Song of the Day #4,452: ‘You’re the One That I Want’ – John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John

Concluding my personal ranking of the 25 movie musicals deemed essential by the American Film Institute…

#1. Grease – 1978
(#20 on the AFI list)

I don’t know if this will be a controversial choice as my #1 musical on the AFI list, but I have to say it wasn’t even close. Since I first saw Grease as a kid, this has been not just the best musical I’ve ever seen but one of my favorite movies, period.

This movie is such a blast from start to finish — from the melodramatic beachside embrace to the greatest end-of-school carnival ever. It’s impossible to start Grease and not finish it.

Based on the 1971 stage production, Grease has one of the greatest song lineups of any movie musical: ‘Summer Nights,’ ‘Greased Lightning,’ ‘Beauty School Dropout,’ ‘Look At Me, I’m Sandra Dee,’ ‘There Are Worse Things I Could Do,’ ‘You’re the One That I Want,’ ‘We Go Together.’ Chef’s kiss!

‘Hopelessly Devoted To You’ and ‘Sandy’ were added for the film, giving two show-stopping moments to leads Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta. And title track ‘Grease,’ written for the movie by Barry Gibb and performed by Frankie Valli, is surely the greatest opening credits song in history.

In the middle of all that, you have a spectacular school dance that works in other songs from the stage show as well as classic 50s hits, and allows Travolta to strut his stuff on the dance floor.

The film has an embarrassment of memorable supporting characters, with every member of the T-Birds and Pink Ladies making an impression, and a number of scene-stealing turns by those portraying the staff of Rydell High. It doesn’t matter that the actors portraying high school seniors are in their 30s (Jamie Donnelly, who plays Jan, had to dye her grey hair before filming). Indeed, that’s part of the movie’s charm.

Grease is one of a handful of movies I can recite by heart, a product of many viewings over the years but also the sharpness of its script and brightness of its performances. It’s a treasure, one that is beloved and underappreciated at the same time.

The movie was nominated for a single Academy Award: Best Original Song for ‘Hopelessly Devoted To You.’ Best Picture that year went to The Deer Hunter.

Tell me, when’s the last time you fired up The Deer Hunter on the old widescreen TV? Wouldn’t you rather see Cha-Cha DiGregorio pull “a lock of hair… from her chest” before the drag race at Thunder Road? Yeah, I thought so.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this month-long exploration of AFI’s essential movie musicals as much as I have. I gained a new appreciation for the art form and discovered some new favorite films and performers. I’ve also come away with a growing list of other musicals to check out. I’ll let you know when I do.

[Verse 1: Danny]
I got chills, they’re multiplying
And I’m losing control
‘Cause the power you’re supplying
It’s electrifying!

[Pre-Chorus: Sandy + Danny]
You better shape up, ’cause I need a man
And my heart is set on you
You better shape up, you better understand
To my heart, I must be true
Nothing left, nothing left for me to do

[Chorus: Danny + Sandy (Cast)]
You’re the one that I want (you are the one I want)
Oo-oo-oo, honey
The one that I want (you are the one I want)
Oo-oo-oo, honey
The one that I want (you are the one I want)
Oo-oo-oo, the one I need (one I need)
Oh, yes, indeed (yes indeed)

[Verse 2: Sandy]
If you’re filled with affection
You’re too shy to convey
Meditate in my direction
Feel your way

[Pre-Chorus 2: Danny + Sandy]
I better shape up, cause you need a man
I need a man who can keep me satisfied
I better shape up if I’m gonna prove
You better prove that my faith is justified
Are you sure?
Yes, I’m sure down deep inside [Both]

[Chorus: Danny + Sandy (Cast)]
You’re the one that I want (you are the one I want)
Oo-oo-oo, honey
The one that I want (you are the one I want)
Oo-oo-oo, honey
The one that I want (you are the one I want)
Oo-oo-oo, the one I need (one I need)
Oh, yes, indeed (yes indeed)

You’re the one that I want (you are the one I want)
Oo-oo-oo, honey
The one that I want (you are the one I want)
Oo-oo-oo, honey
The one that I want (you are the one I want)
Oo-oo-oo, the one I need (one I need)
Oh, yes, indeed (yes indeed)

You’re the one that I want (you are the one I want)
Oo-oo-oo, honey
The one that I want (you are the one I want)
Oo-oo-oo, honey
The one that I want (you are the one I want)
Oo-oo-oo, the one I need (one I need)
Oh, yes, indeed (yes indeed)

3 thoughts on “Song of the Day #4,452: ‘You’re the One That I Want’ – John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    I wasn’t sure Grease would be on the AFI list, but assumed that, if it was, it would be your number one. Of course, it might have had real competition if Mamma Mia II had made the AFI list. 😜

  2. Amy says:

    Thanks for the laugh out loud moment this early on. Friday morning. Yes, I would much prefer to listen to Jan’s description of ChaCha’s actions to ever sitting through The Deer Hunter again!

    The fact that Daniel performed in this stage musical twice, once in 6th grade as Roger and then as a senior as Kenickie just gave me an even deeper appreciation of all the great songs and choreography. Couldn’t agree with you more about the best opening title sequence ever, either, it sets the tone for the entire blast of a film.

  3. Peg says:

    Yay! I love this at number one! Love everything about this movie. And watching Daniel two times in school productions was such a treat. As far as Deer Hunter goes you s as all know how I feel 😩

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