The top-grossing movie of 2023 in the United States and around the world wasn’t Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. It wasn’t The Super Mario Bros. Movie. It wasn’t the live-action version of The Little Mermaid. It wasn’t Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour. It wasn’t Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny or Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One. It wasn’t even The Flash. (Okay, it definitely wasn’t The Flash.)

It was Barbie.

Greta Gerwig’s Barbie, based on the iconic line of dolls, became a full-fledged pop culture phenomenon last summer. It grossed $636 million in the U.S. alone, and $1.4 billion worldwide. The #2 movie of the year, The Super Mario Bros. Movie made about $60 million less in the U.S. — and nothing else released this year grossed $400 million domestically, much less $500 or $600 million. So odds are, if you are reading these words you probably already saw Barbie in theaters, and possibly more than once. But whether you missed it on the big screen, or you just want to rewatch it over and over to appreciate that amazing “I’m Just Ken” musical number, the movie is finally coming to streaming later this month on Max.

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The movie stars Margot Robbie as the Barbie, the most iconic of all the Barbie dolls, with Ryan Gosling co-starring as a Ken who is particularly fixated on her. There’s a whole galaxy of stars playing variations of Barbie and Ken, including Kate McKinnon (Weird Barbie), Issa Rae (President Barbie), Alexandra Shipp (Writer Barbie), Simu Liu (Tourist Ken), Emma Mackey (Physicist Barbie), John Cena (Mermaid Ken), and Dua Lipa (Mermaid Barbie).

When the original Barbie is suddenly gripped by self-doubt and anxiety for the first time in her plastic life, she leaves “Barbieland” and the rest of the Barbies and Kens, and ventures into the real world. There, she meets America Ferrera as a Mattel employee who used to love Barbie and passed her dolls onto her daughter Sasha (Ariana Greenblatt). Then Gosling’s Ken returns to Barbieland and, having learned about the patriarchy in the real world, tries to make some changes to the place.

As to the film’s phenomenal success, I get it; as I wrote in my review...

It’s to Gerwig’s credit that she managed to make a Barbie movie approved by Mattel that actually considers the ramifications of these questions, alongside subplots about feminism, patriarchy, and toxic masculinity. This is a big swing of a movie, one that tries to tackle the big questions about Barbie, and to use them to say something about gender roles in society now. It is not just a lavish commercial for Barbie dolls.

Barbie premieres on Max streaming on December 15. The film will also be available in an American Sign Language version.

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Gallery Credit: Matt Singer

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