AJFF Recommends: What to Watch, Movie Musicals


When a character's emotions are too powerful for words, they are compelled to break into song. Here are some of our favorite movie musicals. Film titles are linked with information on where to watch.

This 1972 classic about a love triangle falling apart against the rise of the Nazi party and the collapse of the Weimar Republic won 8 Academy Awards. The film is based on the 1966 Broadway musical Cabaret by Kander and Ebb, which was adapted from the novel The Berlin Stories / Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood and the 1951 play I Am a Camera adapted from the eponymous book. In 1995, the film was the ninth live-action musical film selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States National Film Registry, being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

Fiddler on the Roof
The film, produced and directed by Norman Jewison, is an American musical comedy-drama and an adaptation of the 1964 Broadway musical of the same name, with music composed by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, and screenplay by Joseph Stein. The decision to cast Topol, instead of Zero Mostel, who originated the role on Broadway, as Tevye was a somewhat controversial one at the time; but Jewison noted that he felt while Mostel's larger-than-life personality was well suited for the stage, it would cause film audiences to see him as Zero Mostel, rather than the character of Tevye. For the role of Tevye, Topol was nominated for Best Actor.

Funny Girl
This triumphant, Oscar-winning big-screen debut of Barbra Streisand, is the musical, rags-to-riches tale of a young ugly duckling with a relentless drive to be a Broadway star. In a watershed role that launched her to superstardom, Streisand is funny and heartbreaking as the comedian and singer Fanny Brice, plucked from obscurity in New York’s Lower East Side to headline the Ziegfeld Follies. Fame, riches and adoration follow, as does a bittersweet marriage to charming gambler Nick Arnstein (Omar Sharif), whose shady business deals threaten a scandal. Director William Wyler’s colorful adaptation of the smash Broadway show was nominated for 8 Academy Awards including Best Picture, with Streisand’s famous “Hello, gorgeous” opening line ranked among the greatest movie quotes. Featured as a classic in the 2018 AJFF.

Hello, Dolly!
The classic musical, adapted first from Thornton Wilder's play and then Broadway musical, came to movie theatres in 1969 starring Barbra Streisand, who had recently won the Oscar for Funny Girl. The plot centers around resident matchmaker Dolly Levi as she travels to Yonkers, New York to find a match for the millionaire Horace Vandergelder. The lavish movie musical, directed by Gene Kelly, also stars Walter Matthau and a young Michael Crawford, who would later go on to originate the title role in The Phantom of the Opera.

The Producers
The 2005 American musical comedy film directed by Susan Stroman and written by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan is based on the 2001 Broadway musical, which in turn was based on Brooks's 1967 film of the same name starring Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder. The film features many from the Broadway cast including Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. Lane won a Tony Award for his portrayal of washed-up producer Max Bialystock.

A group of several Bohemians and their struggles with sexuality, drugs, paying their rent, and life under the shadow of AIDS are seen through the lens of Mark Cohen, a struggling Jewish filmmaker. This 2005 American musical drama film is directed by Chris Columbus and is an adaptation of the 1996 Broadway musical of the same name, which is also based on Giacomo Puccini's opera La Bohème. The film features six of the original Broadway cast members reprising their roles.