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10 Best Broadway Musicals

Updated on September 22, 2014
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Very rarely are Broadway musicals adapted well for the silver screen. Some stage plays just do not translate well to film and others are poorly cast or poorly written. However, when one is adapted well and paired with a superb cast, the result can be celluloid gold. A few adapted Broadway musicals have even won the Best Picture Oscar, including three that appear on our top ten list including West Side Story, My Fair Lady and Chicago.

Broadway musicals come in many different shapes and sizes and so do their movie counterparts. There are the light-hearted backstage musicals that provide us with glimpse at the stars behind the scenes, such as Singin' in the Rain and The Band Wagon. There are fantastical musicals like The Wizard of Oz and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Epic musicals are similar to epic movies and cover a long historical period such as in Les Miserables. There are also family musicals that do not deal with adult themes, some of the best family musicals include Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music. Finally, there are crime-related musicals such as Sweeney Todd and Chicago.

Our top ten list of best musical movies is well represented by all the categories listed above. This list of great movies was created based on a blended average of all member rankings at Rankography movies.

All rights reserved. Copyright 2012 Rankography

11. Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) - Bonus

A Classic Cult Film is also one of the Top Music Movies

In 1975, few could have foreseen what a cult classic, The Rocky Horror Picture Show would become. But a cult classic is exactly what it has become, with midnight showings of this musical film still playing every weekend across the US. Its fans often dress in the costumes of their favorite stars from this unique musical. If you have never attended one of these midnight showings, it is definitely worth a trip to check off your 'bucket list'.

Rocky Horror follows Brad (Barry Bostwick) and Janet (Susan Sarandon), a couple of recently engaged, strait-laced teens who get stranded when their car breaks down in a rainstorm. They knock on the door of a remote mansion to get help...and the fun begins. The mansion is owned by Dr. Frank N Furter (Tim Curry) a sexually progressive transvestite and scientist who lives in the mansion with a group of crazy misfits.

This music film broke a lot of new ground back in 1975. While some of it may seem tame compared to today's standards, Rocky Horror is still quite a racy story with discussion of homosexuality, bi-sexuality and infidelity. However, the film provides a tongue in cheek look at the groups at either end of the conservative vs liberal debate.

This movie musical has an excellent music soundtrack with many great songs you will recognize. Tim Curry and Susan Sarandon were both excellent in this film and it launched them both onto strong acting careers. This unique film will keeping you laughing with the absurdity of the story. I recommend you watch it at a local midnight showing to get the full effect. You will enjoy the crazy audience as much as the musical.

If you liked Rocky Horror Picture Show... - You may also like Little Shop of Horrors

Little Shop of Horrors (Snap Case Packaging)
Little Shop of Horrors (Snap Case Packaging)

This fantastical movie musical made the successful transfer to film with a bevy of big-name cameos and two perfectly cast leads, Rick Moranis and Ellen Greene.

 

10. Mary Poppins (1964)

One of the Best Movie Musicals for the Kid in All of Us

While Mary Poppins is a family movie, it is also one of the best Broadway musicals of all time. Mary (Julie Andrews) is a magical nanny that transforms the lives of her young charges and Julie Andrews is magical in the role both because of her beautiful voice and her charming personality. Paired with Dick Van Dyke, as the lovable Bert, this song and dance pair are a joy to watch.

In this musical movie, Mary Poppins is hired, through a bit of magic, as nanny for a pair of impossible children in 19th century London. Mary becomes an instant hit with the children, even as she instills much needed discipline. Mary and Bert, a chimney sweep and street entertainer, take the children on magical outings that provide valuable life lessons.

There is a moral to this wonderful Broadway musical movie as the children's father, Mr. Banks (David Tomlinson), learns what is really important in life. Even though it is a children's movie, it is still one of the best broadway musical movies of all time.

If you liked Mary Poppins Broadway ... - You should also like Annie

Annie (Special Anniversary Edition)
Annie (Special Anniversary Edition)

Another of the top family musicals is about the orphan, Annie, and her dream to be rescued by her real parents.

 

9. Chicago

Murderess Vamps have Never Sounded so Good

What is so amazing about this film adaptation is the cast. Director Rob Marshall cast three traditional dramatic actors in this musical and we did not know that any of the three could sing or dance. But, wow can they sing and dance and it was that brilliant casting that won Chicago the Best Picture Oscar.

Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Roxie Hart (Renee Zellweger) meet on death row after murdering their husbands and boyfriends. Roxie has turned into a celebrity after her arrest and is enjoying the media attention. But her celebrity has caught the ire of Velma, who was the most famous murderess before Roxie's arrival. A plot develops that these rivals must come together to try to save themselves.

Both Catherine and Renee are excellent in this production. Their talent goes far beyond acting. The rest of the cast is also quite good, including Richard Gere, as the sleazy defense lawyer that is representing both women. It is a fantastic adaptation of a Broadway musical.

8. Grease (1978)

Greased Lightning...Greased Lightning!

Grease is one of the few Broadway musicals in which the movie version actually outperformed the stage play. That is largely due to the outstanding cast including John Travolta (Danny), Olivia Newton-John (Sandy), Stockard Channing (Betty Rizzo) and Jeff Conaway (Kenickie).

Grease is the story of a 'greaser' gang member, Danny, who goes away for the summer and meets a nice girl, Sandy. They have a great summer together but their story ends with the end of summer. However, Sandy has transferred into Danny's school and now Danny must learn how to assimilate his love for Sandy with his 'tough guy' gang image.

The music soundtrack from Grease is packed full of catchy, recognizable songs that still can be heard on the radio from time to time. It includes songs by Franki Valli, Olivia Newton-John, Frankie Avalon and Sha-Na-Na.

This music film is a rite of passage for most young girls and a great high school comedy movie.

7. My Fair Lady (1964)

By Teaching Eliza, Prof Higgins Actually Learns about Life

Adapted from one of the most famous Broadway musicals, My Fair Lady was even more successful on celluloid. The film won 8 Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director (George Cukor) and Best Actor (Rex Harrison) to rival West Side Story as the most successful film adaption of a Broadway musical.

In this wonderful movie, Prof. Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison) is an arrogant phonetics professor who bets a friend, Col Hugh Pickering (Wilfred Hyde-White), that he can teach any woman to speak so properly she could pass as a Duchess. When Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn), an uneducated flower girl with a horrible Cockney accent, happens into his office for speech lessons, Higgins and Pickering agree on a bet with Eliza as the test subject.

When she succeeds in passing for a "cultured lady" at a seasonal Ball, the arrogant Higgins and Pickering fall over themselves congratulating each other for training Eliza as if she were a dog. Of course, Eliza is in the room and becomes both distraught and angered by their complete self involvement. She leaves and it is only then that Higgins realizes what he has lost.

My Fair Lady is a beautiful musical film with so many great recognizable songs including "Wouldn't it be Lovely", "I Could Have Danced All Night" and" I've Grown Accustomed to her Face". There are many other great performances in this fantastic film, in particular Stanley Holloway's performance as Alfie Doolittle, Eliza's father and his bawdy "Get Me to the Church On Time" is outrageously fun number.

This is definitely one of the best Broadway musicals ever and one of my all time favorites.

If you enjoyed My Fair Lady...

Guys and Dolls
Guys and Dolls

Hollywood legends Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra, Jean Simmons and Vivian Blain are dazzling in this Frank Loesser masterpiece. One of the best less well known movie musicals.

 

6. The Band Wagon (1953)

Astaire and Charisse are Memorable Together

From a popularity standpoint, The Band Wagon is the ugly stepsister musical to the similar Singin' in the Rain. But don't let that fool you, this is an excellent film musical. Tony Hunter (Fred Astaire) is a top musical film star but is feeling old and unwanted. His friends, Les Martin (Oscar Levant) and Lily Martin (Nanette Fabray), have come up with a new musical for Tony and have lined up the leading Director, Jeffrey Cordova (Jack Buchanan).

Unfortunately, Jeffrey also brings in his favorite co-star, Gabrielle Gerard (Cyd Charisse), and Tony and Gabrielle are like oil and water from the start. Of course, opposites often attract and after many trials and tribulations, a love story begins to bloom out of the frost.

Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse are fantastic dancers and there are some outstanding dance numbers throughout this musical film. While the music is not as good or as memorable as Singin' in the Rain, the dance numbers are actually much better than Singin. This is a very good film and one of the most entertaining Broadway musicals. And I am convinced that Michael Jackson fashioned his Smooth Criminal musical video on the final dance scene in this great musical.

If you liked The Band Wagon... - You should also like Top Hat

Top Hat
Top Hat

Perhaps the best remembered of the 10 Astaire/Rogers musicals it may have some of the most elegant dancing in any movie musical.

 

5. Wizard of Oz, The (1939)

A Classic Family Film and Movie Musical

There has been much debate about whether The Wizard of Oz is a political statement about the US' monetary policy leaving the gold standard, or simply a fun fantasy movie. In either case, this highly entertaining musicals is one of the best musical movies of all time.

Movies are often a product of the times and The Wizard of Oz is no different. After suffering 9 years of economic downturn during The Great Depression, Americans needed a release. Oz was a fantasy world where all your dreams could came true, but in reality, we later learn that it The Great Oz was an illusion. There certainly is an analogy to the high-flying US during the Roaring 20s and later exposed during the Great Depression.

While billed as a family movie, this is not a movie for young children. The flying monkeys and the Wicked Witch are very scary and has led to many children's nightmares. But for adults and older children, The Wizard of Oz is a classic musical film. The music is excellent with many songs that have endured the test of time, such as Somewhere Over the Rainbow.

Likely you have seen this musical many times, but if not it is definitely a must see musical film.

4. Moulin Rouge

A Bohemian Musical in 19th Century Paris

Moulin Rouge is one of the rare musicals that was written for the screen first and foremost. It is a tragic love story set in 1889 Paris and the heart of the Bohemian Revolution. Christian (Ewan McGregor) is a young Bohemian poet and playwright that wants to bring a 'proper' show to the Moulin Rouge. He falls in love with the Moulin Rouge's star and lead courtesan, Satine (Nicole Kidman).

However, the club's owner, Harold Zidler (Jim Broadbent), must rely on financing from The Duke (Richard Roxborough) to keep the club open. The Duke's stipulation is that he must have Satine in order to continue funding the club. Of course, Satine loves Christian and the two must try to hide their affair from The Duke.

The cast is one of the best that I have ever seen in a musical. I had no idea that both Ewan and Nicole were such talented singers. Jim Broadbent in absolutely wonderful in his role as the club's owner. And one other mention goes out to John Leguizamo who is very funny and engaging as a young Toulouse-Lautrec, the famous Bohemian painter. This is one of my favorite music movies of all time and a great love story tragedy.

3. The Sound of Music (1965)

One of the Greatest Family Musicals of All Time

Growing up in the 70s, each year we were required to watch two movies The Sound of Music and The Wizard of Oz. So I have probably seen this movie fifteen times over the years, but it never gets old. The appeal of this film is partly due to the incredible aura of Julie Andrews. It is no coincidence that two of the top ten musicals ranked by members included Ms. Andrews as a lead, she is absolutely enchanting in whatever she does. Her appeal combined with an interesting script, fantastically memorable songs and a wonderful surrounding cast and you end up with one of the most enduring musicals of our lifetime.

The Captain Von Trapp (Christopher Plummer) is a wealthy widower and Naval war hero (WW I) with seven restless children. They have burned through several different nannies when Maria (Andrews) arrives on the scene fresh out of the convent. After much debate, the nuns have decided that Maria is not cut out for a life of service to God and arrange this Governess position for her with the Von Trapp family. Of course, no one expects her to succeed where so many experienced nannies have failed before, but she surprises them all. Unlike her predecessors, Maria shows the children respect while also remaining firm. She is able to let loose and have fun but maintaining an air of dignity all the while.

One of my favorite scenes is when the children sing to the Captain for the first time upon his return from a trip. His absolute stunned silence at both their performance and their disciplined behavior coupled with the children's pride in their song, make for an unforgettable scene. This was the performance of a lifetime for many of the cast of this very special musical and a must see for any true musical fan.

The Sound of Music was nominated for 10 Academy Awards and won 5 Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Score.

If you enjoyed The Sound of Music... - You should also like Fiddler on the Roof

Fiddler on the Roof (Two Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
Fiddler on the Roof (Two Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo)

Another outstanding family musical, Fiddler on the roof is the story of one man's struggle to keep his family together and their Jewish traditions alive.

 

2. West Side Story (1961)

A Shakespearean Tale Among New York Gangs

Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliette gets a 20th century update in this adaptation of the Broadway musical, West Side Story. The Montagues and the Capulets have been replaced with the Jets and the Sharks (bad names that sound more like pee wee football teams than gangs). However, this musical adaptation is superb and it resulted in West Side Story winning 10 Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director and two Best Supporting Roles.

Adaptations of New York Musicals often lose some of their pizzazz but Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise loaded this musical movie with a great cast and a strong script that capitalized on the unique film medium. Natalie Wood as Maria (Juliette) is of course gorgeous, but she also displays a great depth of character in this classic musical tragedy. Richard Beymer is excellent as Tony (Romeo).

George Chakiris and Rita Morena provided the most stunning performances and both won Oscars for their supporting roles. This film is a must see film and one of the best Broadway musicals ever adapted into a movie musical.

If you enjoyed West Side Story... - You may also like The King and I

The King and I (50th Anniversary Edition)
The King and I (50th Anniversary Edition)

An outstanding epic musical that tells the true story of an Englishwoman who comes to Siam as a schoolteacher to the royal court in the 1860's.

 

1. Singin' in the Rain (1952)

An Unforgettable Broadway Musical with a Trio of Stars

Singin' in the Rain is both a great musical, with catchy songs and fun dance numbers, and a charming story about budding romance. Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) and Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) are co-stars in a series of movies as an on-screen couple. Lina thinks they have a real relationship, while Don and most others strongly dislike Lina and her self-centered attitude. Because of lagging ratings, Don and partner Cosmo Brown (Donald O'Connor) decide to convert their latest production into a musical. However, Lina can't sing and they decided to bring in a ringer to dub in Lina's singing voice.

Of course, Don falls for the ringer, Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds). The audience also falls in love with Kathy because of her charm and we root for her to take over the lead role. Of course, Lina makes every effort to keep Kathy down by crushing her spirit.

This is an outstanding story and great film musical. The cast is fantastic and also includes Cyd Charisse and Rita Moreno. You will want to watch this musical over and over again. It definitely deserves a spot near the top of the best musicals of all time.

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    • rosiembanks profile image

      rosiembanks 4 years ago

      Great lens! I love movie musicals and I agreed with most of your picks. Always great to encounter another musical fan!

    • profile image

      prince-george-dentists 4 years ago

      Some nice and memorable movies of all time :)

    • Silver63 profile image

      Silver63 4 years ago

      Thank you so much for checking out my lens and liking it. This lens of yours is very nice with lot of to choose from. My favorite is "The Sound of Music", adventure, romance and some comedy, can't beat it. Thanks again!

    • geoffhoff profile image

      geoffhoff 4 years ago

      I have one or two minor quibbles with your list, but for the most part, I agree wholeheartedly. Thanks for the interesting rundown. (And I'm still trying to wrap my mind around Wizard of Oz as a political statement... )

    • DoctorOrEngineer profile image

      DoctorOrEngineer 4 years ago

    • cgbroome profile image

      cgbroome 4 years ago

      I love the old time musicals and it was refreshing to see many of them listed here. Yes, today's musicals are great too but something about the 1930s and 1940s just seem to have that extra magic! Thank you for a great lens!

    • Baddew Fibes profile image

      Baddew Fibes 4 years ago

      You're a shining star - this lens is exceptional!. Thanks for all the info!

    • siobhanryan profile image

      siobhanryan 4 years ago

      Brilliant and Blessed

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I only watched 'singing in the Rain' and its quite hilarious,but never heard of other movies..Thanks for another great list :]

    • profile image

      FashionMommy 4 years ago

      Great reviews on these musicals.

    • Heidi Vincent profile image

      Heidi Vincent 5 years ago from GRENADA

      Nice collection of musicals.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I thought I'd been here before but I guess I didn't leave any tracks, so leaving them today on this delightful display of the best Broadway musicals, your reviews are excellent as always!

    • cinefile profile image

      cinefile 5 years ago

      All honorable mentions...BUT, the greatest movie-musical of all time is Frank Oz's masterpiece, Little Shop of Horrors (1986) with Rick Moranis.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Had to come back to one of my favorite lenses to share some joy! :)

    • profile image

      AbandonGames 5 years ago

      Great lense ! my most loved is Singing In The Rain

    • profile image

      entertainmentev 5 years ago

      I love and have every one of your top musical movies in my home collection. They were brilliantly taking from the stage to the movie.

      A standing ovation for your lens. :)

    • Camden1 profile image

      Camden1 5 years ago

      I'm torn between "Grease" and "The Sound of Music" - just thinking about these Broadway musicals puts me in a cheerful mood!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Loved it... I grew up watching 'My fair lady' and the 'Sound of Music' - Sort of graduated with 'Flashdance'! :)

    • Rangoon House profile image

      AJ 5 years ago from Australia

      I love your celluloid gold choices - they certainly worked on stage and on camera. Blessings.

    • EDawg408 LM profile image

      EDawg408 LM 5 years ago

      Good lens and a number of solid top ten choices! Love "Singin'In the Rain"!

    • bechand profile image

      bechand 5 years ago

      loved it

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Great lens. My family and I enjoy My Fair Lady and the Sound of Music. And personally, I really enjoy the film adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Great lens!! You should add RENT to the list though. It was well adapted into film. Moulin Rouge is phenomenal, especially with imagery and direction. Great work!

    • Tugee profile image

      Tugee 5 years ago

      Sweeney Todd is my favorite. Great list though.

    • BlueObsidian profile image

      Kimberly 5 years ago from Oregon

      Great list! Although my personal favorite musical, Rent, didn't make the list. It has both a good film adaptation and a filming of the stage show available on DVD :)

    • profile image

      candidaabrahamson 5 years ago

      I love Broadway musicals, and this lens takes me on a fun-filled walk down memory lane.

    • MelonyVaughan profile image

      MelonyVaughan 5 years ago

      Loved every one of these!

    • sarahrk lm profile image

      sarahrk lm 5 years ago

      I saw a lot of these shows and they were really great.

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 5 years ago

      Oh gosh, you brought back so, so many great memories. These wonderful movies are just incomparable. I have loved how the "Glee" group has done some stuff with them - the "Singing in the Rain" scene was very wonderful.

    • smithlights profile image

      smithlights 5 years ago

      I didn't think Moulin Rouge was ever on stage... Good lens. Some of my favorite movies and musicals.

    • sarahrk lm profile image

      sarahrk lm 5 years ago

      I have seen most of these, every one is great.

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 5 years ago

      Although not on thelist, I love Beauty and the Beast.

    • GeorgeneMBramlage profile image

      Georgene Moizuk Bramlage 5 years ago from southwestern Virginia

      Great information and an interesting group of films and ranks. I've seen seven of the ten...no interest in the "Rocky Horror...,;" saw the original 1952 "Moulin Rouge" with José Ferrer, Zsa Zsa Gabor and Colette Marchand; and could not finish watching "Chicago." Could never figure out why "Chicago" turned me off.

    • Art-Aspirations profile image

      Art-Aspirations 5 years ago

      I've seen eight out of ten, and you might just have convinced me that I want to watch the other two. Thanks for this excellent information.

    • profile image

      healthandsick 5 years ago

      I just know grease..