RT's Top Ten Certified Fresh Musicals
A Critic-approved list that will make you want to sing and dance.
2) The Wizard of Oz (100%)
Release Date: August 15, 1939
What It's About: Young Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland) and her dog Toto are swept away in their Kansas home by a tornado and transported to the magical land of Oz, where she unites with a Scarecrow (Ray Bolger), a Tin Man (Jack Haley), and a Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr) on a trek to the Emerald City. There, she hopes to meet the Wizard of Oz, who she's told should be able to help her return to Kansas, but first, they must defeat the Wicked Witch of the West.
Critics Consensus: An absolute masterpiece whose groundbreaking visuals and deft storytelling are still every bit as resonant. A must-see film for young and old.
Biggest Hit(s): "Over the Rainbow" (winner of the Best Original Song Oscar that year), "We're Off to See the Wizard," "Ding! Dong! The Witch is Dead"
On the Charts: In 2001, the RIAA, National Endowment of the Arts, and Scholastic Inc. together compiled a Songs of the Century list, and "Over the Rainbow" claimed the #1 spot. It also boasts the top spot in AFI's 100 Years... 100 Songs list, which further included "Ding! Dong! The Witch is Dead" at #82. Unfortunately, Billboard began publishing top singles charts in 1940, a year after the film's release, so the original songs from The Wizard of Oz failed to make their marks there. Later cover versions of various songs from the movie have, however, climbed as high as #11.
- Legacy: The Wizard of Oz was nominated for six Oscars at the 12th Annual Academy Awards and came away with two, both musical: Best Song for "Over the Rainbow" and Best Original Score. "Over the Rainbow" is also perhaps the most famous movie song ever, and as such, many artists have offered their own renditions of it over the years; a few, like Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's ukulele version, have even become iconic in their own right. In 1989, the US Library of Congress's National Film Registry recognized the film by selecting it for preservation in its permanent collection, and in 2007, UNESCO included it in its Memory of the World Programme, cementing its status as a cultural treasure.
Aside from these prestigious honors, The Wizard of Oz's influence on pop culture can be seen in various forms, even to this day. The film spawned a sequel (1985's cult classic Return to Oz), a cartoon, an African-American interpretation starring Michael Jackson and Diana Ross (1978's The Wiz), and a wildly popular book and subsequent Broadway adaptation (Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West), just to name a few. References to the film, its music, and its memorable quotes can be found everywhere; even the recent hit TV series Glee offered up a rendition of "Over the Rainbow" in one of its episodes. Lastly, we'd be remiss not to mention two of cinema's most famous urban myths, which revolve around a possible Munchkin suicide captured on film and included in the movie (don't worry; it's not true) and Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon," which reportedly syncs perfectly with the film (that one's arguable). In other words, this is the stuff of legends.
- Special Thanks: Tornadoes, little people, Technicolor, stone masons specializing in golden bricks, and whatever L. Frank Baum must have ingested when he penned the source material.
1) A Hard Day's Night (100%)
Release Date: Aug. 11, 1964
What It's About: A reasonably well-known pop group from Liverpool must get to a London television studio for an important gig. However, the band is bedeviled by such nuisances as crazed fans and the bassist's mischievous grandfather.
Critics Consensus: Despite its age, A Hard Day's Night is still a delight to watch and has proven itself to be a rock-and-roll movie classic.
Biggest Hit(s): "A Hard Day's Night," "Can't Buy Me Love," "And I Love Her"
On the Charts: In our era of niche markets and digital downloads, it's difficult to fully comprehend the all-encompassing popularity of the Beatles; in early April 1964, they occupied 12 spots on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart -- including every slot in the top five. The soundtrack for A Hard Day's Night was a particularly monstrous seller during the peak years of Beatlemania -- it sold a million copies in its first four days of release, and "Can't Buy Me Love," a single from the album, sold nearly a million copies on the day it hit stores. The single "A Hard Day's Night" won the moptops a Grammy for Best Vocal Performance by a Vocal Group in 1965, and, perhaps most importantly, A Hard Day's Night is the best-reviewed film in the history of Rotten Tomatoes.
- Legacy: Let's put this in the simplest terms possible: A Hard Day's Night changed pop music and cinema forever. A lofty claim, to be sure, but the Beatles' cheerful, exhilarating, formally groundbreaking big screen debut remains a seminal document in rock history -- never again could the Fab Four be dismissed as mere teen idols. Taking a cue from the French New Wave, director Richard Lester seamlessly melded the Beatles' music with a montage editing style that set the template for every music video to follow. (A Hard Day's Night's famous opening sequence -- which finds the boys being chased down the street by hysterical fans -- has been mimicked in films as diverse as Trainspotting and Jonas Brothers: The 3-D Concert Experience.) And, in giving time to each of the Beatles' personalities, the movie solidified the idea of a rock band in the public mind. A Hard Day's Night was by no means the first movie featuring pop star -- and , for better or worse, it wouldn't be the last -- but none have made a film of such sophistication and good humor.
- Special Thanks: The principle actors. A Hard Day's Night stars John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr. It's important to recognize the efforts of these four criminally under-heralded men, since the group's name, "The Beatles," is never uttered in the film.
Written by: Tim Ryan, Jeff Giles, Ryan Fujitani, David Chung, Luke Goodsell, and Alex Vo