Note: musical films are where songs and dances play an important role in the plot, and the films do not stop during the events. The soundtrack in musicals (classical and modern) is not only the best way to assess the situation or character: in the text of the songs, the characters say lines, and in the dances they can move between locations or perform plot-significant actions. So no matter how good A Star Is Born or Bohemian Rhapsody is, they won’t be on this list. Only true musicals, as Broadway bequeathed.
If the screen musical had its own page on the web, its status would now be “Dead”. The best films of this genre came out during the days of Beatlemania, flared stripes and Elvis Presley. The latter generally became a singer in order to get into a big movie, and starred in three dozen musical films. The 60s saw Singing in the Rain, West Side Story, My Fair Lady and The Sound of Music come out – great singing movies, you can make a separate list. In the 70s, the genre had already begun to fall into suspended animation: only “Grease” and “Cabaret” remained in the dances. And then worse – silence. Judgment passed, ballroom shoes on a nail in a blockbuster concrete wall. But this is only an appearance: in the 21st century, cinema begins to dance and sing again. We collected the best that we managed to release in the noisiest genre over the past twenty years.
The Greatest Showman (2017, UK, France)
Phineas Taylor Barnum may not have been the greatest showman in American history, but this character is by no means invisible. Modern marketers will even have something to learn from this guy: in the 19th century, without any Internet, TV and radio, Barnum did such manipulations with primitive media that he got from the streets of Connecticut to the palace of Queen Victoria. At the same time, Barnum himself was neither a talented singer nor a pretty actor – just a cool salesman and PR man. Phineas’ career began with the purchase of an old African-American slave, and by showing the public an elderly woman, Barnum earned thousands of dollars. All thanks to rumors: the old woman was called a robot doll, and considered the nanny of George Washington, and attributed to her almost two hundred years of age. When the unfortunate woman died, Barnum did not lose his head and put on a show from an autopsy. And then, in general, a fair of inhumanity: Barnum made a star out of a dwarf and organized a Lilliputian wedding, tickets for which only the richest families in England and America could buy; Phineas also made money on Siamese twins, on a guy from St. Petersburg with a face that looked like a dog’s face (the boy was forbidden to talk in public – you could only bark and growl); went to the elephant from Africa, and the daughter of the leader of the Indian tribe. In general, Phineas knew how to make a show of the most tragic stories. By the way, in psychology there is even a term for the name of a showman – the Barnum effect. This is when, having read a horoscope or having passed another test to determine the type of personality, we joyfully clap our hands and say, spellbound: “Yes, this is just about me!”. And about a couple of million people, but it doesn’t matter – you have already been sold vague and generalized information at an individual price. This is how Barnum worked – on the psychological manipulation of the crowd.
How is it shown in the musical? As a motivational story about dreams, love and success, with morality, tragedy and the stunningly handsome Zac Efron. In general, they simply made a spectacular show out of the history of an outstanding showman: the dances, the songs, and the costumes look like in a serious, professional theatrical performance, mass, high-quality and modern. After watching, many will want to update their playlist with tracks from the film, and at the same time quit boring office work and become a juggler in a traveling circus.
La La Land (2016, USA, Hong Kong)
Mia Stone serves coffee to Hollywood stars, and dreams of being on the other side of the box office as soon as possible: she runs to auditions, teaches scripts and waits for her to finally call back. Sebastian is in love with jazz, and all this mass music for him is second-rate fuel for the poor at heart and far from art. Mia and Sebastian could not remain indifferent to each other according to the laws of melodrama, but according to the laws of life, there are no unequivocal happy endings in stories about dreamers.
This musical differs from the previous one in almost everything. Where in The Showman there were well-executed acrobatic stunts and goosebumps in polyphony, in La La Land there was the discreet clatter of ballet shoes and the trembling voice of Emma Stone. “The Showman” is something loud, colorful, unthinkable without a crowd and loud applause, and “La La Land” is a slightly melancholy, chamber story. Although the main theme in both musicals is similar: happiness is not always where it seems.
Chicago (2002, USA, Germany)
In terms of the number of Oscar nominations, this film is second only to Titanic, La La Land and the ancient All About Eve. Thirteen hits in the shortlists of the most prestigious film awards in the world is a worthy result, even though the picture received only six statuettes in the end (including for the best film).
Velma Kelly is a vaudeville star. Roxie Hart is one of Velma’s lifeless shadows, trapped in her own kitchen. Roxy dreams of a stage and a duet with an idol, and fate offers the girls a chance to sing. But not in luxurious outfits made of rhinestones and feathers, but in a prison uniform: both heroines are accused of murder. But passion and acting talent can not only bring money and fame – in the courtroom, both girls must perform in such a way as to escape the gallows. The main thing is not to overplay.