Who among us did not have a Mary-Kate and Ashley stage? These stylish twins dominated the late ‘90s and early ‘00s. I consumed all their content, including their animated spies series and the short-lived sitcom So Little Time. To this day, sometimes the theme song gets stuck in my head and I picture the waves rolling onto the shore in black and white.
Despite all their quality content across books and media, perhaps they are most famous for their treasure trove of Mary-Kate and Ashley movies. They really did create an empire. We all have our favorites, but did yours make the list?
What Makes Us Love Them?
These movies mean so much to people and are so great because they act like fanfictions of life. The girls always go on an amazing adventure in a gorgeous country, smooch cute boys, and achieve their dreams—whether it’s winning Model UN or becoming fashion designers. They get love and their own individual aspirations, too.
But they don’t just feature romance and ladies kicking butt. At their heart, there’s always a sister relationship there. It varies between a very sweet, close bond or a troubled relationship that mends over the course of the film. These movies bring an honest, emotional core beneath all the glitz and glamor.
Mary-Kate and Ashley movies resonate so much for all these reasons and more. Which films are your favorite? And, where are they going next? *Throws dart at map*
Billboard Dad (1998)
There’s a kissing scene in this movie my best friend and I used to rewind and replay all the time—haha. We were weird. The story here is the girls put up a billboard to get their single dad attached, but the lucky lady has a son the girls aren’t a fan of. The premise here is so absurd—who is renting preteen girls a billboard—but in an age of technology and so many people meeting via digital means, there’s a quaintness that makes this feel especially wholesome. Plus, kids setting up their parents is very Parent Trap-py, another favorite of mine.
Rewatch to your heart’s content on Hulu.
Switching Goals (1999)
One of their earlier projects, I fell in love with this soccer film. I was a soccer player, so this struck a particularly resonant chord with me when I discovered it. Sporty Sam gets picked by the coach of a losing soccer team, while distinctly-not-sporty Emma is forced to attend try-outs against her will and picked for the strong team Sam wanted to play for. The girls end up switching places so they can play on the teams they want, but the twin shenanigans don’t stop there. This was so totally the film that turned me onto the identical twins switching places trope. The contrast between the sporty Sam and “girly” Emma was well-done, and they both learned things from each other. I also… had a little crush on Greg. Cheese strings hanging from your chin? I’ve thought that on many a first date.
This masterpiece is on Hulu!
Passport to Paris (1999)
This film served us some of the most iconic looks. The fashion in this movie is one of their best. Plus it has campy gems like the baguette fight in front of the Eiffel Tower, the trippy Louvre montage, and the assuredly not French accents of the two main squeezes. Was there even a plot to this film besides the Olsen twins getting to romp around Paris?
Bonus, you can also stream this one on Hulu right now!
When in Rome (2002)
I have a strong memory of discovering the VHS on the shelf when my mom dragged me grocery shopping. She bought it for me and I watched it as soon as we got home. The girls score an internship that brings them to Italy for the summer working in fashion, but the experience doesn’t go as they planned. Like other classics such as The Lizzie McGuire Movie, dreamy Italian summers are not a new concept. In fact, it’s an iconic premise, and we lap it up every time. When in Rome, eh?
Winning London (2001)
“Get Out of London” is one of my favorite songs because of this movie. Plus it features Model UN! An after-school activity I think a lot of us discovered because of this movie. The storyline here is pretty thin, but still entertaining. The twins are off to London for a Model UN competition, but they are surprised to discover last minute they’ll be representing the UK. The team needs to reassess and, to bulk up their knowledge, they soak up the sights. Along the way, Mary-Kate falls in love with a British noble (yes), while Ashley, who has little interest in the competition, romances a fellow teammate. Can we bring back trench coats and flared jeans?
Getting There (2002)
The twins have got their license and they pack their bags (and their friends) for a road trip to the Winter Olympics in Utah. As the title suggests, getting there is quite troublesome, with disaster after disaster befalling the teens. Will they make it to the Olympics in time? This one I remember finding at the library and another girl let me borrow it first, even though she wanted to watch it too. Shout-out to you, stranger. You’re awesome. Part of the allure for this movie was being a little kid and dreaming of being sixteen like Mary-Kate and Ashley, and having a posse of friends to go on an extraordinary trip with. Although, now that I’m older, I know one does not just road trip to the Olympics. There’s a ticket-buying process I don’t remember the girls ever taking part in.
The Challenge (2003)
In this fun dramatic adventure, estranged twins are reunited when they compete on the same reality competition. I always imagined the fictional show as a mix between Survivor and Fear Factor. To add some tension, romantic relationships are not allowed so Mary-Kate could be disqualified for getting too close to the cute guy on the opposite team. Enemies to lovers is catnip for me, and I shipped this immediately. Ashley ends up dallying with a producer who is spying on them to make sure the show brings the drama between them. Will the girls be able to put aside their differences to win the ultimate prize: college scholarships? Since this was the twins’ final direct-to-tape movie (the best era, imo), there’s a fun final scene with all the past boyfriends fighting over them, but Mary-Kate and Ashley walk away, choosing each other. Girl power all the way!
Holiday in the Sun (2001)
Ah, the crème de la crème! I think most people agree this thriller in the Bahamas is their favorite. One big commercial for the Atlantis Resort, the twins are whisked away on vacation by their parents but stumble upon a smuggling ring that threatens to derail their romances and fun. One particular scene of Ashley getting wooed by animal trainer Jordan and feeding stingrays romantically still stands out in my mind as a gold standard of swoon. I’m still waiting for my magical vacation at Atlantis. Someday!
Ready to rewatch?
These films defined a generation. It’s a shame they are hard to find online. It’s long past due for Netflix or Hulu to pick up these movies and gift us all with a chance to escape in a rewatch. Come on Hulu, you already have some of them. Or maybe even Disney+ could surprise us all? Disney didn't make the films, so they definitely don't own the rights. However, Disney isn't shy about buying up properties so maybe… as other fans have noticed, they are family friendly films that would fit in so well.
Netflix has New York Minute, which is not a favorite of mine as you may have guessed, but it is hopeful to see any of these films online. Maybe more will make their way onto streaming platforms in the future.
We’re all tucked up in quarantine. Mary-Kate and Ashley movies are amazing escapist films that brighten any day.