Jon M. Chu’s big-screen adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony-winning musical “In the Heights” hits theaters and HBO Max this weekend (please, if you’re able, see this film as large and as loud as possible), entering a grand pantheon of the movie musical. The film is as inspired by the culture of Washington Heights, Manhattan, as it is by the great movie musicals of yore. So if “In the Heights” puts you in a musical mood, here are several other streaming movie musicals to get you moving and grooving.
Start, of course, with Miranda’s ubiquitous award-winning musical “Hamilton” for more of his signature sound. The Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway musical about the Founding Fathers was filmed in 2015 and released on Disney+ last summer. Be sure to also watch the spiritual predecessor of “In the Heights,” the 1961 movie musical “West Side Story,” directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins. This Romeo and Juliet tale is set against gang warfare in New York, and giving it a rewatch now will also serve as preparation for Steven Spielberg’s remake, due out later this year. Stream it on Amazon Prime.
There are sequences in “In the Heights” visually inspired by the iconic choreographer and director Busby Berkeley, who created kaleidoscopic visions of dancing bodies in the earliest Hollywood musicals. Some of his best work is available on HBO Max, including the 1933 films “42nd Street” and “Gold Diggers of 1933.” “Footlight Parade” is available for a $1.99 rental on Amazon and iTunes.
For more New York City-set musicals, stream the classic “On the Town,” a 1949 Technicolor film starring Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Jules Munchin as a trio of sailors on leave in New York City for 24 whole hours. Kelly himself choreographed and co-directed the musical with Stanley Donen, and it was shot both on location in New York City and in the studio. Rent it for $1.99 on Amazon or iTunes.
The 1980 movie musical “Fame” follows a set of young dreamers in NYC: a group of talented high school students at a performing arts high school (based on Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School). The film spawned the Oscar-winning hit song “Fame” performed by Irene Cara, and cemented its place in the canon of musical classics. Rent it for $2.99 Amazon or iTunes.
“In the Heights” co-star Daphne Rubin-Vega rocks the screen with her performance of “Carnaval del Barrio,” but she was previously best known for originating the role of Mimi in “Rent.” While she doesn’t reprise the role in the 2005 movie version of “Rent” (Rosario Dawson replaced her), it’s still an iconic New York City musical. Watch it on Amazon Prime.
And just because we love it, one of the best movie musicals and best movies ever made, the 1952 movie musical about making movie musicals, “Singin’ in the Rain” is streaming on HBO Max and is always worthy of your rewatch. There’s nothing Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor can’t fix.