With dreary nights and a world in meltdown, we need a pick me up, so here are fifteen great sing-a-long films that are impossible not to enjoy…
I stopped at pump number one yesterday and put a twenty in the tank. Then I set off. I got to pump number two and had to fill up again. Between the rising cost of living to World War III and most countries seemingly re-enacting Idiocracy with who they have running them, it could get a bit miserable for people.
Movies can provide a great escape though, even if just for a few hours. Stay tuned and don’t touch that dial, as we look at fifteen feel-good sing-a-long films that can’t possibly fail to entertain….
Even without the Bowie soundtrack, Labyrinth is an impossibly charming fantasy adventure. The glorious visuals and Pythonesque silliness (thank you Terry Jones) are one thing, as is the relish with which David Bowie commands the screen as the villain. Jim Henson forged a career of making enjoyable movies and shows, based around his puppets and animatronics. The puppets in Labyrinth are great, all within a beautifully constructed world (where today much of this would have been CGI). Still, if there’s one key strength to the deceptively complex film, it’s the music. Bowie lines the film with a number of great tracks that’ll ear worm the shit out of you and have you singing along. Tracks like Underground and Within You are great listens, but Dance Magic and the Fiery Song demand your sing-a-long involvement.
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
It took me way too long to see this. I like Andy Samberg and I’d heard good things but I’d grown somewhat weary of the mockumentary format. Finally, a few months back I watched and well…it was a great tonic in the midst of Britain being the political equivalent of the kid that audibly and visibly shits themselves in the middle of the choir performance. Popstar is a brilliant takedown of modern pop music, pop culture, social media trends and the vapid nature of modern celebrity. It’s also full of hilarious but legitimately brilliant tracks like Humble, Equal Rights and Finest Girl. Then among the silliness and relentlessly puerile (but funny) humour, the film also manages to have a little heart too.
Little Shop of Horrors
This film, genuinely, might be one of the most delightfully enjoyable films ever made. For one it’s got Rick Moranis as our hero Seymour. You cannot dislike Moranis. Ellen Greene as the waif and put-upon shop worker Seymour (Moranis) secretly admires, is equally wonderful. The film, based on the stage show musical that was based on the original Roger Corman production, is filled to the brim with great songs, many of which have 50-60s era pop, rock’n’roll and rhythm and blues running through them. You’ll finish the film unable to stop bellowing “Feed me Seymour, Feed Me!” You’ll be singingly Skid Row and Suddenly Seymour for days after. The film just puts a smile on your face, loaded with great cameos from John Candy, Steve Martin (his barnstorming appearance and song are particularly catchy) and Bill Murray. I hadn’t watched it in a few years but did so recently and it slips on like a comfortable old sneaker. It’s so enjoyable in fact, I watched it a day later with my wife and daughter (their introduction) and they loved it.
Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit
Look, it’s not as good as the original, and the Dangerous Minds riffing maybe makes it a touch lazy in conception, but Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit, for its sins, is still effortlessly entertaining and a sure-fire smile on the face maker. Whoopi lights up the screen as she tended to do in her pomp. The supporting nuns are all good fun, and even if some of the archetypes within the student pool are a bit on the nose, the group are pretty likeable. The tracks are suitably enjoyable and the gospel tinge lends itself to a bit of sing-a-long participation, not more so than with Oh Happy Day. Then you’ve got the rawness of a young Lauryn Hill, whose emotional arc is the main focus of the story, but likewise whose vocal gifts are breathtaking. Dagnabbit if I don’t love watching Sister Act 2.
Alan Parker’s adaptation of Roddy Doyle’s iconic book sees Jimmy Rabbitte (Robert Arkins) put together a jazz band comprised of Irish working-class members. The film took the UK by storm upon release, really making waves. As well as being a slice of life and showing the grind of working-class Irish life, the film never gets too grim and continues to retain a sense of uplift and hope. Additionally, the musical numbers (most famously a cover of Try a Little Tenderness) are fantastic.
The Wizard of Oz
Memorable musical numbers, an uplifting story and a rollicking good time. Arguably one of the great originators was The Wizard of Oz. Its technicolor majesty is matched by its infectious performers and the wonderful star turn by Judy Garland as Dorothy. Everyone knows the songs, even if they haven’t seen the movie, and of course one of the more iconic tracks, Somewhere over the Rainbow has been covered and reused so many times through a cacophony of other TV, movies and stage shows. The Wizard of Oz is still endlessly entertaining. You’ll be skipping through alleyways singing ‘Follow the yellow brick road’ before you know it.
Purple Rain the album is one of my all-time favourite albums, so it goes without saying that I more than enjoy the film tie-in. Prince was never considered much of an actor, even if his rawness captures a few heartfelt moments within the film, particularly when there’s a bit of honesty to the semi-autobiographical segments. As you’d expect, the film’s highlights are the tracks. It’s not even just Prince’s numbers but one of his protege bands, The Time appear as rivals of ‘The Kid’ and have a couple of funktastic tracks. Every Prince track here is exceptional but the showstopping titular track is, was and always will be, butterfly-inducing.
Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny
Jack Black has some musical chops and it probably took many by surprise when the rising comedian stole High Fidelity with a barnstorming rendition of Let’s Get it On. School of Rock cemented that reputation, which was no surprise to fans of his band, Tenacious D (his rock duo back with Kyle Gass). The film is a little bit wild and erratic. It’s more an explosion of scattershot ideas than anything formed into a conventional film structure, but Black and Gass find themselves searching for the Pick of Destiny in order to become the greatest band in the world. All that aside, the gusto with which Black approaches everything is here in spades and infectious. Then the lineup of D tracks are all bangers (which as well as JB’s talents, highlight KG’s chops at neo-classical guitar).
Alan Parker once again. The late great British Auteur seemed to have a gift for musical pictures. Fame feels like a film that could translate very well to today were it remade (again). Here’s the thing though, a modern adaptation would undoubtedly lack the grit and underbelly that Parker scrapes down to, beneath all the great flash mob sequences and iconic musical numbers as members of a performing arts school struggle with their respective issues (be it looks, talent, parental pressure, sexuality or exploitation). It’s occasionally as harrowing as it is often uplifting but the end is one of hope and the film’s superstar titular track comes from one of its leads, Irene Cara and it is unforgettable.
Mods versus rockers in late 60s Brighton. Troubled youths battle against societal pressure and each other, splitting into factions based on their musical tastes, but both equally counter-culture. Based on the 1973 rock opera by The Who, the film is similarly bulked with classic Who tracks. The cast is filled with aspiring Brit stars like Phil Daniels, Leslie Ash, Ray Winstone, Phil Davis and pop icons Sting and Toyah Willcox. Quadrophenia is an inspired classic. It’s got some edge and grit, but is rousingly anarchic too. The legendary soundtrack will stick in your mind for weeks.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Henry Selick’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, which was so often presented to suggest it was directed by Tim Burton (who produced, from an idea partly of his conception), is a cult favourite. It’s lithe and brisk but oh so much fun. Despite the dark and gothic stop motion visuals, this macabre Anti-Christmas film actually becomes increasingly filled with seasonal cheer. The animation is wonderful but so are the great musical numbers, bolstered by Danny Elfman’s score.
Hear me out, but Rocky IV is pretty much a musical. I mean it’s basically wall-to-wall musical montages and the soundtrack is filled with great rock ballads that’ll have you singing along. Alongside classic rock tracks that are entirely synonymous with this film, like Hearts on Fire and No Easy Way Out, the film is also further aided by Vince DiCola’s awesomely 80s score. Rocky IV also has the distinction, like every other film in the immediate and extended canon, of being totally rip-roaring and fist-clenchingly inspiring. Everyone roots for Rocky. It’s uplifting and inspiring.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Sing-a-long events became a thing entirely because of Rocky Horror. This unforgettable film, adapted from the stage show, features a bizarre group of characters, headed up by Frank N Furter the transvestite (plaid gleefully by Tim Curry) and his butler Riff Raff (Richard O’Brien). Rocky Horror sing-a-long events are insanely good fun, as is the stage show. The film, no matter how many times you see it won’t fail to put a grin on your Chevy Chase (face). My first introduction to this film was having to learn the Time Warp in Primary School. I still practice every now and again (I’m 41).
Phantom of the Opera
Now, my personal preference on this one would be to watch one of the live recorded stage production films. The 25th Anniversary edition was a great version of the great Andrew Lloyd Webber show. If you have to watch the movie version of said stage musical, you’re limited to Joel Schumacher’s flawed but serviceable version. It’s still good and it still has all those great tracks and some stunning visuals. It just has a key weakness… Gerard Butler as the Phantom. I like G-But, but he’s better at saving the White House, or London. Not so good at singing stage musical numbers and the auto-tune is pushed to the kind of machinery limits that a hadron collider reaches. For as not-so-good as Butler is, Emmy Rossum is fantastic though. I was never too big on stage show musicals, but I’ve always had an unshakable love for Phantom.
Grease is forever enjoyable. John Travolta stars with the late great Olivia Newton-John and lest we not forget, it also features Lorenzo Lamas (whose movie musical Body Rock sadly narrowly missed out on this list). With a long list of infectious sing-a-long tracks, Grease appears with regularity on TV screens and demands your eyes and ears. For many it’s an annual (sometimes more) rewatch, a tradition, much like the late November season will see me always revisit Planes, Trains and Automobiles. To slip on a film that will brighten your day with joyous performances and musical numbers is a gift and Grease is the gift that keeps on giving.
What are your favourite feel-good sing-a-long movies? Let us know on our social channels @FlickeringMyth…
Tom Jolliffe is an award winning screenwriter and passionate cinephile. He has a number of films out around the world, including When Darkness Falls and several releases due out soon, including big-screen releases for Renegades (Lee Majors, Danny Trejo, Michael Pare, Tiny Lister, Nick Moran, Patsy Kensit, Ian Ogilvy and Billy Murray) and War of The Worlds: The Attack (Vincent Regan). Find more info at the best personal site you’ll ever see…@jolliffeproductions