The Manic Pixie Dream Girls (MPDG)

by JustStone | created - 17 Jul 2013 | updated - 11 months ago | Public

This is my list of all the Manic Pixie Dream Girl (MPDG) films I think really define what the MPDG is, so no Eternal Sunshine or Annie Hall here. What is MPDG you might ask? well as Nathan Rabin who coined the term has stated they are "that bubbly, shallow cinematic creature that exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures."

Well put Nathan! In my opinion the MPDG solely exists (like a come to life fairy/angel/muse or ahem, pixie) to remind the lonely, sad, depressed, existential, misanthropic, young man what life and love is really all about, and occasionally act as a muse to reignite their creativity. They are sometimes sporting a pixie hair cut, and act like a child in an arrested development who is carefree and has no character arch or emotions except for happy, cheerful, and whimsical. They exist as a one dimensional character, only to get the male protagonist out of his slump which he calls life.

Films I didn't include because I don't think they fit for whatever reason:

  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  • Annie Hall
  • Harold And Maude
  • I Love You Alice B. Tolkas
  • Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
  • Something About Mary
  • Breakfast at Tiffany's
  • Bringing up Baby
  • French New Wave (Jules & Jim/Breathless/A Woman is a Woman)
  • Some Like it Hot
  • Almost Famous
  • Weird Science
  • The Apartment (or any Shirley MaClaine film)
  • Stranger Than Fiction
  • Joe Versus The Volcano
  • The Palm Beach Story/It Happened One Night
  • Autumn in New York
  • Two Lovers
  • Moonlight Mile
  • The Last Kiss
  • LA Story
  • Happy Go Lucky
  • Amélie
  • Along Came Polly
  • Petulia
  • Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
  • Its Kind of a Funny Story
  • The Baxter
  • Youth in Revolt
  • Xanadu* (*actual muse)

Here is my list (categorized by year), comment if you think I should add a film or if I missed any important ones!

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1. Roman Holiday (1953)

Not Rated | 118 min | Comedy, Romance

78 Metascore

A bored and sheltered princess escapes her guardians and falls in love with an American newsman in Rome.

Director: William Wyler | Stars: Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn, Eddie Albert, Hartley Power

Votes: 123,024

I'm not adding Breakfast at Tiffany's because I think Audrey Hepburn is more of a MPDG in Holiday than she is in Tiffany's. Just my opinion.

2. Paris When It Sizzles (1964)

Approved | 110 min | Comedy, Romance

The sprightly young assistant of a Hollywood screenwriter helps him over his writer's block by acting out his fantasies of possible plots.

Director: Richard Quine | Stars: William Holden, Audrey Hepburn, Grégoire Aslan, Raymond Bussières

Votes: 7,461

Audrey plays a different kind of MPDG here, the kind the helps the protagonist write a script instead of one that helps him get over depression or mundane existence or whatever. Its an understated performance and I love this film!

3. Barefoot in the Park (1967)

G | 106 min | Comedy, Romance

55 Metascore

Paul, a conservative young lawyer, marries the vivacious Corie. Their highly passionate relationship descends into comical discord in a five-flight New York City walk-up apartment.

Director: Gene Saks | Stars: Robert Redford, Jane Fonda, Charles Boyer, Mildred Natwick

Votes: 15,960 | Gross: $19.99M

Technically not a manic pixie dream girl because Jane Fonda has settled down (and we all know MPDG's don't settle down) with Robert Redford as his wife in the film. But I'm sure she was a MPDG before they got married and her character is still pixieish, so I will give it an honorable mention.

4. What's Up, Doc? (1972)

G | 94 min | Comedy

The accidental mix-up of four identical plaid overnight bags leads to a series of increasingly wild and wacky situations.

Director: Peter Bogdanovich | Stars: Barbra Streisand, Ryan O'Neal, Madeline Kahn, Kenneth Mars

Votes: 18,808 | Gross: $5.64M

5. Butterflies Are Free (1972)

PG | 109 min | Comedy, Drama, Music

A blind man moves into his own apartment against the wishes of his overprotective mother and befriends the freethinking young woman next door.

Director: Milton Katselas | Stars: Goldie Hawn, Edward Albert, Eileen Heckart, Paul Michael Glaser

Votes: 4,442 | Gross: $0.25M

Goldie Hawn was the MPDG of the 70's, hands down.

6. Desperately Seeking Susan (1985)

PG-13 | 104 min | Comedy, Drama

71 Metascore

A bored suburban housewife, seeking escape from her life, suffers amnesia after an accident, wakes up, and is mistaken for a free-spirited New York City drifter named Susan.

Director: Susan Seidelman | Stars: Rosanna Arquette, Madonna, Aidan Quinn, Mark Blum

Votes: 20,276 | Gross: $27.40M

Rosanna Arquette becomes a MPDG through amnesia! Madonna would later become one herself (see below)

7. Something Wild (1986)

R | 114 min | Comedy, Crime, Romance

73 Metascore

A free-spirited woman "kidnaps" a yuppie for a weekend of adventure. But the fun quickly takes a dangerous turn when her ex-convict husband shows up.

Director: Jonathan Demme | Stars: Jeff Daniels, Melanie Griffith, Ray Liotta, George 'Red' Schwartz

Votes: 15,572 | Gross: $8.36M

A pretty run of the mill MPDG action/adventure film. Notice the short almost like pixie cut on Griffith.

8. Out of Bounds (1986)

R | 93 min | Action, Crime, Drama

Daryl's parents ship him off to the big city to live with his brother, hoping he will have a better life there. After a baggage mix-up at the airport, Daryl finds himself in possession of a drug cache, which a drug dealer wants back.

Director: Richard Tuggle | Stars: Anthony Michael Hall, Jenny Wright, Jeff Kober, Glynn Turman

Votes: 1,203 | Gross: $5.10M

This is a real overlooked gem in the MPDG department. Jenny Wright owns the MPDG role in this film. If you can find it (I don't think its on DVD) rent this sucker and watch it for all its MPDG glory!

9. Who's That Girl (1987)

PG | 92 min | Comedy, Music, Romance

27 Metascore

The life of an uptight tax lawyer turns chaotic when he is asked to escort a young woman newly released from prison, who persuades him to help prove her innocence.

Director: James Foley | Stars: Madonna, Griffin Dunne, Haviland Morris, John McMartin

Votes: 9,191 | Gross: $7.31M

Madonna: the quintessential MPDG of the 80's. Sigh.

10. The Accidental Tourist (1988)

PG | 121 min | Drama, Romance

53 Metascore

An emotionally distant writer of travel guides must carry on with his life after his son is killed and his marriage crumbles.

Director: Lawrence Kasdan | Stars: William Hurt, Kathleen Turner, Geena Davis, Amy Wright

Votes: 14,329 | Gross: $32.63M

11. L.A. Story (1991)

PG-13 | 95 min | Comedy, Drama, Fantasy

66 Metascore

With the help of a talking freeway billboard, a wacky weatherman tries to win the heart of an English newspaper reporter, who is struggling to make sense of the strange world of early 1990s Los Angeles.

Director: Mick Jackson | Stars: Steve Martin, Victoria Tennant, Richard E. Grant, Sarah Jessica Parker

Votes: 28,715 | Gross: $28.86M

12. Career Opportunities (1991)

PG-13 | 83 min | Comedy, Romance

41 Metascore

Jim is the dorky son of a local cement contractor who lives at home and has no direction. Josie is the gorgeous daughter of a wealthy businessman who dreams of leaving town. They find they have a lot in common.

Director: Bryan Gordon | Stars: Frank Whaley, Jennifer Connelly, Dermot Mulroney, Kieran Mulroney

Votes: 9,892 | Gross: $11.34M

The MPDG in a Target overnight, film.

13. True Romance (1993)

R | 119 min | Crime, Drama, Romance

59 Metascore

In Detroit, a lonely pop culture geek marries a call girl, steals cocaine from her pimp, and tries to sell it in Hollywood. Meanwhile, the owners of the cocaine, the Mob, track them down in an attempt to reclaim it.

Director: Tony Scott | Stars: Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer

Votes: 199,396 | Gross: $12.28M

14. Mad Love (1995)

PG-13 | 93 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

The wild and sexy story of two passionate young people who take to the road for the incredible adventure of their lives.

Director: Antonia Bird | Stars: Chris O'Donnell, Drew Barrymore, Matthew Lillard, Richard Chaim

Votes: 6,009 | Gross: $15.45M

Well this is more of a run away love story, yet Drew is a MPDG in it, so I'll let it slide.

15. Sweet November (2001)

PG-13 | 119 min | Drama, Romance

27 Metascore

A workaholic executive, and an unconventional woman agree to a personal relationship for a short period. In this short period she changes his life.

Director: Pat O'Connor | Stars: Keanu Reeves, Charlize Theron, Jason Isaacs, Greg Germann

Votes: 83,451 | Gross: $25.29M

I don't like counting the ones where the MPDG is (spoiler) terminally i'll, and therefore living life to the fullest/whimsical because she has no time left, not because she is naturally this way. However Theron epitomizes the MPDG persona here, so yeah.

16. Garden State (2004)

R | 102 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

67 Metascore

A quietly troubled young man returns home for his mother's funeral after being estranged from his family for a decade.

Director: Zach Braff | Stars: Zach Braff, Peter Sarsgaard, Natalie Portman, Ian Holm

Votes: 204,343 | Gross: $26.78M

The resurrection of the MPDG for the indie film/music decade.

17. The Girl Next Door (2004)

R | 109 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

47 Metascore

A teenager's dreams come true when a former porn star moves in next door and they fall in love.

Director: Luke Greenfield | Stars: Emile Hirsch, Nicholas Downs, Elisha Cuthbert, Timothy Olyphant

Votes: 196,611 | Gross: $14.59M

Oh Elisha Cuthbert, you are my favorite MPDG...even if you're a porn star.

18. Elizabethtown (2005)

PG-13 | 123 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

45 Metascore

During a hometown memorial for his Kentucky-born father, a young man begins an unexpected romance with a too-good-to-be-true stewardess.

Director: Cameron Crowe | Stars: Orlando Bloom, Kirsten Dunst, Susan Sarandon, Alec Baldwin

Votes: 66,128 | Gross: $26.84M

The film that birthed the term Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Meh, still not the best example of one though.

19. Numb (I) (2007)

R | 93 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

A chronically depressed screenwriter desperately tries to cure his condition when he meets the girl of his dreams.

Director: Harris Goldberg | Stars: Matthew Perry, Lynn Collins, Kevin Pollak, Bob Gunton

Votes: 7,980

20. In Search of a Midnight Kiss (2007)

Not Rated | 90 min | Comedy, Romance

64 Metascore

Broke and alone on New Year's Eve, Wilson just wants to spend the rest of a very bad year in bed. But, when his best friend convinces him to post a personal ad, he meets a woman bent on finding the right guy to be with at midnight.

Director: Alex Holdridge | Stars: Scoot McNairy, Sara Simmonds, Brian McGuire, Kathleen Luong

Votes: 7,851 | Gross: $0.17M

Another missed MPDG gem. Good performances for the little indie film that could.

21. My Sassy Girl (2008)

PG-13 | 92 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

A sweet Midwestern guy with his life planned out for himself is wooed, groomed, and ultimately dumped by a complicated, elusive gal.

Director: Yann Samuell | Stars: Elisha Cuthbert, Jesse Bradford, Austin Basis, Chris Sarandon

Votes: 19,319

Elisha Cuthbert is a repeat offender along with Hepburn, Hawn, and Deschanel.

22. Gigantic (2008)

R | 98 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

38 Metascore

A mattress salesman finds his plan to adopt a Chinese baby augmented by the arrival of a young woman, who comes into his workplace, falls asleep on one of the beds, and starts to affect his life upon waking up.

Director: Matt Aselton | Stars: Paul Dano, Zooey Deschanel, John Goodman, Edward Asner

Votes: 9,297 | Gross: $0.10M

A pre "500 Days of Summer" Zooey Deschanel MPDG role.

23. 500 Days of Summer (2009)

PG-13 | 95 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

76 Metascore

An offbeat romantic comedy about a woman who doesn't believe true love exists, and the young man who falls for her.

Director: Marc Webb | Stars: Zooey Deschanel, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Geoffrey Arend, Chloë Grace Moretz

Votes: 459,571 | Gross: $32.39M

This is by far the quintessential MPDG film. Zooey Deschanel is the quintessential MPDG.

24. Ruby Sparks (2012)

R | 104 min | Comedy, Drama, Fantasy

67 Metascore

A novelist struggling with writer's block finds romance in a most unusual way: by creating a female character he thinks will love him, then willing her into existence.

Directors: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris | Stars: Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas

Votes: 93,629 | Gross: $2.54M

Ah yes the anti-MPDG film. I don't care what Zoe Kazan says about these kinds of films or her social critique of the MPDG and misogyny. She still wrote a film about a MPDG. End of Story.

25. Barefoot (I) (2014)

PG-13 | 90 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

22 Metascore

The "black sheep" son of a wealthy family meets a young psychiatric patient who's been raised in isolation her entire life. He then takes the naive young woman home for his brother's wedding.

Director: Andrew Fleming | Stars: Evan Rachel Wood, Scott Speedman, J.K. Simmons, Treat Williams

Votes: 22,474 | Gross: $0.01M

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