With the advent of sound technology in cinema, Hollywood began to not only include music in motion pictures, but also to make films in which the music helps tell the story. In many cases, such as 1927’s breakthrough talkie “The Jazz Singer,” these films featured actors who were singing and dancing in addition to acting. This soon led to the golden age of musicals throughout the 1930s, 40s, and 50s.
Americans faced hard times during these decades – first with the Great Depression and then World War II – and musicals served as vehicles for escaping the daily struggles and worries. New technology helped refresh the genre in the 1950s. Audiences loved nothing more than musicals, and studios continuously cranked them out.
These days, as interests shift, a smaller share of films released are musicals. Still, there are plenty of fans of the genre. The 2016 musical “La La Land,” for instance, won Best Picture at the 89th Academy Awards and has gone on to gross more than $445 million, according to Box Office Mojo – one of the better commercial successes last year.
To identify the best and the worst musicals of all time, 24/7 Wall St. has created an index based on user and critic ratings from IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes.
Several Hollywood musical stars appear in several of the movies on this list. The great Gene Kelly stars in two of the films on the best musicals list and even in one on the worst musical lists – “Xanadu.” Fred Astaire stars in three of the best musicals.
More surprising is the presence of five Marx Brothers films on the best musicals list. While these movies are primarily considered comedies, each contains musical numbers that allow them to be classified as musicals as well, and to display the versatility of the Marx Brothers.
Unfortunately, due to placement restrictions and methodology, many beloved musicals such as “Grease,” “Hello, Dolly!” and “The Sound of Music” are absent from the list. While these are no doubt great films, they fall behind a number of other titles in the eyes of the voting public.
To determine the best and worst musical movies of all time, 24/7 Wall St. created an index based on each film’s Rotten Tomatoes average critic rating, Rotten Tomatoes average audience rating, and Internet Movie Database average user rating. To be considered, each film needed to have at least 10,000 total user ratings between IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes and 10 approved Tomatometer critic reviews. The “best” films had to have been classified as a musical or music film by IMDb and all the “worst” films fell only under musical. The “notable song” listed for each musical is either the film’s biggest single, a song that is culturally significant, especially important to the film, or especially popular.