Top 10 High School Musicals Movies

High school musicals there are a plenty these days! However, this page is NOT about Disney's High School Musical series but rather about ten other great musicals. If you love musical movies and particularly high school ones, you are going to love this page.

Even high school musicals, which seem at first to be on the same subject, can be very different. Depending on your taste in movies, you may really enjoy some and not others.  I will add that I originally wrote this page on another website in 2009. There may be a movie that has been produced since then and that was not considered for inclusion on this page.

This list of the best high school musicals was inspired by an article in The Ottawa Citizen and deliberately excluded Disney's High School Musicals because there was already so much written about them. Finally, remember, a best of list is always subjective.

Whether or not you love high school musicals, I hope that this page will inspire you to pick one up the next time you choose a movie. Maybe it will be a trip down memory lane as Grease is for me or perhaps it will be a chance to see what all the fuss was about Hairspray. Whatever the case may be, enjoy your high school musical.

Do not judge all high school musical movies by modern standards; keep an open mind. Remember that many of them were made in different times than those that we live in now.

West Side Story (1961)

TAGLINE: "You hoodlums don't own the streets!"

West Side Story, the first movie on our list of high school musicals, won ten Academy Awards which included Best Picture. It is a Romeo and Juliet movie set in the slums of 1950s New York. It was directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins and features music by Leonard Bernstein.

In the story, two young lovers are not in the same ethnic group. As a matter of fact, they are in opposing street gangs. It is a gritty movie with elements of hope and tragedy. The song and dance numbers are considered outstanding. However, social issues, relationships and language make this movie suitable for a slightly mature audience and not young children. The Movie Mom, who happens to be one of my favorite family friendly movie reviewers, recommends it for children aged 10 and up.

Take a peek here for yourself at the movie trailer: 

West Side story starred Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Rita Moreno, George Charikis and Russ Tamblyn.

Click here to order your copy of  West Side Story from Amazon

Bye Bye Birdie (1963)

TAGLINE: "Go! Go! See! See!"

Bye Bye Birdie is all about "that certain something that excites young people when they reach that certain age!" It is a satire of 1950s culture and suburban life centered around a young female teenager who falls head over heels for Conrad Birdie, an Elvis Presley-like rock star. 

Take a look for yourself at the movie trailer here:

Bye Bye Birdie starred Dick Van Dyke, Janet Leigh, Ann-Margret, Maureen Stapleton and Paul Lynde.  The Movie Mom recommends it for children 8 years old and up.

Click here to order your copy of  Bye Bye Birdie from Amazon.

Grease (1977)

TAGLINE: "Grease is the word!"

Grease is the exciting musical that launched John Travolta and Olivia Newton John into stardom. In this movie, a slick young male gang member falls for a sweet and wholesome girl. It is packed with memorable music and dancing. This movie may seem light-hearted at moments but be aware that is probably not suitable for children under the age of 13 and I was somewhat uncomfortable watching it with my sons even when they were a bit older than that.

Take a look at the movie through the trailer:

Grease starred John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, Stockard Channing and Jeff Conaway.

Click here to order your copy of  Grease from Amazon.

Rock N' Roll High School (1979)

TAGLINE: "Will your school be next?"

Fans of The Ramones will enjoy this high school musical. This movie, according to Amazon "is a blast, a goofy and liberating salute to the rebel spirit behind the teen rock roll movies of the 1950s."

Rock 'N' Roll High School starred P.J. Soles, Vincent Van Patten, Clint Howard, Dey Young and Mary Woronov.

Click here to order your copy of  Rock 'N' Roll High School from Amazon.

Fame (1980)

TAGLINE: "If they really got what it takes, it's going to take everything they got."

This 1980 high school musical follows the ups and downs of four teenage students from various ethnic and racial backgrounds through high school at the New York City High School for the Performing Arts. This movie won two Academy Awards for its soundtrack and contains one of the most popular songs of the 1980s.

Fame starred Eddie Barth, Irene Cara, Lee Curreri, Laura Dean and Antonia Franceschi.

Click here to order your copy of Fame from Amazon.

Footloose (1984)

TAGLINE: "He's a big city kid in a small town. They said he'd never win. He knew he had to."

Footloose propelled Kevin Bacon into fame and fortune when he played an urban teenager who has moved to a small town where dancing is illegal. Along with two friends, he created a revolution in dance.

Watch the trailer here:

Footloose starred Kevin Bacon, Lori Singer, John Lithgow, Dianne Wiest and Chris Penn and was directed by Herbert Ross. It is recommended for individuals 15 years of age and up.

Click here to order your copy of  Footloose from Amazon.

Cry-Baby (1990)

TAGLINE: "He's a doll. He's a dreamboat. He's a delinquent."

"You've made me the happiest juvenile delinquent in Baltimore."

Johnny Depp fans celebrate. Here is another Johnny Depp movie. I am a fan but had somehow missed this movie.

Cry-Baby is a comedy that was set in 1954. It is about a girl who cannot decide if she should remain good or hang out with the boys and a gang leader named Cry-baby, who is able to shed a tear to set girls off screaming. I have read that this is a strange musical with weird characters, but I have yet to see it. What did you think of it?

Cry-Baby starred Johnny Depp, Ricki Lake, Amy Locane, Susan Tyrell and Polly Bergen.

Click here to order your copy of  Cry Baby from Amazon.

Hairspray (2000)

TAGLINE: "People who are different, your time is coming!"

Amazon said that "Hairspray was one of the best films of the year -- it's powerfully moving entertainment that leaves you energized and motivated to fight for what you believe in." It managed to appeal to the movie-going public and capture the excitement of a Broadway musical. My family, which includes two teenage boys, put off watching this movie for quite awhile as at first it just did not appeal. When we started hearing that it might actually be good, we became more interested but we still had to sell it to two teenage boys. When we finally watched it, we thoroughly enjoyed it.

The story is one of a television dance show and big hair but, more importantly, of prejudice and racism in 1962 Baltimore. The main character, a girl who can sing deals with prejudice against 'chubby' people like herself and with the racism of 1962 when the world was still very much segregated.

Hairspray starred John Travolta, Michelle Pffeifer, Queen Latifah, Zac Efron and Christopher Walken and was directed by Adam Shankman.

Click here to order your copy of  Hairspray from Amazon.

Center Stage (2000)

TAGLINE: "Life doesn't hold tryouts."

Center Stage is a "goofy fun" film. It follows the steps required in becoming a professional ballet dancer. However, the main story rotates around a sexy jazz dancer and the regular characters in a dancer's life. It deals with the hopes and dreams of ballet students as they prepare to be evaluated by the American Ballet Company.

Watch the trailer here:

Center Stage starred Amanda Schull, Zoe Saldana, Susan May Pratt, Peter Gallagher and Donna Murphy. Noteworthy is that the final dance scene features Michael Jackson's The Way You Make Me Feel and If I Was the One.

Click here to order your copy of  Center Stage from Amazon.

Hamlet 2

TAGLINE: "Write a play and make it the best you've ever done..."

Hamlet 2 premiered at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. A comedy, this high school musical features a failed actor who becomes a drama teacher and, when the drama program is threatened, who creates a politically incorrect musical sequel to Shakespeare's Hamlet. I have not seen this movie but it looks like a light-hearted and entertaining high school musical.

The Movie Mom had something interesting to say about this movie that I thought I would share with you. She starts off by saying that it is very raunchy and profane and that the plot is about an outrageous high school production which sees Hamlet going back in time to prevent a tragedy from occurring. There is a song that will offend some but those who come to the play to protest wind up applauding because Jesus is the one character who inspires all to be better and to be forgiving. She calls it an "unexpectedly sweet, sincere, and even reverent" film. I will have to see it now that I have read her words.

Hamlet 2 starred Steve Coogan, Elisabeth Shue, Catherine Keener, Joseph Julian Soria and Skylar Astin and was directed by Andrew Fleming.

Click here to order your copy of Hamlet 2 from Amazon.


So that's it, my list of the top 10 high school musical movies. Are there any you would like to see or any you would add?

See you
at the movies!

More High School Musical Movie Reviews:

West Side Story Movie Review (1961) from the New York Times
Interesting review, originally Published in 1961. What they have done with West Side Story in knocking it down and moving it from stage to screen is to reconstruct its fine material into nothing short of a cinema masterpiece...

Bye Bye Birdie Movie Review (1963) from the New York Times
What with the streets of New York crowded with young people out of school and the breezes that blow in from New Jersey warm with the breath of spring, the Music Hall has a fitting picture to go with its holiday show...

Grease Movie Review (1978) from the New York Times 
"GREASE," the film version of the still-running Broadway musical show, is not really the 1950's teen-age movie musical it thinks it is, but a contemporary fantasy about a 1950's teen-age musical-a larger, funnier, wittier and more imaginative-than-Ho

Cry-Baby Movie Review (1990) By The New York Times
Not content to watch old Presley movies on television, John Waters has made a brand new one, and made it in the manner of a teen-crazed Cecil B. DeMille.

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Max Movie Review: A Solid Dog-Themed Family Movie (2015)

My husband takes credit for bringing home this very good dog movie. It's an intense adventure with the lead role going to Max - Best Friend. Hero. Marine.

I watched this movie without knowing a single thing about it, which made it pretty wrenching and I find it is impossible to review it without giving away critical details that are actually spoilers.  If that concerns you, turn back now, before it is too late. If you would rather know what you are in for, read on.


Max is the story of a military dog and his family. It takes you to Afghanistan where you witness some of the conflict going on there. When things go wrong there for his unit and his handler, the dog is returned to Texas where the only person he is able to relate to is his handler's unwilling teenage brother Justin.

You can get a feel for the movie by watching the official movie trailer here:

Max stars Josh Wiggins, Lauren Graham, Thomas Haden Church, Robbie Amell and Joseph Julian Soria. I spent considerable minutes trying to figure out where I knew Lauren Graham from and my husband filled in the blanks, she is from the Gilmore Girls. 

What to Watch Out For?

Max is rated PG - Parental Guidance. It is an intense movie with lots of peril and action though obviously not in the way a major action movie rated PG-14 or more might be. Having said that, it does have violence including wartime events, characters killed and dogfights and it is sad.

Indeed, it has some very sad moments as well as very happy moments and remember, a dog is involved. Some dog lovers find it impossible to watch a dog movie in which a dog might be harmed. If you want to know what happens to Max in this movie, leave me a comment and I will send you a private message rather than give away the story here. Either way, you are going to need a big box of tissue on hand for there will be lots of tears shed on screen and off.  The Movie Mom recommends this movie for fourth graders and up, which sounds reasonable to me. 


YES! The critics did not seem to like Max but the audiences did. Max is an old style family movie but some found the plot a bit disjointed. In any case, we thoroughly enjoyed it. Max is a solid dog movie with a look at the life of a working dog. It has action, adventure and loss as well as a bit of romance and comedy. 

I think that Max would be a great gift for anyone who loves dogs. You can buy or rent Max from Amazon by clicking right here.  If you buy it, be sure to watch the special features to understand some of the process that goes into making a movie that stars a dog.

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at the movies!

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The Martian Movie Review

We watched The Martian last night and I was impressed. Matt Damon presents a thoughtful and of course brilliant astronaut named Mark Watney stranded and alone on Mars.  In some ways it is a quiet movie, thought provoking and interesting.

I enjoyed Watney's approach to solving the problems set before him one at a time until you reach the desired end. I particularly enjoyed his wit. Have you tried being funny when you are alone? Finally, I enjoyed his never-give-up attitude. I believe that his way of thinking and reacting are ones that many of us can use in life though I do not really think this movie was meant to teach us a lesson.

The Martian is based on a book of the same name by Andy Weir, which I am given to understand by one of my sons, is a very good read.

Take a peek at the movie here via the official movie trailer from 20th Century Fox:


The movie is rated PG-13. In terms of what to watch out for, I do not think there is much to put off an adult viewer. There is a sense of peril throughout much of the movie. There's an occasional swear word delivered in a less than totally offensive manner.  There is an injury requiring a medical fix. I'm not crazy about seeing blood and I did look away during this spot of the film but I would recommend you not let this moment turn you away from watching this film. There's also brief nudity showing the backside of the lead character. I see that the Movie Mom recommends this movie for middle schoolers, which sounds pretty reasonable to me.


Yes. For sure. The Martian is an excellent film. I am no space expert so I cannot say how well it represents what life would be like on Mars but it certainly will make you think about what it might be like to visit that faraway planet. If you need any further recommendation to watch this movie, you might consider that The Martian was nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Motion Picture of the Year and Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role. Pretty impressive even if it did not win.

You can buy or rent the movie right now from Amazon by clicking right here. I do think that the book and the movie would make a fabulous gift set for anyone who enjoys a well crafted, space themed movie.

See you
at the movies!

Quick Links:

Buy or rent The Martian from Amazon.

Brooklyn Movie Review (2015)

After a few missed attempts a girlfriend, my husband and I set off on a journey back in time to 1950s Ireland and Brooklyn, New York City, via the movie Brooklyn. We were not disappointed.

Brooklyn is a beautifully shot period drama that follows the path of a young Irish woman leaving family and friends behind in Ireland to seek a better life for herself. It shares details of life in Ireland, life aboard the boats that brought immigrants to the shores of North America and what it was like to be an Irish immigrant on our shores in that era. It is also a love story with lots of emotional highs and lows on both sides of the pond.

The film stars Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen and Domhnall Gleeson none of whom I was particularly aware of previously. A bit of research reveals that Ronan, the actress who plays the lead role of Eilis Lacey, was actually born in New York City to Irish parents who moved to Ireland when she was three. She has appeared previously in a number of projects including Atonement in 2007 for which she won the youngest-ever Academy Award nomination.

Ronan apparently has an uncanny nack for accents though of course in this movie she speaks in her own very lovely tongue. Her amazing blue eyes were also used to great effect in this film. I am sure we will be seeing much more of this young lady. Meanwhile, take a peek at Brooklyn and Ronan via the official movie trailer:

Brooklyn was adapted into a screenplay by Nick Hornby (who wrote About a Boy and so much more) from the book by Colm Toibin. I have not read that book yet and ahve put it on my must read list.

Brooklyn is rated PG-13 for sexuality and strong language with parents strongly cautioned. In terms of what to watch out for or be aware of, there is really not much for the adult viewer. It has sexual references and one sexual scene though I did not find it to be a very uncomfortable scene. It has drinking and smoking and one death though not a violent one.

RECOMMENDED? Yes, I would recommend this movie to anyone who loves beautiful cinemotography as it was very beautifully shot, to anyone who loves a period drama and history of times gone by and to anyone who loves a love story.  If you need any further recommendation to watch this movie you might consider that Brooklyn was nominated for three Academy Awards: Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Actress in a Leading Role, and best Writing (Adapted Screenplay.)

You can buy or rent Brooklyn right now from Amazon by clicking right here. I think the book and the movie would make a fabulous gift idea for any woman who enjoys a beautifully made film and a love story.

See you
at the movies!

Buy Brooklyn on Amazon.

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter Chair Auction

J.K. Rowling's chair, the one she used when she wrote two of the Harry Potter books, is going up for auction at Heritage Auctions in New York City on April 6, 2016.

I agree with the Heritage Auction's representative when he says that this chair deserves to be enshrined somewhere. Any fan of the Harry Potter books would love to own this chair because of the connection to the author.

The chair comes with a letter of authenticity from J.K. Rowling attesting to the fact that she used this chair to write the first drafts of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

If you are interested, you can bid online, via the post or on the telephone.  Learn more at Heritage auctions here. However, you might need really deep pockets or a bit of wizard magic as The Telegraph says that this chair is expected to fetch $45,000.  Not an easy price for most of us mere mortals.

If that price is out of your reach and you are at all artistic, why not recreate this chair for yourself? 1930s era oak dining chairs like this one are readily and affordably available and the work requires only a piece of burlap, some paint and imagination. Just make sure that you choose a sturdy chair that does not require any structural repairs and beware that although Rowling wrote the books in this chair, it is not a comfortable one. I found a few similar chairs on eBay that would work.

See you
at the movies!

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See Heritage Auction's video of the chair on Youtube.

Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales


As a nearly wordless Wednesday post, I bring you this recent release, Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales. It perfectly combines the loves of many an adult and child. That is, Lego and Star Wars. The story is of a celebration in Endor (the Ewok village.) R2-D2 and C-3PO share with their human and non-human friends the adventures which led to The Phantom Menace. While they are sharing their story, there is a kidnapping and a whole new Star Wars story emerges. Amazon says, “It's hilarious and playful, packed with all your favorite interlocking characters bringing intergalactic thrills for the whole family!”  

Watch the trailer for the mini-series here. If you are a fan, it will make you smile.

Looks pretty awesome, don't you think? You can order your copy from Amazon by clicking right here.

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at the movies!

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Snow Cake Movie Review

I will admit that I had never heard of Snow Cake when I picked it up and that I picked it up purely because I saw Alan Rickman's name on the cover. It was interesting then that it turned out that this film was shot in Canada not very far from where I live and that the cashier who rung up my sale actually had a friend who appeared in the movie.

Anyway, we put the movie in one evening to watch even though we had little idea of what it was about. Pretty much what we knew is what you see on the cover - that it stars Alan Rickman, Sigourney Weaver and Carrie-Anne Moss. We later discovered that the movie stars two Canadian actors,  Moss and another Emily Hampshire who is not named on the cover.

The story tells the tale of a new friendship between a high-functioning austistic woman played by Weaver and a man played by Rickman who has just survived a car accident.

Take a peek here at the movie trailer:

It turns out that the movie is really about the man's journey and not about autism though one of the main characters is autistic. It's a quiet movie, with lots of funny moments. Weaver and Rickman both give solid performances and I would love to join them for a game of Scrabble, a verson of which they play in which you can use non-existent words so long as you can use them in a story.

This movie is rated 14A. In terms of what to watch out for or be aware of, there's a tragic car accident though it is not overly gory, a man recently released from prison and a woman who receives male callers. Sex is discussed and there is a scene of the couple in bed after ward but no actual sex on screen.  A four-letter curse word is heard a few times.  I think most adults would be comfortable with the content and I see that Common Sense Media recommends it for those 15 years of age and up and that seems reasonable to me.  I am sure it would be too quiet a movie for children, anyway.

RECOMMENDED? Yes, I would recommend this movie to those who want to see Alan Rickman in another film. I feel like I learned something about how autistic people or at least about how one individual with autism might function in the world. Don't miss the extras, they were informative.

See you
at the movies!

Quick Links:

Buy Snow Cake on Amazon.

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