he movie musical is alive and kicking these days, with big releases like the Queen biopic "Bohemian Rhapsody" and Disney's "Mary Poppins Returns" hitting theaters this year. While we wait for those films to drop, here are our favorite musicals of the past two decades. Some of them are great films, and some are just a great time at the movies.
'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' (2000)
The Coen Bros. may be best known for comedies and crime capers (often blending the two together), they also know how to put together a darned good musical. This kooky period piece loosely adapts Homer's "The Odyssey" for a Depression-era American South setting. The real clincher is terrific bluegrass and folk soundtrack compiled by T Bone Burnett.
'Hedwig and the Angry Inch' (2001)
"Hedwig and the Angry Inch" has had a strange path over the past two decades, morphing from off-Broadway stage show to film adaptation to full-blown Broadway musical. The film manages to capture all the raw intensity of the stage version, luckily, with creators John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask adapting the compelling story of a transgender singer from East Germany making her way as a struggling glam rock star in America. The movie is heartfelt and hilarious in equal measure, and the tunes are downright sublime.
'Moulin Rouge!' (2001)
When Baz Luhrmann directs a musical, you know to expect a sumptuous, over-the-top affair with hyperactive song and dance numbers and some truly gorgeous visuals. That's exactly what "Moulin Rouge!" delivers. It's sappy, boisterous and a heck of an experience.
It can be tough for a movie musical to capture all the energy and power of the stage version, especially when you're talking about something as iconic as "Chicago." But the 2002 adaptation succeeded, in large part because of the talented trio of Catherine Zeta-Jones, Renee Zellweger, and Richard Gere. There's a reason this became the first musical since 1968's "Oliver!" to win the Best Picture Oscar.
When it comes to musicals, we don't necessarily need complex storylines and deep characters, so long as the emotion is strong and the musical numbers are electrifying. That's something "Dreamgirls" understands. This adaptation of the 1981 stage show (inspired by the heyday of Motown Records and The Supremes) features some of the best musical moments you'll find anywhere.
'Across the Universe' (2007)
Framing a musical around the back catalog of The Beatles seems almost like cheating. You really can't make a bad movie at that point. "Across the Universe" can be a little clunky in how it attempts to construct a coherent plot out of nearly three dozen Beatles tunes, but it pays tribute to the sound and imagery of one of the most beloved bands of all time.
For all that Disney is leaning into live-action adaptations of popular animated movies, its greatest success in the "live-action Disney princess movie" genre is actually an original story. "Enchanted" is a terrifically enjoyable comedy that pokes fun at classic Disney tropes as its main heroine makes the jump from animated fantasy land to modern-day New York. But it also works as a genuinely great princess movie, especially thanks to its winning soundtrack.
Few movies have done more to prove that the musical is alive and thriving in the 21st Century. "Hairspray" is a terrific adaptation of the Broadway musical (itself based on John Waters' 1988 film). It's a fun, energetic throwback to the '60s, but one that also has a sly sense of humor propelling it forward. And John Travolta in a fat suit, if you're into that sort of thing.
11. 'Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street' (2007)
We're hard-pressed to think of a musical more suited for the tag-team trio of Tim Burton, Johnny Depp, and Helena Bonham Carter. The underrated "Sweeney Todd" is a grim -- but very entertaining -- look at a Victorian London barber who becomes a mass murderer in his pursuit of revenge. Depp even proved he has some pretty decent pipes on this one.
'The Muppets' (2011)
The various Muppet movies were mainstay for pretty much every '80s and '90s kid. Unfortunately, at some point the Muppets fell out of favor, which is exactly what fuels this sequel. It's got some great tunes and plenty of Muppet humor, but there's also a sweet earnestness to the film as permit and friends struggle to prove they still have something to offer the world.
'Les Misérables' (2012)
There have been numerous film adaptations of "Les Miserables" over the years, but all of them were based on the original novel rather than the Broadway musical until the 2012 version came along. If an imperfect take on the iconic source material (with cast that proved to be very uneven in terms of musical chops), it's still an ambitious and ultimately satisfying experience.
'La La Land' (2016)
If not exactly the end-all, be-all of movie musicals many were expecting, "La La Land" is still a wonderful throwback to a simpler time in Hollywood. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling make a great cinematic duo as two lovers who find themselves torn apart in their pursuit of creative and professional fulfillment. Heck, we wish we loved anything as much as Gosling's character loves jazz music.
'Sing Street' (2016)
Director John Carney is one of the most exciting voices in the movie musical genre these days. This coming-of-age dramedy hits all the right notes, following a group of Dublin teens in the '80s who form a band. The movie makes effective use of a lot of well-worn tropes, but what really makes it stand out is the incredibly catchy, authentically '80s-worthy soundtrack.
'The Greatest Showman' (2017)
"The Greatest Showman" took some lumps from critics, who attacked its shallow story and its simplistic account of the life of PT Barnum. But audiences didn't seem to care; they just wanted a good time at the movies with a terrific soundtrack. That's definitely what you get out of this crowd-pleasing musical. It's a visual and sonic delight, and a movie that celebrates he importance of being true to yourself, the rest of the world be damned.
'Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again'
Either film in the "Mamma Mia!" series easily deserves a place on this list, but we'll give the nod to the recent sequel. This is a musical that cares less about maintaining its canon and narrative timeline and is all about giving viewers a wild ride with some amazingly catchy pop tunes. It's the ultimate escapist movie.