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Top 10 Best Musicals of All-Time

Musicals are an essential part of American film culture. They bring us closer together through their spontaneous singing and artful way of portraying life. From Singin’ In the Rain to La La Landmoviegoers have flocked to theaters to see their favorite actors and actresses singing and dancing across the silver screen. Some musicals are lighthearted, like Beauty and the Beast (2017), while others, such as Les Miserables, are more dramatic. Regardless of the story, they all share one aspect: song and dance bringing characters and audiences together.

#10: My Fair Lady (1964)

This movie is definitely a classic. Starring Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn, it focuses on a haughty professor (Harrison) trying to ingrain some culture into a young vagrant (Hepburn). The Cockney accents mixed with the more upper-class British accents are what really makes this musical come alive — they perfectly mix with the music and create that old-timey musical feel. Featuring iconic songs such as “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?” “On the Street Where You Live,” and “The Rain in Spain,” this is definitely a must-see for all musical fans.

Musicals

Image via 54 Disney Reviews

#9: Fiddler on the Roof (1971)

Awww, if I were a rich (wo)man…I would definitely pay money to see this in theaters. This movie is a tale about the Russian family of Tevye and his five daughters as he struggles to maintain his Jewish traditions in the face of a changing family and country. Though this movie is just over three hours, it is definitely worth it to hear classic songs like “Matchmaker, Matchmaker,” “If I Were a Rich Man,” and “Sunrise, Sunset.” If you’re like me, you may end up wishing that you, too, could transport to early twentieth century Russia, where life was simpler and bursting out into song was required.

Musicals

Image via Common Sense Media

#8: Pocahontas (1995)

Starring Mel Gibson as explorer John Smith and Irene Bedard (an actual Native American–good job Disney!) as free-spirited Pocahontas, this movie has some of Disney’s best music, in my opinion. “Colors of the Wind” and “Just Around the Riverbend” are the soundtrack of my and probably every other American’s childhood. The wonder and glory this soundtrack portrays gives the audience a soaring feeling that only enhances the experience.

Musicals

Image via Disney Story Origins Podcast

#7: The Wizard of Oz (1939)

The Wizard of Oz is a classic, not only among musicals but among movies in general. It was one of the first movies to use Technicolor, causing Dorothy’s ruby red slippers to dazzlingly stand out. This movie features Judy Garland’s amazing voice in songs such as “Somewhere over the Rainbow” and “We’re Off to See the Wizard.” The best part about this movie is the way it combines startlingly bright color with a wondrous fantasy plot. It reminds us all that our “hearts,” “brains,” and “courage” were in us all along, and we don’t need a wizard to help us get them.

Musicals

Image via Oz Wikia

#6: Newsies (1992)

Starring Christian Bale of The Dark Knight fame, this 1992 film resulted in every girl in America hopelessly swooning over the dashing Jack Kelly (Bale). Detailing the newsboy strike of 1899, this film doesn’t pass the Bechdel Test, but I can let it slide because they all sing and dance beautifully. The best part about this movie is the dance numbers set to the Alan Silvestri score. The dances are so well-choreographed yet just clumsy enough to remind you that you’re still watching a bunch of goofy teenage boys messing around. It’s a stunning piece of musical cinema.

Musicals

Image via Vulture

#5: West Side Story (1961)

This Romeo and Juliet story incorporates everything great about the late 1950s with modern dance numbers that have captivated audiences everywhere. With recognizable songs like “Maria” and “I Feel Pretty,” a tense rivalry between two gangs, and the forbidden love plot, this musical hits all the points that make not only a good musical, but a good movie as well. The blatant male bravado of the Sharks and the Jets combined with the softer femininity of the girls of both gangs create a movie that audiences of all genders and ages will love.

Musicals

Image via On the Set of New York

#4: Mary Poppins (1964)

Who doesn’t love Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke? Everyone has a soft spot in their heart for Mary Poppins and her magic handbag, her flying umbrella, and her no-nonsense attitude. In a way, I think we all wish we had a Mary Poppins of our own in our life. Someone to sing “A Spoonful of Sugar” or “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” to us when we were down, or to spirit us away to the rooftops of London to watch the chimney sweeps dance and sing their song. This is one of the musicals that definitely earns its place on the list as a certifiable classic.

Musicals

Image via Disney Movies

#3: La La Land (2016)

Starring heartthrobs Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, this is one of the best movies I’ve seen come out in the past few years. It has all the surrealism of a musical with the reality of modern Hollywood. Also, who knew that the two had such superb singing voices? Sure, they’re no Bing Crosby or Judy Garland, but that’s what makes their voices so unique–they sound like actual people and not professionals singing. From the bubbly opening number to the jazzy piano solos to the sophisticated tap routines, this combines all that’s good about old Hollywood with all that’s good about new Hollywood to create an extraordinary musical.

Musicals

Image via Slash Film

#2: The Sound of Music (1965)

Starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, this is one of my all-time favorite movies, let alone musicals. It takes place in the perfect setting: scenic 1930s Austria, right before World War II. With delightful numbers featuring the Von Trapp children — “My Favorite Things,” “Do Re Mi,” “So Long, Farewell” — and the more romantic numbers — “Something Good,” “Sixteen Going On Seventeen” — this movie is perfect for families or anyone who enjoys beautiful music set against an equally beautiful setting. I don’t know anyone who can watch this movie without a smile gracing their face at some point.

Musicals

Image via How Stuff Works

#1: Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

What other movie could take the top spot? With Hollywood stars like Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, and Donald O’Connor, this movie couldn’t fail. Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly’s genius choreography and classic tunes like “Make ’em Laugh,” “Moses Supposes,” and, of course, “Singin’ in the Rain” are the highlights of this exceptionally well-made musical. It undoubtedly earns every accolade and award it gets. What better way to celebrate the shift from silent movies to talkies than through song and dance?

Musicals

Image via Cineaste


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49 Responses

  1. Pocahontas. yes! yes! yes!

  2. Loved La La Land and Singin’ In The Rain but (blush) never heard of Newsies till now. I’d add Oklahoma! and – yep! – Mamma Mia! for the sheer escapism, energy and familiar Abba songs.
    By the way, thanks so much for stopping by and the follow ?.

  3. Sveta says:

    Awesome post! I can relate because I have seen so many of these!!! ?

  4. nickc324 says:

    This is a great list. I love Musicals and liked your choices. I finally saw Singin’ in the Rain for the first time last year and greatly enjoyed it.

  5. Patricia says:

    Fantastic list! My top two are probably Singin’ in the Rain, and My Fair Lady. 🙂

  6. Rob Rehburg says:

    Speaking specifically of movie musicals (film adaptations of stage musicals), I think the list was sorely lacking CHICAGO.

  7. Musicals I love include Beauty and the Beast, Newsies, Rent, Sound of Music, Annie, South Pacific, Phantom of the Opera,Wicked and Les Mis. I am a musical theatre fanatic.

    • Kali Tuttle says:

      Great taste!

      • I learned these musicals over various times. Some of them I learned to love in elementary school, some in middle school and eventually some I learned to love in college.

        Wicked sparked my love for musicals in 12 when I saw it on Broadway. Les Mis turned it into a passion for musicals.

  8. Great list! I agree but perhaps would swap the ranking a little bit. I would add The Rocky Horror Picture Show. As a kid, having seen some of those movies when they first came out, I thought the actors were so grown-up and now they look so incredibly young!

  9. This should have come with a nostalgia alert! I remember seeing Fiddler on the Roof in the theater when it came out and loving it. I also saw Mary Poppins in the theater when it came out, and I hated it. I was as offended as an eight-year-old can be that one of my favorite characters had been Disneyized. In the original book series, Mary Poppins had a definite edge to her.

  10. delaneyr10 says:

    I’m a huge fan of musicals and movie musicals and I think this is a great list! I would also include Rent, Chicago, and Beauty and the Beast, which I enjoyed more than Pocahontas and maybe Greatest Showman.

    Just as a side note, I don’t know if you know this but Newsies was actually one of Disney’s biggest box office flops but it kind of became a cult classic and went on to become a really successful musical on Broadway.They actually did a live taping of the stage show of Newsies and it’s on Netflix now if you’re interested. 🙂 Anyways, I love Newsies a lot, both the movie and the stage show.

  11. anne leueen says:

    Great choices and I’m so glad LaLa Land was included. Such a wonderful film.

  12. Elitsa says:

    I love Hair!

  13. What an embarrassing list. Retaining “Singin’ in the Rain” and (perhaps) “The Wizard of Oz”, any essential list would have to consider “The Band Wagon”, “It’s Always Fair Weather”, “Meet Me in St. Louis”, “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg”, “Cabaret”, “Top Hat” and “Love Me Tonight”. “La La Land” is a musical made to please those people whose parents always told them how talented they were and can now be vindicated as they can go to a movie and see people just as incapable of real singing and dancing.

  14. WH Plumber says:

    I vote #1 Jesus Christ Superstar; #2 Oklahoma; #3 The Music Man. The rest are basically in the order of your list.

  15. Kali Tuttle says:

    What I can gather from these comments is that I have a TON more musicals to watch! Maybe there will be a part 2 to this top 10! Stay tuned and thanks for your comments guys!

  16. Dan says:

    It’s not a genre I have a huge affection for but I think you’ve captured most of the defining musicals. The Sound Of Music is my favourite. I have a soft spot for Grease too.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Instead of ‘Pocohantas’ may I suggest ‘Hello Dolly’? You have your pick of Striesand in the film, or Carol Channing on stage, both excellent versions of a Lehman production. You miss ‘Annie’ as well, more so than a cartoon.

    • Kali Tuttle says:

      Lol everyone hating on my pick of Pocahontas but that’s okay. I actually haven’t seen Hello Dolly (except those clips on WALL-E haha) so I’ll have to watch it! Also, I like Annie a lot, but it just wasn’t good enough to make the cut for me.

  18. Peachy says:

    Watched a few of those, and will definitely reference this list so I can watch those I missed! My Fair Lady is so good! Also, I thought The Greatest Showman was better than LaLaLand (although I did love LaLaLand, especially the jazz numbers!! and the tap dance)

  19. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers in and La La Land or Pocahontas out. Otherwise great list

  20. Bryan Caron says:

    Top notch list, but I can’t help but have a soft spot for Little Shop of Horrors, Seven Brides For Seven Brothers and of course, Popeye!! (The casting along in that film is amazing!)

    • Kali Tuttle says:

      I mentioned this in another comment, but Seven Brides was so close to making it! Love that movie! Haven’t seen the other two so I guess I should get on that

      • Bryan Caron says:

        Just remember when looking for Little Shop of Horrors, look for the the 1986 version with Rick Moranis (which is based off the Broadway musical), not the original 1960 version, which isn’t a musical.

  21. I would definitely pick Beauty and the Beast or Aladdin over Pocahontas–I never felt the latter had much going for it besides Colors of the Wind (which admittedly is beautiful)

    • Kali Tuttle says:

      I like Beauty and the Beast a lot and it was very close to making this list. Also I haven’t seen Aladdin in a looooong time and I need to haha

    • Peachy says:

      I agree about Pocahontas, it didn’t stand out for me. Meanwhile, Aladdin’s A Whole New World, everyone knows ?

  22. Vuava says:

    I must confess I don’t like West Side Story – I don’t think it has aged well. I’m a huge fan of Singing in the Rain though, it’s great fun.

  23. Great list! I love my musicals, in general! My comments on these picks:

    10) My Fair Lady: A musical film I need to rewatch, but overall great songs
    9) Fiddler on the Roof: A wonderful film with simplistic ideals that are portrayed respectfully
    8) Pocahontas: Never loved the film or its songs that much, tbh. Savages is the only song I really like.
    7) Wizard of Oz: A classic film that I think we revere more than we fairly criticize
    6) Newsies: Honestly not a fan of that film or most of its songs
    5) WSS: I’m the only one not into this musical. Officer Krupke is the only song I love from it.
    4) Mary Poppins: My fave live-action Disney film, simply “practically perfect”
    3) La La Land: I liked it, but definitely not that much
    2) Sound of Music: Another classic that others love more than I do
    1) Singin’ in the Rain: I’ve only seen once when I was younger and found it boring, I need to rewatch it.

    My fave musicals will be Disney ones, in particular, Beauty and the Beast (1991), but my top 5 fave non-Disney musicals are (in no particular order): Little Shop of Horrors, Les Miserables, Fiddler on the Roof, Oliver!, and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

  24. Good list. I would have squeezed in Gigi.

    • Kali Tuttle says:

      I haven’t seen that one! I disqualified anything I hadn’t seen because I felt it was unfair to review something if I hadn’t seen it lol

  25. Everyone says La La Land is good; I’ve yet to watch it. Good list! Some of my favorites! I miss a good musical!

    • Nick Kush says:

      Definitely check out La La Land! It got a bad wrap last year during the awards season as it took on such backlash after receiving overwhelmingly positive initial praise. It’s a lovely movie!

  26. Nick Kush says:

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