Mouse Club" days, even if his Ken costumes beg to differ.

Ryan Gosling taps into his Kenergy

Every interview Ryan Gosling grants about playing Ken in the "Barbie" movie is better than the last. Even though, according to the movie, Ken's job is "just beach," Gosling had a hard time getting a handle on his character at first. "I only knew Ken from afar," he tells CinemaCon, via Entertainment Weekly. "I didn't know Ken from within and if I'm being really honest, I doubted my Kenergy."

He continued, "I didn't see it, but Margot and Greta, they conjured this out of me somehow. It was like I was living my life and then one day I was bleaching my hair, shaving my legs, wearing bespoke neon outfits, and rollerblading down Venice beach." Gosling also spoke at CinemaCon about how Robbie helped him tap into his elusive Kenergy, saying (via CNN), "She left a pink present with a pink bow, from Barbie to Ken, every day while we were filming. They were all beach-related. Like puka shells, or a sign that says 'Pray for surf.'"

If Gerwig and Robbie helped Gosling achieve internal mental Ken fitness, he was on his own (and with his trainer) to attain Ken's considerable physical fitness. When asked about which recent movie required him to be the buffest in an interview for Entertainment Tonight, Gosling gets a faraway look in his eyes remembering his workouts, then responds, "Yeah...that Ken life is even harder than 'The Gray Man' life, I think."


Even before the "Barbie" movie's release, the film's (and doll's) iconic aesthetic inspired a fashion trend called "Barbiecore." Think pink — like, neon pink — and a playful, poppy aesthetic that leans into frills, "girly" energy, and all things toy-like and fabulous.

A quick search of "Barbiecore" on TikTok returns gazillions of views on posts featuring looks popping with pink. Pastel, shimmer, magenta, fuschia, neon — the pink sky's the limit. Vogue reports that the look has taken over runway fashion as well, especially with Versace's recent sparkling (and movie-ready) fashions. Tourism boards are taking advantage of the sudden interest in "Barbiecore" as well, with California creating a "Barbiecore Tour Through California" campaign for those who prefer their pink with a touch of '60s-inflected style.

Some "Barbiecore" is even a direct result of the meta-world of the movie. When Barbie leaves behind Barbie Land for the "real" world, she and Ken skate through Venice Beach on skates they brought from home, based on the iconic blades of '90s Barbies. Impala Skate is releasing tie-in skates and pads that exactly match the ones Barbie and Ken wear in the movie. Soon, real-life Barbies and Kens can buy their own to live their own plastic and fantastic Barbiecore lifestyle — if they aren't already sold out.

Iconic memes

Barbie is iconic, and the "Barbie" movie marketing team is doing its best to make fans feel just as iconic as the movie's leading lady. "Barbie" movie marketing materials are responsible for two viral memes so far.

The Barbie Selfie Generator uses AI to insert fan-uploaded photos into a Mattel-inspired starburst so fans, too, can smile as brilliantly as any "Barbie" actor — complete with the option to create a personal Barbie tagline. Many celebrities took to the filter, including Zooey Deschanel, who created a Barbie selfie for Jessica Day, her "New Girl" character. Deschanel posted her Barbie Selfie on Instagram with the tagline "This Barbie is breaking for birds."

In addition to the selfie filter, a fan art meme has been inspired by Barbie and Ken's mugshots from the movie trailer. In the meme format, artists draw their favorite ships from other pop culture as Barbie and Ken. The meme has shown no sign of stopping, and Polygon reports that the meme is a particular favorite for anime fans. 

The Cast and the Furious

The cast of Barbie is stacked — but the Barbies and Kens could always make room for more on the production. The "Barbie" movie shot in the UK, very near the production for "Fast X." "'Fast & Furious' was shooting at the same studio and they would all come over to look," Robbie tells Total Film (via Slash Film), describing some famous visitors to set. "Our crew was made up of extraordinarily talented people who've seen the greatest sets in the world, and they would tear up. Everyone was so excited."

John Cena, who plays Jakob Toretto in the "Fast" franchise, was one such visitor to the Barbie set. Cena, who is friends with Robbie, had initially tried to land a role in "Barbie" via a traditional audition. While he wasn't called back by casting directors, Robbie ended up offering him a part directly.

"It was a happy accident," Cena tells the "Today Show" (via Yahoo), "And I think that 'Barbie' and 'Fast X' share a lot of parallels. The cast list is amazing, the 'Barbie' cast list is amazing, the 'Fast X' cast list is amazing." Now, the "Barbie" cast list is even more amazing — because Cena will be playing a merman in the movie. Good thing Robbie, like all Torettos, understands the meaning of family.

Presidential seal of approval

Issa Rae, who plays President Barbie in the "Barbie" movie, is a legendary writer, director, actor, and producer. Known for making and starring in hit shows like "Insecure" and "Rap Sh!t," Rae knows a thing or two about creating powerful pop culture — and good leadership. Rae has openly praised the energy and leadership on the "Barbie" set.

"Literally everybody on that set was just great vibes, great to be around," Rae tells PopSugar. "It starts at the top... You have two people, your lead and your director, who are both women, I must say. They're just both incredible people and incredibly talented. They made it a comfort zone."

Initially, Rae wasn't fully on board with Gerwig's pitch for the Barbie movie, just the director's enthusiasm for the idea. But when Rae got to the script, she tells The Hollywood Reporter, ​​"Reading it was, like, 'Oh my God, I love her even more.' And then actually shooting it, it was incredible, one of my favorite experiences."

This isn't Will Ferrell's first cartoonish real-world villain

Will Ferrell plays the CEO of Mattel in the film, who so far looks like the movie's villain. While Ferrell isn't exactly a victim of CEO typecasting, this isn't the first time Ferrell has played a slightly villainous institutional figure that breaks the laws of reality while wearing a suit and tie.

Ferrell plays a Dad who just doesn't understand his kid in "The LEGO Movie" — until, of course, his kid and his LEGOs remind him of the power of play. His costume for "Barbie" is incredibly similar to that in "The LEGO Movie," except in "Barbie" his tie is pink, of course. Perhaps the movie's themes share a common thread?

Ferrell has also played the wildly creative (and rigid, and rude) fashion designer overlord Mugatu, the silly and villainous character in "Zoolander." Ferrell is good at playing over-the-top, yet grounded characters, whether in suit-and-tie or "derelicte" fashions. As he tells the Wall Street Journal (via People), he adores being in "Barbie," saying, "It's a loving homage to the brand and, at the same time, couldn't be more satirical... Just an amazing comment on male patriarchy and women in society and why Barbie's criticized and yet why every little girl still wants to play with Barbie."

Margot Robbie wasn't Margot Robbie's first choice for Barbie

Barbie has been in development for a long time, first with Amy Schumer set to star, and later with Anne Hathaway attached. Long after that, Margot Robbie and her husband's production company, LuckyChap, scooped up the property. While it might seem obvious that Robbie would consider herself, an iconic blonde, for the role of an iconic blonde, she actually wasn't her own first choice.

"We never started a company to be a starring vehicle for me," Robbie tells The Hollywood Reporter about LuckyChap. "We wanted to expand what female stories and female storytellers could do in this industry, and I don't need to be onscreen for that to happen." So it tracks that Robbie initially thought Gal Gadot would be a perfect fit for the role of the beautiful, sweet, and super-sincere doll.

"Gal Gadot is Barbie energy," Robbie tells Vogue (via People.) "She's so genuinely sincere, and she's so enthusiastically kind, that it's almost dorky. It's like right before being a dork." There's no word yet on how heartbroken Gadot might be for losing what could've been to Robbie, but there's always room for a "LEGO Batman Movie" style Barbie/Wonder Woman crossover film in our hearts — and on our streaming devices.

Our Barbies, our selves

While the story of the "Barbie" movie has been kept mostly mysterious leading up to its release, it's clearly meant to be a magical, existential tale meant to appeal to kids and adults. While Gerwig and the rest of the cast and crew have playfully only teased that "Barbie" is going to not be what anyone expects — unless it is what they expect — Greta has shared some of her more philosophical inspirations: a trip to Mattel and an old book.

"All of [the dolls] are Barbie, and Barbie is everyone. Philosophically, I was like, Well, now that's interesting," Gerwig tells Vogue about "meeting" the many versions of Barbie at Mattel. The amount and variety of Barbies inspired Gerwig, who said it gave her "an expansive idea of self that we could all learn from."

Gerwig also shared with Vogue that a parenting guidebook she read as a kid, "Reviving Ophelia," kept coming up when she was writing "Barbie." The book is about raising teenage girls and the depression they may face during the changes of adolescence. Gerwig related that to Barbie's, saying, "How is this journey the same thing that a teenage girl feels? All of a sudden, she thinks, Oh, I'm not good enough." Kinda sounds like Barbie suddenly thinking about dying.

The filmmakers know there's a lot to love and hate about Barbie

"If you love Barbie, this movie is for you. If you hate Barbie, this movie is for you," insists the trailer for the "Barbie" movie. Margot Robbie and Greta Gerwig know that Barbie as a toy is beloved and be-hated in equal measure. Barbie is such a significant cultural figure, for good and bad. She is a symbol of empowerment, adventure, and acceptance — as well as, at times, body image issues, impossible beauty standards, and vapidity. Robbie and Gerwig decided to use all of that in their movie.

"We have to acknowledge that there are a lot of people who aren't fans of Barbie," Robbie tells Vogue. "They actively hate Barbie. And have a real issue with Barbie. We need to find a way to acknowledge that."

While it remains to be seen exactly how the not-so-sparkly side of Barbie will be handled in the movie, the thoughtful and playful soundbites the cast and creators of the movie have been feeding to the press sound promising. The sense of play the entire creative team has been showcasing — whether teasing the press or playing with Barbie dolls inspired by themselves — has audiences feeling like kids again.