The Best Musicals on Netflix

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The Best Musicals on Netflix

Does La La Land have you craving big song-and-dance numbers and soaring ballads? We’ve got you. You don’t need to visit the Great White Way—or even leave the house—to find great musicals. From Catherine Zeta-Jones’s performance as the merry murderess Velma Kelly in Chicago to the romantic Beatles mash-up Across the Universe, the Paste staff reveals their favorite musicals on Netflix.

annie.jpg 11. Annie
Year: 1982
Director: John Huston
John Huston was nominated for 15 Oscars; his only Razzie nomination came from this 1982 adaptation of the Broadway musical Annie. But his take has become beloved by many who grew up with this version of the story. And there’s no denying the effectiveness of Carol Burnett’s terrifying performance as Miss Hannigan, the cruel director of Annie’s orphanage. It’s a hard knock life for the precocious kid. —Josh Jackson


last-five-years.jpg 10. The Last Five Years
Year: 2015
Director: Richard LaGravenese
“Jamie is over and Jamie is gone / Jamie’s decided it’s time to move on / Jamie has new dreams he’s building upon / And I’m still hurting.” These words open Richard LaGravenese’s The Last Five Years. Sung by a heartbroken Cathy (Anna Kendrick) at the close of her five-year relationship with Jamie (Jeremy Jordan), they succinctly inform the audience of what they’re about to endure: a stripped-down musical about the disintegration of a relationship. Starting at the end for Cathy and at the beginning for Jamie, The Last Five Years tells its story nearly entirely in song, which isn’t such a bad thing when the film’s singers are as talented as Kendrick and Jordan. The performances in The Last Five Years are lovely, as is the music, written by Jason Robert Brown and originally presented as an off-Broadway production based on his failed marriage. The Last Five Years is a thrilling concept: a musical about the frustrating, all-too-real concept of falling into and out of love. But we’d recommend you go see it on the stage if you can. —Amanda Schurr


white-christmas.jpg 9. White Christmas
Year: 1954
Director: Michael Curtiz
For generations, this movie has held a kind of Yuletide nostalgia rivaled maybe only by It’s a Wonderful Life. But the funny thing about this Bing Crosby musical is that the warm feelings it still evokes today are mirrored in its own narrative: The war is over, their commanding officer (a “four-star general unemployed”) can’t make a living at the ski lodge, because even snow doesn’t fall the way it used to. But when the stage doors open at the end to reveal the swirling flakes, all the soldiers salute, leaving even us southerners yearning for a snow-laden Christmas. —Mary Kate Varnau


across-the-universe-poster.jpg 8. Across the Universe
Year: 2007
Director: Julie Taymor
This isn’t your typical, upbeat musical. Julie Taymor’s Across The Universe depicts the fictional lives of 1960s teens facing issues from the Vietnam War to deportation. Thirty-four songs from The Beatles move the story from Liverpool to New York. Although parts of the movie might feel like a bad acid trip (like Bono playing a cowboy drug guru), Evan Rachel Wood and Jim Sturgess perfectly pin the timeless teenage struggles of love, impending adulthood, and the fight for what you believe in. —Sarah Bennett


grease.jpg
7. Grease
Year: 1978
Director: Randal Kleiser
Okay, so the message Grease leaves us with as Sandy (Oilivia Newton-John) and Danny (John Travolta) head skyward in an unexplained flying convertible—that all you need to do to get boys to like you is dress sluttier and completely change your personality—is uh…not great. But Grease never tries to masquerade as high art or relay any kind of profound mission statement beyond “being a teenager and hanging out with your friends is awesome,” and as such, it’s incredibly easy to get sucked into its fun. Come for iconic song-and-dance numbers like “You’re the One That I Want” and “Summer Nights,” stay for goofy one-liners like “if you can’t be an athlete, be an athletic supporter,” and lament the fact that your high school never had an end-of-the-year carnival. —Bonnie Stiernberg


chicago-movie-poster.jpg 6. Chicago
Year: 2002
Director: Rob Marshall
The box office receipts generated by Chicago on Broadway read more like the revenue of a blockbuster Hollywood film. It cost $2.5 million to capitalize in 1996 when it was revived but has netted over $577 million. It’s garnered 5 Tony Awards, including Best Musical Revival and 5 Drama Desk Awards. Outside of New York, and has generated $3.7 billion globally. Part of that success stems from the Oscar-winning theatrical version, directed by Rob Marshall and starring Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere, Queen Latifah and John C. Reilly. The characters of Roxie and Velma have captivated audiences for years. Thankfully, they’ve now been preserved in celluloid. —Gary Stern


fantasia.jpg 5. Fantasia
Year: 1940
Directors: Various
Rating: G
Fantasia lost a lot of money when it was released in 1940. (Disney’s earliest features didn’t have a great box office track record at the time—Pinocchio and Bambi also lost money, making three of the company’s first five features financial failures.) It’s not entirely hard to see why: it’s a largely narrative-free film built entirely around classical music. Its commercial prospects were as dim in 1940 as they would be today if the film was being released for the first time. Of course it’s gorgeous, an astounding marriage of art and music featuring some of the most iconic and transcendent images in animation, along with what’s perhaps Mickey Mouse’s most famous appearance (and maybe just a little bit of schmaltz during the Pastoral Symphony and Dance of the Hours segments). The show-closing combo of Night on Bald Mountain and Ave Maria remains one of the most powerful passages in animation. It can be a bit musty at times, but it’s also one of the most conceptually daring and experimental films ever released by a major studio, and a crucial part of animation history. —Garrett Martin


gentlemen prefer blondes poster.jpg 4. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
Year: 1953
Director: Howard Hawks
A few months ago an observation made the rounds on social media criticizing Netflix for having proportionately few films from before the ‘80s. Anecdotally we can report that all of the comedies from the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s that were on our last version of this list from 2016 have been removed from Netflix. This updated list only has three films that fit that bill, one of which is this classic musical comedy that basically defined Marilyn Monroe’s image for all time. Monroe and Jane Russell are both magnetic as showgirls in this fun but incredibly dated comedy, which is full of jokes and gags that your grandparents probably went nuts over. You probably need a healthy respect for film history and a tolerance for corniness and outdated ideas about gender and romance to really appreciate this one today, but if you can get past all that you’ll find a charming, effervescent, and, yes, funny slice of amiable nonsense. —Garrett Martin


Sweeney.jpeg 3. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Year: 2007
Director: Tim Burton 
Whoever said murder couldn’t be wonderfully melodic? Although the Tony-winning Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street was right up Tim Burton’s alley, his 2007 film took his macabre look at a homicidal English barber and made it fun. Here’s another Burton flick that relies on the tested chemistry of Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, but we also see great performances from Alan Rickman as the corrupt Judge Turpin and Sasha Baron Cohen as a rival barber. The film sees Burton’s on-screen gruesomeness at an all-time high, but it’s all balanced out by some infectious musical numbers. —Tyler Kane


nightmare-christmas.jpg 2. The Nightmare Before Christmas
Year: 1993
Director: Henry Selick
On simply a shot-by-shot basis, The Nightmare Before Christmas ranks as one of the most visually splendid films ever made. Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of Halloweentown, becomes obsessed with Christmas and decides to hijack the holiday. Often presented under the title Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, the film echoes many of the hit director’s pet themes, with Jack being one of Burton’s many brooding artistic protagonists. The film’s actual director was Henry Selick, who oversees an ingenious design and a cast of endearing monsters. The film doesn’t quite have the narrative fuel and graceful song lyrics to match Disney’s best animated musicals, but every year the film looks better and better. —Curt Holman


sing-street.jpg 1. Sing Street
Director: John Carney
Sing Street spins art out of history, but you might mistake it for pop sensationalism at first glance. If so, you’re forgiven. In sharp contrast to John Carney’s breakout movie, 2007’s sterling adult musical Once, or even his most recent effort, 2013’s Begin Again, Sing Street aims to please crowds and overburden tear ducts. There’s a sugary surface buoyancy to the film that helps the darkness clouding beneath its exterior go down more easily. Here, look at the plot synopsis: A teenage boy living in Dublin’s inner city in 1985 moves to a new school, falls in love with a girl, and forms a band for the sole purpose of winning her over. If the period Carney uses as his storytelling backdrop doesn’t make Sing Street an ’80s movie, then the mechanics of its story certainly do. You may walk into the film expecting to be delighted and amused. The film won’t let you down in either regard, but it’ll rob you of your breath, too. —Andy Crump

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