1. The Sound Of Music (1965)
The new Dreamgirls is a fine example of one kind of classic musical—all blast, bombast, and dazzle, suitable for bowling people over while they're actually in the theater. But will they walk out humming the songs? Probably not, because most of those songs require Beyoncé's melismatic range or Jennifer Hudson's deep, throaty voice to pull off, and the average audience member just doesn't have the professional pipes needed to play along. Sing-along-style musicals generally require catchy numbers with a more limited range—most famously, like The Sound Of Music, which is so easy to join in with that Sound Of Music sing-alongs, with special lyrics-inclusive prints of the film, are still a regular touring event. Granted, some of the lyrics get a little abstruse (what are the youngsters getting their first singing lesson music from "Do-Re-Mi" supposed to make of "The Lonely Goatherd"'s reference to "men in the midst of a table d'hôte"?), and "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" is an opera-level challenge, but virtually the entire rest of the film is one big, friendly communal chorus.
2. Mary Poppins (1964)
Julie Andrews movies could easily dominate this list if we didn't cut her off, but it wouldn't be fair to leave out her other currently touring sing-along movie, especially in light of classics like "Chim-Chim-Cheree," "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," and "A Spoonful Of Sugar." Mary Poppins has as many unmemorable clunkers as sing-along classics (anyone remember the words to "Fidelity Fiduciary Bank"?) but the best of the lot—including the very basic "Feed The Birds"—more than compensate.
3. Charlotte's Web (1973)
The original animated Charlotte's Web isn't as song-intensive as most musicals, but the songs that are there are catchy and do a lot with a limited musical range—particularly Charlotte's sweet lullaby "Mother Earth And Father Time" and her rousing encouragement "Chin Up." And Fern's ode to pig ownership, "There Must Be Something More," is a sentimental love song for any occasion. Really, they're all winners. Musicals like this help explain why, for so long, songs were an obligatory feature of kids' movies.
4. Little Shop Of Horrors (1986)
Before lyricist Howard Ashman and composer Alan Menken moved on to making Disney movies memorable again, they wrote the songs for the stage-musical version of Roger Corman's Little Shop Of Horrors. It managed the film-to-play-to-film cycle before The Producers, and it's easier and more fun to sing, particularly on over-the-top goofs like "Skid Row" and "Suddenly, Seymour," which seem to be satirizing classical musicals and channeling them at the same time. It's harder to pull off triumphant Levi Stubbs numbers like "Mean Green Mother From Outer Space" and "Suppertime," but the songs are so much fun that it's worth the effort.
5. The Little Mermaid (1989)
Speaking of Ashman and Menken, they had a run of success (and arguably, temporarily rescued the entire concept of the Disney animated feature) with The Little Mermaid, Beauty And The Beast, and Aladdin, but of the three, the former is the most compulsively singable. "Under The Sea" and "Kiss The Girl" are just plain infectious, and even "Part Of Your World"—the big, important number where the showy, octave-spanning bombast normally comes in—is manageable. It's harder to keep up with "Poor Unfortunate Souls," with its gravelly tone and busy lyrics, but few Disney songs are more enjoyable when it comes to getting your villain on.
6. Grease (1978)
Grease is another musical with a bunch of endless clunkers—"Greased Lightning" in particular goes on about an hour too long—but with compensations in the form of theater-rockers that seem actively designed as singalongs—particularly "Summer Nights," with its gender-split call-and-response, and "You're The One That I Want." (No, the hand-jive thing isn't obligatory.) "Beauty-School Dropout" and "Look At Me, I'm Sandra Dee," while in no way plot-crucial, are also giddy fun.
7. The Wizard Of Oz (1939)
Classics like "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" and "We're Off To See The Wizard" meet amateur-singer-friendly songs like "If I Only Had A Brain" and "Ding Dong, The Witch Is Dead." Also, you totally get to do obnoxious Munchkin voices during the Lullabye League and Lollipop Guild verses of the Munchkinland medley.
8. The Muppet Movie (1979)
Did they ever figure out why there are so many songs about rainbows, and what's on the other side? For "Rainbow Connection" alone, The Muppet Movie would make this list, but really, all the songs Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher wrote for this film are friendly, good-natured, and memorable in that Muppety sort of way. "I Hope That Somethin' Better Comes Along" even makes misogyny adorable.
9. Godspell (1973)Considerably more fun to sing than to actually watch, unless you're into archeological excavations of bad '70s clothing styles, Godspell is full of super-simple earworm compositions for kids—like "Day By Day" and "Prepare Ye," which are just the same lines over and over—with the occasional busy vaudeville rouser like "All For The Best" worked in. Possibly Stephen Schwartz thought the best way to win souls for Christ was to get them humming helplessly about Him. [pagebreak]
10. Singin' In The Rain (1952)
The title song remains the most memorable and the most compulsively singable; by comparison, many of the songs (mostly stolen from older musicals) have very little going for them. But "Make 'Em Laugh" and "Good Morning" are still chipper winners, and "Moses" is the kind of number that the audience is likely to spontaneously pick up before it's halfway finished.11. Oliver! (1968)
Sure, it's cheesy. Sure, it's anti-Semitic. Sure, it's loud and chaotic and relentlessly stagey. But almost all the numbers are big, loveable winners, starting with "Food, Glorious Food" and the title song through to big ensemble numbers like "Consider Yourself," "Oom-Pah-Pah," "Who Will Buy?" and "Be Back Soon." Also, many of them are pitched to be singable by a kid cast, meaning that enthusiasm can cover for minimal melodic skills. Lionel Bart's numbers, "You've Got To Pick A Pocket Or Two" and "Reviewing The Situation," are much trickier lyrically, and should only be attempted by the linguistically nimble, or those who've had a shot or two and don't mind fumbling a bit.
12. The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas (1982)
Best known for its Dolly Parton weepie "I Will Always Love You" back before Whitney Houston made it into a karaoke standard, The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas features a number of considerable more upbeat, audience-friendly songs like "Hard Candy Christmas," "Sneaking Around," "The Aggie Stomp," and Charles Durning's thoroughly silly number "The Sidestep." Now there's a song with amateur-friendly vocal range. Sadly, Burt Reynolds' big solo song, "Where Stallions Run," was apparently cut from most video versions, so those who feel a burning need to sing along with Reynolds will have to check out his number in Smokey And The Bandit II.
13. Fiddler On The Roof (1971)So why aren't there sing-along prints of this? Virtually every number—"Tradition," "Matchmaker," "If I Were A Rich Man," "To Life," "Sunrise, Sunset," "Do You Love Me?"—is a classic. If nothing else, the abundance of parody versions prove that the tunes are catchy and easy to remember.
14. South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999)It's easy to sing along with South Park simply because Trey Parker himself doesn't seem to take his music very seriously; outmugging him would be hard work. And the songs he writes don't exactly go for the Andrew Lloyd Webber dramatic virtuosity—even when he's openly parodying Andrew Lloyd Webber. Still, while South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut has some appealing satires of standard musical tropes, one of the easiest and most enjoyable sing-alongs is "Uncle Fucka." It's not like it has a whole lot of words to worry about, and it's so joyously, simplistically raunchy.
15. Swing Time (1936)
Equally joyous, but considerably less raunchy: The numbers from Swing Time, particularly "The Way You Look Tonight" and "Pick Yourself Up." "A Fine Romance" is more wryly regretful, but it's one of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers' best duets, thanks to smirky lines like "We should be like a couple of hot tomatoes / but you're as cold as yesterday's mashed potatoes" and "I've never mussed a crease in your blue serge pants / I never had the chance / This is a fine romance." These songs are more croon-along than big, enthusiastic audience-participation numbers, but they're manageable, and it's easy to want in on Astaire and Rogers' cool chemistry.
16. Reefer Madness (2005)The first really fun, singable, memorable musical in many years is another product of the film-to-stage-musical-to-film process. Some of the songs could use stronger melody lines, and "Down At The Ol' Five And Dime" is eminently disposable, but the rest of the tunes—particularly the perky "Romeo And Juliet" and the smarmy cabaret number "Listen To Jesus, Jimmy"—are terrific, with that earworm quality that makes for a good sing-along song.
17. West Side Story (1961)Stephen Sondheim's busy lyrics don't always lend themselves to audience participation, but enough of the songs here—"Maria," "Tonight," "Jet Song," and particularly "I Feel Pretty"—linger on the tongue and in the memory. If nothing else, this musical sells itself on energy, and that kind of energy tends to get under audiences' skins and into their vocal chords.
18. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
Okay, it had to be mentioned, even if most of the people singing along aren't actually sticking with the script, and even though the songs go progressively downhill as the film stretches on. "The Time Warp," "Dammit Janet," and "Sweet Transvestite" are winners anyway. And at most Rocky Horror showings, half the audience is out of tune anyway, so even people who sing flat and can't remember lyrics half the time have a sing-along musical made just for them.