Musicals are almost as old as civilization. The Greeks may have created them, and they were certainly part of Roman culture. Some experts believe “the Beggar’s Opera”, first performed in London in 1728, is the oldest musical of the modern era. Musicals quickly became a staple of theater. One only needed to walk down Broadway before the COVID-19 pandemic to see what a large part of the American theater landscape they still are. “The Music Man” was first performed in 1957. It has resurrected this year with an expensive Broadway production that stars Hugh Jackman.
Musicals crossed over into the movies This process began decades ago. The Marx Brothers appear numerous times for their wacky comedies from the early days of movies with sound. “Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory” tells the fantastical tale of a young boy’s adventure into the strange world of an eccentric candymaker.
There are also numerous movies about life in the entertainment industry and putting on stage musicals. But the most common theme of all is love. Several of the plots are about impossible or forbidden love and inevitable tragedy. Others are much warmer stories that leave viewers with hope and feelings of levity. Most of these films are in English and from the United States and the United Kingdom. However, several important musical films are Hindi-language movies from India. Musicals have played an important role in both cinema and music, pushing both mediums to new heights and creating timeless tales that hold up even today.
To determine the best musical movie of all time, 24/7 Wall St. created an index based on each film’s Rotten Tomatoes average critic rating, Rotten Tomatoes average audience rating, and Internet Movie Database average user rating. To be considered, each film needed to have at least 10,000 total user ratings between IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes and 10 approved Tomatometer critic reviews. The “best” films had to have been classified as a musical or music film by IMDb and all the “worst” films fell only under musical. The “notable song” listed for each musical is either the film’s biggest single, a song that is culturally significant, especially important to the film, or especially popular.
The best movie musical of all time is Singin’ in the Rain (1952). Here are the details:
> IMDb average rating (out of 10): 8.3 (230,858)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 95 (138,734)
> Tomatometer score: 100
> Starring: Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Jean Hagen
The highest rated musical of all time follows three Hollywood stars in the 1920s as they transition from silent films to ones with sound. The scene where Gene Kelly literally sings in the rain is magical and considered one of the best scenes Hollywood has ever created. The film is an optimistic and light take on life and love. It is another Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer production but did not do fantastically upon release. However, years later, it is considered an absolute classic. One critic called it “one of the shining glories of the American musical.”
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