8 musical films told entirely in song (and without dialogue)
Musicals are a popular genre of film that features characters singing songs and performing dance numbers as they would be seen on a stage. Many popular musical films have, in fact, been adapted from plays like Mama Mia!, a musical film so popular it even earned itself a sequel. While the only real criteria for a film to be considered a musical is simply to have the characters sing, there is a wide range of styles through which musicals are portrayed.
From recreations of classic tales like the Tim Burton movieSweeney Toddto newly inventive musicals like hamilton, it would seem that there is no shortage of content to cover in musical format. These formats also vary depending on the content of the musical itself and how the artists write the music. Some musical films have no dialogue and are told entirely through song. Here are eight musical films told entirely in song.
One of the best musical film adaptations of all time, Wretched is entirely sung, with the story told only through the delicate use of song, following the life of escaped prisoner Jean Valjean, played by Hugh Jackman, who manages to rebuild his life, despite being hunted down by Javert (Russell Crowe). Over time, Jean Valjean finds himself raising Cosette (Amanda Seyfried), the daughter of laborer Fantine (Anne Hathaway), who died as the buzz of the French Revolution rumbled in the background. Based on Victor Hugo’s novel of the same name and the play, Wretched broke new ground in the musical genre with each cast member singing live while the scenes were filmed.
hamilton tells the story of American founding father Alexander Hamilton. Which makes hamilton so extraordinary is the fact that the style in which the music is made is not the typical musical style of the song, but rather has a strong hip-hop and R&B presence. The musical is a more modern take on a classic story, giving it a new appeal that appeals to younger, more diverse audiences. At the annual Tony Awards, hamilton broke the record for the number of nominations, winning a 16 staggering nominations and winning a total of 11 awards.
6 The Phantom of the Opera
The Phantom of the Opera tells the story of a masked music enthusiast living under the Paris Opera, who becomes obsessed with soprano Christine Daaé. A must in the world of musicals, The Phantom of the Opera is based on a 1910 novel of the same name and the 1986 Broadway musical. The film stars Gerard Butler, Emmy Rossum and Patrick Wilson and is sung entirely with no dialogue to impede the flow of the score. The film adaptation was originally announced in 1989, but production didn’t begin until 2002. The Phantom of the Opera was nominated for three Academy Awards and three Golden Globes, including a nomination for Best Musical or Comedy – Motion Picture.
Based on The Who’s rock opera album “Tommy”, tommy tells the story of a psychosomatically deaf, mute and blind boy who becomes a pinball machine champion and the leader of a religious movement. Written and directed by Ken Russell, the film features many stars including Ann Margaret, Oliver Reed, Eric Clapton and even Roger Daltry, singer and co-founder of The Who, as the title character. As an independent production, tommy was well received by critics and regular viewers. The film was nominated for a number of awards, including an Oscar for Best Actress Ann Margaret. Before that, Margaret won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy.
4 Pink Floyd The Wall
Based on the Pink Floyd album of the same name, Pink Floyd The Wall was written by Pink Floyd vocalist and bassist Roger Waters. The film tells the story of a rock star named Pink who builds a physical and emotional wall to protect herself from the madness of grief over her father’s death. Despite some criticism for the final product not meeting certain expectations, Pink Floyd The Wall was generally well received and has since gained a cult following. The film won two BAFTA awards for Best Sound and Best Original Song, earning it a decent spot as a unique and highly stylized dialogue-less musical.
3 Jesus Christ Superstar
Based on the rock opera of the same name, Jesus Christ Superstar revolves around the conflict between Judas and Jesus the week before Jesus’ crucifixion. The entire film is sung and although many argued that the film did not do the scene justice, the main actors were praised for their musical performances. The film was shown to Pope Paul VI, who openly showed his love for the film, saying it would bring more interest to Christianity. That said, many other religious organizations criticized the old-fashioned and false depiction of Jews, saying the film further encouraged anti-Semitism.
Avoided tells the story of Eva Perón, actress, activist and politician who served as the first lady of Argentina until her sudden death at the age of 33. Madonna stars as Eva, showing off her musical talent in this sung musical, alongside Jonathan Pryce and Antonio Banderas. The concept for the film first appeared after the release of the 1976 album, but was stuck in development hell for over 15 years before any real movement could be made to make the concept a reality. . Avoided was nominated for over 20 awards and won 12, including the Oscar for Best Original Song for “You Gotta Love Me”.
1 Umbrellas of Cherbourg
This classic French musical starring Catherine Deneuve revolves around umbrella saleswoman Geneviève and her lover Guy, who separate when Guy is drafted and must serve in the Algerian War. Despite Genevieve’s pregnancy with Guy, she marries another man and attempts to move on despite the vivid reminder that she was deeply in love with Guy. Umbrellas of Cherbourg won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for several Oscars, although he did not win any.
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