As the semester comes to a close, and a mountain of work lies in front of you, sometimes the best thing to do is to take a break and de-stress by watching a comfort movie.
For some, their comfort movie could be a Studio Ghibli classic, or for others, it could be a rom-com that tugs at the heartstrings. For me, it’s the Barbie film franchise.
Not only do the older films invoke a sense of nostalgia in me since I grew up watching them, but they’re also great movies to have on when you need background noise or just want to watch a feel-good movie that you don't need to think about.
If you're interested in diving into the world of Barbie, these are my top five Barbie movies to watch during finals season for a breather:
"Barbie as The Princess and the Pauper" (2004)
If you want to watch an S-tier Barbie movie, you need to watch “Barbie as The Princess and the Pauper.”
This film has everything: There are incredible musical numbers, writing that you can still appreciate as an adult and nostalgic 2000s-style animation. As far as characters go, there's even more with interesting animal sidekicks, a great villain who is the perfect foil to the main characters and romantic interests who you can root for. It’s also the movie that produced that absolute classic song that is “I am a Girl Like You.”
The main reason why this film is my top pick is the characters and the tunes. The songs in “Barbie as The Princess and the Pauper” are unmatched compared to others in the Barbie universe, and the characters are easily likable.
The plot is also good, and the story touches on the themes of identity, courage, selflessness and selfishness, as well as the ability to make your own choices and do what’s best for yourself. The film also appeals to people’s occasional desire to be someone else or live a different life devoid of their current responsibilities and obligations.
There are two ways to watch "Barbie as The Princess and the Pauper" — you can either watch it as an upbeat and satisfying movie with some fun musical numbers, or you could critically analyze it for the social commentary on debt and societal obligations of women.
Either way, if you want to watch a Barbie movie, "Barbie as The Princess and the Pauper" is the best of the best.
"Barbie in the 12 Dancing Princesses" (2006)
What sold this movie for me was the music. The instrumental soundtrack sounds like something you would hear as you enter the gates of heaven, and it makes me want to spin around the room and dance with someone at a ball. In essence, you will feel like the main character.
The plot focuses on — you guessed it — 12 dancing princesses and their journey to save their father from an imprudent marriage. "Barbie in the 12 Dancing Princesses" keeps up the Barbie franchise's important themes in this film, including sisterhood, family and doing what you love.
While there is a romantic interest in “Barbie in the 12 Dancing Princesses,” it’s a subplot instead of the main storyline, which allows viewers to focus on the relationship between the sisters and their father.
I also appreciate the symbolic use of colors in the film and the fairly unique personalities of each sister. If you need a movie that helps you de-stress and doesn’t require that much thought, the “Barbie in the 12 Dancing Princesses” is your match made in heaven.
"Barbie as Rapunzel" (2002)
This movie holds a special place in my heart because it was the first film in the franchise that I remember watching. I loved it so much as a kid that I stuck a return address label on the VCR tape case to ensure that, if it was ever lost, it would find its way back home to me.
I appreciated how the creators gave a nod to painting — and artistic expression, in general — and demonstrated how it can provide an escape for people who want to get away from their everyday lives. The magical soundtrack and the prominence of the extremely satisfying sound effects are also enough to boost this movie to near-S-tier for me.
As a kid, the movie appealed to my inner desire to be a princess, but now, the ridiculousness of some of the characters and comedic situations are enough to keep me hooked.
If you know the plot of the classic "Rapunzel" tale, then you pretty much know the plot of the movie — it’s just a little less grim and maybe a little more chaotic, but in a good way. Barbie's adaptation of “Rapunzel” is a great option if you need something to just mindlessly enjoy or if you want a movie to watch ironically.
"Barbie Fairytopia: Mermaidia" (2006)
“Barbie Fairytopia: Mermaidia” is a sequel to “Barbie: Fairytopia,” so if you’re planning on watching it, you might want to check out “Barbie: Fairytopia” first — but it’s not necessary to understand what’s going on.
Six-year-old me thought “Barbie Fairytopia: Mermaidia” was peak comedy, and there are still a couple of scenes in it that made me chuckle and brighten up my day. The plot is also the most interesting out of all the movies on this list.
When I first watched this movie, I had no idea where the story was going, and some of the plot points felt like they were conceived in a fever dream or while the writers were under the influence of something — which makes it all the more enjoyable.
Unlike the other Barbie movies, this movie's romantic subplot is between two characters who aren’t Barbie and is relatively minor. “Barbie Fairytopia: Mermaidia” focuses primarily on Barbie’s character Elina and her determination to save her friend and protect other people.
You could also make the argument that the film is an allusion to pollution due to the souring influence the villain has on the extremely colorful world.
The cherry on top is the characters, specifically the character of animal sidekick Bibble. Bibble is extremely entertaining and drives a majority of the movie's comedic value. The evil henchmen also fulfills the classic trope of a villain surrounded by idiots which keeps things lighthearted. If you need a good laugh, this is the movie for you.
"The Barbie Diaries" (2006)
Even though “The Barbie Diaries” was released in 2006, the same year as “Barbie Fairytopia: Mermaidia,” it has a completely different animation style and a whole new focus.
Instead of Barbie being a princess or a fairy, she’s an average teenager in high school who has a huge crush on the popular jock, the usual high school film trope. But, of course, it wouldn’t be a Barbie movie without a little bit of magic in it that you’ll have to watch to see for yourself.
If I had 2 minutes and 29 seconds to convince you to watch the movie, I’d tell you to listen to the song “Note To Self” — the lyrics are a little bit too relatable during finals season, but it will scratch whatever pop-punk itch you have and give you some motivation to get your work done.
The movie covers the usual Barbie topics of friendship and staying true to yourself but in a more relatable form — we can’t all be fairies or princesses that save our kingdoms from impending doom, unfortunately.
A lot of Barbie fans didn’t like this movie because it deviated from both its predecessors and subsequent Barbie films, but I liked it. It teaches young viewers how to be a good friend, and it warns about getting too caught up in popularity. If you want to watch something that is more relatable than "Rapunzel" but still has some Barbie razzle-dazzle, then “The Barbie Diaries” is a great option.
Unfortunately, the Barbie movies aren’t readily available on popular subscription streaming services — a missed opportunity — but they can be rented or purchased on other streaming services, like Vudu or Apple TV+. Your local library also might have a couple of copies on DVD.