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Get your musical on.
If you’ve ever wished real life included spontaneous bursts into song, you’re probably a fan of the musicals on Netflix. From Disney classics to Broadway smash hits, these little nuggets of sunshine tend to be unendingly cheerful and upbeat, and they include catchy tunes and memorable characters. Whether you’re looking for something fun to watch with friends or an uplifting story to enjoy alone, these musicals on Netflix will delight and inspire.
The best musicals on Netflix
1) Westside Story
If you’ve never seen West Side Story, you’ve missed out on arguably the most delightful adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. It’s certainly one of the best classic musicals on Netflix. The 1961 flick sees two rival gangs—the white Jets and the Puerto Rican Sharks—pit against each other. When a former Jet falls in love with the little sister of head Shark Bernardo, tensions rise and tragedy looms in Shakespearian style. A memorable screenplay and exuberant soundtrack pair with spectacular choreography to create this cinema masterpiece that everyone should watch, musical fan or not.
Newsies tells the story of the exploitation of dirt-poor newsboys in 1899 New York City. It’s a spin on the Biblical tale of David and Goliath, as the oppressed stand firm against the powerful. Alan Menken, Academy Award-winning composer of incredible Disney flicks including Beauty and the Beast, brings us the soundtrack to this timeless musical. The scrappy and endearing newsies easily worm their way into viewers’ hearts, and the show-stopping choreography and poignant message still resonate.
3) Jersey Boys
This 2014 musical biography details the creation of iconic 1960s band the Four Seasons. Following the rise of four young men from New Jersey as they stumble their way through debt, threats, and familial disasters, the award-winning Jersey Boys is a delightful ride. The characters are dynamic, the storyline is engaging, and the music is absolutely superb. Frankie Valli and his signature falsetto are the driving force behind the movie, but each character’s rich background contributes depth and humor. Jersey Boys feels more like a traditional film than a burst-into-song musical, with just the right balance of music and story to weave a tale about how life, loss, and heartbreak can conceive incredible music.
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This upbeat romp stars Nikki Blonsky, Christopher Walken, and John Travolta in a dress—need I say more? Flashy, bright, and unyieldingly cheery, Hairspray has everything you want in a musical. The curvaceous and confident Tracy Turnblad educates her judgmental peers on acceptance after earning a spot on the Corny Collins Show. Queen Latifah and John Travolta share a voluptuous rendition of “Big, Blond and Beautiful.” Ultimately, it’s a story about tolerance, compassion, and breaking down barriers in 1960s Baltimore. A bubbly and colorful film, Hairspray tackles integration and otherness with a smile and a foot-tapping beat.
5) Emo the Musical
Emo the Musical is an oddball Australian musical. Who figured out how to make a musical about emos so hilariously on-point? Emo the Musical brilliantly mocks everyone you knew in high school through songs, sarcastic jokes, and clever asides. It understands how misunderstood we all felt during our teenage years without making excuses for all of our angsty behavior. Every song, ridiculous though it may be—do we really think Jesus liked My Chemical Romance?—is well-produced and cleverly composed. This irreverent parody of high school life and musicals is too unexpectedly likable to pass up.
You can’t assess the best musicals without counting at least a few Disney classics. While newcomers like Moana and Tangled may have recently stolen the spotlight, this 1997 comedy is definitely worth a rewatch. Most people probably know the plot to this film, but Disney’s take is funny, wholesome, and thoroughly engaging. Like most Disney films, Hercules conceals jokes and references intended for parents throughout the film while maintaining a fun and kid-friendly storyline on the surface. If all that isn’t enough, the addition of Meg as a dry and cynical take on the classic Disney princess separates this animated film from the pack. And it will take you years to get “Zero to Hero” out of your head.
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Speaking of characters that break stereotypes, Mulan is all about female empowerment. The 1998 Disney classic’s music and beautiful animation are second only to the inspiring story of a young Chinese woman who chooses to join the military disguised as a man to save her aging father. Themes of triumphing over adversity, the everlasting bonds of friendship, and overcoming the idea of “a woman’s place” make this film a must-see. Plus, with her spectacular takedown of an estimated 1,994 Huns, Mulan has the highest body count of any Disney character, hero or villain. That’s pretty badass.
This Oscar-winning Disney flick has faced its fair share of criticism over the years for the way it whitewashes history and amplifies hurtful stereotypes. But despite its many flaws, this loose interpretation of real-life Pocahontas’ story boasts some of Disney’s most gorgeous animation, memorable songs, and important lessons about cultural acceptance and overcoming differences. It’s the least essential film on this list, but flawless songs like “Colors of the Wind” carry it through the occasional stagnant scene or unintentionally problematic plot point.
Coco may not have as many vocal tracks as other entries on this list, but its incredible art, touching storyline, and overwhelming cultural relevance still make it one of the best musicals on Netflix. Focusing on themes of self-discovery and the multigenerational importance of family, Coco carries viewers through a vibrant world awash with lessons like endurance, teamwork, and appreciation for one’s family. Disney and Pixar delivered a masterpiece in this jubilant film that serves as an elegant tribute to Mexican culture and boasts a talented cast of Latino voice actors.
Looking for something more specific? Here are our Netflix guides for the best war movies, documentaries, anime, indie flicks, true crime, food shows, rom-coms, LGBT movies, alien movies, gangster movies, Westerns, film noir, and movies based on true stories streaming right now. There are also sad movies guaranteed to make you cry, weird movies to melt your brain, old movies when you need something classic, and standup specials when you really need to laugh. Or check out Flixable, a search engine for Netflix.
Nahila Bonfiglio reports on geek culture and gaming. Her work has also appeared on KUT's Texas Standard (Austin), KPAC-FM (San Antonio), and the Daily Texan.