In 1927, The Jazz Singer was released which marked the end of the silent-film era. The film was lauded for revolutionizing the industry as it was the first motion-picture to include synchronized speech, music and sound effects. As such it was also the first in what would become a long line of musical films, including Going My Way, Babes on Broadway, Singin’ in the Rain, Hello Dolly!, and Grease.
Some of the most captivating scenes in musical movies include the main character or several characters performing a heartfelt song or powerful anthem. On this list are just some of the memorable musical performances that still get people talking.
10 Great Scenes in Musical History
10 “Over the Rainbow”—The Wizard of Oz
“Once there was a wicked witch in the lovely land of Oz
And a wickeder, wickeder, wickeder witch there never, never was.”
The 1939 musical fantasy film, The Wizard of Oz, brought to life the unfor
gettable characters of the L. Frank Baum book in a most successful way. It features fantastic musical numbers and was ranked third on the list of most watched films of all times in 2013.
Judy Garland starred as Dorothy Gale and performed Over The Rainbow which won an Academy Award for Best Original Song. The 17-year-old Garland celebrated her big break as an actress by giving her all in this performance which has gained iconic status.
9 “America”—West Side Story
In 1961, the film West Side Story adapted the 1957 Broadway musical of the same name, for the big screen. The story was inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and the film won 10 Academy Awards.
The film’s soundtrack spent 54 weeks at No.1 on the Billboard chart and won a Grammy award for “Best Sound Track Album – Original Cast.” It includes “Jet Song”, “Something’s Coming”, “Maria”, “I Feel Pretty”, “Somewhere”, and the catchy “America.”
“America” is the biggest dance number in the film. It was written by Stephen Sondheim and composed by Leonard Bernstein and makes for an exceptional scene.
8 “The Sound of Music | The Hills Are Alive”—The Sound of Music
Based on Maria von Trapp’s memoir, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, The Sound of Music documents the journey of an Austrian postulant, Maria, who brings music and joy into the lives of a retired naval officer and his seven children. The film was released in 1965 and by the end of 1966 had become the highest-grossing film of all time. It won a slew of awards and is preserved in the National Film Registry.
Julie Andrews accepted the role of Maria, even though she once made fun of the theatre production that preceded the film, a year after playing the iconic role of Mary Poppins. She brought her musical stylings with her to The Sound of Music and sang “The Sound of Music | The Hills Are Alive” as the prelude. The scene during which the song is sung, is one of the most memorable in movie history and has been referenced many times in TV series and movies.
7 “Don’t Rain on My Parade”—Funny Girl
Funny Girl is based on the life and career of Fanny Brice, who was an American comedienne, singer and actress. Barbra Streisand starred as Brice in the Broadway show and was then handed the movie role for the character in what was her film debut in 1968.
The film has been deemed one of the greatest musicals ever and includes memorable songs such as “I’m the Greatest Star”, “You Are Woman, I Am Man”, “My Man” and of course “Don’t Rain on My Parade.”
6 “Time Warp”—The Rocky Horror Picture Show
The Rocky Horror Show was a musical that paid tribute to terrible horror movies as well as science fiction movies from the 1930s to the 1960s. The original production was staged at the Royal Court Theatre in London in 1973 and closed in 1980 after 2,960 performances.
In 1975, the film The Rocky Horror Picture Show saw the light and went on to become the movie with the longest-running release in film history. It has a huge and faithful cult following, even though it initially flopped, and is preserved in the National Film Registry.
Some of most well-known songs in the film include ‘Damn It, Janet”, “Sweet Transvestite”, “Hot Patootie”, “Science Fiction/Double Feature” and “Time Warp.”
“Time Warp” featured in both the stage production as well as the movie and the dance that accompanies it has become a major audience-participation activity over the years.
A comic strip called Little Orphan Annie eventually turned into a Broadway musical in 1977 and then into a full-length feature film in 1982 starring Aileen Quinn, Carol Burnett, Albert Finney and Tim Curry. In the movie, Annie is convinced that she was left at an orphanage by mistake, and eventually gets to live in a mansion all the while longing to meet her parents.
Of course none of this happens without several musical numbers, including “I Think I’m Gonna Like It Here”, “Little Girls”, the well-known “It’s the Hard-Knock Life” and the very well-known “Tomorrow.” It is thought that “Tomorrow” was influenced by the Sherman Brothers’ “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” which was written for the 1964 New York World’s Fair. It has been covered many times over the years, but that first earnest performance by a young Aileen Quinn, still outshines the rest.
4 “Cell Block Tango”—Chicago
Several movie stars show off their musical chops in the movie, Chicago, including Renée Zellweger, Richard Gere, Queen Latifah and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
The film follows the lives of two female prisoners awaiting trial on Murderess’ Row in Chicago in the 1920s. The two women eventually become entangled in a battle for fame and celebrity.
Chicago became the first musical film to win the Best Picture Oscar since 1968.
Some of the best performances featured in Chicago include “All That Jazz”, “Mr. Cellophane”, and the dark “Cell Block Tango.”
“Cell Block Tango” was originally composed for the 1975 musical, Chicago, and each of the song’s first six words is identified with a murder suspect. In the movie, the song is performed by Catherine Zeta-Jones, Susan Misner, Denise Faye, Deidre Goodwin, Ekaterina Chtchelkanova and Mýa.
3 “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going”—Dreamgirls
Dreamgirls was also adapted from a Broadway musical and released in 2006. It stars Beyoncé Knowles, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Hudson and Eddie Murphy and depicts the history of American R&B during the 60s and 70s.
Effie White, the character inspired by Supremes singer Florence Ballard, is portrayed by American Idol contestant Jennifer Hudson. Hudson won a Golden Globe and Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role. In the movie she performs many great songs including “One Night Only”, “I am Changing”, the spectacular “It’s All Over” alongside several cast members and the beautiful “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going”.
2 “On My Own”- Les Misérables
There are very few uplifting moments in the film, Les Misérables. After all, there is sorrow and death everywhere. However, there are some musical performances that shine very brightly (Russell Crowe’s weirdness aside).
The best of these included the emotional rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” by Fantine, played by Anne Hathaway (second clip above – filmed in one take!), “Bring Him Home” by Jean Valjean, played by Hugh Jackman and “One Day More” by the cast.
Samantha Barks made her mark with her character, Eponine, singing “On My Own.” She won the role after playing the same character in London’s West End, even though more experienced singers and actresses vied for the movie opportunity, including Lea Michele, Scarlett Johannsson and Taylor Swift.
Barks later said she truly related to the role, as she had been performing “On My Own” karaoke-style since the age of seven.
1 “Always Remember Us This Way”—A Star Is Born (2018)
A Star Is Born (2018) was Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut and Lady Gaga’s big Hollywood movie debut. Both Cooper’s direction and Gaga’s performance were a hit with critics and audiences worldwide. Gaga and Cooper’s onscreen chemistry led to many fans believing that the two had a real-life romantic connection, something both have denied.
The music in the movie is predictably great with “Shallow” winning the Oscar for Best Original Song. A stand-out performance from Gaga however, was “Always Remember Us This Way” sung by her character Ally, after Jackson (Cooper) tells her he loves her.
+ “This Is Me”—The Greatest Showman
The Greatest Showman is a spectacle of showmanship and music that gave the world the much-karaoked “Million Dreams” performed by Hugh Jackman and Michelle Williams. Zac Efron and Zendaya also had their own moment to shine in the film, with “Rewrite The Stars.” And then, of course, there is “This Is Me” brilliantly performed by the astoundingly talented Keala Settle and several co-stars. The song has become an anthem for people around the world and brims with optimism and defiance all at the same time.
Top 10 Film Musicals