#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.
Grease is primarily about the unlikely romance between greaser Danny Zuko and good girl Sandy Olsson, but I always found more emotional resonance in the sub-plot concerning the rebellious Rizzo, played by Stockard Channing.
Rizzo provides comic relief but also has a pregnancy scare that complicates her relationship with Kenickie, and in one of the film’s most touching scenes (embedded below) she gives us a rare glimpse of her vulnerability.
That’s because the version I own is the one that accompanies the opening scene of Grease — captured in all its glory below.
Enjoy the romance-filled summer of Sandy and Danny, including a moment when Danny gets a little too grabby, set to this wonderfully over-the-top orchestral arrangement.
One night, Paul O’Shea played the first few notes of ‘Summer Nights’ from the Grease soundtrack and then looked to the audience for a Sandy to sing alongside him.
No, I’m not going to tell you that Alex (or I) volunteered. This isn’t that good a story.