Bob Fosse was an American choreographer, dancer, and director who made a significant impact on the world of film and theater.
His style was characterized by a distinct blend of jazz dance and the dramatic intensity of musical theater, and his work explored themes of love, sex, and death in a provocative and innovative way.
Fosse’s career spanned several decades, and he was responsible for directing and choreographing some of the most iconic musicals of the 20th century.
His work often pushed the boundaries of traditional musical theater, with his shows featuring provocative themes and frank depictions of sexuality.
In the world of film, Fosse’s work was equally impactful. He directed several movies, including “Cabaret” (1972) and “All That Jazz” (1979), which explored themes of personal and creative struggles against a backdrop of decadence and excess.
Fosse’s films were notable for their stylish and visually stunning depictions of dance and music, as well as their deeply emotional and introspective themes.
Best Bob Fosse Movies
Bob Fosse was a creative force in both theater and film, and his work continues to inspire and influence artists today.
In this series, we will explore some of Fosse’s most important films and examine what makes them so distinctive and impactful.
1. Cabaret (1972)
“Cabaret” is a 1972 American musical drama film directed by Bob Fosse and starring Liza Minnelli, Michael York, and Joel Grey.
Set in Berlin in the early 1930s, the film tells the story of a cabaret performer, Sally Bowles, and her relationships with an English academic and a wealthy German businessman, against the backdrop of the rising Nazi party.
One of the reasons to watch “Cabaret” is its outstanding musical numbers, which were directed by Fosse himself.
The film features some of the most memorable songs in cinema history, including “Willkommen,” “Cabaret,” and “Money.” The music is expertly woven into the narrative, with the performances in the cabaret club often commenting on the broader themes of the story.
Another reason to watch “Cabaret” is the powerful performances from the lead actors. Liza Minnelli won an Academy Award for her role as Sally Bowles, and her energetic and charismatic performance is a highlight of the film.
Michael York is also excellent as the reserved and analytical Brian Roberts, and Joel Grey’s portrayal of the enigmatic and sinister Master of Ceremonies is one of the most memorable performances in cinema history.
Finally, “Cabaret” is a powerful and thought-provoking exploration of the rise of fascism and the dangers of complacency in the face of oppression.
The film explores the social and political climate of 1930s Berlin, and serves as a warning against the dangers of prejudice, hatred, and the abuse of power.
Overall, “Cabaret” is a must-watch film for fans of musicals, drama, and powerful storytelling. Its unforgettable musical numbers, outstanding performances, and insightful commentary on fascism make it a standout in the realm of 20th century cinema.
2. All That Jazz (1979)
“All That Jazz” is a 1979 American musical drama film directed by Bob Fosse.
The film follows the life of a successful and talented Broadway choreographer, Joe Gideon (played by Roy Scheider), as he struggles to balance his personal and professional life while facing his own mortality.
Through a series of flashbacks and fantasy sequences, the film explores Gideon’s relationships with the women in his life, his creative process, and his addiction to drugs and sex.
The film also features several elaborate dance and musical numbers, which serve to underscore the emotional and psychological tensions of Gideon’s life.
“All That Jazz” was critically acclaimed upon its release and is regarded as one of Fosse’s most accomplished and personal films.
The film’s innovative editing, dazzling choreography, and raw emotional power have made it a classic of American cinema and a landmark of the musical genre.
3. Kiss Me Kate (1953)
“Kiss Me Kate” is a 1953 musical film directed by George Sidney, and is an adaptation of the popular Broadway musical of the same name, which was written by Samuel and Bella Spewack with music and lyrics by Cole Porter.
The film follows the behind-the-scenes antics of a group of actors as they put on a musical version of Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew.”
The film is notable for its use of 3D technology, which was a relatively new innovation at the time of its release.
It features memorable musical numbers such as “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” and “Too Darn Hot,” as well as lively dance sequences and colorful production design.
“Kiss Me Kate” received critical and commercial success upon its release, and is regarded as one of the most beloved musical films of the 1950s.
It has been widely praised for its catchy songs, witty humor, and dynamic performances by its cast, which includes Howard Keel, Kathryn Grayson, and Ann Miller.
4. Lenny (1974)
“Lenny” is a biographical film directed by Bob Fosse, and starring Dustin Hoffman in the titular role of controversial comedian Lenny Bruce.
The film chronicles the life and career of Bruce, from his early days as a struggling performer, to his rise to fame as a pioneer of “sick” and politically charged humor, to his eventual downfall and legal troubles.
One of the key themes of the film is the tension between artistic freedom and censorship, as Bruce’s work frequently put him at odds with authorities and public opinion.
The film also explores the personal toll of Bruce’s controversial material, which often drew criticism and ostracism from mainstream society.
The film’s visual style is characterized by a gritty, realistic aesthetic that reflects the gritty, urban milieu of Bruce’s world.
The performances in the film, particularly that of Hoffman in the title role, are widely acclaimed for their emotional intensity and psychological depth.
Overall, “Lenny” is a powerful and thought-provoking film that offers a searing portrait of a pioneering artist who challenged the conventions of his time.
The film is regarded as a landmark in the history of biographical cinema, and is widely regarded as one of Fosse’s most important works.
5. The Pajama Game (1957)
“The Pajama Game” is a musical comedy film released in 1957, directed by George Abbott and Stanley Donen.
The film is based on the Broadway musical of the same name, and features music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross.
The story of the film takes place in the Sleep Tite Pajama Factory, where a conflict arises between the factory management and the workers over a pay raise.
Babe Williams (Doris Day) is the leader of the union grievance committee and Sid Sorokin (John Raitt) is the new factory superintendent who becomes romantically involved with Babe.
Here are a few more reasons why you should watch “The Pajama Game”:
Catchy songs and energetic dance numbers: The film features several catchy songs and energetic dance numbers, such as “Steam Heat” and “Hernando’s Hideaway”, that are sure to get your feet tapping.
Iconic performances: The film stars Doris Day and John Raitt, who both deliver standout performances. Day’s powerful singing voice and Raitt’s charismatic stage presence make for a memorable on-screen pairing.
Classic comedy: The film is a lighthearted and enjoyable comedy that will make you laugh and leave you feeling good. The witty dialogue and physical comedy add to the film’s charm and appeal.
Overall, “The Pajama Game” is a fun and entertaining musical film that showcases the talents of its cast and creative team. The film’s catchy songs, energetic dance numbers, and classic comedy make it a must-watch for fans of the genre.
8. Star 80 (1983)
“Star 80” is a 1983 American drama film directed by Bob Fosse. It is a biographical film based on the true story of Dorothy Stratten, a Canadian Playboy Playmate who was murdered by her husband Paul Snider in 1980.
The film stars Mariel Hemingway as Stratten, and Eric Roberts as Snider.
Fosse’s direction in “Star 80” is notable for its gritty and realistic portrayal of the lives of Stratten and Snider, as well as its exploration of the dark side of the entertainment industry.
The film delves into the seedy underbelly of Hollywood and the objectification of women in the industry, as well as the destructive nature of fame and the pursuit of success.
Fosse’s trademark style is evident in the film’s choreography and use of music, particularly in the scenes where Stratten is posing for Playboy or appearing in a music video.
Fosse’s direction also emphasizes the contrast between the glamorous facade of the entertainment industry and the often brutal reality of the lives of those who work in it.
Overall, “Star 80” is a powerful and thought-provoking film that showcases Fosse’s skill as a director in his ability to explore complex themes and characters with depth and nuance.
The film is a testament to Fosse’s enduring legacy as a filmmaker and his ability to create works that remain relevant and impactful decades after their release.
9. Sweet Charity (1969)
“Sweet Charity” is a 1969 American musical comedy-drama film directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse, and starring Shirley MacLaine, John McMartin, and Chita Rivera. The film is based on the Broadway musical of the same name, which was also directed and choreographed by Fosse.
One of the reasons to watch “Sweet Charity” is its incredible choreography, which is a hallmark of Fosse’s style.
The film’s dance numbers are energetic, innovative, and visually stunning, with Fosse’s signature jazz dance style on full display.
The film’s most famous number, “Big Spender,” is a prime example of Fosse’s choreography and has become a classic in musical theater history.
Another reason to watch “Sweet Charity” is the standout performance of Shirley MacLaine as the title character.
MacLaine brings depth and nuance to her portrayal of Charity, a dancer at a seedy nightclub who dreams of finding true love.
Her performance is both comedic and poignant, and her chemistry with John McMartin, who plays Charity’s love interest, is a highlight of the film.
Overall, “Sweet Charity” is a must-watch for fans of musicals, dance, and classic Hollywood cinema. Its incredible choreography, standout performances, and iconic soundtrack make it a standout in the realm of 20th century musicals.
3 Characteristics of Bob Fosse Films
Bob Fosse was a highly influential filmmaker and choreographer known for his unique style and innovative approach to dance and film. Here are three characteristics of his films:
Distinctive choreography: Fosse’s films are known for their iconic and highly stylized dance sequences, which often feature exaggerated movements, angular poses, and sharp, percussive rhythms.
Fosse’s choreography was heavily influenced by jazz and tap dance, as well as his own personal style.
Intense emotional content: Fosse’s films often deal with dark and intense subject matter, such as addiction, death, and personal struggle.
He was known for his ability to infuse his films with powerful emotional content, which was often conveyed through his unique choreography.
Innovative editing: Fosse was known for his innovative approach to film editing, which often involved the use of jump cuts, quick edits, and montage sequences.
His editing style was designed to create a sense of intensity and urgency, and was often used to convey the emotional and psychological states of his characters.
3 Reasons Why You Should Watch Bob Fosse Films
Bob Fosse was a legendary director and choreographer who had a distinctive style that is often associated with his films. Here are three characteristics of Bob Fosse films:
Unique choreography: Fosse is known for his distinctive choreographic style, which is characterized by sharp, angular movements and sensual, provocative gestures. His choreography is often sexually charged and explores themes of power, control, and desire.
Dark themes and gritty realism: Fosse’s films often deal with themes of addiction, sexuality, and the dark side of show business. His films have a gritty realism that explores the darker aspects of human nature, and often have a pessimistic or cynical tone.
Non-linear storytelling and experimental techniques: Fosse’s films often use non-linear storytelling and experimental techniques to convey their themes.
He frequently employs jump-cuts, overlapping dialogue, and unconventional editing to create a sense of disorientation and tension.
His films also incorporate meta-narratives and self-referential elements that challenge traditional storytelling conventions.
Best Bob Fosse Films – Wrapping Up
To wrap up the topic of the best Bob Fosse films, it’s important to note that Fosse was a legendary director and choreographer whose work has had a lasting impact on the world of film and theater. Here are some of the key takeaways from the films we discussed:
Fosse’s films often explore themes of sexuality, power, and self-destruction, with a particular focus on the darker and more taboo aspects of human behavior.
Fosse’s visual style is characterized by a unique combination of realism and stylization, with an emphasis on fluid movement and bold, expressionistic visuals.
Fosse was a master of musical theater, and many of his films feature memorable song-and-dance numbers that are as visually striking as they are emotionally resonant.
Overall, Fosse’s films offer a unique and powerful vision of the human condition, one that is both introspective and universal in its scope.
Some of Fosse’s other notable films include “Cabaret,” “All That Jazz,” and “Sweet Charity,” all of which are worth checking out for fans of his work.