A scientific ranking of Mary-Kate and Ashley films

Words by Maeve Kerr-Crowley

Let’s settle this once and for all.

Let me pose to you an age-old question: are you a Mary-Kate or an Ashley?

When I was younger I was such an Ashley. But, as I’ve grown older, more and more Mary-Kate tendencies have crept in. This is a metric of self-identity on par with my zodiac sign and Myers-Brigg type.

And from my lofty perch of self-declared World’s Biggest MK&A Fan, I’m going to do something controversial. I’m going to rank the Olsen twins’ filmography.

Not based on any personal bias, mind you. This is a scientific undertaking, designed to cast aside subjective opinions and determine once and for all which Olsen twin film is the best.

But science thrives on rules, and we have to set the scope of our investigation before we begin.

Mary-Kate and Ashley have 53 and 50 acting credits respectively, many of which are series, short films or music videos. We’ll be focusing specifically on the Golden Age of Olsen Cinema, ranking their nine feature-length films made between 1999 and 2004.

Why those years, you ask? Let me counter by asking, what makes a Mary-Kate and Ashley film a Mary-Kate and Ashley film?

Put simply: approachably eccentric yet coordinated outfits, love interests straight out of preteen dreams, and a completely bonkers plotline full of mystery, intrigue and people getting arrested.

Now that we’ve broken down Olsen twin films to their base elements, we have the three main criteria for our study. We’ll be looking at films that follow these common threads (outfits, love interests and sheer insanity), putting ourselves in the minds of tweens and weighing up each film’s profound emotional and social impact.

Scientifically, of course.

#9: Switching Goals, 1999

Outfits: 3/5
Love interests: 2/5
Sheer insanity: 2/5

Unfortunately, Switching Goals occupies a strange space where it technically meets the study criteria, but not enough to actively climb the ranks. The girls are wearing soccer uniforms for a vast majority of the film, while their love interests are simultaneously too young to fairly rate and not particularly important to the plot – which doesn’t get any more whacky than the classic ‘secret twin switch’ gambit. If my system allowed it, however, I would give Switching Goals an extra mark purely for the fact that it stars an 11-year-old Michael Cera.

Total: 7/15

#8: When in Rome, 2002

Outfits: 2/5
Love interests: 3/5
Sheer insanity: 3/5

When in Rome has an unmemorable taste not often associated with Mary-Kate and Ashley’s international adventures. Love interest Paolo gets points for being Italian and having floppy hair, but there’s a disappointing lack of iconic *looks* for a film centred around a fashion internship. As far as hijinks go, the plot leans more towards repetitive inconveniences than genuine danger, before redeeming itself at the end with an unexpected arrest.

Total: 8/15

#7: Getting There, 2002

Outfits: 1/5
Love interests: 4/5
Sheer insanity: 3.5/5

Consistent bad luck is a running theme in the oeuvre of the ever-so-humble Olsen twins, and Getting There is the poster child. But while a road-trip-gone-wrong births delightful drama, it also seems to birth terrible outfits. The one mark I have graciously bestowed in this category is more to the credit of icon, star and certified country gal Charley than the twins themselves. As for the remaining criteria, Sam is a perfectly adequate lad with perfectly adequate hair, and the idea of unwittingly spending the day with an athlete you’re obsessed with borders on romantic genius.

Total: 8.5/15

#6: Passport to Paris, 1999

Outfits: 4/5
Love interests: 3.5/5
Sheer insanity: 2

This is just not a very crazy film. Sure, it’s unrealistic in terms of things that actually happen to preteen girls — but nobody gets unmasked Scooby Doo-style as an eccentric criminal, as far as I remember. Passport to Paris does, however, feature the twins’ most coordinated cinematic looks to date (you better believe I’ve spent the last 20 years repeatedly emulating their leather jacket, spaghetti strap, funky glasses combo) as well as the most fashion-forward love interests you’ll find on this list. That one French boy in the black turtleneck and bucket hat? Game changer. 

Total: 9.5/15

#5: The Challenge, 2003

Outfits: 2/5
Love interests: 4/5
Sheer insanity: 4/5

Double-crossing intern Marcus and cute jock Adam with his pockets full of banter ensure the rom-com energies of this film are elevated, even if the costume design isn’t. Meanwhile, the premise of estranged twins brought together by fate and reality television isn’t unbelievable, per se, but still borders on bonkers in the most wonderful way.

Total: 10/15

#4: Holiday in the Sun, 2001

Outfits: 2.5/5
Love interests: 3/5
Sheer insanity: 5/5

How is a film featuring a villainous Megan Fox not higher on this list, you ask? Blame the fact that outside of some very cute swimsuits, the styling in this movie is completely uninspiring and looking at love interest Jordan’s hair makes me inexplicably nauseous. But, don’t worry, love interest Griffen is tall and besotted, and the plot – artefact smuggling, boat stealing, parent tricking, cute boy arresting! – goes to a place more insane than Mary-Kate and Ashley have ever been before.

Total: 10.5/15

#3: New York Minute, 2004

Outfits: 4.5/5
Love interests: 3/5
Sheer insanity: 4/5

I’ve been waiting for it, you’ve been waiting for it, we’ve all been waiting for it. The twins’ final joint endeavour is iconic for so many reasons. Matching I Love New York shirts, a ratty little dog, an admittedly culturally iffy criminal family, the House of Bling, powerfully delivered Avril Lavigne lyrics, and Eugene Levy, just to name a few. As for romance, bike messenger Jim deserves five stars all to himself. But Jared Padalecki’s already subpar performance as Whatever His Name Is feels retroactively tainted by his current Supernatural-fuelled notoriety. 

Total: 11.5/15

#2: Winning London, 2001

Outfits: 5/5
Love interests: 5/5
Sheer insanity: 2.5/5

Let me present to you the cream of the crop; the ultimate Mary-Kate and Ashley film boys. Winning London has the best of both worlds. On one hand, you’ve got your typical spiky-haired American nice boy. On the other, the hot doctor from House M.D. Mischief and insanity are at a pretty standard level, but the outfits are quintessential Olsen. On top of the life-changing printed pants and trench coat looks you’ll remember from the film’s poster, the twins rock more uber-2000s crop tops than you can count.

Total: 12.5/15

#1: Our Lips Are Sealed, 2000

Outfits: 5/5
Love interests: 3/5
Sheer insanity: 5/5

That’s right, folks. Here it is. The best Mary-Kate and Ashley film, according to science. Now, I don’t consider myself much of a patriot, but I can’t help feeling proud. Cast aside any offence you might feel over jokes that rely heavily on exaggerated but well-earned Australian stereotypes, and bask in the totally nutso bonkers premise of this film. You’ve got it all – crime, secret identities, surfing, boat parties, a couple of nice beachy blonde boys who definitely resemble someone you regret having a crush on in primary school. And the outfits, my lord some of these outfits. I’m not kidding when I say I have a photo of the twins’ little ’60s looks saved on my Pinterest with the caption, ‘Someday’.

Total: 13/15

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