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The 30 best film-to-musical adaptations

We rank the 30 top musicals that made the leap from movie screens to Broadway and Off Broadway stages

Musicals adapted from movies (not to be confused with musical movies) are a common sight on Broadway these days. Some purists treat this trend as nigh apocalyptic, but classic shows have always been adapted from other sources: books, plays and even, yes, films. We've combed the history of the latter category to devise this list of the 30 all-time best movie-based musicals, with trailers for the original films tacked on as a bonus. Our criteria varied, but relevant factors included: staying faithful or making improvements to the source; cleverly translating a story from the language of cinema to that of musicals; and working on its own terms as theater. Some shows that might seem to belong on this list couldn't technically qualify—such as La Cage aux Folles (based on Jean Poiret's play) or The Light in the Piazza (based on Elizabeth Spencer's novel)—while others just barely missed the cut. What are your favorite movie-theater hybrids?

RECOMMENDED: Find every musical on Broadway right now

30
Silence! The Musical (2005)

Silence! The Musical (2005)

Goofy, spoofy adaptations of films that have no business being musicals—Jurassic ParkDebbie Does DallasThe Evil Dead, etc.—are a staple of the Fringe Festival and other scrappy showcases. Among the best of them was this silly-smart takeoff on The Silence of the Lambs, with a book by [title of show]'s Hunter Bell and starring the hilarious Jenn Harris as sibilant-impaired FBI agent Clarice Starling.—Adam Feldman

29
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1982)

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1982)

A wholesome rustic musical predicated on dubious sexual mores—the plot centers on a family of hicks who are civilized by the gals they have kidnapped to marry—this tuneful adaptation of the 1954 movie lasted just five performances on Broadway. But subsequent rewrites have made it a favorite of regional and community theaters.—Adam Feldman

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28
Monty Python's Spamalot (2005)

Monty Python's Spamalot (2005)

Eric Idle "lovingly ripped off" the classic 1975 comedy Monty Python and the Holy Grail by taking a couple of favorite Python tunes—"Knights of the Round Table" from Holy Grail and "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life from The Life of Brian—and spinning a show around them (with additional songs by him and John DuPrez). Although not as funny or anarchic as the Python original, Spamalot was catnip for the fanboys.—David Cote

27
Aladdin (2014)

Aladdin (2014)

The genie voiced by Robin Williams in Disney’s 1992 animated smash had Broadway in his DNA: His look was inspired by the drawings of Al Hirschfeld. Although that quality could not be captured onstage, the 2014 musical did an admirable job of translating the genie’s hyperactive antics into musical-theater flair, especially in the mega-showstopper “Friend Like Me.”—Adam Feldman

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26
An American in Paris (2015)

An American in Paris (2015)

Doing justice to Vincente Minnelli’s 1951 movie musical was never going to be easy. But director and ballet master Christopher Wheeldon assembled an impressive creative team: Playwright Craig Lucas added post-WWII psychological grit, and Bob Crowley’s scenery was gorgeous. Add to that Wheeldon’s lovely steps to George Gershwin’s swoony music, and you could easily forget the film for a couple of hours.David Cote

25
Newsies (2012)

Newsies (2012)

Disney’s original live-action musical, about a strike by New York newsboys in 1899, was a critical and commercial flop in 1992, even earning five Razzie nominations—but in next two decades, it earned an enthusiastic cult following. The Broadway version, successfully retooled and dynamically choreographed, starred Jeremy Jordan in the role originated by Christian Bale.—Adam Feldman

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24
Carnival! (1961)

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.—Adam Feldman

23
Kinky Boots (2013)

Kinky Boots (2013)

Harvey Fierstein, who wrote the book for La Cage Aux Folles in 1983, had another big drag-queen hit on Broadway 30 years later with this feel-good tale of a drag queen who saves a failing English shoe factory. Pop idol and first-time musical-theater composer Cyndi Lauper cobbled up a batch of boppy toe-tappers, and became the first solo woman to win a Tony Award for Best Score.—Adam Feldman

21
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (2005)

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (2005)

Composer-lyricist David Yazbek's second film-to-musical project adapted the 1988 caper-comedy starring Steve Martin and Michael Caine. Taking his cue from the story's Riviera setting, Yazbek wrote a bunch of bouncy, cocktail-hour numbers that borrowed from Europop, swinging big band and brassy show tunes. Henry Mancini's theme to The Pink Panther seemed woven into the DNA of the score. Norbert Leo Butz easily stole the show in the Martin role, bringing the house down with the ode to greed, "Great Big Stuff."—David Cote

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