15 Best 2023 Musical Movies Right Now

Updated June 7, 2024 • Staff

2023 is shaping up to be a great year for fans of musical movies. Beyond more obvious entries like The Little Mermaid and Barbie, there are heartwarming tributes to musicians getting their dues, impressive indies, international wonders (including, of course, a Bollywood rager), and a much-awaited comeback from the king of modern musical films, John Carney (Once, Sing Street). 

Below we share all the music movies that struck a chord with us so far and hope they have the same effect on you. 

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15.

The Little Mermaid (2023)

After more than six years in the making, The Little Mermaid should be a spectacle for the ages, but even the magic of Rob Marshall (Chicago) and Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton) cannot save the live-action remake. The film feels at once too stunted for an actual musical and too expansive to be just another movie. There's something uncanny, too, in how the humans look underwater and inland so that the wetness of the characters (of all things!) becomes a weirdly icky factor. Not to mention Scuttle the diving bird who looks more like a demonic creature than a feathery companion, or the flat disappointment that is Flounder. If that's the price we must pay for reality, we don't want it.

Our staff rating: 6.9/10
Genre: Adventure, Family, Fantasy, Music, Romance
Actor: Adrian Christopher, Art Malik, Awkwafina, Christopher Fairbank, Craig Stein, Daveed Diggs, Emily Coates, Halle Bailey, Jacob Tremblay, Javier Bardem, Jessica Alexander, Jodi Benson, John Dagleish, Jon-Scott Clark, Jonah Hauer-King, Jude Akuwudike, Kajsa Mohammar, Karolina Conchet, Leon Cooke, Lorena Andrea, Marcus Hodson, Martina Laird, Melissa McCarthy, Noma Dumezweni, Russell Balogh, Sienna King, Simone Ashley, Sophie Carmen-Jones, Tarik Frimpong, Yasmin Harrison
Director: Rob Marshall
Rating: PG
14.

Personality Crisis: One Night Only (2023)

After directing George Harrison: Living in the Material World and No Direction Home, Martin Scorsese brings to the fore yet another singular musician, this time New York Dolls frontman David Johansen (aka Buster Poindexter). More of a concert film than anything, this feature takes place during a live performance Johansen gives during his birthday; his raspy voice and poetic punk songs already tell a story in themselves, but Scorsese intercuts them with the occasional archival footage and interview, careful not to disrupt a glorious musical moment with cheesy throwback scenes. 

A Dolls or punk fan will be moved by the resulting film, a fittingly jagged but meaningful oeuvre of a tenacious artist. But if you're coming to this documentary without much prior knowledge about Johansen, his band, and the era from which he came, you might find it somewhat niche, but overall impressive, informative, and musically thrilling.

Our staff rating: 7/10
Genre: Documentary, Music
Actor: David Johansen, Debbie Harry, Hal Willner, Morrissey, Sylvain Sylvain
Director: David Tedeschi, Martin Scorsese

Free Watching Options:

Watch Personality Crisis: One Night Only (2023) on Fubo for free
13.

World’s Best (2023)

Much sweeter and much more bittersweet than one might expect, World's Best does some deceptively clever things with its major themes of math and rap. Somehow, this pre-teen coming-of-age story finds a way to play with preconceived notions of equations always resulting in certain answers, and of modern hip hop being all about swagger and status. Unsurprisingly (or maybe disappointingly for some), the film ultimately touches on grief and loss, which an increasing number of Disney films have been doing as of late. But World's Best keeps itself fresh through its sincere, energetic tone, colorful production design, and spirited performances by Utkarsh Ambudkar and the young Manny Magnus. So even when the rapping gets corny (which it does more often than it should), the spirit behind it is so endearing that it's hard to be mad.

Our staff rating: 7/10
Genre: Comedy, Family, Music
Actor: Chris River, Christopher Jackson, Dorian Giordano, Doug E. Fresh, Jake Choi, Jordan Heron, Jorja Rae Inksetter Lardy, Karan Soni, Kathryn Greenwood, Kayla Njeri, Manny Magnus, Max Malas, Maya McNair, Neil Crone, Noah Lamanna, Piper Wallace, Punam Patel, Robyn Matuto, Sathya Sridharan, Tricia Black, Utkarsh Ambudkar
Director: Roshan Sethi
Rating: PG
12.

If These Walls Could Sing (2023)

With nearly a century to cover, If These Walls Could Sing had the daunting task of giving justice to the history of the iconic Abbey Roads Studios. In 89 minutes, Mary McCartney outlines the studio’s history through archival footage and a stacked selection of artist interviews, popping only in random moments to organize the timeline. With the wide selection of artists, the film can feel scattered, as it jumps from classical music, to rock and roll, and to film scoring. The documentary doesn’t really go in-depth into how the studio developed its sound, but there are some interesting insights into certain tracks, like how the studio approached contracts, experimentation, different genres, and technology. While the film relies too much on nostalgia, it’s still an interesting tour based on the subject matter alone.

Our staff rating: 7/10
Genre: Documentary, Music
Actor: Cilla Black, Cliff Richard, David Gilmour, Elton John, George Harrison, George Lucas, George Martin, Jimmy Page, John Legend, John Lennon, John Williams, Kanye West, Kate Bush, Liam Gallagher, Linda McCartney, Mary McCartney, Nile Rodgers, Noel Gallagher, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Roger Waters
Director: Mary McCartney

Free Watching Options:

Watch If These Walls Could Sing (2023) on Hulu for free
11.

Leo (2023)

Held back by awkward and uninspired musical numbers but otherwise a surprisingly funny and sweet animated comedy, Leo gets a lot of mileage out of being simply weirder than many of its direct-to-streaming contemporaries. As the titular lizard works through his cynicism by spending his last days helping others with their early years (a premise heartwarming enough to stand on its own), the film expresses itself through plenty of cutaway jokes and throwaway lines, excellent physical comedy, and a few particularly bizarre character designs. Everything is played in good fun though, and the movie's witty, easygoing personality allows it to overcome any limitations from its admittedly ordinary animation.

Our staff rating: 7.1/10
Genre: Animation, Comedy, Family, Music
Actor: Adam Sandler, Alex Quijano, Allison Strong, Andre Robinson, Andrew Morgado, Ashley Lambert, Ava Acres, Bill Burr, Blake Clark, Bryant Tardy, Carson Minniear, Cecily Strong, Chris Kattan, Chris Titone, David Wachtenheim, Heidi Gardner, Jackie Sandler, Janie Haddad Tompkins, Jaquita Ta'le, Jason Alexander, Jason Griffith, Jo Koy, Joel Marsh Garland, John Farley, Jonathan Loughran, Kelly Stables, Nicholas Turturro, Nick Swardson, Nikki Castillo, Noah Robbins, Paul Brittain, Rob Schneider, Robert Marianetti, Robert Smigel, Rose Abdoo, Ryan Bartley, Ryun Yu, Sadie Sandler, Scott Menville, Sheila Carrasco, Shelby Young, Sonya Leslie, Stephanie Hsu, Sunita Param, Sunny Sandler, Terence Mathews
Director: David Wachtenheim, Robert Marianetti, Robert Smigel
Rating: PG
10.

Carmen (2023)

Renowned choreographer Benjamin Millepied brings an 1875 opera leaping into the 21st century with this modern retelling — through dance and drama — of Carmen. The plot is reimagined along the US border and recenters the titular character (Melissa Barrera), a newly orphaned refugee from Mexico making her way to her godmother (a fabulous Rossy de Palma) in LA. In places, Carmen recalls Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet: aided by Nicholas Britell’s operatic score, it embraces its grand origins to evoke a star-crossed sense of looming tragedy over the romance that blossoms when reluctant border patrol guard Aidan (Paul Mescal) saves Carmen’s life and flees with her to California. 

Where Carmen really soars is in its translation of drama into dance. It’s an inspired move, pairing this almost mythical story with such a primal medium — but, while the movie achieves visceral emotion that words would struggle to produce in its choreographed scenes, there’s something lacking in the moments where dialogue is crucial. The conversations never move as fluidly as the dancing bodies do, and the passion and the fury falter as a result. That being said, this is largely still a boldly inventive filmmaking experiment, one that spotlights the thrilling potency of pure movement as a storytelling medium.

Our staff rating: 7.5/10
Genre: Drama, Music
Actor: Benedict Hardie, Elsa Pataky, Kaan Guldur, Kevin MacIsaac, Melissa Barrera, Morgan Smallbone, Nico Cortez, Nicole da Silva, Paul Mescal, Pip Edwards, Richard Brancatisano, Rossy de Palma, Tara Morice, The D.O.C., Zac Drayson
Director: Benjamin Millepied
9.

Mixed by Erry (2023)

Fast and funny with surprisingly tender moments in between, Mixed by Erry doubles as a fascinating period piece and a heartfelt family comedy. On a larger scale, it tracks the rise of musical piracy, which Erry and his brothers accidentally stumble onto with their cassette-copying business, Mixed by Erry. But what starts out as an innovative trade fueled by Erry’s love for music—Erry himself is like a Spotify algorithm come to life, instantly creating mix tapes for people based on what they like—soon transforms into a legal threat that catches the ire of record labels and finance regulators alike. It sounds thrilling and complicated, but the film’s lofty premise is grounded by the relatable dreams Erry and his brothers share. They genuinely believe they’re doing nothing wrong by distributing music and boosting the local economy, and as naive and misguided as that may be, there’s something heartwarming about their intentions. The film itself doesn’t take sides. Instead, it acknowledges the situation for what it is—a landmark case in musical history ripe with educational and entertaining moments.  

Our staff rating: 7.5/10
Genre: Comedy, History, Music
Actor: Cristiana Dell'Anna, Emanuele Palumbo, Francesco Di Leva, Giuseppe Arena, Luigi D'Oriano
Director: Sydney Sibilia
Rating: R
8.

Trap Jazz (2023)

The common denominator between Trap and Jazz is its undeniable origin in the Black community. For musicians Chris Moten, Joshua “Cassius Jay” Cross, and Devon “Stixx” Taylor, blending these two genres is a fusion that can bridge the tastes of older and younger generations, reintroducing jazz to the mainstream. The film thoroughly explores their journey from playing in the church to trying to balance being tour musicians and creating their own music. But, the crux of it all is the men themselves and how they represent the inseparable bond between Black people and music. Rather than a simple profile on the group, Trap Jazz fleshes out the group’s place and innovation in the bigger tapestry of music.

Our staff rating: 7.6/10
Genre: Documentary, Music
Director: Sadé Clacken Joseph
Rating: R
7.

Wham! (2023)

For a short while in the ‘80s, the pop scene benefited from the sheer musical joy created by George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley, known together as Wham! With confectionary hits like “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” and “Last Christmas,” the  British duo sang about the escapism that a generation desperately sought out. Their songs were dismissed by pundits as shallow (“How can the country be in love with these two idiots?”), but as young people flocked to their concerts in droves, it was clear that Wham! struck a chord with the worn-out youth. 

They were no Beatles or Bowie, not heavyweight enough to make a lasting impression in our collective pop culture memory, but theirs is a story rich with meaningful lessons. Wham!, the film, is as much about the personal lives of the duo as it is about the difficulty of making it as independent artists; about the saving grace of music; and about the importance of authenticity. 

Our staff rating: 7.7/10
Genre: Documentary, Music
Actor: Andrew Ridgeley, Aretha Franklin, Bono, Boy George, David Bowie, Elton John, Freddie Mercury, George Michael, Helen DeMacque, Jerry Wexler, Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, Sting, Terry Wogan, Tony Hadley
Director: Chris Smith
Rating: NR
6.

ONEFOUR: Against All Odds (2023)

Documentaries about musicians — or anyone famous, for that matter — are often mythologizing puff pieces, essentially feature-length airings of PR material. But Against All Odds has more to it than flattery. It chronicles the rise of Australia’s first drill rappers, five young men of Samoan origin who soared to fame from their disadvantaged Sydney neighborhood after going viral and catching the eye of artists like the UK’s Skepta and Australia’s own The Kid Laroi. 

ONEFOUR’s rise from “the trenches” is compelling in itself — far more so than some of the dull origin stories that often pad out this kind of movie — but the documentary is given even more weight by its examination of the forces that sought to put out their fire: New South Wales police. ONEFOUR’s lyrics, which often reference violence, put them in the crossfires of a police tactical unit determined to, in one officer’s words, “make [ONEFOUR’s] life miserable until [they] stop what [they’re] doing.” Amazingly, the on-camera police interviews feature even more brazen admissions of the ways they “lawfully harass” ONEFOUR, a fact that makes this documentary an eye-opening portrait of both aggressive (and allegedly racist) policing and the resilience of the group in the face of it.

Our staff rating: 7.7/10
Genre: Documentary, Music
Actor: Celly, J Emz, Lekks, Spenny, The Kid LAROI, YP
Director: Gabriel Gasparinatos
Rating: R

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