26 of the best movie musicals of all time

Sometimes you just want a movie to transport you, and what's better at doing that than a movie musical?

When you can't make it to the theater, these movies are the obvious best option — ranging from modern picks like "La La Land" to 1950s classics like "An American in Paris," and ones that fall somewhere in between, like "West Side Story." Musicals from the 2000s, like "Last Five Years" and "Once," show the evolving genre.

These films span the decades and are full of elaborate plots, lush soundtracks and fantastic dance sequences, making it easy to leave the real world behind and enjoy the story. Families seeking a kid-friendly movie are in luck here, too.

Below, we've compiled a list of 26 of the best movie musicals of all time, spanning from the 1930s to 21st century picks. Expect dance numbers and catchy songs galore.

'42nd Street' (1933)

This splashy, classic musical features some of the best dance numbers of all time and plenty of over-the-top musical magic. In the 1980s, it was turned into a Broadway musical. Getting meta, the movie is itself about a down-on-his-luck director trying to stage a big musical.

'Anything Goes' (1936)

Another dance-heavy hit, this movie about the madcap antics of a zany cast of characters aboard an ocean liner features the music of Cole Porter and stars Ethel Merman and Bing Crosby. If you're looking for a more recent film, there's another version, once again starring Bing Crosby, from 1956.

'An American in Paris' (1951)

Get on your dancing shoes for this sweeping musical, featuring the music of the Gershwin brothers and the dance skills of stars like Gene Kelly. The film uses entrancing ballet sequences to tell a romantic story in the City of Love shortly after World War II.

'Some Like It Hot' (1959)

This movie, one of the first to be preserved by the Library of Congress in the U.S. National Film Registry, is considered one of the greatest of all time. Starring bombshell Marilyn Monroe and featuring an exciting jazz soundtrack, it tells the story of two musicians trying to hide from gangsters by disguising themselves as chorus girls. Of course, hijinks ensue.

'West Side Story' (1961 and 2021)

Whether you want the classic 1961 film or the 2021 remake starring Rachel Zegler and Ansel Elgort, you're sure to fall in love with this sweeping musical just like Tony falls in love with Maria (and vice versa). No matter what movie you pick, you'll get a stellar performance from the legendary Rita Moreno, plenty of gorgeous choreography and beautiful renditions of some of the most famous songs in the musical theater canon. The new version also earned Ariana deBose an Academy Award, and helped her make Oscars history.

'Funny Girl' (1968)

Get ready to watch the performance that turned Barbra Streisand into a star! With classic, bombastic songs and costumes to die for, theater fans of all ages will love this timeless story.

'Hello, Dolly!' (1969)

This film adaptation of "Hello, Dolly!" immortalizes another great Barbra Streisand performance. The comedic film tells the story matchmaker Dolly Levi and her attempts to secure a husband a colorful cast of characters sing and dance their hearts out.

'Fiddler on the Roof' (1971)

It's all about "Tradition" in this 1971 musical. Chock-full of famous songs and major dance moments, this historical epic tells the story of a Jewish father trying to find successful matches for his daughters in pre-revolutionary Russia.

'Cabaret' (1972)

Liza Minelli is absolutely iconic in this 1972 movie, which also stars Joel Grey. Featuring choreography by the legendary Bob Fosse and musical theater standards like "Wilkommen" and "Maybe This Time," the 1940s-era story features a love triangle that begins and ends in a seedy Berlin nightclub rocked by the rise of the Nazi Party.

'The Rocky Horror Picture Show' (1975)

If you're looking to get weird, you don't need to look much further than this 1975 science fiction story. With performances by stars like Susan Sarandon and Tim Curry and plenty of catchy earworms, it's not a movie you'll forget any time soon. If you really want to embrace the musical theater camp of it all, try finding a local cinema with a midnight screening: Fans will dress up, shout along to the movie and more at these rowdy viewings. Go on, do the "Time Warp" again (and again).

'Grease' (1978)

Whether you've seen "Grease" or not, you know some of the biggest songs from this 1978 hit. Starring John Travolta and the late Olivia Newton-John, this beloved musical is a high school drama and coming-of-age story all bound up in fun dance numbers and fun 50s' fashion.

'Newsies' (1992)

This Disney movie is inspired by the true story of newsboys who went on strike against unfair wages and work practices. With a cast including a young Christian Bale and songs like "Carrying the Banner," you'll find yourself humming tunes from this family-friendly film for weeks afterwards.

'Hedwig and the Angry Inch' (2001)

This rollicking musical raises questions of gender, belonging and more. With heart-wrenching performances by John Cameron Mitchell and Miriam Shor at its center, this 2001 film tracks the eponymous Hedwig's journey from East Berlin to New York City rockstar.

'Moulin Rouge!' (2001)

Get ready to hear your favorite pop hits like you've never heard them before. Baz Luhrmann's fever dream of a movie musical tells the story of Christian (Ewan MacGregor) and Satine (Nicole Kidman) and their doomed love triangle in bohemian Paris, backed by sweeping songs and reimagined hits.

'Chicago' (2002)

Break out your best Roaring '20s looks for this jazzy musical. "Chicago" tells the story of murderess Roxie Hart (Renee Zellweger), her fast-talking lawyer Billy Flynn (Richard Gere) and her quest to be found not guilty for her lover's death. Add a crackling performance by Catherine Zeta-Jones as Velma Kelly and some incredible choreography, and this musical has it all.

'Dreamgirls' (2006)

The road to the top isn't easy in this 2006 musical adaptation. Starring an incredible cast — including Jennifer Hudson and a young Beyonce! — "Dreamgirls" tells the story of a girl group on the rise until cynical industry players teach them about the cost of fame.

'Once' (2007)

Unlike a lot of other musicals on this list, "Once" is a quiet, sweet story that doesn't rely on splashy dance scenes or bombastic songs. Instead, it tells the story of two musicians who meet in Ireland and fall in love over the course of a week. You might recognize its most popular song, "Falling Slowly."

'Mamma Mia!' (2008)

Get ready to sing and dance to some of ABBA's biggest hits with this 2008 movie starring Meryl Streep as a mother unexpectedly reunited with the three men who may have fathered her daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) when they are all invited to Sophie's wedding. Looking for more fun? Try "Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!" The 2018 sequel stars Cher.

'The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall' (2011)

Skip the 2004 "Phantom of the Opera" with Gerard Butler, Emmy Rossum and Patrick Wilson, and bring the full theatrical spectacle to your TV with this filmed version of the show's 25th anniversary gala. Instead of a filmed adaptation, this is the stage performance recorded, and it's as close as one can get to seeing the show without ever leaving the comfort of home.

'Les Miserables' (2012)

This star-studded film drives home the epic musical's tale of love and redemption. Spanning 25 years and nearly a dozen primary characters, the movie is filled with musical theater standards and stellar performances by greats including Hugh Jackman.

'The Last Five Years' (2014)

This musical by Jason Robert Brown tells the story of a couple falling in, then out, of love — in reverse order. Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan give emotional performances as the central couple. You'll be debating who's to blame for the couple's slow break-up long after the final credits roll.

'Jesus Christ Superstar: Live in Concert' (2018)

This is another live, filmed production of a classic musical. This version of "Jesus Christ Superstar" was aired by NBC and filmed in front of a live audience, who went wild to see stars like John Legend and Sara Bareilles in this musical theater retelling of the story of Jesus Christ.

'In the Heights' (2020)

This is the perfect summer film, hands down. Nothing can compete with Lin-Manuel Miranda's first Tony-winning hit, which features upbeat songs, huge dance numbers and stories grounded in the everyday minutia of one New York City neighborhood.

'Hamilton' (2020)

Still looking for more Lin-Manuel Miranda hits? You don't need to look much further than this filmed version of "Hamilton," which began streaming on Disney+ in 2020. The filmed version of the stage production captures the landmark original cast of the show, and brings one of Broadway's biggest hits to the small screen.

'Tick, Tick... Boom!' (2021)

This musical about writing a musical was created by Jonathan Larson, the same man behind "Rent." Originally conceived as a one-man show, "Tick, Tick ... Boom!" is an autobiographical retelling of his efforts to stage a musical in the 90s. Larson would later die at 35, giving this show about the pressures of time and success an unintended poignancy.

'Cyrano' (2021)

Based on a classic play of the same name, "Cyrano" is everything you could want from a movie musical. Gorgeous landscapes and lush music by the National bring a tragic love story to life as Cyrano, played here by Peter Dinklage, writes love letters to the beautiful Roxanne in disguise as Christian, a young recruit who also longs for her. The tragic love story and delicate performances add up to a musical that stays with you long after the credits roll.



Posted in Entertainment News on September 22 at 04:49 PM

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