If a complete stranger suddenly broke into a dramatic musical performance right in front of you, it would probably be unnerving—even if that stranger looked like In the Heights star Anthony Ramos. But in the movies, expressing one’s deepest wants, needs, and fears through a choreographed song and dance number is just an average Tuesday. While the best movie musicals offer a bit of escapism from our humdrums lives, they’re not completely devoid of reality. In fact, most musicals, whether they’re about the warring gangs of a changing city or a struggling playwright at a creative crossroads, ask us to take a closer look at our own less-musical existences.
For those with a song in their heart, here’s a list of 10 movie musicals to stream right now, including classic hits and new favorites starring icons such as Rita Moreno, Liza Minnelli, and Kermit the Frog. One could argue that we’re currently living through a Hollywood musical renaissance, which is why the list skews toward more recent offerings. Still, most of these films are big-screen adaptations of musicals that at one point or another took Broadway by storm.
There are no animated musicals on this list, but that shouldn’t stop anyone from talking about Enchanto’s Bruno. Filmed versions of live Broadway productions were also omitted, which means Hamilton didn’t make the cut this time around—but, don’t worry, the work of Lin Manuel-Miranda is well-represented here. The hills are alive in the Sound of Music, but since so much has already been said about Julie Andrews’ Maria, it’s a different, though equally-as-admired Maria who earned a spot below.
This list is in no way definitive, but perhaps will encourage those who like what they see to dig deeper into the movie-musical catalogs—or even better, break out into a spontaneous song or two.
West Side Story (2021)
Steven Spielberg’s reimagining of the iconic 1957 Stephen Sondheim musical about two rival gangs and the young lovers caught in the middle of their turf war, which became an equally terrific 1961 film, makes a few key updates. The refresh gives this tragic love story starring Rachel Zegler and Ansel Elgort new life.
Mamma Mia! (2008)
It’s hard to take your eyes off Liza Minnelli as she hip-thrusts her way through Bob Fosse’s seductive big-screen adaptation of the 1966 musical about an enigmatic cabaret singer trying to navigate love in the time of the Nazis.
Tick, Tick…Boom! (2021)
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s directorial debut brought the late Rent playwright Jonathan Larson’s 1990 autobiographical musical about the pain and glory of being a Broadway dreamer to the masses—and helped Andrew Garfield nab his first Academy Award nomination.
Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella (1997)
Whitney Houston is more than a fairy godmother to Brandy’s Cinderella: she’s the queen diva in this fresh take on the 1957 musical.
The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984)
Jim Henson’s bop-filled Muppet movie is a love letter to anyone—easy-going frogs, glamorous pigs, suburban kids—who dream of making it in the Big Apple.
What if an animated Disney princess suddenly found herself banished from her magic kingdom to the island of Manhattan? Well, that’s the premise of this sweet, satirical musical, starring Amy Adams, that pokes a little fun at the fairytale industrial complex.
In the Heights (2021)
Washington Heights, a New York City neighborhood, is the real star of this candy-colored adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s debut musical about a close-knit community feeling the effects of gentrification.
Moulin Rouge! (2001)
Baz Luhrmann’s absolutely bonkers jukebox musical stars Ewan McGregor as a struggling poet in 1890s Paris whose infatuation with nightclub star Satine (Nicole Kidman) puts them both in grave danger. The movie, which features dizzying interpretations of songs by Nirvana, The Police, and David Bowie, is a fever dream you won’t want to wake up from.
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