Top Hat (1935)
A fabulous delight, with Astaire and Rogers at the peak of their form, show-stopping Irving Berlin songs (Cheek to Cheek, Isn’t This A Lovely Day?), gorgeous sets and a witty mistaken identity plot that just about holds up. Unalloyed joy.
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Probably the best-loved musical in cinema history, with a teenaged Judy Garland a mesmerising Dorothy. A soothing fantasy that affirms the value of home and hearth, it has an innocent charm. And Somewhere Over the Rainbow tends to silence naysayers.
Judy Garland prepares to follow the yellow brick road in The Wizard of Oz.
Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
The, directed with verve by Vincente Minnelli, with thrilling set-pieces (notably The Trolley Song), Judy Garland at her most radiant, wonderful songs (Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas) and a melancholy undertow about missing loved ones. Close to perfect.
Easter Parade (1948)
Astaire and Garland in a backstage musical constructed around Irving Berlin’s immortal songs – Steppin’ Out With My Baby, A Couple of Swells, I Love A Piano). It’s so witty, light and delectable, you barely notice the lack of a book.
An American in Paris (1951)
Handsome, glamorous piece, with Gene Kelly’s dancing all muscular effervescence, complementing Leslie Caron’s gamine charms. Great songs from the Gershwins (Embraceable You, I Got Rhythm) and a climactic ballet sequence. Its design and Technicolor palette feel ahead of their time. A towering achievement.
Calamity Jane (1953)
Doris Day at her absolute best, right there on the Deadwood stage, in this hugely agreeable western-set musical comedy. Reliable Howard Keel is a decent Wild Bill Hickock, but Day dominates the show, especially when she launches into the great Secret Love.
West Side Story (1961)
A great film musical with strengths that eclipse its weaknesses. Richard Beymer is a pallid Tony, but Rita Moreno and George Chakiris provide fire, zest and lust. The dancing is electrifying, the songs sensational and the singing just fine.
Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer star in West Side Story
A Hard Day's Night (1964)
Director Richard Lester perfectly captured the Beatles’ insouciant wit and cheeky charm in this prototype of pop videos. The Fab Four scamper around winningly, joking about the absurdity of their new-found fame, and Lennon and McCartney provided sturdy songs for the soundtrack.
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)
Jacques Demy’s beguiling one-off, a sung-through operetta with Catherine Deneuve as a shopgirl in love with a garage attendant who leaves her pregnant. Dazzling use of colour and fine songs, notably the yearning I Will Wait For You.
Amiable romance, with a 1950s American high school as nostalgic backdrop. John Travolta grins and swivels his hips to great effect, teaming up perfectly with Olivia Newton-John. Undeniably appealing; most of its perky song are etched on our collective memory.