22 Musicals From The 1980s [Movies & Theater]

The 1980s introduced us to a number of great musicals. There was Annie and Dirty Dancing in the movies, and Phantom Of The Opera and Les Miserables in the theater.

Read on for the top musicals from the 1980s.

Musical Movies Of The 1980s

Let's look at the musical movies first, we'll cover theater musicals below.

Dirty Dancing

Possibly one of the best musical movies ever. Dirty Dancing is a coming-of-age story set in the summer of 1963. The story follows Frances “Baby” Houseman, who falls in love with her dance instructor, Johnny Castle, while on vacation with her family.

Eleanor Bergstein wrote the screenplay and later worked on the stage adaptation in 2004. She based the musical on her childhood.

The film stars 80s heartthrobs Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey. It was an instant hit, and the song ‘(I've Had) The Time of My Life' won an Academy Award.


Annie is a 1982 musical film based on Harold Gray's comic strip Little Orphan Annie. The story follows Annie, a young orphan in New York City during the Great Depression. Billionaire Oliver Warbucks adopts her, and the musical depicts her changing life and coming of age.

Based on the 1977 play of the same name by Charles Strouse, Annie came out in May 1982 in the United States to instant success. It won a Young Artist Award and received two Academy Award nominations.

The Meaning of Life

The Meaning of Life is a sketch-form musical comedy by the British sketch group Monty Python. The play deals with themes of life and death in an ironic, witty way. It came out in 1983, and the cast included the classic Monty Python lineup, from Graham Chapman to John Cleese.

The musical wasn't an instant success, and it received mixed reviews, with some critics praising the humor and others criticizing the lack of a cohesive plot. However, it achieved cult status over the years and is now a beloved film.


In 1984, Kevin Bacon starred in Footloose, an Academy Award-nominated film about teenagers living in a small town that doesn't allow dancing. The lead character, Ren, sets out to overturn the ban with his friends.

Footloose did ok at the box office, becoming the seventh highest-grossing film of the year, but it received mixed reviews. However, as the years passed, it became an iconic cult classic and even inspired a remake and a stage production.

Sweeney Todd

Sweeney Todd is a musical thriller. The story revolves around a barber who was wronged, then goes out to look for revenge. Todd, wrongly accused and sent to prison, returns to London to seek vengeance on the judge who imprisoned him and his wife.

Originally a Broadway show written by Stephen Songheim in 1979, the film premiered in 1982 and starred George Hearn as the titular character. In 1985, it garnered five Primetime Emmy award nominations, of which the film won three.


Fame is a musical that follows a group of students at the High School of Performing Arts in New York City. It's a play in four acts, each part representing a year of high school, and the play explores their struggles and successes as they pursue their dreams of becoming performers.

Irene Cara led the cast as Coco Hernandez, and she and her friends are involved in music, drama, and dance. The musical film came out in May 1980 and received high praise for top-tier acting and an engaging depiction of high school life.

All Dogs Go To Heaven

MGM's All Dogs Go To Heaven is a classic animated family musical. Released in 1989, Don Bluth and Gary Goldman directed the film, which starred top names like Burt Reynolds, Dom DeLuise, and Charles Nelson Reilly.

The musical follows a dog named Charlie. He dies and returns to life to seek revenge on his killer. Along the way, he befriends a young orphan girl and learns the true meaning of friendship and loyalty. Critics praised the animation and music while commenting on the darker subject matter.

Puss in Boots

Puss in Boots is a musical adaptation of the classic fairy tale. The story follows a talking cat who uses his wit and cunning to help his master, a poor miller's son, win the heart of a princess.

Christopher Walken stars in this 1988 classic film based on the classic tale by Charles Perrault. Michael Abbott composed the hit songs, including ‘A Happy Cat' and ‘Love at First Sight.' It has some cartoonish violence, but the film mostly appeals to kids.


Victor/Victoria is a musical comedy about a struggling soprano who works as a male impersonator. The story explores gender roles and sexuality in a lighthearted and humorous way.

The legendary Julie Andrews stars as the titular character, and her performance drew rave reviews and even a Golden Globe. The 1982 film drew plot inspiration from a 1933 French movie of the same name, and the story later got new life as a Broadway adaptation in 1995.

Little Shop of Horrors

Little Shop of Horrors is a musical comedy horror that tells the story of a florist who discovers a plant. This isn’t just any plant though, it’s one that feeds on human blood. The story follows the florist and his love interest as they try to stop the plant from taking over the world.

Franz Oz made this musical in 1986, sourcing from the 1982 play. Little Shop of Horrors was a critical and commercial success, receiving positive reviews for its music, performances, and humor.

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