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Musicals on the Big Screen

By Ashly Moore Sheldon • May 12, 2021

Inspired by the chill-inducing trailers for In the Heights (coming out June 11) and Stephen Spielberg’s upcoming adaptation of West Side Story (Can it possibly top the 1961 version?), we started thinking about some of our favorite movie musicals. There are so many we love, so we decided to focus on our top ten from the past twenty years. Here they are!

Our 10 Favorite 21st-Century Movie Musicals

  • Moulin Rouge! (2001): Starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor, this visual masterpiece directed by Baz Luhrman scored several Oscar nominations.
  • Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001): Written, directed by, and starring John Cameron Mitchell, this musical was adapted from the critically acclaimed rock theater hit.
  • Dreamgirls (2006): Starring Jennifer Hudson, Beyoncé, Jamie Foxx, and Eddie Murphy, this movie version of the Broadway hit traces the evolution of R&B music.
  • Across the Universe (2007): This original romantic drama written and directed by Julie Taymor is centered on songs by The Beatles. The film stars Evan Rachel Wood and Jim Sturgess.
  • Enchanted (2007): Featuring an all-star cast including Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, and Susan Sarandon, this Disney romantic comedy is thoroughly enchanting.
  • Mamma Mia! (2008): Based on the Broadway hit and featuring the music of ABBA, this raucous romantic comedy features an ensemble cast including Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Julie Walters, and Amanda Seyfried. (Psst, the sequel is also great!)
  • The Last Five Years (2014): Based on the stage production of the same name, this romantic comedy-drama stars Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan as an estranged couple, reflecting on the history of their relationship.
  • La La Land (2016): This winning romance written and directed by Damien Chazelle stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. It has the dubious distinction of having been accidentally announced as the winner of the Oscar for Best Picture when the actual winner was the also-excellent drama Moonlight.
  • Sing Street (2016): Taking us back to 1980s Dublin, this coming-of-age story written and directed by John Carney (who also created the excellent Once) revolves around a boy who starts a rock band to impress a girl.
  • The Greatest Showman (2017): This original drama starring Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron, Michelle Williams, and Zendaya was inspired by the story of visionary P. T. Barnum.

Musical Memoirs

Julie Andrews may be the celebrated star of the stage and screen, bringing her glorious four-octave soprano to the likes of The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins, but she’s also an accomplished author, having written several memoirs, including Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years. Along with that she’s penned a bunch of children’s books including one of our favorites, Mandy.

Hamilton star Leslie Odom Jr. is halfway to an EGOT, and recently earned Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for his role as Sam Cooke in One Night in Miami, but in his memoir, Failing Up: How to Take Risks, Aim Higher, and Never Stop Learning, he opens up about the years of hard work it took to get there.

And speaking of Hamilton, before he was catapulted to international fame, Lin-Manuel Miranda inspired his Twitter followers with words of encouragement at the beginning and end of each day. GMorning, Gnight!: Little Pep Talks for Me & You is a collection of his favorites.

With humor and warmth, legendary musician, actress, activist, and icon Olivia Newton-John shares her fascinating life story in Don’t Stop Believin’, from her unforgettable rise to fame in the classic musical Grease to her battles with cancer.

In 1993, as the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical Rent opened to thunderous acclaim, the cast was reeling from the sudden death (just the night before!) of the show’s creator, Jonathan Larson. During its run, star Anthony Rapp was also watching his mother battle the cancer that eventually took her life. He writes about this bittersweet time in Without You: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and the Musical Rent.

And here are a few more Broadway memoirs to consider:

Hopefully there’s enough razzle-dazzle and jazz hands here to tide you over until the releases of In the Heights and West Side Story. We can barely wait!

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