For a while now, many movie musicals have appeared, and actual big musicals like The Lion King, The Phantom Of The Opera, Sound of Music and more started to gain more attention from non-musical lovers. So for those who just joined the musical nerd club, here’s 15 movie musicals that came after the 2000s that you need to watch because if I included best movie musicals of ALL TIME, this list will be endless.
1. Dreamgirls (2006)
Forget about Beyoncé. (I’m sorry I said that please don’t kill me). But it’s relaly all about Jennifer Hudson here. Though “Listen” was a great addition to the score, Dreamgirls had always been about Effie and not just because she got to sing “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” – and it’s amazing – but because Effie is the emotional centre of the film and c’mon… Hudson slayed it. I admit that everyone else is great ad the musical is perfect but it’s really Hudson’s show.
2. Les Misérables (2012)
There were times Tom Hooper’s adaptation of this musical feels a little too grounded given its source material, and hiring actors who can’t really sing really took away fro the grandeur associated with the lavish stage production. But there are big moments when it soars, making you feel overwhelmed in the best way. And honestly, Anne Hathaway’s “I Dreamed a Dream” was a truly made me cry, and you can’t forget professional singer Samantha Barks’ “On My Own”, which was really heart-breaking. But the best number? Hands down: “Do You Hear The People Sing?” which honestly, when I listen to it even without the movie or anything to look at, I actually do cry. Because c’mon, the French Revolution. These 3 songs themselves really made Russell Crowe’s songs forgivable (mostly because I forgot about all of them). Heck, Daniel Huttlestone as Gavroche and his really great voice easily made him one of my favourite characters.
3. Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)
You really can’t overstate the number of people whose sexual and gender awakenings happened because of this musical. The film itself is an excellent encapsulation of what made John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask’s musical such a profound work. And of course in the title role, you have Mitchel who emerges as a queer icon for the 21st century with the musical score being a glam-rock perfection. This will definitely be a film for all time for future young people to discover.
4. The Greatest Showman (2017)
I’m going to say it. I’m sorry, but I’m going to say it. I preferred this movie so much more than La La Land. Let me make this clear, the movie musical isn’t perfect; predictable storyline and it’s fast and loose take on PT Barnum’s actual (depressing) history, but as far as it being a movie musical, they certainly did their job well. La La Land is a good movie winning Academy Awards for acting, directing, and cinematography (amongst others), because those qualities of the film are excellent. But personally for me and many others, songs in musicals aren’t simply there only for entertainment value. They have a purpose and are a big part of any story. And this is where, for me, La La Land becomes mediocre and The Greatest Showman excels.
Like director John Musker puts it, if you can remove the song form the story and your story still makes sense, then you really haven’t done your job properly with the music. To compare, only “A Lovely Night” (La La Land) contains any information which the film requires to keep a coherent movie. Even La La Land’s director admitted that there were different edits to the movie which contained one number or another cut from the film, and even the director nearly cut out Stone’s “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)”. And thought “Another Day of Sun” was amazingly shot, it was completely unnecessary to the story. In The Greatest Showman, take out “The Other Side” and PT Barnum and Philip Carlyle never become partners, Carlyle and Anne Wheeler never admit their love without “Rewrite the Stars”, and Barnum would have never found his redemption without “From Now On”. And on the character development side, “This Is Me” is a direct reaction to the story and gives audiences insight into the emotions of the circus performers and without it, we would not understand how they feel and their actions later on, would make no sense.
But of course, the song which opens and closes the movie doesn’t necessarily give much information to help the storyline any more than “Another Day of Sun”, but as a whole, The Greatest Showman does a better job in making its numbers essential than La La Land did. Now, the movie isn’t all that great, but like I said above, but it happens to be a great musical, whilst La La Land happens to be a great movie that happens to include songs in it.
5. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
When you think musicals, you think happy songs, some sad songs, romance, broken hearts, and all those other musical clichés. But with Sweeney Todd, you get gut and gore and an amazing cast that can pretty much sing well. Tim Burton has been one of my favourite directors because I’ve always appreciated weird and quirky (I will not acknowledge the existence of Dark Shadows), but having him adapt Stephen Sondheim’s macabre musical about a homicidal barber seeking revenge and a horrible baker making pies out of the people he killed… was a brilliant idea. And though many think Helena Bonham Carter isn’t a great singer, I think she pulled off the song and role pretty darn well. And of course there was Johnny Depp, whom we all know isn’t a perfect singer (as compared to the likes of Anne Hathaway) but he’s definitely a way better singer than Russell Crowe. There was also the amazing Alan Rickman, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Jayne Wisener, which makes up a much better cast than Les Mis, but the production and music just can’t seem to bit Les Mis’ grandeur.
6. Love Songs/ Les Chansons D’Amour (2007)
If you’ve watched Umbrellas of Cherbourg and La La Land, then you know that the latter was clearly influenced by the former. But let me just say; Love Songs did it first… and so much better. Surprisingly Love Songs had a much happier ending that most classical French musicals, though it does have moments of sombreness that made me tear up. And if you know French musicals, you probably know many of Christophe Honoré’s works, and just like the rest of his works, this musical was filled with gorgeous melodies and relentless earworms, which was addictive af, following a story that takes surprising turns and reveals itself to be a progressive and thoughtful exploration of polygamy and the spectrum of sexual identity. But honestly, it’s an Honoré film, and if you love this then you should also try his 2011 film The Beloved (Les Bien-Aimés), which is also one of my favourite musicals.
Also, Louis Garrel is to die for.
7. Dancer in the Dark (2000)
Following a more darker streak, if you’re looking for movie musicals with happy endings, you might want to avoid this bleak musical. It’s probably the most depressing films ever made and there are full-on song and dance sequences. The best part is that Björk stars as a Czech immigrant names Selma and the artist-turned-actor’s open and youthful face just makes the horror inflicted on her that much worse to witness.
8. La La Land (2016)
And thus we arrive at the most talked-about movie musical in years. A film so famous that people seem to have forgotten that many other musicals have been made over the past 2 decades, and that musicals are pretty epic. And not nerdy. Shut up. Which brings me to say… it’s not La La Land’s fault and in its defence, much of the criticisms against it has more to do with the praise it’s earned more than anything else. Personally, I enjoyed Emma Stone’s performance throughout the entire movie and its sombre take on romance (because I’m a Love Song kind of girl), but though Gosling is great to look at, he’s not that great to listen to. And the repetitiveness of the main song was definitely a tad overplayed. I mean, they could’ve played a different variation of it (or at least an obviously different one). However, on its own, it’s admirably a poignant homage to classic movie musicals. Like when one scene greatly reminded me of Singing in the Rain’s Scarf Dance scene.
9. Chicago (2002)
Chicago has always topped the lists of best modern-day movie musicals and of course that’s reasonable – it’s close to perfect. Though it wasn’t singlehandedly responsible for the resurgence of movie musicals, it did have a huge impact; showing the industry how financially successful and critically adored movie musicals should and could be. This musical still holds up as a nearly flawless adaptation of its original whilst also standing on its own. It recontextualises all the musical numbers and also outlines a fresher, more realistic approach to on-screen musicals.
10. Into the Woods (2014)
The original was definitely very difficult to bring to the screens but finally for the film adaptation it deserved with a screenplay by the original book writer James Lapine and direction by movie musical pro Rob Marshall. Though many Sondheim purists have scorned at the changes, it was as loyal to the original as it can be (because the actual musical was waaaay longer than a film could actually be) without losing the moral complexity that makes the fairy tale mashup so enjoyable for adults as well as children. And though the cast does have plenty of big names, they’re filled mostly with names of those who can actually sing, so there’s very little cause for complaint. After all, Gavroche from Les Mis played Jack. I really have nothing to complain. And also… “AGONYYYYYY!”
11. “Enchanted” (2007)
Of course this movie has to be in this list. And though there’s only like 5 songs in this hilarious movies that pays homage/is a parody of the Disney princess genre, it is written by the epic Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz. And of course, the songs were sung so brilliantly by the talented breakout star (at that time) Amy Adams. You must admit, all the songs stuck to your head for weeks, and all I just have to go “How does she know…” and you already have the song playing in your head. Sorry. Also this memorable scene that reminds me of The Sound of Music:
12. Hairspray (2007)
So, for this musical, we should probably get one thing out of the way first: the massive mistake of casting Travolta who refused to play Edna as the drag queen but rather as a ‘real woman’ in horrific prosthetics. Which is why though its regarded as one of the ‘best modern movie musicals’, I didn’t bother to put this higher on the list. But overall, it was a very well-done adaptation of the original and the cast – Travolta aside – is charismatic and peppy which would be annoying in other musicals but was truly essential in this one.
13. Mamma Mia! (2008)
Anyone who loves ABBA, will love Mamma Mia!. And much like the original, this movie musical is aggressively and relentlessly silly. But I guess that’s what made it bearable; it doesn’t take itself too seriously and learns on the fact that yes, that’s Meryl Streep belting out “The Winner Takes It All” to Pierce Brosnan. It’s hard to rank this movie, honestly, because it’s kind of so terrible that it’s pretty amazing. It’s just one of those movies where if you’re having free flow of wine on the plane, this movie will be perfect. And let’s just not talk about the singing. Ok?
14. Across the Universe (2007)
In order to actually appreciate this film, you really have to appreciate Julie Taymor’s vision and divisive direction. And this is not easy for many, which is why this musical has many hard-core fans and also a lot of haters. And to be fair, the movie does indulge itself a little too much, like the LSD-infused Doctor Robert sequence which could be taken out entirely. However, it’s still a great show to watch if you love the Beatles, gorgeous visuals and a distinct Taymor sensibility. Come together. Right now. Over this.
15. Pitch Perfect (2012)
Forget about it’s successful franchise, and ignore the seemingly endless number of “Cup Song” covers you’ve ploughed through. And forget about all the “aca-“ puns. Let’s go back to the first time you witnessed the magical riff-off that sparked a relationship between Anna Kendrik and Skylar Astin. Think about Ben Platt’s breakout moment singing “Magic”. And though you’d never think to call this movie a musical, the movie is a thoroughly enjoyable and unconventional movie musical grounded in female friendships and really great voices. And of course. Fat Amy.