There’s something comforting about seeing characters break into song at the most unexpected times. Add in the dance numbers, the fantastical elements and the charming sing-a-longs associated with musicals and it’s easy to understand why the genre has such a broad appeal. The best musicals feature songs that become expressions of pure character emotion. As a result, the tunes end up being just as iconic as the movies themselves.
While to the untrained eye musicals may seem relics from old Hollywood, the genre is coming back in style. Musicals are going through a renaissance, with both La La Land and Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again killing it at the box office in the last couple of years. The new A Star Is Born is also making waves and is expected to win big at the Academy Awards, so it’s a good time to be alive if you're a musical lover. For those new to the genre, we’ve got the goods. Here are the best musicals available on streaming services in Australia as of October 2018.
Top 15 musicals you can stream right now
La La Land
West Side Story
The Wizard of Oz
The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Beauty and the Beast
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Fiddler on the Roof
My Fair Lady
Guys and Dolls
1. La La Land (2016)
La La Land centres on two dreamers living in Los Angeles, Sebastian and Mia. He is a jazz musician, she is an aspiring actress. Both are struggling to make ends meet. They fall in love and work well together, but life gets in the way. They’ll soon find their relationship tested as they start to see their biggest aspirations come true.
Bittersweet, colourful and full of heart, La La Land benefits from two powerhouse performances courtesy of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. A modern-day classic, the movie seamlessly goes from joyful to heartbreaking, ensuring that viewers will experience a whole range of emotions as they follow Mia and Sebastian’s compelling love story. Memorable songs include City of Stars and Audition (The Fools Who Dream). You can stream La La Land on Foxtel Now.
Ryan Gosling as Sebastian
Emma Stone as Mia
2. Grease (1978)
One of the most successful movie musicals of all time, Grease stars John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John as 1950s teens Danny and Sandy. The two fall in love over the summer, but by autumn their relationship is tested as they return to the cliquey world of high school. They split, reconcile, then split again, all amid dances and drag races. Will they end up together? You’ll have to tune in to find out.
Look, there’s no way around it, Grease is a cheesy flick, boasting silly dance numbers and a predictable plot, as you can probably gather from the synopsis. But it’s so joyful and energetic that you can’t help but forgive its flaws. Plus, the movie never takes itself too seriously and the visuals are marvellous. If you’re down, it will instantly make you feel better. Iconic tunes include Summer Nights and You’re the One That I Want. Stream it on Netflix or Amazon Prime Video.
John Travolta as Danny
Olivia Newton-John as Sandy
Stockard Channing as Rizzo
Jeff Conaway as Kenickie
3. West Side Story (1961)
This romantic musical is one of the best Shakespeare adaptations to ever grace our screens. West Side Story centres on a turf war between rival teenage gangs in Manhattan, focusing on two lovers eager to cross battle lines. It’s the modern update on Romeo and Juliet you didn’t know you needed, complete with catchy songs and captivating dance numbers.
If you need an extra incentive to tune in, the movie won 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. As expected, West Side Story dazzles with a wonderful score, with standouts including I Feel Pretty, America and Something's Coming. Stream the musical on Stan.
Natalie Wood as Maria
Richard Beymer as Tony
Russ Tamblyn as Riff
Rita Moreno as Anita
4. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
The Wizard of Oz is a classic in every sense of the word, just as enchanting today as it was upon its initial release back in 1939. When a tornado rips through Kansas, Dorothy and her dog Toto end up in Oz, a magical land where they meet a Scarecrow, a Tin Man and a Cowardly Lion. Together, they follow the Yellow Brick Road to meet the Wizard and hopefully, see all their biggest wishes come true.
It’s hard to pick only a few tunes to highlight from this one, but we’ll go with Somewhere Over the Rainbow and We’re Off to See the Wizard. Stream the wonder that is The Wizard of Ozon Foxtel Now.
Judy Garland as Dorothy
Ray Bolger as The Scarecrow
Bert Lahr as The Cowardly Lion
Jack Haley as The Tin Man
5. Cabaret (1972)
"Willkommen! And bienvenue! Welcome! I'm cabaret, au cabaret, to cabaret!" The 1972 musical drama starring Liza Minnelli takes place in Berlin, in the 30s. Cabaret singer Sally Bowles meets British academic Brian Roberts and the two develop a fun-loving friendship, but the arrival of a wealthy playboy threatens their stability. The complicated, yet appealing love triangle will play out against the rise of the Nazi Party.
Due to the historical context, Cabaret becomes a silent cry for despair, perfectly capturing the anxiety of the pre-WWII era. The movie excels when it comes to nuanced performances, stylish costumes, brilliant choreography and entertaining tunes. Highlights include Willkommen, Cabaret and Maybe This Time. Stream the influential flick on Foxtel Now.
Liza Minnelli as Sally
Michael York as Brian
Helmut Griem as Maximilian von Heune
6. Hairspray (2007)
Energetic and highly entertaining, Hairspray is a musical rom-com which centres on Tracy, a dance-loving teen who joins a local TV show and becomes an overnight celebrity. She uses her new status to rally against racial segregation and hopefully, finally win the affections of her crush.
Hairspray is a big-budget and star-studded production, starring Nikki Blonsky, John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, Amanda Bynes, Queen Latifah, James Marsden, Zac Efron, Brittany Snow, Elijah Kelley and Allison Janney. Yet, the movie is sweet and campy, infecting viewers with joy from the very first scene. You’ll be compelled to sing along to tunes like You Can't Stop the Beat and I Can Hear the Bells. Hairspray is available to stream on Stan.
Nikki Blonsky as Tracy Turnblad
John Travolta as Edna Turnblad
Michelle Pfeiffer as Velma Von Tussle
Zac Efron as Link Larkin
7. Mamma Mia! (2008)
The 2018 sequel may not be available to stream yet, but the original more than stands on its own. Mamma Mia! focuses on Sophie, a young bride who invites three men from her mother’s past to her wedding hoping to finally figure out who her father is. Meanwhile, her mother Donna isn’t particularly delighted to see her former flames, especially since she hasn’t talked to any of them since a memorable summer long ago. Starring Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgård, Julie Walters and Christine Baranski.
Mamma Mia! may not be a masterpiece, but it’s sweet, fun and inventive. Plus, despite the wacky premise, the movie packs quite the emotional punch, mainly thanks to the great performances by the three possible fathers. As for the soundtrack, it features all of ABBA’s biggest hits, from I Have a Dream to Dancing Queen to Money, Money, Money. You can stream the musical on Amazon Prime Video.
Amanda Seyfried as Sophie
Meryl Streep as Donna
Colin Firth as Harry
Pierce Brosnan as Sam
8. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
A cult favourite, The Rocky Horror Picture Show follows Brad and Janet, two sweethearts who discover an eerie mansion during a storm. They come face to face with their host, a transvestite scientist who claims to be from another planet, as well as with a plethora of fascinating characters, including a creepy butler and a loud biker. Things escalate when the scientist presents his latest creation, with Brad and Janet soon starting to fear for their lives.
Cheerful and fun, The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a celebration of uniqueness. Littered with colourful and charming characters, the movie is daring and mesmerising, with some raucous musical numbers to keep things as entertaining as possible. If you’re not familiar with Time Warp or Sweet Transvestite, you really need to give this one a stream. The Rocky Horror Picture Show is available on Netflix.
Tim Curry as Dr. Frank N. Furter – A scientist
Susan Sarandon as Janet Weiss – A heroine
Barry Bostwick as Brad Majors – A hero
9. Chicago (2002)
Chicago follows nightclub sensation Velma, who murders her husband and gets one of Chicago's best lawyers to defend her. There’s one problem, when another woman winds up in prison, the lawyer takes on her case as well, pitting the two against each other in a fight for fame. After all, there’s no such thing as bad publicity, especially if it might keep them from the gallows. The movie stars Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere and Renée Zellweger.
Winner of six Academy Awards, Chicago is pure spectacle, boasting lavish costumes, a serious dose of wit and plenty of humour. As for the musical numbers, who can resist gems like Razzle Dazzle or Funny Honey? You can stream Chicago on both Stan and Amazon Prime Video.
Catherine Zeta-Jones as Velma Kelly
Renée Zellweger as Roxie Hart
Richard Gere as Billy Flynn
10. Beauty and the Beast (2017)
Emma Watson and Dan Stevens star in this charming live-action remake of the classic Disney love story aiming to prove once and for all that beauty lies within. An arrogant prince is cursed to live as a beast until he finds someone willing to love him despite his terrifying appearance. Enter Belle, a fierce and beautiful girl who Beast takes prisoner. With a little help from Beast’s enchanted servants, Belle begins to discover the sensitive soul that lies within her captor and soon finds that she’s falling for the fearsome creature.
A faithful, magical retelling, the movie is a pleasure to watch. No one can stay gloomy while singing along to Gaston, Be Our Guest or Beauty and the Beast. You can stream the flick on Netflix and Foxtel Now.
Emma Watson as Belle
Dan Stevens as Beast
Luke Evans as Gaston
11. Les Misérables (2012)
Taking place in 19th-century France, Les Misérables follows Jean Valjean, an ex-prisoner who has been hunted for decades by a ruthless policeman because he broke parole. When Valjean agrees to care for a factory worker’s young daughter, both their lives change forever. It’s a tale of unrequited love, broken dreams and survival – one that never gets old.
Victor Hugo's epic tale is beautifully brought to the screen, with the cast including Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway and Amanda Seyfried. As for the tunes, you might already be familiar with I Dreamed a Dream or Do You Hear the People Sing?Les Misérables is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.
Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean
Russell Crowe as Javert
Anne Hathaway as Fantine
12. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
This 2007 musical stars Johnny Depp as a man who was unjustly sent to prison and vows to get revenge upon his release. He becomes Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, taking various liberties with his razor on unlucky customers. He is helped by Mrs Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter), who has a knack for creating diabolical meat pies.
Bloody and unsettling, this Tim Burton movie looks devilishly good, perfectly blending stunning visuals with emotional pathos. It may be an acquired taste, but this musical slasher will stay with you for a long time, especially after you listen to The Worst Pies in London or Johanna. You can stream Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Streeton Foxtel Now.
Johnny Depp as Sweeney Todd
Helena Bonham Carter as Mrs Lovett
Alan Rickman as Judge Turpin
13. Fiddler on the Roof (1971)
This classic musical, released in 1971, depicts life among the Jewish community of a pre-revolutionary Russian village. Fiddler on the Roof centres on a father determined to find suitable husbands for his five daughters. To make sure he will be successful, he enlists the help of a traditional matchmaker and also carries on lengthy conversations with God.
Sentimental and romantic, Fiddler on the Roof is a joyous celebration of life, featuring strong performances from the entire cast and some endearing musical numbers. Highlights include Do You Love Me? and If I Were a Rich Man. Stream the movie on Foxtel Now or Stan.
Topol as Tevye
Norma Crane as Golde
Leonard Frey as Motel
14. My Fair Lady (1964)
An elegant and colourful flick, My Fair Lady stars Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison. Released in 1964, the movie follows an arrogant phonetics professor who takes it upon himself to transform a working-class girl into a cultured member of high society. The two get close, but their relationship is threatened when an aristocratic suitor enters the stage. The movie is based on George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion.
If the story doesn’t win you over, the lush costumes and settings definitely will. With a spectacular budget, My Fair Lady was the most expensive film shot in the United States up to that time. Moreover, Hepburn is as charming as always and the musical numbers are the stuff of dreams. The Rain in Spain, On the Street Where You Live and Wouldn't It Be Loverly are some of the most well-known tunes in Broadway history and they sound great in the movie adaptation as well. You can stream My Fair Ladyon Foxtel Now.
Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle
Rex Harrison as Professor Henry Higgins
Stanley Holloway as Alfred P. Doolittle
15. Guys and Dolls (1955)
This 1955 masterpiece stars Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons and Vivian Blaine. In New York, a gambler is challenged to take a cold female missionary to Havana. However, he ends up falling for her, but will she reciprocate his feelings when she realises the entire trip was a ploy?
Guys and Dolls is the perfect blend of salty and sweet, ensuring a great time for both musical fanatics and newbies. That’s mainly thanks to Brando’s endless charisma and Sinatra’s flawless voice. As for the songs, you might already be familiar with Luck Be a Lady. The movie is available to stream on Foxtel Now.
Marlon Brando as Sky Masterson
Frank Sinatra as Nathan Detroit
Jean Simmons as Sarah Brown
Vivian Blaine as Miss Adelaide
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Alexandra Plesa writes about Internet TV for Finder. When she’s not re-watching The West Wing for the 11th time, she likes to scour streaming services for any fascinating underrated gems they have on offer. She’ll never say no to a romantic comedy and she’ll press you to watch BoJack Horseman until you finally give in
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