I know that not everybody loves musicals, but if you do, I would venture to guess that you are pretty passionate about them. I think that is why a lot of us were probably pretty disappointed when Rock of Ages came out and it isn't much more than campy fun. I was pretty excited when I heard about it, because it is a genre of film that I am always excited to see in theaters, but from everything I saw and read, it simply did not appeal to me. Given the pretty low box office numbers this weekend, it seems like I wasn't alone. So, I thought for all of us that were excited to see a great musical, I would take a look back at what can be considered as some of the best musicals in cinema history. This was a tough one because there are so many wonderful movies to chose from…..so as always with these lists, these are my personal choices, and I'm sure I have forgotten some, so feel free to add and discuss in the comments.
|1. Moulin Rouge!|
In 2001 this film seemed to really kick off a new era of popularity for musical films. Being a huge success and an overall fantastic film it kicked off a series of Broadway musical adaptations such as Chicago, Phantom of the Opera, Rent, Dreamgirls and Sweeney Todd. The story was based on La Boheme and the Orphean myth, La traviata. It is a fast paced, visually stunning production in a style that has rarely been matched. I think this is truly one of my favorites and I'll never forget the first time I heard "Come What May".
I'm not sure if this is considered a traditional musical, but the songs from this film haunt me to this day. Not only is it a beautiful story about how music can bring people together, but the songs are simply some of the best that I have heard in years. Oftentimes musicals can feel a bit strange, simply due to the fact that people burst into song every few minutes. However, in this film, much of the beauty of it is in the way that the songs come across naturally. You never once question why or if the characters are actually speaking to each other with music. The film has now inspired a broadway show, which just recently won the 2012 Tony Award for Best Musical.
|3. The Sound of Music|
"The hills are alive with the sound of music." A song and opening to a film that has truly become iconic has enveloped one of the most popular musical films of all time. Adjusting for inflation, this is the third highest grossing film of all time. The story follows nun, Maria (Julie Andrews.) She comes to live with and care for the children of the Von Trapp family after their mother has died and their father has been widowed. At first the children are skeptical, but she wins them over singing them songs such as "These are a few of my favorite things." Not only is it the story of the family, but a romance and also becomes historical fiction as the Von Trapps must deal with the fact that Austria has come under control of Germany.
|4. South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut|
An entirely different type of animated musical, the guys who created the long running tv series on Comedy Central turned the show in to a movie…and a musical. With songs like "Kyles's Mom's a Bitch" "Uncle Fucker" and "Blame Canada" it is not an animated movie for the family audience, but it is a movie for anyone who likes to laugh. It is wrong and hysterical and should be seen by everyone at least once (if not twice).
It's Grease Lightning! The timeless and quintessential movie truly captures the era of the 50s. There are greasers, there are pink ladies, and there is the romance between Danny Zuko and the innocent Sandy. The songs are catchy and it's a film that is ripe for a sing-a-long. And who can forget the moment Sandy shows up in her blown-out hair and tight leather?!
|6. Across the Universe|
This romantic drama is a musical that is a fictional love story set to the soundtrack of many songs from The Beatles that defined the time period. It explores the lives of several teens set on the back-drop of the 1960s and the struggles of that time, including the anti-war protest and the fights for free speech and civil rights. The movie is imaginative and visually stunning. The way the Beatles songs weave seamlessly in to the storyline is brilliant. It is not a perfect film, but one of my favorite and most surprising musical film experiences I have had in recent years.
|7. Beauty and the Beast|
I debated which Disney film should go on here, because there were so many great ones released in this time period for example Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, etc. However, Beauty and the Beast was the first animated feature to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, so I think it wins. The story of Belle and the Beast that live in the castle is a heartbreaking and heartwarming love story that stands up to this day.
|8. The Rocky Horror Picture Show|
I have never personally become part of the cult of the Rocky Horror Picture show, but since it has created such a huge fan base, it truly cannot be ignored. In fact, one could argue that the film has been the most popular midnight movie ever. There is memorabilia, there are costumes, and there are dances and throwing of things. I'm not sure if the movie itself holds up as much without the experience of going to see it without other fans, but no matter what, it is part of cultural history.
In Rob Marshall's adaptation of the Broadway musical, much of the brilliance comes across as the production design of the film is created to come very close to making it look as if you are watching an on-stage performance…yet, somehow it works just as well as a film. It won six Oscars including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress for Catherine Zeta-Jones. The songs are entertaining, the costumes are sparkly, and the film is just overall razzle dazzled fun.
|10. Singin' in the Rain|
Who at one point walked through a puddle while humming the words to "Singin' in the Rain"? Gene Kelly's dancing is magically in this truly uplifting film. It also explores the early days of cinema as the on-screen actors who are silent film stars must deal with the reality of changes in film when they start to be produced with sound. If you have never taken a few hours to see this classic, you really really should.