We all have favourites and these are mine: 25 musical moments from 25 films showing in BFI Musicals!, our huge season celebrating the film musical. These are the tracks that I listen to on repeat. They range from the iconic to the obscure, the heartbreaking to the bizarre. If there’s any unifying connection between them it’s wholly lost on me.
1. ‘Don’t Rain on My Parade’ from Funny Girl (1968)
A strong contender for the greatest musical performance of all time. When Barbra Streisand asks us not to rain on her parade, it’s hard not to think ‘I wouldn’t dare’.
2. ‘Taking a Chance on Love’ from Cabin in the Sky (1943)
Ethel Waters deserves to be far better known today. Here she shows exactly why she’s the infectiously warm, human heart of Cabin in the Sky.
3. ‘Let’s Go Fly a Kite’ from Mary Poppins (1964)
I have always been Mary Poppins-obsessed. But ever since I saw Saving Mr. Banks (2013), this number has had the ability to reduce me to a sobbing wreck.
4. ‘One Night Only’ from Dreamgirls (2006)
Although the critical kudos have always gone to Jennifer Hudson, it’s when Beyoncé channels her inner Diana Ross that I want to get up and dance.
5. ‘It’s Magic’ from It’s Magic aka Romance on the High Seas (1948)
Doris Day’s movie debut gave her one of the biggest and most iconic hits of her career, written by the great Jule Styne and Sammy Kahn.
6. ‘The Rhythm of Life’ from Sweet Charity (1969)
A film with an embarrassment of musical riches, but it’s Sammy Davis Jr’s turn as the head of a New Age cult where the joy is at the absolute max.
7. ‘Tom, Dick or Harry’ from Kiss Me Kate (1953)
Ann Miller makes the most of Cole Porter’s wickedly punning lyrics. Tom and Harry don’t get much of a look-in – it’s all about Dick!
8. ‘Kalina aka The Viburnum Is Blooming’ from Cossacks of the Kuban (1950)
This glorious number written by Isaak Dunayevsky feels like a traditional song, but was written especially for the film. The version Spotify has is not the original soundtrack version, but this recording sounds very similar.
9. ‘A Woman in Love’ from Guys and Dolls (1955)
Some people didn’t approve of the casting of non-singers Marlon Brando and Jean Simmons, but for me their pairing is perfect, touching and very romantic.
10. ‘Tango: Maureen’ from Rent (2005)
One of the best songs about infidelity. Anthony Rapp and Tracie Thoms tango their way through the crimes of Maureen – while dropping a couple of F-bombs!
11. ‘Maybe This Time’ from Cabaret (1972)
Liza Minnelli sings the great song of romantic optimism, written especially for the film.
12. ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ from Carousel (1956)
The anthem beloved by Liverpool fans makes two appearances in Carousel. But it’s in the film’s closing moments that it’s most likely to raise every hair on your arms.
13. ‘Everything’s in Rhythm with My Heart’ from First a Girl (1935)
This is part of my mission to encourage everyone to rediscover Jessie Matthews – Britain’s leading musical star of the 1930s. The film is a reworking of the same story as Victor/Victoria.
14. ‘To Life’ from Fiddler on the Roof (1971)
The most joyous song from one of the most melodic musicals – and introduced to a whole new generation via Lin-Manuel Miranda’s wonderful wedding video.
15. ‘The Way He Makes Me Feel’ from Yentl (1983)
Michel Legrand won an Academy Award for his score for Yentl, and this song was also nominated in its own right. It’s completely owned by Streisand in this definitive interpretation.
16. ‘Remember My Forgotten Man’ from Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)
My nomination for the greatest number in any musical ever! With heart-rending performances from Etta Moten and Joan Blondell (dubbed when singing).
17. ‘You Were Meant for Me’ from Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
It’s not all about dancing through puddles… This number, first written by Nacio Herb Brown in 1929, is the film’s most romantic and shows off Kelly’s underrated voice beautifully.
18. ‘The Man That Got Away’ from A Star Is Born (1954)
Judy Garland pulses with full-throttled emotion in a song that has become an anthem for generations of women and gay men.
19. ‘Pinball Wizard’ from Tommy (1975)
The stand-out number from Ken Russell’s outrageous interpretation of The Who’s rock opera. But almost impossible to listen to without thinking of Elton in his skyscraper boots and giant sequinned specs.
20. ‘Dressing Song’ from The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953)
“I want my undulating undies with the maribou frills…” With lyrics by Dr Seuss, this is probably the most outrageous song ever written for children.
21. ‘Je ne pourrai jamais vivre sans toi’ from The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)
Danielle Licari (dubbing for Catherine Deneuve) and José Bartel (dubbing for Nino Castelnuovo) sing the plaintive ‘I Will Wait for You’, one of Michel Legrand’s most beautiful songs.
22. ‘Ain’t There Anyone Here for Love?’ from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)
“I like big muscles, and red corpuscles, I like a beautiful hunk o’ man!” Jane Russell goes to the gym.
23. ‘Bonjour Paris’ from Funny Face (1957)
Audrey Hepburn, Fred Astaire and the scenery-chewing Kay Thompson spend a joyful first day in Paris.
24. ‘Processional and Maria (The Wedding)’ from The Sound of Music (1965)
So many reasons why this track pushes people over the edge. But we love to cry at weddings, especially when it’s Maria von Trapp’s wedding attended by multiple nuns.
25. ‘Oklahoma’ from Oklahoma! (1955)
That Rodgers and Hammerstein could write such a thrilling number about the joys of an American state is one of the great marvels and mysteries of the musical.