The 25 best film-to-musical adaptations

Our top transfers from the silver screen to the Great White Way.

  • Thoroughly Modern Millie (2002)

    Thoroughly Modern Millie (2002)

  • Sunset Boulevard (1995)

    Sunset Boulevard (1995)

  • Mamma Mia! (2001)

    Mamma Mia! (2001)

  • Carnival! (1961)

    Carnival! (1961)

  • Xanadu (2007)

    Xanadu (2007)

Thoroughly Modern Millie (2002)

Thoroughly Modern Millie (2002)

20. Thoroughly Modern Millie (2002)
Twenty-first-century Broadway darling Sutton Foster made her first big splash as the flustered but determined 1920s heroine of this utterly retro throwback to the romps of yesteryear. While the musical's plot is winkingly lifted from its 1967 film source, the peppy new score is mostly new, and songwriters Jeanine Tesori and Dick Scanlan ably capture a period air of urgent aspiration.—AF

19. Sunset Boulevard (1995)
A rather grand adaptation of Billy Wilder's classic 1950 takedown of deranged Hollywood grandeur, Sunset Boulevard is composer Andrew Lloyd Webber's last quasi-successful Broadway musical to date. The original production's behind-the-scenes drama—London star Patti LuPone was replaced with Glenn Close for New York—may have upstaged the show itself, but the role of washed-up silent-film queen Norma Desmond is an all-you-can-eat buffet for scenery-chewing divas.—AF

18. Mamma Mia! (2001)
Although the Toni Collette chick flick Muriel's Wedding prominently features ABBA songs, the basic plot to this global phenomenon was borrowed from the Gina Lollobrigida sex farce Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell (1968). In it, the Italian bombshell strings along three American ex-GIs who slept with her in the final days of WWII. Mamma Mia! retained the "I have three possible dads" concept, moved the action to Greece and showered the mother-daughter bonding tale with ABBA's insanely danceable hits.—DC

17. Carnival! (1961)
Like most shows involving puppetry, Bob Merrill and Michael Stewart's adaptation of the Leslie Caron vehicle Lili (1953) requires a sensitive hand. This portrait of a pretty young orphan and a bitter, disabled carnie who hides his feelings for her behind his puppets can be a charmer when done right though, as it proved in its 2002 Encores! concert staging, with Anne Hathaway as a lulu of a Lili.—AF

16. Xanadu (2007)
Playwright Douglas Carter Beane's sparkling camp frolic builds a guilty-pleasure palace from the ruins of a ludicrous 1980 Olivia Newton-John flick about a roller-skating Greek muse. Illuminated by a bright Electric Light Orchestra score, and by original stars Kerry Butler (as an Aussie goddess) and Cheyenne Jackson (as the California himbo she loves), this affectionate send-up of Hollywood schlock is swell on wheels.—AF

Users say

3 comments
David
David

Alright, own up. Who had the putrid taste to think Mamma Mia qualified as good, but that Toxic Avenger should be skipped over? Come on, out with it.

Sandee
Sandee

Oh God, how could I forget: My Fair Lady (from Pygmalion)

Sandee
Sandee

Oh you youg'uns have no sense of history: Oklahoma (from Green Grow the Lilacs) Carousel (from Lilliom) Purlie (from Purlie Victorious) A Little Night Music (from Smiles of a Summer Night) West Side Story (from Romeo and Juliet)