We’ve given you the definitive list of the best-selling cast recordings, but what about when those musicals receive feature film adaptations—do the accompanying soundtrack albums fare as well? Turns out the list has some surprising entries along with most of the titles you’d expect to see, though not in the order you’d guess.
This data is based on information provided to the RIAA by record labels, who submit confirmed sales data towards achieving Gold (meaning 500,000 units sold) and Platinum (meaning 1 million units sold) status. The albums have been ranked according to certified units sold, and in the case of ties, chronologically by the date they received certification from the RIAA. In history, 25 Broadway musical-adapted soundtracks have been certified gold, platinum, or multi-platinum. Here is the definitive list:
25. The Music Man
Certified Gold March 27, 1963 (Released 1962)
24. Porgy and Bess
Certified Gold October 21, 1963 (Released June 1959)
23. The King and I
Certified Gold January 15, 1964 (Released 1956)
22. My Fair Lady
Certified Gold December 18, 1964 (Released 1964)
21. The Sound of Music
Certified Gold March 30, 1965 (Released 1965)
Certified Gold July 25, 1969 (Released 1968)
19. Paint Your Wagon
Certified Gold October 19, 1970 (Released 1969)
Certified Gold August 17, 1973 (Released 1972)
17. The Wiz
Certified Gold September 29, 1978 (Released 1978)
Certified Gold May 16, 1979 (Released 1979)
15. The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Certified Gold February 23, 1982 (Released 1975)
14. Les Misérables
Certified Gold February 1, 2013 (Released December 21, 2012)
Certified Platinum July 9, 1982 (Released 1982)
12. Funny Girl
Certified Platinum November 21, 1986 (Released December, 1968)
Certified Platinum April 1, 1992 (Released 1956)
10. Jesus Christ Superstar
Certified Platinum December 7, 1995 (Released June, 1973)
9. Fiddler on the Roof
Certified Platinum September 19, 2001 (Released 1971)
8. The Phantom of the Opera
Certified Platinum February 23, 2005 (Released November 23, 2004)
Certified Platinum January 10, 2007 (Released December 5, 2006)
Certified Platinum December 10, 2007 (Released July 10, 2007)
5. Mamma Mia!
Certified Platinum August 18, 2008 (Released July 8, 2008)
THE MULTI-PLATINUM CLUB
While sales of a million and even 500,000 are impressive, these titles kick it into the next gear with certified sales in the multiple millions. Each Platinum certification represents 1,000,000 units sold.
Certified 2x Multi-Platinum October 2, 2003 (Released January 14, 2003)
It took nearly 30 years for this musical to make it to movie theatres after its Broadway premiere, but it looks like it was well worth the wait. Chicago won six 2003 Academy Awards including Best Picture and is still one of the most successful movie musicals ever released. With vocal performances by stars like Queen Latifah, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Renée Zellweger—and a cameo by Mýa—the soundtrack album became a hit, too; it reached Platinum certification status in less than a year. Of note to fans of the stage version of Chicago is the inclusion of the song “Class,” which was filmed but ultimately cut from the final version of the movie.
3. West Side Story
Certified 3x Multi-Platinum November 21, 1986 (Released August, 1961)
Another Best Picture winner, West Side Story is a work that seems to reach generation after generation, in no small part due to the fact that many schools use it while teaching Romeo and Juliet. For most of the country, the movie adaptation is the production they are most familiar with, so its soundtrack’s success is no great surprise. The soaring vocals by Marni Nixon and Jimmy Bryant (dubbing the on-screen performances of Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer, respectively) are more than enough reason to give this version of the score a listen, though Bernstein was reportedly unhappy with the orchestrations used for the film.
Certified 5x Multi-Platinum March 29, 1999 (Released November 12, 1996)
This big screen adaptation of this 1979 Broadway hit was no failure at the box office, but it wasn’t exactly a runaway success either; it ranked 32nd in domestic box office in 1996. The soundtrack album probably has its A-list Grammy-winning star—Madonna—to thank for its wild success, and co-star Antonio Banderas didn’t hurt either. Though the movie is a fairly faithful adaptation of the stage show, fans of the Broadway version might be interested to hear “The Lady’s Got Potential,” which has been cut from most productions following the West End premiere, and “You Must Love Me,” which was written specially for this film version.
Certified 8x Multi-Platinum November 7, 1984 (Released April, 1978)
When it comes to movie musicals, Grease was and still is the word; it remains the highest-grossing movie-musical ever in domestic U.S. markets, and sits behind only Mamma Mia! and Les Misérables when you include international box office. Pair that with a period in American film where many movies’ soundtracks became a major part of their success (think Saturday Night Fever, Footloose, Flashdance) and you’ve got a recipe for one mega-successful movie-musical soundtrack. Many of the movie’s songs found major success on the pop charts, including “Grease (is the Word),” “Summer Nights,” “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” and “You’re the One That I Want.” With vocals by John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, the band Sha-Na-Na, Frankie Avalon, and Frankie Valli, the Grease soundtrack had lots to offer the album buyer of 1978, and it continues to be beloved today. Grease as a movie departed from its stage version more than perhaps any other film on this list, but fans of the stage version will enjoy the inclusion of several songs not used in the movie that were recorded for use as background music, including “Mooning,” “Those Magic Changes,” “Freddy My Love,” and “It’s Raining on Prom Night.”