Music Day

Still from West Side Story
Still from West Side Story

Music is a powerful, stimulating force that brings people together. From jazz to reggae, soul music to pop, music is a constantly evolving form that expresses the concerns of its time and gives a voice to those might otherwise not be able to find an audience. This film list explores notable contributions to the world's music scene including documentaries, pioneering uses of pop and classical msuic, as well as films where the score forms a vital part of the storytelling, enriching our understanding of the characters and themes of the film.

The Wizard of Oz

CertU

Age group7+

Duration98 mins

The Wizard of Oz(1939)

This timeless family musical, one of cinema's much loved productions, sees young Dorothy escape Kansas for the Technicolor land of Oz.

The Wizard of Oz changed cinema forever when it was released, and it still contains some of the most memorable songs in film history. Joyful, infectious, but also poignant, the songs encapsulate so much about growing up, friendship, adventure, and sorrow. Over The Rainbow might be the most iconic song ever written for a film.

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Fantasia

CertU

Age groupAll ages

Duration120 mins

Fantasia(1940)

A Disney classic like no other, Fantasia is a magical journey through sound and vision.

A captivating introduction to classical music for younger viewers, this classic animation uses its Disney charm to draw audiences into a magical world where each piece of music tells a story.

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Mary Poppins

CertU

Age group5–11

Duration134 mins

Mary Poppins(1964)

Classic film with musical scenes about nanny Mary Poppins, who is full of common sense but friends with talking animals and dancing chimney sweeps.

Ahead of the much discussed sequel in 2018, the world’s favourite nanny has lost none of her ability to charm and captivate children of all ages. A story that remains guaranteed to sweep all audiences off their feet, whether they are meeting Mary for the first or 101st time. Truly scrumptious in every way.

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Oliver!

CertU

Age group7–14

Duration139 mins

Oliver!(1968)

Musical version of the famous Charles Dickens novel about the adventures of a Victorian orphan who falls in with a London street gang.

This legendary musical adaptation of Oliver Twist won a stack of Oscars and remains hugely popular. Packed with unforgettable songs, this is one of the most enduring British films of all time, and the ideal introduction to Dickens’ text, many of the themes of which remain relevant today.

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Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

CertU

Age groupAll ages

Duration95 mins

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory(1971)

Visually brilliant 1971 Roald Dahl adaptation about a little boy who wins a tour of the maddest sweet factory in the world!

Roald Dahl’s enchanting adventure was brought to the big screen with this irresistible musical classic, a film that brings all who encounter it into a world of pure imagination.

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E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

CertU

Age groupAll ages

Duration115 mins

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial(1982)

This heart-warming family favourite about an alien stranded all alone on earth contains some of the most magical scenes in movie history.

Steven Spielberg’s timeless masterpiece about a lonely alien who finds himself stranded on Earth contains one of the most magical, soaring and inspirational film scores of all-time, guaranteed to bring a tear to your eye!

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Toy Story

CertPG

Age group7–11

Duration79 mins

Toy Story(1995)

Old-fashioned cowboy toy Woody is threatened by the arrival of flashy, hi-tech Buzz Lightyear in this character-driven animation from Pixar.

The first feature length film from Pixar remains one of their most endearing. One of the main reasons for this is legendary composer Randy Newman’s wonderful soundtrack, including the unforgettable “You’ve Got A Friend In Me”, a song that perhaps sums up all the tone of all Pixar’s films to date.

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Shrek

CertU

Age group5–14

Duration87 mins

Shrek(2001)

Animated comedy about a fat, green, bad-tempered ogre banished from his woods cabin home by an evil lord, which has become a modern classic.

Before Shrek, it was highly unusual for animated films to feature pop songs on their soundtrack. But this tongue-in-cheek fairy-tale changed all that, incorporating golden oldies as well as contemporary chart hits into the storytelling, including some fabulous song-and-dance numbers and a tear-jerking version of Leonard Cohen’s Halleujah.

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Felix

CertUnclassified

Age group7–14

Duration94 mins

Felix(2013)

An uplifting South African film about a 13-year-old talented musician who must earn a place in his new school’s jazz concert.

The power of music is also celebrated in South African family drama Felix, where a talented musician from a poor background wins a prestigious scholarship and finds himself competing for a place in the school concert. This uplifting film is a brilliant evocation of music as an expression of creativity amongst people of all ages and backgrounds, regardless of circumstances.

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Into The Woods

CertPG

Age group7–14

Duration120 mins

Into The Woods(2014)

The Grimm Fairytales are brought to life in this musical about a couple who venture into the woods to break a spell that has been cast on them.

Creating a dark and magical world, densely packed with familiar characters from fairy tales, this film takes the Hollywood musical form and runs with it to maximise the humour, scares and wonder to be found in the enchanted woods.

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Song of the Sea

CertPG

Age group5–11

Duration92 mins

Song of the Sea(2014)

A beautiful and touching animation based on an Irish folktale about a little girl who turns into a Selkie.

Featuring a haunting and beautiful score inspired by traditional Irish music, this charming animation centres around a little girl who cannot yet speak – but needs to find her voice to be able to save her fellow Selkies with the song of the sea.

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Moana

CertPG

Age group7–14

Duration103 mins

Moana(2016)

A courageous teenager follows in the footsteps of her ancestors in sailing across the Oceanic seas, accompanied by the demi-god called Maui.

Disney’s latest animation is a film full of adventure and music which also emphases the folklore of Oceanic cultures. Composed by Lin Manuel Miranda, the songs are every bit as inspiring and empowering as Moana herself and represent how Disney are diversifying their product, without losing any of the magic.

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Top Hat

CertU

Age group7+

Duration93 mins

Top Hat(1935)

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers star in this delightful classic musical which shows off their fancy footwork and romantic chemistry.

One of the most romantic and charming of all Hollywood musicals. Top Hat captures better than any other just what made Fred and Ginger so special on screen. While the film is chiefly remembered for its enchanting dance sequences, these would be nothing without the enchanting music, impeccably composed and orchestrated to sweep everyone off their feet!

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West Side Story

CertPG

Age group7+

Duration145 mins

West Side Story(1961)

The classic love story of Romeo and Juliet is transported to 1950s New York in this Hollywood musical.

In this Leonard Bernstein-scored musical the streets of 1950s New York are brought to life with sultry Mambo beats. Expressing gang identity, conflict, and of course love, the music in this film simmers with excitement and tension.

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Jaws

Cert12

Age group11+

Duration124 mins

Jaws(1975)

This 1975 film about an enormous great white shark terrorising the locals of a US seaside resort made many who saw it too scared to go swimming!

A film that changed cinema forever when it was released more than 40 years ago, one of the legendary stories surrounding Jaws is that the shark itself would not work. To compensate, John Williams’ created an unforgettable theme, that is extraordinarily simple but had a remarkable effect on the film, to the extent that Spielberg credits Williams for its success.

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Rent

Cert12

Age group14+

Duration129 mins

Rent(2005)

Based on opera La Boheme, this tale of struggling artists relocates Puccini's stage musical from 1800s Paris to 1980s New York.

The Parisian story of Puccini’s opera La Boheme is transported to 1980s New York in this groundbreaking musical. The young inhabitants of the arty, run-down East Village face drug addiction, HIV and tricky love lives. On top of all that, they have to pay their bills somehow. Singing and dancing seems to help them through their troubles, though.

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The Dark Knight

Cert12

Age group14+

Duration146 mins

The Dark Knight(2008)

Brilliant sequel to Batman Begins, as erstwhile Bruce Wayne must battle the manic Joker, whilst maintaining the support of the charismatic Harvey Dent

One of the most popular and influential films of recent years, The Dark Knight helped raise the bar for the standard of comic book adaptations. As a sign of its ambition, the filmmakers use two of the most famous composers working in film today, Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard, a collaboration that produced a distinctive theme that helped redefine the caped crusader.

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Where The Wild Things Are

CertPG

Age group7–16

Duration99 mins

Where The Wild Things Are(2009)

Spike Jonze's live action adaptation of Maurice Sendak's children's classic about tameable monsters and an angry little boy.

This adaptation brings to life the source novel with a dreamy yet edgy score from indie rock musician Karen O which perfectly captures the spirit of Max’s grand escape to the land of the monsters, as well as the frustration and anxiety that drives him there.

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Benda Bilili!

Cert12

Age group11+

Duration86 mins

Benda Bilili!(2010)

Joyous triumph over adversity documentary about a group of homeless Congolese rumba-blues artists and the exhilarating music they produce.

This music documentary charts the progress over a five-year period of Staff Bend Bilili, a group of formerly homeless musicians whose name means ‘Look Beyond’, many of whom are affected by physical disabilities as a result of polio. Rising above the streets that were initially their platform, Staff Benda Bilili find their audience on the world stage.

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The Social Network

Cert12

Age group11+

Duration115 mins

The Social Network(2010)

An unmissable explanation of exactly how Facebook has changed all our lives.

David Fincher’s riveting account of the rise of Facebook and its founder Mark Zuckerberg has established itself as one of the defining films of the last ten years. Crucial to its success was its haunting, ambient soundtrack, perfectly capturing the film’s energy and momentum, composed by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross of the band Nine Inch Nails.

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The Artist

CertPG

Age group11+

Duration97 mins

The Artist(2011)

Ingenious and heartfelt homage to silent era cinema.

Featuring a score that explicitly declares its love for cinema – even featuring a Bernard Hermann piece lifted from a climactic moment in Hitchcock’s Vertigo as part of its soundtrack, this film highlights the importance of music to tell an on-screen story, which was even more vital before the advent of the ‘talkies’.

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Pitch Perfect

Cert12

Age group11+

Duration107 mins

Pitch Perfect(2012)

Musical comedy with humour, drama and plenty of girl power!

This toe-tapping acapella crowd-pleaser became a cult hit when it was first released, going on to spawn a hugely popular franchise. What stands out in the film is the sheer joy and exuberance that sing and dance affords its protagonists, a positive energy that transports itself into the audience, along with an infectious celebration of the power of friendship.

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Sunshine On Leith

CertPG

Age group11+

Duration100 mins

Sunshine On Leith(2013)

A feel-good musical about a solider returning home from the war, set to the songs of Scottish band The Proclaimers.

Even audiences who normally turn their noses up at musicals will be charmed by this low-key Scottish movie that's brimming with warmth, poignancy and wit. Heartfelt, unashamedly sentimental and oozing fun, the film is also sprinkled with real emotional pathos, amongst some toe-tapping tunes. •

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La La Land

Cert12

Age group11+

Duration128 mins

La La Land(2016)

A sentimental, dreamlike musical which sees two aspiring artists attempt to make it in Hollywood amidst a whirlwind romance.

One of the most cinematic of genres has historically been the musical. La La Land retains many of the tropes associated with these films but twists them into something fresh and new. Taking place in modern Los Angeles, it retains much of the spirit of the golden age of musicals.

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