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The 25 Best Music Performances in Movies

Pitch Perfect Universal

Actors are trained to be able to portray just about anything their role calls for, but there's one thing even the best actors can't possibly fake: Singing.

That's why we're always so impressed when actors sing on screen rather than just lip-synch some professional musician. Case in point: Next week's "Pitch Perfect," which features stars such as Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson belting out tunes like the divas they were meant to be.

In honor of that achievement, then, we've put together our list of the 25 Best Music Performances in Movie History. Because you may be able to fool the eye, but the ears never lie.

25. Lindsay Lohan in 'Mean Girls'

Mean Girls Paramount

Just try and imagine how differently LiLo might be thought of today if she had retired after the 2004 hit "Mean Girls." After all, she was both charming and on key while leading the crowd in an impromptu performance of "Jingle Bell Rock" in one of the movie's most memorable scenes. Alas, she decided to keep making films (and headlines), but we prefer to remember her for these good old times instead. Watch a clip.

24. Michelle Pfeiffer in 'The Fabulous Baker Boys'

The Fabulous Baker Boys 20th Century Fox

It's difficult to really focus on Pfeiffer's singing in "The Fabulous Baker Boys" because she spends significant time writhing around on top of a piano. Which is … really distracting. But if you close your eyes and listen, you'll hear a winningly sultry performance that really provided the backbone to this 1989 hit. Of course, the piano thing didn't hurt either. Watch a clip.

23. Kate Winslet in 'Sense and Sensibility'

Sense and Sensibility Columbia Pictures

The only thing we regret about Winslet's singing in 1995's "Sense and Sensibility" is that there isn't more of it. From the moment Alan Rickman walks in on her during a musical recital, he is hopelessly smitten thanks to her charm and her pure, crystal clear singing voice. She has since sung in several other films since, but nothing yet compares to the first time. Watch a clip.

22. Johnny Depp in 'Sweeney Todd'

Sweeney Todd DreamWorks

When it comes to singing in movies, Depp is a bit of a ringer. After all, prior to becoming a movie star, he fronted his own rock band. Still, the kind of singing Depp had to pull off in 2007's "Sweeney Todd" was a bit different than '80s punk, so it was an eye-opener to hear him belt out those dark show tunes with such verve. That's why he gets the big bucks, folks. Watch a clip.

21. Marlon Brando in 'Guys and Dolls'

Guys and Dolls MGM

Brando revolutionized the way acting was done thanks to his gritty method style. And he turned all that intensity and focus to the world of singing for the 1955 musical "Guys and Dolls." He might not be the most talented singer on this list, but, as his career and life prove, unwavering dedication to your craft can take you a long, long way. Watch a clip.

20. Zooey Deschanel in 'Elf'

Elf New Line

When "Elf" hit theaters in 2003, Deschanel hadn't yet formed one half of the darling indie rock duo "She & Him." But her sweet and insouciant rendition of "Baby It's Cold Outside" is enough to melt even the most frigid heart and helped give the film a real soul. You can just feel the Christmas spirit oozing out on this one. Watch a clip.

19. Gwyneth Paltrow in 'Duets'

Duets Hollywood Pictures

Hitting theaters in 2000, "Duets" was a tour-de-force of actors singing and usually singing pretty badly. Which is fine, because the movie is about karaoke. But Paltrow shocked audiences and critics alike by actually being really good, particularly in her duet with pro Huey Lewis. Since then, Paltrow has hit the country music charts and performed live with Cee Lo Green, proving this was no fluke. Watch a clip.

18. Zac Efron in 'Hairspray'

Hairspray New Line Cinema

Performing a duet with an animated photograph could have been a pretty tricky task; one wrong move and you look like something out of a "Harry Potter" gag reel. Luckily, though, Efron had an ace up his sleeve for 2007's "Hairspray:" A boat load of confidence from his "High School Musical" days. As a result, "Without Love" became one of the most memorable moments in this surprise hit. Dumbledore would have been proud. Watch a clip.

17. Tim Blake Nelson in 'O Brother, Where Art Thou'

O Brother, Where Art Thou Hollywood Pictures

Co-stars George Clooney and John Turturro lip-synched their vocals in the 2000 Coen Brothers film "O Brother, Where Art Thou?," with other musicians providing the vocals. Nelson, on the other hand, stepped right in and belted out the lead track to "In the Jailhouse Now" without batting an eye. We're guessing he must have been a Dapper Dan man to pull that one off. Watch a clip.

16. Evan Rachel Wood in 'Across the Universe'

Across the Universe Columbia Pictures

Singing hits by The Beatles isn't exactly easy. After all, every single person in the entire world has already heard the songs, which means you're always going to be compared with the greatest band in history. But Wood not only had the nerve to take on this challenge in 2007's "Across the Universe," she did The Beatles more than proud with her touching version of "If I Fell." Bonus points definitely awarded for degree of difficulty. Watch a clip.

15. Russell Brand in 'Forgetting Sarah Marshall'

Forgetting Sarah Marshall Universal

Considering Brand was playing a rock star, you just knew 2008's "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" was going to require the emaciated comedian to belt out some tunes. What was unexpected was how good — and even moving — his performance was. Good enough to launch a spin-off sequel for his character, anyway. Watch a clip.

14. Adam Sandler in 'The Wedding Singer'

The Wedding Singer New Line Cinema

Even before 1998's "The Wedding Singer," Sandler had made a career out of turning music into comedy thanks to his frequent and frequently hilarious ditties on "Saturday Night Live." But with "The Wedding Singer," Sandler became an international superstar due in no small part to the real conviction he put into his low-grade performances as an '80s wedding singer with heart to spare. Watch a clip.

13. Meryl Streep in 'Mamma Mia!'

Mamma Mia! Universal

Streep is generally regarded as not just the greatest actress of her generation, but simply the greatest actress of all time. So it shouldn't really have been a surprise to learn in 2008's ABBA musical "Mamma Mia!" that she can also sing damn well too, thank you very much. It's hard to pick a favorite tune from this smorgasbord, but we have to go with the title track. Mamma mia, indeed. Watch a clip.

12. Hugh Grant in 'Music and Lyrics'

Music and Lyrics Warner Bros.

Usually when stars get up the gumption to sing in a movie, they want to prove how good they are, which, in turn, means that those performances are serious business. And then there's the 2007 rom-com "Music and Lyrics," which features Grant going for broke as a hilariously washed up singer. But the funny bits (see: The fake '80s hit "PoP! Goes My Heart") just make it even more poignant when Grant ends up putting together a truly heartfelt performance at the end. Well played. Watch a clip.

11. Tom Cruise in 'Rock of Ages'

Rock of Ages Warner Bros.

When "Rock of Ages hit theaters earlier this year, one question was on everyone's lips: Could Tom Cruise actually rock? And the answer, of course, is an unqualified yes. As Stacee Jaxx, Cruise finally unleashed all the musical charisma he had previously only hinted at in short singing scenes like "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" in "Top Gun." Rock on, Tom. Watch a clip.

10. Queen Latifah in 'Chicago'

Chicago Miramax

Rob Marshall's 2002 adaptation of the stage hit "Chicago" was filled with surprising musical performances, both good (Catherine Zeta-Jones, Renee Zellweger) and not so good (Richard Gere). But it was former recording star-turned-actress Queen Latifah who really provided the musical backbone for this surprise Best Picture winner. Hey, she's the Queen for a reason. Watch a clip.

9. John Travolta in 'Grease'

Grease Paramount

It's no exaggeration to say that Travolta's performance in 1978's "Grease" is one of the great musical achievements in cinematic history. Just try and attend a wedding without one of his tracks playing. Nearly 35 years later, the soundtrack to "Grease" remains a cornerstone of pop culture. It's hard to do better than that. Watch a clip.

8. Jeff Bridges in 'Crazy Heart'

Crazy Heart Fox Searchlight

Bridges is no stranger to guitar picking, and that was never more evident than in 2009's indie drama "Crazy Heart." As washed up country singer Bad Blake, Bridges created a moving performance by delivering some of the most authentic musical performances ever put on the big screen. He won the Oscar for Best Actor as a result. Watch a clip.

7. Joaquin Phoenix in 'Walk the Line'

Walk the Line New Line Cinema

Singing is one thing. Stepping into the shoes of one of America's greatest icons is something else entirely. But Phoenix nailed both in 2005's "Walk the Line," emulating Johnny Cash's signature baritone well enough to earn an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. You could even say he came out of the ring of fire unscathed. Watch a clip.

6. Julie Andrews in 'Mary Poppins'

Mary Poppins Disney

Andrews is known for her amazing vocal talents and that is in large part due to her introduction to movie fans, 1964's Disney classic "Mary Poppins." Coming to film from the world of Broadway musicals, Andrews became an instant cinematic icon thanks to songs like "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," "A Spoonful of Sugar" and "Feed the Birds." A year later, she cemented her legacy with "The Sound of Music," but it all started here. Watch a clip.

5. Heath Ledger in '10 Things I Hate About You'

10 Things I Hate About You Buena Vista Pictures

Unlike many of the stars on this list, Ledger wasn't playing some big time musician in 1999's "10 Things I hate About You." But that just makes his heartfelt rendition of "You're Just Too Good to be True" — over the football stadium loudspeakers — even more charming. Julia Stiles never had a chance... and neither did we. Watch a clip.

4. Jack Black in 'High Fidelity'

High Fidelity Buena Vista Pictures

Thanks to his band Tenacious D, which previously had been featured on HBO, Black came into 2000's "High Fidelity" with a leg up. And he needed it, because not only did his character have to spout snarky opinions on other people's music, he also had to belt out a show-stopping rendition of Marvin Gaye's classic "Let's Get It On." Done and done. Watch a clip.

3. Ewan McGregor in 'Moulin Rouge!'

Moulin Rouge! 20th Century Fox

Given how much McGregor apparently enjoys singing (seriously, just check YouTube), the fact that he was willing to belt it out in a Baz Luhrmann musical isn't really a surprise. What is a surprise is just how darn good he is in 2001's "Moulin Rouge!" It might be cheesy to say that he and co-star Nicole Kidman made beautiful music together, but it's also 100 percent accurate. Watch a clip.

2. Val Kilmer in 'The Doors'

The Doors Carolco Pictures

Rumor has long had it that when Kilmer finished filming Oliver Stone's 1991 biopic on The Doors, he had to enter therapy because he had half-convinced himself he actually was Jim Morrison. That sounds hard to believe, but his singing also sounds hard to believe considering how close it is to the real thing. Blurring the line: Stone alternated audio between Kilmer and Morrison, making it hard to know where one ends and the other begins. Worth the cost of a good psychiatrist. Watch a clip.

1. Jennifer Hudson in 'Dreamgirls'

Dreamgirls DreamWorks

Okay, so Hudson is arguably better known as a recording star than she is as an actress, so this might be considered cheating by some people. But to those people, we have this rejoinder: The Best Supporting Actress Oscar. End of discussion. Take a look and a listen to her performance of the anthem "And I Am Telling You" to see why, in 2006, the dream came true for this member of the "Dreamgirls." Watch a clip.

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