The 10 Best-Ever Movie Musicals You Need to Watch Again
Get ready to have “You’re the One that I Want,” “The Sound of Music,” and “I Dream a Dream” stuck in your head all over again.
John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John made movie musical history in this hit film set in a 1950s high school. The main story is very Romeo and Juliet—Danny and Sandy come from different worlds so how can their love last? He’s part of the greaser gang the T-Birds who flirt with the Pink Ladies, run by Stockard Channing as Rizzo. But Sandy is too pure to fit in, as the number “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee” makes clear. Famous crooner Ricki Avalon shows up for nostalgia’s sake to sing “Beauty School Dropout.” Other iconic numbers include “Summer Nights,” “Greased Lightin’,” and the catchy finale number by the two stars: “You’re the One that I Want.”
This epic musical won the Best Picture Oscar and includes grand dance numbers set on London’s busy streets and featuring hundreds of extras in songs like “Who Will Buy?” In “Food, Glorious Food,” we meet the orphan Oliver and follow his dismal adventures as a pickpocket on the journey to find his true family. First, he’s befriended by the Artful Dodger and his gang of street urchins who perform numbers like “You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two” and “Consider Yourself.” Shani Willis shines as the kind Nancy, trapped by poverty and in love with the bad guy Bill Sikes (Oliver Reed), who she laments in the ballad “As Long As He Needs Me.” Speaking of “Food, Glorious Food,” here are our all-time favorite cooking movies.
Starring powerhouse divas Beyoncé Knowles, Anika Noni Rose, and Jennifer Hudson in the leads, this musical follows the pop group The Dreams on their rise to superstardom. Jamie Foxx and Eddie Murphy play the men who love the ladies and help launch their careers. Hudson won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar, which is not surprising if you’ve seen (and heard) her amazingly dramatic and pitch perfect number “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.” In fact, when the movie was still playing in theaters, audiences used to applaud after that scene. As usual, Beyoncé is smashing when she sings “Listen.” And the whole cast glows in numbers like “Family,” “Cadillac Car,” and of course, “Dreamgirls” because “Dreamgirls will never leave you.” The songs stay with you long after this movie ends. These are the movies to watch just for the clothes.
The Sound of Music (1965)
The hills were totally alive with the sound of music in this beloved classic about a singing governess. It hit the big screen in 1965 and became an early blockbuster. It’s one of those movies that everybody watches again and again. Whether you’re singing along to “Do-Re-Mi” or “My Favorite Things,” you’ll still swoon over the cute Von Trapp children and the lush Austrian setting. Christopher Plummer is wonderful as the stern captain who melts into gentleness when singing “Edelweiss.” But Julie Andrews steals the show with her epic singing pipes and addictive exuberance in such numbers as “The Sound of Music” and “I Have Confidence.” Check out these other musicals set during wartimes.
Renee Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones sing and dance as celebrity convicts in this Best-Picture-winning musical about fame, jealousy, and murderous love. The film won Best Picture and re-ignited the musical film genre for the modern age. Powerhouse numbers include “Cell Block Tango,” where lady prisoners enact their crimes through dizzying choreography—red fabric flows for blood. Queen Latifah is magnetic as the prison matron, and John C. Reilly is a scene-stealer in his bittersweet number “Mr. Cellophane,” about living without the spotlight the leading ladies crave.
Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
Debbie Reynolds is ultra-charming in this time-honored classic musical about the advent of the talkies in movie history. She plays a winning showgirl with a golden singing voice destined for stardom. You can see why Gene Kelly always stole the show as in his delightful musical numbers, including the timeless “Singin’ in the Rain.” Kelly tap dances on a city street and splashes in the gutter in perfect time. “Make ‘Em Laugh,” performed by Donald O’Connor, also stands the test of time for its virtuoso humor and brilliant styling.
West Side Story (1961)
This cinematic masterpiece opens on the streets of New York City and turns gang warfare into a choreographed artform that features jazz and dance. This acclaimed musical is also known for its stunning use of color and setting, a nod to modern art and its homage to city life and architecture. The love story follows Maria (Natalie Wood) and Tony (Richard Beymer), but this tale is also a social commentary on what it means to be a minority in America. The classic songs include “Jet Song,” “Something’s Coming,” and the epic rooftop number “America,” led by Rita Moreno. No wonder this movie took home the Best Picture Oscar. Check out these other movies that capture the ambience of a time and place.
42nd Street (1933)
Classic Hollywood film stars Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell steal your heart in this Busby Berkley musical that was ahead of its time. Berkley is known for his elaborately styled musical numbers, often shot with cranes and bird’s eye view perspectives. Some dynamic tracking shots even zoom through the dancers’ legs. This film features masterful musical numbers with dancers on rotating platforms doing impressive choreography. The climactic “42nd Street” number moves from realistic city set to a stage where dancers create a cityscape with cutouts in Art Deco style. A true feast for the eyes—and ears.
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)
Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell sparkle in this fun romantic musical that’s filled with some of the most iconic musical numbers of all time. Monroe shows off her signature charisma in the iconic “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend.” She’s dripping in gemstones and her memorable hot pink gown. Russell is smashing as she shimmies through “Anyone Here For Love?” She sings the song in a weight room surrounded by a choreographed dance workout by an Olympic team. She ends up in the swimming pool with a martini. You start out on a cruise ship, end up with a double wedding, and realize you’ve been smiling the whole time.
Les Misérables (2012)
It totally works to hear Russell Crowe belting out heart-rending tunes in this dramatic musical. Crowe plays a mean police chief who has it in for passionate ex-convict Hugh Jackman. Jackman tries to become upstanding, but Crowe is still out to get him. Meanwhile, Anne Hathaway plays the tragic Fantine whose life takes a darker turn once she loses her job at Jackman’s factory. Hathaway won Best Supporting Actress for her unforgettable role and the epic scene where she sings the heart-rending ballad about her dreams turning to shame. The film spans decades, dramatizing the French barricade rebellion of 1832. Eddie Redmayne and Amanda Seyfried round out the operatic cast. These are the best tearjerkers to watch when you need a good cry.