9 classic movies that were turned into stage musicals

You've heard about musicals that have become movies. But what about those classic films that made the jump onto the stage?

If you're looking for film inspiration, scroll down and enjoy our Cineworld blog list of classics.

1. Sunset Boulevard (1950)

Billy Wilder's classic tale of Hollywood hubris and subterfuge breaks all the rules, with William Holden's deceased screenwriter character narrating from beyond the grave. The movie pairs Holden with an unforgettable Gloria Swanson, playing a faded Hollywood star desperate for her comeback vehicle, with silent movie icon Erich von Stroheim in support as a devoted butler. 

In 1993, a musical adaptation of Wilder's film opened in London's West End, with lyrics by Don Black and Christopher Hampton, and music by Andrew Lloyd Webber. It later made the jump to Broadway where it became the recipient of multiple Tony awards, including one for the fearsome Glenn Close, taking on the role of the vain Norma Desmond.

2. An American In Paris (1951)

Vincente Minnelli's enchanting musical is set to the music of George and Ira Gershwin, and stars the iconic Gene Kelly in the central role. He plays Jerry, a struggling artist who's living in the French capital, who experiences complications when his friends fall in love with the same woman.

The film's multi-Oscar-winning success (it won Best Picture and Best Director, among several others), was translated into a hit stage musical. Adapted by esteemed ballet choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, it first opened in Paris in 2014, later going on to enjoy a Tony-winning Broadway run in 2015.

3. The Producers (1967)

Mel Brooks' peerless stage satire is one of the funniest movies ever made, with any number of lines and scenes cemented in pop culture history. Gene Wilder ("Give me my blue blanket!") and Zero Mostel have wonderful chemistry as, respectively, an accountant and a faded Broadway actor. As part of a scam, they plan to create the worst musical of all time, which eventually centres on Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.

The controversial movie (song 'Springtime For Hitler' was never going to go down easily) was later adapted into a hit musical. Oddly enough, that musical then later inspired its own movie adaptation, starring Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane.

4. Monty Python And The Holy Grail (1975)

With coconuts substituting for horses and rude French knights throwing around insults, Monty Python's debut film still stands as one of the best comedies ever made. The film makes a virtue of its non-existent budget (hence the coconuts), re-fashioning the quest of King Arthur and the Holy Grail as a surreal odyssey littered with classic characters and set-pieces.

In the movie, we get a brief moment where the knights of Camelot are seen engaging in a raucous singalong. This was later fused with Python's famous 'Spam' sketch to form stage musical Spamalot, developed by team member Eric Idle and composer John Du Prez. The esteemed Mike Nichols directed the original 2005 production, with the original run garnering 14 Tony nominations and more than $175 million in box office receipts. 

5. Hairspray (1988)

You may remember Hairspray as the enjoyably kitsch 2007 comedy in which John Travolta dressed up as a woman. But the movie owes itself to the 1988 John Waters original, an infectious, Baltimore-set musical that is far more cuddly and affectionate than the rest of the filmmaker's output. (He's best known for courting outrage with the likes of Pink Flamingos.)

The eighties movie inspired its own musical adaptation, which first emerged in 2002. Oscar-nominated composer Marc Shaiman adapted the various songs, including the uplifting opening number 'Good Morning Baltimore'. The show proved to be a critical and commercial success, with multiple awards to its name.

6. Aladdin (1992)

Disney's 1992 masterpiece is one of their most vibrant and entertaining, breaking new ground with its interweaving of hand-drawn animation and CGI effects. Of course, the real reason Aladdin continues to resonate is the characters – Robin Williams' Genie is an improv masterclass, that helped pave the way for A-list movie stars lending their voices to Disney productions.

Little wonder that the film's infectious spirit and heart was translated wholesale into a stage production. Original composer Alan Menken's music survives the journey, with three of his songs (written with late lyricist Howard Ashman) making the jump to the stage. At the same time, four brand new numbers are conjured, composed by Menken and playwright Chad Beguelin. Little wonder it become one of the most successful Broadway shows of all time.

7. The Lion King (1994)

Disney's 1994 blockbuster made its visually arresting Broadway debut in 1997. Impressionistic masks and costumes are used to suggest the presence of unforgettable Disney characters such as Simba and Mufasa, with the elaborately choreographed musical numbers transporting our minds onto the African savannah.

It's a fine example of how to both honour and update a popular Disney property. Having grossed nearly $8 billion worldwide as of 2017, a UK tour in 2019 further cemented the show's enormous popularity. We're sure that Mufasa himself would look down with pride.

8. Billy Elliot (2000)

Jamie Bell became an overnight star with his role as aspirational ballet dancer Billy Elliot. The film of the same name charts a young boy's attempts to defy his 1980s mining community and make it big on the world stage, a classic story of inspiration laced with true grit.

It's the kind of template that's tailor-made for the stage. And, sure thing, Billy Elliot The Musical made its London debut in 2005, with music from Elton John and lyrics by the film's screenwriter Lee Hall. Many actors have portrayed the plucky Billy over the show's run, including Spider-Man-in-the-making Tom Holland.

9. Kinky Boots (2005)

Chiwetel Ejiofor may be best remembered for his devastating portrayal of Solomon Northup in 12 Years A Slave. But before that, the versatile British actor cut a rug as flamboyant drag queen Lola, who aids in the rescue of a struggling Northampton shoe-making business.

The gutsy, energetic spirit of Ejiofor's portrayal was transferred into the stage for the first time in 2021. Pop diva Cyndi Lauper composed the score and lyrics, which eventually won her a much-deserved Tony award. It was written by comedian and Independence Day actor Harvey Fierstein, and, in all honesty, has likely exceeded the profile of the movie, continuing to get audiences out of their seats the world over.

What are your favourite films-turned-musicals? Send us your choices @Cineworld.