5. Jersey Boys
Released in 2014, this musical drama follows the lives of The Four Seasons: Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Nick Massi, and Tommy DeVito, the minds behind songs like “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Sherry,” and “December 1963 (Oh, What a Night).” This film is adapted from the Broadway play of the same name and stars some of the original cast members, which lends credibility to the movie. Granted, it also stars Christopher Walken, so do with that what you will. It was produced by Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio, so you know it’s got to be a fairly accurate biography. I laughed with the kids from Jersey, and my heart broke with their anguish. It’s well directed, well acted, and most of all, well sung.
I confess. Every person I have ever shown this musical to has hated me for it. I, for the life of me, cannot figure out why. It might be the garish costumes or the odd characters or the very seventies film sensibilities… Point being, I have no idea why they hated it. Those all just add together to make a great cult classic in my mind. Set in New York City, this film adaptation tells the gospel of Matthew in song and interpretive dance. In his first full-length film, Victor Garber stars as Jesus Christ and gives a compelling performance that will leave your head tilted just a little to the side with your eyebrows knit and a tentative smile on your face. The music is catchy, and the costumes and sets will leave you just off-kilter enough to want to watch it again and again.
3. Bride & Prejudice
You may have heard of this one, but this list wouldn’t be complete without at least a nod toward Bollywood. This Americanized Bollywood film from the same mind who brought us Bend It Like Beckham is a modern retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, only with gaudy song and dance numbers and a character who, as one of the characters puts it, turns into “the Indian MC Hammer.” It’s a beautiful thing to behold.
2. Victor Victoria
This movie stars a cross-dressing Julie Andrews. Need I say more? Set in 1930s Paris, a poor young singer (Andrews) makes it big after meeting a cabaret performer who believes that dressing her as a man to perform will make them both very rich. Songs and shenanigans follow. I don’t know how to describe this movie to you without giving things away, so just do us both a favor and watch it.
Directed by Rob Marshall (the guy behind Chicago and Into the Woods, among others) and starring Daniel Day-Lewis, this film doesn’t get nearly as much recognition as it deserves. The plot revolves around famed director Guido Contini, his struggle with writer’s block, and the many women in his life. It’s based on the 1963 film 8½, a semi-autobiographical piece by Federico Fellini, and it features Judi Dench, Penélope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Marion Cotillard, Kate Hudson, and Sophia Loren as secondary characters. The acting is fantastic and the music is phenomenal. It is, quite possibly, my favorite movie musical in existence. (We’ll see if that continues if they ever make Hamilton into a film…)
What's your favorite under-appreciated movie musical?