“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and 7 Other Wild Musicals That Blend Unexpected Genres With Singing

There might be an unfair stereotype that all musicals are the same, at least among those who aren’t fans of the genre. Granted, there was some sort of formula in many classic or traditional musicals that were made in the 1950s and 1960s when the genre was most popular.



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Yet there are musicals that are less traditional, less safe, and more willing to combine the tropes of the genre with a variety of other genres in unpredictable and even crazy ways. The following eight examples all offer something a little different from what you’d get from a classic Hollywood-style musical. Some are well-known cult classics, and some remain quite underrated. They’re probably not for everyone (some might even be a little bad), but all are a breath of fresh air in the genre.

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The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

A die most beloved cult movies of all time – and also one of the best examples of a wild and revolutionary musical – The Rocky Horror Picture Show has achieved near-mythical status at this point, nearly 50 years after its release. It’s understandable why – the characters are there and memorable, the music is catchy, the content was bold (at least by 1975 standards) and the midnight screenings it still gets are legendary.

The plot is difficult to explain. A young couple stumble upon a mansion inhabited by the enigmatic and often terrifying Dr. Frank-N-Furter, and come face to face with bikers, aliens, multiple song-and-dance numbers, and even cannibalism. The movie itself ends up being something of a comedy/horror/sci-fi/musical/tragedy hybrid, and after all this time, it still has to be seen to be properly believed; words can’t do much when it comes to explaining The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

ghost of paradise (1974)

In an alternate universe, by Brian DePalma wildly entertaining horror/sci-fi/comedy/musical/tragedy, ghost of paradiseis the movie with The Rocky Horror Picture Show popularity, and rocky horror is the criminally underrated of the two. In our universe, that’s not the case, and in pop culture, apparently, there’s only room for one mid-1970s musical.

At least ghost of paradise still has something of a cult. If his musical numbers are just as memorable as Rocky Horror’s, then he compensates by having a better story that doesn’t die out in the second half. It’s a colourful, chilling and highly entertaining film about greed, revenge and unrequited love, and like many of De Palma’s films, it demonstrates the director’s skill at mastering many genres.

The 5000 fingers of Dr. T (1953)

Known for being a critical and commercial disappointment at the time of its release, and for being the only famous script writer Dr Seuss never written, call The 5000 fingers of Dr. T weird would be a huge understatement. Most of the movie is a dream sequence where a young boy is enslaved by a piano teacher who wants 500 other prisoners to play on a super long piano (where the 5000 fingers in the title come from), and he has to try to escape and/or wake up.

It’s pretty much what you’d expect from a movie written by Dr. Seuss, with lots of rhyme, weird characters, and colorful, twisted, otherworldly sets and costumes. While it’s no surprise that it’s not a massive hit, it deserves a bit more appreciation for being so unique, with its surrealism, fantasy elements, dreamlike qualities and songwriting all wrapped up in a family movie.

The Blues Brothers (1980)

The Blues Brothers is packed with musical numbers and features a host of great music legends, but part of what makes it so memorable is that it’s more than just a musical. Jake and Elwood’s journey to raise enough money to save the orphanage they grew up in also features slapstick comedy, car chases, deadpan humor, and spectacular stunts/scenes of mayhem and destruction.

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From start to finish, it’s non-stop fun and never boring. It also happens to be one of the most watchable movies of all time, and one that doesn’t get old, because there’s nothing else quite like it (not even its lesser known sequelwhich came out in 1998, which is probably best avoided).

Restricted zone (1980)

How to even describe Restricted zone…if it’s even possible to do so. It’s like a 74-minute fever dream filmed that is sometimes hilarious, sometimes uncomfortable, and almost always unnerving. Also, said fever dream could be in black and white or in color, depending on the version you are looking at.

It all feels weird, and its lingering weird energy is probably too much for most viewers to handle for its entire runtime. It’s surreal, deranged, often tasteless, and probably hilarious for anyone who loves absurd humor. It is also notable for being one of the first projects Danny Elfman helped him realize, after which he found some more success founding an offbeat new wave band Oingo-Boingothen even more success as a composer for film and television,


Rep! The Genetic Opera (2008)

Rep! The Genetic Opera was not well received at the time of its release, and is no doubt trying a bit to establish itself as a cult film, but it has a lot to offer. It’s a dystopian story about organ transplants and murderous insurance schemes where said organs are violently “taken back” if clients don’t pay on time.

With such a dark premise, Rep! The Genetic Opera ends up being a musical/horror/sci-fi/satirical hybrid. Even viewers who don’t particularly appreciate what happens are likely to at least appreciate the chances it takes and the fact that it’s so unique. It’s also notable for being one of those rare musicals where just about every word is sung, which has to count for something.

Apple (1980)

Apple is a low-budget, maybe a bit overambitious sci-fi/fantasy musical set in the distant future…of 1994. It’s a disconcerting movie where you wonder if you’re laughing with or of him, as he tells the story of a wild music contest at Eurovision, except this one is organized by someone who could be the devil? There’s also an apple, of course, as the title promises.

See, Apple is not good. But Apple is interesting. He doesn’t have much to say, but thanks to his gender-hopping, he at least manages to find a lot of ways not to say much. It’s an experience, that’s for sure, and once it’s over, viewers can tell their friends they survived. Applewhich is sure to impress them.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Once More, With Emotion (2001)

Including “Once More, With Feeling” among a list of feature films might be cheating, because it’s technically an episode of the TV show, buffy the vampire slayer (and one of the best in the overall series). It lasts longer than most episodes of buffytechnically qualified for feature length as it is over 45 minutes long and features a unique title sequence as well as larger scale and more complex visuals than most buffy episodes.

It’s one of the most iconic musical episodes of all time, and considering how buffy crosses just about every genre and emotion, this ensures the episode qualifies as a great musical in its own right, in addition to being a great buffy episode of course. To be a key Season 6 episode story-wise, to have hilarious scenes and heartbreaking scenes, to have catchy songs, and to maintain the fantasy/action/romance elements found throughout the series, “Once More, With Feeling” is a classic, through and through. .

NEXT: Musicals Where Every Line of Dialogue Is Sung

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