One of our favorite genres in film, television, and stage is the musical. Whether the storyline is tragic like Les Miserables or comedic like Funny Girl, there is something about a well sung catchy song and dance number that takes the viewer somewhere they couldn’t reach with any other genre.
There are instances where a film is not necessarily under the category of “musical” but they include a musical number that just blows us away.
Here is a list of ten favorite musical numbers.
10 – “Putting On the Ritz” – Young Frankenstein
This Mel Brooks comedy would never be found when Googing the word “musical.” Still, when Dr. Frankenstein organizes a demonstration to introduce his latest creation to a community that fears the past repeating itself.
Peter Boyle, as “The Creature”, and Gene Wilder, as Dr. Frankenstein, perform Irving Berlin’s “Putting on the Ritz.” While Dr. Frankenstein moves gracefully and sings the Creature is hilariously heavy footed and has not learned to speak yet.
Of course, this is a pivotal moment for Dr. Frankenstein and his creation. Just as they are about to win over the townsfolk with their rendition of the Berlin number, fire catches on stage and the Creature grows excited while Frankenstein loses control of him.
The most entertaining aspect of this number, besides the natural comedic chemistry between Boyle and Wilder, is the absurdity of it all. In a true scientific demonstration with a creature brought to life from reanimated tissue, a musical number would most likely be the last thing on their minds.
9 – “We Go Together” – Grease
Anyone who fell in love with this movie was rooting for Danny and Sandy to finally work through their social differences. We also wanted for Rizzo and Kenickie to get back together. Our hopes were for the gang to remain friends and everything to be tied up into a nice clean little bow.
We got what we want in We Go Together. This number closes the movie showing that all of our dreams for the kids at Rydell High School have come true. The best part is they show us by putting on an elaborate dance number with the entire cast of the movie.
They ride amusement park rides while clapping to the beat, they perform choreographed pieces that make you want to jump out of your seat, and they close it off with a yearbook and, for Danny and Sandy, a flying Greased Lighting to a life that will be lived happily ever after.
8 – “Good Mornin’” – Singing in the Rain
This musical about making a musical contains some of our favorite musical numbers of all time. This one features Debbie Reynolds, Gene Kelly, and Donald O’Connor. We can call it a triple threat with that trio of talent.
The number begins at the end of a long night discussing an upcoming project the three decide would work better as a musical. When Cosmo, O’Connor’s character, reminds them that it’s morning, Kathy, played by Reynolds, starts wishing them a “good mornin’!”
From there they take us through a delightful number based in tap and utilize the stairs, the furniture and their charming smiles to get our toes tapping along. One part they dance choreograph moves with the sleeves of raincoats and in the next they are all three overturning a sofa with their moves.
7 – “Welcome to the Sixties” – Hairspray
In this brilliant musical based on the original movie by John Waters, lead character Tracy Turnblad convinces her mother, played by John Travolta, to leave the house, which she hasn’t done in more than a decade.
Edna Turnblad, agrees and follows her daughter down the streets of Baltimore remarking in awe of all the changes she sees. All the while Tracy and her background of singers sing the song which is as catchy as any other pop tune written at the time the story is based.
They pass a bar and Edna remarks how glamorous the ladies in there look and as they leave we see the female drinkers and smokers are all pregnant.
After making their way to Mr. Pinky’s Hefty Hideaway and securing a contract with him for Tracy to be his spokesmodel, the pair make their way back onto the street where all the pedestrians join in the choreography.
An interesting tidbit of trivia is that the title and lyrics for the songs chorus are one line in the original version when Tracey, played by Ricki Lake, gets her mom, played by Divine, out of the house and simply says, “Welcome to the sixties.”
6 – “Tonight You Belong to Me” – The Jerk
This movie is not a musical, but it is easy to see our trend of comedies that use a musical number to get their point across. In this film Navin Johnson, played by Steve Martin, falls in love with Marie, portrayed by the talented Bernadette Peters.
In this particular scene Navin and Marie are walking along the beach at night singing a duet while he plays an ukulele. The melody and lyrics, particularly arranged the way Martin and Peters have in this number, are delightful and sad and sweet and heartbreaking. This is the scene where you know they are falling in love.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Steve Martin movie without a touch of the ridiculous. At the end of the number Bernadette Peters pulls out a bugle and begins to play it flawlessly in time with the melody. It’s this part that puts this musical number on our list today.
The horn is so bulky for such a dainty female lead and the facial expressions on Martin take it over the comedic top.
5. “Make ‘Em Laugh” – Singing in the Rain
This particular musical has so many great numbers it’s impossible to not give it two slots. The number we are speaking of is performed solo by the legendary artiste Donald O’Connor.
In this scene his character, Cosmo, is attempting to cheer up his friend Don, who is played by Gene Kelly. The number is what one might call slap-stick but we call it invigorating and the stuff legends are made of.
In his attempt to make Don laugh, Cosmo dances his way through a collection of stage hands trying to build a set. During his adventures around the studio Cosmo swims on a plank two men carry, that is until they force him off.
At one point he flirts with a dummy until that same inanimate figure seemingly attacks him. It is the sheer brilliance of Donald O’Connor that makes this scene work. His dance abilities combined with his comedic timing is unparalleled in this scene.
Of course, the scene ends with Cosmo running up the walls until he flips over again and again until he tires us out from watching.
4. “Rainbow Connection” – The Muppet Movie
No list of great musical numbers would be complete without Kermit and his touching melody that is forever embedded in our young hearts.
This musical movie opens with this number drawing us into the tale and travels of all the Muppets. The camera slowly ascends from the blue sky onto a swamp where we find our favorite green actor sitting on a log playing a banjo.
This song still brings and ache in our hearts and this scene is imperative in its sweetness and simplicity. Because after this lovely little musical number Kermit finds himself racing to California to become a star while trying to avoid the murderous Doc Hopper who wants our hero to be a spokesperson for his fried frog leg business.
3. “The Inquisition” – History of the World Part 1
Mel Brooks is the genius behind this musical number. While the whole movie is a group of mini stories set throughout history, this particular scene focuses on the Spanish Inquisition when higher ups in Catholicism tortured Jews, Muslims, and anyone who didn’t subscribe to their doctrine.
Yet, with such a dismal and depressing subject matter, Brooks takes us on a musical comedic journey like none other, he himself playing the notorious Torquemada. The tune is upbeat and reminiscent of a Busby Berkeley show with tons of dancers and overhead shots.
From scenes of hilarious torture and sexy nuns swimming in a water ballet this musical number won’t disappoint.
2. “Time Warp” – The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Otherwise known as extreme hipster line dancing the “Time Warp” has been entertaining audiences for decades, particularly at midnight on Halloween in theaters all over the world.
In this scene Brad and Janet first arrive to the home of Dr. Frankfurter. He doesn’t come out until later during “Sweet Transvestite.” This is where our fated unfaithful couple meet the rest of the crew.
Riff Raff, Magenta, Columbia and the rest of Frankfurter’s companions demonstrate that the Time Ward is a jump to the left, and then a step to the right. Meanwhile a professor comes on screen once in a while with a lesson plan to show us the way.
1. “Munchkinland Sequence” – The Wizard of Oz
Sheer magnitude gives this musical sequence the number one spot on today’s list of best musical numbers. When Dorothy realizes she’s not in Kansas anymore she finds herself, and Toto, being led around a strange world with little people.
Because this is a musical the characters can’t just walk around and say, “Hey look at that house that your dropped on the witch.” That would be boring and would take away the reason we love musicals. The music.
Dorothy makes her way through Munchkinland while being sung to by the leaders of that community. They thank her in brilliant rhymes and choreographed movements.
It is in this sequence where we get “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” and “The Lollipop Guild.” This is Dorothy’s first unusual experience in the land of OZ and from there she moves on to adventures she’s never even dreamed of.