Two Minute Top 10s are a way for me to satiate my desire for writing lists on my opinions, while not getting stuck in over-thinking them. I get a topic and I spend no more than two minutes putting my top 10 together on that topic — it makes the lists personal and genuine. (I can then ramble on about why each thing is where for as long as I want!)
This week’s Two Minute Top 10 is on my top 10 movie musicals. I am a huge fan of the golden age of movie musicals — when MGM was the top cat of the genre and its stars glittered brightly in the form of Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, Cyd Charisse, Howard Keel, Ginger Rogers and many others.
That’s not to say that I don’t love more modern musicals or that other studios don’t produce great contributions to the genre, but the ones best represented on this list are from that studio and time period.
It was tough trying to whittle down to only 10 and there are movie musicals whose soundtracks I absolutely LOVE but they didn’t quite make the cut because the plot or entertainment factor just isn’t there. There are stage musicals I love which didn’t quiiite translate well to movies. No, I’m not talking about Cats … well, not only about Cats.
It also doesn’t include stage shows that were filmed then released, like the 1998 release of Cats or the Disney+ release of Hamilton.
And lastly, to avoid a saturated list, no Disney musicals. We’ll save those for another list.
I first watched Cabaret when I was about 10 and several times over the course of my pre-teen and teenage years, but it was only when I rewatched it as an adult that I looked past the glamorous shows and fancy music to see how much of the plot had FLOWN over my innocent little mind. There are Nazis, there are sordid love affairs, and there are still absolutely brilliant musical numbers.
I have loved Gene Kelly as a performer for nearly 25 years. For those of you keeping score at home, that means I started loving him around the time of his death. Not an ideal time, to be sure, but true love endures. Brigadoon was one of the first films I remember seeing with Gene Kelly and I thought he was so dashing and graceful, Cyd Charisse was so gorgeous and Van Johnson was grumpy which made him funny. Truth be told, I still think all of those things!
Gigi is another MGM musical that I watched and fell in love with as a youngster, without quite picking up on all of the adult nuances. While many of the themes have become outdated, the music, romance and majesty in Gigi still captivate me all these years later.
Many people consider this the ultimate of Gene Kelly’s films and movie musicals in general but, while I love Singin’ in the Rain, I wouldn’t put it as my favourite in either. It is very meta for its time, a movie musical about making a movie musical and Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds and, of course, Gene are all brilliant. Plus it does have the benefit of having one of, if not the, most iconic song and dance numbers in history.
I loved The Greatest Showman when I saw it in cinemas and immediately downloaded the soundtrack. It is the most modern film on this list and, while it is amazing musically, choreographically and entertainingly, it does admittedly suffer for this because most of the remaining films have a level of nostalgia involved in their rankings.
If you didn’t see The Sound of Music on free-to-air television at least 17 times a year, then you must have lived in an alternate universe to me pre-cable TV and streaming services. The character development in The Sound of Music is one of my favourite things (heh) about it, aside from the music. From stuffy Captain and stifled children to happy husband and free children, all thanks to the incomparable Julie Andrews.
True story, my favourite drink is sarsaparilla and the first time I tried it was purely because of the way Doris Day’s Calamity Jane asks for a “sass-parilly”. I love the songs, I love the story, I love the transformation that was written well before Pretty in Pink and other transformation films. The portrayals of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane aren’t historically accurate but as characters it is fun to watch them butt heads before the inevitable.
Now this. This is my favourite Gene Kelly musical. Three sailors, Gene, Frank Sinatra and Jules Munshin (who all also amazed in Take Me Out to the Ball Game the same year), hit the town on shore leave to do … well, what sailors on shore leave are renowned to want to do — find true love! Ann Miller and Betty Garrett (also in Take Me Out to the Ball Game) are both brilliant in their roles as two of the “dames” that fall for Jules and Frank respectively. The songs are fun, the film is witty and The Simpsons parodied its opening number when Bart and Milhouse go on a Squishee syrup bender — what’s not to love?!
Rocky Horror Picture Show is one of the weirdest movies I’ve ever seen and I %$#&ing LOVE IT. The music. The costumes. Tim Curry’s legs. The weird, weird, weird plot. Meatloaf as a lobotomised rocker. The dancing. Everything is just so enjoyable and I have no rational explanation for why.
Anchors Aweigh, Chicago, Easter Parade, High Society, Little Shop of Horrors, Moulin Rouge, The Pirate, Summer Stock, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Take Me Out to the Ball Game
Another true story, I watched The Wizard of Oz so often as a child that my mum still can’t bear to watch it. Judy Garland at her most vibrant — literally, it was one of the biggest early uses of Technicolor — is breathtaking. It’s quotable, it’s uplifting, the songs are timeless and the visuals are iconic. There are few films I can watch over and over and over without losing the magic, but The Wizard of Oz is and has been one of them for most of my life.
If you have a different take or would like to suggest a subject for my Two Minute Top 10s, drop a comment here or hit me up on Twitter!