Time for another edition of my new series! Meredith asked me what I'd recommend for fans of Les Miserables (2012), and that one was a bit challenging. Here are my suggestions!
If you like Les Mis, with it's sweeping emotions, beautiful costumes, and poignant character arcs, not to mention all that gorgeous music, then you might like any of these:
+ The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939) -- Also set in France, with lots of scenes involving people living on the streets and society's margins, this beautiful retelling of another novel by Victor Hugo (same guy who wrote the original Les Mis) involves a young and vibrant Gypsy (Maureen O'Hara) who seeks sanctuary in the Notre Dame cathedral. She's persecuted by a lusting, vengeful creep (Cedric Hardwicke); pursued by a poor, idealistic writer (Edmund O'Brien); and championed by a despised, deformed bell-ringer (Charles Laughton). (Family friendly for the most part, as the creep's lusting is subtext. The bell-ringer's deformities are pretty startling, though, and this is not a film for young children.)
+ Oliver! (1968) -- This one takes place among the poor and downtrodden of London instead of Paris, with lots of fairly cheerful songs, but a good bit of darkness going on as well. Orphaned Oliver Twist (Mark Lester) gets thrown out of the workhouse and must fend for himself on the streets. He's taken in by a gang of pickpockets and thieves, among them the extremely nasty Bill Sykes (Oliver Reed) and his sweet streetwalker girlfriend Nancy (Shani Wallis). (Also not for really young children, though Nancy's occupation is only hinted at. There's a goodly bit of threatened and implied violence, though, including a murder.)
+ Evita (1996) -- Loosely based on the life of Eva Peron, wife of Argentinian dictator Juan Peron, this one is almost entirely sung, like Les Mis. In it, a narrator (Antonio Banderas) relates the story of how a poor young outcast (Madonna) rises from obscurity to power and becomes regarded as a saint even though she's very much a sinner. It's got lots of cool political intrigue and songs that alternately soar and growl. (And this one's also not for young children. Some mild language and a lot of innuendo, including scenes of unmarried people in bed, but no actual sex scenes. Also some violence.)
What do you think? What other movies would you recommend to someone who likes Les Mis? Any other movies you'd like to see me do comparisons for?