I grew up loving all of the Mary-Kate and Ashley movies, and I think the twins’ movies about international travel particularly gave me the wanderlust bug early on in life. Of course, the movies totally gave me the false expectation that boys would fall in love with me whenever I went on vacation (this piece sums that theme of the movies up hilariously), but by now, it’s safe to say I’ve recovered from that disappointment.
Looking back at these movies (which are somehow still not available to stream anywhere), I’ve realized they’ve influenced me more than one would initially think. Whether it was a fashion moment, a certain vacation boyfriend, or something that felt dated even when a movie was new, I thought it’d be fun to share my most influential moments from the Olsen twins’ movies and why they’ve always stuck out in my mind.
James taking Chloe to the Peter Pan statue in Winning London, but really just the entirety of Winning London
I feel like I underestimate my love for this movie until I start thinking about it. I loved Anglophiliac stories from an early age via exposure to Bedknobs and Broomsticks and Mary Poppins, and my love of British culture only increased as I grew older and explored the United Kingdom through books. I’m pretty sure my memory of Winning London, my favorite Olsen movie, predates my relationship with Harry Potter. I couldn’t explain why it appealed to my younger self, a version of me whose dream wasn’t London yet, but looking back, I see how this shaped so much of my enthusiasm for the city.
When I studied abroad there, I legitimately had a moment of reflection the first time I visited the Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens, on an amazing day I had spent crisscrossing the city on my own. Looking at the statue and slowly walking around it just like Mary-Kate Olsen does in that clip, I thought, You did it. You made it here. You’re in London. Through the way the statue is featured in this movie, it had become the ultimate symbol of London for me. When I came home that Christmas, I even rented this movie on Amazon to watch with the perspective of a Londoner, feeling giddy about being able to say, “I went there.”
Now, every Mary-Kate and Ashley movie has to be taken with a grain of salt — these are meant to be cheesy, innocent fun and not acclaimed, lofty work. But so much of Winning London that inexplicably delighted me as a kid still did upon rewatch. James the British boy is still charming and handsome, (it crushed me when I found out that the actor was not British) and I still swooned at his delivery of Shakespeare at the Globe Theatre. The Model UN team’s weirdos get together at the end, proving that even secondary characters deserve some love. Characters crawl through hotel air vents, which anyone raised on The Suite Life of Zack and Cody still longs to do. The whole thing is just a ball of fun. Seriously, Netflix, do the Olsen twins have a secret contract with you to never stream their movies?
The twins’ dad being a hot, widowed sculptor in Billboard Dad
In addition to Winning London, I think my other top three Mary-Kate and Ashley movies are Billboard Dad and The Challenge. Billboard Dad introduced the premise that the twins, only three years past the last season of Full House, promote their widowed artist father on a L.A. billboard so he could find a girlfriend and be happy again. It isn’t included in this clip, but there is a fleeting moment soon after where the dad, Max, pops up shirtless. Even as a little kid, I remember thinking, “Oh.” For real, what else was I watching at that time that had shirtless men in it? Probably not much, if anything at all.
While the film also has the very buff and blonde swim instructor walking around the pool in his trunks, it appears that me not being very into blondes started pretty early on. Max is my visual ideal in Billboard Dad, but that’s not the only physical draw it had. I still envy the family’s house in this movie, and the vibrantly colored boardwalk area made me insanely jealous that these girls got to hang out there.
The impossibly perfect bedhead updo one of the girls rocks in the opening scene of When in Rome
In When in Rome‘s opening scene, the twins wake up from their jetlagged sleep and go out to their balcony to take in the city around them. As seen in moments of the trailer here, one of the girls is rocking the most enviable high ponytail that I still wish I could pull off. Turns out that thick and heavy Italian hair can never manage a high pony no matter how old you get. If I watched the entire Olsen twin canon again, I could probably make a whole list of hairstyles I loved but could never do with my own hair.
Any time that the twins talked about a hot celebrity and their go-to choice was always Brad Pitt
Wasn’t Brad Pitt already kind of old by the time these movie came out? Other than being married to Jennifer Aniston, what was he doing? I may be wrong, but I feel like he was definitely mentioned more than once whenever a character made a celebrity reference in any of these films. When I was really young, I didn’t know who he was and thought he was just the cute boy at their school. Weren’t Brad and Josh the stereotypical hot guy names in early 2000s movies?
Bob Saget’s cameo in New York Minute
I don’t remember much about New York Minute, but that’s probably best. The only thing that sticks out to me from this is the very meta Bob Saget cameo. It’s not as great as the not-so-subtle dig at the twins in the first episode of Fuller House, but it’s still funny.