The Best Movie Musicals Of All Time Bring More Than a Euphoric Blast of Jazz Hands

Since the age of silent cinema to today, music has long been film’s greatest supporting role. Adding a complementary layer of emotion and gravity, film scores and soundtracks often become the essence of a movie’s impact on audiences. And, just as theatrical musicals have shown, leaning into this power-player can bring storytelling to a whole new level of entertainment.

An opening ensemble number to get all the exposition out of the way? Yes, please. Follow it up with a teary solo? Cue: Waterworks from every audience member. Luckily, you don’t need to scavenge for front row tickets to experience the magic of a musical at home. And you don’t need to be a theatre geek to enjoy the many forms that musicals have come to be in the film industry. So, warm up you vocals and get into your places: Here are the best movie musicals of all time.


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Chicago is one of the most successful and popular movie musicals from the modern era, locking in a slew of Oscar wins along the way. Hot take: while Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta Jones, and Richard Gere lead the pack, it’s really Queen Latifah’s Matron Mama Morton that blows the lid off the place.

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Fiddler on the Roof

A Jewish father of five daughters finds himself fighting an internal culture war as his traditional religious beliefs become steadily challenged by his daughters’ new age desires.

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Singin’ In the Rain

Set amid the shift from silent cinema to “talkies,” Gene Kelly and Jean Hagen star as a hit movie couple whose next film—a musical—proves quite difficult for Jean’s character who is incapable of singing.

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Wizard of Oz

A cinematic classic for its fantastical narrative as well as its brilliant implication of technicolor technology, The Wizard of Oz stars Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale, a young farm girl swept away from her home in Kansas to a faraway land of Oz.

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The 2006 film adaptation of Dreamgirls was a massive success, starring the likes of Jamie Foxx, Beyoncé, and Eddie Murphy. The film also introduced the non-American Idol lot to Jennifer Hudson, and she made quite the impression, landing a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her first ever nomination.

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Liza Minnelli stars as an American expat and cabaret singer in 1931 Berlin who, amidst the rise of Nazi Germany, finds herself in a complicated love triangle with two men.

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West Side Story

With scoring and lyrics by the musical giants Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim, West Side Story is a modern adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, in which a New York gangster and a Puerto Rican immigrant fall into forbidden love.

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Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Co-writer John Cameron Mitchell stars as a gender non-conforming East German rocker, Hedwig, whose career takes a turn when they discovers that their ex-lover is plagiarizing their songs.

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Mary Poppins

Another iconic musical lead role from Julie Andrews, Mary Poppins is the whimsical story of an umbrella-riding nanny who sprinkles her magic and charm on a dysfunctional family living in London through song, dance, and a spoonful of sugar.

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Black is King

Written, directed, and produced by Beyoncé, Black Is King is a cross between a musical film and visual album, depicting a live adaptation of The Lion King.


Sound of Music

Before you ask, “Did the world really need multiple musical films in which Julie Andrews arrives as a sing-songy caretaker to save a family from despair?” The answer is yes. Andrews stars as Maria, a young postulant who is assigned to be the governess to an Austrian naval officer’s children. Amid the Nazi invasion, Maria leads the family to music, joy, and freedom.

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A Star is Born (1954)

One of the many precursors to the 2018 adaptation with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born stars Judy Garland as an aspiring starlet who finds unexpected guidance and romance in a renowned actor, played by James Mason. (Warning: “Shallow” is not featured in the original.)

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