When Hamilton dropped onto Disney Plus over July 4 weekend, it was revolutionary for the relationship between Broadway and Hollywood. But that relationship has a long history that includes filmed stage productions, musical adaptations, original movie musicals, and even movies based on musicals based on movies.
Hamilton is a true modern classic, but if you’ve already binged the Disney Plus version enough to sing along perfectly to “Guns and Ships” there are plenty of other movie musicals worth your time. Some of our favorites are below, from iconic Golden Age movie musicals like Guys and Dolls and Singin’ in the Rain, modern classics like Chicago and Newsies, and goofy, ridiculous, or just plain weird offerings like Bugsy Malone, Teen Beach Movie, or Shrek the Musical.
Bedknobs and Broomsticks
Besides the fact that it’s a better Mary Poppins than Mary Poppins, Bedknobs and Broomsticks is a plain old great time. Angela Lansbury stars as Eglantine Price, a witch-in-training whose pursuit of the last page of a book of witchcraft leads her to the charlatan Emelius Browne (David Tomlinson). To make matters more complicated, she has a trio of children placed in her care as London is evacuated during the Blitz. Equal parts a belated coming-of-age story (Eglantine is struggling with her powers as a witch, and with the era’s gender expectations), an animated adventure (her quest for the page takes her and the kids to the animated world of Naboombu), and a historical-fantasy epic (yes, Eglantine eventually battles Nazis), Bedknobs and Broomsticks is a delight in every respect. —Karen Han
Bedknobs and Broomsticks is streaming on Disney Plus.
Bugsy Malone is a singular oddity. Alan Parker (Fame, Midnight Express) wrote and directed this musical comedy loosely based on Prohibition-era gang wars. The twist? A cast of children play the gangsters and showgirls, including a young Scott Baio as the titular Bugsy Malone and Jodie Foster as his former flame. The antics are all G-rated — machine guns spray whipped cream instead of bullets and flirtations end with forehead kisses. It’s silly and ridiculous even before the kids start singing about how Bugsy Malone is “a candy-coated sinner.”
Bugsy Malone is streaming on CBS All Access.
Sure, the plot is cliché and the acting leaves a little to be desired, but with two pop divas like Christina Aguilera and Cher at the helm, it’s all easily overlooked. Burlesque is pure campy fun. Aguilera plays a small town singer named Ali who moves to L.A. to follow her dreams of performing, and ends up working as a cocktail waitress and then a backup dancer at a burlesque club owned by Cher (I mean, her character’s name is Tess, but she’s always Cher.) The musical numbers are, of course, incredible, especially as Ali tries to convince Tess to let her sing live instead of lip syncing. Plus, the supporting cast includes Stanley Tucci, Alan Cumming, and a wonderfully catty Kristen Bell.
Burlesque is streaming on Netflix.
Rob Marshall’s 2002 adaptation of the 1975 musical Chicago (which boasts the second-longest run in Broadway history) was the first movie musical to win a Best Picture Oscar in over 30 years. It stars Reneé Zellweger as Roxie Hart and Catherine Zeta Jones as Velma Kelly, two women awaiting trial for murder in 1920s Chicago. Richard Gere co-stars as their sleazy lawyer, Billy Flynn. Roxie and Velma vie for press coverage, hoping that public sympathy will save them from a death sentence. Marshall adapted Bob Fosse’s iconic choreography for the film, maintaining its vaudeville spirit and making Chicago one of the best adaptations of a stage musical ever made.
Chicago is streaming on HBO Max
Recent live TV musicals have been more miss than hit (and some were hit with injuries that prevented the from reaching their full potential,) but Fox’s live production of Grease raised the bar for all of them. Directed by Hamilton’s Thomas Kail, Grease Live is a hybrid of the stage musical and the 1978 film, with the addition of new songs for the live production. Plus, the cast is spectacular, with Broadway heartthrob Aaron Tveit as Danny Zuko, Vanessa Hudgens who seems born to play Rizzo (and also knocked it out of the park as Maureen in Rent Live,) Julianne Hough as Sandy, and Carly Rae Jepsen, Keke Palmer, and You’re The Worst’s criminally underrated Kether Donohue as the Pink Ladies. Joe Jonas’ band DNCE even makes a cameo as the band playing the school dance, performing a ’50s style version of their hit song “Cake by the Ocean.” With Grease (1978) unavailable for streaming anywhere, Grease Live is a more than worthy alternative.
Grease Live is streaming on CBS All Access.
Starring Donald Glover as a musician planning a music festival on the titular locale, Guava Island is dreamy and lush. As a musical, Guava Island leaves a little to be desired (why cast Rihanna if she doesn’t even get to sing?) but as a visual album and an attempt at self-mythologizing, it’s fascinating. From our review:
Donald Glover may not have written or directed Guava Island, but his fingerprints are all over the film. It’s a self-portrait painted with the aid of frequent collaborators and close friends (Guava Island is directed by Hiro Murai and written by Glover’s younger brother Stephen), an act of self-mythologization casting Glover as the hero of a fable, enacting change through his music.
Guava Island is streaming on Amazon Prime.
Guys and Dolls
Guys and Dolls is a musical theater classic, with iconic songs like “Luck Be A Lady,” “A Bushel and A Peck,” and “Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat.” The 1955 movie adaptation stars Frank Sinatra as Nathan Detroit, an organizer of illegal gambling rings. Marlon Brando plays high roller Sky Masterson. Nathan bets Sky $1,000 that can’t take the uptight missionary Sarah Brown (Jean Simmons) on a date — but he succeeds by promising Sarah “one dozen genuine sinners” at her next meeting. Brando and Sinatra are titans, of course, and while Brando’s not much of a singer, he can hold a tune just fine.
Guys and Dolls is streaming on Amazon Prime.
High School Musical
The first DCOM musical, High School Musical changed the game, bringing made-for-TV kids movies outside their small audience and inspiring two sequels and a fresh new Disney Plus meta spinoff. The setup is simple: shy new girl Gabriella and basketball captain Troy shake things up at their school when they audition for the school’s musical. In an era where catty cliques ruled high-school television, High School Musical plays with all its tropes with campy delight. —Petrana Radulovic
High School Musical is streaming on Disney Plus.
Little Shop of Horrors
A clumsy nerd, his sweet crush, her sadistic boyfriend, and a carnivorous plant with a taste for human blood: what’s not to love? With a new remake on the way (psst, we have some casting suggestions) now’s the perfect time to revisit Frank Oz’s perfect adaptation of Little Shop of Horrors.
Little Shop of Horrors is streaming on HBO Max.
Baz Luhrmann’s trippy musical about a poet, Christian (Ewan McGregor,) who falls in love with cabaret singer Satine (Nicole Kidman,) was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture and a Best Actress nod for Kidman. Luhrmann adapted pop music from “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” to “Like A Virgin” for the 1890s-set story, with a single original song, “Come What May.” While Moulin Rouge originated as a movie, a Broadway adaptation opened in 2019, starring Broadway superstars Aaron Tveit and Karen Olivo, and replacing some of the musical numbers with more modern pop songs like “Chandelier” and “Firework” as well as new original songs.
Moulin Rouge is streaming on HBO Max.
The musical about the Newsboys Strike of 1899 was the directorial debut of High School Musical’s Kenny Ortega. Starring Christian Bale as the fictional strike leader, Newsies was a box office flop that found a cult home video following. Nearly 20 years after its release, Newsies got a Broadway adaptation that was eventually filmed and released in theaters. Both the original 1992 film and the 2017 recording of the Broadway musical are streaming on Disney Plus.
Newsies is streaming on Disney Plus.
Shrek the Musical
If you haven’t seen Shrek the Musical yet, I don’t know what I can say to convince you to watch it other than “it’s Shrek as a Broadway musical.” But you should really watch Shrek the Musical. (Brian d’Arcy James is under that makeup, by the way.)
Shrek the Musical is streaming on Netflix.
Teen Beach Movie
Fans of High School Musical who aged out of Disney Channel before Teen Beach Movie hit the scene shouldn’t sleep on this underrated gem. When surfers Brady and Mack are wiped out in a huge wave, they’re transported into Brady’s favorite teen beach movie, the fictional “Wet Side Story.” Brady uses his knowledge of the movie to try to get them back home, but along the way they get sucked into the narrative and start singing and dancing against their will. It’s just as fun and campy as High School Musical, with a goofy sci-fi subplot thrown in for good measure.
The sequel Teen Beach 2 is also a lot of fun, with the Wet Side Story characters infiltrating the real world.
Teen Beach Movie is streaming on Disney Plus.
Singin’ in the Rain
Name a more iconic trio than Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, and Debbie Reynolds. Singin’ in the Rain is one of the classic MGM musicals that coincided with musical theater’s golden age (see also: On the Town, Easter Parade, the aforementioned Guys and Dolls.) Set in the transition from silent films to talkies, it’s a classic Hollywood story, with a sweet romance, and dreamy musical numbers. The American Film Institute placed Singin’ in the Rain at number five in its 2007 update to the 100 Greatest American Films list.
Singin’ in the Rain is streaming on HBO Max.
The Sound of Music
Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein are the godfathers of modern musical theater, composing such classics as Oklahoma!, South Pacific, The King and I, and Carousel. But their most iconic creation is The Sound of Music, thanks in large part to the movie adaptation starring Christopher Plummer as Captain Von Trapp and Dame Julie Andrews as the “flibbertijibbet...will-o’-the wisp...clown” Maria.
The Sound of Music is streaming on Disney Plus.
Way before Wicked reimagined The Wizard of Oz, there was The Wiz, with a Dorothy whose “No Place Like Home” refers to Harlem rather than Kansas and an Oz that resembles a fantastical New York City. The movie adaptation of the Broadway show stars Diana Ross as Dorothy, a pre-”Thriller” Michael Jackson as Scarecrow, Nipsey Russell as Tin Man, and Richard Pryor as the mysterious and elusive Wiz. While the theatrical release was a commercial failure, The Wiz found a cult following and eventually got a live TV production on NBC.
The Wiz is streaming on Starz.