5. La La Land (2016)
Damien Chazelle was a hot property in Hollywood after he delivered one of the best movies of the decade with the throbbing, cacophonous drumming drama Whiplash. His follow-up was something very different – a romantically-charged love letter to Old Hollywood, and to musicals including the French classic The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. Emma Stone is an aspiring actress and Ryan Gosling a struggling jazz pianist, both trying to make ends meet in Los Angeles.
Chazelle’s film is delightfully charming, but also has a bittersweet undercurrent of sadness to it. It’s that which makes it a truly special movie that has a deeply resonating impact even once the songs dry up after the midpoint. Gosling and Stone, who have also appeared together in films like Crazy, Stupid, Love and Gangster Squad, are a dynamic double act and the emotion is keenly felt, not least when Stone breaks out into the heart-breaking ‘Audition’. It’s the best song on the soundtrack. Don’t @ me.
4. Frozen (2013)
It could have been Tangled and it could certainly have been Moana, but the Disney animation that has made it on to this list is Frozen. Like those other movies, it’s very much a princess tale, but it’s one with a twist. Kristen Bell’s Anna and Idina Menzel’s Elsa are siblings, estranged somewhat after a near-fatal accident in their youth, caused by Elsa’s magical ice powers. A plot summary, though, is futile for this one. You’ve seen it. Many times. We all have.
It’s easy to be cynical about Frozen, which has become a ubiquitous cultural artefact in the six years since we all first heard ‘Let It Go’. However, there’s emotional potency in its storytelling and every song – with the possible exception of the weird troll one – lands with aplomb. The sequel is pretty darn good too.
3. Anna and the Apocalypse (2017)
After a lengthy festival run, Anna and the Apocalypse landed in a limited number of UK cinemas just before Christmas last year. It’s an ambitious genre hybrid, combining Christmas movie, high school comedy, toe-tapping musical and zombie apocalypse horror. Helmed by Scottish filmmaker John McPhail and boasting a cast of British comedy stalwarts, as well as luminous newcomer Ella Hunt in the title role, it’s a bona fide festive classic of the future.
McPhail doesn’t shy away from the gore inherent within the genre – there’s some deliciously icky practical effects work – but this is also a musical that embraces the cheesiness and schmaltz of the festive period. It’s rough around the edges and more than a little corny, but that’s exactly what Christmas is about – and it’s a joy.
2. The Muppets (2011)
Musicals are sometimes bittersweet and serious but, often, they’re exercises in raucous happiness and fun. That’s certainly the case with this reboot of The Muppets, which was directed by James Bobin and penned by Nicholas Stoller alongside star Jason Segel. He plays Gary whose brother, Walter, is clearly a Muppet – not that anybody seems to notice. They’re big fans of the Muppets and get the gang back together when they discover that an evil oil baron is planning to bulldoze the historic theatre in which The Muppet Show was filmed.
This is a sunny odyssey through the world of the Muppets, with nostalgia aplenty for those brought up on the charms of Kermit and Jim Henson’s other creations. It’s also a riotously self-aware and postmodern movie, regularly taking swipes at its own format and world while providing plenty of slapstick for its young audience, as well as a parade of enjoyable celebrity cameos.
Everything about this movie works and there’s love and affection in every frame. This is a film that can somehow get away with having an entire musical number performed by clucking chickens. Then they squandered all of the goodwill by putting Ricky Gervais in the sequel. What a disaster.
1. Sing Street (2016)
John Carney is pretty much the master of the modern musical. Begin Again could easily have made this list and Once would absolutely be on a list of the best musicals from the 2000s. The one I have picked, though, is Sing Street, which again puts the musical in the high school world. Set in 1980s Dublin, it follows Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) as he forms the titular band in order to impress beguiling older girl Raphina (Lucy Boynton).
The film is a terrific, layered tale of changing identities during teenage years, with focus placed squarely on the ways in which young people wear masks both literal and figurative in order to say something about who they want to be. The songs skip through genres and influences merrily, helped along by the mix between raw performances and more choreographed, fantasy-style sequences.
This movie was criminally underseen on its cinema run, but it deserves credit years later as an adorable slice of teenage fantasy that shows just how important every little emotion feels when you’re young and learning to express yourself. Carney’s script is packed with wit, warmth and charm, all the way up to the ludicrous, fanciful finale. It’s a treat of a musical that everyone should see as soon as possible.
Tom Beasley is a freelance film journalist and wrestling fan. Follow him on Twitter via @TomJBeasley for movie opinions, wrestling stuff and puns.