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Updated on Jul 25, 2020. Posted on Jul 25, 2020

9 Movies-Turned-Musicals That Were Done Well And 9 That Were Better Off As Movies

Lots of movies get turned into musicals...but which ones were good calls, and which ones should've stayed just films?

You may have noticed that a bunch of musicals nowadays seem to be based on movies — like School of Rock and Matilda. This has actually been happening for a long time!

Andrew Lloyd Webber, The Royal Shakespeare Company

1961's Carnival! is based on a 1953 movie called Lili. It's a Wonderful Life was turned into a musical in the '80s. Even famous shows like Hairspray were movies first!

But which of these are actually good stage adaptations of the film, and which ones don't do the film justice? Below, I decide which is better: the original film or the musical.

MTV

Don't worry, you'll have a chance to weigh in on if I'm right or not. I know there were some strong opinions on my movie musicals post.

1. Heathers vs. Heathers: The Musical

New World Pictures, Big Block Theatrical

Unsurprisingly, both the film and the musical became cult classics. The film is great, but adding music turned out to be a genius move. It gives the characters more time to shine (J.D. is so much creepier and Veronica is so much more relatable) and makes the story that much more darkly comedic (there's a whole song about blue balls then one called "My Dead Gay Son"). Not to mention that every song is a bop.

Verdict: Sorry, HeathersHeathers: The Musical wins.

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2. Carrie vs. Carrie: The Musical

United Artists, Friedrich Kurz

Nothing rivals the original harrowing adaptation of Stephen King's novel. But...personally, as someone who literally cannot watch horror films, the musical is much more watchable. The songs are emotionally resonant and make the story feel that much more like a tragedy instead of horror. Plus, Carrie: The Musical, like Heathers: The Musical, does a great job of capturing teen angst.

Verdict: The musical is better.

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3. Aladdin vs. Aladdin: The Musical

Disney, Disney Theatrical Productions

Aladdin without Robin Williams just is not Aladdin. Like the recent live-action remake of the original film, the musical fails to accurately capture the whimsy and mad genius of Williams's Genie, and without him the rest of the story falls a little flat. Man lies, girl falls for him anyways, another creepy man tries to steal the girl away...it's a tale as old as time, and though the costumes and sets are impressive, the story itself falls flat.

Verdict: The movie wins!

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4. Thoroughly Modern Millie vs. Thoroughly Modern Millie: The Musical

Universal Pictures, Fox Theatricals

Julie Andrews is wonderful in anything she does, but the original film just did not have the level of music and dance that shone in the musical. Sutton Foster is an absolute force in the musical, and the tap dancing is unrivaled (yes, I still like it better than Billy Elliot). Maybe I have a soft spot for the musical since we did it in high school, but I gotta go with the musical on this one.

Verdict: The musical is better!

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5. Waitress vs. Waitress: The Musical

Fox Searchlight Pictures, Barry & Fran Weissler

Waitress is a sweet movie, but we often feel far away from Jenna and her actual emotions, which is too bad for such a character-based film. The musical remedies this with wonderful music from Sara Bareilles, which makes Jenna much more relatable and makes her arc mean that much more. "She Used to Be Mine" is also one of my favorite modern solos in theater.

Verdict: The musical is superior!

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6. Mean Girls vs. Mean Girls: The Musical

Paramount Pictures, Lorne Michaels and Stuart Thompson

Look, I absolutely love the Mean Girls musical. It's super fun, and it helps that it has an amazing cast, with Tayler Louderman, Barrett Wilbert Weed (who you might remember from Heathers!), and Ashley Park as standouts. But one place where the musical falls short is that it feels more like an observation of youth rather than capturing what it's like to be a teenager, which the far less realistic Carrie and Heathers do much better. The caricatures are fun, but they don't always bring the relatability that the characters in the original film did.

Verdict: The movie is better!

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7. Beauty and the Beast vs. Beauty and the Beast: The Musical

Disney, Disney Theatrical Productions

This was a really hard one, because I love the film so much. But the musical adds some much-needed solos for Belle, the Beast, and Gaston. (In the film, Belle doesn't get a full solo — she just gets a one minute reprise.) "Human Again" was so good they literally went back and added it to the animated film in future releases. The way in which the household objects are recreated onstage is both inventive and whimsical, and it pays off in "Be Our Guest," which is a marvel of theater. The score is also given time to shine in the musical even more so than the film, resulting in music that's so beautifully cohesive it approaches Phantom levels.

Verdict: The musical wins!

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8. Legally Blonde vs. Legally Blonde: The Musical

MGM Distribution Co., Fox Theatricals

Legally Blonde The Musical is a whole lot of fun. I'm sure there were earlier examples, but Legally Blonde was the first real pop musical I heard, and also the first adaptation of a classic film. But while the musical features great costumes, fun dance numbers, and entertaining songs, I don't necessarily feel they add anything to the original. They're more like frosting, or decoration. While I love the musical, I gotta go with the movie on this one.

Verdict: The movie is better!

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9. Hairspray vs. Hairspray: The Musical

New Line Cinema, Margo Lion

While I enjoyed John Waters' off-kilter brand of comedy in the film, the musical is more the kind of thing I could watch again and again. It's such a classic, and the music makes it far more big and fun. The racial themes in the musical are also even more overt, and having Little Inez win the pageant and integrate The Corny Collins Show is a much better ending.

Verdict: The musical is far better!

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10. Moulin Rouge! vs. Moulin Rouge!: The Musical

20th Century Fox, Carmen Pavlovic

Moulin Rouge!: The Musical is one of the best stage musicals I have ever seen in terms of pure theatricality, costumes, sets, dance, and ingenuity. It keeps some of the best songs from the film (like "Roxanne" and "Lady Marmalade") while reinventing most of the songs to better fit modern pop. However, it falls flat in the story: making Satine know she's dying earlier takes away a lot of the dramatic irony. The Duke storyline sort of goes away in the end, so instead they resort to giving Christian the gun in the climax, in a rather problematic scene where he threatens to kill Satine then himself (in the film, he just pays her and walks away). The musical also gives the audience no time to mourn Satine, favoring another dance number. It's a wonderful theatrical production, but it doesn't have the heart of the film.

Verdict: The musical is great, but the movie still wins!

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11. Frozen vs. Frozen: The Musical

Disney, Disney Theatrical Productions

While Frozen: The Musical has a couple great songs ("What Do You Know About Love" and "Monster" come to mind) and impressive costume changes and set design (people literally gasped when Elsa changed into her ice outfit in my theater), overall the musical falls flat in comparison to the movie. The trolls are not well captured, and the pacing of the musical feels off. As much as it tries, it never quite reaches the heart or beauty of the film — however, it's still a lot of fun!

Verdict: The movie is definitely better.

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12. Shrek vs. Shrek: The Musical

Dreamworks, DreamWorks Theatricals

Shrek is sort of like Heathers in the way that it absolutely reinvented a genre that had largely been dominated by one person/company (in the case of Heathers and the '80s that was John Hughes; in the case of Shrek it was Disney). But unlike the Heathers musical, which takes the premise even further, the Shrek musical doesn't do anything more than present the film onstage, in a way that almost feels akin to Disney stage shows, which is a step back for the story. It feels sort of old and outdated for someone who's seen the films plenty, and it lacks the charm of the leads of the film.

Verdict: The movie wins!

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13. The Wedding Singer vs. The Wedding Singer: The Musical Comedy

New Line Cinema, Margo Lion, New Line Cinema

The film is carried by the charm and chemistry of its two leads (we all love to see Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler together), and the musical lacks both this charm and chemistry. The music is rather uninspired, and the jokes fall flat. As far as rock musicals, The Wedding Singer falls on the very low end of quality.

Verdict: The movie is better.

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14. The Lion King vs. The Lion King: The Musical

Disney, Disney Theatrical Productions

I might get some hate for this, but I gotta go with The Lion King musical on this one. Of course I love the original film, but the musical is unlike anything else I've seen in theater, and the pure creativity of the show and costumes is theater at its best: creating a whole new immersive world with nothing but practical effects and music.

Verdict: The musical wins!

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15. The Little Mermaid vs. The Little Mermaid: The Musical

Disney, Disney Theatrical Productions

The Little Mermaid is a fun musical, and it starts out super promising with the special effects used to set the scene underwater. Ursula and "Poor Unfortunate Souls" in particular shine. But overall, once out of the water the musical loses some of its magic, and the added songs fall a little flat. It's still a good musical, but I have to go with the movie on this one.

Verdict: The movie wins!