“To start off saying ‘musical, musical, musical,’ you have the potential to turn off audiences. I want everyone to be equally excited.” 

Those are the words of Paramount president of global marketing and distribution Marc Weinstock, explaining to Variety why his company made the decision to obscure the fact that their new version of Mean Girls was actually a musical in most of the film’s trailers and ads.

“We didn’t want to run out and say it’s a musical,” Weinstock added, “because people tend to treat musicals differently. This movie is a broad comedy with music.”

Call me crazy, but I feel like a really good word to describe a “broad comedy with music” is a musical. But what do I know? Definitely not much! And certainly less about marketing than Marc Weinstock. His strategy paid off, as Mean Girls opened in theaters to $32 million, nearly earning back its entire budget in less than a week of release.

Mean Girls

In explaining that strategy, Weinstock also noted that you can see the same thinking in the trailers for Wonka and The Color Purple, two more recent musicals that minimized (if not outright hid) their true musical nature from prospective ticket buyers — something I noticed and wrote about here at ScreenCrush a few months ago.

Right now I’m less interested in the reasons why studios are doing this. (I assume they think that musicals don’t sell tickets after West Side StoryDear Evan Hansen, and In the Heights flopped.) And while I would love to know why studios are making musicals in the first place if they think audiences don’t want to watch them, let’s table that part of the conversation for now, too.

Instead, let’s focus on these people who supposedly don’t like musicals. Now, I have heard enough anecdotal stories to believe that there are moviegoers out there who feel this way. (More than one person who saw Mean Girls in theaters told me they witnessed audible groans from other audience members when characters started singing and they realized they’d been hoodwinked into seeing a movie where people [GASP] sing!)

What I don’t believe is that anyone who has been introduced to the right musicals would still dislike them.

Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

Because musicals are beautiful. Like great action movies, they take advantage of the unique pleasure of watching bodies in motion on screen. You might think you’re not a fan of musicals; I happen to believe you’re just not a fan of musicals yet. 

And so below I have collected a list of 12 musicals I think can turn any musical hater into a musical fan. There isn’t a single title on this list based on a Broadway show. In most cases, the singing onscreen is motivated by the characters’ jobs or interests. In other cases, the worlds of these films are so fantastical that it’s really no great leap for the characters to to burst into song.

(For the record: I love musicals based on Broadway shows, and I have no issue when singing in movies isn’t motivated by plot. But I can see how they can feel odd.)

Here are 12 movie musicals to watch if you want to fall in love with musicals... and then keep scrolling for a sampling of musical scenes from each of my picks. I think they all have the potential to turn on audiences. I want everyone to be equally excited.

The Best Movie Musicals For People Who Hate Movie Musicals

These movies are so great they might turn a musical skeptic into a believer.

BONUS: A Selection of Scenes From These Great Musicals

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