Moulin Rouge! is arguably one of the best movie musicals ever made, with the recent stage performance taking home a Tony Award for Best Musical. Starring Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman, Moulin Rouge! is a feast for the ears and the eyes thanks to Baz Lurhman’s directorial genius. The film follows the story of penniless writer Christian and courtesan Satine who fall in love and are forced to hide it from the Duke who holds a claim over Satine. The film received eight Academy Award nominations and took home two, for Best Production Design and Best Costume Design.
A one-of-a-kind musical, Moulin Rouge!is a modern take on the Bohemian revolution in France that took place at the turn of the century. The film is packed with plenty of musical numbers for the audience to enjoy, all of which are recreations of pop songs like Elton John’s “Your Song” and the classic song “Nature Boy.” Moulin Rouge!‘s musical numbers range from serious and heartbreaking, from “The Show Must Go On” to the more comedic “Like a Virgin.” As such, there’s a great deal of variety for the audience to have a balanced experience. These are the best musical performances in Moulin Rouge!ranked.
8 Hindi Sad Diamond
As a part of their play, Satine sings a sad iteration of her “Sparkling Diamond” number at the beginning of the film. Part of what makes this performance so wonderful is the emotion that Satine puts into it. From the very beginning, we get the morose feelings that she is trying to portray, suiting the fact that she and Christian cannot be together and Satine must be with the Duke in order to save the Moulin Rouge. The part of this performance that stands out the most is when Satine struggles to breathe and needs to take a moment to catch her breath before continuing with the number, showing her rapidly deteriorating health that she managed to keep hidden from Christian.
7 Elephant Love Medley
One of the most creative numbers in the film is “Elephant Love Medley.” Shortly after Satine’s solo lament, Christian speaks with her and asks if she has feelings for him. They argue back and forth about their feelings for each other through a creative medley of love songs. From David Bowie’s “Heroes” to The Beatles’ “All You Need is Love”, the song is full of the best parts of classic love songs that everyone knows. By the end of the number, the couple unite with their love, and Satine decides she can no longer fight her feelings for Christian and that the best thing for them both is to be together.
6 Your Song
A musical iteration of the classic Elton John love song, McGregor’s performance of “Your Song” is particularly potent. When Satine and Christian are alone together, the situation becomes very awkward thanks to the misunderstanding that brought them there. While Satine tries her hardest to seduce Christian, he starts singing so that she can understand why he is actually there. Showing off his vocal abilities while singing to Satine, she becomes enamored and falls in love with Christian. Everything is happy and shiny until Christian reveals he is not the Duke, but is the new writer for their upcoming play Spectacular Spectacular.
5 Sparkling Diamonds
The introduction to Satine is her performance of the classic tune “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend,” made famous by Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Satine’s performance is a modernized version of Monroe’s, still using dozens of men to carry her around while Christian and Toulous admire her at the same time that the Duke expresses interest in Satine to Zidler. The number is not only entertaining to watch, but it introduces Satine’s character as a cabaret actress very clearly as, during her costume change, she speaks with Zidler about the finer details of the Duke’s interest in her and how he is willing to invest in the Moulin Rouge to help make her a real actress.
4 Spectacular Spectacular / The Pitch
When the Duke walks in on Christian and Satine seemingly being touchy-feely, Satine covers up his presence by saying that they were rehearsing for the new play and, fortunately, Toulouse and his troupe, who have been working on the play for weeks, are just outside and come in to save the day. When Zidler arrives to see what’s going on, he leads them in their musical pitch of “Spectacular Spectacular” to the Duke. The number is frantic and exciting, telling the overall story of the play that Christian manages to make up on the spot. After a great deal of song and dance, the group manages to sell the idea to the Duke, gaining the investment they need to turn the Moulin Rouge from a dance hall to a theater. The fact that the entire group made this whole number up on the spot and made make-shift costumes with whatever they could find in Satine’s elephant makes this one of the best musical performances in the film.
3 The Can-Can
When Christian first begins his narration about the Moulin Rouge, the first thing he talks about is Zidler and his Diamond Dogs. The following musical number features Zidler leading his girls in a can-can; the song itself is a medley of a number of songs, including Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” The dancing is also a compilation of a number of things, from showing the girls doing the can-can with patrons of the dancehall to showing other entertainment that the Moulin Rouge has to offer. This number perfectly introduces the Bohemian turn of the century Moulin Rouge, recreating it for the audience to enjoy.
2 Come What May (Reprise)
One of the final numbers in the film, the “Come What May” reprise shows Satine singing this love song to Christian before he can leave the theater. Christian stops and listens to her declaring her love for him for everyone to hear. Ecstatic at her declaration of love in front of the Duke, Christian joins her in singing their love song onstage. The ultimate display of love reunites the couple before an audience, both real and imaginary. While they are singing this number, the Duke’s henchman is trying to find the gun to kill Christian because he came back to Satine, but the entire crew on-stage manages to stop this from happening.
1 El Tango de Roxanne
The undisputed best performance in the entire film is “El Tango de Roxanne.” Performed by McGregor and Jacek Koman, Roxanne is a number that explores Satine’s occupation as a courtesan and the effect it has on Christian. While Christian is typically a reasonable man, knowing Satine is going to spend the night with the Duke makes him inexplicably jealous. The song is sung while the dancers at the Moulin Rouge dance a melancholic tango. The pace of the number changes when Satine sings to Christian from the balcony of the Gothic Tower and the Duke notices. When the Duke discovers her deception, he loses his mind and tries to hurt Satine, ripping off her clothes and nearly forcing himself on her until she is saved by her bodyguard, all while “Roxanne” plays in the background. This is the most emotional and the most well put-together musical performance in the film.