The mixture of music and film is movie-magic at its finest. The ability of a cast and a director to create a storytelling masterpiece with stellar acting performances and musical numbers that enhance and drive the plot is a phenomenon that not many can do right. Incorporating music and songs into a film, creating a movie musical, requires an artistic range that is difficult to do right. Throughout entertainment history, we have seen a large variety of movie musical genres to hit mainstream media from eerie horror to romantic dramas.
Movie musicals are pretty much like theater turned into cinema. Sometimes, the theatrics are scaled down for the format. However, some movie musicals embrace the idea of being over-the-top to the point that we just have to sit back and appreciate the art of it. Loud and charismatic characters, unhinged plots, and shocking set designs are all components of the most jaw-dropping movie musicals. Come with us as we explore the most over-the-top movie musicals ever made.
20 The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Starting off strong, we have one of the most mainstream cult classic films in the world of movie musicals: The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Known as one of the most controversial yet groundbreaking movie musicals of all time, The Rocky Horror Picture Show came out in 1975 and is still one of the most over-the-top movie musicals.
This film follows two young lovers, Brad and Janet, as they find themselves stranded and looking for shelter in the mansion of a mad transvestite scientist Dr. Frank-N-Furter. The musical numbers are loud and full of energy and color. Especially with Halloween right around the corner, this creepy cult classic is one of the best watches to get acquainted with and is jam-packed full of twists, turns, and music that will make your skin crawl as you get up to dance.
19 High School Musical 2
Now over-the-top does not necessarily mean difficult to swallow or watch. In fact, High School Muscial 2 might be the easiest going entry on this list, but is the most over-the-top in the franchise. For a movie musical about some high school kids working over the summer at a country club, this film tries really hard to do the most, and we live for it.
In Kenny Ortega’s most distractingly bright movie musical, we follow the Wildcats as they work at Sharpay’s family country club for the summer. Almost single number is met with crazy theatrical set designs, catchy tunes, and oversaturated editing. For a movie musical to include a performance like Troy Bolton’s “Bet On It” as he prances on the almost-neon green golf course, it has to be on this list.
18 Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Even with the smokescreen of being intentionally and hilariously loud and provocative, the off-Broadway rock musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch has crowd-pleaser written all over it. A victim of a sex change surgery gone wrong, Hedwig and her backing band The Angry Inch go on a journey of self-discovery, self-acceptance, and the beauty of living life with all the intention of being authentic to yourself.
The music is the pinnacle of what a rock musical should be and the stellar performance by lead actor and director John Cameron Mitchell is enough for all of us to marvel at.
17 The Saddest Music in the World
In order for a musical to reach a certain level on “over-the-top” scale, a common theme on this list is the necessity of comedy. The Saddest Music in the World is a musical comedy film that came out in 2003, and what does this musical bring to the plate as its punchline? Sadness. In the musical, an amputee puts together a contest that challenges people to create the saddest music they can for a whopping $25,000 prize. The musical, full of laughs and sad music, for sure, is a very niche watch, but worth it nonetheless.
1975 gave us the comedy-drama Lisztomania. Lisztomania goes over-the-top in so many ways that we find it hard to count. This fictionalized story loosely based on the life of composer Franz Liszt was directed by British film director Ken Russell. In the movie musical, there are many curve balls you will not expect. Some of which included references to Hitler and a Ringo Starr cameo where he plays the Pope?
15 Pennies From Heaven
Some of the biggest actors in the game have films that you might be shocked that they’re even in. Pennies From Heaven, a 1981 musical romance, has a few of them. Steve Martin plays a salesman during the Depression and, met with financial struggles that are tearing his marriage apart, begins an affair with a teacher named Eileen (Bernadette Peters). Also, Christopher Walken plays a stripper and pimp named Tom, making this film one you can’t miss.
14 Zero Patience
Zero Patience is the kind of over-the-top movie musical that deserves every last bit of you attention. On the surface, Zero Patience has an immortal man named Sir Richard Burton on a flight in order to do some research on the “Patient Zero” that was apparently the one who brought HIV/AIDS to America.
This movie musical is a saturated display of the toxic misconceptions surrounding media portrayal and coverage of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Not every film is intended to have a message, however, this classic in queer cinema is incredibly informative, touching, and outrageous.
13 Little Shop of Horrors
How about we hop back over to mainstream pop culture success with the classic known as Little Shop of Horrors. The 1986 movie musical Little Shop of Horrors takes us on a wild journey with Seymour and Aubrey, two coworkers in a flower shop whose lives are in for a terrifying change. Seymour discovers this plant that feeds on humans with a blood thirst that needs to be constantly met. Fittingly enough, he names it Aubrey II and feeds her boyfriend to him. Little Shop of Horrors has a killer soundtrack and a monstrous plant. What more could they do?
12 Into the Woods
In hindsight, Into the Woods is not in any way shape or form difficult to watch. However, the film is structured like a sort of fever dream that takes dramatics and theatrics to a new level. Into the Woods is a twisted tale centered round the differing and intersecting storylines of some of your favorite fairytale characters.
With James Cordon and Emily Blunt trying to appease a vengeful Meryl Streep as well as a manly, brooding duet between Chirs Pratt as Cinderella’s Prince and Billy Magnussen as Rapunzel’s Prince, this movie musical just feels over the top. Into the Woods also drags on long enough to feel like you have watched three movies in one sitting.
11 Repo! The Genetic Opera
Repo! The Genetic Opera is nothing of what you expect. This over-the-top musical follows the development of GeneCo., a company that is offering organ transplants to combat the current organ failure epidemic. The world this musical takes place in is dark and arranged and the movie itself is graphic and slightly unnerving. Starring in Repo! The Genetic Opera are Terrance Zdunich, Paul Sorvino, pop culture icon Paris Hilton (Yes, PARIS HILTON), and the Spy Kid herself, Alexa PenaVega.
10 Anna and the Apocalypse
If we only had three words to summarize the movie musical Anna and the Apocalypse, they would be: teenagers, zombies, and…Christmas? Anna and the Apocalypse follows teenagers fighting the zombie apocalypse in the town of Little Haven. The teens are singing and fighting their way through the undead all while the Christmas season hangs heavily in the air. There is a lot going on in this musical, but it sure is fun.
9 The Happiness of Katakuris
If the category of “disturbing” is meant to fit on any list, it’s going to have to be this one. The Happiness of Katakuris takes a movie musical and merges it with disturbing Japanese horror. This film follows a weird family that appears to be responsible for a string of deaths at the house the family owns in the mountains. This film is not easy to watch, and it definitely tries hard to shock, and it succeeds. If you are a fan of weird horror films or just Japanese horror, The Happiness of Katakuris is a must-watch.
8 Meet the Feebles
This is not The Muppets. Meet the Feebles can be seen as a cult classic in the same class as The Rocky Horror Picture Show. This movie musical follows a bunch of animals that are fame-hungry and drugged out, and the entire thing is seen as a weird and outlandish reflection of the showbiz industry. Also, in a surprising turn of events, this film was put together by acclaimed director, Peter Jackson.
7 The Lure
This one is shocking, over-the-top, intense, and scarily dark. So, make sure you tuck in your tails and take a seat. The Lure is a wild movie musical that came out in 2015 and stars Marta Mazurek, Michalina Olszańska, and Kinga Preis. This film is a dark and twisted take on the original little mermaid story that is nothing like the Disney fairytale. The Lure is sensual, horrific, and utterly over-the-top for a story of two mermaid sisters that fall into a love triangle after being recruited for a cabaret.
Adam Driver in 2021’s Annette was not in our life bingo cards. Nonetheless, here we are. Annette is the kind of movie musical that you either you love it or you hate it. Divided audiences had varying reactions to this bizarre yet artistically avant-garde and experimental movie musical. Driver plays Henry, a comedian who falls into a relationship with opera singer Ann (Marion Cotillard), and if you think you could guess what happens, you are probably wrong.
With a child portrayed in puppet form as well as being left with the feelings of an unhinged fever dream, this movie musical is sure to make you feel something and overwhelm your senses, good, and bad.
5 The Apple
What we love about movie musicals is that they can mix any genre and run with it. The Apple is a 1980 science fiction musical that follows two young performers Alphie (George Gilmour) and Bibi (Catherine Mary Stewart) as they put the fate of their careers in the hands of a corrupt festival organizer. Things get a little unhinged as Alphie fights to save Bibi from rock and roll and escape the clutches of Mr. Boogalow, the festival organizer.
4 Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical
Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical is pretty much an over-the-top comedy musical based on a 1936 anti-marijuana propaganda film titled Reefer Madness. The film follows a couple of addicts as the grip of addiction destroys the fabric of their lives. The film stars Kristen Bell and Christian Campbell. The film is gritty and dark and when mixed with a very interesting soundtrack, this musical definitely goes over the top.
3 Billy the Kid and the Green Baize Vampire
Billy the Kid and the Green Baize Vampire is a musical drama that came out in 1987. This list so far has touched on almost every subgenre under the sun. This one is a melting pot of many. Billy the Kid and the Green Baize Vampire has components of horror, fantasy, sports, comedy, and drama. In this movie musical, Billy the Kid goes up against Maxwell Randall (Green Baize Vampire) in a game of snooker. However, Maxwell is a seasoned champion and Billy is out of his league.
2 Shock Treatment
Throwing things all the way back to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the movie musical Shock Treatment is sometimes credited as the film’s sequel. Although Shock Treatment is not a continuation of Rocky Horror, some beloved characters do come back. In this film, a game show called “Marriage Maze” rounds up two new contestants, and they are familiar to us as an audience: the contestants are Brad and Janet.
The film gets progressive more unhinged and unnerving as time goes on and although the actors are different and this film does not have the ride-or-die cult following like Rocky Horror, it still goes above and beyond to be over-the-top.
1 Cannibal! The Musical
Honestly, the title of this one should be enough indication that this entry goes over-the-top. Cannibal! The Musical is a movie musical that came out in 1993. The R-rated indie film follows the journey of a survivor of a mining accident as he develops cannibal tendencies, an unyielding hunger for human flesh instead of gold. Now, if you take this premise and add music to it, Cannibal! The Musical gets odder and odder.