Jukebox musicals have been around in movie form since 1942 with the release of Yankee Doodle Dandy, which told the story of well-known Broadway writer George M. Cohan. These musicals are a special form of cinema as they all consist of well-known music from pop culture instead of original music made for the musical.
Some of these movies will focus on one artist, such as ABBA or The Pretenders, while others pull in upwards of 60 different artists being covered in one movie. This list focuses on non-biopic jukebox musicals since they belong to their own category of movie, so Rocketman and Bohemian Rhapsody won’t be covered.
10 Mama Mia! Lets ABBA’s Music Take Center Stage In A Fun Romp
With songs by ABBA and based on the West End Musical of the same name, Mamma Mia! follows Sophie Sheridan (Amanda Seyfried) as she invites three men from her mother’s (Meryl Streep as Donna Sheridan) past to her wedding. One of them is her father, but no one seems to know which.
The movie focuses on everyone hiding secrets from each other while still tugging at the heartstrings of the audience. The songs, including “Here I Go Again,” “Dancing Queen,” and “Mamma Mia,” are enjoyable to listen to and sing along with. The movie received a sequel in 2018.
9 Across The Universe Uses The Beatles To Talk About Life In The ’60s
Set in the 1960s, Across The Universe focuses on a group of friends as they go about discovering love and following the path that life takes them on. With new renditions of The Beatles’ songs, from “I Want To Hold Your Hand” to “Let It Be,” backing the action, the movie looks at race issues in the U.S., anarchist methods of protest, and the Vietnam war under a serious light.
Jude (Jim Sturgess) and Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood) head the cast, providing powerful vocal performances and sincere chemistry.
8 Trolls Was A Star-Studded Affair Based On A 50-Year-Old Toy
Fans of the Trolls dolls of the ‘60s, until today, were surprised to hear that the franchise was being rebooted via a movie musical starring the likes of Justin Timberlake, Anna Kendrick, James Corden, and Zooey Deschanel. The movie follows Poppy (Kendrick) and Branch (Timberlake) as they take on the Troll-eating Bergens.
The movie features hits like “Sound Of Silence,” “True Colors,” and “September,” performed by the animated characters. The song “Can’t Stop The Feeling” was written for the movie, though released 5 months before the film.
7 Pitch Perfect Brought A cappella Front & Center In Pop Culture
The movie that seemingly kicked off America’s fascination with a cappella singing in the early 2010s, Pitch Perfect was an overnight success backed by the idea of serious competitors of collegiate a cappella competitions. Following the Barden Bellas, led by Anna Kendrick’s Becca, the movie focuses on the ups and downs of the competitions.
With a vastly talented cast including the likes of Skylar Astin, Esther Dean, Rebel Wilson, and Ben Platt, the movie used expertly crafted mash-ups, making for some of the most memorable musical scenes of the decade, like the Riff-Off.
6 Yesterday Presents A World Without The Beatles & Their Influence
When the world forgets the existence of the Beatles, struggling musician Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) is the only one to remember the songs. Using his knowledge of The Beatles, he becomes an overnight sensation after Ed Sheeran gets a hold of his demo tape which includes songs like “She Loves You” and “Yesterday.”
With things like Harry Potter and Oasis gone as well, the movie asks the viewers what they’d do in Jack’s shoes and what the moral thing to do is. The movie also gives viewers, and Jack, the chance to see what John Lennon would be without the Beatles.
5 Moulin Rouge Collects The Greatest Love Songs While Breaking Viewers’ Heart
An almost instant classic in the musical space, Moulin Rouge follows Christian, played by Ewan McGregor, a young poet that falls in love with Satine, played by Nicole Kidman, the star of the titular Moulin Rouge Cabaret. The issue is Satine is already courted by the Duke (Richard Roxburgh) and the Duke wants Christian dead.
The music of Moulin Rouge! is a character in itself, consisting of several hits like “Come What May” and “Your Song,” plus the “Elephant Love Medley,” which itself is made of 10 songs.
4 Happy Feet Taps Its Way Into A Musical Greatness
The mid-’00s saw a huge increase of penguin-centric movies, including Happy Feet, which introduced the idea of every penguin having a heart song that drives them, an idea later used in the more grounded Zoey’s Infinite Playlist.
The movie follows Mumble (Elijah Wood), a penguin whose heart song doesn’t have words, just beats. He goes on a series of adventures after being exiled due to his singing inabilities.
3 Rock of Ages Digs Deep Into The Debauchery Of ’80s Rock
Adapted from the Broadway musical of the same name and featuring a star-studded cast including Tom Cruise, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Mary J. Blige, Russell Brand, and Julianne Hough, Rock Of Ages sees the end of one man’s rock journey and the beginning of two more, as a bar struggles to keep its doors open.
True to its name, the musical features remade famous rock songs that include a mashup of “We Built This City” and “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and expertly choreographed dance numbers like “Anyway You Want It.”
2 Sing Is A Heartfelt Animated Movie About A Talent Show
Directly following the success of Zootopia months earlier and rivaling the similar jukebox musical Trolls, Sing was released in 2016 featuring a widely known cast which included Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, Tori Kelly, and Scarlett Johansson. The movie also features Taron Egerton singing Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing” three years before he’d play the icon in the biopic Rocketman.
The movie follows a group of anthropomorphic animals as their everyday lives intersect at a talent show, affecting each of them in different ways, from ended relationships to being roped into a family crime ring.
1 Sunshine On Leith Brings The Pretenders’ Best Hits Forward
The Pretenders might be known more for their two major hits, “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” and “I’m On My Way,” but they have a wide discography which was adapted for Sunshine On Leith, first appearing as a stage musical, then being translated to film in 2013. The movie stars 1917’s George MacKay, as well as Antonia Thomas, Kevin Guthrie, and Freya Mavor.
After returning from Afghanistan, Davy (MacKay) and Ally (Guthrie) attempt to fit back into everyday life and find love. Each number is fun and well-performed with “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” ending the film with a huge dance number.
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