Theatrical release poster
Directed by Ben Stiller
Produced by
Screenplay by
Story by
  • Drake Sather
  • Ben Stiller
Music by David Arnold
Cinematography Barry Peterson
Edited by Greg Hayden
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • September 28, 2001 (2001-09-28)
Running time
89 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $28 million
Box office $60.8 million

Zoolander is a 2001 American comedy film directed by Ben Stiller and starring Stiller, Owen Wilson and Will Ferrell.[2] The film contains elements from a pair of short films directed by Russell Bates and written by Drake Sather and Stiller for the VH1 Fashion Awards television specials in 1996 and 1997. The short films and the film itself feature a dimwitted, narcissistic male model named Derek Zoolander, played by Stiller. The film involves Zoolander becoming the pawn of corrupt fashion executives who are plotting to assassinate the Prime Minister of Malaysia. The name "Derek Zoolander" was inspired by names of two male models who both worked for Calvin Klein: the Dutchman Mark Vanderloo and the American Johnny Zander.[3][4]

A satire on the fashion industry, the film received generally positive reviews from critics and was a box office success. A sequel, Zoolander 2, was released on February 12, 2016,[5] to negative reviews. An animated series, Zoolander: Super Model, was released on Netflix UK in August 2016.[6]


The narcissistic and dim-witted but good-natured Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) is ousted as the top male fashion model by the rising star Hansel (Owen Wilson), and his reputation is further tarnished by a critical article from journalist Matilda Jeffries (Christine Taylor). After his three roommates and colleagues are killed in a "freak gasoline-fight accident", Derek announces his retirement from modeling and goes to the country to attempt to reconnect with his working class father Larry (Jon Voight) and brothers Luke (Vince Vaughn) and Scrappy (Judah Friedlander) by helping them in the coal mines. Derek's delicate methods make him an impractical miner, and his family rejects him.

Meanwhile, fashion mogul Jacobim Mugatu (Will Ferrell) and Derek's agent Maury Ballstein (Jerry Stiller) are charged by the fashion industry with finding a model who can be brainwashed into assassinating the new progressive-leaning Prime Minister of Malaysia, allowing them to retain cheap child labor in the country. Though Mugatu has previously refused to work with Derek for any show, Derek accepts Mugatu's offer to star in the next runway show.

Mugatu takes Derek to his headquarters, masked as a day spa, where Derek is conditioned to attempt the assassination when the song "Relax" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood is played. Matilda, feeling partially responsible for Derek's retirement, becomes suspicious of Mugatu's offer and, tipped off by an anonymous caller, tries to enter the spa, but is thrown out. Matilda tries to voice her concerns to Derek once he leaves, but he ignores her.

Matilda follows Derek to a pre-runway party, where, upon being challenged by Hansel, Derek loses to Hansel in a "walk-off" judged by David Bowie. Matilda receives another anonymous call to meet at a nearby cemetery. Matilda along with Derek find the anonymous caller is hand model J.P. Prewett (David Duchovny), who explains that the fashion industry has been behind several political assassinations, and the brainwashed models are soon killed after they have completed their task. Katinka (Milla Jovovich), Mugatu's tough henchwoman, and her aides attack the group, forcing Derek and Matilda to flee.

They decide to go to Hansel's home, the last place they believe Mugatu will think to look. Derek, Hansel, and Matilda bond. Matilda admits the reason she hates models is because she was bullied as a child for being overweight and developed bulimia, and that she believes models hurt people's self-esteem. Derek and Hansel resolve their differences while partaking of Hansel's collection of narcotics and participating in group sex with Matilda and others. While recovering, Derek also finds that he is falling in love with Matilda. Derek and Hansel break into Maury's office to find evidence of the assassination plot, but they cannot operate his computer to find them. Derek leaves for the show.

Matilda tries to intercept Derek before the show, but Katinka thwarts her. As Derek takes the runway, Mugatu's disc jockey starts playing "Relax", activating Derek's mental programming. Before Derek can reach the Prime Minister, Hansel breaks into the DJ booth and switches the music to Herbie Hancock's "Rockit", breaking Derek's conditioning. Hansel and the DJ have a brief "breakdance" fight before Hansel eventually unplugs the system, moments before Derek was about to snap the Prime Minister's neck.

Mugatu attempts to cover up the incident, but Maury steps forward and offers to turn over the evidence of the assassination plot after years of guilt for his complicity in the conspiracy. Mugatu attempts to kill the Prime Minister himself by throwing a shuriken, but Derek stops him by unleashing his ultimate model look, "Magnum", that stuns everyone and causes the shuriken to freeze in the air in front of Derek's face and fall harmlessly to the ground. In Derek's rural hometown, Larry is watching the event on TV, and proudly acknowledges Derek as his son. Mugatu is arrested, and Derek is thanked by the Prime Minister.

In a post-script scene, Derek, Hansel, and Maury are shown as having left the fashion industry to start "The Derek Zoolander Center for Kids Who Can't Read Good and Who Wanna Learn to Do Other Stuff Good Too". Derek and Matilda now have a son named Derek Zoolander Jr., who has already developed his first modeling look.


The film features cameo appearances by Donald and Melania Trump, Victoria Beckham, Emma Bunton, Christian Slater, Tom Ford, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Steve Kmetko, Tommy Hilfiger, Natalie Portman, Anne Meara, Fabio Lanzoni, Lenny Kravitz, Maggie Rizer, Gwen Stefani, Gavin Rossdale, Heidi Klum, Mark Ronson, Paris Hilton, David Bowie, Tyson Beckford (speaking), Fred Durst, Lance Bass, Lil' Kim, Garry Shandling, Stephen Dorff, Sandra Bernhard, Claudia Schiffer, Veronica Webb, Lukas Haas, Carmen Kass, Frankie Rayder, Karl Lagerfeld, Winona Ryder (uncredited), Billy Zane, Irina Pantaeva, and Donatella Versace.[2]

Production notes


"Derelicte" is the name given to the fashion line designed by Mugatu and is a parody of a real fashion line created by John Galliano in 2000.[7] It is described by Mugatu in the film as "a fashion, a way of life inspired by the very homeless, the vagrants, the crack whores that make this wonderful city so unique." The fashion line in the film consists of clothing made from everyday objects that could be found on the streets of New York. Galliano used clothing worn by the destitute as an inspiration for a real-life fashion line in 2000.


Zoolander was never shown in Malaysia, as the film depicts the country as impoverished and dependent upon sweatshops. Malaysia's censorship board deemed it "definitely unsuitable".[8] The film was also banned in neighboring Singapore[9] due to bilateral sensitivities and the movie's excessive drug use. It was subsequently made available in Singapore in 2006,[10] with an NC-16 rating. In the U.S., the film was originally rated R but was later re-rated PG-13 on appeal for sexual content, profanity, and drug references.

In the Asian release, all references to the country of Malaysia were changed to Micronesia, the subregion which Hansel mistook for Malaysia at one point in the western version.

In the United States, since the film was released on September 28, 2001 (about two weeks after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center), Stiller made the executive decision to digitally remove any backgrounds that originally contained the Twin Towers in the background skyline. Stiller defended his decision to erase images of New York's World Trade Center Towers from the film, saying he did what he thought was appropriate at the time.[11]

Accusations of plagiarism

Glamorama, a 1998 satirical novel by Less Than Zero and American Psycho author Bret Easton Ellis, tells the story of a vacuous male model.[12] In 2005, Ellis stated that he was aware of the similarities between Zoolander and Glamorama, and said that he attempted to take legal action.[13] Ellis was later asked about the similarities in a BBC interview, but said that he is unable to discuss the topic due to an out-of-court settlement.[14]


Zoolander received generally positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 64% based on 134 reviews with an average rating of 6/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "A wacky satire on the fashion industry, Zoolander is one of those deliberately dumb comedies that can deliver genuine laughs."[15] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 61 out of 100 based on 31 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[16] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "C+" on an A+ to F scale.[17]

Roger Ebert gave the film one star out of four, and felt the film was insensitive in its portrayal of child labor, but also added that "to some degree, Zoolander is a victim of bad timing", referencing the film's release two weeks after September 11, 2001.[18] According to Stiller, years later in private, Ebert admitted that he changed his mind and thought the film was funny, and apologized to him for going "overboard".[19]

Filmmaker Terrence Malick is reportedly a fan of the film.[20][21]


The soundtrack to Zoolander was released on September 25, 2001.

1."Relax"  Frankie Goes To Hollywood3:57
2."Relax"  Powerman 5000 featuring. DannyBoy3:06
3."Call Me"  Nikka Costa4:08
4."Love to Love You Baby"  No Doubt4:22
5."Start The Commotion"  The Wiseguys feat. Greg Nice2:35
6."Now Is The Time"  The Crystal Method5:37
7."I Started a Joke"  The Wallflowers3:09
8."Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go"  Wham!3:51
9."Rockit"  Herbie Hancock5:26
10."Beat It (Moby's Sub Mix)"  Michael Jackson6:13
11."Faces"  Orgy4:28
12."Roll It Up"  The Crystal Method6:07
13."Ruffneck"  Freestylers feat. Navigator5:43
14."Madskillz-Mic Chekka (Remix)"  BT5:50
15."He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother"  Rufus Wainwright4:38
16."Relax"  Limp Bizkit5:07
Total length:63:01[22]

The Kruder & Dorfmeister remix of David Holmes' song "Gone" is in the movie when Zoolander is in the day spa, shortly before his brainwashing.


Main article: Zoolander 2

In December 2008, Stiller said he intended to make a sequel to Zoolander,[23] and by January 2011 a script had been completed.[24] Filming commenced at Cinecittà studios in Rome in early 2015,[25] and on March 10 Stiller and Wilson appeared at the Paris Fashion Week in character as Derek Zoolander and Hansel McDonald. Zoolander 2 was released on February 12, 2016.[5]

An animated series, "Zoolander: Super Model" was released on Netflix UK in August 2016.[6]


  1. "ZOOLANDER (12)". British Board of Film Classification. October 5, 2001. Retrieved December 27, 2014.
  2. 1 2 "Zoolander". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved May 22, 2016.
  3. Bronte Lord, Logan Whiteside, & Alison Kosik. ""Meet the model who inspired 'Zoolander'"". money.cnn.com. CNNMoney.
  4. "The male model: How did we get to Zoolander?" By Katya Foreman, 12 February 2016. BBC Culture
  5. 1 2 "'Zoolander 2' Coming February 2016". SlashFilm. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  6. 1 2 "Watch the Trailer for the 'Zoolander' Cartoon Movie". Exclaim. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  7. "Political Threads". On The Media. 2008-02-01.
  8. "Zoolander faces Malaysian censorship controversy". Guardian Unlimited. 28 September 2001.
  9. "Singapore bans US comedy film". BBC News. 8 February 2002.
  10. "Release dates for Zoolander (2001)". IMDb.
  11. "Twin Towers Removed From Zoolander Film". Sun Sentinel. Sun Sentinel. Retrieved 30 October 2001.
  12. Hanson, Eric (1999-01-30). "Ellis dissects the glitterati in 'Glamorama'". Star Tribune. Retrieved 2011-12-22.
  13. "Information Leafblower". Information Leafblower. Retrieved 2009-07-21.
  14. "collective — bret easton ellis interview". BBC. Retrieved 2009-07-21.
  15. "Zoolander". September 28, 2001. Retrieved March 23, 2015.
  16. "Zoolander". September 28, 2001. Retrieved December 11, 2015.
  17. "CinemaScore". cinemascore.com.
  18. Roger Ebert (September 28, 2001). "Zoolander". Retrieved January 17, 2016.
  19. "Roger Ebert 'Zoolander' Review: Ben Stiller Says Late Film Critic Apologized For Scathing Notice". The Huffington Post. April 22, 2013. Retrieved January 17, 2016.
  20. Schmidlin, Charlie. "Terrence Malick's 'Zoolander' Love Confirmed: Programs Film With 'The Lady Eve' & More For Summer Movie Series". The Playlist. Indiewire. Retrieved 11 February 2016.
  21. Jagernauth, Kevin. "Terrence Malick Documentary 'Voyage Of Time' Still In The Works; He's Also A Big 'Zoolander' Fan". The Playlist. Indiewire. Retrieved 11 February 2016.
  22. http://www.theost.com/2001/zoolander.html TheOST. Retrieved December 23, 2013
  23. "Stiller Confirms Zoolander Sequel". IMDb. Retrieved March 23, 2015.
  24. "Ben Stiller Talks Submarine". Empire. Retrieved 2011-08-31.
  25. "Comingsoon.net - Zoolander 2 to Shoot in Rome This Spring!". 2015-02-09.
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