The 25 best film-to-musical adaptations

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

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  • Passion (1994)

    Passion (1994)

  • Nine (1982)

    Nine (1982)

  • Billy Elliot (2005)

    Billy Elliot (2005)

  • The Producers (2001)

    The Producers (2001)

  • Hairspray (2002)

    Hairspray (2002)

Passion (1994)

Passion (1994)

10. Passion (1994)
Love is an implacable disease, wasting and contagious, in Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's grim adaptation of the 1981 Italian film Passione d'Amore. Eschewing the composer's characteristic sense of irony, Sondheim's score is humorless and edged with self-pity. Yet this tale of a sickly woman who stalks a handsome soldier has the power nonetheless to linger in the listener like a virus.—AF

9. Nine (1982)
Devotees of Federico Fellini's surreal cinematic classic 8 1/2 (1963) probably never got past the title of its Broadway version. See, it's hard to rhyme neatly with "eight and a half," so composer-lyricist Maury Yeston changed it to Nine. Arthur Kopit's book focused on the women in capricious filmmaker Guido Contini's life, making it less about modernity and Catholic guilt and more about a misunderstood, womanizing artist.—DC

8. Billy Elliot (2005)
The story of a working-class English boy set free by ballet had one of the quicker turnarounds from screen to stage. That's partly due to the fact that Stephen Daldry directed both the 2000 film and its musical reincarnation. The raw materials of the screenplay were naturally mined by Daldry, book writer Lee Hall and tunesmith Elton John: plenty of narrative-pushing dance numbers and a score filled with blue-collar anthems, pop and a slice of Tchaikovsky.—DC

7. The Producers (2001)
Mel Brooks's adaptation of his 1968 cult film—about sleazy producers who plot to mount a catastrophic flop but accidentally put the hit in Hitler—drove audiences to frenzies of laughter, set off bidding wars for tickets and won more Tonys than any other show in history (including one for the great Nathan Lane). After having bottomed out in the purple reign of British pop megamusicals, American musical comedy was back in business with a vengeance.—AF

6. Hairspray (2002)
There's a very fine line (a hairbreadth, you might say) between bad-taste kitsch and Broadway brilliance, and this bouffant, pop-driven take on the 1988 John Waters film crossed the line with manic exuberance. Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman's joyous, bubblegum score and Jack O'Brien's candy-colored production dialed back some of the cheeky subversion of the film, but a cross-dressed Harvey Fierstein maintained its camp cred.—DC

Users say

4 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)