8 Best Movies Turned Into Musicals

by Megan Hemenway
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HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL – #8. Best Movie Turned Musical. Courtesy of Disney

Now, I’m sure you’ve heard of the musical turned into a movie. It’s a tale as old as time. West Side Story, Grease, Chicago, Into the Woods, Mamma Mia. The In the Heights movie was set to premiere in June of this year but was (sadly) pushed back until 2021. And who can forget the major flop that was Cats at the end of 2019?

All of these musicals turned into movies but how often do we look at the other side? Movies turned into musicals certainly aren’t uncommon. Actually, in recent years it seems there has been a rise in modern classics being translated into musicals. Today, we’re going to take a look at some of the best and most popular movies turned musicals.

8. High School Musical

High School Musical was and still remains a serious staple in many Gen Z-er’s childhoods. Released in 2006 through Disney Channel, High School Musical followed the Romeo and Juliet type love affair between basketball player Troy Bolton and science nerd Gabriella Montez. The catchy music mixed with Sharpay’s antics created the perfect movie-watching scenario.

Very quickly after its release, High School Musical was adapted to the stage. Although it never hit Broadway, the show premiered at smaller theatre companies and moved to more professional settings later on. Luckily, High School Musical found fame in other places, most recently on Disney+ as High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.

High School Musical is one of the best and most popular movies-to-musicals.
Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens in High School Musical, our #8 best movie turned musical. Courtesy of Disney.

7. Frozen

Yet another Disney creation, Frozen became an instant classic upon release in 2013. Filled with stunning animation and beautiful music, Frozen made it so any child in the country could recite every word of “Let It Go” without missing a beat. The merchandise and promise of a sequel came very quickly after Frozen’s premiere.

Included in the various spin-offs was the Frozen musical, which premiered in Denver in 2017. Unlike High School Musical, this Disney show actually did make it to Broadway, from 2018 to 2020. The plot and much of the music stayed the same, however, the creators did aim for a more adult audience and dove even deeper into Frozen’s story.

6. Heathers

Shut up Heather! The 1988 cult classic Heathers wasn’t especially well known by Gen-Z but the themes of teen angst and high school drama certainly still ring true today. Starring Winona Ryder of Stranger Things fame and Christian Slater, the movie follows Veronica and her relationship with the three most popular girls in school, the Heathers.

Heathers: The Musical came to be almost 30 years after the movie and has had a fairly successful run since. Unlike our first two movies-turned-musicals, Heathers never originally featured music, so the soundtrack of Heathers: The Musical was born with the on-stage adaptation, using rock tones and raunchy themes. Although the show hasn’t made it to Broadway, it appeared at the West End in 2018.

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Repost from @carriehopefletcher – A little throwback to the final night of Heathers which is coming up to almost a whole year ago! A little story about the whole fist pumping thing we would do at the end of every show. During rehearsals, whenever we got to the bows, Kevin Murphy and Larry O’Keefe, the writers/composers of the show would do mini fist pumps from behind their desks in time with us singing ‘Beautiful’. They’d grin and sing with us and it was such a wonderful thing to watch. Their glee as we sang their words and melodies back to them. So at the end of opening night, they began doing what they always did, fist pumping from the centre of the audience and in a wave of confidence and pure elation from having got through our first performance unscathed, I ran to the front of the stage, caught their eyes and did it back. The people around them quickly caught on and joined in until suddenly, the majority of the audience were first pumping in time to the music. The following day, Andy Fickman, Director extraordinaire, sat us all down for notes and finally he said, “By the way, the fist pumping thing? That’s now part of the show. And you’re all doing it.” So thank you Kevin and Larry, not only for your words and your melodies but for giving me that moment at the end of every show to be a rockstar. I’ll never forget how that felt. 💙 (I can’t find Larry on insta to tag him…!!!)

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5. School of Rock

In 2003, Jack Black starred in the comedy film School of Rock. Alongside Joan Cusack, Sarah Silverman, and a young Miranda Cosgrove, Black played a struggling rocker who cons his way into a substitute teacher job. While there, Black teaches the kids in his class to play instruments and be part of a rock band that will win the upcoming Battle of the Bands competition.

Fast forward to 2015 and School of Rock was welcomed as a musical to Broadway and the West End. This show continues to be incredibly popular with audiences, keeping the love for the film alive. The original cast featured Alex Brightman, who went on to famously play Beetlejuice in the Broadway adaptation of the 1988 film Beetlejuice (not on this list but still a must-know movie-to-musical)

4. Legally Blonde

Yes, the classic 2001 film starring Reese Witherspoon became a musical success in 2007. Legally Blonde follows Elle Woods, a sorority girl turned Harvard law student when her boyfriend dumps her because she’s not “serious” enough. Miraculously, Elle succeeds at Harvard (What, like it’s hard?) and eventually learns to rely on her own smarts rather than a man.

The musical premiered on Broadway in 2007 and then to greater success on the West End in 2008. Like Heathers, Legally Blonde did not feature its own songs, so the musical delivered a variety of high-energy, belty songs. Although Reese Witherspoon does not make an appearance, the musical certainly promises the same girl-power vibes and lots of laughs.

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#savethearts, stand up to the man and wear a mask.

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3. Anastasia

This 20th Century Fox animated film still holds a dear place in many people’s hearts. Anastasia follows the fictionalized story of the Romanov princess, Anastasia, who becomes lost and loses memory of her royal heritage. In the movie, she makes friends with two men who initially want to her pass her off as Princess Anastasia for money until they realize her true identity and become close with her. The original film featured dazzling music and a beautiful family connection between Anastasia and her grandmother.

While the film was released in 1997, the musical adaptation premiered in 2016 and found its way to Broadway a year later. With the original score mixed in with brand new songs, Anastasia offered a new look at the story with bright costumes and heart-warming moments. Also, the original Broadway cast featured famous pair Christy Altomare as Anastasia and Derek Klena as Dmitry.

2. Waitress

You might be surprised to learn that the musical Waitress actually first premiered as a movie in 2007. Starring Keri Russell and Nathan Fillion, Waitress follows a woman who works at a diner and makes interesting and delicious pies. Over the course of the film, she learns she’s pregnant with her abusive husband’s child and has to find her way through the situation.

In 2015, Waitress became a musical adaptation, written primarily by singer Sara Bareilles. The show ran on Broadway from 2016-2020 and on the West End in 2019. Waitress brings back the charm of the film with some added touching and sad moments. Additionally, the hilarious side characters get some more time to shine and the protagonist herself gets the famous, heart-breaking song, She Used to Be Mine.

1. Mean Girls

Of all the movies-turned-musicals on this list, Mean Girls is the most recent and probably the one picking up the most steam recently. Like Legally Blonde, Mean Girls is a teenage classic. Released in 2004, Mean Girls follows Cady (Lindsey Lohan), a nerdy girl who moves to a new school and must deal with the cliques and drama of American High School. Namely, the most popular girls in school, The Plastics, led by Regina George (Rachel McAdams). The film has countless iconic moments that people still quote today, whether they know it or not.

The musical Mean Girls first premiered in 2017 and hit Broadway in 2018. The original film writer, Tina Fey, worked on the musical adaptation, bringing the same iconic lines and tones to the stage. Mean Girls is best known by audiences today through its array of often changing cast members, including Renee Rapp as Regina George and a brief appearance made by Cameron Dallas as Aaron Samuels. Plus, Karen’s hilarious one-liners.

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In conclusion,

In the end, there are countless musicals-to-movies and plenty of movies-to-musicals to choose from. So, whenever you need a movie night or something to listen to in the car, throw on one of these amazing shows/films and enjoy yourself! Let us know what your favorite movie-to-musical is.


Get the Scoop on some of your other favorite Musicals!

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