Our top five underrated musical movies

Musicals season is here – these are the ones you’re missing out on…

We are now in the full swing of the British Film Institute’s Musicals Season. The season started in October of this year, but doesn’t end till January 2020. It aims to celebrate the singing, dancing, and glorious technicolour that is so prevalent in the movie-musical. Showings of classic movie musicals will run all over the country, with listings including Grease, Cabaret, and The Wizard of Oz.

Now, I’m all for celebrating the movie musical. Anything that pushes musical theatre further into the limelight is fine with me, but I must admit, the list of films being shown misses out a couple that I think should not be missed. So yes, while I love A Star Is Born and Guy and Dolls as much as the next theatre fan, here are some sorely underrated movie musicals that should be on your must-see list this BFI Musicals Season.

Image credit: Radius-TWC

The Last Five Years (2014)

This film starring Pitch Perfect’s Anna Kendrick alongside Broadway and Supergirl star Jeremy Jordan is the movie adaptation of Jason Robert Brown’s off-Broadway hit of the same name. The story follows a couple over five years from the time they meet, to when they get married, to when they eventually divorce – but don’t worry, that’s no spoiler.

One of the most enticing aspects of this musical is that it is told in two orders simultaneously. Cathy (Kendrick), a struggling musical theatre actress, opens the movie at the end of the relationship, telling the story in reverse order. Meanwhile Jamie (Jordan) tells the story of their love chronologically. It makes for an interesting and heart-wrenching watch, to see one person falling in love as the other falls out of love. It’s a story that will make you feel warm, but also make you ugly-cry, and with such talented singers as Kendrick and Jordan, what more could you want?

Image credit: Metrodome

God Help the Girl (2014)

I’m not going to pretend this film is perfect. It is a far cry from film mastery but, as so many musical films are, it is so full of charm and talent that you can’t help but love it. Preceded by what is essentially a concept album written by Stuart Murdoch, God Help the Girl stars Emily Browning as Eve, a girl with anorexia nervosa, who escapes the hospital she’s being treated in and runs away to Glasgow with hopes of becoming a musician.

There she meets James, played Olly Alexander of Years and Years fame, who introduces her to his guitar student Cassie, played by Hannah Murray from Skins. The three form a band, named ‘God Help the Girl’. Though some more cold-hearted viewers may consider the film as awfully predictable, the film is carried by the sweeping music and generous sentimentality.

Image credit: Lionsgate

Sing Street (2016)

Sing Street is a criminally underrated film. Set in Ireland in the 1980s, after starting a new school, a boy nicknamed Cosmo (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) creates a band to impress wannabe model Raphina, played by the stunning Lucy Boynton, who I seem to notice in every film after seeing her in Bohemian Rhapsody.

The film is the definition of ‘feel-good’. It makes you laugh, cry and has an ending that will make the hardest of hearts swell. (Though, that seems to be a common theme running through these films.) The movie is backed by a soundtrack full of familiar 80s tunes, but also extremely catchy originals performed by the mostly unknown cast that’ll leave you humming for days.

Image credit: Universal

Crybaby (1990)

Johnny Depp stars as teen rebel Wade ‘Crybaby’ Walker who is part of a group of delinquents called ‘The Drapes’, who are the opposites of another group known as ‘The Squares’. In true Romeo and Juliet fashion, there is uproar when Crybaby and Allison, a Square, fall in love.

Written and directed by John Waters, director of the original Hairspray film, Crybaby packs a cheesy, 1950s punch, with one of the plot points being that Johnny Depp’s character has been so hurt he can only cry from one eye. While the soundtrack isn’t the most memorable, especially considering neither of the two lead actors actually sang on it, the infectious gleeful energy is plenty to make this movie musical enough of a cult classic to scratch that Grease-loving itch.

Image credit: Entertainment Film Distributors

Sunshine on Leith (2013)

Lord knows why so many good movie musicals are of the rom-com variety, but here’s another one, this time blustered by the music of The Proclaimers. The story follows Davy (George MacKay) and Ally (Kevin Guthrie), childhood best friends, learning to readjust to life back home in Edinburgh after serving in Afghanistan.

I’m not ashamed to say I cried during the first 15 minutes of this film. Thankfully, you’ll spend the rest of it wishing it would go on and on. Because for every heart-breaking moment, there are five that make you smile like a love-happy clown. Whilst I never pictured the songs of The Proclaimers in a musical, it works in all the right ways. When the cast performs song after song, it feels as though they were written to be sung in a musical. One thing is for sure, you’ll never sing along to I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) the same again.

By Robbie Nichols

Feature image credit: LouiseKiely Casting

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