I consider myself one of the lucky people who loves so many different types of movies. You know those people who seem to only like one kind of movie? I feel bad for them. To be a true fan of movies, you have to have a wide range of tastes. And one of my many tastes?
Ever since I was a kid and first saw Judy Garland in Meet Me in St. Louis, I have loved the movie musical. I love music, I love movies…it only makes sense, right? Now, for some silly reason I thought this post would be easy to write. Top 13 movie musicals? SIMPLE.
Um, yeah. Not so much.
Every time I thought I had my 13, I would think of another one. And another one. And another one. So many more that I had to scratch my original list and start a new one. Seriously, people. This is stressful stuff.
But I think I have my list. Unfortunately a lot of good musicals had to be left off – West Side Story, Singin’ in the Rain, Chicago, for example – but of course that doesn’t mean they’re not amazing. They just haven’t had as much impact on me as these other 13. If I was doing top 20? Yeah, they’d definitely be in there. I left out all Disney animated movies, since I already covered that in a previous Awesome 13 post.
So let’s get started, shall we?
13. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
It’s funny that this movie made this list, actually, because it’s not the songs that make me love the movie so much. The songs, to be honest, are actually kind of forgettable to me (except for that one where the kid is trying to sell that magic hair cream…”May I have your attention, PLEASE??” Love it.). What I love so much about this movie is Tim Burton and Johnny Depp at their best. The look of the film is 100% Tim Burton (complete with black and white stripes!!) and 100% Johnny Depp (complete with fake accent!!). Oh, and did I mention that Severus Snape and Bellatrix Lestrange sing in it as well? Okay, fine, they don’t. But Alan Rickman and Helena Bonham Carter do!
Yes, it’s rather gory in some parts – I mean, the guy chops people up and puts them in PIES – but it’s so much fun to watch that you don’t even realize you’re watching a gory, somewhat violent movie. Because, you know, there’s singing in it. Which makes it all okay.
12. High School Musical 3 – Senior Year (2008)
Okay, first of all, shut up. I know what you’re thinking. And I don’t care.
Yes, I realize that this movie is cheesy and made for pre-pubescent girls who think Zac Efron is their future husband. Whatever. I enjoy this movie.
The first two movies in the trilogy are okay. I mean, they’re fun and all, and I’ll still occasionally watch them as background noise, but the third one is a substantial improvement. It had to be since it was the first one they were actually putting into theaters, unlike the first two which only aired on The Disney Channel.
And while the plot was predictable (come on, it’s Disney…it’s not like it’s a frickin’ David Fincher movie), the songs, dancing, and whole production was tons better than the first two. And, um, Zac Efron looks way hotter in this one. But that’s totally not a contributing factor, I swear.
11. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Who would have thought that Tim Burton would show up twice in a list about musicals? But he does, at least in mine!
First off, the movie looks amazing in stop-motion animation. Second of all, it’s a movie about Halloween and Christmas, two of the greatest holidays of ALL-TIME. And, of course, it has Danny Elfman – OINGO BOINGO – singing as Jack Skellington, the greatest Pumpkin King of ALL-TIME. The songs are memorable and surprisingly emotional (“Sally’s Song” actually gives me tears if I’m in the right emo mood), and the sequence where Jack discovers Christmas Town is probably the best Christmas scene of any movie next to the entire 26 minutes of How the Grinch Stole Christmas animated special.
This movie has gained quite the cult following over the past 19 years (WHAT?? 19 years???), and it’s no surprise that they’ve even made a cover album called Nightmare Revisited, which covered every single song – even the score – in the movie. Amazeballs.
10. Grease (1978)
If you look up any list of best movie musicals, Grease will most likely be on it. Why? Because it is a great movie with great songs, and it will always be a great movie with great songs. Even though a movie made in the 70s to look like the 50s will still look like a movie from the 70s.
John Travolta is in his PRIME in this movie as Danny Zuko (seriously, way better than the depressing Saturday Night Fever), and Olivia Newton-John is perfectly casted as adorable Sandy. The songs are super fun – Summer Lovin’ is still one of my favorite scenes in any musical, and Stockard Channing gets me EVERY TIME when she sings “There Are Worse Things I Could Do”.
Oh, and the ending? Big ol’ celebration at the school carnival? SO MUCH FUN. I want to go to school with these people. Even though they look like they’re in their 30s.
LOVE THIS MOVIE.
9. Across the Universe (2007)
So this movie is a perfect example of the songs totally overshadowing the movie itself. And the reason for that is simple: the movie isn’t very good, and the songs are AMAZING.
Why are the songs amazing? Well, it’s The Beatles. And, well, that simply needs no further explanation. It’s The Beatles. And even though it’s not John, Paul, George, and Ringo singing, they’re still amazing. That’s the beauty of The Beatles’ songs. They’re awesome no matter who sings them.
And I absolutely love these renditions. Jim Sturgess has a great, Northern England voice that sounds like it was made to sing Beatles songs. He turned my favorite Beatles song, “All My Loving”, into even more of a favorite Beatles song, though he sounds the best during “I’ve Just Seen a Face”. Even Evan Rachel Wood, who doesn’t have a particularly strong singing voice, songs sweet and innocent and great.
Like I said, the movie is somewhat pompous and overdone. But the music definitely makes up for that, making it the only reason to sit down and watch it.
8. Phantom of the Opera (2004)
To be honest, I didn’t think I was going to like this movie when it first came out. I knew Joel Schumacher was directing it, and he’s the man responsible for bringing down the Batman franchise (though if if weren’t for him, we may not have gotten Christopher Nolan, so…yeah). What the hell was he doing directing a very much loved Andrew Lloyd Webber Broadway musical???
Well, I found myself rather surprised. Surprised at how much I really liked the movie. I had never seen the Broadway show on stage (I know, blasphemy), but I was familiar with the songs. And the one thing I never liked about the songs before this was the fact that it sounded like old people singing were singing them. I know that sounds weird, but I never felt like I could sing along to them. But when Emmy Rossum plays Christine, I suddenly find myself loving the songs. Because she really does have an amazing voice.
And Mr. Batman-Ruiner actually made the movie look rather beautiful. The cemetery scene when Christine sings “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” is pretty drool-worthy as far as set and costume design.
So if you’re totally against this movie but haven’t seen it, I suggest giving it a try. Just don’t think of Batman’s nipples while you’re watching it.
7. Mary Poppins (1964)
This list just wouldn’t be a list without at least one Julie Andrews movie (she appears on the list twice). Mary Poppins is just one of those movies that people will love FOREVER. It was made almost 50 years ago, but it truly feels timeless. For one thing, it has Julie Andrews, who is kind of like a goddess in terms of musicals. She made the character of Mary Poppins entirely hers, and no one will be able to come close to her perfection. She is, of course, practically perfect in every way.
And those two adorable kids? The dancing animated penguins? The carousal? Cleaning your messy room simply by snapping your fingers? Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious? (by the way, I totally just spelled that phonetically and the computer recognized it as a real – and correctly spelled – word). Everything in this movie is absolutely delicious.
Except for “Feed the Birds”, which makes me cry like a little girl.
6. Annie (1982)
Besides the fact that this movie is my childhood, it’s just one of those movies that every girl in the 80s wanted to be a part of. Why is this movie so awesome? Well, let’s see.
- Singing and dancing orphan girls
- Alcoholic Carol Burnett
- Molly and Pepper
- Dumb Dog
- Come on, Annie. Let’s go to the movies!
- Ann Reinking
- The sun will come out (tears tears tears) tomorrow
There’s just so much about this movie that I love love love love love. I heard that Will Smith is currently developing a remake, which of course gives me a stomach ache, but at least I know that this one will love on forever despite the remakes and copycats.
And seriously, who can copy Carol Burnett? NO ONE, I say.
5. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
For a lot of people, this is the first musical they ever saw. And they probably didn’t even realize that they were watching a musical! That’s because The Wizard of Oz pretty much covers every kind of genre out there (musical, drama, comedy, fantasy, sci-fi, horror – you know why) and is loved by mostly (I say “mostly” because, well, I’m sure there’s some who don’t like flying monkeys) everyone who sees it.
We all know what happened with Judy Garland and how towards the end of her life she, you know, went off the end, but watching her in her first starring role reminds us all of how much of a pure talent she really was. That voice. That face. Those big eyes. And even though there have been other makings of the World of Oz, nothing will ever be like that first one, the one that made us fall in love with a girl from Kansas who traveled to the magical world of Oz, only to find her way home again.
And I’d like to meet the person who doesn’t feel at least a tiny bit emotional when she says,” There’s no place like home” at the end of the movie. Seriously, have you no heart?
4. Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
Without a doubt, The Wizard of Oz was the movie that made Judy Garland a star. But Meet Me in St. Louis was the one that reminded everyone why. She’s amazing in it.
I watched this movie to death when I was a kid. This was back in the day when no one really owned any movies, and the only way you could watch them was to rent them at the video store or record them from the TV (on your giant VHS machines, of course). Well, my dad had recorded this movie from the TV, and along with The Wizard of Oz, Unconquered, and Back to the Future, I watched this one the most. At first I didn’t even make the connection that this was the girl who played Dorothy, because that’s how different she looked in MMISTL (plus I was only like seven years old, and I didn’t make connections like that at that age).
I love this movie, I really do. It’s a great story about a family in St. Louis in 1903 leading up to the World’s Fair of 1904. And even though it takes place over 100 years ago – and was made almost 70 years ago – it feels like it could all happen in today’s society. Family relations. Crushes on boys who live next door. Dancing at parties. Trick-or-treating (except I don’t think people throw flour at people’s faces anymore). Riding on trollies. Switching out mean girls’ dance cards so they get stuck with crappy guys to dance with.
Okay, well, most of it is still relative today. And the music? Some of the best songs from movies are in this one. “The Boy Next Door”, “The Trolley Song”, and I bet you didn’t know that “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” was written for this movie! Of course it’s sung during such a depressing scene that it’s hard for me to listen to today. But still. Great songs, great cast, and just a flat-out great movie.
3. The Sound of Music (1965)
Unlike some of the above movies, The Sound of Music was not a part of my childhood. My parents didn’t own it, and they never watched it on TV. In fact, like West Side Story, I don’t think it was a movie my parents even liked. So when I got older, sometime around 15 years old, it was on TV. I knew the songs from it and had seen certain scenes, but I had never watched it all the way through until then.
And I fell in love. For many reasons.
Number one: Julie Andrews. I didn’t think I would like a character more than Mary Poppins, but I sure as hell loved her as Maria, the nun-turned-von Trapp. With her pixie haircut and her abundant energy and quick tongue, I had never seen a heroine in a musical like that before. To this day when I hear “I Have Confidence” I instantly get in a positive mood. Seriously, if you’re ever in a crappy mood and need a pick-me-up, put on that song. Suddenly you’re smiling and feeling on top again.
And I love every single one of those Von Trapp kids. From Gretl to Leisl (especially Leisl…what girl didn’t want to be her????), I thought they were all awesome in their own way. Shy, bold, sweet, incorrigible…they all have their own identities, which is hard to come by in movies with large casts these days.
And the songs. Oh, the songs. They’re – for lack of a better word – wonderful. It doesn’t matter that I’m 33 years old – I still get a kick out of singing “Do-Re-Mi” and “Lonely Goatherd”, and I cry whenever I hear Christopher Plummer sing about Edelweiss flowers.
And I hate Rolfe for totally dissing Leisl like that, especially after dancing around in the gazebo with her. Worst villain in the movie, that one.
2. Newsies (1992)
Not much more can be said about this movie that hasn’t already been said. Put together a bunch of cute teenage boys who sing about selling newspapers and dance like it’s NOT 1899, and you’ve got the best movie musical of the decade. Some highlights include:
1. Christian Bale
2. Christian Bale
3. Christian Bale
4. Christian Bale
Whatever. Just watch it.
1. Moulin Rouge (2001)
I’ve wanted to write about this movie in many of my blog posts over the past year, but I’ve never had the perfect opportunity to do so, unless I write a post about “Movies That Have Changed My Life”. Because that’s what Moulin Rouge did. Changed my life.
I have a personal attachment to this movie because it was the first movie I saw in the theater when I moved out to CA, and the first movie I went to see with my future husband. It was one of those moments when timing was everything.
More specifically, though, Moulin Rouge changed the way I watched movies. Upon first viewing, you can’t but think, “THIS MOVIE IS TOTALLY INSANE.” And it is. It’s controlled chaos. Some people hate it, some people love it. And man oh man, I LOVE IT.
The whole movie is gorgeous to look at. The colors, the excitement, the sets, the costumes…it’s just amazing. And the music? You wouldn’t think that Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman would be able to pull it off, but they actually exceed expectations. They’re perfect in the roles of Christian and Satine, you believe their story, and you root for them the entire time.
Baz Luhrmann picked excellent songs to tell his story, and my favorite scenes tend to star those songs. I knew I would love this movie from the moment Ewan McGregor opened his mouth to sing one line from “The Sound of Music”, but it was when he sang Elton John’s “Your Song” that I fell hard. I smile during the entire “Elephant Love Medley”, and I get all weepy when they sing the SHOULD-HAVE-BEEN-NOMINATED-FOR-AN-ACADEMY-AWARD song “Come What May”.
Oh, and the best five minutes of the entire movie – nay, the best five minutes of ANY movie – comes during the “El Tango de Roxanne”, with Ewan McGregor singing during one of the most intensely choreographed scenes I’ve ever seen. I can’t even find words to explain it; you just gotta see it.
And yes, Satine dies at the end, but we know that from the beginning. It’s sad, but the movie as a whole made us so happy that it doesn’t even bother us. Why?
The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.
Remember that, folks. It’s important stuff.