15 Best Musicals Ever Made

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It’s no secret that film owes its success to the Broadway musical. With this in mind, it’s easy to see why the musical is one of cinema’s most endearing and enduring genres. Though not as popular as it was in cinema’s heyday, the musical, as a genre, is uniquely fitted for the strengths of cinema. With its grand gestures and big musical numbers, there is no mountain a movie musical can’t climb. 

With this in mind, we will look at the best movie musicals ever made. From modern classics to old favorites, we’re looking at every high-kicking, sing-songy moment from one of the best genres the cinema has to offer.

1. Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

Singin’ in the Rain
Photo Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly’s Technicolor Marvel is a timeless classic that captures the essence of Hollywood’s transition from silent films to “talkies.” For fans of Damien Chazelle’s Babylon, many of that film’s best scenes pay direct tribute to this one. It is essential viewing for anyone with two working eyes.

2. The Sound of Music (1965)

The Sound of Music (1964)
Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox.

Julie Andrews shines in Robert Wises’ heartwarming tale of a governess who brings music and love into the lives of a widowed captain’s seven children amidst the backdrop of Nazi-occupied Austria. This is the quintessential example of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s works being adapted to the silver screen. Watch out for the gorgeous 70mm Panavision location photography! 

3. West Side Story (1961)

Photo Credit: United Artists.

Another one by Robert Wise, this modern retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet sees the timeless story placed against the backdrop of 1950s New York City. It showcases the fierce rivalry between two street gangs through electrifying choreography by the great Jerome Robbins and unforgettable melodies written by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim.

4. The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

Directed by the great Victor Fleming, this eternal film follows Dorothy and her friends down the yellow brick road as they try to get Dorothy back home to Kansas. Filled with memorable songs like “Over the Rainbow” and “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” this Old Hollywood wonder will keep you singing until the credits start rolling.

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5. Grease (1978)

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Set in the 1950s, this high-energy musical follows the summer romance between greaser Danny Zuko and good girl Sandy Olsson. Grease features catchy tunes and one of the greatest final shots in any film ever made. Avoid any of the sequels or spin-offs!

6. Cabin in the Sky (1943)

Photo Credit: MGM.

This 1943 musical, the first film directed by Vincente Minnelli, is a rip-roaring musical about Little Joe, a man who dies from a gunshot wound, and the battle that takes place over the fate of his soul. It was unique at the time of its release for being the first American musical to feature an all-black cast and actually treat those characters with dignity and respect.

7. Moulin Rouge! (2001)

Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox.

Baz Luhrmann’s visually dazzling jukebox musical showcases Luhrmann’s visual flourish with a lavish, Bohemian-era Parisian setting. The film, which follows an English poet’s torrid romance with a Moulin Rouge cabaret singer, competed for the Palme d’Or at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival. 

8. The Phantom of the Opera (2004)

Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s iconic stage musical comes to life on the silver screen with stunning visuals and haunting melodies, courtesy of Lost Boys director Joel Schumacher. Telling the tale of a mysterious masked man who falls in love with a young soprano, the film would, for better or for worse, introduce the world to Gerard Butler’s singing voice. 

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9. Fiddler on the Roof (1971)

Photo Credit: United Artists.

Set in Tsarist Russia, this musical follows the struggles of Tevye, a Jewish milkman, as he tries to maintain his traditions and navigate the changing world around him. Norman Jewison offers a deft hand to this blockbuster adaptation, which went on to become the highest-grossing film of 1971.

10. Cabaret (1972)

Photo Credit: Allied Artists Pictures.

Set in pre-World War II Berlin, this musical explores the rise of the Nazi party through the lens of the Kit Kat Club. Featuring provocative performances from Liza Minnelli and Michael York, director Bob Fosse’s mastery of choreography in this and his follow-up, All That Jazz, prove him to be one of the best directors of movie musicals.

11. An American in Paris (1951)

Photo Credit: MGM.

Gene Kelly stars in this romantic musical, directed by Vincent Minnelli, set in post-war Paris. The story follows a love triangle between a Parisian make-up counter worker, an American GI, and the former’s concert pianist boyfriend. Calamity ensues as some of the greatest musical numbers ever committed to the screen are displayed before you.

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12. The King and I (1956)

Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox.

This lavish musical tells the story of an English governess who teaches the children of the King of Siam, challenging his traditional beliefs and sparking a forbidden romance. Another musical from Rodgers and Hammerstein, Yul Brynner stuns as King Mongkut, despite the obvious social implications of a Russian actor playing a Chinese king.d

13. My Fair Lady (1964)

Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

Audrey Hepburn stars as Eliza Doolittle, a Cockney flower girl who receives elocution lessons from a professor to transform into a proper lady, in this beloved adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s play. Directed by the great George Cukor, the film would win Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Director at the 1965 Academy Awards.

14. Funny Girl (1968)

Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures.

Barbra Streisand shines in her star-making, Oscar-winning role as Fanny Brice, a comedic performer who rises to fame in early 20th-century New York City. William Wyler gives the film a sturdy and assured hand, leading to one of the greatest films of the back half of the 20th Century.

15. Evita (1996)

Photo Credit: Hollywood Pictures.

Alan Parker’s stark and gritty adaptation of the 1978 Andrew Lloyd Webber musical stars Madonna as Eva Perón, the iconic First Lady of Argentina. Tracing her rise to power and untimely demise, the film was a passion project for Parker, who had tried adapting Evita in 1974 when it was still a concept album by Webber and his writing partner, Tim Rice.

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