Our kind of musicals

What is the definition of a musical? Could the genre include, as critic Peg Aloi suggests, the toe-tapping horror flick “The Wicker Man” (1973)? Film blogger Dean Treadway says yes. His definition: “A musical is a film that has at least four numbers with either music or dance at the center, working as an alternate way to tell the story.” With those parameters in mind, here is our eclectic top five.

Warner Home Video

Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)

  • Unsurprisingly, given the low opinion some have of Busby Berkeley for his baroque production numbers, this title was not mentioned by Cinemania readers. However, I wrote a paper about it in a film class, and it’s one of my favorites. Just try to watch the “Remember My Forgotten Man” finale with a dry eye.

The Cat and the Fiddle (1934)

  • Writes reader Donald Caplin, “Jeanette MacDonald’s acting is as great as her singing.” To which some might say — who? But as a music student torn between love and a career, MacDonald proves that she is a performer you will remember, especially after her number “Try to Forget.”


Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)

  • We’re back on familiar ground with this heartwarming classic from Vincente Minnelli about the joys and sorrows of a family in 1903 St. Louis. Judy Garland’s rendering of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” comes in a close second to her “Over the Rainbow.”

Warner Home Video

Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

  • Though the title song might never be the same after “A Clockwork Orange” (1971), this story about a studio’s transition from silent to sound is not only a song-and-dance delight, but also a masterpiece of self-reflexive cinema.

Associated Press

Cabaret (1972)

  • Some picked his “All That Jazz” (1979), but this Bob Fosse masterpiece gets the nod in part because it stars Vincente Minnelli's daughter, Liza. Also, it takes place around the same time as “Gold Diggers” (1931, to be exact) and, like that film, confronts the traumas of those troubled times — in this case, the rise of Nazism. And has there ever been a more chilling number than “Tomorrow Belongs to Me”?


  • The release of films about real people, like “Captain Phillips” (Oct. 11) and “The Fifth Estate” (Oct. 18), a sign that Oscar season is at hand. Which are the best films in this genre? And for Oct. 20, the remake of “Carrie” (also out Oct. 18) will have a tough challenge equaling the terror of the original’s final moments. What are the screen’s scariest scenes? Send me an e-mail or cast your votes at

  • Peter Keough can be reached at

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