Happy birthday to our favorite child stars-turned-unhappy-fashionistas, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen! Its hard to imagine a time without Mary-Kate and Ashley’s iconic twinitude (mostly because they are four years older than me), which is why, in honor of their birthday(s), we are ranking the Mary-Kate and Ashley movies from “made for TV movie heaven” to “omg I can’t believe I let this take up space on the DVR for so long.”
First, some parameters. While researching this vital piece, I realized that Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen are two of the most prolific filmmakers of the modern era. They have been in literally dozens of movies, many of which came out in the same year. I would ask myself how two young children did all this shit, but their stardom corresponds exactly with the rise in childhood Adderall prescriptions, so you do the math there. It would be impossible for me to rank all of their films, mainly because I haven’t seen them all. No human has. Not even Mary-Kate and Ashley. For this ranking, we’re excluding the entire Mary-Kate and Ashley detective series—that would require its own ranking, which I’ll get to once I’m done re-watching them all instead of fulfilling any of my adult responsibilities. We’re also excluding their 2003 film The Challenge, in which Mary-Kate and Ashley go to Mexico to be on a reality TV quiz show, because I haven’t seen it and frankly did not know it existed. You live and you learn.
1. ‘Passport to Paris’ (1999)
What beautiful soul do we have to thank for Passport to Paris? All of the MK & A traveling romance flicks date back to this one, and it is the best. I mean, what 90s girl can forget where she was the moment she first saw Michele and Jean pull up on their vespas to whisk the twins off on a Parisian adventure? Passport to Paris is iconic (Note: I *will* use the word “iconic” 100 times throughout this article) for many reasons, mainly because it kicks off the “Mary-Kate and Ashley go abroad to get boyfriends” series, which is arguably their best series of movies in their entire career. Honestly, I await the day when Passport to Paris is finally added to the Criterion Collection, alongside lesser films like 12 Angry Men and Boyhood.
The Plot: 13-year-old twins Melany and Allyson go to Paris for spring break. That is literally the plot.
The Boys: What to say about Michele and Jean that has not already been said? Did I know boys could be named Michele in France? No. Was I about it? Of course. Jean and Michele collectively have one personality trait: they are the proud owners of a vespa. Also being French. Honestly, at 13, that’s all you need to fall in love.
The Looks: We call this hair the Mary Kate and Ashley classic:
2. ‘Billboard Dad’ (1998)
Billboard Dad is not a part of the foreign boyfriend series, but it is somehow still very good. Like, when you think of Mary-Kate and Ashley films, you think Billboard Dad. Sadly, this movie no longer holds up in the age of dating apps and Hinge profiles. Nowadays, all MK & A would have to do to get their dad a date is set up a dating profile that says he has a stable job and is over 6 feet tall. Then the women would just come to him.
The Plot: If you don’t remember the plot of Billboard Dad, what was your childhood? Billboard Dad (not to be confused with Three Billboards) is about identical twins Emily and Tess, who want their sad widowed dad to get a girlfriend already, so they put up a billboard on Sunset Blvd asking women to date him. (Note: Many Mary-Kate and Ashley movies feature dead/widowed parents. Not sure why.) Why is it not immediately removed by city officials? No idea. Anyway, it works.
The Boys: This pre-dates when Mary-Kate and Ashley were issued a romantic partner for every movie, so the only boys are Ryan, a 12-year-old wannabe badass with a denim jacket and an ear piercing, and Cody, proud owner of a bucket hat. The guys are mostly friends, though, if I recall correctly (which there is a very good chance I do not). That said, now that I am older I see clearly that their father, Max (portrayed by Scandal‘s Tom Amandes) is zaddy.
The Looks: More iconic (there it is again) hair and fashion lewks from MK & A here. TBH the fact that we saw this movie and didn’t know that they were headed into the fashion industry is on us. I mean, look at this:
The sheer number of butterfly clips that appear in this film are enough to send my 10-year-old self into a fit of hysterics that can only be cured by an immediate and extensive trip to Limited Too.
3. ‘It Takes Two’ (1995)
It Takes Two is an outlier in the Mary Kate and Ashley franchises, because we’re actually supposed to believe that their characters are not related, they just look a lot alike. What? Despite this literally unbelievable plot point, It Takes Two manages to be good, mostly because of the presence of Kirstie Alley, who America has literally never deserved.
The Plot: Okay so this one actually requires a lot more explaining than the traditional “twins travel to X country to find boyfriends and make mischief” plotline of 90% of their movies. This movie is basically The Parent Trap except the girls aren’t related and the stakes are way way higher. Rich girl Alyssa (Ashley) meets sad orphan Amanda (Mary-Kate) by chance and become friends because they look alike (literally the basis of every sorority). Turns out Amanda is about to be adopted by a family called the Butkises (pronounced “Butt Kisses”) who are known for “collecting children”. What Amanda really wants is for her dope social worker, Kirstie Alley, to adopt her, but Kirstie isn’t allowed because she is poor and doesn’t have a husband. The two of them then switch places so that Amanda can experience being rich, and Alyssa can experience…going to camp. Anyway, hilarity ensues and at the end the rich dad gets married to the poor social worker and they adopt Amanda and they all live happily ever after.
The Boys: There are no boys in this movie. In fact, the only love interest of any kind in this movie is Steve Guttenberg which is, frankly, unacceptable.
The Looks: Mary-Kate and Ashley are still in their “cute kid” phase here, but the way the costumer chose to show the difference between “rich girl” and “orphan” is…dare I say?…iconic.
4. ‘Winning London’ (2001)
Ah yes, the last good Mary-Kate and Ashley movie. I remember it well. Winning London is probably responsible for so many teen girls joining Model UN thinking it’d be a good way to meet hot foreign guys, only to find out it’s mostly just a bunch of Hermione Grangers and guys with social anxiety. Sigh. What a waste of a semester…
The Plot: Overachiever Chloe and her chill sister Riley travel to London for Model UN, only to find that their usual country (China) is taken, meaning they’re going to have to represent…LONDON ITSELF!?! Can they get their delegation together in time for the big competition and find boyfriends along the way? You fuckin’ know it.
The boys: Winning London, objectively, has some of the cutest boys of all the Mary-Kate and Ashley movies, but also they’re the only ones who look somewhat adult so that could be coloring my recollection. Mary-Kate/Chloe ends up with James Browning, who is British and therefore, attractive. Also his dad is like, a Lord or some shit. Riley/Ashley spends the time where she’s supposed to be studying trying to get her longtime crush Brian to notice her. He eventually does and they kiss in an air duct, after which he says “woah what just happened?” and she says “we just kissed in an air duct.” This scene made a huge impression on me.
The Looks: The fashion and hair choices in Winning London are so wonderfully insane. I can’t believe this is what we all aspired to look like. What are these pants? 2001 was weird.
5. ‘Our Lips Are Sealed’ (2000)
Our Lips Are Sealed takes the “foreign boyfriends” series to Australia. TBH, I’m surprised it took this long to get the twins into a Witness Protection Program plotline. Seems like a pretty obvious fit for them.
The Plot: Maddie and Abby are two gossipy teens who just happen to witness a museum robbery and are sent into the Witness Protection Program. They are so gossipy that they accidentally tell people they’re in the Witness Protection Program everywhere they go, until they are finally banished to the remote and desolate continent of Australia. Poor them. Anyway, there’s a running joke in this one where the bad guy’s name is “Hachew” and whenever he says it someone says “bless you” which is peak Mary-Kate and Ashley humor.
The Boys: I distinctly remember being disappointed by the boys in this movie. Like, this hair is a no from me, even in the early 2000s. I don’t care if they have jet skis. There is no amount of Aussie accent that can fix the fact that these two look like feet. I know that they’re children, but it’s true. The one on the left looks like an old man. Hard pass.
The Looks: The looks, TBH, are Our Lips Are Sealed‘s saving grace. I mean, the matching color-block dresses paired with the traditional MK&A pin straight spike-bob? I. Con. Ic.
6. ‘To Grandmother’s House We Go’ (1992)
Had to include this movie because it was literally the first really Mary-Kate and Ashley movie but, other than that, it’s a total snooze. I mean, the girls are cute and all, but can their cuteness carry an entire movie? Okay, so the answer to that is yes but, I still prefer them as teens.
The Plot: Twin sisters/naughty children Sarah and Julie overhear their mom talking shit about them and decide to run away to their grandmother’s house for Christmas, and they get a lot farther than two unaccompanied twin toddlers ever should. The mom’s name in this is Rhonda, and she’s a “work-obsessed divorcee” because it is 1992 and every divorced woman is a workaholic shrew named Rhonda who can’t take care of her kids.
The Boys: No boyfriends seeing as the girls are like, five years old in this. Rhonda does have a love interest named Eddie who is a delivery man that “doesn’t like kids” but succumbs to Mary-Kate and Ashley’s overwhelming cuteness and becomes the dad Evil Work Witch Rhonda so selfishly denied them by having a job.
The Looks: This movie predates Mary-Kate and Ashley as fashionistas, so it’s mostly just cute Christmasy kids clothes. Boring.
7. ‘Switching Goals’ (1999)
This movie is about soccer, which is strike one. I also thought that this was the one with Kirstie Alley in it, but it’s not, and that is disappointing. They should have put Kirstie Alley in it. They should put Kirstie Alley in everything.
The Plot: This is the typical tomboy vs. girly-girl dynamic we’ll come to see again and again in Mary-Kate and Ashley films. So sad that in the 90s we didn’t have athleisure yet to teach us that all women can be interested in athletics. Emma (Ashley) is very good at makeup and bad at soccer. Sam is very good at soccer, but bad at boys. The twins will continue to play out this exact dynamic over and over again for years until for some reason they don’t want to do movies anymore and decide to wear black and date old guys instead. Also, this movie is only good if you are into soccer, which I am not, and I am in charge of this ranking, so there you go.
The boys: The boys in this are named “Sam” and “Richie”. They are approximately 10 years old, and I do not feel comfortable commenting on their level of attractiveness.
The looks: They mostly just wear soccer uniforms for this one. Lame.
8. ‘Holiday In The Sun’ (2001)
Despite some pretty stellar casting (Megan Fox and Julian from One Tree Hill) Holiday in the Sun is just like, meh. Dare I say Holiday in the Sun is a poor man’s Our Lips Are Sealed? I do. I do dare.
The Plot: Madison and Alex, initially pissed that they’re not going to Hawaii, are whisked away to an all-inclusive resort in the Bahamas and try to make it work. Sadly, Megan Fox is also at the resort and she is a major bitch. Also they run into two men smuggling stolen artifacts? Honestly, I’m confused.
The Boys: There are actually THREE boys in this one, which is, IMHO, too many boys. Why change up the two boy/two girl formula? Why throw in this third boy? We don’t need Scott and Jordan AND Griffen! That’s madness! Sheer madness! This film is chaos.
The Looks: Mary-Kate and Ashley are brining the chunky highlight realness in this film, but Megan Fox is the true fashion star. She also drops a lot of snarky one-liners and like, when someone asks her “what’s up?” and she says “not my temperature,” which doesn’t really make sense but it still somehow cool. Anyway, a moment of silence for this shirt/choker/lip gloss combo.
9. ‘How The West Was Fun’ (1994)
Please put me down as a “no” for any and all films that take place on a “dude ranch.” This movie also features dead parents and it’s like…why? Why do there always have to be dead parents? Can’t twins have fun with living parents? IDGI.
The Plot: Jessica and Suzy are living in Philly with their dad when they receive a letter from their dead mom’s godmother inviting them to come live on a dude ranch. They go to the dude ranch and meet a horse named Lightning. This movie is literally boring.
The Boys: There are no love interests in this movie, but there is a very questionably racist Native American character named George Tailfeathers and some old douchebag named Bart Gafooly who wants to turn the dude ranch into a theme park. They should have let him, but whatever.
The Looks: Once again, it’s a no from me.
10. ‘New York Minute’ (2004)
Oh god, what to say about New York Minute? This is the beginning of the end for Mary-Kate and Ashley’s film career. You can tell their hearts just aren’t in it anymore. The desire to acquire a black trench coat and a nicotine addiction is overpowering them. You can see it in their cold, dead eyes.
The Plot: You can tell they knew the franchise was dying here because they go back to basics: Mary-Kate and Ashley are an over-achiever and a chill “punk rocker” who never see eye to eye. Their mom is dead. They take an exotic vacation from their hometown of Long Island all the way to New York City, where they are followed by a school truant officer who shockingly believes that the two of them should go to school. Eugene Levy is the most notable character in this movie. There is also a dog named Reinaldo.
The Boys: Okay so there is a love interest in this one, his name is Trey and he is a Senator’s son played by none other than DEAN FORESTER of Gilmore Girls. Sadly, he is not enough to save this doomed flick, even though they basically imply he bangs both the twins.
The Looks: I will let this speak for itself:
I would like to end this ranking by saying that one time when I first moved to New York I saw Mary-Kate and Ashley dressed in identical black trench coats sharing the same cigarette on a side street in SoHo. We made eye contact and they gave me a look that said, “If you try to talk to us we’ll fucking kill you,” so I said nothing. The end.
Images Via: Giphy (8), IMDB (4)