It may seem at times as like the musical is a remnant of an old Hollywood studio structure, but it is still a genre that reflects the potential of films to construct tale worlds that may freely wander between reality and imagination. The films that are the worst instances are those in which the directors let music, colour, and movement go uncontrolled. The films that are the finest examples are those that transcend artifice and have songs that become manifestations of genuine character feeling. Musicals provide untold opportunities, but achieving success in this genre requires a profound understanding of its conventions.
1. The King and I (1956)
Based on Margaret Landon’s 1944 novel, this Rodgers and Hammerstein musical starred Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr. They portray the stubborn, imperious King Mongkut of Siam as well as Anna Leonowens, a British widow who travels to Thailand to teach the King’s children English and manners.
The film features Brynner’s signature performance as a brusque, petulant king who is all too human. He eloquently conveys his idiosyncrasies with theatricality, from finger-wagging to gasps and grunts.
2. The Greatest Showman (1999)
The Greatest Showman is a dazzlingly entertaining and visually stunning film. It’s also a musical and this is reflected in its fantastic score which includes a number of memorable songs such as Never Enough, A Million Dreams and This Is Me.
The flixtor movies are based on the life of circus promoter and huckster P.T. Barnum features Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, Rebecca Ferguson and Zac Efron among others.
Director Michael Gracey is a first timer and this makes the film a little simplistic but it’s still very much enjoyable. It has a few strong musical numbers and it’s visually arresting due to its beautiful costumes, sets and imagery.
3. Les Miserables (1995)
Claude Lelouch’s lavish and epic take on Victor Hugo’s classic novel is a compelling and entertaining cinematic retelling of its themes. It takes the key elements of the story and fuses them to a fable about a young man’s journey from his impoverished upbringing to his life as a lawyer.
Despite some overly indulgent staging and strange variations on Hugo’s themes, this is one of the year’s best motion picture triumphs. It’s also a moving and insightful commentary on Nazi occupied France.
Henri Fortin (Jean Paul Belmondo) is a poor illiterate removals man who meets the wealthy Jewish lawyer Ziman (Michel Boujenah). The two become friends and travel together when the war begins.
4. The Greatest Showman (1999)
The Greatest Showman tells the story of PT Barnum, who was a circus founder and huckster who helped create opportunities for minorities and “freaks” throughout the 19th century. Despite some historical inaccuracies, The Greatest Showman is a delightful and dazzling movie that you will enjoy watching with your entire family.
The film also explores a number of themes, including following your dreams and overcoming obstacles. There is also a lot of romance in this movie, which makes it feel very emotional and heartwarming.
The song-and-dance numbers are very enjoyable and sizzle with energy. The performances are excellent, especially the ones from Hugh Jackman, who gives a pitch-perfect performance as P. T. Barnum, which is a much more appealing role than the one he played in Les Miserables.
5. The Greatest Showman (1999)
Inspired by the legendary ambitions of America’s original pop-culture impresario, The Greatest Showman is a rags-to-riches story that proves that life itself can be the greatest show of all. Starring Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, Rebecca Ferguson and Zac Efron, this is an inspiring movie about a brash dreamer who rose from nothing to create a spectacle no one could have ever imagined.
Director Michael Gracey and writers Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon take a few more liberties with the historical accuracy of Barnum than some typical true story movies, but they don’t sacrifice quality for the sake of doing so. The movie is filled with captivating performances and original music by La La Land’s Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.