Later this month, Steven Speilberg’s adaptation of the beloved Broadway musical West Side Story will hit theaters. West Side Story takes Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and sets it in 1950s New York City. It’s the classic and tragic tale of star-crossed lovers set to music. But West Side Story is far from the only romantic musical out there.
For as long as musicals have existed, romance has always been an important plot point. From Broadway classics to modern hits, from happily-ever-afters to tragic heartbreak, the musicals on this list have it all. So if you’re looking to gear up for West Side Story, here are seven romantic musicals you can stream right now.
The Sound of Music
This Rodgers and Hammerstein classic tells the true story of a nun, Maria (Julie Andrews), who becomes a nanny to the seven Von Trapp children. During her time with the family, she teaches the children to sing and brings joy back into their lives following the death of their mother. She also builds a connection with their stern father, Captain Georg Von Trapp (Christopher Plummer). All of this is set against the backdrop of the Nazi occupation of Austria in the late 1930s.
The romance between Maria and Captain Von Trapp is the emotional heart of the musical. They fall in love not only because she brings music back into the lives of him and his children, but because she stands up to him and challenges him. When they finally admit their feelings for each other, it takes your breath away.
One of the most influential Broadway musicals of all time, Rent tells the story of a group of artists living in New York City during the AIDS crisis. A retelling of the opera La Bohème, Rent has several love stories. It was also one of the first mainstream musicals to prominently feature LGBTQ+ relationships.
The relationship between Collins (Jesse L. Martin) and Angel (Wilson Jermaine Heredia) is a tragic tale of losing someone you love to a disease. Meanwhile, Roger (Adam Pascal) and Mimi (Rosario Dawson) have an up and down relationship as Roger shuts himself off from the world and Mimi struggles with drug addiction. Ultimately, the humanity of Rent comes from its messy but beautiful love stories.
Based on the songs of ABBA, Mamma Mia is a light-hearted romantic comedy set on a picturesque Greek island. Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) has always wanted to know who her dad is, and now that she’s getting married, she has the chance to find out. After reading her mother Donna’s (Meryl Streep) old journal, she invites her three old boyfriends to the wedding. Sophie thinks she’ll recognize her father the moment she sees him, but she just can’t tell.
Meanwhile, Donna has enough on her plate trying to run her hotel and plan her daughter’s wedding; she doesn’t need three ex-boyfriends showing up. And on top of all that, Sam (Pierce Brosnan), who broke her heart all those years ago, seems to want her back. Mamma Mia is the perfect musical rom-com with romances galore, a star-studded cast, and music that you’ll be humming for days afterward.
Moulin Rouge is all about love. Christian (Ewan McGregor) moves to Paris in the 1890s to become a Bohemian and write about life and love. He finds his way to the famous Moulin Rouge cabaret and soon falls for star performer and courtesan Satine (Nicole Kidman). Their connection grows as they work together to put on the cabaret’s new show. Unfortunately, Satine has been promised to the Duke of Monroth (Richard Roxburgh), the financial backer of the show—and other tragedies await the star-crossed lovers .
Moulin Rouge is a jukebox musical, so while you enjoy the love story you can also sing along to songs you already know and love. Highlights include "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend," Elton John's "Your Song," and a tango version of The Police's "Roxanne." Christian and Satine’s love story is a passionate and tragic affair, but what else would you expect from true artists?
Singin' in the Rain
This 1950s classic MGM musical is full of iconic songs and sweet romance. In the age of silent movies, Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) is one of Hollywood’s brightest stars. When the industry starts producing movies with sound, Don and his producers hatch a plan to make their latest flop film into a musical. The only problem is that his vapid costar, Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen), has a grating voice to match her personality.
Enter Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds), an aspiring actress who Don quickly falls for. She agrees to secretly dub Lina’s vocals in the movie, and their romance blossoms. But Lina, who is in love with Don, can’t find out. Singin' in the Rain is a movie filled with great songs, old Hollywood glamour, and good old-fashioned romance.
The Last Five Years
The Last Five Years traces a relationship from beginning to end. Over the course of five years, Jamie (Jeremy Jordan) and Cathy (Anna Kendrick) meet, fall in love, get married, fight constantly, and eventually separate. Jamie is a writer who goes on to achieve massive success. Cathy is an aspiring actress whose career never moves past doing summer stock in Ohio.
Originally written as a two-person show, both Jamie and Cathy get the chance to tell their version of the story of their relationship as the musical traces their story in a non-linear narrative. Jamie’s timeline is chronological, following the relationship from its beginning, while Cathy’s starts from the end of their relationship and goes backwards to their first date. Their only real duet is when their timelines meet in the middle, during their wedding. Since we as the audience always know that their relationship is doomed, The Last Five Years ends up being a musical study of how relationships work in both good ways and bad.
When Danny (John Travolta) and Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) meet on vacation, they think they will only have a few months to enjoy their summer romance. But when fall comes around, it turns out that Sandy has transferred to Danny’s high school! Sandy expects to meet the sweet boy she knew at the beach, but at Rydell High, Danny is known as the leader of the T-Birds, a gang of greasers. During their senior year, Danny will have to choose between his reputation and his love for Sandy.
Meanwhile, Sandy is trying to find her place at Rydell. Will she stick to the good girl image she’s always known? Or join up with the Pink Ladies in Danny’s world? This fun high school romance is told through classic 1950s-style songs.
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Featured still from "West Side Story" via 20th Century Studios.