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Best Musicals Based on Movies

Published on: Oct 10, 2022
Last Updated on: May 2, 2024
By: Kathryn Willingham
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Musicals Based on Movies: Your Complete Guide

There’s an inside Broadway joke that the newest musicals are often based on movies. Billy Elliot, The Lion King, Aladdin, Mary Poppins, Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka, Bend it Like Beckham, Mean Girls, Big Fish, Groundhog Day, Honeymoon in Vegas, La Cage aux Folles, School of Rock, King Kong, Legally Blonde, Finding Neverland, The Wedding Singer, Days of Wine and Roses, Waitress...the list could go on and on. But many of these musical theatre shows go on to be huge critical and box office successes. In fact, over the last 20 years, these musical adaptations won the Tony Award for Best Musical:

  • 2020 – Moulin Rouge

  • 2018 – The Band’s Visit

  • 2013 – Kinky Boots

  • 2012 - Once

  • 2009 – Billy Elliot the Musical

  • 2005 – Spamalot

  • 2003 – Hairspray

  • 2002 – Thoroughly Modern Millie

  • 2001 – The Producers

The stage brought these rich stories a second life and the biggest award for a Broadway show.

Currently Playing On Broadway

You can watch these musicals based on movies right now!



Aladdin is based on the beloved animated film with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice. Discover a “Whole New World” in what The Hollywood Reporter called, “a family friendly hit!”

Back to the Future at the Winter Garden Theatre

Back to the Future

Back to the Future, based on the beloved movie of the same name, plays at the Winter Garden Theatre and follows Marty McFly and Doc Brown who transport themselves back in time and change the course of history. With book by Bob Gale and music and lyrics by Alan Silvestri and Glen Ballard, Back to the Future includes hit songs like “The Power of Love,” “Johnny B. Good,” “Earth Angel,” and “Back in Time.”



Chicago, based on the 1927 silent film of the same name directed by Frank Urson and produced by Cecil B. DeMille, is one of the longest running musicals on Broadway. The New York Times calls it “musical heaven.” This Broadway musical that turns a court case into a razzle dazzle musical number was later adapted into the 2002 movie musical Chicago, starring Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Richard Gere. The film won the Academy Award for Best Picture.


Moulin Rouge! The Musical

Moulin Rouge! The Musical won 10 Tony Awards including Best Musical. Based on the 2001 film directed by Baz Luhrmann, this jukebox musical follows the courtesan Satine and a young poet Christian in the famous Moulin Rouge cabaret. The New York Times called the show “spectacular” and it includes arrangements of songs like “Lady Marmalade,” “Single Ladies,” “Firework,” and “Toxic.”


The Lion King

The Lion King opened in 1997, won 6 Tony Awards including Best Musical, and has the unique distinction of being the biggest box-office hit of all time. The Lion King is based on the beloved animated Disney film and, with music by Elton John and lyrics by Tim Rice, has become a global sensation, playing on the West End, Japan, Germany, Spain, France and more.

And musicals based on major motion pictures aren’t just limited to Broadway:

Little Shop of Horrors

Little Shop of Horrors is playing off-Broadway at the Westside Theatre. Based on the 1960 film of the same name directed by Roger Corman, this musical revival about a man-eating plant follows store clerk Seymour, his newly found success, and his relationship with his coworker Audrey. The Hollywood Reporter said about this cult classic, “This terrific revival will only deepen the devotion for those lucky enough to catch it.” The original off-Broadway musical was later adapted into a movie musical directed by Frank Oz starring Rick Moranis, Ellen Green and Steve Martin.

This is an impressive list of shows, entertaining for both the seasoned Broadway fan and a wonderful entry to musical theater for younger ages. What’s equally (if not more) impressive, however, is the number of musicals that inspired movies.

Movies Based on Musicals

Just as musicals are based on movies, the opposite is also true – successful musicals are often adapted into movie musicals, and this trend continues to rise in popularity. Movie musicals like My Fair Lady starring Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison, Hello Dolly! starring Barbra Streisand, and Guys and Dolls starring Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra and Jean Simmons are classics. But more recent examples include:

Tick, Tick…Boom! is directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda and stars Andrew Garfield, Alexandra Shipp, Vanessa Hudgens, and Robin de Jesús. It is adapted from the original musical of the same name by the late Jonathan Larson, who also created the hit musical Rent. The semi-autobiographical show follows a musical theater composer as he nears his 30th birthday.

Dear Evan Hansen stars Ben Platt, who also starred in the original Broadway production about a teenager struggling to belong. 

In the Heights by Quiara Alegria Hudes and Lin-Manuel Miranda and directed by John M. Chu is based on the Broadway musical from 2008 about the Washington Heights neighborhood in Upper Manhattan, New York City.  

Sweeney Todd starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter and directed by Tim Burton is based on the Broadway musical by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler. This musical film is about a murderous barber and his business partner, Mrs. Lovett, who turns his victims into meat pies. 

West Side Story directed by Steven Spielberg with screenplay by Tony Kushner, is based on the famous Broadway musical conceived by Jerome Robbins with music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and book by Arthur Laurents. Steven Spielberg was nominated for Best Director in the 2022 Academy Awards for this film adaptation. 

Mamma Mia! The Movie is based off the Broadway jukebox musical and features the songs of ABBA. It is directed by Phyllida Lloyd and stars Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, and Amanda Seyfried. 

The Phantom of the Opera, with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, is the longest-running show in Broadway history. The movie adaption stars Gerard Butler in the titular role along with Emmy Rossum, Patrick Wilson, and Minnie Driver. 

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is based on the West End musical of the same name and follows a 16-year-old who dreams of being a drag queen. 

Hairspray follows Tracy Turnblad in 1960s Baltimore, Maryland as she lands a role on a local dance tv show and fights against racism and campaigns to integrate the show. While the original Broadway musical is based on the John Waters 1988 film of the same name, the musical was later adapted into this movie musical starring John Travolta, Christopher Walken, Zac Efron, and Queen Latifah.   

Original Movie Musicals

Original movie musicals aren’t as common, though they used to be with films like Singin’ in the Rain, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Mary Poppins, Meet Me in St. Louis, White Christmas, The Wizard of Oz starring Judy Garland, Top Hat starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, and For Me and My Gal starring Gene Kelly and Judy Garland. But original movie musicals have seen a resurgence in recent years with hits like:

La La Land stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone and is written and directed by Damien Chazelle. This movie musical follows the romantic relationship between an aspiring actress and jazz musician. 

High School Musical starring Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale and Corbin Bleu became the most successful Disney Channel Original Movie ever produced. 

Enchanted stars Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, Idina Menzel, Timothy Spall, James Marsden and Susan Sarandon. This movie musical follows Princess Giselle and her quest for true love from the animated world of Andalasia to the live-action world of New York. 

The Greatest Showman starring Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron, Zendaya, and Michelle Williams follows the life, family, and career of P.T. Barnum.  

Jingle Jangle starring Keegan-Michael Key, Forest Whitaker, Phylicia Rashad, Ricky Martin, and Anika Noni Rose follows a toymaker and his granddaughter who helps him rediscover his joy and passion in this holiday soon-to-be classic. 

Broadway’s continued mass appeal as live and recorded broadcasts of stage shows are streamed into homes - particularly with Disney’s Hamilton viewership and popular adaptations like Tick Tick…Boom! and West Side Story - is driving even more production dollars into rich stories with crossover appeal.

Want to Know What’s Coming Soon to Broadway?

Due to the success of these adaptations, even more musicals based on beloved movies are coming to Broadway soon - adaptations of 13 Going on 30, The Bodyguard, and Bill Durham are currently in development.  For more information about what shows are coming soon to Broadway, check out our article about Upcoming Broadway Shows!

Kathryn Willingham

Head of Creative Development at Jean Doumanian Productions

Kathryn Willingham has worked in entertainment for over ten years, and recent credits include: Co-producer of SHRINK currently streaming on Peacock, Associate Producer of the independent film UNA, and Creative Executive on multiple theatrical productions including HANGMEN by Martin McDonagh on Broadway, NASSIM by Nassim Soleimanpour Off-broadway and Associate on productions EVERY BRILLIANT THING by Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe and THE EFFECT by Lucy Prebble. She was Producer of Todd Almond’s musical travelogue “Wyoming and Parts of Kansas” and Production Coordinator for Karen O and KK Barrett's “Stop the Virgens.”


Education: B.A. in English, Literature & Creative Writing from Rhodes College
Knowledge: Theatrical Production


Oct 10, 2022

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