While movie musicals are relatively common (simply look at most kids’ movies as just one example), it can be hard to come by a regular film that is about music, and that features incredible singing, but that doesn’t have the characters just bursting into song to express what they’re feeling every five minutes. No matter how great their voices are, it’s just not realistic. But in movies where the actors get the chance to belt out a few tunes, and it makes sense in the context of the story, you can have movie magic on your hands. It should come as no surprise that such movies often earn themselves countless awards. It isn’t easy to find actors who can tell a convincing story and sing their hearts out.
We’ve rounded up a few movies that do just that. For the films in the list below, there were five Academy Award wins, two nominations, and the potential for several more in the upcoming awards season.
6. Pitch Perfect
We first got to see Anna Kendrick’s acting chops in Up in the Air, opposite George Clooney. In Pitch Perfect, her role isn’t nearly as deep, but she convincingly plays stoic Beca Mitchell, a freshman at Barden University who begrudgingly joins an acapella group. Kendrick is joined by a quirky group of young women who all have killer voices. While often relatively cheesy (albeit intentionally), you can’t help but get lost in the group’s beautiful harmonies and crystal clear voices. Kendrick’s voice is hands-down magnificent.
5. The Bodyguard
Oh ,Whitney, how we miss your unparalleled talent. Ok, yes, this movie is a bit dated (Kevin Costner is the love interest, after all), but it was from this movie that we got the hit song “I Will Always Love You.” And no one can belt it out the way Houston does. The story of The Bodyguard is actually relatively good — certainly enough to keep you engaged the entire time — and we get those sweet tidbits of vocal glory every time Houston takes the stage as Rachel Marron.
Many are familiar with Glen Hansard, the Irish singer-songwriter, but he makes up only half of the folk-rock duo The Swell Season. The other half is made up of Czech singer and pianist Markéta Irglová. The movie stars the two and tells a fictional story of how they found each other musically. Throughout, the audience gets to sit back and experience fantastic performances — vocally, on the piano, and on the guitar. When Hansard and Irglová sing together, it’s truly special.
3. Walk the Line
Despite what some may think, Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix did sing all of their songs for this Johhny Cash/June Carter biopic. They also learned to play their instruments from scratch. The story follows the romance of the couple against the backdrop of the country music scene. Their heartbreaking tale is beautifully told, and the music throughout has soul. Witherspoon won both the Golden Globe and the Academy Award for her performance in it.
2. A Star Is Born
Run, don’t walk, to the theaters to see this movie. It will surely receive several Oscar nominations when the time comes. The film marks Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut. He plays world-renowned musician (and alcoholic) Jackson Maine. He meets Ally, played by Lady Gaga, and falls in love. The two sing their way through the film — performing together and separately in various concerts on the road. The connection between the two is palpable, and the acting is second to none. But the singing is what totally and utterly captures the audience throughout the film. Cooper’s voice is solid, but Gaga’s is out of this world. No one else could have played her part, and that is clear from the word “go.”
1. Singin’ in the Rain
Never has any filmmaker been able to create such a beautiful and magical film since Singin’ in the Rain. Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, and Donald O’Connor take you on a journey — poking fun of the movie industry — that is so incredibly fun through their stellar dancing and singing. We happily go on the ride with them as they figure out how to save their film in the new era of talking pictures. Simply put, it is unmatched.