Song & chance: Six risky flicks that redefined the movie musical
Empty1. "A Hard Day's Night" (1964)
Saying that the film launched the concept of the rock video sounds like a put-down, but the Beatles' debut flick was the first in which the humor and energy of the movie matched the pop ecstasy of a rock-and-roll soundtrack. Director Richard Lester's use of black-and-white photography and a cinema verite look was daring (though reportedly budget-driven), and the editing to the rhythm of the songs kept the feel filmic rather than stagey. Plus, Ringo is retrieved just in time for the big show at the end.
2. "Tommy" (1975)
Springing from the Who's groundbreaking "rock opera," the high-concept film blended the band's powerful music with director Ken Russell's fever-dream visuals to create a sui generis spectacle. Hard to explain exactly what happens in the third act, but it still rocks.
3. "Pennies From Heaven" (1981)
Purists might prefer the original 1978 BBC production of this Dennis Potter creation, but the Herbert Ross-directed, Steve Martin-Bernadette Peters-starring version gives invigorating life to Potter's conceit of a world where characters create their own private soundtracks by embodying Depression-era pop songs.
4. "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut" (1999)
The potty mouths, poop jokes and quest for the elusive clitoris were to be expected, but the real shocker in the profane cartoon's R-rated jump to the big screen was that it worked as a rousing, feel-good musical (if showstoppers like "Blame Canada" and "Uncle Fucka" make one feel good). Music by James Hetfield and "Hairspray's" Marc Shaiman.
5. "Dancer in the Dark" (2000)
In some ways, the film, directed by Lars Von Trier and starring Bjork, embraces long-running musical convention in that its characters move from the "real" world of the story line into the fantasy world of the musical production numbers. But the Dogma-inspired look of the film, the Bjork-created soundtrack and the relentlessly depressive plot make it a unique, stunningly ambitious downer of a song-and-dance picture.
6. "Moulin Rouge" (2001)
Whipping everything from Puccini to Patti LaBelle to Nirvana into a heady, boldly anachronistic concoction, Baz Luhrman's film effectively revitalized the musical genre for MTV-raised audiences. The film handled the emotions of the central romance seriously while simultaneously offering a thoroughly post-modern visual and sonic thrill ride.