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Every Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen Movie, Ranked by Surreality

Photo: Emily Denniston/Vulture/Courtesy of the studio/Getty Images

These days, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen are mostly famous for smoking while leaning against the brick wall outside the office of their shared fashion line, The Row. However, it has been said that if we do not understand our history, we are doomed to repeat it. Which is why I’m here to remind you that, for a very long time, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen were famous for being straight-to-VHS movie stars.

Mary-Kate and Ashley do not want me to remind you about this. In fact, they’ve spent the duration of their adult lives painstakingly detaching themselves from this legacy. They speak to only one or two publications a year, exclusively about The Row and how fundamentally horrifying it is when anyone asks them anything that’s not about The Row. They skulk around New York City in massive sunglasses, hiding behind sheets of dripping-wet hair. They force guests to forfeit cell phones at their intimate weddings to old French men, where they pass around “bowls and bowls” of cigarettes. As a rebuke to being paid to smile with teeth for decades, they now never — never — smile with teeth. I both admire and fear the effort. However, I also believe it would be a failure of cultural morality on par with the plot of The Giver if we were to willingly forget about the twins’ archival film work.

So let’s dive in. From 1992 to 2004, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen starred in a total of 36 movies. Each of these 36 films is located on a sliding scale of uncanny, ranging from casually surreal to utterly phantasmagorical. They do share some consistencies: In each, they play twin sisters engaged in some kind of caper. Sometimes they play themselves; sometimes they play avatars named “Mary-Kate” and “Ashley” who do not share the real Mary-Kate and Ashley’s overwhelming international fame, a sort of tragic meditation on what their lives might have been. More often than not, they play “regular girls” named things like “Chloe” and “Riley” and “Maddie” and “Roxy.” They switch places with regularity. They are often kidnapped. Their parents are usually unmentioned — or appear only in voiceover, divorced, widowed, or dead. Their eyes always betray a profound sadness known only to overworked child stars.

Much of the twins’ early work, released on fat VHS tapes or made for TV, comprised 30-minute serial romps that fell into one of two categories: “The Adventures of Mary-Kate and Ashley” (a compelling youth-detective series) or the “You’re Invited” series (composed of various bougie parties thrown by the twins to celebrate totally random life events). In these shorter films, one of the twins takes the role of the “sporty tomboy who likes horses” (usually Mary-Kate) and one takes the role of the “priss who likes homework” (usually Ashley). They wear complementary but never matching outfits, and at some point clash over a benign issue, like whether they should ride horses or do homework, only to come together at the end of it all and reaffirm their supernatural bond. Most of these films feature original song-and-dance routines that transcend the constraints set by their respective plots. There are, occasionally, accompanying albums, too.

The twins eventually graduated to standalone, 90-minute “features,” frequently filmed in an exotic locale with two perfunctory love interests who the twins kiss exactly once, at least one rude older person or corporation standing in the way of those love interests, stunning character names plucked from Francine Pascal’s discard pile, and a consistently deranged B-plot meant to convey some larger life lesson. In these longer movies, the twins evolve from “horse girl” and “homework girl” to “free spirit” and “responsible neurotic” — one has curly hair, one has straight hair, etc. Only two of these full-length features ever played in theaters: It Takes Two and New York Minute.

Because the Olsens are nothing if not thorough, many of these films are now rather difficult to watch without spending significant amounts of cash. If you search Amazon, for example, you’ll see a majority of them listed, but described as “currently unavailable.” At the beginning of May, Hulu added only three Olsen twin films to its streaming offerings — Billboard Dad, Passport to Paris, and Switching Goals — and it was hailed as a coup. Most of the twins features are available for purchase-only at a hefty $15 on iTunes. Some of the earlier VHS tapes are ripped and chopped and screwed on YouTube, and some are available on the dark web, probably. But it would seem the Olsens’s Lynchian masterpieces are being slowly erased by time and, I’m guessing, a lot of lawyers.

As a child who grew up so profoundly obsessed with the Olsen twins that my primary mode of punishment was “we’re taking away your Olsen twins videos,” I feel it’s my patriotic duty to revisit the Olsens’ catalogue and burn it permanently into our cultural hive mind. The Olsens once (actually, many times) asked us: “Who stole the great Hope Diamond? What killed the dinosaurs? Who makes the finest pizza? What’s in your brother’s dresser drawers?” I want to honor those staggering, time-worn questions with my own: “Which Olsen twin movies test the sheer bounds of reality as we recognize it, and which merely play gently with the notions of time and space?” So I ventured deep into the internet and the annals of my brain to provide you with this surreality ranking. I’d like to think of it as a love letter to the Olsen twins, who taught me that you do not need a work permit to solve crimes at the age of 9, but that you can name yourself “Maddie” and “Riley” over and over again in various movies and nobody will do much about it.

A brief note on criteria: I’m only including films that the twins starred in together. I’m ignoring their TV work (I’m so sorry, Two Of A Kind), any minor cameos (my apologies, Charlie’s Angels), and the few projects they did separately as adults (RIP, pot-smoking Mary-Kate in The Wackness and Ashley popping up in that random 30 Seconds to Mars video). In several cases, the film in question was unavailable, so I relied entirely on Wikipedia and my unimpeachable childhood memory of it.

36. Winning London (2001)

The names: Chloe and Riley Lawrence

The plot: Winning London, one of the Olsens’ first “features,” is objectively not bad. It follows a relatively cohesive structure, though it flips the script, casting Mary-Kate as the “responsible neurotic” and Ashley as the “ditz with a crush,” which makes it ever-so-slightly surreal for someone who’s been following them since youth. The girls head to London to compete in an international Model-UN competition, and are devastated to realize that the country they usually represent, China, is already representing itself at the competition. Just like it goes down in the real UN! Meanwhile, Mary-Kate falls for a British nobleman’s son, Ashley falls in love with her mom’s best friend’s son, they all kiss (separately), and some adults make out, too.

The lesson: I’ll let Wikipedia take this one: “Tribulations are weathered and lessons learned about sportsmanship, overlooked friends, and learning to enjoy one’s youth.”

The most surreal moment: This girl’s hair.

Photo: YouTube

35. Switching Goals (1999)

The names: Sam and Emma Stanwell

The plot: “They’re twin sisters, but they couldn’t be more different!” intones the man who narrates all of Mary-Kate and Ashley’s trailers. Mary-Kate’s Sam is a soccer star who wants boys to crush on her; Ashley’s Emma is a girly crush object who wants to be better at soccer. Both do play soccer, though, to be clear. Their dad, a boy, is a soccer coach obsessed with winning at sports. Please draw this as a Venn Diagram, then come back. Profound intrigue unfolds when the girls are put on the “wrong” soccer teams and decide to switch places, then get caught. Ultimately Emma realizes her true talent is as a goalie, both find tween lust, their dad learns to chill the fuck out, and Michael Cera shows up.

The lesson: Everyone is good at soccer in their own special way.

The most surreal moment: Soccer player Alexi Lalas, name-dropped twice in the movie, shows up out of literal nowhere training youths in a field. “He’s cute!” says one of the girls. “Think he could play for us?” This is never explained.

34. The Adventures of Mary-Kate & Ashley: The Case of Thorn Mansion (1994)

The names: Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, owners and purveyors of the Olsen and Olsen Mystery Agency

The plot: This is the first in a long series of Olsen and Olsen Mystery Agency videos, wherein actual adults call the Olsens to help them solve crimes. The twins ride their bikes from California to Transylvania, alone, to see if a house is haunted. They pause in the middle to sing a song about adding the suffix “ology” to various words. The ghost turns out to be a rogue beekeeper.

The lesson: There is no afterlife.

The most surreal moment: Elizabeth Olsen makes a cameo as the twins’ annoying little sister, who asks if she can come to Transylvania, and whether she is “chopped liver” to the twins. The twins perform a long rap entitled “B-U-T-T Out,” wherein they explain they’d rather “bathe in slime” than hang out with her. It encourages a meta meditation on Elizabeth’s currently wildly successful film career and whether it was inspired by how she must have felt as a kid, excluded from her sisters’ exotic lives as overworked child stars.

33. You’re Invited to Mary-Kate & Ashley’s Sleepover Party (1995)

The names: Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, non-famous party hostesses

The plot: This is the first in the twins’ “You’re Invited” series, wherein they host tons of parties for no real reason (one that never actually happens but is namechecked in the intro: a “homework party”) and with no apparent parental budget (one takes them to Hawaii to surf for an hour). The films each have two intro setpieces: One is based on the works of Edgar Allen Poe, again for no apparent reason, and the other features the twins sporting garish overalls and singing about things “getting crazy.” In this entry in the series, Ashley is a tight-ass who can’t stop checking the Sleepover Party list; Mary-Kate is a free spirit who likes to stand on her head. Their friends come over and listen to “fresh CDs,” order pizza, do the Running Man, and antagonize the brother they nearly sold off to human traffickers (see “Our First Video”).

The lesson: Honestly, not sure.

The most surreal moment: This particular film gave birth to the infamous “Gimme Pizza” song, which is so deeply surreal and discomfiting that it enters the black hole of the uncanny and reemerges as completely normal and reasonable. Were we to look it directly in the face and acknowledge it on its own terms, we would have to acknowledge the innate chaos of the universe. We simply can’t do that here.

32. You’re Invited to Mary-Kate & Ashley’s Fashion Party (1999)

The names: Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, non-famous party hostesses

The plot: The twins fantasize about having their own fashion line and learn about the concept of “fashion college.” They tour the LA Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, perhaps in a desperate plea to break out of their current career and into their future one.

The lesson: You can learn “fashion” in a matter of 30 minutes.

The most surreal moment: Ashley sings about creating a new trend: buttons that glow in the dark.

31.You’re Invited to Mary-Kate & Ashley’s Ballet Party (1998)

The names: Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, non-famous party hostesses

The plot: Mary-Kate and Ashley go to New York with a bunch of tiny girls and do ballet in various locations, complaining about the physical toll it takes on their small and vulnerable frames.

The lesson: Practice, practice, practice, bitch!

The most surreal moment: When Mary-Kate, Ashley, and their friends put on Swan Lake costumes and chase their guardian around a tree and through Central Park, the classical soundtrack growing increasingly frantic.

30. Getting There: Sweet 16 and Licensed to Drive (2002) (Only available on used DVD)

The names: Taylor and Kylie Hunter

The plot: This, one of the more abysmal entries in the Olsen catalogue, follows the girls as they attempt to “get there,” “there” being the Salt Lake City Olympics. It has been scrubbed almost entirely from the face of the Earth, likely because the plot is centered on the sheer novelty of the twins being legally allowed to get behind the wheel of a car. Ashley as Taylor is extremely intense, and Mary-Kate as Kylie is extremely chill. They encounter a series of roadblocks, both literal and figurative, as they attempt to “get there” — including having their Ford Mustang stolen — so they do not make it to the Olympics, but they do meet a total stranger named Charly (a name that will pop up several times on this list) who offers to fly them to Utah in her parents’ private jet.

The lesson: Trust strangers who have private jets but do not trust strangers otherwise; they steal cars.

The most surreal moment: They’re 16 years old and own a Ford Mustang and their parents — shown only briefly — allow them to drive across the country with a group of friends.

29. The Adventures of Mary-Kate & Ashley: The Case of the Hotel Who-Done-It (1996)

The names: Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, owners and purveyors of the Olsen and Olsen Mystery Agency

The plot: The twins visit Hawaii — another theme in their work — and discover a thief stealing shiny things in their fancy hotel. It turns out to be a parrot.

The lesson: It is important to practice zen detachment from material goods.

The most surreal moment: In a meta song entitled, “Why Can’t We Live in a Hotel All the Time?,” the twins attempt to convince their audience that they do not mind being shuttled around the globe, never really having a home base, or performing constantly, often on cruise ships, where the theme is “Meet the Olsens.”

28. The Adventures of Mary-Kate & Ashley: The Case of the Shark Encounter (1996)

The names: Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, owners and purveyors of the Olsen and Olsen Mystery Agency

The plot: Three free-roaming male pirates with eye patches hire the girls to figure out if some sharks are singing. They are not!

The lesson: Occam’s Razor: one should not make more assumptions than the minimum needed.

The most surreal moment: The girls express a desire to live as pirates: “Give me a life of piracy and larceny!” Which is ironic, considering the fact that we are now watching these clips on YouTube.

27. You’re Invited to Mary-Kate & Ashley’s Camp-Out Party (1998)

The names: Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, non-famous party hostesses

The plot: Mary-Kate loves horses. Ashley loves shopping. They are catastrophically out of party ideas, so they settle on camping. Ashley is dubious. You know this already, but no adults supervise this trip.

The lesson: “To pack for camping, there’s just two rules: Do we need it? Is it cool?”

The most surreal moment: The girls buy thousands of dollars worth of camping gear and sustenance for a single evening outdoors.

26. You’re Invited to Mary-Kate & Ashley’s Costume Party

The names: Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, non-famous party hostesses

The plot: The twins are deep in an identity crisis. “We’ve had every kind of party known to man, Mary-Kate. What kind of party should we have now?” asks Ashley, growing increasingly panicked. They decide to deconstruct and decimate their mom’s (a mom!) closet and throw a costume party.

The lesson: It can be difficult to sit alone with your own thoughts.

The most surreal moment: The twins are stunned by the notion of an “ice-cream social.” They beam themselves “into the future” to “check out” their ice-cream social (?), where they are dressed in 1950s outfits.

25. It Takes Two (1995)

The names: Alyssa Callaway and Amanda Lemmon

The plot: It Takes Two is a genuinely good film, and I won’t hear otherwise. It’s essentially a rom-com for kids, but it also functions as a rom-com for adults, and it’s more charming and well-structured and well-written than it needs to be. Ashley is Alyssa, a prim rich girl with several tiny pantsuits and a daddy complex who hates her widowed father’s (Steve Gutenberg) new fiancé. Mary-Kate’s tomboyish Amanda is an orphan — we hit both tropes here! — who lives in Manhattan, chews multiple pieces of gum simultaneously, and is dying to be adopted by her orphanage … coordinator? (Kirstie Alley). The girls run into each other in the woods while Amanda is visiting Alyssa’s dad’s charity summer camp, realize they’re identical strangers (this is never explained on any level, nor questioned), switch places, set up their respective adult guardians, and meditate on the nature of cellular communication in the 21st century. Meanwhile, Kirstie Alley is allowed to wear gigantic sweaters with baggy pants AND play a romantic lead. The dream of the ‘90s is alive and well in It Takes Two.

The lesson: Buy things like “airspace” before a technological trend takes off. If you run into your doppelganger in the forest, do not question the nature of your identity; just go with it.

The most surreal moment: Outside of the fact that Alyssa and Amanda look the exact same but nobody has any questions about it? Perhaps it’s when Alyssa, posing as Amanda, is adopted by a pair of salvage-yard owners with the last name “Buttkiss” who exploit children by putting them to work throwing scraps of metal into large piles. At one point, the other adopted children surround Alyssa, chanting, and put a metal crown on her head. The whole thing is very chilling à la Lord of the Flies.

24. The Adventures of Mary-Kate & Ashley: The Case of the Fun House Mystery (1998)

The names: Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, owners and purveyors of the Olsen and Olsen Mystery Agency

The plot: Three carnies call the Olsens and ask them to figure out if there’s a monster in their carnival funhouse. It’s just a monkey.

The lesson: Monkeys are terrifying, though.

The most surreal moment: The twins consult a “monsterologist,” who gives them potentially dangerous advice within a song called “Mummies Have Mommies.” “Before you scream [at a monster],” he advises them, “Remember, they may just need a hug.”

23. How the West Was Fun (1994)

The names: Jessica and Suzy Martin

The plot: Jessica and Suzy are the only children of, yes, a widower. After the twins have a psychic dream, their dead mother’s godmother invites them to a dude ranch; their father gets fired from his job so they can all go check it out. There, they meet a cast of characters including a “friendly but mysterious Native American foreman” named George Tailfeathers and a man named Bart Gilfooley who wants to sabotage the ranch and turn it into a theme park named after himself, as foretold in the girls’ prophetic nightmare. At one point, the twins are kidnapped by Bart; later, the well-worn trope is subverted when the twins kidnap Bart. Eventually, they run Bart off a raging waterfall and save the ranch.

The lesson: The Olsen twins are unlikely anti-capitalists.

The most surreal moment: In a pre-Facebook world where apparently nobody can make a brief phone call, Mrs. Martin’s own godmother does not know she is dead for many, many years.

22. Holiday in the Sun (2001)

The names: Madison Brittany and Alex Anneleise Stewart

The plot: Arguably the urtext of Olsen-twins movies, this film is essentially one massive advertisement for the Atlantis Resort. As such, it makes next to no sense outside of that context. Madison and Alex — the only Olsen characters who have middle names, for no obvious reason — are rich white teens who are depressed that their parents whisked them away on a private plane to the Bahamas for spring break, rather than allowing them to go to Hawaii with their friends. This is the central tension of the film. (There are no twin-identity-based conflicts, which makes the film much more surreal in its wider context.) Eventually, the girls learn to accept the Bahamas for what it is: the fucking Bahamas. They surf, they jet ski, they make out, they wear eyeliner in the pool, they briefly spar with Megan Fox, and for about 15 minutes, they become embroiled in an international scandal involving a man named “Champlain.”

The lesson: According to Wikipedia, “But only together, they overcome everything and understand the true meaning of sisterhood, along with having a great vacation.”

The most surreal moment: This compilation of Megan Fox scenes set to dramatic pop, wherein she indicates her interest in a teen with a puka shell necklace by crowing, “I bet HE knows what time it is!” and utters the phrase, “I’m enjoying the good graces of my affluent father.” Also, the only time any people of color appear in the film — set in the Bahamas! — is when they’re awkwardly shoehorned into the “international scandal chase” montage at the end via black-and-white still photos.

21. You’re Invited to Mary-Kate & Ashley’s Christmas Party (1997)

The names: Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, non-famous party hostesses

The plot: The twins are forced to plan and execute their own Christmas party. They find themselves scrambling from a schedule perspective. They decorate a tree, sing, dance, “eat lots of cookies,” and get a visit from boys named “Seth” and “Chip.” The only interaction they have with an adult is with a FedEx employee.

The lesson: Christmas is about “giving and receiving.”

The most surreal moment: A lethargic song about baking cookies includes the lyrics, “On Christmas Day, the Gingerbread Man said, ‘Ladyfingers, be my wife.’”

20. You’re Invited to Mary-Kate and Ashley’s Mall Party (1997)

The names: Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, non-famous party hostesses

The plot: Mary-Kate and Ashley are so bored they are counting the tiles in the ceiling and the floor, respectively. So they decide to go to the Mall of America with their cool cousin Jamie, who makes vague reference to their mother, who we now know exists. At the end, they perform for the mall patrons, contradicting their alleged normie status.

The lesson: The “Rachel haircut” trend did not miss the children of Minneapolis.

The most surreal moment: The twins sing a song called “When I Grow Up, I Wanna Be a Kid,” bleakly shedding light on their stolen childhoods.

19. Billboard Dad (1998)

The names: Tess and Emily Tyler

The plot: Billboard Dad marks the twins’ official transition into their tween years, something demonstrated by their pigtail buns, tinted John Lennon sunglasses, and crushes on the bleached-blonde skater punks and inappropriately aged diving coaches of Venice, California. Mary-Kate is high-diver Tess, Ashley is surfer-chick Emily (another stunning and rare swap), and their dad is a widower — naturally. To find him a girlfriend, the twins paint a billboard advertising his attributes. They get him a girlfriend, and as a casual B-plot, expose his agent for selling knockoffs of his artwork.

The lesson: Art and commerce are inextricably linked; even a talented painter must advertise himself as a commodity to find love.

The most surreal moment: Tess’s goth crush, a 12-year-old diver covered in tattoos and piercings, gets a new tattoo and cannot dive, so Emily, a surfer with no diving experience, steps in. In slo-mo, scored by a dramatic rock soundtrack, she executes a perfect dive and saves the day. The 20-something diving coach who she’s got an intense crush on lifts her into the air by her armpits.

18. The Adventures of Mary-Kate & Ashley: The Case of the Volcano Mystery (1997)

The names: Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, owners and purveyors of the Olsen and Olsen Mystery Agency

The plot: Three heterosexual male prospectors in overalls who own a mine together and refer to each other as “sidekicks” believe a monster is terrorizing their mine. The girls bike to an island off the Gulf of Mexico and learn the real culprit is an active volcano. Regretfully, the entire mystery is spoiled by the film’s title.

The lesson: The “Adventures Of” series is really a thinly shrouded defense of science over blind faith.

The most surreal moment: The Olsens stand directly next to an active volcano with a man in a silver heat-resistant suit and sing a song about volcanoes.

17. You’re Invited to Mary-Kate & Ashley’s School Dance Party (2000)

The names: Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, non-famous party hostesses

The plot: The twins, now nearning 15 and very obviously now far too old for this series, are about to attend a school dance themed “” They sing a Lillith-Fair-esque ode to the workweek entitled “Monday Morning,” which is not to be confused with the rap anthem “Saturday Night.”

The lesson: “Don’t wait for Jesse to call you, just do what you do best: Take control!”

The most surreal moment: Watch them sing “All the Noyz about Boyz” in a school bathroom as their souls drain from their bodies. This would be their final serial film.

16. Our Lips Are Sealed (2000)

The names: Maddie and Abby Parker

The plot: Maddie and Abby have witnessed and incidentally thwarted a diamond heist, and have to enter the Witness Protection Program. Unfortunately, they are insatiable gossips and cannot stop revealing their protected status to their peers. They are sent to every single location in the entire world. They finally settle down in the “last place on Earth” they’re sent to: Sydney, Australia, where they are relentlessly pursued by the violent adult-male diamond thieves.

The lesson: The Witness Protection Program has too high of a budget.

The most surreal moment: I’ll let Wikipedia take this one: “Maddie and Abby defeat Mac and Sidney by knocking them out, tying them to surf boards and putting clips in Sidney’s hair, painting Mac’s toenails and threatening to put bras on them.”

15. Passport to Paris (1999)

The names: Melanie and Allyson Porter

The plot: Mel and Ally are boy-crazy, and this upsets their parents, who decide the only way to squelch their young lust is to send them to Paris (?!) to live with their ambassador grandfather. He’s a huge dick and won’t let them jump on their beds, so they ditch him and his nerd assistant and go romping around the city with a hot fashion model, and eventually meet French boys, whom they ride around on mopeds with and smooch at a dance. At one point they convince a government official to support the notion of clean drinking water.

The lesson: Don’t send horny tweens to Paris.

The most surreal moment: Much like in Holiday in the Sun, these spoiled-ass twins are devastated to go to Paris over their spring break. When they arrive at their grandfather’s palais, they immediately hang up a Wyclef Jean poster in … protest? An adult supermodel spends many days shuttling a pair of 13-year-old girls she just met around the city for free. One of the twins’ French paramours wears a beret at midnight and refers to her as “my creme brulee.”

14. You’re Invited to Mary-Kate & Ashley’s Birthday Party (1997)

The names: Mary-Kate and Ashley, non-famous party hostesses

The plot: The girls throw themselves a birthday party, which is extremely normal. However, yet again, they have to plan it without any help from a parental figure, and on the actual day of their birthday.

The lesson: Kids need to be supervised.

The most surreal moment: The twins seem to live alone in their own gigantic house, where they must bake their own cake, send out their own invitations, rent their own Moon Bounce by searching in the Yellow Pages, and supervise their own pool party (held on the same day). At one point, Ashley dresses up like a tavern wench. Another chilling meditation on the loneliness of fame.

13. The Adventures of Mary-Kate & Ashley: The Case of the United States Navy Adventure (1997)

The names: Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, owners and purveyors of the Olsen and Olsen Mystery Agency

The plot: An actual, government-employed astronaut asks for the Olsen twins’ help figuring out a “ticking sound” that prevents them from launching a shuttle.

The lesson: Do not trust the authorities. They collaborate with vigilante children.

The most surreal moment: The song “If We Ran The Navy,” wherein Mary-Kate and Ashley share their take on maritime policy. “We’d make a few changes, and bend a few rules,” they sing, hauntingly.

12. The Adventures of Mary-Kate & Ashley: The Case of the Sea World Adventure (1995)

The names: Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, owners and purveyors of the Olsen and Olsen Mystery Agency

The plot: This is one of the darkest and most socially aware films in the twins’ repertoire. Stunningly, they have not just one, but two parents, and the parents have an actual plot line: They’re dolphin trainers who have discovered a way to communicate with whales and dolphins. The dad is hot and their parents are far too sexually interested in each other for a children’s movie. Moving on: the twins are in search of a mystery, and they find one when they stumble upon what they believe to be a dead body in the woods. Jesus Christ.

The lesson: Do not go to Sea World.

The most surreal moment: The twins calmly walk around trying to find a corpse for 27 minutes. They board a cruise ship, alone, in pursuit of said corpse. They sneak onto said cruise ship inside a gigantic box. It turns out the whole thing was actually a ruse designed by the horny parents’ boss, Mr. Kramer, to get them all on a cruise ship for a nice family vacation. Jesus … Christ.

11. The Adventures of Mary-Kate & Ashley: The Case of the Mystery Cruise (1995)

The names: Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, owners and purveyors of the Olsen and Olsen Mystery Agency

The plot: The too-horny parents are back in this sequel to Sea World. The hot horny dad’s laptop is stolen while the family is on a cruise. They discover it was stolen by a mime named Bobo who was impersonating their fathers’ boss, Mr. Kramer.

The lesson: You can make “mucho dinero” selling a proprietary computer program about dolphins.

The most surreal moment: An entire scene centers on the girls’ parents making out aggressively in public. Later, Mary-Kate and Ashley perform a song in front of the entire cruise ship called “Who Would Ya Be?,” a thoughtful treatise on the concept of identity that name checks both Elmer Fudd and Wynonna Judd.

10. The Challenge (2003)

The names: Shane and Elizabeth Dalton

The plot: This is the Olsens’ final direct-to-video feature, and as such, it reeks of senioritis on every front. Mary-Kate is Shane, a hippie LA vegetarian who “is in harmony with nature.” Ashley is Elizabeth, a nice student who lives in DC and “hates nature.” Children of an acrimonious divorce (you know this already), they never speak. “They’re total opposites!” shrieks the trailer. When both sign up for the same Survivor-esque reality series in Mexico, they’re horrified. But soon they realize they must pull together so their team can win college scholarships and they can make out with boys without being disqualified.

The lesson: Vegans and students can be friends.

The most surreal moment: At the end of the film, in a Fellini-esque twist that marks the farewell to Mary-Kate and Ashley’s video career, the twins’ past on-screen boyfriends show up and begin arguing about who loved the twins more. The girls escape down the beach, running off camera. “You know, Ash, boys may come and go, but we’ll always have each other,” says Mary-Kate. “And that’s not just in the movies!”

9.The Adventures of Mary-Kate & Ashley: The Case of the Christmas Caper (1995)

The names: Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, owners and purveyors of the Olsen and Olsen Mystery Agency

The plot: To be quite clear, this is the twins’ second of three Christmas films (see number 7). Three dwarves with red hair who work at “Elf Airlines” call on the twins after Santa is in some kind of violent plane accident. The twins solve the hardware problem by finding a snake inside the airline’s computer. It turns out a child who has taken on the name Ebenezer Scrooge has been purposefully fucking with the airline’s infrastructure.

The lesson: You can’t stop the spirit of Christmas, even if Santa is in an aeronautical accident. You just can’t.

The most surreal moment: The twins remind us, yet again, that they are overworked and existentially parched. “There’s too much to do,” they sing. “What can we say? We’re totally crazed, can’t you see?”

8. The Adventures of Mary-Kate & Ashley: The Case of the Logical i Ranch (1994)

The names: Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, owners and purveyors of the Olsen and Olsen Mystery Agency

The plot: Three heretosexual “singing cowboys” who fear cows and share a ranch in “Dead Gulch, USA” ask the twins to figure out if a dragon has infiltrated their home. The twins discover the ranch is merely built atop an active geological site overflowing with oil. To celebrate, they sing a ballad called “Lotta Rocks” with a librarian named Marian Winklestammer about the bittersweet beauty of our planet’s geological history, then bathe in the oil.

The lesson: The Olsen twins are shills for BP.

The most surreal moment: In a dark ode to capitalism, the twins dress in sparkly shirts and sunglasses and sing a lament about how they have “nothing much to do” after eating, doing homework, and solving hundreds of mysteries. Later, they sing a song called “It’s Not Logical” about the murky paradoxes of the universe.

7. To Grandmother’s House We Go (1992)

The names: Sarah and Julie Thompson

The plot: In the Olsens’ first-ever made-for-TV feature, they play adorable children of divorce who overhear their overworked single mom saying they’re a “handful.” So the twins give her a Christmastime vacation, packing their bags and heading to, yes, grandmother’s house. The entire film details their difficult journey; for the most part, they travel around with a stranger who has a crush on their mom and drives a delivery truck. Eventually they are kidnapped by two “robbers” and their mom and the delivery man are forced to raise random money by committing mail fraud.

The lesson: If you run away, you will get kidnapped, but eventually your family will win the lottery.

The most surreal moment: Either when hardened criminal Rhea Perlman holds the Olsen twins for ransom, or when the twins walk up to a black street performer and drop chicken bones into his trumpet case.

6. The Adventures of Mary-Kate & Ashley: The Case of the U.S. Space Camp Mission (1997)

The names: Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, owners and purveyors of the Olsen and Olsen Mystery Agency

The plot: This one centers on the potential discovery of UFOs, which the twins calmly reveal are really just “low-flying satellites.” OKAY, GEORGE BUSH. At one point, Mary-Kate and Ashley sing a desperate song about how their doggy ate their homework, which took them a month to do (?), and implore their educators to believe them: “Teacher, oh dear teacher, can I talk to you??”

The lesson: Even in the face of potential world-altering intel, the day-to-day demands of quotidian life are hard to shake.

The most surreal moment: A white man in a stereotypical “Japanese” garb encourages the twins to meditate in order to solve the question of intergalactic life. “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” he sings. “What is the color of clear?”

5. Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen: Our First Video (1995) (VHS and YouTube only)

The names: Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, child stars

The plot: In a case fit for the Olsen twins, Our First Video has mysteriously disappeared in every official sense. It’s not listed on IMDb as an Olsen release. It’s only available on Amazon in VHS format or ripped on YouTube. Even if it weren’t online, unfortunately for the Olsens’ lawyers, I would be able to remember it perfectly, as I watched it 400 times as a youth. This is a compilation of several Olsen-centric music videos, including “I Am the Cute One” — in which the sisters argue over who is cuter — a freakily prescient video entitled “No One Tells the President What To Do,” a song exclusively centered on how good peanut butter is, and a vignette in which they attempt to human-traffic their own brother.

The lesson: Child trafficking is fine and actually cute if you, the trafficker, are also a child.

The most surreal moment: “No One Tells the President What To Do” centers on the notion that the president is exempt from all laws governing human behavior. A Bill Clinton impersonator stars alongside the twins, sensually playing the saxophone atop his desk, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively. The girls dance with pieces of broccoli.

4. You’re Invited to Mary-Kate & Ashley’s Hawaiian Beach Party (1996)

The names: Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, non-famous party hostesses

The plot: Back to freakin’ Hawaii for these 9-year-olds. This time, they decide to go on a whim, bring a bunch of other children, and frolic, unattended, in the Pacific Ocean. They reveal themselves to be prolific surfers.

The lesson: It’s a wild, wet, wacky, wonderful world.

The most surreal moment: The girls sing a song called “We Need a Vacation,” a thinly shrouded but desperate plea for their Svengali-esque manager Robert Thorne to release them from their grueling contracts. “I thought being a kid would be fun!” shrieks Mary-Kate.

3. When In Rome (2002)

The names: Leila and Charli Hunter

The plot: Leila and Charli, who do not have any distinctive characteristics, are fashion interns who get fired multiple times while working in “Roma, Roma, Roma,” which they say at least 400 times throughout the film. The twins also speak the title of the film in the film, which is a new low for the Olsens. Much comic fodder is made of their inability to do things like work an espresso machine and flip pizza dough. An Olsen trope is subverted when one of them kisses a boy, and the other merely hugs a boy. Meanwhile, this film’s particular international scandal centers on stolen couture and men with heavy Italian accents.

The lesson: As one fellow intern aptly puts it, “Women and shopping. Never ends!”

The most surreal moment: Leila and Charli Hunter ostensibly exist within the same cinematic universe as the Getting There twins, Taylor and Kylie Hunter. But this is never addressed. Are the Hunter twins actually estranged Hunter quadruplets, each having their own adventures on opposite sides of the world? Or does When in Rome represent a split in the space-time continuum, a separate strand of the multiverse wherein Taylor and Kylie never received their own Mustang, changed their names, and fled to Rome?

2. Double, Double, Toil and Trouble (1993)

The names: Kelly and Lynn Farmer

The plot: The Olsens’ second made-for-TV movie, Double, Double, Toil and Trouble, laid waste to the Oxford comma and co-starred Cloris Leachman as the twins’ “cold and cruel” Great Aunt Agatha. Twin sisters Kelly and Lynn Farmer are on a mission to help their parents escape from crushing debt, so they ask Aunt Agatha, who has a big-ass mansion, for a loan. Being cold and cruel, she refuses. Aunt Agatha’s personal grave digger (!) informs Kelly and Lynn that Agatha actually has her own twin, Sophia, who’s trapped inside a mirror in the mansion because of an ancient witch’s moonstone, now possessed by Agatha. The twins set out to rescue Sophia from the mirror.

The lesson: Do not use moonstones recklessly. In the beginning of the movie, the twins are “tired of being identical” and want to use the moonstone to stop being identical. (Please note that in real life, the Olsen twins are fraternal.) By the end, they want to be identical again.

The most surreal moment: Honestly, this is hard. Is it when several people become turtles? Is it the end of the film, when Aunt Agatha, now trapped in several shards of the mirror, yells at the twins, “I hate Halloween!”? Or is it this part, helpfully summarized by Wikipedia: “The first person they meet is a homeless man who dreams of money and stardom, Mr. N (Meshach Taylor), who offers to help the girls because they shouldn’t be on such a dangerous journey without an adult. The girls carry with them a toy magic wand that they won at a Halloween party days before, which actually has unexplained genuine magical powers. Kelly, Lynn, and Mr. N visit a phony psychic to ask where they are able to find the witches’ gathering that Aunt Agatha will attend that night, but Lulu is unable to answer, so instead, they use the wand to find the location and set off again by secretly hitching a ride on a pumpkin truck. They get dropped off near a woodland and find a small house deep inside, the home of a man named Oscar (Phil Fondacaro) who wishes to be taller.”

1.New York Minute (2004)

The names: Jane and Roxy Ryan

The plot: New York Minute is the last film ever to feature both Olsen twins, and the last release by Dualstar, the twins’ privately owned production brand. Released in theaters just before the twins turned 18 and evaporated into thin air, it hits every Olsen trope: 1) Jane, played by Ashley, is — wait for it — neurotic with glasses and straight hair, and Roxy, played by Mary-Kate, is deranged with curls. Jane uses toilet-seat liners on her personal toilet and wants to go to Oxford; Roxy skips school to go to a metal show and wants to be … a rock star. (Imagine if their parents’ had named them in the opposite order — chaos.) They are not friends. 2) Their father, played by Dr. Drew for literally no reason, is widowed. The film follows Roxy and Jane as the former tries to get her demo to a famous Blink 182-esque band, and as the latter tries to give a speech to win a college fellowship. 3) Both encounter a series of increasingly insane roadblocks as they attempt to achieve their goals, including 4) becoming incidentally embroiled in an international scandal. 5) They are abducted, briefly, twice. 6) At the end, after an identity swap, they 7) realize they love each other even though one wears a red beret and the other wears a pink suit, and both 8) make out with a boy.

The lesson: You can make the same movie 36 times and still make $14 million in U.S. box office.

The most surreal moment: This film is gorgeously demented. Where to begin? Roxy wears flip-flops around Manhattan on purpose. New York City is depicted as a kaleidoscope of horrors, full of criminals and filthy alcoholics, but also so small that it’s possible to accidentally run into the same eight people all day long. Jane scolds Roxy for helping a homeless man. Instances of casual racism include the twins entering a black hair salon and saying, “We’re not in Kansas anymore,” and a white villain putting on a stereotypical Asian accent for the duration of the film. An entire scene centers on the comedy of having to use a bodega bathroom, and ends with Jane falling down the toilet. Later the girls end up inside a sewer. Eugene Levy is a truancy officer whose entire life is based around stalking and exposing Roxy. The Osbournes have supporting roles. A key plot point revolves around a dog taking a shit. Most upsettingly, they spend an inordinate amount of time in Times Square.

Every Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen Movie, Ranked by Surreality