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10 Movie Musicals You May Have Missed

By Sam Waite


The theatre can be an expensive passion to have, and the sheer number of options for shows, seats and performances can be overwhelming. Plus, who among us doesn't feel the need to just stay home and be in our own space every once in a while, loading up our streamer of choice or switching on the DVD player for some pyjam-clad, snack-fuelled entertainment?


With streaming and physical home media, it's now easier than ever to access films and TV series en masse, and it can be difficult to work out what the next watch ought to be. For this win love with song and dance but not wanting to deal with the crowds, the prices, and overcrowded trains home, I've compiled a list of some of the less famous movie musicals you may not have known about, but could be your next night in.


Dancer in the Dark


Who’s in it, and why do you know them?

Björk (Icelandic singer-songwriter), Catherien Deneuve (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Idochine), David Morse (St. Elsewhere, House), Peter Stormare (Minority Report, Constantine), Joel Grey (Cabaret, Wicked)


What’s it about?

A Czech immigrant (Björk) who is rapidly losing her sight due to a degenerative condition, is desperate to save enough for an operation that will keep the same condition from impacting her son. When her landlord steals what she has stolen, the confrontation leads to his death, leaving Selma to decide between paying for the operation or a skilled enough lawyer to save her from death by hanging.

Why should you watch it?

Lars von Trier’s foray into musical cinema won its composer, also its star, an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song, with some claiming that a nod for Best Actress would have been deserved. The pair’s on-set clashes are well-documented, but von Trier’s insistence that the woman behind the score be the one to portray Selma was proven to be the right choice, with the Icelandic musician turning in a surprising, emotionally resonant performance.


The Pirate Movie


Who’s in it, and why do you know them?

Christopher Atkins (The Blue Lagoon, Dallas), Kristy McNichol (Little Darlings, Empty Nest), Ted Hamilton


What’s it about?

An 80’s teen (McNichol) is thrown from her boat while trying to catch up to the cool kids, and proceeds to dream a warped version of The Pirates of Penzance in which Mabel is the youngest of the Major General’s daughters, but has by far the most agency and intellect in the seven seas.


Why should you watch it?

“Good” isn’t a word often associated with The Pirate Movie, but there is a certain charm to the brashness and ridiculousness used to update Gilbert and Sullivan’s work. Pop songs so bad they’re almost glorious are slotted in alongside original Penzance pieces, and periodic references to the likes of Star Wars and Indiana Jones never let us forget that this is all happening in the mind of a nerdy teen in the 1980’s. It’s probably more famous for being bad than anything else, but there are much better films that aren’t nearly as fun.


Repo! The Genetic Opera


Who’s in it, and why do you know them?

Alexa Vega (Spy Kids, Sleepover), Anthony Head (Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Merlin), Paris Hilton (you name it, she’s done it!), Paul Sorvino (Goodfellas, Law & Order), Sarah Brightman (The Phantom of the Opera)


What’s it about?

In a near-future where mass organ failures ended millions of lives, GeneCo provides artificial replacements, but will send out their Repo Men to recollect if a single payment is missed. Made to stay inside due to a genetic illness, Shilo (Vega) wants to see the world, and is unaware that her father (Head) is perhaps the fiercest of GeneCo’s henchmen.


Why should you watch it?

Rock-opera, Sci-fi and horror all blend in this raucous, openly bizarre film. The eclectic cast all bring something unique and exciting to the table, with standout supporting turns from Brightman, as an opera star whose robotic eyes come with a life of servitude, and Hilton, as the GeneCo heiress whose vanity and insecurities have become increasingly aggravated by the ease with which she can change herself.


Shock Treatment


Who’s in it, and why do you know them?

Richard O’Brien, Patricia Quinn, Nell Campbell (all stars of The Rocky Horror Picture Show), Jessica Harper (Suspiria, Phantom of The Paradise), Cliff DeYoung (Road to Nowhere, Wild)


What’s it about?

Brad and Janet, shortly after the events of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, return to their hometown of Denton, USA, which they find has been overtaken by a fast-food magnate and is now contained within an enormous TV studio. After being “randomly” selected for a gameshow, their supposed prizes find Brad thrown into a mental hospital (itself the subject of a popular soap opera) and Janet’s mind being warped by fame and glory as she becomes Denton’s new It Girl.


Why should you watch it?

O’Brien claimed, at the time, that this wasn’t a sequel, but an equal. Few would agree with this statement, but a dedicated cult following has grown since its 1981 premiere. Focused around reality being documented and distorted for a wide audience, the subjects of the film would eventually prove to be wildly ahead of their time, making the film more relevant today than it was to a confused 80s crowd.


Begin Again


Who’s in it, and why do you know them?

Keira Knightley (Love, Actually, Pirates of the Caribbean), Mark Ruffalo (Avengers franchise, 13 Going on 30), Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit, Bumblebee), Adam Levine (of Maroon 5), James Corden (you know who he is.)


What’s it about?

A newly-single singer-songwriter and a one-successful music producer meet by chance, and eventually set out to record an entire album live in spots around the city. Her ex, a star on the rise, makes a radio-friendly version of a delicate song she wrote for him, worsening their relationship but fuelling her heartbroken, plaintive songwriting.


Why should you watch it?

John Carney’s follow-up to the surprisingly successful Once, this film comes across as less show-string in its budget, but no less charming in its simplistic approach to music and storytelling. Knightley has a lovely singing voice, and the songs themselves are effective, moving pieces that make it easy to understand why Ruffalo’s producer would fall under their spell. As human as Once if on a slightly grander scale, Begin Again cemented Carney as more than a one-film wonder.


Annette


Who’s in it, and why do you know them?

Adam Driver (Marriage Story, Star Wars franchise), Marion Cottilard (La Vie en Rose, Assassin’s Creed)


What’s it about?

An increasingly controversial (and increasingly less successful) stand-up comic weds a world-famous soprano, only to become increasingly jealous of her ongoing success while he stays home with their new-born daughter. In a drunken moment of passion, forcing Ann to dance with him, Henry is left a single father when she falls from their boat – Ann’s spirit leaves her voice to baby Annette, so that the memory of what he’s done can haunt Henry in her absence.


Why should you watch it?

An exciting, if somewhat confusing, experimentation in filmmaking, Annette finds Driver giving a career-best performance in this genre-bending rock-opera. Where Cotillard makes exquisite use of her shorter screentime, Driver makes Henry’s fracturing mental state ring true despite the absurdity of (stay with me) baby Annette being portrayed by a marionette, and a score by Sparks keeping the piece’s emotions at a constant, frantic high.


Valley Girl


Who’s in it, and why do you know them?

Jessica Rothe (Happy Death Day, La La Land), Josh Whitehouse (Poldark, Daisy Jones & The Six), Mae Whitman (The DUFF, Good Girls), Alicia Silverstone (Clueless, Batman & Robin)


What’s it about?

A remake of the Nicholas Cage-starring cult classic, this time as a jukebox musical with 80s hits as the soundtrack. A typical valley girl and a typical punk fall for one another and try to navigate a romance that neither freidn group agrees with, and to connect their two differing worlds in the Los Angeles of yesteryear.


Why should you watch it?

While it won’t replace the original in the hearts of its fans, this Valley Girl is silly, peppy fun that knows exactly what it is. If you begin to think this may be a film that takes itself at all seriously, wait another minute as I’m sure the yoga class mashup of “Tainted Love”, “I Can’t Go for That”, and “Material Girl” is right around the corner. Somehow, despite being brazenly and openly stupid, this is one of the most fun films I’ve seen in recent years.


Goddess


Who’s in it, and why do you know them?

Laura Michelle Kelly (Mary Poppins), Ronan Keating (of Boyzone fame), Magda Szubanski (Babe, Kath & Kim)

What’s it about?

A lonely housewife with only her baby for company begins to host livestreams from her kitchen sing, where her original songs begin to capture the world’s attention. Soon she is finding the pressures of the industry daunting and caught between being unable to let down her fans but not able to spend the time she’d so desperately wanted with her busy husband.


Why should you watch it?

Laura Michelle Kelly is an absolute delight as struggling Elspeth, who only wants to feel a little less alone. The songs vary from cutesy and forgettable to numbers that will stick in your head, like her business-woman fantasy piece, “Corporate Bitch”, and Szubanski brings her considerable comic talents to a fun take on the typical sleazy music exec. No, it’s not a work of art, but I often find myself wanting to revisit Elspeth’s kitchen sink.


God Help the Girl


Who’s in it, and why do you know them?

Emily Browning (Pompei, American Gods), Olly Alexander (It’s a Sin, vocalist for Years & Years), Hannah Murray (Skins)


What’s it about?

Eve checks herself out of her rehabilitation clinic after meeting likeminded musician James, having decided that the pursuit of art will be enough to keep the constant strain of her disordered eating under control. Enlisting one of his guitar students, they form the titular band and all seems well, until their flawed personalities and questionable decisions come back to bite them.


Why should you watch it?

A mostly breezy romp through Glasgow courtesy of Belle and Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch, there is a lot of emotional depth hidden within these chatacters’ pseudo-intellectual discussions of pop music and fluffy, conversational lyricism. While a tad blunt on its more weighty subjects, God Help the Girlis carried by its charming leads and clear reverence for music as an artform.


Anna and The Apocalypse


Who’s in it, and why do you know them?

Ella Hunt (Dickinson, Lyric Hammersmith’s Closer), Ben Wiggins (season 4 of You), Mark Benton (Waterloo Road), (Game of Thrones, Vera)


What’s it about?

As Christmas nears in a small village in Scotland, Anna’s reluctance to decide on whether to attend university has to be set aside as a zombie outbreak shuts down the local businesses and traps her friends in the arcade and their parents in the school across town, leaving the kids to fight their way there.


Why should you watch it?

A ridiculous blend of genres that absolutely should not work, Anna and The Apocalypse showcases likable, largely unknown young performers and catchy, deliberately campy pop tunes alongside a sometimes genuinely moving story about the relationships we build and risk losing with friends and with parents as we come of age. Hunt, sensational in last summer’s Closer revival, is a strong vocalist, and the ensemble all sell the High School Musical­­-meets-Shaun of the Dead silliness required.


And that brings our list to nice, round 10. If you think there are other movie musicals (I've leaned towards originals, but smaller scale adaptations can be a delight!) or you feel I've snubbed your favourite comfort movie, please do let us know! (What's done is done, but whose to say I won't get enough suggestions for a whole second list?)

All videos used are the property of their respective copyright holders.


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