A-List: Five Worst (Movie) Musicals of All Time

By J. Don Birnam

October 8, 2014

What do you mean, you're going to have a better career than me, Kelly?

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Well, you knew this was coming, right? After struggling mightily to pare down all the movie musicals I have ever seen into only five that I considered the best (and landing on the perhaps controversial choice of Cabaret) it was inevitable that the frustration over the task would spill into wrath over the musicals that have made us grimace, cringe, and boo.

As I was doing research for this article, I noticed that the list of horrible musicals was much longer than I had previously imagined. This led me to think of two points about my iteration of the A-List column that perhaps seemed obvious to me at first but became less so when I was exploring the daunting list of bad musicals. At the risk of stating the obvious, it may be time to share these two points with readers.

The first point is that I only include movies in these lists that I have seen at least once, even if a long time ago. Granted, I have seen a…uh…boatload of movies in my life, but in no way shape or form should my making a list about anything be taken as anything other than my own views, limited by the human ability to know a body of work that spans millions of hours of art. Kind of like the Oscars, you see? “Best” is truly only in the eye of the beholder and is more a testament of the selector than of anything else.


The second, more subtle point, and perhaps related to the first, is that you shouldn’t expect to see F-list movies on this list. Yeah, Gigli or Norbit could make appearances - I have sadly seen those movies, and they were mainstream in the sense of having recognized stars at their forefront. But when it comes to truly ridiculous flicks (who has heard of a 1990 musical called “Shout”??) that are completely outside of anything you could possibly imagine you would enjoy… you’re not going to see those on this or any other A-List—on a “best” or “worst” of anything. That, perhaps, is the problem inherent in making a list of “Worst” anything. Great movies, while plenty, are easier to study. The cream rises to the top. But, when it comes to art, there is plenty of trash out there, and it would be truly impossible to catalog it all. Weeding through muck is much harder. Thus, “Worst” lists are more “worst of the mainstream” than anything else.

With that said, the same rules apply to this particular list as did to the best movie musicals list - I’m leaving animated films out of it for now.

There are many (dis)honorable mentions. Most of them are sequels. Grease 2? Ugh. I’m not sure what on Earth possessed me to watch that. And despite its cult-classic like-status amongst my generation, I’m not sure I’m in love with Save the Last Dance. In fact, I pretty much dislike it and never understood what the fuss was about. But I’ve left it off because of the existence of more truly objectionable choices. I also saw bits and pieces of High School Musical 2 once - no, it wasn’t a drunken stupor, young nieces and nephews will do that to you. Truly horrendous.

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