On Nov. 23, 2020, "Rent" turned 15! The film version of the Tony Award-winning play stars a powerful ensemble cast that includes Rosario Dawson, Taye Diggs, Idina Menzel, Anthony Rapp, Adam Pascal and more in a story about life, love, AIDS and (as the title suggests) paying literal and figurative rent. In honor of the movie's anniversary, Wonderwall.com is rounding up the best movie musicals out there. Keep reading to see if your favorite lands on our list…
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"The Wizard of Oz" stars Judy Garland in one of her most iconic roles, Dorothy Gale, and tells the story of the young farm girl who's transported to the magical land of Oz where she must find a way to the Emerald City. The film — one of the most beautiful cinematic adventures ever created — co-stars Billie Burke as Glinda the Good Witch and a cast of unforgettable characters (like Lion, Tin Man and Scarecrow). It's a musical masterpiece that makes us all want to join the Lollipop Guild and slay wicked witches while wearing sparkling ruby slippers.
Not only does "Into the Woods" star one of our favorite actresses ever (hello, Meryl Streep), but it also combines several of our all-time favorite Brothers Grimm fairy tales, like "Little Red Riding Hood," "Jack and the Beanstalk," "Cinderella," "Rapunzel" and more. This enchanting musical is about a witch who sends a couple on a journey to find objects from well-known fables (like Cinderella's slipper, Little Red Riding Hood's cloak and more).
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"The Phantom of the Opera" is a beguiling tale of a musical genius (and stalker) with a congenital deformity who lives in the basement of the Paris Opera House and falls in love with a beautiful singer (played by Emmy Rossum). It's a classic story of chauvinism, predatory behavior and a man (played by Gerard Butler) who thinks it's OK to dominate a woman because he finds her pretty. And love, it's also about love, sort of.
The 2016 Oscar-winning musical dramedy "La La Land" starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone was a major hit with audiences and critics alike, and for good reason. The story about a struggling actress and a hipster piano man who dreams of owning his own jazz nightclub — and their passionate romance — is one that gives us all the old-timey butterflies of the golden era of movie musicals but manages to (somehow) also feel modern and exciting.
"Grease" is one of the most beloved musical movies of all time. The song-heavy romance stars John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John in a 1950s story about summer love, high school drama and identity that's managed to transcend time and resonate with viewers of every generation.
Seeing this picture makes us want to sing, "The hills are alive with the sound of muuusiiic!" The 1965 classic "The Sound of Music" stars Julie Andrews as a renegade nun (just kidding, she was a kind-hearted woman who left her convent) who became the live-in nanny for the Von Trapp family. For decades, "The Sound of Music" has held the bar high for heartwarming musicals. Now, like the Von Trapp children, we'll sing "So Long, Farewell."
The 2017 biographical musical "The Greatest Showman" starring Hugh Jackman and Michelle Williams is about P.T. Barnum and his creative vision for a new form of entertainment called "show business" that leads to the creation of the Ringling Bros. and, eventually, the Barnum & Bailey circus. It also spawned a killer soundtrack.
If you're not already in love with Bollywood musicals, consider "Bride & Prejudice" your gentle nudge in the right direction. The modern remake stars Martin Henderson and the stunning Aishwarya Rai (a queen of Indian cinema) in a remake of the Jane Austen classic "Pride and Prejudice." In this spiced-up version, Aishwarya plays Lalita, a young Indian woman destined for an arranged marriage. Her ideas about the future change when she meets William Darcy (played by Martin), a rich American who at first repels her — then manages to win her heart.
Madonna gave a brilliant performance in the biographical musical "Evita" in 1996. The film is about the life of Evita Duarte Perón, the minor Argentinian film star from humble beginnings who married Argentina's president, Juan Perón. Evita rose to become one of the country's most beloved (and most scandalized) women. Of the many songs on the soundtrack, Madonna's rendition of "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" was one of the most popular, reaching the top 10 of the Billboard 100 in 1997.
There's a reason the 1975 movie musical "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" has a cult following — it's an incredible, gender-bending and sexuality-defying production that celebrates everything weird and wonderful. Starring Tim Curry in the iconic role of Dr. Frank-N-Furter, this mystifying comedy will never go out of style. (Fans can also check out the 2016 reboot, TV's "The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let's Do the Time Warp Again" starring Laverne Cox.)
Set to the music of iconic '70s group ABBA, "Mamma Mia!" starring Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried is a fun romantic comedy musical (rom-com-ical?) about a bride who really wants her father to walk her down the aisle. The only problem? She doesn't know who he is. Hoping to solve the mystery, she secretly invites her mother's former lovers to her wedding, hoping one of them might just be her long-lost dad.
Not only is "Dreamgirls" a riveting musical, but we get to see Beyonce and Jennifer Hudson singing on screen. The story — which tells the tale of a trio of soul singers who get their big break only to learn that fame can change things for the worse — is somewhat based on the lives of the Supremes. Jennifer won an Oscar for her performance and Eddie Murphy, who also stars in the film, earned his first Oscar nomination.
The 2007 remake of "Hairspray" starring John Travolta (seen here) as well as Nikki Blonsky and Zac Efron was so good, it probably deserves a re-watch given today's political climate. The sassy musical is about plus-sized teen Tracy Turnblad, who wins a chance to be a regular on a local dance TV show and uses her newfound fame to bring racial equality to the dance floor.
You will never see anything like "Little Shop of Horrors" and that's what makes this beloved 1986 musical starring Rick Moranis one of our all-time faves. When nerdy florist Seymour discovers his Venus fly trap is actually a blood- and flesh-hungry monster (that draws in curious customers), he does all he can to keep it fed, even if it means murder.
Before Hugh Jackman starred in "The Greatest Showman," he strutted his musical stuff in 2012's "Les Misérables" (also known as "Les Mis" by the cool kids). Also starring Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Anne Hathaway and Russell Crowe, the classic tale follows wanted criminal Jean Valjean (Hugh), who transforms his life and promises to raise an orphan girl as his own all while fighting to escape the clutches of a vengeful police inspector who's determined to capture him.
Jack Black — actor, comedian, singer and lead guitarist for the real-life band Tenacious D — took his passion for song to the next level with the faux-musical "School of Rock." While the movie isn't a true musical, its incorporation of songs means we can get away with adding this beloved family comedy to the list. Jack plays a die-hard rock 'n' roller who lands a job as a substitute teacher and uses his passion for music to teach his class some all-important life lessons (while getting in a whole lot of the trouble with their parents and the administration).
Next? The 1971 classic "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," starring Gene Wilder and young Peter Ostrum. The brilliant fantasy about a young boy who wins the chance to visit a beloved candy factory has charmed us for decades and can never be replaced (we're talking about you, 2005's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory").
Starring Richard Gere, Renee Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones, the 2002 musical "Chicago" is as seductive as it is entertaining. This comedic crime-drama set in the 1920s uses theatrical song and dance numbers to tell the story of jealousy, murder, fame and all that jazz.
"Rock of Ages" is a fun musical dramedy that features major star power with Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta leading a story about two young people trying to make it big in Hollywood. The film showcases a stellar '80s soundtrack with some of rock music's greatest bands including Def Leppard, Poison, Journey and Twisted Sister.
We couldn't leave the 1964 family musical "Mary Poppins" off our list. Starring Julie Andrews in the titular role, this partially animated fantasy-comedy flick is based on the children's series by author P.L. Travers and includes legendary songs like "A Spoonful of Sugar" and "Super-cali-fragil-istic-expi-ali-docious."
"Across the Universe" is a romantic tale of two people from vastly different backgrounds who fall in love during the height of the Vietnam conflict. Starring Jim Sturgess and Evan Rachel Wood, this psychedelic musical experience transforms The Beatles' hit songs into a visual and emotional experience.
It's so bad it's good. At least that's the plot for "The Producers" starring Matthew Broderick, Uma Thurman, Nathan Lane and Will Ferrell. The hilarious musical comedy tells the story of a scheming theater producer and his accountant friend who discover a way to make it rich by making the worst play on Broadway.
Based on the Broadway musical of the same name, "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" is a satisfying tale of vengeance (and cannibalism) starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. Warning — don't watch this dramatic horror musical while eating, as you might just lose your lunch.
The 2001 romantic drama "Moulin Rouge!" stars Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor and John Leguizamo in a sensual tale of love, jealousy and vengeance. And, let's be real, the soundtrack — which features songs like "Nature Boy" by David Bowie and "Lady Marmalade" by Pink, Christina Aguilera and Lil' Kim — is one of the dopest musical compilations out there.