Growing up, there was always music playing in our home. My mom enjoyed listening to Spanish musicians while my dad loved pop and classic rock. Usually you could find the Spanish music in the kitchen, which was my mom’s favorite room. It was bright, sunny, painted yellow and white, with flowered tablecloth and matching curtains. It was cozy and warm.
In the living room which was my dad’s favorite room, consisting of all browns and wood, you could hear Abba, the Monkeys, Elvis, the Beatles, and countless other great bands. I grew up watching the Disney channel when it played nothing but cartoons and musicals, MTV when it played only music videos. When I got older, I worked for Virgin Megastores both in the US and then again in the UK. It’s safe to say that movies and music have always been a part of my life. So it’s no surprise I love musical movies. I’ve been to see several onstage in Miami and London. My hope it to one day catch a Broadway show in NYC, because although I’ve been to NYC a few times, I never got the chance.
I thought I’d share with you my favorite musical films. Some are classics, most you may have heard of, but these are my all time favorites. They’re not in any kind of order because when it comes to movies there are too many different aspects to love from each one for me to narrow it down to just one. It’s impossible for me. Still, hope you enjoy the list!
42nd Street (1933) Busby Berkeley, the king of musical choreography. I love everything about this movie, from the gorgeous dance numbers to the classic songs like “You’re Getting To Be A Habit With Me” to “Forty-Second Street”.
My favorite quote from Director Julian Marsh to Peggy Sawyer:
“Sawyer, you listen to me, and you listen hard. Two hundred people, two hundred jobs, two hundred thousand dollars, five weeks of grind and blood and sweat depend upon you. It’s the lives of all these people who’ve worked with you. You’ve got to go on, and you’ve got to give and give and give. They’ve got to like you. Got to. Do you understand? You can’t fall down. You can’t because your future’s in it, my future and everything all of us have is staked on you. All right, now I’m through, but you keep your feet on the ground and your head on those shoulders of yours and go out, and Sawyer, you’re going out a youngster but you’ve got to come back a star!”
Ugh, gets me every time. Hollywood passion, and drama, and need! I love it!
The Blues Brothers (1980) This is one of those films I can watch over and over and never get tired of it. Aside Princess Leia playing a psycho ex-girlfriend trying to blow Jake up, the music is awesome, it’s funny, and just a load of good old fashioned crazy fun. I admit that every time I go to Universal Studios, I have to watch the Blues Brothers show and you can bet I’m out there shaking my tail feathers.
It’s directed by John Landis (Animal House, American Werewolf in London, Trading places, Coming to America) , so no surprise of its awesomeness there. And the music! Cab Calloway, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles! Let’s not forget the Bluesmobile, which is on my list of cars I would own if I were a millionaire, right after Dean Winchester’s Impala and Doc Brown’s DeLorean,
Bugsy Malone (1976) This is one of those films I’m very nostalgic about because I saw it when I was a kid in the early 80s. Aside the fact that the music was fantastic, it was a 1920s gangster movie but with an all-kid cast. I highly doubt we’ll see anything like this again. The singing was obviously done by adults. The music was arranged, synthesized, and sometimes sung by Paul Williams who I personally love. Custard shooting ‘splurge guns’ and amazing songs like, “So You Want to Be A Boxer”, “Down and Out”, and “You Give a Little Love”.
Cabaret (1972) Ah, Fosse, what’s not to love? I know the film and the musical differ vastly, and I’ve had the pleasure of watching the stage version which was phenomenal. I can’t get enough of this soundtrack, much like pretty much any Bob Fosse musical. And who can forget the Emcee? Sometimes in a musical there’s one or two songs you aren’t as keen on, but not in Cabaret. “Money, Money”, “Mein Herr”, “Cabaret”. Heartbreaking and beautiful. Not to mention stellar acting, impressive costumes, and just a must have.
Chicago (2002) Come on now, are you really surprised? Any movie that’s set during the 20s or 30s is going to draw my attention. Make it a musical and I’m all over it like teens at Beiber concert. This was just so much fun. I haven’t had the chance to see this on stage (and believe me I’ve kicked myself over it a hundred times for missing it while I was in London). I love the costumes, and of course, the music. “All That Jazz”, “Cell Block Tango” (one of my personal favorites), and “Mister Cellophane”. The corruption, passion, bright shiny things. Gimme gimme!
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) A staple of Britain. I’m a sucker for anything with Dick Van Dyke in it. When I was a kid and saw him in Mary Poppins, I just wanted to hug him. Watching this at Christmas time has become a tradition for me. I love the songs and general adorableness of it. With characters like Caractacus Potts and Truly Scrumptious, how can you not fall in love? Then there’s Chitty of course. “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” is an addictive song you can’t help but sing along too (which this film is just perfect for). Then there’s granpa and I know several Brit friends who were terrified of the Child Catcher when they were younger. I found him pretty terrifying too!
Grease (1978) Of course this was going to be on here. I LOVE singing along to Grease. A lot of folks complain about the end and what Sandy had to become to get her man, but it’s a realistic story about teenagers (just play along here) and I can put aside certain story elements because it’s Grease and it’s just frickin’ amazing as a musical. Travolta was hot, the cars were cool, and the music, well, don’t sit there and tell me you don’t know the words to “Summer Nights”, and if you don’t, why not?? I might be a little biased, as Grease was one of the first soundtracks I ever owned as a youngster and I played that thing out. I’m not even sorry.
Hairspray (2007) Now, in my mind, John Waters’ Hairspray with Ricki Lake will always be the best version, and I have never ever forgotten Tracy’s dress with the bugs. The new film is sweet, funny, and I admit, I sighed over Zac Efron’s baby blues, and James Marsden as Corny Collin, ooh, I just wanted to reach out and– ehem, anyway, the musical numbers are catchy and so much fun. My parents loved this one.
Mary Poppins (1964) I’ve lost count how many times I watched this when I was a kid, and like so many others, wished I had my very own nanny like Mary Poppins. Julie Andrews was stunning, her voice beautiful, and the whole thing is touching and a great adventure. Of course, when I was kid I had no idea what the hell a tuppence was nor did I understand half of what Bert was saying, but as I grew older I learned to appreciate the film even more.
Moulin Rouge (2001) I’m a fan of Baz Luhrmann. Though Romeo & Juliet didn’t really do it for me, visually, I really liked it. If it’d had a different soundtrack, it might have been a different story. I’m not a fan of No Doubt (I heard several of you gasp). I know, perish the thought, but during the 90s I was in high school, not my best years, so a lot of 90s music gives me sad puppy face. I won’t listen to most of it. Anyway, I LOVE Moulin Rouge, it’s right up there as one of my fave musicals. First of all, it looks gorgeous. The reds, the golds, the lighting, beautiful. I love the songs, and thought the remixes were grand. From David Bowie (a personal fave) to Queen. Despite the ending and all the angst, I love this film. The drama, the pain, the spectacular… well, spectacular!
My Fair Lady (1964) What list would be complete without Miss Eliza Doolittle? Personally, I thought Henry Higgins was a jerk. Poor Liza! That signature white dress she wore in the film? *sigh* All the songs were beautiful and wonderful and how can anyone not love this film? Audrey Hepburn was sweet and you wanted nothing more than to see her happy. “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly”, “With a Little Bit of Luck”, and “I Could Have Danced All Night”. A true classic.
The Phantom of the Opera (2004) When I first saw this film, I had no idea who Gerard Butler was. I thought he played a pretty damn fine Phantom. Later on when I saw him in other films, mostly action, I was like “say what?”, and of course quickly went back to watch him again in this. I had the pleasure of watching the stage version, and just like in the film when the music booms at the beginning and the chandelier is getting raised, I get goosebumps. Without fail. The music is just so epic, so sweeping, and well, it’s Webber. If I made a list of stage musicals, pretty much most of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musicals would be on there. My favorite song and scene has always been “Masquerade”, though I love every song from The Phantom, it’s just incredible.
Phantom of the Paradise (1974) This one, some folks may not be familiar with because it was considered a box office flop–except in Winnipeg, Canada, during the time of its release. When I first saw it, I was obsessed with the music. Phantom of the Paradise is a musical horror film, which is described to be a mix between The Phantom of the Opera, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and Faust. What it is, in my humble opinion, a great big ball of awesomeness. It was directed and written by Brian De Palma ( a great–and at times underrated, film director, Carrie, The Untouchables, Carlito’s Way) The music is by Paul Williams who also stars as the record producer of Death Records. I can’t even describe what kind of musical this is. It’s a little bleak, kind of gaudy, horrific, very much of its time, but sooo good. You can hear some of the music here.
Rock of Ages (2012) Don’t roll your eyes at me. Yes, it has Tom Cruise playing a booze-guzzling, sex-addicted rocker, but it’s filled with 80s songs! I grew up in the 80s and next to the movies, it was the next best thing to come out of that era. I openly admit, I love 80s music. Yep, Debbie Gibson, Queen, Michael Jackson, Eurythmics, Cindy Lauper… Hall & Oates. Anyway, Rock of Ages was fun and the clothes, well, they obviously avoided the most horrific wardrobe pieces thankfully. Alec Baldwin was funny and I really had no idea Tom could sing, but he pulled it off. Go on, you know you want to.
Singin’ in the Rain (1952) Classic of the classics. There isn’t one song on here that isn’t fantastic, and Gene Kelly, oh yum. The man was just gorgeous from head to toe, and talented beyond belief. Sweet, funny, and wonderfully romantic. “All I Do Is Dream of You”, “Make ‘Em Laugh”, and “Good Morning”. You don’t get more feel good than this, folks.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007) A Victorian horror musical? With Johnny Depp? What are we waiting for! I wasn’t familiar with the story of Sweeney Todd before this film, but I thoroughly enjoyed everything about this version, the story, the costumes, the colors, and the music.
Sweet Charity (1969) Another great Bob Fosse film, and like most of his musicals, it’s pretty tragic and heart-breaking at its core, but the music. Well, the man’s not a legend for nothing. “Big Spender” (a personal favorite) uh, that scene is just fantastic. “The Rhythm of Life”, very much a 60s scene, but love it. The 60s is one of those eras I’m still trying to wrap my head around, and the musical numbers in this film fascinate me, along with the fashion. Any one of you ever do any of these dances?
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) One of my top favorites! The epitome of musicals, a cult classic, and just over all amazing! This is one of the musicals I am dying to catch on stage. Tim Curry is sexy, sassy, heart-breaking, and just the best thing ever in this film! I love each and every song. It’s fun, you can’t help but sing along, try and tell me you haven’t done the Time Warp somewhere at some point. “Over at the Frankenstein Place”, “Time Warp”, “Sweet Transvestite”, “I’m Going Home”. Pure perfection.
West Side Story (1961) Do I really need to explain this one? One of the best if not the best Romeo & Juliet inspired piece. The whole film is just beautiful, the songs gorgeous. The music buries itself in your heart and makes a home, Maria and Tony break you heart. The Jets and the Sharks will forever be part of musical history. “Something’s Coming”, “Maria”, “America”.
The Wizard of Oz (1939) When I was a kid, I loved this. Now I’m all grown up, and I still love this. When I was little, I thought Judy Garland was the prettiest girl I’d ever seen. The Wicked Witch and her flying monkeys scared the pants off me. When it goes from black & white to full technicolor, I’m still in awe. “Over the Rainbow”, it tugs at your heartstrings, and of course I dressed up as Dorothy for Halloween! I’m pretty sure I was in my teens, and I’d do it again!
Well that’s my list and believe me it was tough narrowing it down. I didn’t include any Disney animated films because that’s a whole other list. There are some classics that were left out like the Sound of Music and The King & I because I could only pick 20.
Do you have a favorite? What do you like most about musicals?