From ‘Les Misérables’ to ‘West Side Story,’ here are IMDb viewers’ top picks for the best musicals ever brought to the big screen. Which is your favorite?
Musicals: They’re a realm where reality gracefully gives way to rapture, where spoken words don’t just bind characters but also the eloquent language of song and dance.
To the skeptics, musicals might seem an over-the-top or even trivial genre. Yet, when faced with the most masterful musicals ever made, it’s hard not to be swept away by their cinematic magic. The finest musicals entertain and deeply resonate, reaching even those who’d never typically hum along to a tune.
With its vibrancy and verve, the musical genre might not be everyone’s cup of tea. It stands distinct and, at times, even polarizing – much like the bold strokes of a Western or the chilling whispers of a horror film. Yet, for aficionados or the newly curious, the following list encapsulates the pinnacle of musical artistry. Dive in and witness the spectrum of emotions, stories, and melodies that the world of musicals has unfurled.
Ranked by IMDb viewers, here are the top musical masterpieces, from the outstanding to the genuinely unparalleled.
Top 10 Best Musicals of All Time, According to IMDb
- The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) – 7.9
- Fiddler on the Roof (1971) – 8.0
- Aladdin (1992) – 8.0
- Beauty and the Beast (1991) – 8.0
- La La Land (2016) – 8.0
- The Sound of Music (1965) – 8.1
- The Wizard of Oz (1939) – 8.1
- Singin’ in the Rain (1952) – 8.3
- Hamilton (2020) – 8.3
- The Lion King (1994) – 8.5
25 ‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch’ (2001)
Plunging into the electrifying depths of musical storytelling, ‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch’ presents a genre-bending tapestry of comedy, drama, and pure rock energy. Center stage is Hedwig, a gender-queer punk rock singer whose tale is as vibrant and tumultuous as the era of East Berlin from which she originates. While fictional, the narrative flows with the raw pulse of a rock biography, charting the twists and turns of her life against the backdrop of the Berlin Wall’s fall.
More than just a musical, ‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch’ stands as a powerful beacon in LGBTQ cinema. Though its initial release in 2001 might not have drawn the crowds it deserved, the resonance of its potent themes and sterling reviews have since elevated it to cult classic status.
Each song is a melodic siren call, the storyline nimbly juggles light-hearted wit with profound depth, and it bravely delves into the intricate layers of queer identity and transgender experiences at a time when such narratives were scarcely explored on the silver screen.
24 ‘Fantasia’ (1940)
Emerging from the creative realms of Disney, ‘Fantasia’ unfurls as a groundbreaking fusion of music and animation. Directed with finesse by Samuel Armstrong, Ford Beebe Jr., and James Algar and illuminated by the musical prowess of Leopold Stokowski, the narrative eloquence of Deems Taylor, and the symphonic grandeur of The Philadelphia Orchestra, the film stands as an unparalleled auditory and visual journey.
‘Fantasia’ was a revolutionary leap, challenging conventions and redefining the boundaries of animated storytelling. As much as it’s been hailed as a cinematic masterpiece, its true essence lies in the diverse tapestry of its sequences.
And who doesn’t enjoy a bit of animated chaos starring Mickey Mouse? My personal favorite was the animated brooms running wild.
Individual preferences may vary, but the animation remains timeless, and the musical selections iconic. Even Walt Disney, the legend himself, may have had his own favored sequences.
23 ‘South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut’ (1999)
IMDb: 7.7/10 211K | Popularity: 4124 | Metascore:
From the irreverent minds of Trey Parker and Matt Stone comes an animated musical that’s as audacious as it is brilliant. ‘South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut’ isn’t just a long episode of the popular TV show—it’s an ingenious satirical musical that holds its own among the classics. Doubters, take heed: even the legendary Stephen Sondheim, the maestro behind many iconic stage musicals like Sweeney Todd, held Parker and Stone’s cinematic craftsmanship in high esteem.
Released not long after the inception of the show, this film plunges audiences into the chaotic world of South Park as its endearing, often outrageous characters grapple with the ripple effects of a raucously profane Canadian movie.
The stakes? Nothing less than a world on the brink of a colossal conflict.
Beneath the laughter and uproarious antics is a sharp and biting commentary, especially in light of real-world events, making the humor around 2014’s ‘The Interview’ debacle all the more prophetic.
22 ‘Tangled’ (2010)
IMDb: 7.7/10 477K | Popularity: 892 | Metascore:
Venturing from the confines of her tower and into the hearts of viewers everywhere, ‘Tangled’ unfurls a narrative brimming with adventure, humor, and enchanting music. Directed by the dynamic duo of Nathan Greno and Byron Howard, this animated tale takes a fresh and vibrant spin on the classic Rapunzel story.
The film introduces us to a spirited and curious Rapunzel, voiced by the delightful Mandy Moore, who dreams of exploring the world beyond her secluded tower. Alongside her emerges the charming rogue Flynn Rider, brought to life by Zachary Levi, and the two embark on a whirlwind journey filled with unexpected allies, foes, and melodies. With Donna Murphy voicing the manipulative Mother Gothel, the story is layered with emotional depth and complex relationships.
21 ‘A Night at the Opera’ (1935)
A masterpiece from the golden age of cinema, ‘A Night at the Opera’ is a symphonic blend of comedy, music, and boundless energy. Directed by Sam Wood and Edmund Goulding, this 1935 classic is a testament to the comedic genius of its era, featuring the unmatched wit and timing of the iconic Marx Brothers.
With the inimitable Groucho Marx leading the antics alongside the equally hilarious Chico and Harpo Marx, the film takes viewers on a riotous journey through the world of opera. But, make no mistake, this isn’t just a simple spoof of high culture. With their unique brand of humor, the Marx Brothers elevate the film to a comedy masterclass, filled with snappy one-liners, slapstick routines, and musical interludes that are as memorable as they are funny.
‘A Night at the Opera’ stands as an enduring emblem of the perfect blend between music and comedy. In an era where sound in cinema was still a relatively new phenomenon, this film demonstrated how melody and mirth could dance harmoniously on screen.
20 ‘Duck Soup’ (1933)
Taking the cinematic world by storm in 1933, ‘Duck Soup’ is a dazzling showcase of humor, satire, and musical prowess. Directed with finesse by Leo McCarey, this Marx Brothers classic is an uproarious ride through the farcical landscape of politics and diplomacy, delivering biting commentary with a side of impeccable comedic timing.
The irrepressible Groucho Marx heads up the zany antics as the eccentric leader of the fictional Freedonia, with Harpo and Chico Marx providing their trademark comedic support, ensuring a relentless barrage of gags, physical comedy, and memorable musical sequences. The trio’s indomitable chemistry is on full display, proving once again why they are regarded as the comedic gold standard of their era.
Though clocking in at just a smidge over an hour, ‘Duck Soup’ packs an impressive punch. It’s a rollercoaster of laugh-out-loud moments interspersed with the Marx Brothers’ iconic musical interludes. In a world on the brink of real political tensions, this film boldly and brilliantly pokes fun at the absurdities of governance and nationalism, revealing the inherent comedic potential of political machinations.
19 ‘The Court Jester’ (1955)
Amidst the chivalrous backdrop of medieval times, ‘The Court Jester’ emerges as a gleaming gem, masterfully blending adventure, comedy, and family-friendly storytelling. Under the visionary direction of Norman Panama and Melvin Frank, this 1955 classic shines brightly in the pantheon of cinematic treasures.
Central to the film’s heart and humor is Danny Kaye, who delivers a standout performance as the hapless jester caught up in a whirlwind of royal intrigue and mistaken identities. With impeccable comedic timing and a knack for musical numbers, Kaye’s portrayal is nothing short of mesmerizing, solidifying his status as one of the great entertainers of his time. Accompanied by the radiant Glynis Johns and the suave Basil Rathbone, the ensemble cast comes together in harmony, creating moments of sheer joy, laughter, and heart.
‘The Court Jester’ is a delightful romp, a tale filled with jests, jousts, and jubilant song-and-dance routines. It’s a journey into a world where slapstick humor meets swashbuckling adventure, where the lines between hero and fool blur in the most entertaining ways. The film’s iconic “pellet with the poison” routine is but one of many memorable moments, ensuring that audiences are kept on their toes, laughing one moment and gasping the next.
18 ‘The Music Man’ (1962)
Marching into cinematic history with harmonious beats and charismatic characters, ‘The Music Man’ stands tall as a jubilant celebration of music, mischief, and small-town America. Directed by the skilled Morton DaCosta, this 1962 musical extravaganza transports viewers to the quaint town of River City, where the rhythm of life is about to get a major shake-up.
The magnetic Robert Preston dons the role of Professor Harold Hill, a fast-talking con artist who plans to swindle the townspeople with the promise of a boys’ band. However, as with all tales of intrigue and charm, things don’t go quite as planned, especially when the lovely librarian, portrayed by the luminous Shirley Jones, enters the scene. The two, along with a stellar supporting cast, including the comedic genius of Buddy Hackett, create a tapestry of colorful characters and unforgettable musical moments.
Songs like “Seventy-Six Trombones” and “Till There Was You” punctuate the narrative, adding layers of emotion, energy, and effervescence to the unfolding tale. Yet, ‘The Music Man’ isn’t just a showcase of catchy tunes; it’s a poignant exploration of love, trust, and the transformative power of music.
17 ‘All That Jazz’ (1979)
Delving deep into the world of razzle-dazzle and the relentless beat of the showbiz heart, ‘All That Jazz’ offers a raw, riveting, and rhythmically intoxicating exploration of artistry and self-destruction. Helmed by the legendary Bob Fosse, a master choreographer and director, this semi-autobiographical masterpiece from 1979 paints a vivid portrait of life behind the curtain.
Roy Scheider delivers a tour de force performance as Joe Gideon, a character inspired by Fosse himself. As a hard-living choreographer and director, Gideon juggles his demanding career, tumultuous personal life, and deteriorating health, all while dancing on the razor’s edge of creativity and chaos.
Scheider’s portrayal is beautifully nuanced, capturing the essence of a man obsessed with the limelight, even as it threatens to consume him. Alongside him, the ethereal Jessica Lange and the dynamic Ann Reinking further elevate the narrative, bringing depth, drama, and dazzling dance sequences to the fore.
‘All That Jazz’ isn’t just a musical; it’s an introspective journey into the psyche of an artist. The film melds the lines between fantasy and reality, presenting surreal and deeply emotional sequences. Iconic numbers like “On Broadway” and “Bye Bye Life” are masterfully interwoven, reflecting the film’s themes of mortality, passion, and the price of fame.
16 ‘My Fair Lady’ (1964)
IMDb: 7.8/10 99K | Popularity: 4229 | Metascore:
1964 was indeed a golden year for the silver screen, with musicals dominating the box office and captivating hearts worldwide. ‘My Fair Lady,’ directed by the illustrious George Cukor, stood as a titan amidst these cinematic marvels, merging classical charm with spectacular storytelling. This film, based on George Bernard Shaw‘s play ‘Pygmalion,’ enchanted audiences and clinched its position as a beloved classic by sweeping eight coveted Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
With a runtime that spans an epic 2 hours and 50 minutes, ‘My Fair Lady’ crafts a tale of transformation and unlikely love. At the story’s heart is the enigmatic and elegant Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle, a flower girl plucked from the streets of London by the haughty Professor Henry Higgins, portrayed by the indomitable Rex Harrison.
As Higgins endeavors to mold Eliza into a duchess with his phonetic expertise, the film takes viewers on a journey of laughter, love, and the age-old tussle between class and character. Rex Harrison‘s impeccable delivery and Hepburn’s iconic transformation make for a cinematic duo that’s both delightful and dynamic. Supported by the robust Stanley Holloway and a cast of memorable characters, the narrative weaves magic in every frame.
But it’s not just the tale that captivates; it’s the tapestry of tunes and the breathtaking visuals that transport audiences to Edwardian London. Songs like “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?” and “I Could Have Danced All Night” are but a few of the melodies that have etched themselves into the annals of film history.
15 ‘Cabaret’ (1972)
In the heart of a politically turbulent 1930s Berlin, the iconic Kit Kat Club is the backdrop for Bob Fosse‘s cinematic masterpiece, ‘Cabaret.’ With his distinctive directorial flair, Fosse crafts a musical experience that isn’t just about dazzling dance numbers or captivating songs but a deep dive into the human psyche against the foreboding shadow of the impending World War.
At the forefront of this intoxicating tale is Sally Bowles, a role immortalized by the incomparable Liza Minnelli. With her raven-black bob, dramatic eye makeup, and spellbinding voice, Minnelli’s Bowles is a creature of contrasts – vivacious yet vulnerable, ambitious yet adrift. As she navigates the labyrinth of love, ambition, and the ever-tightening grip of political change, Minnelli offers one of the most arresting performances in film history, earning her a well-deserved Academy Award.
Joining her is the dapper Michael York, portraying Brian Roberts, a British academic who becomes ensnared in Sally’s world and the broader complexities of a city on the brink. Their layered and poignant romance serves as a counterpoint to the larger social upheavals around them. Helmut Griem, playing the suave Maximilian von Heune, adds further depth and intrigue, completing a love triangle that mirrors the era’s uncertainties.
Yet, for all its character-driven drama, ‘Cabaret’ is, at its heart, a musical. Songs like “Money Makes the World Go Round” and the titular “Cabaret” aren’t merely tunes but thematic anchors, underlining the narrative’s dark undercurrents.
14 ‘Mary Poppins’ (1964)
IMDb: 7.8/10 181K | Popularity: 1208 | Metascore:
With a whimsical umbrella and an enigmatic smile, Julie Andrews graced the silver screen as the titular character in Disney’s ‘Mary Poppins,’ which quickly etched its place in cinematic history. Regarded by countless fans as a defining piece of their childhood, this 1964 gem masterfully intertwines reality with fantasy, illustrating the delightful escapades of a mystical nanny and her young charges in a bustling London.
While the film delves into certain sequences that might strike contemporary audiences as slightly unsettling or even showcase exaggerated British accents, one cannot ignore the sheer genius that ‘Mary Poppins’ brings to the table. What sets it apart is its groundbreaking integration of live-action with animation – a technique that, for its time, was nothing short of revolutionary.
Musically, ‘Mary Poppins’ is a powerhouse. Each track, be it the buoyant “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” or the serene “Feed the Birds,” is meticulously crafted and remains a memorable tune even decades after its release. The melodies are both nostalgic and fresh, capturing the essence of the movie’s spirit and making it impossible not to hum along.
13 ‘Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory’ (1971)
IMDb: 7.8/10 213K | Popularity: 451 | Metascore:
In the world of cinematic musicals, few have captured the collective imagination of audiences quite like ‘Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.’ Rooted in the fantastical tale penned by Roald Dahl, the movie transports viewers to a realm of pure imagination, replete with golden tickets, mischievous Oompa-Loompas, and a candy empire that stretches beyond one’s wildest dreams. To this day, it’s still one of my childhood favorites.
Gene Wilder‘s portrayal of the eccentric yet deeply philosophical Willy Wonka remains one of cinema’s most iconic performances. His nuanced character – at times mysterious, playful, and reflective – is a masterclass in character development and is, without doubt, the soul of the movie.
Musically, ‘Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory’ is a treat for the ears. From the dreamy allure of “Pure Imagination” to the cautionary tales sung by the Oompa-Loompas, every number adds depth to the storyline, making the experience audibly and visually sumptuous.
In reflecting on the legacy of this 1971 classic, one can’t help but appreciate its timeless appeal. It serves as a reminder that in pursuing our deepest desires, the journey and the lessons learned along the way truly matter.
12 ‘Dancer in the Dark’ (2000)
‘Dancer in the Dark’ demonstrates the power of film to provoke, challenge, and move its audience. Directed by the audacious and often polarizing Lars von Trier, the film is a gritty departure from the traditionally glamorous and light-hearted musical genre.
Far from being escapist, the musical sequences act as cathartic releases for the film’s protagonist, Selma, played with heartbreaking sincerity by the Icelandic musician Bjork. (To this day, I still remember seeing her eccentric interviews on MTV.)
Set in rural America, the story revolves around Selma, a Czech immigrant who grapples with impending blindness. As she struggles to save money for an operation to prevent her son from suffering the same fate, she retreats into a world of musical fantasies, starkly contrasting her bleak reality.
Bjork‘s raw and unfiltered performance, coupled with her evocative music, lends the film an enchanting and heart-wrenching authenticity. The juxtaposition of the grim narrative with the dreamlike musical interludes makes for an intensely emotional cinematic experience.
In supporting roles, Catherine Deneuve and David Morse add depth and dimension to this poignant tale of love, sacrifice, and the blurred lines between reality and fantasy.
Though ‘Dancer in the Dark’ might be a divisive piece of cinema, often evoking strong reactions, it’s undeniable that Lars von Trier‘s vision and Bjork‘s immersive portrayal have etched an indelible mark in the annals of film history.
11 ‘The Blues Brothers’ (1980)
IMDb: 7.9/10 208K | Popularity: 1459 | Metascore:
An electrifying fusion of comedy, music, and high-octane action establishes itself as a unique genre-bender. Helmed by director John Landis and fueled by the comedic genius of John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, the film follows Jake and Elwood Blues on a “mission from God” to save their childhood orphanage from closure.
Along the way, they must reassemble their old band, evade the police, neo-Nazis, and a vengeful country band, all while creating iconic musical numbers that pay tribute to the rhythm and blues tradition.
Amidst the chaotic car chases and larger-than-life comedic scenarios, the film never loses sight of its musical soul. The soundtrack is a tour de force, packed with blues classics and show-stopping numbers that feature some of the era’s biggest music legends. Cab Calloway‘s magnetic presence, Aretha Franklin‘s powerhouse performance, and Ray Charles‘ charisma are just a few of the highlights of this rollicking musical journey.
A standout in both the musical and comedy genres, ‘The Blues Brothers’ depicts the enduring power of music and the lengths two brothers will go to for a righteous cause. In the words of Elwood Blues, “It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark, and we’re wearing sunglasses.” Strap in for a musical adventure like no other.
10 ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ (1993)
IMDb: 7.9/10 356K | Popularity: 497 | Metascore:
Venturing into the intricately designed world of ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas,’ audiences are invited into a gothic fantasy brought to life by stop-motion brilliance. Helmed by the visionary Henry Selick and produced by the equally imaginative Tim Burton, this dark yet enchanting tale remains a mainstay in holiday film rotations, skillfully bridging the gap between Halloween spooks and Christmas cheer.
At the heart of the story is Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town. Growing tired of the same annual spooky celebrations, Jack stumbles upon Christmas Town and is captivated by its warmth and joy. His subsequent quest to recreate Christmas in his own Halloween-inspired vision results in both comical misunderstandings and touching revelations.
Danny Elfman‘s voice lends emotion and nuance to Jack Skellington, and his musical contributions as the film’s leading composer and songwriter infuse the narrative with haunting melodies and infectious tunes. Songs like “This Is Halloween” and “What’s This?” are immediately recognizable, ensuring the film’s lasting impact on popular culture.
The film’s dark aesthetics, juxtaposed with its heartfelt narrative, crafts a unique universe where emotions run deep, and understanding one’s identity and purpose takes center stage. Catherine O’Hara‘s portrayal of Sally, the ragdoll yearning for freedom and love, adds a poignant layer to the tale, reminding viewers of the universal quest for belonging.
9 ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ (1971)
Set against the turbulent backdrop of early 20th-century Russia, ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ is an evocative portrayal of faith, family, and the enduring spirit of a community facing cultural upheaval. Directed by Norman Jewison and brought to life by a stellar cast led by Topol‘s heartfelt performance as Tevye, the film is a cherished adaptation of the Broadway musical classic.
Tevye, a poor Jewish milkman, navigates the challenges and joys of raising his five daughters in the village of Anatevka. With each daughter seeking her own path and love in the changing world, Tevye is constantly caught between his deep-rooted traditions and the new influences that each suitor brings into his home. With humor, warmth, and occasional frustration, he speaks directly to God, reflecting on the balancing act of life—much like the fiddler on the roof, who plays without falling despite the precariousness of his position.
The film is filled with memorable songs that echo the heartbeat of its characters and the rhythm of their lives. From the celebratory “Tradition” and “If I Were a Rich Man” to the more melancholic “Sunrise, Sunset,” the melodies beautifully capture the essence of love, longing, and the passage of time.
8 ‘Aladdin’ (1992)
IMDb: 8.0/10 447K | Popularity: 1177 | Top 250: #249 | Metascore:
From the magical streets of Agrabah to the soaring heights on a magic carpet ride, ‘Aladdin’ has proven itself to be one of Disney’s most cherished animated classics. Directed by the dynamic duo Ron Clements and John Musker, the film tells the enchanting tale of a street-smart young man named Aladdin, who, with the help of a mischievously iconic Genie, tries to win the heart of the kingdom’s beautiful princess, Jasmine.
Based on the age-old Arabian Nights tale, the narrative is made vibrant and contemporarily relevant by Disney’s narrative prowess, comedic timing, and, most notably, the unforgettable songs. It’s hard to think of ‘Aladdin’ without humming to the beats of “A Whole New World” or laughing out loud at Genie’s antics in “Friend Like Me.”
And speaking of the Genie, the character, voiced with unparalleled energy by the late Robin Williams, is perhaps one of the most endearing figures in animation history. Williams’ improvisational comedic genius lends the character a unique and irreplaceable charm that remains a movie highlight.
7 ‘Beauty and the Beast’ (1991)
IMDb: 8.0/10 470K | Popularity: 1079 | Metascore:
In the annals of animated film history, ‘Beauty and the Beast’ stands as a testament to the enduring power of story, song, and character. An adaptation of the classic French fairy tale, this movie is a narrative about love, acceptance, and the transformational power of compassion. Under the deft direction of Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, the tale unfolds in an enchanting world filled with wonder and musical joy.
The story revolves around Belle, a young woman who is seen as an “oddity” in her village due to her love of reading and her desire for adventure beyond the confines of her small town. Fate brings her to a secluded castle inhabited by a Beast and his enchanted staff, all of whom were cursed because of the Beast’s arrogance. As Belle spends more time in the castle, she uncovers the heart and soul beneath the Beast’s terrifying exterior, leading to one of the most iconic romances in film history.
Apart from its strong storyline, one of the defining features of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is its musical score. Composed by Alan Menken and with lyrics by Howard Ashman, the songs from the movie, including the titular “Beauty and the Beast,” “Be Our Guest,” and “Belle,” have become anthems of a generation and are still sung and celebrated today.
6 ‘La La Land’ (2016)
In the pantheon of modern musicals, ‘La La Land’ shines bright, offering a bittersweet homage to the golden age of Hollywood while also infusing contemporary themes of ambition, love, and the oft-competing dreams that challenge relationships. Helmed by the young and prodigiously talented Damien Chazelle, the film sweeps the audience into a colorful world where reality and dreamlike sequences intertwine.
Set against the sprawling backdrop of Los Angeles, the story follows aspiring actress Mia (Emma Stone) and jazz pianist Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) as they navigate the complex terrain of their careers and an evolving romantic relationship. Their paths, lit with joy, passion, and heartbreak, provide a poignant reflection on the choices one makes in pursuing dreams and the sacrifices that often accompany them.
Musically, ‘La La Land’ stands out with its compelling score by Justin Hurwitz and memorable songs like “City of Stars,” “Audition (The Fools Who Dream),” and the visually dazzling opening number, “Another Day of Sun.” These songs drive the narrative forward and capture the characters’ myriad emotions throughout their journey.
The choreography, led by Mandy Moore, brings vibrancy and energy, especially notable in the Griffith Observatory scene where Mia and Sebastian literally dance among the stars. Linus Sandgren’s cinematography, with its lush colors and sweeping shots, adds another layer of magic, making Los Angeles—a city often criticized for its superficiality—appear dreamy and wistful.
5 ‘The Sound of Music’ (1965)
IMDb: 8.1/10 249K | Popularity: 1064 | Top 250: #241 | Metascore:
With the pristine backdrop of the Austrian Alps and the infectious charm of its lead, Julie Andrews, ‘The Sound of Music’ has, over the years, echoed its title by becoming one of the most beloved musicals in cinema history. Directed by the celebrated Robert Wise, the film is based on the true story of the Von Trapp family and their escape from Nazi-occupied Austria.
The narrative pivots around Maria (played brilliantly by Julie Andrews), a young woman who leaves an Austrian convent to become the governess to the seven children of a naval captain, Georg von Trapp (Christopher Plummer). While she initially finds resistance from the children, her warmth, spirited nature, and love for music soon win them over. The transformation of the once somber household to one filled with song, laughter, and love is nothing short of magical.
Laden with an iconic score by Rodgers and Hammerstein, songs like “Do-Re-Mi,” “My Favorite Things,” “Climb Ev’ry Mountain,” and the titular “The Sound of Music” have become timeless classics, not just in the realm of film but in the broader cultural landscape.
Julie Andrews‘ portrayal of Maria is iconic, with her angelic voice and effervescent presence lighting up the screen. Her chemistry with Christopher Plummer‘s Captain von Trapp is palpable, evolving from initial conflict to a deep, genuine love.
4 ‘The Wizard of Oz’ (1939)
IMDb: 8.1/10 416K | Popularity: 597 | Top 250: #226 | Metascore:
In the annals of film history, few films have the perennial appeal, cultural resonance, and enduring charm of ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ Premiering in 1939, this Technicolor marvel adapted from L. Frank Baum‘s children’s novel has captivated generations of audiences with its memorable characters, infectious musical numbers, and timeless narrative of self-discovery and the meaning of home.
The plot follows young Dorothy Gale (an iconic Judy Garland), who finds herself in the vibrant, fantastical world of Oz after a tornado whisks her away from her grayscale Kansas life. With her dog Toto, she embarks on a journey to the Emerald City, hoping to meet the Wizard, who can help her return home.
Along the way, she befriends a trio of unforgettable characters: the Scarecrow (Ray Bolger), who is in search of a brain; the Tin Man (Jack Haley), longing for a heart; and the Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr), who desires courage. Pursued by the Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton) and inspired by the benevolence of Glinda the Good Witch (Billie Burke), the quartet navigates a land of wonder and danger.
The soundtrack is as legendary as the film itself. Songs like “Over the Rainbow” – which became Judy Garland’s signature song – “If I Only Had a Brain,” “We’re Off to See the Wizard,” and “Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead” have transcended the film to become standards of the American songbook.
3 “Singin’ in the Rain” (1952)
IMDb: 8.3/10 253K | Popularity: 1899 | Top 250: #87 | Metascore:
Set in Hollywood’s transition from silent films to talkies, ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ offers a whimsical exploration of the film industry’s golden age. Gene Kelly stars as Don Lockwood, a successful silent movie actor facing challenges with the advent of sound in cinema. As he navigates this shift, with the support of talented newcomer Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds) and his comedic sidekick Cosmo Brown (Donald O’Connor), the story unfolds with humor, drama, and unforgettable musical numbers.
The film boasts iconic dance routines, most memorably Gene Kelly‘s joyful performance in the rain-soaked title track. Its witty script and charismatic characters deliver a timeless commentary on fame, love, and the sacrifices made in the name of entertainment. With a near-perfect Metascore, it stands as one of the greatest musicals ever produced, encapsulating the spirit and magic of the silver screen.
2 ‘Hamilton’ (2020)
IMDb: 8.3/10 106K | Popularity: 868 | Top 250: #110 | Metascore:
A groundbreaking musical phenomenon, ‘Hamilton’ intertwines hip-hop, R&B, and traditional show tunes to recount the life of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton. Conceived and led by Lin-Manuel Miranda, he also stars as Hamilton. The production offers a contemporary take on historical events, highlighting ambition, love, and political intrigue themes.
With its diverse cast, ‘Hamilton’ redefines American history, making it accessible and relevant for a new generation. The film is a recording of a live Broadway performance, capturing the raw energy and emotion of the stage. Earning critical acclaim, it stands as a testament to the power of storytelling through song, revolutionizing the world of musical theater.
1 ‘The Lion King’ (1994)
IMDb: 8.5/10 1.1M | Popularity: 439 | Top 250: #37 | Metascore:
A timeless classic, ‘The Lion King’ is a Disney-animated marvel that tells the epic tale of Simba, a young lion prince who must navigate betrayal and tragedy to reclaim his rightful throne. The film delves deep into themes of responsibility, identity, and the circle of life.
With iconic songs like “Circle of Life” and “Hakuna Matata,” the film’s soundtrack, composed by Elton John and Tim Rice, resonates with audiences worldwide.
The captivating animation, paired with a rich storyline and memorable characters, has cemented ‘The Lion King’ as one of Disney’s most cherished masterpieces, earning its revered status in cinematic history.
The highly esteemed film ranks highest among viewers and is the only movie on our list to break the top 50 on the Top 250 Movies on IMDb.
Honorable Mention: Best Musicals of All Time
Dive deep into the mesmerizing world of song, dance, and drama with our compilation of some of the most unforgettable musicals ever produced. Spanning decades and genres, these films have defined, reinvented, and celebrated the art of musical storytelling.
While they might not have made our top 25 list, their impact and brilliance cannot be overlooked. Here’s our tribute to the musicals that have charmed audiences worldwide and have carved their niche in cinematic history.
‘Horse Feathers’ (1932)
IMDb: 7.5/10 13K | Metascore:
A raucous slapstick featuring the legendary Marx Brothers. This comedy centers on university football and the hijinks that ensue, proving that academia and sports can make a hilarious mix.
‘Swing Time’ (1936)
IMDb: 7.5/10 14K | Metascore:
Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dazzle in this classic musical romance. The story of a gambler and a dance instructor is woven with iconic dance sequences and a magnetic charm.
‘A Star Is Born’ (1954)
IMDb: 7.5/10 19K | Metascore:
A poignant portrayal of fame and love’s fragility. Judy Garland and James Mason shine as a rising starlet and a fading actor, bringing a tragic depth to this musical drama.
‘Meet Me in St. Louis’ (1944)
IMDb: 7.5/10 26K | Metascore:
Set against the 1904 World’s Fair backdrop, this musical offers a nostalgic look at family life, featuring Judy Garland‘s unforgettable rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
‘The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh’ (1977)
Dive into the Hundred Acre Wood for heartwarming tales with Pooh and friends. This anthology captures the timeless charm of A.A. Milne‘s beloved characters.
‘White Christmas’ (1954)
IMDb: 7.5/10 47K | Metascore:
Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye team up in this festive musical, filled with romance, comedy, and the iconic title song promising a snow-filled holiday.
Set during the Vietnam War era, this rock musical explores the counterculture revolution, epitomizing the free spirit of the ’60s with its vibrant songs and passionate activism.
IMDb: 7.5/10 155K | Popularity: 4811 | Metascore:
This Disney-animated masterpiece tells the enchanting tale of a wooden puppet’s journey to become a real boy, emphasizing the values of truth and integrity.
‘Robin Hood’ (1973)
IMDb: 7.5/10 135K | Popularity: 2995 | Metascore:
Disney brings the legendary outlaw to life with anthropomorphic flair, setting the classic tale in a world where animals rule and justice prevails.
‘tick, tick… BOOM!’ (2021)
IMDb: 7.5/10 115K | Popularity: 1387 | Metascore:
Directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda, this biographical musical chronicles the life of playwright Jonathan Larson, capturing the struggles and aspirations of a creative soul.
‘Les Misérables’ (2012)
Victor Hugo‘s epic tale is brought to the screen with stirring performances and grandeur, shedding light on love, redemption, and revolution in 19th-century France.
‘The Greatest Showman’ (2017)
IMDb: 7.5/10 299K | Popularity: 337 | Metascore:
Showcasing P.T. Barnum‘s rise to fame, this musical extravaganza celebrates the world of showbiz, highlighting the beauty in diversity and the magic of dreams.
‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’ (1942)
This biographical musical portrays the life of George M. Cohan, the entertainer known for patriotic tunes, capturing the spirit of early 20th-century America.
Delve into the events leading to the American Revolution. This musical adaptation brings the founding fathers to life, highlighting their struggles and determination in forging a new nation.
‘The Muppet Movie’ (1979)
IMDb: 7.6/10 38K | Metascore:
Kermit and his eclectic gang embark on a cross-country journey to Hollywood. Filled with humor and heart, this adventure showcases the Muppets at their best.
‘West Side Story’ (1961)
IMDb: 7.6/10 119K | Popularity: 2651 | Metascore:
A modern retelling of Romeo and Juliet set amidst the gang conflicts of New York City. With powerful performances and unforgettable songs, this is a tale of star-crossed love and rivalry.
‘The Jungle Book’ (1967)
IMDb: 7.6/10 193K | Popularity: 2582 | Metascore:
Journey through the jungle with Mowgli as he learns life lessons from his animal friends and foes, backed by catchy tunes like “The Bare Necessities.”
“Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” (2022)
IMDb: 7.6/10 104K | Popularity: 1519 | Metascore:
Del Toro offers a dark and whimsical twist on the classic tale, using stop-motion to paint a visually enchanting narrative of a puppet in a world of chaos.
‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ (1937)
IMDb: 7.6/10 210K | Popularity: 1449 | Metascore:
Disney’s first full-length animated feature, this fairy tale classic, set the stage for animation with its enchanting storyline and memorable characters.
IMDb: 7.6/10 305K | Popularity: 1226 | Metascore:
A tale of courage and identity, this animated epic follows Mulan as she disguises herself as a man to save her father and nation.
‘The Little Mermaid’ (1989)
IMDb: 7.6/10 282K | Popularity: 1067 | Metascore:
Ariel’s quest for love and freedom takes her to the surface. This underwater adventure redefined animation for a new generation with captivating songs like “Under the Sea.”
‘Moulin Rouge!’ (2001)
IMDb: 7.6/10 294K | Popularity: 914 | Metascore:
A visual and auditory spectacle set in Paris’s famed cabaret. This tragic love story blends contemporary music with the bohemian spirit of the 1900s.
IMDb: 7.6/10 360K | Popularity: 409 | Metascore:
Moana’s voyage across the ocean to save her island is filled with mythology, catchy songs, and lessons about self-discovery and environmental stewardship.
‘Top Hat’ (1935)
Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers light up the screen in this dance-filled romantic comedy, showcasing their unparalleled chemistry and footwork.
‘The Muppet Christmas Carol’ (1992)
IMDb: 7.7/10 65K | Metascore:
The Muppets take on Dickens’s classic tale, infusing it with their unique charm and humor, while Michael Caine‘s Scrooge anchors the story with gravitas.
Senior Editor, BuddyTV