After days of teasing behind-the-scenes footage and photos on Instagram, the full music video for Ariana Grande‘s breakup single and 2018’s unofficial national anthem “Thank U, Next” finally arrived today (November 30). We knew ahead of time that the video would be iconic—how could it not with lyrics that name-check her exes and hints that the video would reference early-2000s classics? The final video is so compelling, though, it merits a scene-by-scene breakdown.
The “Thank U, Next” music video does the most in the best way. Every scene includes a nod to one of four iconic early-aughts films: Mean Girls, Bring It On, Legally Blonde, and 13 Going on 30, with Grande playing the lead characters (Regina George, Torrance Shipman, Elle Woods, and Jenna Rink—Grande has the range!) There’s moments you don’t need a movie marathon to recognize: Writing in the Burn Book as Regina George, marching into Harvard Yard with a chihuahua in tow as Elle Woods—you get the idea. Even with on-the-nose tributes to these classics, Grande managed to sneak in deep-dive details from each movie. Ahead, catch up on all the hidden movie references you may have missed on your first watch, organized by each epic throwback film.
1. Ariana Grande did it, so I did it. “Thank U, Next” opens with several odes to Mean Girls—but Grande doesn’t appear on-screen for the first several clips. In Regina George fashion, she’s introduced by legions of admirers from North Shore High—including the original Aaron Samuels, Jonathan Bennett—talking about their devotion to the pop star. (Including: Punching oneself in the face after an Ariana “knock out” tweet, hearing that she said their “hair looks sexy pushed back,” and getting pregnant because they heard Ariana was pregnant. Yikes.)
2. The Burn Book Where Regina George crucified the fellow students she couldn’t stand, Ariana-as-Regina’s Burn Book is a little different. She makes a page for the exes name-checked in the song, including a surprise apology “Srry I dipped,” she writes.
3. The Plastics Several shots show Ariana and her crew of pink-clad Plastics walking the halls of North Shore High in perfect formation. They were outfits extremely similar to the original film, down to Cady Heron’s pink polo shirt. One member, ostensibly Karen Smith, grabs her chest in reference to her “sixth sense.”
4. The Winter Talent Show “Forget Jingle Bell Rock.” Ariana Grande and the Plastics put on a song-and-scandalous-dance routine to “Thank U, Next,” but they keep the red leather Santa costumes from Mean Girls for the performance.
5. “I’m not a regular mom, I’m a cool mom.” While the Plastics perform on stage, the camera cuts to Kris Jenner in the audience, playing the “cool mom” part originated by Amy Poehler. She’s got the exact same costume, too: Pink tracksuit, handheld camera, and awkward dance moves. Give her an Oscar!
Bring It On
6. The Rancho Carne Toros get their cheer on. Grande’s nods to Bring It On largely took place in cheerleading scenes on the sidelines of a football game, where she and her teammates wore “TUN” (“Thank U, Next”) emblazoned uniforms in the red-and-black print of the Rancho Carne Toros. There were also appearances by the rival East Compton Clovers in green and yellow.
7. Torrance and Cliff are adorable, and there’s a mix tape. Side-by-side, there’s no missing the reference to Torrance and Cliff’s tooth-brushing meet-cute scene in Bring It On. Just like the film, they’re hanging out in their pajamas and falling in love over passing the Crest bottle. Then, like in the film, Grande’s on-screen love interest hands her a mix tape; though, we’re betting there’s no hard-rock like in the Kirsten Dunst original.
8. The Clovers and the Rancho Carne Toros face off.
There’s a final dance-off and kickline with members of both cheer squads to finish the video. (It’s a cheer-ocracy!) For the record, the tribute got the movie’s stamp of approval.
9. “Woods, Comma Elle.” Halfway through the video, Ariana Grande rolls up to Harvard University as Elle Woods in a navy blue convertible and a head-to-toe pink outfit. (Again, just like the movie.) She struts through campus ready to study law and take names in a way that Reese Witherspoon would definitely approve of.
10. Bruiser Woods Elle Woods is nothing without her fabulous companion, Bruiser Woods. He gets the star treatment in Grande’s video, including a shot on a pool float that’s a call-out to Elle’s video application to Harvard.
11. Books and Bikinis Studying in the library isn’t Elle Woods’ style: Grande-as-Elle brushes up on her studies outside in a bikini and a feathered jacket. In what some are calling a sly political statement, she’s reading up on immigration law.
12. “Endorphins make you happy.” Elle Woods’ Harvard Law School dorm room is equipped with an elliptical machine she uses while she studies. (Multitasking, why not.) Grande’s take on scenes where Elle works out in her room include that piece of equipment—but she’s working out for herself.
13. The Bend and Snap Many of Legally Blonde‘s most iconic moments take place in a Cambridge nail salon, where Elle links up with Jennifer Coolidge’s Paulette. Grande brought Coolidge back for shot-for-shot pep-talks in the nail salon, and the return of the bend-and-snap dance sequence.
14. The Hunky UPS Delivery Guy It wouldn’t be a Legally Blonde tribute without a visit from the UPS man—only, in Ariana’s universe, he’s visiting from another three-letter organization.
13 Going On 30
14. Jenna’s Doll House 13 Going on 30 had the briefest appearance in the music video, but it made an impact. Grande’s breakup haircut is on full display while she plays with Jenna’s dream Barbie house from the movie and has a good ‘ol happy cry. She wears a red blouse like Jennifer Garner’s in the original film.
Have you seen a music video with more on-point references? We didn’t think so. To all the other pop artists that were vying for video of the year: Thank u, try again in 2019.