Musical movies have been a part of our culture for decades. Whether you’re a Musical fan or not, everyone has that one that they have a soft spot for, they can’t help but sing along and it gives them that warm fuzzy feeling inside.
Music movies are a great way to escape from the real world. For 120 minutes or so you’re in a world where the general public can burst into song and dance at any time. There are tons of movie musicals, from lesser-known titles like ‘The Music Man’ movie to the recent popular ones everyone knows like the ‘Cats’ musical movie, ‘Annie’, and the ‘High School Musical’ movie.
In a day and age where you can watch films pretty much anywhere, we want to give you some inspiration. In this article, we’ll briefly go through the history and a list of musical movies that we think are the best of all time!
What Is A Musical Movie?
A musical movie is a motion picture where songs sung by the actors are woven into the narrative of the story, this can also be paired with dancing. The songs featured in the film most commonly further the narrative of the character, although sometimes serve merely as breaks in the storyline.
There are many types, from film adaptations of stage musicals to musicals created purely for tv or movies. Some film musicals have no speech at all, only a string of songs to relay the story to the audience, these are called a ‘song cycle’.
We’re talking about a genre of film that’s almost as old as the film itself. Since the very first ‘talkies’ (films with sound) were invented, musical films have been a source of entertainment for millions. The very first movie musical was ‘The Jazz Singer’, released in 1927.
Following this, there was a surge in musical films making the most of the invention of sound with the motion picture. In the mid-1930s, the singing/dancing teams such as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers became hugely popular. Some would say they have moulded musical movies into what they are today.
With the likes of Netflix giving musicals their own category, this has also boosted viewings. From old musical movies to new, for kids and adults, it’s made choosing a film on a Sunday evening a whole lot easier.
Best Movie Musicals Of All Time
We’re going to try and compile a list of some of the best musicals movies of all time. Without further ado, here we go…
The Sound of Music (1965)
The Sound of Music is a 1965 musical film directed by Robert Wise and starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. The film is based on the true story of the Von Trapp Family Singers, an Austrian family who escape from the Nazis in 1938 by fleeing over the Alps.
The film follows the story of Maria, a young postulant who is sent to the Von Trapp family to be their governess. Maria soon falls in love with the children and their widowed father, Captain Von Trapp, and eventually marries him.
The family then embarks on a journey to Switzerland, where they are able to find safety from the Nazis. The film features some of the most iconic songs in musical history, including “Do-Re-Mi,” “My Favorite Things,” and “Edelweiss.” The Sound of Music is a beloved classic that has become a staple in popular culture.
- The Sound of Music was the highest-grossing film of 1965, earning over $158 million in box office receipts.
- The film won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Sound, Best Film Editing, and Best Music.
- The Sound of Music was the first live-action film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture since Ben-Hur in 1959.
- The Sound of Music was the last musical to win the Academy Award for Best Picture until Chicago in 2002.
- The Sound of Music soundtrack is one of the best-selling albums of all time, with over 20 million copies sold worldwide.
- The Sound of Music was the first feature film to be shot entirely in the 70mm widescreen format.
- The Sound of Music was the first feature film to be released in the Dolby Stereo sound system.
- The Sound of Music was the first feature film to be released with a six-track soundtrack.
- The Sound of Music was the first feature film to be released with a six-track soundtrack.
- The film was shot on location in Austria, including the cities of Salzburg, Mondsee, and Werfen.
Directed by: Robert Wise
Music and Lyrics: Richard Rogers/ Oscar Hammerstein
Starring: Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer
Budget: $8.2 Million
Box Office: $296.2 Million
Best Known Songs: The Hills Are Alive’ and ‘My Favourite Things’
First of all, let’s start with arguably one of the best-known musicals. There aren’t many people who are unaware of the von Trapp family and the wild-spirited nun, Maria. Maria goes to work as a nanny to all 7 of the von Trapp children in Austria. She breaks through the previous military-style upbringing with songs and fun and ultimately falls in love with the widowed father, Captain von Trapp.
As the story progresses, you learn that the family will have to flee Austria to Switzerland to avoid becoming part of Hitler’s evil plans for the war. The Sound of Music was originally a stage musical, first performed in 1959. If you want something classic, the film adaptation of The Sound of Music movie is the one for you!
Les Misérables (2012)
- Les Misérables is a 2012 musical drama film based on the musical of the same name by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg.
- The film stars Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Aaron Tveit, and Sacha Baron Cohen.
- The film was directed by Tom Hooper and produced by Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward, and Cameron Mackintosh.
- Les Misérables was released in the U.S. on Christmas Day 2012 and grossed over $440 million worldwide.
- The film was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won three, including Best Supporting Actress for Anne Hathaway.
- Les Misérables was the first musical to be nominated for Best Picture since Chicago in 2002.
Directed by: Tom Hooper
Music and Lyrics: Claude-Michel Schönberg
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Eddie Redmayne, Amanda Seyfried, Anne Hathaway, Samantha Barks, Russell Crowe, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter
Budget: $61 Million
Box Office: $441.8 Million
Best Known Songs: ‘On My Own’, ‘Bring Him Home’ and ‘I Dreamed A Dream’
No one can ignore this star-studded cast. Set in the early 1800s in France, Hugh Jackman opens the film as Jean Valjean. He’s a prisoner serving 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his starving sister and her child.
After being released from prison he assumes a different identity and reforms his life, adopting a child, Cosette, and raising her as his own. Javert, the ruthless police officer played by Russell Crowe, is on the hunt for the prisoner who violated parole, Jean Valjean.
Fun fact: a lot of this movie was filmed in Greenwich, London. This caused a lot of hassle for the locals! The beautifully done sets and music and opera-style singing will leave the hairs on your arm standing up. Les Mis is really one of the nation’s favourites. So, add it to your watchlist now!
West Side Story (1961)
- West Side Story is a musical film adaptation of the 1957 Broadway musical of the same name.
- The film was directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins and starred Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Russ Tamblyn, Rita Moreno, and George Chakiris.
- The film was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won 10, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay.
- The film was the first musical to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.
- West Side Story was the fourth highest-grossing film of 1961, earning $43 million in the United States and Canada.
- The film was re-released in the United States in 1965 and 1972 and was released on DVD in 2001.
- West Side Story was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 1997.
Directed by: Robert Wise/ Jerome Robbins
Music and Lyrics: Leonard Bernstein/ Stephen Sondheim
Starring: Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Russ Tamblyn, Rita Monero
Budget: $6.75 Million
Box Office: $44.1 Million
Best Known Songs: ‘Maria’, ‘I Feel Pretty’ and ‘America’
This musical movie marked a turn in musical theatre addressing social problems and racism in America. West Side Story was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won 10 including a special award for Jerome Robbins for choreography. With perhaps some of the most iconic choreography of all time, the finger-clicking in the opening scenes immediately sets the suspense for the story to come.
Based on Romeo and Juliet, teenagers Tony and Maria fall in love in 1950s New York City. This is despite having affiliations with rival street gangs, the white Jets and Puerto Rican Sharks. This causes rifts within the gangs and they try to keep the pair separate, however, they see each other in secret.
Elvis Presley was approached for the role of Tony but turned it down! Now, there’s a remake of West Side Story planned for release in December 2021 directed by Steven Spielberg!
- Hairspray is a 2007 musical comedy film based on the 2002 Broadway musical of the same name, which in turn was based on John Waters’s 1988 film of the same name.
- The film stars John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, Amanda Bynes, Queen Latifah, Brittany Snow, Zac Efron, Elijah Kelley, and Nikki Blonsky in her feature film debut.
- The film follows Tracy Turnblad, an overweight teenager living in Baltimore, Maryland, who dreams of being a dancer on a local TV show.
- The film was a critical and commercial success, grossing over $200 million worldwide.
- It was nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and won one for Best Original Song for “Shine”.
- The film was adapted into a stage musical in 2002, which was nominated for eight Tony Awards and won three.
Directed by: Adam Shankman
Music and Lyrics: Marc Shaiman/ Scott Wittman
Starring: Nicki Blonsky, Zac Efron, John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer, Queen Latifah, Amanda Bynes, Christopher Walken, James Marsden, Brittany Snow, Elijah Kelley
Budget: $75 Million
Box Office: $203.5 Million
Best Known Songs: ‘Good Morning Baltimore’, ‘Big Blonde and Beautiful’ and ‘You Can’t Stop The Beat’
Set in 60’s America, with huge hair and huge dreams, Tracy Turnblad dreams of dancing on ‘The Corny Collins show. Thanks to luck and talent, she gets a spot on the show, much to the anger of the station’s producer ‘Velma’.
Tracy rallies against racism and makes huge movements against the discrimination of people of colour. The show’s lead dancer and heart-throb, ‘Link’, falls in love with Tracy. The film ends with the show becoming integrated.
Aimed at a younger audience, Hairspray opened the door for talking more about racial discrimination as well as advocating body positivity within younger audiences. Further mixed with feel-good musical numbers and colourful sets and outfits, this makes for a great night of sing-along fun!
Singin’ In The Rain (1952)
- Singin’ in the Rain was released in 1952 and is considered one of the greatest musicals ever made.
- It starred Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, and Donald O’Connor, and was directed by Stanley Donen and Kelly.
- The film was nominated for two Academy Awards, including Best Music, and Original Song for the title song.
- It was the first musical to be selected for preservation in the National Film Registry in 1989.
- The film was a box office success, grossing over $4 million in its initial release.
- The iconic song “Singin’ in the Rain” was written by Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown.
- The film was shot in only six weeks, with most of the scenes filmed on a soundstage.
- The film was shot in Technicolor and won an Academy Award for its colour cinematography.
- The film features over 20 musical numbers, most of which were written specifically for the film.
- Singin’ in the Rain is widely considered to be one of the greatest musicals ever made.
Directed by: Gene Kelly/ Stanley Donen
Music and Lyrics: Nacio Herb Brown/ Arthur Freed
Starring: Gene Kelly, Donald O’Conner, Debbie Reynolds
Budget: $2.5 Million
Box Office: $7.2 Million
Best Known Songs: ‘Singin’ In The Rain’ and ‘Make ‘Em Laugh’
Directed and choreographed by Gene Kelly, the story, set in Hollywood in the 20s, depicts three performers caught up in the transition from silent movies to ‘talkies’.
Kathy (Reynolds) and Don (Kelly) have a love-hate relationship, they don’t get on at the start but you just know they’re going to fall in love at the end, and they do! This feel-good movie, filled with romance and comedy is definitely a golden oldie. Therefore, it’s one you should have on your watch list if you haven’t already!
- Hamilton is a 2020 American musical drama film based on the 2015 stage musical of the same name, which in turn is based on the life of American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton.
- The film stars Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote both the music and lyrics for the stage musical, as Alexander Hamilton, alongside Daveed Diggs, Leslie Odom Jr., Renée Elise Goldsberry, and Christopher Jackson.
- Hamilton was released on July 3, 2020, on the streaming service Disney+, making it the first major studio film released on the platform.
- The film received critical acclaim, with praise for its performances and cinematography.
- The film was nominated for three Golden Globe Awards, including Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, and won the award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for Miranda.
Directed by: Thomas Kail
Music and Lyrics: Lin-Manuel Miranda
Starring: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Leslie Odom Jr, Phillipa Soo
Best Known Songs: ‘My Shot’, ‘Burn’ and ‘You’ll Be Back’
This Disney musical movie is a little different from the rest as it’s a recording of the stage musical rather than a film in itself. The story follows founding father Alexander Hamilton and depicts his life with his wife, Angelica and peers.
Filled with humour from King George III and terrible loss and sadness with death and adultery, this film takes you on a real emotional rollercoaster with being historically informative.
Additionally, Miranda wanted to make the show more inclusive by using a multi-ethnic cast. The Hamilton musical movie is an absolute must for your ‘to see’ list!
- Oklahoma! is a musical film adaptation of the stage musical of the same name, which was based on the Lynn Riggs play Green Grow the Lilacs.
- The film was released in 1955 and stars Gordon MacRae, Shirley Jones, Gene Nelson, Charlotte Greenwood, and Gloria Grahame.
- Oklahoma! was directed by Fred Zinnemann and produced by Arthur Hornblow, Jr.
- The musical score was composed by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II.
- Oklahoma! was nominated for three Academy Awards, winning Best Sound Recording.
- The film was added to the National Film Registry in 1998.
- Oklahoma! was the first feature film to be shot in the Todd-AO widescreen process.
Directed by: Fred Zinnemann
Music and Lyrics: Richard Rogers/ Oscar Hammerstein
Starring: Gordon MacRae, Shirley Jones, Gene Nelson
Budget: $6.8 Million
Box Office: $7.1 Million
Best Known Songs: ‘Oh What A Beautiful Mornin’ and ‘I Can’t Say No’
The Oklahoma musical movie didn’t do too well at the box office, however, it’s a musical that everyone knows the songs too. ‘Oklahoma!’ tells the story of a farm girl, Laurey, and her courtship by two rival suitors, cowboy Curly and the sinister farmhand Jud Fry while touching on the local conflict between cattlemen and farmers.
This movie musical is a little like marmite – you’ll love it or hate it, but you’ll definitely leave with those songs in your head – you might even find yourself whistling them while you hoover!
The Greatest Showman (2017)
- The Greatest Showman is a 2017 American musical drama film directed by Michael Gracey.
- The film stars Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron, Michelle Williams, Rebecca Ferguson, and Zendaya.
- The film is based on the life of P.T. Barnum, founder of the Barnum & Bailey Circus.
- The film was released in the United States on December 20, 2017, and grossed over $435 million worldwide.
- The soundtrack for the film was released in December 2017 and was a commercial success, topping the US Billboard 200 chart and becoming the third best-selling album of 2018.
- The Greatest Showman received mostly positive reviews from critics, with praise for its musical numbers, performances, and production values.
- The film received three Academy Award nominations, including Best Original Song (“This Is Me”) and Best Original Score.
Directed by: Michael Gracey
Music and Lyrics: John Debney/ Joseph Trapanese/ Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron, Michelle Williams, Zendaya, Rebecca Furgeson
Budget: $84 Million
Box Office: $435 Million
Best Known Songs: ‘The Greatest Show’, ‘Rewrite The Stars’ and ‘This Is Me’
A menagerie of colour, buoyant characters and catchy upbeat songs that you can’t help but dance to, The Greatest Showman is a phenomenal hit with both adults and children. Due to the humongous budgets of more recent musical movies, they’re using set and costumes to create large spectacles.
- Chicago is a musical crime comedy-drama film released in 2002, directed and choreographed by Rob Marshall.
- The film is based on the stage musical of the same name, which was itself based on the 1926 play Chicago by Maurine Dallas Watkins.
- The film stars Catherine Zeta-Jones, Renée Zellweger, Richard Gere and Queen Latifah.
- The film was released on December 27, 2002, in the United States, and grossed over $306 million worldwide.
- Chicago was the first musical to win the Academy Award for Best Picture since Oliver! in 1968.
- The film also won Best Supporting Actress (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Best Art Direction.
- The song “All That Jazz” from the film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song.
Directed by: Rob Marshall
Music and Lyrics: John Kander/ Fred Ebb/ Danny Elfman
Starring: Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere, Queen Latifah
Budget: $45 Million
Box Office: $306.8 Million
Best Known Songs: ‘Cell Block Tango’, ‘All That Jazz’ and ‘Roxie’
The Chicago musical movie explores the themes of celebrity life, scandal, and corruption in Chicago during the Jazz Age.
Chicago centres on Roxie Hart (Zellweger) and Velma Kelly (Zeta-Jones) two murderesses who find themselves in jail together awaiting trial in 1920s Chicago fighting for the fame that will save them from the gallows. Chicago won 6 Academy Awards including Best Picture!
Matilda The Musical Movie
- Matilda The Musical Movie is based on the 1988 novel by Roald Dahl of the same name.
- The musical was adapted for the stage by Dennis Kelly, with music and lyrics by Tim Minchin.
- Matilda The Musical Movie was released in cinemas in 2020.
- The movie stars Emma Thompson as Miss Trunchbull, Ralph Fiennes as Mr Wormwood, and Mara Wilson as Matilda.
- The movie was directed by Matthew Warchus and produced by Sony Pictures.
- Matilda The Musical Movie was nominated for 12 Tony Awards and won four.
- The movie was nominated for two Golden Globe Awards and won one.
- Matilda The Musical Movie was the first movie adaptation of the novel.
Matilda is a 2020 coming-of-age drama film directed by Matthew Warchus and written by Dennis Kelly, based on Roald Dahl’s 1988 novel of the same name.
The story follows Matilda Wormwood, a young girl with extraordinary intelligence and telekinetic powers, who are neglected and mistreated by her parents and the oppressive headmistress of her school, Miss Trunchbull. When Matilda discovers her powers, she uses them to stand up to her parents and the headmistress, and to protect her beloved teacher, Miss Honey Matilda musician movie’s most famous character.
Matilda eventually finds a way to outsmart her parents and the headmistress and make her own way in the world. Along the way, she learns the importance of friendship, courage, and standing up for what is right.
The film stars Mara Wilson, Danny DeVito, Rhea Perlman, Embeth Davidtz, Pam Ferris, and Tracey Walter. It was released in the United States on August 2, 2020, by TriStar Pictures.
Wicked The Movie
- Wicked The Movie is a horror-thriller film released in 1998.
- It was directed by Stephen Sommers and stars Julia Stiles, Bill Pullman, and Neve Campbell.
- The film follows a group of college students who are terrorized by an evil witch while on a camping trip.
- The film was a box office hit and grossed over $100 million worldwide.
- The soundtrack for the film was composed by Danny Elfman.
- The film was nominated for several awards, including an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects.
- The film was followed by two sequels, titled Wicked 2 and Wicked 3.
- The film is considered a cult classic and has developed a strong fan base.
- Features music from Ariana Grande
Wicked The Movie follows the story of wicked, two witches, Elphaba and Glinda, who were born into a divided world. Elphaba, born with emerald-green skin, is seen as an outcast and is feared by many. Glinda, on the other hand, is seen as a beautiful and popular witch.
Despite their differences, the two become unlikely friends. When Elphaba discovers a shocking truth about the kingdom, she and Glinda must join forces to save the people of Oz and restore peace to the land. Along the way, they encounter a variety of magical creatures and face off against the Wicked Witch of the West.
As they battle the forces of evil, they discover the true power of friendship and the strength that comes from standing together. In the end, Elphaba and Glinda must choose between their own personal desires and the greater good of the people of Oz.
The Broadway Show
Wicked is a Broadway musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and a book by Winnie Holzman. It is based on the 1995 Gregory Maguire novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, an alternative telling of the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz and L. Frank Baum’s classic 1900 novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
The story follows the unlikely friendship between two young women, Elphaba and Glinda, who grow to become the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good Witch, respectively. The musical tells the story of their extraordinary adventures in the Land of Oz and how their choices and actions have a lasting effect on the future of Oz and its inhabitants.
The show opened on Broadway in October 2003 and has since become one of the most successful musicals of all time. It has won numerous awards, including three Tony Awards and a Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album. The show has been performed in numerous countries and cities around the world, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Japan, Germany, the Netherlands, and Mexico.
Wicked has been praised for its powerful message of friendship, loyalty, and acceptance, as well as its stunning visuals, memorable score, and captivating performances. The show continues to be a popular choice for theatregoers of all ages.
- Hair is a 1979 American musical drama film directed by Miloš Forman and adapted from the 1968 Broadway musical of the same name.
- The film starred Treat Williams, Beverly D’Angelo, Annie Golden, Nell Carter, John Savage, and Richard Bright.
- The screenplay was written by Michael Weller and the film was produced by Dino De Laurentiis.
- Hair was the first feature film adaptation of a stage musical and was Forman’s first musical film.
- The film was released on April 20, 1979, and received mixed reviews from critics.
- The film was a box office success, grossing $20 million on a budget of $6 million.
- The soundtrack album was released by RCA Records in 1979 and featured some of the original Broadway cast, including John Savage and Treat Williams.
- The film was nominated for two Academy Awards, Best Music (Original Song Score) and Best Music (Original Song).
Directed by: Miloš Forman
Music and Lyrics: Galt MacDermot/ Gerome Ragni/ James Rado
Starring: John Savage, Treat Williams, Annie Golden
Budget: $11 Million
Box Office: $38 Million
Best Known Songs: ‘Hair’ and ‘Ain’t Got No’
The Hair musical movie is an anti-war comedy-drama film about a Vietnam War draftee who meets and befriends a group of hippies on his way to the army induction centre. The hippies introduce him to marijuana and LSD, and their environment of unorthodox relationships and draft evasion.
Leaning more towards a rock style, this movie musical reaches a slightly different audience while adding some historical context around draft evasion during the Vietnam war.
That Was Our List Of The Best Musical Movies Of All Time
There are so many more movie musicals out there, we just couldn’t fit them into one article! However, let’s give a shoutout to Wizard Of Oz, Mamma Mia, Moulin Rouge and Spinal Tap. Also, Rocketman (about Elton John’s life) is a recent musical movie that we’ve really been loving!
There really is something for everyone, whether that be the ‘Annie’ musical movie for young children or ‘Sweeney Todd’ for those horror film fans! Musical movies have a way of bringing us together.
Although not many are made each year these days, the quality of movie musicals, for the most part (ahem Cats The Musical movie remake), is of a high calibre. You can also download musical movies almost anywhere, so they are always available to you!
Hopefully, we’ve included at least one of your favourites, but let us know if we’ve missed out on yours in the comments below!
If you’re interested in the crossover between music and film, or need music for your film project, you’re in the right place! With our music licensing service and extensive music library, allow us to help you find music for your film.
So, get in touch today and our team can help you find the perfect music for your project, no matter how big or small!