Best Gene Kelly Musicals

Gene Kelly is one of the most iconic and beloved names in cinematic history, renowned for his unparalleled dancing prowess and captivating on-screen presence. From Singin’ in the Rain to An American in Paris, Kelly’s musical films have become timeless classics, each captivating audiences with his jaw-dropping choreography and magnetic performance.

To pay tribute to this extraordinary entertainer and his impressive body of work, we’ve compiled a list of the very best Gene Kelly musicals ever made. Whether you’re a fan of musicals or just want to experience first-hand Kelly’s undeniable talent, each of these classic films is sure to provide you with an unforgettable viewing experience. So sit back, relax, and get ready to be dazzled by the incomparable Gene Kelly.

The 13 Best Gene Kelly Musicals of All Time

13. Les Girls (1957)

  • Starring: Gene Kelly, Mitzi Gaynor, Kay Kendall
  • Directed by: George Cukor

Up first, we’ve got Les Girls. Is this movie the absolute best Gene Kelly movie of all time? Maybe not. Maybe to some! There are a few flaws here, but this is still such a fun and engaging musical that is very watchable. Hence, it’s on this list.

Les Girls follows a dancer (Kay Kendall) who pens a memoir about her time in a troupe. However, her other fellow dancers read this memoir and disagree with it, recalling different versions of what actually went down. Kelly plays the man who ran the troupe — and the story slowly reveals his different relationships with each of the women. It’s great fun!

All of the numbers are so fun here, it’s hard to choose the best. This musical is also filled with Cole Porter music — so you know it’s going to be good.

12. Take Me Out to the Ball Game (1949)

  • Starring: Frank Sinatra, Esther Williams, Gene Kelly, Edward Arnold
  • Directed by: Busby Berkeley

One thing all these Gene Kelly musicals have in common on this list? They’re great fun! Take Me Out to the Ball Game is one such fun film that is still so enjoyable to watch today. Plus, it also has Frank Sinatra and Esther Williams in it!

Take Me Out to the Ball Game follows two baseball players (Kelly and Sinatra) who actually want to be vaudeville performers. The film takes place at the turn of the century and follows these two players who are faced with difficult offers from a gangster — and follows the female (Williams) who owns the team, and who is dating Kelly’s character.

This movie is a lot of fun throughout, mainly because of the stars and the energy they bring to the entire film (even in the parts that fall flat). Of the musical numbers featured here, Gene Kelly’s “The Hat My Father Wore on St. Patrick’s Day” and “O’Brien to Ryan to Goldberg” are great highlights.

11. It’s Always Fair Weather (1955)

  • Starring: Gene Kelly, Dan Dailey, Cyd Charisse, Dolores Gray
  • Directed by: Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly

Next up we’ve got 1955’s It’s Always Fair Weather, considered a bit of a cynical musical. But it’s still great fun and definitely one of the best Gene Kelly musicals of all time!

It’s Always Fair Weather follows three WWII friends who decide to meet up in ten years. Ten years pass, the three reunite at that New York City bar they made the deal at… and then find that they haven’t reached the goals they had in mind. Plus, they don’t really have anything in common anymore. A gangster and a TV coordinator get wind of the story and insert themselves in it, making for a fun story and wonderful musical numbers!

Cyd Charisse’s “Baby, You Knock Me Out”, Dolores Gray’s “Thanks a Lot But No Thanks”, and the ash can dance sequence are three major highlights to enjoy in this film!

10. Cover Girl (1944)

  • Starring: Rita Hayworth, Gene Kelly
  • Directed by: Charles Vidor

Gene Kelly and Rita Hayworth in a movie together? Yes, please! Cover Girl is a whole lot of fun and one of the best Gene Kelly musicals of all time. Back when it was first released, it was also one of the most popular musicals to watch during the war.

Cover Girl follows a nightclub dancer (Hayworth) who becomes famous and successful as a model when she is put on the cover of a magazine. Kelly plays her boyfriend, also a dancer, who knows he might lose her, though doesn’t interfere with her success. It’s always great to see two icons together on screen — and we get that here. Eve Arden is also absolutely wonderful here!

Every single Kelly musical number is amazing in Cover Girl. No joke. “Long Ago and Far Away” is perhaps the best song in this Jerome Kern-Ira Gershwin musical.

Related —The Top 10 Best Rita Hayworth Movies of All Time

9. Brigadoon (1954)

  • Starring: Gene Kelly, Van Johnson, Cyd Charisse
  • Directed by: Vincente Minelli

Brigadoon didn’t get a lot of love when it was released, and it still is considered a bit of an underrated musical. This is a shame, as it’s actually quite fun and enjoyable to watch! Yes, it may not be Singin’ in the Rain, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still great!

Brigadoon follows two American hunters (Kelly and Johnson) who are on a hunting trip, traveling through the Scottish woods. Upon this trip, they find Brigadoon, a mystical town that only appears every 100 years for a day. When Kelly’s character falls in love with a woman in the town (Charisse), he must decide what to do. Does he stay in this lovely town, which is free of modern-day worries? Or does he leave the woman he loves?

There’s a lot to love about Brigadoon. It’s just lovely! “The Heather on the Hill” is perhaps the best sequence here.

8. The Pirate (1948)

  • Starring: Judy Garland, Gene Kelly
  • Directed by: Vincente Minelli

The Pirate is another Gene Kelly musical that didn’t get enough appreciation when it was first released. It’s since grown in popularity — especially because Kelly is fantastic here. That cigarette kiss? Oh my.

Anyway, The Pirate follows a woman (Garland) who is unhappily married to the mayor of her town. When a traveling circus arrives, she instantly finds herself smitten with one performer (Kelly) — a man who begins to pose as an actual pirate as he tries to court her. It’s a lot of fun!

Cole Porter’s music is featured in The Pirate, which is always a plus. All of Kelly’s musical numbers are outstanding, which isn’t a surprise.

7. For Me and My Gal (1942)

  • Starring: Judy Garland, George Murphy, Gene Kelly
  • Directed by: Busby Berkeley

For Me and My Gal is a notable Gene Kelly musical because it was his film debut! It also happened to be the first “adult” movie Judy Garland made. While it does stumble in some areas, it’s still great fun and an enjoyable movie — and therefore one of the best Gene Kelly movies ever.

For Me and My Gal follows a vaudeville duo, Garland and Kelly, who face difficulties when World War I comes around and Kelly’s character is drafted. There are many great musical sequences here, though “When You Wore a Tulip” is perhaps one of the best.

6. Summer Stock (1950)

  • Starring: Judy Garland, Gene Kelly
  • Directed by: Charles Walters

Another Gene Kelly and Judy Garland musical! If you haven’t noticed yet, the films where these two are paired together are always wonderful.

Summer Stock follows a farmer (Judy Garland) who doesn’t want anything to do with her sister’s showbiz career. However, when her sister shows up unannounced and takes over the farm to put together her own musical revue, Garland ends up falling for Kelly’s character and catching the showbiz bug herself.

There are many fun musical moments in this movie. Kelly’s newspaper dance is definitely notable. However, the best moment here is, hands down, Garland’s “Get Happy” number. Iconic.

5. Anchors Aweigh (1945)

  • Starring: Frank Sinatra, Kathryn Grayson, Gene Kelly
  • Directed by: George Sidney

Gene Kelly stars in Anchors Aweigh with Frank Sinatra and Kathryn Grayson — and it’s a lot of fun. This musical stars some of the most iconic Gene Kelly musical moments and is so enjoyable to watch.

The film follows two sailors (Sinatra and Kelly) on leave in Los Angeles. While at first, they plan on just relaxing, things become a bit chaotic when they meet an extra who wants to be a star — and then the two men try to make this happen for her.

Anchors Aweigh has some iconic dance sequences, as well as some very fun songs. Sinatra’s rendition of “I Fall In Love Too Easily” is a classic. Kelly’s dance with the cartoon mouse Jerry is yet another highlight — and one you definitely don’t want to miss.

4. An American in Paris (1951)

  • Starring: Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, Oscar Levant
  • Directed by: Vincente Minelli

An American in Paris isn’t just one of the best Gene Kelly movies ever made — it’s also considered by many to be one of the best musicals of all time. And for good reason! This movie is so fun, so phenomenal, and a must-watch for any Kelly or musical fan.

An American in Paris follows an American ex-GI (Kelly) who decides to stay in Paris after the war and become a painter. He falls in love with Leslie Caron’s character, though struggles when a wealthy woman embraces his art — and wants his love, too. A grand film with SO many iconic dance sequences. Beautiful.

3. The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967)

  • Starring: Catherine Devenue, George Chakiris, Gene Kelly
  • Directed by: Jacques Demy

While The Young Girls of Rochefort isn’t necessarily a Gene Kelly leading movie and instead has him as a supporting character, this musical is still one of the best musicals ever made (in our opinion). Plus, to see Kelly later in his career, still charming and amazing, in a French new wave musical at that? Amazing!

The Young Girls of Rochefort follows two sisters (real-life sisters Catherine Deneuve and Françoise Dorléac) in a small French town who want to experience life in the big city. When they meet carnival workers, they both join the carnival and fall in love, looking to change their lives. It’s grand fun!

The Young Girls of Rochefort is also a part of the Criterion Collection (spine #717)!

2. On the Town (1949)

  • Starring: Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra
  • Directed by: Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly

The second-best Gene Kelly musical of all time? On the Town! This brilliant musical, also starring Frank Sinatra and other wonderful actors, was shot on location in New York.

This musical follows three sailors on leave in New York City for 24 hours. The sailors want to have fun and end up causing quite a lot of chaos as they each fall in love with three different girls. It’s a lot of fun!

While there are so many wonderful moments and dance sequences here, the “New York, New York” number is perhaps the absolute best!

1. Singin’ In the Rain (1952)

  • Starring: Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Jean Hagen
  • Directed by: Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly

We’ve made it to the absolute best Gene Kelly musical of all time: Singin’ In the Rain. Considered to be the best musical of all time, every musical sequence is genius in this movie. Every part is phenomenal. Kelly is at his best, as is everyone else in the film!

Singin’ In the Rain follows two costars (Kelly and Jean Hagen) who are attempting to transition from silent movies to talkies. When they are cast in a musical, Kelly’s character is fine… but Hagen cannot sing at all. Enter the youthful and brilliant Debbie Reynolds!

It’s hard to choose which musical number is best in this glorious film. “Singin’ In the Rain” and “Make ‘Em Laugh” are perhaps the best two. But who could choose?!

What’s Your Favorite Gene Kelly Musical?

Comment below your favorite Gene Kelly musical of all time. Do you prefer a musical that didn’t make this list? What does your own favorite list look like? Hit the comments below with your thoughts and opinions — we’d love to hear them!

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