back to top

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.

Posted on

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"

View this video on YouTube

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"


View this video on YouTube

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"

View this video on YouTube

4. Romance & Cigarettes (2005)


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"


View this video on YouTube

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"

View this video on YouTube

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"


View this video on YouTube

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"

View this video on YouTube

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"


View this video on YouTube

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"

View this video on YouTube

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"


View this video on YouTube

11. Were the World Mine (2008)


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"

View this video on YouTube

12. Passing Strange (2010)


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"

View this video on YouTube