Jersey Boys and the Five Greatest Movie Musicals of This Century

Categories: Film and TV

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Keith Bernstein
Frankie Valli (Young) and Tommy DeVito (Piazza) square off in Jersey Boys.
It's a great time to be a fan of movie musicals. Since the year 2000, theaters across the country have been filled with movies built to inspire audiences to gleefully sing along. Some disasters have come along the way -- Les Misérables, Phantom of the Opera, and Rock of Ages among others -- but there have been plenty of real gems, too. The trend continues this year with not just one, but three adaptations that could prove to be gems on film.

There's the Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons jukebox musical Jersey Boys, opening this Friday. And off in the distance are the Quvenzhané Wallis-starring adaptation of Annie, along with Rob Marshall's Into the Woods. Each has its positives and negatives, but if you're a lover of the genre, it's impossible to not have some kind of hope in them.

But in light of Jersey Boys' release this weekeknd, we're looking at the recent history of stage musical adaptations. From the stage to the screen (which is the only reason I'm not including the magnificent filming of Sondheim's Company starring Raúl Esparza), here are the best of the best.

See also: Eastwood's Jersey Boys Walk Like Jersey Men

5. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
I'll be the first person to jump aboard the "Tim Burton's gotta get some better material in his life soon" train, but if we're talking (mostly) live-action films, Sweeney Todd was easily his last greatest hit. Some people think Burton went too far into his own aesthetic in this film, but the narrative of Sweeney Todd is perfectly suited for his darkly comic, fantastical style. The macabre musical has enough humor shoved into it to mesh well with a couple of over the top performances, and Depp matches the pitch black darkness of it with every bit of broodiness he can muster up. It's flawed, no doubt, but no one's ever made a perfect Sondheim adaptation; this one comes about as close as you can get.

4. Mamma Mia
Smack talk Mamma Mia! all you want, but I'll be damned if I don't spend the rest of my life defending this one. If the intent of a musical is to deliver nothing but a good time, this is the one that hits that goal better than the rest. I saw it four times in theaters. Half of those were the sing-along editions. But seriously, critics' complaints about this film's singers not being the most professionally trained human beings alive get so tiresome after a while. It's practically impossible to listen to an ABBA song and not want to get up and dance (or sob with Meryl Streep if it's "The Winner Takes It All"), so stop bashing it and just go become the "Dancing Queen."

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2 comments
keithjam
keithjam

Obviously you haven't seen Once.  It is better than any of these films and later adapted into a broadway musical that won a ton of Tony's.  

Teresa Vivero
Teresa Vivero

Are you kidding me? I stopped reading when you included Mamma Mia in the "good" list. I should've known what to expect when you put Les Miserable in the "disasters" section. That was one of the best films of 2012. Ugh.

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