Barbie movie ending explained: What happens to Barbie after she goes to the real world?

What happens at the end of Barbie and what is the meaning of the movie? Major spoilers ahead...

A billboard for the Barbie movie next to palm trees
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Everyone's talking about Greta Gerwig's box office record-breaking movie, and many want the Barbie ending explained. 

Director Greta Gerwig's feminist take on the iconic Mattel doll has the whole world talking. The original doll took inspiration from creator Ruth Handler's daughter and love it or hate it, there's no denying that it's been a success. It's already sparked rumours of a second Barbie movie and an entire Mattel cinematic universe, with a Polly Pocket movie recently being confirmed. 

Sparking a renewed love for Barbiecore, and a fierce debate about whether the Barbie movie is suitable for kids, film fanatics have been eagerly analysing the meaning behind the Barbie movie and it's strong feminist undertones - how much Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling were paid for their roles reflects the message further. Despite the dance numbers and lashings of pink, the film has a serious side - and more than one cinemagoer has admitted to tearing up at the Barbie movie ending. Here's the poignant plot explained...

Barbie movie ending explained

At the ending of the Barbie movie, stereotypical Barbie - played by Margot Robbie - becomes human and enters the real world. The final scene sees Barbie - now going by the name Barbara Handler, who her creator named her after - living in the human world.

She makes the decision after Ruth Handler - the creator of Barbie and played by Rhea Perlman - gives her a glimpse of what it means to be human. She explains that joining the real world will mean living through human experiences - joy as well as heartbreak - and illustrates this by showing Barbie a montage of women going about their daily lives.

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We then see Barbie, along with her new human friends Gloria (America Ferrera) and her daughter Sasha (Ariana Greenblatt), arrive for a meeting. The viewer is initially led to believe Barbie is going for a job interview, before it's revealed that she has an appointment with her gynaecologist. 

This plays on a running joke about Barbie and Ken dolls' lack of genitals, and suggests that Barbie really has been turned into a human, otherwise she wouldn't need the appointment.

Speaking to USA Today about the last scene in the film, director Greta Gerwig revealed that "with this film, it was important for me that everything operated on at least two levels. I knew I wanted to end on a mic-drop kind of joke, but I also find it very emotional.

"When I was a teenage girl, I remember growing up and being embarrassed about my body, and just feeling ashamed in a way that I couldn’t even describe. It felt like everything had to be hidden."

She continued: "And then to see Margot as Barbie, with this big old smile on her face, saying what she says at the end with such happiness and joy. I was like, if I can give girls that feeling of, 'Barbie does it too' - that’s both funny and emotional."

And there's an added personal touch to the film's final scenes, as Greta Gerwig's mother worked as an OB-GYN nurse, and the women Ruth Handler shows Barbie in the montage are friends and family of the Barbie movie's cast and crew.

What happens at the end of Barbie?

The Barbie movie wraps up with Barbieland being rescued from the hands of the Kens' when they adopt a take on patriarchy. But instead of going back to the matriarchal society it was before, the Barbies agree that the Kens can have more say in how things are run going forward.

Ken (Ryan Gosling) enjoyed his time in the real world, where he witnessed patriarchal systems playing out, and took the idea back to Barbieland with him. This meant that when Barbie arrived after him, accompanied by new human friends Sasha and Gloria, Barbieland looked a lot different to when they left. The Kens had taken over and created a Kendom, while the Barbies were rendered powerless servants.

This leaves stereotypical Barbie, Sasha and Gloria, along with Weird Barbie (Kate McKinnon) and Allan (Michael Cera), with the task of bringing the brainwashed Barbies back to their senses and turning the Kens against each other. 

After Barbieland is saved, Ruth Handler arrives and gives Barbie the choice of either staying a toy and remaining in Barbieland, or embracing humanity and returning to the real world.

What is the message behind the Barbie movie?

The Barbie movie focuses on the pressures women face to be 'perfect', which are outlined in a monologue given by Gloria. It is Gloria's analysis of the experience of being a woman in modern society that reverses the brainwashing of the other Barbies, so that they can take back power over Barbieland.

She tells Barbie, who is having a crisis over her looks and her place in the world at the time, "It is literally impossible to be a woman. You are so beautiful, and so smart, and it kills me that you don’t think you’re good enough. Like, we have to always be extraordinary, but somehow we’re always doing it wrong."

She concludes the monologue with: "I’m just so tired of watching myself and every single other woman tie herself into knots so that people will like us. And if all of that is also true for a doll just representing a woman, then I don’t even know."

And at the end of the Barbie movie, Gloria, who is an assistant for Mattel's CEO (Will Ferrell), suggests they make an 'Ordinary Barbie' - one that doesn't reinforce unrealistic body and lifestyle standards.

The film also explores themes of identity, as Barbie begins to question where she belongs, while Ken has a crisis over always being in Barbie's shadow. Stereotypical Barbie and Ken have a heart-to-heart where she tells him not to base his entire identity on being loved by her, and Barbie realises that she can't go back to Barbieland after experiencing the complexities of life in the real world, saying she no longer knows how her story is supposed to end.

She tells Ruth she doesn't want to be an idea anymore, she wants to do something meaningful. Ruth replies, "Humans only have one ending. Ideas live forever." Fully accepting this, Barbie chooses to leave Barbieland for good.

If you're looking for more analysis of popular films and TV shows, we've also explained the ending of Heartstopper season 2 and the ending of Silo. Plus, here's who survives the Death Date at the ending of Manifest

Ellie Hutchings
Family News Editor

Ellie is GoodtoKnow’s Family News Editor and covers all the latest trends in the parenting world - from relationship advice and baby names to wellbeing and self-care ideas for busy mums. Ellie is also an NCTJ-qualified journalist and has a distinction in MA Magazine Journalism from Nottingham Trent University and a first-class degree in Journalism from Cardiff University. Previously, Ellie has worked with BBC Good Food, The Big Issue, and the Nottingham Post, as well as freelancing as an arts and entertainment writer alongside her studies. When she’s not got her nose in a book, you’ll probably find Ellie jogging around her local park, indulging in an insta-worthy restaurant, or watching Netflix’s newest true crime documentary.