CATEGORIES Top 25They were in, then out, then in again, then out -- musicals as a genre have often given up for dead, even though some of our favorite films fit the bill. But even if you don't think you like musicals, we challenge you to tell us that not one of these films left you humming as you walked out of the theater (or turned off the DVD player).
Here's our roundup of the movies that put a song (and sometimes dance) in our hearts. Even if that song happened to be 'Sweet Transvestite' from 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show.' They were in, then out, then in again, then out -- musicals as a genre have often given up for dead, even though some of our favorite films fit the bill. But even if you don't think you like musicals, we challenge you to tell us that not one of these films left you humming as you walked out of the theater (or turned off the DVD player).
Here's our roundup of the movies that put a song (and sometimes dance) in our hearts. Even if that song happened to be 'Sweet Transvestite' from 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show.'
25. 'Jesus Christ Superstar' (1973)
A rock opera about Jesus may sound mind-numbing, and some could argue it was -- on the stage. Amazingly, director Norman Jewison improves on his source material, casting Ted Neeley as a Jesus with personality to spare, while focusing on beautiful natural settings and leaving the choreography loose (hey, it was the '70s). Groovy.
24. 'Porgy and Bess' (1959)
Sidney Poitier tried to drop out of the movie. The director was fired and replaced by Otto Preminger. The lead actors' singing voices were dubbed. It's a recipe for disaster, but the score by George and Ira Gershwin and great performances by Poitier, Dorothy Dandridge and Sammy Davis Jr. make it all worth it.
23. 'On the Town' (1949)
Talk about a triple-header -- Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Ann Miller are at their collective peak in this crowd-pleaser (c'mon everyone, sing it if you know it -- "The Bronx is up and the Battery's down"!) Sailors on leave have never been more fun (or more clean-cut) than in this story of three guys who find love on the streets of New York. Funny, we usually just find used gum.
22. 'Top Hat' (1935)
Pay no attention to the silly plot or Fred Astaire's thin singing voice. Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire epitomized elegance, sophistication and all the things Americans wanted to be (but probably couldn't be) in the shadow of the Great Depression. Sure, it's fluffy, but you'll be swept away, too.
21. 'Rocky Horror Picture Show' (1975)
Audiences wanted to do the Time Warp again and again and again once this box office flop became a late-night cult classic. If you forget about throwing toast and toilet paper, this is a raucous good time of a movie with catchy songs, a legendary performance by Tim Curry and just enough naughty humor to make Janet and Brad blush.
20. 'Gigi' (1958)
No one really dances, but with 'Gigi,' it hardly matters. The Lerner and Lowe songs will stick in your head for decades (anyone else remember 'I Remember It Well'?), legend Maurice Chevalier is more charming than any grandpa, and the romance between Louis Jordan and Leslie Caron is unexpectedly charming (though it should be creepy, as she's a courtesan in training). Um, ew.
19. 'Chicago' (2002)
Sure, Richard Gere's no tap dancer, but who cares? An adaptation of Bob Fosse's Broadway original, this is a singing and dancing extravaganza about an era long past but eerily familiar -- gee, who would commit a crime and then look for cheap publicity in this day and age? While Renee Zellweger acts up a storm, it's triple threat (and Oscar winner) Catherine Zeta-Jones who steals the show.
18. 'Fiddler on the Roof' (1971)
The story's predictable, the movie's way too long (at more than three hours!), but you'll forget all about that once you hear the music. Based on one of the best-loved theater productions ever, this is the musical that gave us such indelible classics as 'Sunrise, Sunset' and 'If I Were a Rich Man.'
17. 'Grease' (1978)
When Danny (John Travolta) first meets hopelessly wholesome Sandy (Olivia Newton-John), sparks fly and we get a heady dose of bubblegum sweetness in this cute, campy romp through 1950s clichés. But just try to shake catchy tunes like 'Greased Lightning' or 'Hopelessly Devoted to You.' We dare you.
16. 'Funny Girl' (1968)
The story may be about the real-life travails of comedienne Fanny Brice, but the truth is, this flick's all about Barbra Streisand. Starring in her first film (and reportedly, already a demanding diva), Streisand showed off not only that amazing voice but sharp comic timing and astute acting chops. Watch a star being born.
15. 'The King and I' (1956)
Let's just forget 'Anna and the King,' a turgid non-musical remake of this story starring Jodie Foster. Without the Rodgers and Hammerstein score, Yul Brenner's dashing and career-defining performance and Deborah Kerr's earnest schoolmarm, there's simply no point. But with them, it's magic.
14. '42nd Street' (1933)
This inside-Broadway musical comes to life for one reason -- Busby Berkeley's choreography. Of course, you can't discount Ginger Rogers (as the suggestively nicknamed Anytime Annie) and wide-eyed Ruby Keeler, who easily steal the show. At the time, musicals were in such decline theater owners would post signs saying "NOT a musical!" to draw customers. This one changed the tide.
13. 'Funny Face' (1957)
Get past the slightly unsettling May-December romance between Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn to soak up the amazing George Gershwin score, the Paris location and costumes that range from glamorous to Beatnik. Don't let that lame Gap commercial featuring Hepburn from a few years back throw you -- this is some darn good song and dance.
12. 'All That Jazz' (1979)
Inspired by Federico Fellini's '8 ½', Bob Fosse created this dazzling, surreal and pitch black musical to burst the balloon of every dreamer who thinks the business of musicals is just good, clean fun. Nominated for nine Oscars but only winning four, Fosse, (who, like his movie doppelganger, died of a heart attack, in 1987) was robbed. This isn't just a great musical -- it's a brilliant film, period.
11. 'Mary Poppins' (1964)
What little kid wouldn't want Julie Andrews as his nanny? She sings, has a cool boyfriend (Dick Van Dyke, at his charming best) and knows that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. It's hard to believe this was Andrews' first movie, after being passed over for the screen adaptation of 'My Fair Lady.' But it's not hard to believe she won an Oscar for it.
10. 'Meet Me in St. Louis' (1944)
During WWII, audiences needed something to smile about -- and Judy Garland's performance in this nostalgic look at one middle-class family circa 1904 delivered the goods. Garland had the ability to make us sing along with her or tug on our heart strings, and this might be the film that best captures her range. And if you've ever sung 'Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,' credit this film.
9. 'A Star Is Born' (1954)
No, not the crappy remake with Barbra Streisand, but the 1954 classic (itself a remake) starring Judy Garland in a role that was her barn-burning comeback to the big screen. She's evenly matched with James Mason, who delivers a heartrending performance as an alcoholic on a downhill slide. But it's her performance of 'The Man That Got Away' that will stay with you.
8. 'Swing Time' (1936)
Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire make it all look so easy, but once you realize the dance numbers in their movies usually consist of one long, uncut (or close to it) take, you'll realize just how hard these routines must have been. Watch 'Never Gonna Dance,' which took 48 takes to get right, and you'll be amazed that Rogers, whose shoes were said to have become bloody from blisters, keeps smiling.
7. 'The Sound of Music' (1965)
If you haven't seen this one for a while and think it's all about a bunch of cute kids singing 'Do-Re-Mi' and 'The Lonely Goatherd,' think again. Julie Andrews is funny and touching as the nanny who melts the heart of stern widower while the Nazis close in. And if 'Climb Ev'ry Mountain' doesn't get you choked up, you aren't human.
6. 'My Fair Lady' (1964)
We're not thrilled to give props to Audrey Hepburn's performance here, as her singing voice was dubbed (by Marni Nixon), but we can't help but love her anyway. We completely believe her as the poor, ill-bred flower girl who falls for the man who tries to reform her on a bet. But are we excited about the remake with Keira Knightley? Not bloody likely.
5. 'An American in Paris' (1951)
With 'So You Think You Can Dance' churning out a new star every season, it's easy to forget about geniuses like Gene Kelly. Don't. The first dancer to bring pure athleticism, sophisticated charm and dashing good looks to on-screen hoofing, Kelly was a killer romantic lead. With the romance of Paris and the gamine Leslie Caron added to the mix, this is a classic that will melt the hardest heart.
4. 'Wizard of Oz' (1939)
The characters are so vivid (the Tin Man! the Scarecrow! the Wicked Witch of the West!) you can almost forget there's any music in this movie -- until you remember the songs. With Judy Garland singing at her wide-eyed, innocent best, 'Over the Rainbow' is an instant tearjerker. And you can't not love a movie with singing, dancing Munchkins.
3. 'West Side Story' (1961)
'Romeo and Juliet' set in Manhattan featuring a singing, dancing gang war? Amazingly, what could have been a car wreck works beautifully thanks to the acting chops of Natalie Wood, the music of Leonard Bernstein and the lyrics of Stephen Sondheim. Shakespeare would have been proud.
2. 'Cabaret' (1972)
Liza (with a Z) Minnelli was just emerging from her mom Judy Garland's long shadow when 'Cabaret' came along, and she hit it out of the park, winning a best actress Oscar for a demanding, dark performance. By the end you'll believe that, in the shadow of the rising Nazi regime in Germany circa 1930, the one truly "beautiful" place was the unsavory Kit-Kat club.
1. 'Singin' in the Rain' (1952)
Critics herald this film as the best musical ever made, and they aren't exaggerating. Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor perform some of the most memorable dance numbers in cinema history, Debbie Reynolds is a feisty romantic foil and Hollywood gets skewered in the bargain. Who could ask for anything more?