It’s my mum’s birthday and because I am a wonderful daughter I thought why not make a top ten list to celebrate… after much thought and discussion my mother requested I compile a list of my top 10 movie musicals. Her wish is my command. This isn’t a definitive list – these are just the musicals that have captured my heart over the years (and one just for mum).
Disclaimer this movie musicals, the list would be pretty different if I was talking about the stage so keep that in mind.
10. Top Hat (1935)
It would not be a list of musicals without Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and Top Hat is my favourite of their films together plus it has the infamous feather dress and who doesn’t like the feather dress (apart from Fred Astaire). I love a screwball comedy anyway and if you can add musical numbers, it just takes it to a whole new level (romance is pretty much fantasy anyway, why not run with it completely). There are a number of great dance numbers in this movie but you really can’t go past the aforementioned feather dress in ‘Cheek to Cheek’ (why does everything in old movies sound like an innuendo?)
9. Chicago (2002)
Chicago is not one of my favourite musicals (even if it does have sex and murder) but the cinematic adaptation is without a doubt the best film adaptations in recent years. Usually when they take a stage musical and recast it with Hollywood elite, it doesn’t end that well. I mean, Hollywood actors are not usually known for their musical talent – but this is one of the rare occurrences where it works to an advantage. Catherine Zeta-Jones steals the show but even Renee Zellwegger is good (and I’m not usually a fan – except for Empire Records aka the best movie ever). This is a sexy sinful musical that definitely deserves a spot in my top 10.
8. Oliver! (1968)
I hate Charles Dickens (well his novels anyway, I did not know him as a person but if he was as boring as his books I doubt we would have got on), so anything that makes me enjoy his longwinded tales has got to be good. This musical some how manages to make me care about characters that I generally detest… then again I’m pretty sure I saw Oliver! before I read the book so maybe that’s why I hate Dickens so much. I keep expecting it to be as exciting and emotional as a musical not entirely depressing with horrid characters that kind of deserve to have crap lives. Anyway I love this musical, it’s epic and heartbreaking, beautifully shot and choreographed and I just really love it.
7. Grease (1977)
Grease is still the word after all these years! Seriously though, who doesn’t have a fond memory of watching Grease one of the many times it has aired on television over the years and it doesn’t matter how many times you go back and watch, it never loses its charm. The story is simple, it’s a high school romance – with a bad boy and a good girl, but the songs are catchy as hell so we forgive it. Besides I’ve always been partial to musicals with gangs and teen pregnancy – none of that squeaky-clean High School Musical rubbish (okay so I kind of like High School Musical too but Grease is still better). The trouble is that this film leaves you with a lingering question that could haunt you for the rest of your life – why the hell does the car fly at the end?
6. Carousel (1956)
This one’s on the list for mum, because while I like it, it’s just a tad depressing for my usual tastes. Still it does make me feel things and I do like to feel things when I watch a movie (even if those feelings are sad). Yes it’s sad, but it’s also a beautiful story with some beautiful musical numbers. The heartbreaking ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ will cause even toughest of us to end up in a ball of tears. I guess if you don’t like a good cry, this probably isn’t the musical for you, but it does have violence and moral dilemmas that create cause hours of philosophical discussion, which can be fun. Honestly though, this is a really lovely classic musical and if you haven’t seen it, it’s well worth a look (just buy tissues).
5. Beauty and the Beast (1991)
I probably could have filled this list with Disney movies, because I do love them and Disney does make some pretty epic musicals but this is a film that I still watch on a regular basis so it’s the one that made the list. This is an epic romance with fantastic musical numbers and wonderful characters… it also just happens to be a cartoon which means that most people tend to dismiss it as a kids movie. Sure it’s appropriate for children but it’s also just a good movie. The musical numbers are amazing, ‘Be Our Guest’ is as good as any of Busby Berkeley’s famous productions, and ‘Gaston’ is an interesting critique of masculinity, not to mention catchy as hell. Just get off your high horse and watch it already.
4. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
You love it, don’t lie. The Rocky Horror Picture Show represents everything a musical should be. It’s supposed to be interactive and fun and theatrical, but these things are often lost when a stage musical is adapted for the screen. Not in this case, in this case the idea of audience participation is taken to a whole new level. The film itself is hilarious and brilliant and the songs are classic, so it’s a fun enough film to watch at home on your own but to really experience The Rocky Horror Picture Show you have to attend a midnight screening. If they don’t have any screenings near you (and you are unable to organize one) then just grab the DVD, as many friends as you can and settle in for a fun night in front of the television… trust me you won’t regret it.
3. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)
Because Marilyn Monroe should be enough of a reason but if that doesn’t convince you I can add because Jane Russell as well if you like. This fabulous fifties gem is all about sisters doing it for themselves – of course what their doing is finding a husband but you know. This musical is where you’ll find Marilyn’s famous ‘Diamonds are Girls Best Friend’ performance, which is so overly referenced that I’m not sure most people even know when it comes from. This film also has my personal fav ‘Anyone here for Love’ which shows Jane Russell trying to get the attention of a bunch of male athletes that are too busy look at each other to notice her… trust me it’s as good as it sounds.
2. Across the Universe (2007)
This might be a bit of a controversial pick, but for me this is the perfect movie musical. It’s all about using he music cinematically and this film does not, like most of the other musicals on this list, rely on stage conventions to presents the musical numbers. This movie perfectly encompasses the turbulence of the 1960s, with all the shifts and changes. It also has a sweet love story (which is a must for a musical) and of course fantastic music (who doesn’t love The Beatles). Plus it has the adorable Jim Sturgess and his adorable accent in all its glory and Evan Rachel Wood is always nice to look at as well.
1. Singing in the Rain (1952)
This movie is at the top of most people’s lists but there is a reason for that and that is because this movie is made of pure awesome. Everything from the hilarious Lina Lamont to Gene Kelly’s signature ballet (I know you’re not a fan mum but you have to admit it’s cool) is pretty much perfect. You might think I’m exaggerating but this movie has the greatest musical numbers ever; the title dance with Gene Kelly prancing around a rain drenched street, Donald O’Connor’s famous ‘Make Em’ Laugh’ and the adorable ‘Good Morning’ with my original OT3… and so many more. There are way too many wonderful things about this movie to list and it’s pointless because if you have not seen Singing in the Rain the only thing I can do I feel sorry for you, but seriously watch it.
There you go mum, I hope that list is to your satisfaction and that you have a wonderful birthday… I know you will because I’m there and any day spent with me is a day well spent (or at least that’s what you should think because you’re my mother and it’s your job to love me).
That’s it folks – what’s your favourite musical? Let me know in the comments or on the Facebook page.