Les Misérables
Adapted from the landmark Broadway musical inspired by Victor Hugo's epic tome, this drama set in 19th-century France follows the journey of Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) a former convict who struggles with what it means to be a moral man while confronted by badgering conmen, political activists, victimized innocents and a lawman with a very stringent concept of justice. Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway co-star; Tom Hooper directs.

While critics debate the value of Hooper's adaptation, it's hard to argue his ambition here isn't admirable. Les Misérables has a massive cast of characters and aims to encompass the experience and agonies of multiple classes within its period setting. There are a lot of moving parts requiring perfection to make it sing. Likewise, here is a trio of period dramas—some with songs—that are awesomely ambitious and grand in scope.

The King's Speech (2010) Tom Hooper first awed audiences with this biopic about King George VI's ascent to the throne, which netted four Oscars including Best Picture. Colin Firth stars as a stuttering royal who must overcome his embarrassing affliction to properly lead his country through some mountingly troubling times. Helena Bonham Carter and Geoffrey Rush co-star as the future Queen mum and an audacious middle class speech therapist respectively.

Velvet Goldmine (1998) Todd Haynes' bold and beautiful drama is equal parts Citizen Kane and David Bowie/Iggy Pop fan fiction. Structured like the former, the film centers on a the quest of a young journalist (Christian Bale) to find what became of glam rock god Brian Slade (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), whose androgynous style and wild antics borrow heavily from Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie. Filled with glamor, glitter, sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll, and an incredible cast that includes Ewan McGregor Eddie Izzard and Toni Collette, this musical packs serious swagger and scads of sensuality.

Jesus Christ Superstar (1973) Bible story movies are often grandiose with special effects and a stern but earnest undertone. But when adapting Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's rock opera about the life of Jesus, Norman Jewison abandoned standard epic tropes and embraced the musical's bold and challenging song numbers that gave voice to such long loathed characters as Pontius Pilate and Judas Iscariot. The result is a movie musical that radiates energy and raw emotion whether Jesus is preaching and tossing tables, Mary Magdalene keens for her doomed love, or Judas cries out from the afterlife about Jesus' confounding plan. At times it's campy, but it's still riveting. Ted Neeley, Carl Anderson, and Yvonne Elliman co-star.

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