Top 8 Must-Watch Movie Musicals

By Julia Matuszek, Video Editor

Disclaimer: There are spoilers about these movies throughout this story. 

With spring break coming up soon, there’s bound to be a moment of mindless Netflix scrolling looking for the next things to watch. Not only are movie musicals underrated, but they are extremely entertaining, lively, and a perfect way to welcome spring.

1.) La La Land (2016) Rated: PG-13

You may remember this movie as the short-lived winner of 2017 Academy Award for Best Picture before the mistake was corrected and the film Moonlight won, but I still believe that La La Land was the rightful winner. This movie has it all from romance to drama to comedy and musical numbers with an all-around amazing soundtrack and a not-so-typical ending. In my opinion, the film brought back the popularity of movie musicals, with The Greatest Showman, Bohemian Rhapsody, and A Star is Born following soon after, all having great success both in the box office and in the reviews.

This film focuses on aspiring actress Mia, played by Emma Stone, who meets and falls in love with a musician who wants to own and run a jazz club, played by Ryan Gosling, all with the backdrop of La La Land, a common name for Los Angeles, also known as the city of dreams, which is fitting. The film has a relatively simple plot but has a one-of-a-kind ending, that will leave the audience just satisfied enough, making it all that more realistic of a story, an uncommon feat for musicals.

Best Songs: “Another Day of Sun“, “City of Stars“, and “A Lovely Night

2.) High School Musical (2006) Rated: G

Although this movie isn’t typically on the top (or even on the list) of movie reviewers, I chose to include this movie because it’s a big part of many teens’ childhood, and it was a movie that introduced many kids and teens to this genre of film. The movie tells the story of Troy Bolton, played by Zac Efron, who meets Gabriella Montez, played by Vanessa Hudgens, during a New Years Eve karaoke session, but then loses her and life resumes.. or so they think. Gabriella transfers schools and ends up at East High School, which coincidentally is also Troy’s school. Troy is happy to see Gabriella again but warns her that nobody knows about his singing because at school he is known as the basketball star and that’s it.

Both Troy and Gabriella end up coming to the musicals auditions and are seen watching reluctantly from the back, both wanting to audition, yet afraid to break the status quo. They decide to audition, and of course, it’s beautiful and they get a callback. Despite everybody’s objections and even an attempt to break them up, Troy and Gabriela make the time and effort to practice in addition to both of their other extracurricular activities. They deal with having to break the status quo and learning to embrace all parts of themselves: old ones they know well like academics and basketball and new ones they just discovered like singing.

Best Songs: Start of Something New, Get’cha Head In The Game, Breaking Free, and We Are All In This Together

3.) Mamma Mia! (2008) Rated: PG-13

This musical uses Swedish pop group ABBA and their hits to tell the story of Sophie Sheridan, played by Amanda Seyfried, daughter of Donna, played brilliantly by Meryl Streep. Sophie has been raised by her single mother all of her life, never knowing who her real father is. After finding and reading through her mom’s diary from the year she was conceived, she narrows down the possibility to three possible men. With her wedding to Sky, played by Dominic Cooper, quickly approaching she decides to invite all three men to her wedding, in hopes figuring out who her father is and having him walk her down the aisle.

In the invitations Sophie makes it seem as though Donna invited the men, and they all accept and come to the beautiful island of Kalokairi. There’s Sam Carmichael, played by Pierce Brosnan, Harry Bright, played by Colin Firth, and Bill Anderson, played by Stellan Skarsgard. As the men arrive, the challenge starts for Sophie of revealing the truth to them, figuring out who is her father, and planning her wedding all while hiding all three men from her mother.

Best Songs: “Mamma Mia“, “Lay All Your Love On Me“, and “Voulez-Vous

4.) Tangled (2010) Rated: PG

This list wouldn’t be complete with at least one of Disney’s dozens of animated musicals. Tangled focuses on the story of Rapunzel, voiced by Mandy Moore, a teen who is stuck inside of her tower 24/7 because her mother is terrified of what will happen to her outside of the tower. Rapunzel obeys, but with her upcoming birthday, she grows impatient and tired of the rules. As her birthday gift, she asks to go see the floating lanterns that are only ever released on her birthday. Unfortunately, her mom rejects the idea, but she offers to go get shells for Rapunzel and embarks on the three-day trip.

During her time away, Flynn Rider, voiced by Zachary Levi, appears in the tower as he is running away from some thieves that he conned. Rapunzel frightened by the intruder, knocks him out and hides his bag, which is holding the stolen crown. Flynn desperate to get his bag back strikes up a deal with Rapunzel. The deal is that if Flynn takes Rapunzel to see the lights and gets her back home without her mother knowing, Rapunzel will give him his bag back. The journey they take reveals Rapunzel’s true origins, Rapunzel’s healing powers, Flynn’s history, and their blooming relationship.

Best Songs: When Will My Life Begin I’ve Got A Dream, and I See The Light

5.) Chicago (2002) Rated: PG-13

Velma Kelly, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones, is part of a well-known singing duo with her sister but ends up in jail after she kills both her sister and her husband after finding out they had an affair together. At the same time, Roxie Hart, played by Renee Zellweger, is stuck in a boring marriage with Amos, played by John C. Reilly, and is dreaming of fame. Roxie meets Fred Casely who promises to help her achieve her dreams, they have a mini affair, and afterward, he wants nothing to do with her. Upset, Roxie kills Casely. At first, her husband takes the blame for her, but then he finds out the truth, and Roxie is sent to jail, where she meets Velma.

Velma who is getting tons of media attention due to her double homicide wants nothing to do with Roxie as in her eyes she is a “nobody.” Roxie decides to become “somebody” and gets in contact with a lawyer (used loosely, more like a PR mastermind), Billy Flynn, played by Richard Gere.  Flynn is able to portray Roxie as a good girl who made one bad decision and then the media attention switches from Velma to Roxie. Velma desperate for attention offers Roxie her dead sisters part in their duo, but Roxie rejects. Sadly, Roxie’s fame disappeared as quickly as it came. The two desperate stars come together as a duo to continue their careers and win back the medias’ love and affection.

Best Songs: “All That Jazz“, “Cell Block Tango“, and “We Both Reached For The Gun

6.) Grease (1978) Rated: PG

After an intense summer romance Danny Zuko, played by John Travolta, and Sandy Olson, played by Olivia Newton-John, go their separate ways.. or so they think. Rather than going back to her native Australia, Sandy moves to a new school, Rydell High School, which also just so happens to be Danny’s school. When the two realize the coincidence, there’s a moment of pure joy and then total confusion for Sandy. Danny is dressed completely different than the way he did at the beach, and he puts on a cool-guy persona. This is due to Danny being the school’s “it” boy and the lead member of the T Birds. In order to protect his reputation, Danny is rude and cold to Sandy.  They eventually make up and try to date despite being polar opposites, dealing with problems such as marriage, past relationships, and expectations.

Best Songs: “Summer Nights“, “Greased Lightnin“, “Look At Me, I’m Sandra Dee” and “You’re The One That I Want

7.) Mary Poppins (1964) Rated: PG

The Banks family can’t seem to find a nanny that can handle their two children Jane, played by Karen Dotrice, and Michael, played by Matthew Garber. That’s when Mary Poppins, played brilliantly by Julie Andrews, stops by. But there’s something different about this nanny, not only does she get the children to listen to her, but she’s magical and in the most casual way. She can slide up banisters, fly using an umbrella, making a room cleans itself, and taking herself and the Banks children into other universes – such as a cartoon one. With Mary Poppins presence, the children become better behaved, the parents become closer to the children, everyone is happier, and that’s Mary Poppins cue to leave, although still being a mystery.

Best Songs: A Spoonful of Sugar, SupercalifragilisticexpialidociousChim Chim Cheree, and Let’s Go Fly A Kite

8.) The Sound of Music (1965) Rated: G

If you haven’t watched The Sound of Music, you are missing out on one of Julie Andrews best and most iconic performances. Andrews portrays Maria, an irresponsible yet charming nun who gets sent to be a governess at the Von Trapp’s home as a break from the convent. At the Von Trapp’s, all seven children are prim and proper as can be, due to their strict naval officer father Captain Von Trapp, played by Christopher Plummer.  Maria makes it her job to make the children loosen up, and more like children than mini adults. Through this, she causes the Captain to get closer with his children, a feat before thought impossible. The Captain and Maria start to fall for each other, but The Captain is engaged to another woman and Maria is still a nun. But, they both realize the relationship is worth the risks and get married

Unfortunately, at the same time, Germany is slowly invading Austria in the midst of World War 2. And the Captain is being ordered to serve in the Third Reich, causing him to leave his new wife and seven children. The Captain and Maria devise a plan to escape Austria, Nazi Officers, and start their new life together in Switzerland.

Best Songs: “The Sound of Music“, “Maria“, “My Favorite Things“, “Do-Re-Mi“, and “Edelweiss

At the time of this post, La La Land and High School Musical (both with Live TV), Tangled (with STARZ Add-on), Chicago (with HBO Add-on) are all available on Hulu and Mamma Mia! is available on Netflix.