12 Modern Movie Musicals You Might Have Missed

You’ve seen Les Misérables and Chicago, but have you had a chance to check out more indie fare? Here are some semi-obscure modern movie musicals, presented in chronological order.

1. Dancer in the Dark (2000)

Fine Line Features

Directed by: Lars von Trier
Starring: Björk, Catherine Deneuve, David Morse
The plot: In the ’60s, Czech immigrant Selma works at a factory to raise money for surgery that will prevent her son from going blind. At the same time, Selma is losing her sight from the same degenerative disease.
Notable songs: “I’ve Seen it All,” “Cvalda,” “107 Steps”

2. Camp (2003)

IFC Films

Directed by: Todd Graff
Starring: Daniel Letterle, Joanna Chilcoat, Robin de Jesús, Anna Kendrick
The plot: A group of awkward misfits attend Camp Ovation, a performing arts summer camp. Most of the focus is on Ellen and Michael, who both lust after supposed straight boy Vlad.
Notable songs: “I Sing for You,” “The Ladies Who Lunch,” “Here’s Where I Stand”

3. 20 Centimeters (2005)

TLA Releasing

Directed by: Ramón Salazar
Starring: Mónica Cervera, Pablo Puyol, Miguel O’Dogherty, Rossy de Palma
The plot: Marieta is a trans women trying to pay for her sex reassignment surgery — specifically to remove the titular 20 centimeters. She works as a prostitute to raise money, but her narcolepsy causes complications.
Notable songs: “I Want to Break Free,” “True Blue,” “Changes”

4. Romance & Cigarettes (2005)

Boroturro

Directed by: John Turturro
Starring: James Gandolfini, Susan Sarandon, Kate Winslet, Christopher Walken
The plot: Nick is married to Kitty but finds himself tempted by sexy lingerie salesperson Tula. He begins an affair, which Kitty soon discovers. She kicks him out, forcing Nick to reevaluate his priorities.
Notable songs: “Piece of My Heart,” “Prisoner of Love,” “I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now”

5. Colma: The Musical (2006)

Roadside Attractions

Directed by: Richard Wong
Starring: Jake Moreno, H.P. Mendoza, L.A. Renigen, Sigrid Sutter, Larry Soriano
The plot: Teenagers Billy, Rodel, and Maribel try to navigate life after high school. Billy wants to become a musical theater star, Rodel tries to come out to his single dad, and Maribel doesn’t know what her future holds.
Notable songs: “Colma Stays,” “Things Will Get Better,” “Could We Get Any Older”

6. A Prairie Home Companion (2006)

New Line Cinema

Directed by: Robert Altman
Starring: Garrison Keillor, Woody Harrelson, Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Lindsay Lohan
The plot: During the final live performance of a long-running radio show, the performers and crew prepare to say goodbye. They’re aided by the arrival of an angel named Asphodel, who has also come to bring one of them to the afterlife.
Notable songs: “Softly and Tenderly,” “My Minnesota Home,” “In the Sweet By and By”

7. Love Songs (2007)

Bac Films

Directed by: Christophe Honoré
Starring: Louis Garrel, Ludivine Sagnier, Chiara Mastroianni, Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet
The plot: Ismaël is in a complicated three-way relationship with his girlfriend Julie and their friend Alice. When Julie dies suddenly, Ismaël is drawn to both Alice and a man named Erwann.
Notable songs: “Je n’aime que toi,” “Les Yeux au ciel,” “J’ai cru entendre”

8. Hamlet 2 (2008)

Focus Features

Directed by: Andrew Fleming
Starring: Steve Coogan, Catherine Keener, Amy Poehler, Elisabeth Shue
The plot: Dana Marschz is a failed actor who now teaches an Arizona high school’s languishing drama program. He decides to write and produce a highly controversial musical called Hamlet 2, featuring a rock star Jesus and a bi-curious Laertes.
Notable songs: “Rock Me Sexy Jesus,” “Raped in the Face,” “Someone Saved My Life Tonight”

9. The Big Gay Musical (2008)

Embrem Entertainment

Directed by: Casper Andreas, Fred M. Caruso
Starring: Celina Carvajal, Daniel Robinson, Joey Dudding, Jeff Metzler
The plot: Paul and Eddie are gay actors starring in a musical called Adam & Steve: Just the Way God Made ‘Em. While Paul is looking for his perfect man, Eddie is struggling with coming out to his conservative parents.
Notable songs: “I Wanna Be a Slut,” “As I Am,” “God Loves Gays”

10. Cadillac Records (2008)

TriStar Pictures

Directed by: Darnell Martin
Starring: Adrien Brody, Beyoncé Knowles, Jeffrey Wright, Mos Def
The plot: This real-life story follows Leonard Chess as he founds a new record label that creates new opportunities for African American musicians, including Chuck Berry, Etta James, Muddy Waters, and Little Walter.
Notable songs: “I Can’t Be Satisfied,” “Maybellene,” “At Last”

11. Were the World Mine (2008)

SPEAKproductions

Directed by: Tom Gustafson
Starring: Tanner Cohen, Wendy Robie, Judy McLane, Nathaniel David Becker
The plot: Timothy is a bullied gay student starring in his high school’s production of a musical version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He discovers a real love potion, which he uses to turn his homophobic town gay.
Notable songs: “Be as Thou Wast Wont,” “Were the World Mine,” “The Course of True Love”

12. Passing Strange (2010)

PBS

Directed by: Spike Lee
Starring: Stew, Daniel Breaker, De’Adre Aziza, Eisa Davis
The plot: A young African American man, known as the Youth, decides to travel to Europe to find himself and develop as a musician. His journey is narrated by the Narrator, who pauses the story to interact with the characters.
Notable songs: “Sole Brother,” “May Day,” “Love Like That”

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