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Here’s Your Guide to the Movie References in Ariana Grande’s ‘Thank U, Next’ Music Video

4 minute read

Leave it to Ariana Grande to capture the essence of the teen rom-com with her music video for “Thank U, Next.”

In the highly anticipated video released on Friday, Grande pays homage to films like Mean Girls, Legally Blonde, Bring It On and 13 Going on 30 by channeling their sweet storylines. Viewers will even spot some cameos from some of the films’ stars.

The song, which has maintained the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks as of Friday, is a widely discussed self-love anthem that arrived in the wake of much public conversation about Grande’s past romantic relationships. “Thank U, Next” was released just weeks after she and Saturday Night Live cast member Pete Davidson called off their engagement, and two months after Grande’s ex-boyfriend, the rapper and producer Mac Miller, died from an accidental overdose.

In the video, Grande cheekily pokes fun at the public’s curiosity about her personal life, recreating the gossip sequence about queen bee Regina George (Rachel McAdams) in Mean Girls. She also channels Elle Woods (played by Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde), Torrance Shipman (played by Kirsten Dunst in Bring It On) and other pop-culture heroines, employing the references in service to her message about the challenges of moving on after a breakup.

Here, we’ve compiled a handy guide to every movie reference that Ariana Grande squeezed in “Thank U, Next.” You can thank us later.

Mean Girls

Like any true queen bee, Mean Girls takes precedent as the alpha rom-com in “Thank U, Next.” Grande dresses up in full Regina George looks, down to the Louis Vuitton purses, silver initial necklace and long blonde hair. The video’s typography and the song’s original artwork mimic that of the film and, of course, its infamous “Burn Book.”

Additionally, some of the most high-profile cameos in the music video appear during the Mean Girls segments, with Jonathan Bennett returning as high school heartthrob Aaron Samuels and Stefanie Drummond as a major Regina enthusiast. Grande collaborator Troye Sivan appears in the video in a letterman jacket, while YouTube stars Colleen Ballinger and Gabi DeMartino and Grande’s former Victorious co-star, Elizabeth Gillies, round out the crew as Cady Heron and the rest of the Plastics. Kris Jenner makes a delightful appearance as Regina’s “cool mom.”

Legally Blonde

Grande went full valley girl for the Legally Blonde-inspired segments of the music video, where she sported a pink maribou feather Adam Selman tube top that would have warmed the cockles of Elle Woods’ heart. From studying on an orange MacBook Pro while working out on the ellipticals like any hard-working Harvard student to hanging out with the legendary Jennifer Coolidge, who reprises her role as Paulette, Grande portrays a woman ready to keep up with whatever life throws her way.

Luckily, the real Elle Woods has already given it her blessing.

13 Going on 30

Grande made a convincing Jenna Rink crashing the wedding, complete with her Barbie Dream House.

Bring It On

Grande’s been a longtime champion of the high ponytail, so it seems only fitting that she would channel the cheerleaders of Bring It On in “Thank U, Next.” Dressed up in a red cheerleading costume that reads “TUN” for “Thank U, Next” but looks quite similar to the one worn by the Rancho Carne Toros, Grande’s cheer squad faces off the East Compton Lovers, a reference to the beloved Clovers.

And while it seems that both the Lovers and the TNU Toros brought the heat, a number of Bring It On’s most formidable cheerleaders also threw in their bids to join Grande’s squads.

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Write to Cady Lang at cady.lang@timemagazine.com