The 25 best movie musicals of all time

From the Sharks and Jets squaring off to Maria flinging her arms out as she twirls on a mountaintop, movies have long been full of stories in which characters suddenly launch into song. Which are the best ever made? The American Film Institute ranked its top 25. Here are their picks.

Sue Adler/20th Century Fox/AP

1. 'Moulin Rouge!'

Sue Adler/20th Century Fox/AP

The 2001 film, directed by Baz Luhrmann, stars Ewan McGregor as a penniless writer who falls in love with the star attraction (Nicole Kidman) at the famous Paris cabaret. The movie uses songs by artists ranging from David Bowie to U2 to Dolly Parton, and the only original track is the lovers' anthem "Come What May," which was originally written for Luhrmann's 1996 modern interpretation of "Romeo and Juliet" titled "Romeo + Juliet."

The movie received mixed reviews. "What Mr. Luhrmann has done is take the most thrilling moments in a movie musical — the seconds before the actors are about to burst into song and dance, when every breath they take is heightened — and made an entire picture of such pinnacles," New York Times critic Elvis Mitchell wrote. "As a result every moment in the film feels italicized." He wrote that the film lacked a "coherent narrative."

1 of 25

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.