Feature film adaptations of stage musicals have made a startling comeback since Rob Marshall’s Oscar-winning take on Chicago in 2002, pleasing both audiences and studios watching the box office receipts. Since then there’s been many high-profile and highly successful stage-to-screen movie adaptations, but we wondered which ones have been most successful at the box office.
And then we went a step further. Instead of just ranking stage-to-screen adaptations by their historical box office data, we adjusted for inflation, putting all of the movie musicals on an even playing field. The data comes from Nash Information Services LLC via their website The Numbers. Unfortunately, comprehensive box office data is not available for some older stage-to-screen movie adaptations—including Oklahoma!, Carousel, and Guys and Dolls—but our list represents all available data.
27. Annie Get Your Gun (1950)
$127,245,278 (adjusted from $8,000,000)
26. Dreamgirls (2006)
$128,941,402 (adjusted from $103,365,956)
25. Bye Bye Birdie (1963)
$130,212,874 (adjusted from $13,129,412)
24. Into the Woods (2014)
$130,894,237 (adjusted from $128,002,372)
23. Flower Drum Song (1961)
$131,191,774 (adjusted from $10,738,117)
22. Gypsy (1962)
$133,397,795 (adjusted from $11,076,923)
21. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
$140,576,117 (adjusted from $140,510,017)
20. Hairspray (2007)
$145,652,571 (adjusted from $118,871,849)
19. Les Misérables (2012)
$156,592,957 (adjusted from $148,809,770)
18. Annie (1982)
$163,607,956 (adjusted from $57,059,003)
17. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)
$168,600,000 (adjusted from $12,000,000)
16. Mamma Mia! (2008)
$169,222,345 (adjusted from $144,130,063)
15. The Music Man (1962)
$180,087,030 (adjusted from $14,953,846)
14. Paint Your Wagon (1969)
$188,064,853 (adjusted from $31,678,778)
13. The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982)
$199,858,769 (adjusted from $69,701,637)
12. Cabaret (1972)
$204,930,552 (adjusted from $41,326,446)
11. Camelot (1967)
$218,495,610 (adjusted from $31,102,578)
10. Chicago (2002)
$239,112,061 (adjusted from $170,687,518)
One of the most successful of the modern crop of stage-to-screen movie musicals—and the only one to win a Best Picture Academy Award—this film is based on the 1975 Broadway musical with a score by John Kander and Fred Ebb. Bob Fosse directed and choreographed, along with co-writing the book with Ebb. Director and choreographer Rob Marshall, with Broadway productions of Damn Yankees and Cabaret already on his résumé, was a natural choice to bring Fosse’s vision to the big screen, and the result was a movie that remains well-loved today. The film won six 2003 Academy Awards. It’s also credited by many for re-starting the trend of feature film adaptations of Broadway stage musicals.
9. Oliver! (1968)
$240,691,792 (adjusted from $37,402,877)
Today we think of the '80s as the time that Broadway was dominated by London musicals, but the ’50s and ‘60s saw a similar string of West End transfers, with such hits as The Boyfriend, Half a Sixpence, Stop the World — I Want to Get Off, and Oliver! With book, music, and lyrics all by Lionel Bart, Oliver! debuted in London in 1960 and transferred to Broadway in 1962. The film adaptation was released in 1968; Ron Moody recreated his performance as Fagin for film after playing the role in London and on Broadway. It won five 1969 Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
8. The King and I (1956)
$359,118,000 (adjusted from $21,300,000)
The third Rodgers and Hammerstein musical to make the jump from stage to screen following
Oklahoma! and Carousel, The King and I was also the first to feature one of its original stage stars. Yul Brynner as King Mongkut of Siam is one of only eight performers to win both Tony and Academy Awards for the same role. Original Broadway cast members Terry Saunders (Lady Thiang), Patrick Adiarte (Prince Chulalongkorn), Martin Benson (Kralahome), Yuriko, and Gemze de Lappe also recreated their stage performances for the film. The original Anna, Gertrude Lawrence, was also to appear in the film, but unfortunately Lawrence passed away suddenly during the Broadway run.
7. Funny Girl (1968)
$376,454,194 (adjusted from $58,500,000)
Speaking of stage stars recreating their performances for film, Barbra Streisand was the only choice to bring this musical biography of Fanny Brice to the screen after she earned rave reviews creating the role on stage—it remains one of Streisand’s most iconic performances, and she won an Academy Award. The American Film Institute ranked the film the 16th greatest movie musical in 2006, and last year the U.S. Library of Congress selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry due to it being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
6. Fiddler on the Roof (1971)
$408,170,029 (adjusted from $80,500,000)
This Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick, and Joseph Stein musical based on the stories of Sholem Aleichem is clearly one of Broadway’s most beloved musicals—it’s been revived on Broadway five times, which is one more than even Gypsy—so that it would receive a film adaptation may have gone without saying. Though it did not feature Zero Mostel re-creating his Tony Award-winning performance as Tevye the milkman, the film did star Topol, who rose to prominence playing the role in the original London production.
5. South Pacific (1958)
$456,211,764 (adjusted from $36,800,000)
This Tony- and Pulitzer-winning musical came to the big screen with only one member of the original Broadway company—Juanita Hall, recreating her Tony-winning performance as Bloody Mary—but the film also featured direction by original stage director Joshua Logan. Logan adapted part of the visual style of his stage production for film through the use of colored lens filters for many of the musical numbers. They are so extreme—far more extreme than Logan intended, it turned out—that the result is one of the most visually unusual films on this list, but that doesn’t seem to have made audiences any less rapturous.
4. West Side Story (1961)
$533,899,997 (adjusted from $43,700,000)
This classic musical by Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein, and Stephen Sondheim lost the Best Musical Tony Award to The Music Man, but when it comes to film adaptations, West Side Story seems to have had the last laugh. It won a staggering 10 Academy Awards including best picture, which is the most Oscars won by any movie musical to date. The film continues to be screened today. In recent years, it has become popular to present the film with a live onstage orchestra.
3. Grease (1978)
$602.892.685 (adjusted from $181,813,770)
This 1950s tribute musical has been a huge hit with audiences since it debuted in Chicago in 1971. By 1972, Grease was playing New York and had received seven Tony Award nominations. The Broadway production went on to become the longest-running Broadway show until A Chorus Line, but the movie adaptation in 1978 has handily surpassed even that great success. This iconic film, starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, was a hit with critics and audiences alike. In fact, the film has become so iconic that it has heavily influenced subsequent stage productions of the property, many of which elect to use the songs written for the movie adaptation (“Grease is the Word,” “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” “Sandy,” and “You’re the One that I Want”).
2. My Fair Lady (1964)
$652,645,154 (adjusted from $72,000,000)
Based on George Bernard Shaw’s 1913 play Pygmalion, My Fair Lady won six 1957 Tony awards including Best Musical, making its inevitable film adaptation in 1964 hotly anticipated. Many expected its original stars to reprise their stage performances on film, and Rex Harrison did—he, along with Yul Brynner, is one of the eight to win Tony and Academy Awards for the same role. Julie Andrews was famously passed over in favor of Audrey Hepburn, but it worked out for Andrews in the end; she made Mary Poppins the same year and beat out Hepburn for the Best Actress Academy Award. My Fair Lady, on the other hand, won eight 1964 Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
1. The Sound of Music (1965)
$1,362,273,686 (adjusted from $163,214,286)
It should come as no surprise to find The Sound of Music at the top of this list. The film was an almost immediate hit upon its release, and it has continued to be one of the most-beloved films ever made, musical or otherwise. You’ll notice that its gross is quite impressive even before being adjusted for inflation. For many years it was the highest-grossing film of all time, dethroning Gone with the Wind. Its initial theatrical release lasted until the end of 1969 and saw re-releases in 1973 and 1990. More recently, the film has become a popular selection for singalong screenings and still receives annual television broadcasts during the winter holiday season.