Special Report

Best and Worst Musicals of All Time

Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

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.

Click here to see the best musicals of all time.
Click here to see the worst musicals of all time.

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.

The Best Musicals

25. Tangled (2010)
> Director: Nathan Greno, Byron Howard
> Top actors: Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, Donna Murphy
> Notable song: “When Will My Life Begin?”


24. Frozen (2013)
> Director: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee
> Top actors: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff
> Notable song: “Let It Go”

23. Never Give a Sucker an Even Break (1941)
> Director: Edward F. Cline
> Top actors: W.C. Fields, Gloria Jean, Leon Errol
> Notable song: “Voices of Spring”

22. A Star Is Born (1954)
> Director: George Cukor
> Top actors: Judy Garland, James Mason, Jack Carson
> Notable song: “The Man That Got Away”


21. Monkey Business (1931)
> Director: Norman Z. McLeod
> Top actors: Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, The Marx Brothers
> Notable song: “You Brought a New Kind of Love to Me”

20. Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
> Director: Michael Curtiz
> Top actors: James Cagney, Joan Leslie, Walter Huston
> Notable song: “The Yankee Doodle Boy”


19. On the Town (1949)
> Director: Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly
> Top actors: Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Betty Garrett
> Notable song: “New York, New York”

18. Animal Crackers (1930)
> Director: Victor Heerman
> Top actors: Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, Chico Marx
> Notable song: “Hooray for Captain Spaulding”

17. Fantasia (1940)
> Director: James Algar, Samuel Armstrong, Ford Beebe Jr.
> Top actors: Leopold Stokowski, Deems Taylor, Corey Burton
> Notable song: “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”


16. Beauty and the Beast (1991)
> Director: Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise
> Top actors: Paige O’Hara, Robby Benson, Jesse Corti
> Notable song: “Be Our Guest”

15. Moana (2016)
> Director: Ron Clements, John Musker, Don Hall
> Top actors: Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House
> Notable song: “How Far I’ll Go”


14. Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)
> Director: John Cameron Mitchell
> Top actors: John Cameron Mitchell, Miriam Shor, Stephen Trask
> Notable song: “Wig in a Box”

13. Cabaret (1972)
> Director: Bob Fosse
> Top actors: Liza Minnelli, Michael York, Helmut Griem
> Notable song: “Cabaret”

12. Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
> Director: Vincente Minnelli
> Top actors: Judy Garland, Margaret O’Brien, Mary Astor
> Notable song: “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”


11. The Band Wagon (1953)
> Director: Vincente Minnelli
> Top actors: Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse, Oscar Levant
> Notable song: “That’s Entertainment!”

10. Horse Feathers (1932)
> Director: Norman Z. McLeod
> Top actors: Groucho Marx, Chico Marx, Harpo Marx
> Notable song: “I’m Against It”


9. The Lion King (1994)
> Director: Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff
> Top actors: Matthew Broderick, Jeremy Irons, James Earl Jones
> Notable song: “Circle of Life”

8. Top Hat (1935)
> Director: Mark Sandrich
> Top actors: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Edward Everett Horton
> Notable song: “Cheek to Cheek”

7. Swing Time (1936)
> Director: George Stevens
> Top actors: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Victor Moore
> Notable song: “The Way You Look Tonight”


6. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
> Director: Victor Fleming, George Cukor, Mervyn LeRoy
> Top actors: Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger
> Notable song: “Over the Rainbow”

5. A Night at the Opera (1935)
> Director: Sam Wood, Edmund Goulding
> Top actors: Groucho Marx, Chico Marx, Harpo Marx
> Notable song: “Alone”


4. La La Land (2016)
> Director: Damien Chazelle
> Top actors: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Rosemarie DeWitt
> Notable song: “City of Stars”

3. Duck Soup (1933)
> Director: Leo McCarey
> Top actors: Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, Chico Marx
> Notable song: “Freedonia National Anthem”

2. Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)
> Director: Mervyn LeRoy
> Top actors: Warren William, Joan Blondell, Aline MacMahon
> Notable song: “We’re in the Money”


1. Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
> Director: Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly
> Top actors: Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds
> Notable song: “Singin’ in the Rain”

The Worst Musicals

25. Beach Blanket Bingo (1965)
> Director: William Asher
> Top actors: Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, Deborah Walley
> Notable song: “Beach Blanket Bingo”


24. Marilyn Hotchkiss’ Ballroom Dancing & Charm School (2005)
> Director: Randall Miller
> Top actors: Robert Carlyle, Marisa Tomei, Mary Steenburgen
> Notable song: “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”

23. State Property 2 (2005)
> Director: Damon Dash
> Top actors: Beanie Sigel, Noreaga, Damon Dash
> Notable song: “State Prop (You Know Us)”

22. The Fantasticks (1995)
> Director: Michael Ritchie
> Top actors: Joel Grey, Barnard Hughes, Jean Louisa Kelly
> Notable song: “Try to Remember”


21. A Chorus Line (1985)
> Director: Richard Attenborough
> Top actors: Michael Douglas, Terrence Mann, Michael Blevins
> Notable song: “I Hope I Get It”

20. Back to the Beach (1987)
> Director: Lyndall Hobbs
> Top actors: Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, Lori Loughlin
> Notable song: “California Sun”


19. Make Your Move (2013)
> Director: Duane Adler
> Top actors: Derek Hough, BoA, Will Yun Lee
> Notable song: “Say Yes”

18. The Singing Detective (2003)
> Director: Keith Gordon
> Top actors: Robert Downey Jr., Robin Wright, Mel Gibson
> Notable song: “Just Walkin’ in the Rain”

17. Nine (2009)
> Director: Rob Marshall
> Top actors: Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Penélope Cruz
> Notable song: “Take It All”


16. At Long Last Love (1975)
> Director: Peter Bogdanovich
> Top actors: Burt Reynolds, Cybill Shepherd, Madeline Kahn
> Notable song: “Well Did You Evah!”

15. Heartbreak Hotel (1988)
> Director: Chris Columbus
> Top actors: David Keith, Tuesday Weld, Charlie Schlatter
> Notable song: “Heartbreak Hotel”


14. Earth Girls Are Easy (1988)
> Director: Julien Temple
> Top actors: Geena Davis, Jeff Goldblum, Jim Carrey
> Notable song: “Baby Gonna Shake”

13. Xanadu (1980)
> Director: Robert Greenwald
> Top actors: Olivia Newton-John, Gene Kelly, Michael Beck
> Notable song: “Suddenly”

12. Walking on Sunshine (2014)
> Director: Max Giwa, Dania Pasquini
> Top actors: Greg Wise, Annabel Scholey, Hannah Arterton
> Notable song: “Walking on Sunshine”


11. Fame (2009)
> Director: Kevin Tancharoen
> Top actors: Kelsey Grammer, Bebe Neuwirth, Megan Mullally
> Notable song: “Fame”

10. The Apple (1980)
> Director: Menahem Golan
> Top actors: Catherine Mary Stewart, George Gilmour, Grace Kennedy
> Notable song: “BIM”


9. Eight Crazy Nights (2002)
> Director: Seth Kearsley
> Top actors: Adam Sandler, Rob Schneider, Jackie Sandler
> Notable song: “Long Ago”

8. Graffiti Bridge (1990)
> Director: Prince
> Top actors: Prince, Morris Day, Ingrid Chavez
> Notable song: “Round and Round”

7. Battlefield America (2012)
> Director: Chris Stokes
> Top actors: Marques Houston, Mekia Cox, Christopher Jones
> Notable song: “Get ‘Em Up”


6. Joe’s Apartment (1996)
> Director: John Payson
> Top actors: Jerry O’Connell, Megan Ward, Billy West
> Notable song: “Joe’s Apartment Theme”

5. Grease 2 (1982)
> Director: Patricia Birch
> Top actors: Michelle Pfeiffer, Maxwell Caulfield, Lorna Luft
> Notable song: “Back to School Again”


4. Sextette (1978)
> Director: Ken Hughes
> Top actors: Mae West, Timothy Dalton, Dom DeLuise
> Notable song: “Love Will Keep Us Together”

3. Standing Ovation (2010)
> Director: Stewart Raffill
> Top actors: Devon Jordan, Ashley Cutrona, Erika Corvette
> Notable song: “Blush”

2. Can’t Stop the Music (1980)
> Director: Nancy Walker
> Top actors: Ray Simpson, David Hodo, Felipe Rose
> Notable song: “Can’t Stop the Music”


1. From Justin to Kelly (2003)
> Director: Robert Iscove
> Top actors: Kelly Clarkson, Justin Guarini, Katherine Bailess
> Notable song: “Timeless”

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