Pensacola News Journal
10 best movie musicals you can watch free at home, including Gypsy & West Side Story
By Patrick Ryan
April 11, 2020
If you’re fans of musical theater like us, you’ve probably spent your quarantine digging up old cast albums, watching Tony Awards performances on YouTube and waiting for Patti LuPone to give us another guided tour of her amazing basement on Twitter.
But we’ve also spent this time revisiting some of our favorite movie musicals, many of which offer much-needed hope and light when it seems like everything around us is falling apart. Although you’ll need to rent or buy old and modern classics such as “Singin’ in the Rain,” “Cabaret” and “Chicago,” we’ve rounded up 10 excellent, emotional and entertaining movie musicals that are available to stream during self-isolation.
‘West Side Story’ (1961)
With dozens of movies vacating or shuffling their release dates, and no sign of theaters reopening any time soon, we’re not holding our breath for Steven Spielberg’s highly anticipated “West Side Story” to arrive on schedule Dec. 18, starring Ansel Elgort and newcomer Rachel Zegler as star-crossed lovers Tony and Maria. So in the meantime, tide yourselves over with the glorious 10-time Oscar-winning original. Cringey casting of the white Natalie Wood as the Puerto Rican Maria aside, it’s arguably the best shot movie musical ever, with a timeless score chock full of heart-tugging classics including “Somewhere,” “Something’s Coming,” “Maria” and “Tonight.”
Streaming on Starz with subscription (sign up for 7-day free trial)
‘The Great Muppet Caper’ (1981)
With so many beloved movie musicals on Disney+ – “The Sound of Music,” “Mary Poppins” and “Newsies,” among them – you’re probably wondering why we’re including this oddball Muppets mystery musical comedy, especially when the heartwarming original “The Muppet Movie” is right there. But we recently discovered “The Great Muppet Caper” and genuinely didn’t stop laughing from start to finish, with ingenious one-liners and silly callbacks as Kermit and the gang try to stop a jewel heist. Plus, watching Miss Piggy perform a fantasy swimming pool number straight out of a Busby Berkeley movie is inspired.
Streaming on Disney+ with subscription (sign up for 7-day free trial)
‘Funny Girl’ (1968)
Barbra Streisand gives the very definition of a star performance in this irresistible movie musical, for which she won the best actress Oscar. From her iconic opening line “Hello, gorgeous,” Streisand deftly juggles comedy and drama as she embodies pioneering Jewish comedian Fanny Brice. Many people complain that the film’s second half drags, but we’re generally so swept up by all of the first part’s thrilling songs – “People,” “Don’t Rain on My Parade” and “I’m the Greatest Star,” to name a few – that we’re willing to cut it some slack.
Streaming free on Crackle (no subscription needed)
‘Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street’ (2007)
Grisly horror meets Hot Topic in Tim Burton’s darkly stylish adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s musical about a vengeful barber (Johnny Depp) whose victims are literally baked into pies by the besotted Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter) in Victorian-era London. It’s one of Depp’s last great performances before a streak of truly abysmal movies in years since, and Burton’s refusal to shy away from the story’s shocking bloodiness only make it more fun to watch through your fingers.
Streaming on Netflix with subscription (sign up for 30-day free trial)
‘Fiddler on the Roof’ (1971)
One of the greatest movies, musical or not, ever made. Topol stars as poor Jewish milkman Tevye at the turn of the 20th century, struggling to hold onto tradition, his daughters and humble Ukrainian village of Anatevka under the encroaching threat of the czarist Russian regime. Lovable characters, sweeping orchestrations, memorable songs and devastating performances make “Fiddler” impossible to top.
Streaming on FuboTV with subscription (sign up for 7-day free trial)
‘Little Shop of Horrors’ (1986)
With reports circulating of a seemingly miscast remake starring Taron Egerton (“Rocketman”) and Scarlett Johansson, we can’t help but get nostalgic for Frank Oz’s delightful film, which – happy ending aside – is a nearly perfect adaptation of this offbeat pop musical. Original Off-Broadway star Ellen Greene’s endearing performance as battered love interest Audrey is immortalized here, as is Steve Martin’s larger-than-life turn as a maniacal dentist who meets his end by a blood-starved Venus flytrap.
Streaming on Cinemax with subscription (sign up for 7-day free trial)
Bette Midler has been our personal quarantine savior, with “Beaches,” “The First Wives Club” and “Hocus Pocus” all bringing us indescribable amounts of joy these last few weeks. Watching Midler dig her teeth into ultimate stage mom Mama Rose in this made-for-TV “Gypsy” is a treat, and Cynthia Gibb is a force as wallflower-turned-burlesque star Gypsy Rose Lee. (Added bonus: A 10-year-old Elisabeth Moss makes a brief appearance, singing and dancing as Rose’s young daughter Baby Louise.)
Streaming on BroadwayHD with subscription (sign up for 7-day free trial)
‘The Umbrellas of Cherbourg’ (1964)
Writer/director Damien Chazelle drew heavily from this French-language, entirely sung-through movie musical when he made 2016’s Oscar-winning “La La Land.” But while “La La Land” failed to stick the landing emotionally, we were weeping by the end of Jacques Demy’s far superior “Umbrellas,” an eye-poppingly colorful film about a naive shopgirl (Catherine Deneuve) and handsome auto mechanic (Nino Castelnuovo) torn apart by war.
Streaming on Criterion Channel with subscription (sign up for 14-day free trial)
‘Moulin Rouge!’ (2001)
Admittedly, we’re not quite as smitten with Baz Luhrmann’s exhaustingly gaudy spectacle as most. (Hot take: We actually prefer the streamlined yet still dazzling stage adaptation that arrived on Broadway last summer.) That said, the chemistry between Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman as doomed bohemian lovebirds is undeniable, and the mashed-up pop soundtrack of Elton John, Madonna and David Bowie favorites gives us chills.
Streaming on HBO Go and HBO Now with subscription (sign up for 7-day free trial)
‘The Wiz’ (1978)
With “The Wizard of Oz” sadly absent from streaming, you can’t go wrong with the next best thing. A box-office flop but now-charming cult classic, “The Wiz” tells the familiar story of Dorothy (Diana Ross), a timid Harlem schoolteacher who’s whisked away to the Land of Oz, where she befriends the Scarecrow (Michael Jackson), Tin Man (Nipsey Russell) and Cowardly Lion (Ted Ross). Featuring a catchy score and stacked all-black cast that also includes Richard Pryor, Lena Horne and Mabel King, “The Wiz” is the movie musical equivalent of comfort food during these uncertain times.
Streaming on Starz with subscription (sign up for 7-day free trial)