The 10 Best Songs From Musicals

Photo Credit: Buena Vista Pictures
January 22nd, 2014

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Music is a powerful method for making memorable movie moments. Theme songs provide viewers with flashes from their favorite scenes, while love songs provoke feelings of romance and nostalgia. Musical scores become a part of the culture surrounding popular films and the era of their creation.


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"Summer Nights"

The 1978 film "Grease" was a success at the box office and had one of the most popular soundtracks of the decade. Few can forget the first duet, "Summer Nights," by Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta. The scene depicts the teenagers Sandy and Danny recounting their summer affair to their classmates, each from decidedly different points of view. The song sets the stage for viewers' recollections of their own summer romances and rallies the audience to support their inevitable reconciliation.

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Barbra Streisand shares her gift of song in the 1968 film "Funny Girl." She stars opposite Omar Sharif in this touching story of Fanny Brice and her rise to fame in the Ziegfeld Follies from her humble beginnings. Through her marriage and subsequent divorce, Streisand's vocalizations tug on the heartstrings of viewers. "People" represents the universal truth of the importance of others.


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"Beauty and the Beast"

The theme song from the 1991 Disney version of this classic tale sums up the relationship of Belle and the Beast, a prince trapped under a spell making him physically unappealing because of his inability to love. During the film, his dedicated servants look on as the title characters dance in a ballroom. The lyrics are both humorous and touching. The song lifts the spirits of the audience and expresses hope for the cursed prince and his beloved Belle.


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"A Whole New World"

Another music treasure from Disney is the song "A Whole New World," which comes from the acclaimed animated film "Aladdin." The song describes the sights and emotions that the hero and heroine experience during a magic flying carpet ride. Aladdin swoops the lovely princess Jasmine off her feet and on a memorable journey as their budding relationship grows.


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"Nine to Five"

This energetic tune, sung by country music legend Dolly Parton, is the title track of a 1980 comedy. She was part of an all-star cast that featured comedic giant Lily Tomlin and the acclaimed Jane Fonda. The song became the theme song for the working people of America, giving voice to the frustrations of the audience. The visuals of Dabney Coleman's character being held captive by his disgruntled employees provided comic relief for those unwilling to do the same in their own workplaces.


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In the same year, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer released the musical "Fame," which tells the stories of students at the New York High School of Performing Arts. The choreography features the intense musical dance tunes of the time. The title song, sung by Irene Cara, became an instant classic. Viewers remember the energetic workouts and the competition that the students faced. The song still inspires motivation in fans of the movie.


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Based on the real life story of the von Trapp family, "The Sound of Music" features some of the most popular songs of all time. "Do-Re-Mi" features Maria, portrayed by Julie Andrews, teaching the children in her charge how to sing. The joy of music and happier times permeate the scene during the song.


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The 1964 movie "Mary Poppins" features many memorable songs created by the Sherman brothers, from the silly "I Love to Laugh" to the gentle lullabye "Stay Awake." However, the sequences that fans remember most fondly are those that combine Disney's classic animation with live-action performances from stars Julie Andrews and Dick van Dyke. When Mary Poppins rides a carousel pony to win a horse race, she explains that the victory has her feeling "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," and the song explains just what this extraordinary word means.


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"Jailhouse Rock"

The 1957 film "Jailhouse Rock" featured Elvis Presley as its lead actor and head crooner. He flaunted his trademark moves in the title track. He and the rest of the cast danced around an unlikely backdrop, proving visual flair and allowing viewers to focus on the look and sound of rock and roll.


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"Don't Cry for Me, Argentina"

Madonna starred in the critically acclaimed film "Evita." Released by Hollywood Pictures in 1996, the film tells the story of Evita Duarte, an Argentinean actress who married the president of the country. Known as the most loved and hated woman of the country, the song depicts her strength through challenging times.

These songs give voice to aspects of the human experience. Audiences remember the emotions of the story and recall their own lives through them. That is what makes each of these musical pieces among the best of the cinematic experience from the past century.