Musicals have, since their inception, been a popular genre with movie audiences.

Much like horror or comedy, musicals exist solely on audience interaction and can often prove a difficult thing to crack. It all depends on whether or not the songs connect, and yet the genre itself doesn't get half the exultation of others because of its very nature. While the golden age of musicals was undoubtedly the post-war period of the '40s and '50s and the era of Gene Kelly, musicals have played a role in every decade since then.

For the sake of clarity, we've only included live-action musicals - just one musical has an animated segment, and you can probably guess which one it is. If you liked this article, there's plenty more in our series including...


10. 'Annie' (1982)

'Annie' is often a divisive topic for musical fans. For one, the original lyricist Martin Charnin famously hated the adaptation and called Albert Finney "an Englishman who screamed" whilst Carol Burnett, who played Miss Hannigan, was "a man-crazy drunk". Still, the movie went on to become one of the most profitable of the '80s and songs like 'Tomorrow' and 'Hard Knock's Life' have become staples of the genre. Directed by John Huston in what would be his only musical in his career, the movie also received a total of two Oscar nominations and three Golden Globes, but came away with nothing. It really is a Hard Knock Life, y'know.


9. 'Blues Brothers' (1980)

Easily the most enduring movie of John Landis' career, 'Blues Brothers' began life as sketches on SNL and blossomed into the singular musical for the soul and R&B genre and a hilarious movie to boot. Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi defined the movie with their droll, deadpan humour and the soundtrack became as equally popular as the movie itself. The humour was broad and easy to laugh at, and the insane car chases - especially the Dixie Square Mall chase - just added to the excitement. Throw in a rampant John Candy, cameos from the likes of Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin, and the brilliant Henry Gibson as the leader of the Illinois Nazis, and you've got a cult classic.


8. 'West Side Story' (1961)

Adapted from the Sondheim-Bernstein musical of the same name - which was, in itself, adapted in part from Shakespeare's 'Romeo & Juliet' - Robert Wise's romantic tragedy in the heart of Manhattan and the battles between the Jets and the Sharks was one of the defining musicals of the decade and is often declared as one of the greatest cinematic adaptation of Shakespeare's work. Directed by Robert Wise, who'd later go on to helm 'The Sound Of Music', and Broadway choreographer Jerome Robbins, the movie dazzles to this day with electricity and the vibrant colours leap out of the screen in every scene.


7. 'My Fair Lady' (1964)

As unlikely a topic for a musical as you can imagine - really, who'd have thought George Bernard Shaw's 'Pygmalion' would make it into a Hepburn musical? - 'My Fair Lady' is a lush adaptation of the hit musical that was the most expensive movie ever produced. It also, of course, became an instant commercial and critical smash and proved the enduring appeal of musicals. Hepburn's voice was famously dubbed by Marni Nixon, and Julie Andrews - who starred in the original Broadway production - famously thanked Jack Warner for casting Hepburn so she could go on to star in 'The Sound Of Music', but leaving aside the backstage intrigue, it's still one of the finest examples of the genre and one of Hepburn's most recognisable works.


6. 'Hairspray' (2007)

John Waters was known for his outrageously shocking movies of the '70s and pioneered the Cinema of Transgression with the likes of 'Pink Flamingos' and 'Desperate Living', but it's telling that 'Hairspray' is his most recognised work as it's easily his most accessible and mainstream, but also has its own subversive qualities. For one, the interracial romance between Seaweed and Penny was highly controversial for the time period the movie's set in, but was only reasonably rare in the '80s as well. Not only that, casting Debbie Harry - best known as the lead singer of punk / New Wave outfit Blondie - as Velma Von Tussle was a bold choice next to the middle-of-the-road, TV-safe Sonny Bono. The Broadway musical that followed kept much of the original's spirit and the subsequent adaptation of that musical became the 2007 hit that we know and love.


5. 'Moulin Rouge!' (2001)

From 'Beauty and the Beast' in 1991 until 2001, not one single musical had been nominated for Best Picture. It was only until Baz Luhrmann's 'Moulin Rouge!' in 2001 that musicals came back to the Oscars and, arguably, back into popular consciousness. Luhrmann's outsized, over-the-top sensibility was perfectly in keeping with the genre and Kidman and McGregor's chemistry was undeniable throughout. Thought it only had one original song throughout, 'Moulin Rouge!' arguably restarted the jukebox musical as a genre since 'Blues Brothers' was the last well-known musical to feature contemporary songs. Luhrmann, for whatever reason, was overlooked for his efforts during the Oscars, whilst Kidman received a Best Actress nomination and the movie itself received Best Picture.


4. 'Grease' (1978)

While there were a few moments in Grease that were definitely a bit problematic - Sandy has to change herself just for Zuko, 'Tell Me More' gets a bit creepy in parts - it's still a huge amount of fun and evoked the spirit of the '50s musical in a time when it was all about disco. John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John's chemistry was instant and lit up the screen, whilst the likes of Stockard Channing and Jeff Conaway sparkled in their supporting roles - Conaway, in particular, played Zuko in the Broadway production. In a case of life imitating art, Newton-John's musical career rapidly changed post-'Grease' as her output, up until then, had been largely country music.


3. 'Mary Poppins' (1964)

In her Oscar speech for Best Actress for 'Mary Poppins', Julie Andrews famously thanked Jack Warner for casting Audrey Hepburn in 'My Fair Lady' - which freed her to star in 'Mary Poppins'. Both this and 'The Sound Of Music' are two of her greatest on-screen performances, and 'Mary Poppins' and 'The Sound Of Music' were her first two features. Adapted from PL Travers' novels - who famously hated their adaptations and battled Walt Disney on a daily basis during production - Mary Poppins mixed live-action with animation and it never once seemed out of place. Dick Van Dyke's horrendous Cockney accent aside, the whole movie sparkles with warmth and humour and how Emily Blunt is going to top it or even come close to it is anyone's guess.


2. 'The Sound Of Music' (1965)

The last of Rodgers & Hammerstein's prodigious work, 'The Sound Of Music' is their finest work and is by far Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer's most celebrated work. To this very day, Christopher Plummer famously refuses to discuss the movie in interviews. Julie Andrews, meanwhile, maintains a distinctly different relationship with the movie and embraces its sweet nature. The movie was a box-office behemoth and surpassed 'Gone With The Wind' - briefly, it must be said - as the highest-grossing movie ever made. As a retelling of the story on the Trapp Family Singers, 'The Sound Of Music' was pure fantasy and departed truly from fact from the get-go, but as an example of the musical genre, 'The Sound Of Music' numbers among the finest.


1. 'Singin' In The Rain' (1952)

What can be honestly said about 'Singin' In The Rain' that hasn't already been said? Gene Kelly's charisma was tangible in every scene. Debbie Reynolds' wit and humour bounced from moment to moment. The score from Lennie Hayton and Nacio Herb Brown is a triumph from start to finish. Stanley Donen's direction captured not just the skill and the showiness, but also the warmth and the care that went into it all. There's so many scenes that define musicals as a whole genre, let alone the movie itself, but one scene that stands out as both an expression of artistic intent and the raw talent is the Broadway Ballet sequence with Kelly and Cyd Charisse. It's incredibly touching, even out of context of the movie as a whole, and shows that words or lyrics aren't necessary to convey what's needed in a scene.