For many kids growing up, Barbie was a staple in their household. Whether it be the dolls, the collector Christmas Barbies, the games, or even the movies, Barbie was literally everywhere. The brand was and continues to be a cash cow with its many different forms of entertainment, and as long as people are still watching and playing, Barbie will remain one of the top toys in the world.
The first Barbie movie in 2001 was a such a hit with kids that it inevitably spawned a franchise. With a total of 43 Barbie movies as of 2021, the popular films show no signs of slowing down. Not only does Barbie have her own animated movies, she’s even set to get a live-action rework starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling.
Of those 43 flicks released so far, here are the 10 that we think are the best.
10. Barbie as Rapunzel (2002)
Barbie as Rapunzel takes a classic fairy tale and tries to make it its own, but falls a bit short. Viewed through the eyes of a child — which is the intended audience — it’s fine. But a rewatch later in life can be a bit underwhelming. Rapunzel is a girl who loves to paint and was kidnapped from her kingdom by the evil witch Gothel. When Rapunzel finds a magic hairbrush from her birth parents and it magically transforms into a paintbrush, she is able to leave her tower to meet with Stefan, a prince that she’s fallen in love with. She learns that there are two kingdoms feuding ⏤ the prince’s and another nearby ⏤ but it isn’t until the end that we uncover the reason: the rival king believes Stefan’s father kidnapped his daughter. It is then revealed that Rapunzel is his daughter and Gothel kidnapped her because of unrequited love on her side.
It’s hard not to compare movies with the same plot, especially ones that are based on the same tale. So, when we see Barbie as Rapunzel versus Disney’s Tangled, for example, it’s difficult not to see how weak the plot of the Barbie version is. It’s similar to the original tale and keeps the important stuff intact, but revisiting it at an older age reveals how unimportant some plot elements were and how quickly everything is resolved.
9. Barbie: Fairytopia (2005)
Quite likely, if you’ve seen any Barbie movie, it was Barbie: Fairytopia. This movie’s main character is Elina, a fairy without wings who cannot fly. However, this ends up being her saving grace, because the villain Laverna is using a potion that makes all flying creatures weak and unable to fly. Elina decides she must travel to find the guardian fairy, Azura, and get her help in saving other captured guardians. After rescuing everyone and resisting the urge to betray the guardian fairies, Elina is finally gifted her own wings.
The premise of this movie is relatively basic and easy to follow — but again, it’s targeted to children, so we can’t hold that against it. But what pushes Fairytopia down on this list is its pacing — it starts out slow, but as the end approaches, everything happens so fast that it feels like we waited for nothing.
8. Barbie and the Three Musketeers (2009)
Barbie and the Three Musketeers is a classic tale that Barbie turned on its head and made about four young women instead of the original men. This movie follows Corinne, who dreams of becoming a musketeer like her father. When she arrives at the castle, she gets into trouble with some of the palace maids, but eventually the four of them discover they all have the same dream of becoming a musketeer. Because it’s a Barbie movie, there has to be romance, which is where Prince Louis comes in. Corinne saves him from falling out of his hot air balloon and it’s the stereotypical “love at first sight.”
It was a nice change to other iterations of the tale we have seen, and surely had to be exciting for little girls wanting to see themselves represented in a heroic role. While Barbie movies based on classic tales usually do well, The Three Musketeers wasn’t met with good critical reviews. It just fell flat, especially when it came right after Barbie and the Diamond Castle, one of the most popular of the newer Barbie movies.
7. Barbie of Swan Lake (2003)
The third-ever Barbie movie was Barbie of Swan Lake, which of course is based on the German fairy tale of the same name. Similar to the original tale, and the popular Tchaikovsky ballet, Swan Lake follows a young woman named Odette who’s been cursed by an evil sorcerer to turn into a swan by day, but back to a human at night. In the magic forest where she resides, she ends up meeting and falling in love with Prince Daniel.
Using such a popular story for a Barbie movie was a risk for sure, but it paid off. The animation was stunning, especially considering when the movie was released and the kind of technology that was available. Barbie of Swan Lake is both nostalgic and fun, but it’s a well-known story that doesn’t add much to the original tale, which is why it’s at number seven.
6. Barbie and the Diamond Castle (2008)
Unlike the previous three movies on this list, Barbie and the Diamond Castle is an original story. It also happens to be a good one! Following two best friends, Alexa and Liana, this movie is all about the power of platonic love. The two girls are gifted a mirror that has a muse, Melody, hiding within it. When they’re told about the evil muse Lydia and the tale of the Diamond Castle, the girls agree to protect Melody and the castle. There’s plenty of music throughout, which is one of the things that make Barbie movies so great.
The Diamond Castle, while a later Barbie movie, maintains the charm and originality that most of the classic films had when they were released. There’s two distinct leads as well as a villain who seems sinister enough to actually be menacing, something some Barbie movies lack. The story and songs hold up for older audiences that want to rewatch it — the telltale sign of a good Barbie movie.
5. Barbie as the Island Princess (2007)
Barbie as The Island Princess might be a controversial choice for this list, as it teeters between classic Barbie movies and newer ones. Barbie stars as a young orphan named Ro who was found by a red panda and a peacock on an island. The two animals raised her into a young woman who could now communicate with them. She saves a prince in trouble, and as thanks, he offers to return her to his kingdom to find out more about her missing life. Of course, along the way, the two begin to fall in love.
This movie has many fans, as it was released during the prime years of Barbie pictures. It follows what seems to be a completely original plot, though it definitely has some Little Mermaid elements. The Island Princess also introduced original songs, making it very popular among its target audiences.
4. Barbie in The Nutcracker (2001)
The very first Barbie movie was Barbie in The Nutcracker, a classic tale that most of us know. Even though it came out in 2001, the animation was still beautiful. For those who don’t know the story of the Nutcracker, it follows Barbie as young Clara, who receives a toy nutcracker for Christmas from her aunt, who tells her it contains the heart of a prince. After Barbie is shrunken to the size of a toy by the mouse king, her nutcracker doll comes to life and explains that they must find the sugarplum fairy and defeat the mouse king once and for all!
Considering that it was the first Barbie movie, The Nutcracker holds a lot of nostalgia for ardent Barbie fans. The animation shows its age, but the dance sequences and stunning magic transformation sequences earn it high placement on our list.
3. Barbie and the Magic of Pegasus (2005)
What really makes Barbie and the Magic of Pegasus stand out from its peers is the plot. As far as we can tell, it’s an entirely original idea, which was new for the Barbie franchise at the time. The Magic of Pegasus follows Princess Annika, who must find a way to save her parents after they’ve been turned to stone by an evil wizard.
It’s not the most memorable Barbie movie, but it definitely had its positives, the main one being the twist ending — not a big shocker watching as an adult, but as kids it completely threw us off. Annika, played by Barbie, had a missing sister who in the end turned out to be Pegasus! It all tied up perfectly and was a great first, completely original Barbie tale.
2. Barbie as the Princess and the Pauper (2004)
The most popular Barbie movie is probably The Princess and the Pauper for its beautiful music and heartwarming plot. It clearly holds a lot of nostalgia for fans, as some of its songs occasionally trend on TikTok. Like other Barbie movies, though, the plot is nearly identical to the original fairy tale it’s based on, The Prince and the Pauper.
This doesn’t make it a bad movie, of course — it’s just one of the reasons for it not being number one. However, the costumes, music, and villain really shine. Martin Short voices Preminger, a royal advisor who wants the throne to himself and is truly one of the best parts of the film. It’s a timeless movie for Barbie fans and continues to be one of, if not the most, popular.
1. Barbie in The 12 Dancing Princesses (2006)
Based on an old fairy tale, Barbie in the 12 Dancing Princesses follows Barbie as Princess Genevieve and her 11 sisters as they grow up in a palace with their loving father. Suddenly, their life is flipped upside down when Duchess Rowena moves in to give lessons on how to be “proper ladies” at their father’s request. When the duchess denounces all song and dance, the princesses discover a secret entrance to a world with magic instruments that play music so the girls can dance. It’s their dream world and exactly the escape they need. Unbeknownst to the princesses or their father, Rowena is secretly poisoning the king in hopes of replacing him.
After the duchess discovers the entrance to the magic world, she smashes it up, trapping the princesses. Eventually the girls escape and tell their father everything, sending Rowena away to dance for the rest of her life. Like most Barbie movies, it focuses on love and family, with Genevieve falling for the cobbler who makes the princesses’ dancing shoes. The plot is intricate and a good twist on the original fairy tale, which is a nice twist from some of the other Barbie movies blatantly copying them.