Musicals are a timeless phenomenon. Multiple old school musicals, the true classic ones, are getting a modern feeling every now and then. New actors and a new stage makes us want to go the theater over again. But also a new generation can enjoy these musicals. Many of these musicals, like Les Misérables, got a film version to attract more people to these stories and gain a larger audience. Today I will announce my top 10 favorite musical films! It all has to do with the songs and the story.
1. West Side Story – 1961
This musical dates from 1957 and got a film adaptation in 1961. In the lead roles we see Natalie Wood as Maria and Richard Beymer as Tony in a Romeo and Juliet story. New Yorker Tony and Maria from Puerto Rica fall in love, but are part of different gangs. These gangs are each others biggest rivals and are battling for supremacy of the streets in New York. It’s no surprise the love story brings a lot of stress to both groups.
Mary Poppins – 1964
This film came before the theatrical version had its première. The musical Mary Poppins, based on the books about the character Mary Poppins written by Pamela Lyndon Travers, had their worlds première in 2004. The film version with Julie Andrews as the nanny, shows that with magic and amazing songs you can be a good friend for children. Chimney Bert (Dick Van Dyke) helps Mary Poppins to win the love of the children with their music.
The Sound of Music – 1965
The musical among all musicals is The Sound of Music from 1959. The story is based on the book The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria von Trapp. Julie Andrews plays the role of Mary, who is the governess for the seven children of Captain Von Trapp. She teaches the children to sing and have fun, which the father dislikes at first. When WWII breaks out they are trying to flee to Switzerland.
Grease – 1978
The highschool musical Grease had its first performance in 1972. In the film version Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta played the lead parts Sandy and Danny, who were way older than their character. But the actors play their parts as summer lovers very well. The story provides a lot of interesting characters and amazing songs to make the film a success.
Annie – 1982
When you are talking about a musical where the main character is a girl with red hair, only one name can come to mind: Annie. The musical from 1977 is based on the comic Little Orphan Annie written by Harold Gray. The film version from 1982 tells the same story about the orphan girl Annie with red hair, who desperately wants to be picked up from the orphanage by her birth parents. Due to some events, Annie ends up with the wealthy man Oliver Warbucks.
Evita – 1996
The first performance of the musical Evita was in 1978. The musical is based on the life of the Argentinian woman Evita Duarte, a mediocre actress from the middle class who works herself to the top and becomes first lady when she marries Juan Peron. The film version with Madonna in the lead part had its premiere almost 20 years later. Evita was loved by the Argentine people but was also criticized. One of them was Che Guevara, who is played by Antonio Banderas.
Moulin Rouge – 2001
A film that s slightly different from those I described above is Moulin Rouge. This film is not based on a stage musical, but it’s about time a stage version will be produced! The story, the characters and the music are very fitting for a successful musical. The story, the characters and the music is very fitting for a successful musical. The film is set in Paris in the late 19th century, where the English writer Christian (Ewan McGregor) falls in love with Satine (Nicole Kidman), a courtesan from the Moulin Rouge. The Duke however wants Satine to be his and with his money the Moulin Rouge is rebuilt into a theater. Where Christian and his friends are writing a play with Satine in the lead.
The Phantom of The opera – 2004
Based on the novel Le Fantôme de l’Opéra from the French writer Gaston Leroux, the musical premiered in 1986. The musical with the music of Andrew Loyd Webber became very popular and in 2004 a film version came into cinemas. Gerard Butler plays the role of the Phantom, a man with a disfigured face who lives in the dungeons of the Opera where Christine (Emmy Rossum) performs. Intrigued by Christine’s voice, the Phantom writes a musical for her in which she must play the lead part.
Mamma Mia! – 2008
A more recent musical is Mamma Mia! from 1999, where a story is created around the music of the Swedish pop group Abba. Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) and her mother Donna (Meryl Streep) live on a beautiful Greek island where Donna runs a hotel and Sophie is planning her wedding. Her wedding is the reason she wants to know who her birth father is, and she invites three possible candidates for her wedding: Bill (Stellan Skarsgard), Sam (Pierce Brosnan) and Harry (Colin Firth).
Les Misérables – 2012
Based on the book with the same name from Victor Hugo in 1862, a musical premieres in 1980. The musical drama takes place during the French Revolution. The film version appeared in 2012, where the actors tried something new: Instead of recording the songs in a studio, the songs were directly recorded while shooting. This resulted in long takes, but also for more authenticity. In the lead parts we see Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean and Russel Crow as his counterpart policeman Javert. Don’t forget to mention the amazing performances by Amada Seyfried, Anne Hathaway, Samantha Barks, Eddie Redmayne and Aaron Tveit.
There are of course many more amazing musical films, think of the biography Walk the Line on the life of artist Johnny Cash, and Ray on the life of Ray Charles. But I had to make a choice and these films are my absolute top 10!