15 Acclaimed Movies That Were Made Into Successful Stage Musicals

Summary

  • Many acclaimed movies, such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Ghost, have been successfully adapted into musicals.
  • These musical adaptations have received positive reviews and have won numerous awards for their productions, casting, and musical scores.
  • The success of these musicals demonstrates the enduring popularity and cultural impact of the original movies.


Many acclaimed movies have served as the inspiration for several successful stage musicals. While musicals such as Hairspray, Annie, and Grease have all had movie adaptations released with varying degrees of success, recently, many movies have also been successfully adapted into musicals. Movies such as Matilda, Waitress, and Mean Girls have inspired musicals that have received acclaim worldwide.

Musicals have the added pressure of remaining faithful to the original movies while adding a new twist to their stories. However, many musicals based on movies have proven to be successful, with several winning awards for their musical soundtracks and production designs. The success of the musical adaptations has helped increase the popularity of the original movies.


15 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2013)

Adapted from the 1971 and 2005 Movies

Based on the children’s book by Roald Dahl, both film adaptations of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory see a young boy named Charlie Bucket finding a Golden Ticket and winning a visit to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp gave iconic performances as Willy Wonka in both movies with Timothe√© Chalamet exploring the inventor’s origins in Wonka.

A musical adaptation had its premiere in the West End in 2013; the musical includes the iconic songs “Pure Imagination” and “The Candy Man” that were used in the 1971 film. The musical received positive reviews and won 2 Laurence Olivier Awards in 2014 for its Production and Lighting Design.

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14 Waitress (2016)

Adapted from 2007’s Comedy-Drama

The 2007 film Waitress sees a young woman, Jenna, working hard, determined to save enough money to leave her abusive husband and start a new life. Her plans are thwarted when she unexpectedly falls pregnant, but with support from her new friends, Jenna finally sees some light at the end of the tunnel.

Waitress made its Broadway debut in 2016 and received critical praise for its casting, musical score, and faithfulness to the original movie. It was nominated for 4 Tony Awards and 6 Drama Desk Awards, and the soundtrack received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Musical Theater Album in 2017. A live stage recording of Waitress was released in 2023, also to critical praise.

13 The Bodyguard (2012)

Adapted from the 1992 Drama

Whitney Houston as Rachel holding a folder and Kevin Costner as Frank holding a glass of beverage as they look at each other in The Bodyguard

This 1992 drama is remembered for the performances of Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner and its award-winning soundtrack. The movie sees a Secret Service agent turned bodyguard, hired to protect a famous performer from a stalker. The movie’s soundtrack won multiple awards and is one of the highest-rated soundtrack albums of all time (via Cosmopolitan).

In 2012, The Bodyguard made its debut in the West End, using the legendary songs from the movie’s soundtrack. The musical received a positive reception and was nominated for 4 Laurence Olivier Awards, with critics regarding it as a warm tribute to the original film.

12 Catch Me If You Can (2011)

Adapted from the 2001 Biopic

Frank Abagnale in pilot uniform with flight attendants in Catch Me If You Can.

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks, Catch Me If You Can is based on the autobiography of Frank Abagnale Jr. who, in his youth, successfully conned multiple companies out of millions of dollars, while on the run from the FBI; in his later years, he worked as an expert on bank fraud and forgery. The movie received high praise and is often regarded as one of Steven Spielberg’s best comedies.

The musical adaptation debuted on Broadway in 2011, later touring through 2012. While it received mixed praise for its pacing, the cast received acclaim for their performances, with Nobert Leo Butz winning a Tony Award for his role as Carl Hanratty.

11 Mrs. Doubtfire (2021)

Adapted from the 1993 Comedy-Drama

Robin Williams as Mrs. Doubtfire holding a feather duster

Arguably one of Robin Williams’ best movies, Mrs. Doubtfire shows Daniel, a struggling actor, going through a tough divorce and custody battle. In an attempt to see his children, Daniel disguises himself as an elderly British woman hired by his ex-wife, to be a nanny. The movie was praised for its portrayal of divorce and its impact on a family.

A musical adaptation had been in production since 2015 and it received its Broadway debut in 2021. Despite the production facing problems stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, the musical received a positive reception from critics, receiving 6 Outer Critics Circle Award nominations in 2022.

10 The Wedding Singer (2006)

Adapted from the 1998 Comedy

Adam Sandler singing in The Wedding Singer

The 1998 film depicts Robbie Hart, a wedding singer, who falls into depression after his girlfriend breaks up with him. He later agrees to sing at the wedding of Julia, a waitress, and gradually, he falls in love with her. The movie was praised for the leads’ chemistry and musical soundtrack and is often regarded as Adam Sandler’s most underrated movie.

The Wedding Singer premiered on Broadway in 2006. It received 5 Tony Nominations, including Best New Musical and Best Original Score, and has since had many successful international productions, including in the UK, Germany, and Australia.

9 Back to the Future (2015)

Adapted from the Science-Fiction Franchise

Marty and Doc Brown talking in Back to the Future

The Back to the Future franchise is recognized as one of the greatest science-fiction film franchises of all time. Starring Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd, the story depicts Marty McFly traveling back in time to save his future. The movies won multiple awards and have inspired a multimedia franchise, including a musical.

The musical remained faithful to the franchise by premiering in the year that the second movie was set, 2015. Critics and audiences have called the musical a wonderful tribute to the original franchise. The West End production of the musical won the Laurence Olivier and WhatsOnStage Awards for Best New Musical in 2016.

8 Ghost (2011)

Adapted from the 1990 Drama

Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze making pottery in Ghost

A classic romance film, Ghost depicts lovers Sam and Molly, whose romance ends tragically after Sam is murdered. As a ghost, Sam realizes that Molly is in danger and sets out to save her with the help of reluctant psychic Oda Mae Brown. Ghost was both a financial and critical success, with Whoopi Goldberg winning an Oscar for her performance.

Ghost was adapted into a musical in 2011, premiering in London’s West End. The musical was highly praised for its adaptation of the story and its use of special effects. The Broadway production won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Production Design in 2012.

7 Beetlejuice (2018)

Adapted from the 1988 Horror-Comedy

Lydia, Beetlejuice, and Otho in a montage.

Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice is regarded as one of the director’s best horror films. The movie stars Michael Keaton as Beetlejuice, a bio-exorcist from the Netherworld who is summoned by a couple to remove ghosts from their home, causing chaos along the way. The movie won an Academy Award for Best Makeup and inspired an animated series and multiple video games.

The musical was released on Broadway in 2019. It was praised for embracing the humor and horror of the original story, its set design, and its soundtrack. Among other nominations, Beetlejuice won the Outer Critics Circle and Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Set Design.

6 Legally Blonde (2007)

Adapted from the 2001 film

Elle Woods in court in Legally Blonde

Starring Reese Witherspoon, Legally Blonde depicts a sorority girl trying to win back her boyfriend by enrolling at Harvard. The movie received acclaim for its portrayal of female empowerment and overcoming blonde stereotypes. Witherspoon’s character, Elle Woods has been labeled a feminist icon and the movie continues to inspire women to study law.

The movie inspired a franchise, including a musical adaptation released in 2007. Despite a slow start, the musical became a worldwide success, being nominated for 7 Tony Awards, and winning 3 Laurence Olivier Awards.

5 Heathers (2014)

Adapted from the 1988 film

Released in 1988, Heathers offers a darker insight into the world of high school cliques, popularity, and bullying. It follows a student, Veronica, who joins a clique of Heathers at high school, but their futures are threatened by a rebel who plans to cause harm. The movie is one of the greatest coming-of-age films ever made and inspired the 2014 musical adaptation.

The Heathers musical was released to critical praise for its faithfulness to the movie and its portrayal of the darker aspects of the story. It won the WhatsOnStage Award for Best New Musical in 2018 and has achieved cult status through its productions in multiple high schools.

4 Mean Girls (2018)

Adapted from the 2004 Comedy

The Plastics walking outside the school in the Mean Girls 2024 movie musical. 

The 2004 film written by Tina Fey is arguably one of the best comedy films ever made. It offers a humorous take on social hierarchy in high school through a homeschooled student’s association with the Plastics clique. Mean Girls has since become a cult classic, inspiring multiple reenactments and parodies, and October 3, is celebrated as “Mean Girls Day“.

On October 3, 2016, it was announced that Mean Girls would be created into a musical, premiering on Broadway in 2018. It was seen as a hilarious adaptation of the movie and received many award nominations. The Mean Girls musical will also be adapted into a feature film, scheduled for release in 2024.

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3 Sister Act (2006)

Adapted from the 1992 film

Whoopi Goldberg singing in Sister Act

Sister Act follows Deloris, a lounge singer who is forced to go into hiding in a convent after witnessing a crime. Disguising herself as a nun, Deloris transforms the struggling choir into a musical success, with amazing songs including “Hail Holy Queen” and “I Will Follow Him”. The movie was an instant success and is seen as one of Whoopi Goldberg’s best movies.

The movie was adapted into a musical in 2006 and released in the West End in 2009, with Whoopi Goldberg making a special appearance as Mother Superior. The musical adaptation was well-received for its acting and musical score, receiving 5 Tony Award nominations in 2011.

2 Matilda (2011)

Adapted from the 1996 film

Based on the Roald Dahl book, Matilda follows a young girl with a love of reading, who must deal with opposition from her neglectful parents and evil headmistress. She unexpectedly develops telekinesis powers and decides to use them to change the life of her kind schoolteacher. The movie was received positively, due to its faithfulness to Dahl’s story and its direction.

Matilda was adapted into a musical and was released in the West End in 2011 to worldwide praise. It won a record 7 Laurence Olivier Awards and achieved further success on Broadway, winning 5 Tony Awards. Matilda the Musical was also later adapted into a film in 2022, receiving high praise for its casting and musical performances.

1 Billy Elliot (2005)

Adapted from the 2000 film

Billy leaps in the air from Billy Elliot

Released in 2000, Billy Elliot challenged the stereotypes of male dancers. Set during the mine strikes of 1984-1985, the titular Billy aspires to be a ballet dancer, but his family isn’t initially supportive; with the help of his best friend Michael and his dance teacher, Billy trains hard in the hopes of achieving his dream of dancing. The movie was both critically and financially successful, receiving multiple awards and 3 Oscar nominations.

Billy Elliot was released in the West End in 2005 to worldwide acclaim for its musical score and its portrayal of family and community against opposition. Among other accolades, Billy Elliot won 4 Laurence Oliviers, 10 Tonys, and 10 Drama Desk Awards. The musical has seen further success in worldwide productions and is seen as one of the best musicals ever adapted from an acclaimed movie.

Sources: Cosmopolitan