The musical often feels like a relic of a long-dead Hollywood studio system, but it remains a genre that captures movies’ ability to create story worlds that move freely between reality and fantasy. The worst examples come from filmmakers who give license to music, color, and movement run amok; the best musicals transcend artifice and integrate songs that become expressions of pure character emotion. It offers endless possibilities, but success demands a complete mastery of the medium.
Very few current stars could learn the choreography of Busby Berkeley, Jerome Robbins, or Bob Fosse, and adapting a medium developed and most suited for the stage requires innovative direction. In translating the joy of a live musical to the magic of cinema, some things are easily lost in the shuffle
From “Swing Time” to “In the Heights” and everywhere in between, here are 50 musicals that represent the height and the incredible range of the genre.
Eric Kohn, Anne Thompson, Ryan Lattanzio, Jude Dry, Kristen Lopez, Jenna Marotta, Jamie Righetti, Michael Nordine, and Siddhant Adlakha contributed to this list.