It wasn’t a banner year for musical films, but there were more than enough to compose a list of the top ten movies that told their stories through fully realized song and dance moments – both the non-diegetic (musicalized dialogue) and the diegetic (nightclub numbers).
1. Carol Channing: Larger Than Life (Jan. 20). OK … not technically a musical but a documentary about a musical icon with plenty of musical moments. Director Dori Berinstein beautifully captures the spirit of the incomparable diva. With generous clips from Hello, Dolly! and other stage landmarks, we get a wonderful peek inside Broadway’s Golden Age as seen through the life of one of its true legends.
2. Pitch Perfect (Sep. 28). Rival groups fight their way to the top of the cutthroat world of college a cappella. It’s Glee meets Medea. Anna Camp, Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow, and Rebel Wilson star as the singing divas. Best numbers: The Bellas in “No Diggity” and The Treblemakers in “Right Round.”
3. Les Misérables (Dec. 25). It may not be the best sounding version of Victor Hugo’s classic but it is surely the most visually stunning. Hugh Jackman leads the cast as ex-convict Jean Valjean struggling to survive during the French revolution, co-starring Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Russell Crowe, and Sacha Baron Cohen.
4. The Brooklyn Brothers Beat the Best (Sep. 21). This indie film deserved a wider following. Recently dumped by his girlfriend, underachiever Alex embarks on an impromptu road trip with new bandmate Jim. Ryan O’Nan (who composed most of the songs) and Michael Weston star as the singing duo who persist through a series of bizarre gigs and multiple near-disasters on this coming-of-age journey.
5. Sparkle (Aug. 17). This remake of the 1976 Irene Cara vehicle, which was loosely based on the story of The Supremes, may not be as good as the similarly inspired Dreamgirls, but Carmen Ejogo, Derek Luke, Jordin Sparks, Mike Epps, and Whitney Houston (in her last film appearance) do provide some knockout musical performances.
6. The Lorax (Mar. 2). This animated fable, about a grumpy but charming creature who fights to protect his world, has been somewhat over-expanded from the original tale, but John Powell has written some charming songs. Danny DeVito stars as the Lorax, with Zac Efron as Ted and Ed Helms as the Once-ler.
7. Rock of Ages (June 15). This adaptation of the Broadway musical is the story of small town girl and city boy who meet on the Sunset Strip while pursuing their Hollywood dreams. Don’t look for deep drama here, just relish in the Eighties hair band rock ‘n’ roll performed by Alec Baldwin, Bryan Cranston, Diego Boneta, Julianne Hough, and Tom Cruise.
8. The Last Ride (June 22). Former child star Henry Thomas stars as Hank Williams Sr. in this gritty musical biopic. After his meteoric rise to stardom and the collapse of his personal life, Williams begins the long road back to make things right during a final drive through the bleak Appalachian countryside.
9. Joyful Noise (Jan. 13). The small town of Pacashau, Georgia, has fallen on hard times, but the people are counting on the Divinity Church Choir to lift their spirits by winning the National Joyful Noise Competition. Yes, it’s a bit cheesy but how can you go too far wrong with Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah? Best number: “From Here to the Moon and Back” from Parton.
10. Step Up: Revolution (July 27). When a wealthy business man threatens to develop their historic neighborhood and displace thousands of people, Emily joins Sean in a display of choreographed protest art. Kathryn McCormick and Ryan Guzman star in this predictable tale with kick-ass dancing.