Musical movies are making a comeback this year with In the Heights, Dear Evan Hansen, and West Side Story. With the release of West Side Story, I updated this ranking. Keep in mind that I'm not including Hamilton or Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, because they aren't really movies as much as recordings of the stage musical itself. With that said, here's my ranking of all eight movies based off of musicals that I've seen.
8. West Side Story (1961)
I've never been a fan of West Side Story. There's no denying that this film is a classic: it won Best Picture and inspired musical movies for decades to come, but I don't think that the combination of rough New York streets with ballet works well at all. A modern adaptation of Romeo & Juliet is a cool idea, but I just don't think this film has aged well at all. Hopefully Steven Spielberg will inject something good into the 2021 adaptation.
7. The Phantom of the Opera (2004)
The Phantom of the Opera is one of my favorite musicals, but this dark screen adaptation loses the magic of the stage. Unnecessary changes such as the chandelier crash and smaller differences in the relationship between Christine and the Phantom make this movie just seem like a bland, lifeless version of a great musical. I've never been a huge Gerard Butler fan, either. He does his best in this movie, but he does not have a good singing voice, so that ruins some of the music for me as well.
6. Annie (1982)
Annie is a good movie. It brings the joy and fun of the musical to the big screen with a pretty safe adaptation. The tone is a little bit wild and the direction is strange, but I have fun with this movie. Watching it as a kid, I was able to ignore the problems, tune in for the musical numbers, and go to bed happy after watching Annie.
5. Oliver! (1960)
I have a soft spot for Oliver!, because I played the title character in a community theater version of the play in 6th grade. This movie does a nice job of keeping the vibe of the musical while also being a new thing entirely. Ron Moody as Fagin is absolutely incredible to watch and I love the intensity of the climax. The story of Oliver! is just timeless, and I think that the movie captures it well enough, even if it hasn't aged particularly well.
4. Dear Evan Hansen (2021)
Dear Evan Hansen was a good enough adaptation of the hit musical. It was extremely emotional and was able to tug at your heartstrings a lot. The music was good, not great, but the great songs were some of the best and most well done songs ever in a musical movie. The story of Dear Evan Hansen gets a bit too sad and bleak for me, so that's why it's not in the top tier of this list. But complex characters and a really emotional story are the highlights of this movie.
3. Into the Woods (2014)
Into the Woods is a really underrated movie. I've always loved movies and TV shows that combine a bunch of popular characters, and Into the Woods brings together all these fairy tales into one, massive story. It's a cool film that's elevated by great performances, an extremely dark third act, and some beautiful music. I love the way that all the fairy tales are deftly combined together and affect one another. Into the Woods is a fun translation of a great musical, and a really, really overlooked one at that.
2. In the Heights (2021)
In the Heights is a movie that I've talked about ad nauseam. The performances, the musical numbers, Jon M. Chu's direction, and the emotion that this movie brings are all fantastic. I think that this movie has the best song and dance numbers in any musical movie ever. I mean, they are so good. The dancing is incredible, the cinematography is fantastic, and everyone is a good singer, so it's fun to listen to. I love this movie and almost everything about it. It's still one of the best movies of the year thus far.
1. West Side Story (2021)
I was shocked at how good this movie was. In the Heights was the best movie of 2021...until West Side Story. I loved this movie. And, as you saw prior to this entry, I don't like the original West Side Story. This movie had one of Steven Spielberg's best directorial showcasing to date. Honestly, this may be his best directed movie since Schindler's List. The cast was amazing. Rachel Zegler and Ansel Elgort sold me on their relationship as Tony and Maria. The emotions were strong and the tension between the Jets and the Sharks was great. It was a modern take on a classic tale, and it worked for me this time. It worked very well.