After much of a drought through the '80s and much of the '90s, movie musicals seem to be making a comeback. Chicago was a big winner at the 2003 Academy Awards show. This year, at least two more musicals hit the big screen: De-Lovely, a musical biopic based on the life of Cole Porter, releases to selected theaters this week, and in December, we'll see the much-anticipated cinematic adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber's smash-hit Phantom of the Opera. And in late 2005, Mel Brooks's classic musical comedy, The Producers, will be revived for the big screen.

Movie musicals have a rich history. They were one of the primary reasons for combining sound with film in the early days of cinema. In the '50s, just before rock came to prominence, the album charts were dominated by original cast recordings and film versions of well-known Broadway musicals.

To say that the movie musical is a uniquely successful art form is an understatement. Our top ten list below, which includes four honorable mentions, includes five Oscar winners and six Oscar nominees for Best Picture. The other three are indispensable classics in movie history.

In defining a "movie musical," it wasn't enough to have a movie that relied heavily on music—for example, Saturday Night Fever, A Hard Day's Night, or Flashdance. The music needed to contribute to the flow of the storytelling, not simply serve as the backdrop for lead actors. This includes Broadway adaptations, as well as original rock operas and animated features. Now, on with the show!

Honorable mentions:

  • Mary Poppins (1964) is a magnificent family film whose musical qualities are often overlooked. With unforgettable performances by Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews (who won an Oscar for the title role), this is, hands down, the best musical Disney ever produced.
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