Musicals are a beloved genre, allowing audiences to experience a musical without the expense of going to the theater. Some are adaptations of stage shows, some use pre-existing music, and some are completely original. All kinds of movie musicals often develop hardcore fanbases, with some being widely acclaimed.
One of the most enduring genres, there are decades of musicals that go back almost as far as the sound has been in movies. Despite the large number of well-received musicals, some stand out above the rest. Some stand out for their stellar music, cinematic accomplishments, or simply immense fun.
ten Les Miserables brings the West End to the big screen
Wretched is one of the most famous shows of all time. Wretched is an adaptation of a novel by Victor Hugo, following an escaped convict and his daughter, entangled in the unfortunate June Rebellion. The stage show is a pragmatic adaptation, stripping out huge parts of the novel, and the film is an added refinement.
Wretched also uses a “live singing” approach. The actors sing as they act out their scenes, rather than recording their songs in a studio and lip-syncing. This bold choice earned musical praise from many. Some of the singing performances were criticized – particularly that of Russell Crowe. Nevertheless, Wretched brought the stage show to a wider audience and was endorsed.
9 A Star Is Born (2018) is a perfect remake
A star is born is one of the most remade films of all time, with five distinct versions in existence. Its most recent outing, directed by and starring Bradley Cooper in his directorial debut, proved to be a massive hit. A star is born did well at the box office, critically acclaimed, and nominated for eight Academy Awards.
Tell a simple but moving story of fame and love, A star is born combines excellent performances from its cast with acclaimed music – including the Oscar-winning Shallow. Although some have taken umbrage at certain aspects of its plot, it remains widely loved by musical audiences.
8 Fat is a beloved classic
As for musicals, Fat is one of the best known. The 1978 film tells a story that takes place in a high school in the 1950s. Fat elevates a fairly straightforward rom-com plot of a gang leader falling in love with an innocent exchange student through his singing, dancing, performance, and aesthetic into cinematic history.
Noted for many of his songs – including Greased lightning, hopelessly devoted to you, summer nights and more, Fat retains pop culture prominence more than forty years after its release. Fat remains a popular choice among the public.
seven La La Land is a return to musical greatness
The Earth eventually became most notorious due to an Oscar controversy where he was falsely announced as the winner. Among the fans, The Earth is known for its sheer quality – the same quality that earned it an Oscar nomination in question.
Conceived as a loving tribute to classic musicals, The Earth nevertheless stands out. Noted for its cinematography, music, choreography and even for its screenplay, audiences and critics could find few faults in The Earth.
6 The Wizard of Oz shines in his musical sequences
The Wizard of Oz is not best known as a musical, but contains several sections devoted to characters singing about their situations and emotions. Some of these songs have become iconic, including Judy Garland’s rendition of Somewhere over the rainbow.
Besides its musical significance, The Wizard of Oz is considered a great classic, especially for its technology. It was one of the first films to use Technicolor. Even though his singing is largely staged rather than on point, there’s no denying the importance of The Wizard of Oz.
5 The sound of music wins its running time
An adaptation of a stage show relating real events, The sound of music follows the Von Trapp singing family during the German annexation of Austria in the late 1930s. Focusing on the family’s housekeeper-turned-mother-in-law, Maria von Trapp, The sound of music boasts a staggering battery life of almost three hours. This includes an intermission.
Despite this, The sound of music is generally agreed to work with this runtime, delivering highly rated songs and an engaging plot. Even when The sound of music takes a much darker turn, it justifies some truly heartbreaking musical sequences, earning its place in the musical history of cinema.
4 West Side Story (2021) noticeably improves on a classic
West Side Story (1961) told a story inspired by Romeo and Juliet. West Side Story depicted a conflict between white and Puerto Rican street gangs, and young lovers caught between the two sides. Despite its iconic songs and beloved plot, West Side Story was not viewed kindly in retrospect, especially for having brown-faced white actors portray Puerto Ricans.
In 2021, a remake of West Side Story has been freed. In addition to changing some plot details, West Side Story attempts to portray Puerto Rican characters and the racism they face with sensitivity and fairness. Despite disappointing box office returns, the film was hailed as even better than the original and as an excellent musical.
3 The Rocky Horror Picture Show is an iconic cult favorite
An adaptation of rocky horror show musical, the Rocky Horror Picture Show is a film that looks set to confuse audiences. It has an almost incoherent plot full of weird sexual occurrences, a jarring and uneven tone, and a weirdness rampant throughout. Despite all this, Rocky Horror Picture Show has become one of cinema’s most notable cult classics.
A regular movie in the Friday night screenings, rocky horror has a devoted fanbase due to its solid performances, iconic musical numbers, and rampant weirdness throughout. Adoration goes far enough that fans have a “script” of answers to shout out as he plays. As such, rocky horror has earned its place in the musical history of cinema.
2 Mary Poppins was once Disney’s highest-grossing movie
Despite a long career directing animated films, it would be a live-action film – albeit with animated sequences – that became the crowning achievement of Walt Disney’s career. Adapt the Mary Poppins books, the film of the same name portrays Julie Andrews as the titular nanny, brought in to deal with Banks’ troublesome children.
Andrews’ acclaimed performance, eerie and imaginative musical sequences and several songs that remain in the popular imagination to this day, Mary Poppins made history. Mary Poppins received a sequel 54 years after its release.
1 Singing in the rain is musical splendor
Singing is often considered the most important part of a musical, but Sing in the rain ups the ante with elaborate and technically challenging dance sequences for its actors. Sing in the rain tells the relatively humble story of a couple of artists falling in love during the rise of “talking images”. It is widely considered a masterpiece of musical theatre.
Praised also for its writing, its characters, and its humor, Sing in the rain is best known for many of his elaborate musical sets, including make them laugh, Hello, and both iterations of its titular song. Gene Kelly’s solo performance of Sing in the rain is considered one of the best in the history of cinema.
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