26 best musicals of all time, from classic to modern

Sometimes you just want a movie to transport you, and what better than a musical for that?

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 those somewhere in between. two, like “West Side Story.” Musicals of the 2000s, such as “Last Five Years” and “Once”, show the evolution of the genre.

These films span decades and are packed with elaborate plots, lush soundtracks, and fantastic dance sequences, making it easy to leave the real world behind and enjoy the story. Families looking for a kid-friendly movie are also in luck here.

Below, we’ve compiled a list of 26 of the best movie musicals of all time, ranging from picks from the 1930s to picks from the 21st century. 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 made into a Broadway musical. Going meta, the movie itself is about an unlucky director trying to pull off a great musical.

‘All is well’ (1936)

Another dance hit, this film about the crazy antics of a group of goofy characters aboard an ocean liner features music by Cole Porter and stars Ethel Merman and Bing Crosby. If you’re looking for a more recent film, there’s another version, again with Bing Crosby, from 1956.

“An American in Paris” (1951)

Lace up your dancing shoes for this upbeat musical, featuring the music of the Gershwin brothers and the dancing skills of stars like Gene Kelly. The film uses haunting ballet sequences to tell a romantic story in the city of love shortly after World War II.

“Some Like It Hot” (1959)

This film, one of the first to be preserved by the Library of Congress in the National Film Registry of the United States, 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 dressing up 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). Whichever film you choose, 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 won Ariana deBose an Oscar and helped make Oscar history.

‘Funny Girl’ (1968)

Get ready to watch the performance that made Barbra Streisand 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 performance from Barbra Streisand. The comedy film tells the story of matchmaker Dolly Levi and her attempts to secure a husband, a colorful cast of characters singing and dancing their hearts out.

“Fiddler on the Roof” (1971)

It’s all about “Tradition” in this 1971 musical. Filled with famous songs and major dance moments, this historical epic tells the story of a Jewish father trying to find successful partners for his daughters in Russia. pre-revolutionary.

‘Cabaret’ (1972)

Liza Minelli is absolutely iconic in this 1972 film, which also stars Joel Gray. With choreography by the legendary Bob Fosse and musical theater standards like “Wilkommen” and “Maybe This Time”, the 1940s 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 sci-fi story. It’s not a movie you’ll soon forget. If you really want to embrace the musical theater camp, try to find a local theater with a midnight screening: fans will dress up, scream along with the film and more during these rowdy screenings. Come on, do the “Time Warp” again (and again).

‘Grease’ (1978)

Whether you’ve seen “Grease” or not, you know some of the greatest songs from this 1978 hit. Starring John Travolta and the late Olivia Newton-John, this beloved musical is a high school drama and story of coming of age, all related to fun dance numbers and fun 50s fashion.

‘News’ (1992)

This Disney film is inspired by the true story of newsboys who went on strike over unfair wages and labor practices. With a cast including a young Christian Bale and songs like “Carrying the Banner,” you’ll find yourself humming along to tunes from this family movie for weeks after.

‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch’ (2001)

This catchy musical raises questions of gender, affiliation and more. With harrowing performances from John Cameron Mitchell and Miriam Shor at its center, this 2001 film charts the eponymous Hedwig’s journey from East Berlin to rockstar New York.

‘Red Mill!’ (2001)

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

“Chicago” (2002)

Pull out your best Roaring Twenties looks for this jazzy musical. “Chicago” tells the story of murderous Roxie Hart (Renee Zellweger), her attorney Billy Flynn (Richard Gere), and her quest to be found not guilty of her lover’s death. Add in a crackling performance from Catherine Zeta-Jones as Velma Kelly and incredible choreography, and this musical has it all.

‘Dream Girls’ (2006)

The road to the top isn’t easy in this 2006 musical adaptation. Featuring an incredible cast – including Jennifer Hudson and a young Beyonce! – “Dreamgirls” tells the story of a girl group on the rise until cynical actors in the industry teach them the price of stardom.

“Once” (2007)

Unlike many of the other musicals on this list, “Once” is a quiet, mellow story that doesn’t rely on flashy dance scenes or explosive 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 his most popular song, “Falling Slowly.”

‘Mamma Mia!’ (2008)

Get ready to sing and dance to some of ABBA’s greatest hits with this 2008 film 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 2004’s “Phantom of the Opera” starring 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, it’s the recorded stage performance, and it’s as close as you can get to seeing the show without ever leaving the comforts of home.

“Les Miserables” (2012)

This star-studded film brings the musical’s epic story of love and redemption to life. Spanning 25 years and nearly a dozen main characters, the film is filled with musical theater standards and stellar performances from big names, including Hugh Jackman.

“The Last Five Years” (2014)

This musical comedy by Jason Robert Brown tells the story of a couple who fall in love, then leave, in reverse order. Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan give emotional performances as the central couple. You’ll debate who’s responsible for the couple’s slow breakup long after the final credits roll.

‘Jesus Christ Superstar: Live in Concert’ (2018)

This is another live-action production of a classic musical. This version of “Jesus Christ Superstar” was broadcast 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 telling the story of Jesus Christ.

“In the Heights” (2020)

It’s the perfect summer movie, hands down. Nothing can beat Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony Award-winning debut hit, which features catchy songs, huge dance numbers and stories rooted in the daily minutiae of a New York neighborhood.

‘Hamilton’ (2020)

Still looking for more Lin-Manuel Miranda hits? You need look no further than this filmed version of “Hamilton,” which began streaming on Disney+ in 2020. The stage production filmed version captures the show’s historic original cast and brings one of Broadway’s biggest hits on 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 account of his efforts to stage a musical in the 90s. Larson would later die at age 35, giving this show about the pressures of time and success an unintended thrill.

‘Cyrano’ (2021)

Based on a classic stage play of the same name, “Cyrano” is everything you could expect from a movie musical. Stunning scenery and lush National music bring a tragic love story to life as Cyrano, played here by Peter Dinklage, writes love letters to beautiful Roxanne disguised as Christian, a young rookie who also desires her. The tragic love story and delicate performances add up to a musical that stays with you long after the credits roll.


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