How many of us are making Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights a first trip back to the movies in more than a year?
The long-awaited theatrical release of the Miranda-written, pre-Hamilton hit is finally here after a pandemic-wrought delay, and fans of musicals couldn’t be happier. But for many, it’s not going to be enough. Broadway is still shut down and musical theater in general still needs time to work its way back. What’s a fan to do?
Stream it. The entertainment consumer of 2021 is inundated with choice when it comes to streaming services, and every option out there has something to offer. If you absolutely must have something close to the original article, a Broadway HD subscription might be the ticket you’re looking for. But make sure you check your existing subscriptions first; you might be surprised by what you find!
It’s simply not possible to list every musical available on Disney+. Most of the beloved movie studio’s — and really Hollywood’s — most well-known films are productions centered around song. You’ve got modern classics like The Lion King and Aladdin, truly classic classics like Cinderella, and 21st century delights like Frozen, Coco, and Moana.
If none of those dozens of animated options scratch the itch, you can turn to Disney’s more recent remakes instead, like Beauty and the Beast. Or any number of other live-action movies, like Mary Poppins (and its sequel), The Sound of Music, or The Greatest Showman (to name just a few). And when all else fails, you can always just say “screw it” and watch Hamilton again.
How to watch: Disney+
If there’s any streaming service with a musicals lineup capable of competing with Disney’s, it’s HBO Max, which notably includes the Turner Classic Movies library. That opens the door to a bunch of major hits from across history.
Fancy something a bit older? Settle in with Liza Minnelli at the peak of her career in the 1972 favorite Cabaret, which casts the multi-talented star as a singer pushing back against the misery in World War II Berlin. Or check out the 1936 Astaire and Rogers classic Swing Time if you want song and dance in equal measures. If you’re looking for laughs, there’s also the classic Rob Reiner mockumentary, This is Spinal Tap.
The list goes on. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory? Yup. The Wizard of Oz? That’s here too. Quadrophenia, Pitch Perfect, and Little Shop of Horrors? Present and accounted for, every one. You’ve even got three entire versions of A Star is Born: The original, featuring Judy Garland; the ’70s remake starring Barbra Streisand; and the most recent 2018 remake that cast Lady Gaga in the central role.
How to watch: HBO Max
It might seem like Disney+ and HBO Max have the market cornered on streaming musicals, but not so fast. Hulu has some killer options, even if you don’t have any of the service’s add-on channels. (Though a Hulu with Live TV subscription allows you to “record” anything that airs on one of its cable networks.)
You’ll find a great selection of more modern hits here in particular. Andy Samberg and The Lonely Island shine in the musical mockumentary Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping. The going gets deeply weird and trippy in Julie Taymor’s Beatles-inspired jukebox musical Across the Universe. And hey, Trolls fans: This is your moment. Trolls and its 2020 sequel, Trolls: World Tour, are both among your Hulu options.
Or how about some biopics? Taron Egerton beautifully captured the heart and soul of Elton John in the 2019 release Rocketman. Renée Zellweger did the same with Judy Garland in Judy, released in 2019. And Lee Daniels’ The United States vs. Billie Holiday is a tremendous story about the jazz singer’s famed, controversial hit “Strange Fruit,” with Andra Day giving it her all on every number.
Also: Footloose is here. Both versions.
How to watch: Hulu
Amazon Prime Video
Not to be outdone, Amazon brings its own mighty lineup of musical movies as well. You’ve got some serious favorites in here, starting with West Side Story (which is due for its own big-budget remake from Steven Spielberg in December). It’s joined by other favorites too, like Fiddler on the Roof, Guys and Dolls (Sinatra and Brando, together!), The Jazz Singer, and Funny Girl.
There’s also an extremely solid collection of concert films. The Talking Heads classic Stop Making Sense is here. So are Shine a Light and The Last Waltz, a pair of Martin Scorsese productions chronicling a Rolling Stones visit to New York City and The Band’s star-studded farewell performances, respectively. And on the mockumentary front, Fear of a Black Hat is a lesser-known but still hilarious comedy in the vein of Spinal Tap, only it’s focused on the hip-hop scene of the early ’90s.
Unfortunately, finding these things on Amazon can be a little tricky if you don’t know what you’re looking for. There’s a “Musicals” search category that ostensibly shows you what’s available with a Prime Video subscription, but it’s not nearly everything. So prepare to search around a bit.
How to watch: Amazon Prime
Netflix, the industry’s first popular streaming service, has committed more to original content in recent years and that’s had an impact on its catalog of older movies. But there’s still lots to be found here, and from pretty much every era you could ask for — including Fiddler in a bit of Amazon crossover, as well as My Fair Lady.
Let’s start with what’s current. The pandemic-era comedy special Bo Burnham: Inside is freshly released and ready to destroy anyone who sits down with it. Elsewhere in the realm of things that will leave you in ruin, the blues-and-jazz-infused Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom tells the story of the titular blues singer, with memorable performances from Viola Davis and, in his final filmed role, Chadwick Boseman.
We’re also not even a year removed from Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, a Netflix Original starring Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams that’s a send-up of the hit musical competition series. And Netflix’s criminally canceled Baz Luhrmann series The Get Down — which really plays more like a 10-hour movie — is still number one in our hearts.
There’s still more original programming too (Over the Moon? Jingle Jangle?), but Netflix is also home to plenty of older faves. If you need more Chadwick in your life, his 2014 James Brown biopic Get On Up is deeply underrated. You’ll also find Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, an all-time favorite for the Mashable team. And under no circumstances should anyone forget Shrek: The Musical.
How to watch: Netflix