Ranking: #73/111

Director: Robert Wise (USA)

Genre: Musical Drama

The Sound of Music succeeded in becoming an intensely positive and uplifting movie without straying into sentimentality or melodrama. This is because the director, Robert Wise, kept the music, dialogue, action and cinematography blended into a tight, disciplined unity. And, yet, has there ever been such joie-de-vivre and spontaneity on the Big Screen before, or after, the release of The Sound of Music in 1965? No wonder it became the highest-grossing film of all-time for five consecutive years, while winning multiple awards. And no wonder the US Library of Congress selected the film for preservation in the National Film Registry in 2001, finding the movie to be “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

The setting is Austria in the 1930s during the rise to power of Nazism in Germany. It tells the story of a young novice nun, a free-spirited woman called Maria, who is sent by her convent to become a governess to a widowed naval officer’s seven children in his villa. The household is sternly controlled, you could say with military precision. By contrast, Maria brings joy, music and spontaneity into the home and, eventually, the officer falls in love with her and they get married. By then, Germany has invaded Austria and the family has to stay positive and find the way to a new life despite this huge setback.

Robert Wise has taken the material from Maria von Trapp’s 1949 memoir The Story of the Trapp Family Singers and from the 1959 stage musical of the story, and created a work of cinematic art, showcasing the strengths of cinema in blending sound and cinematographic images in a powerful fusion. It’s filled to the brim with life. It’s full of colour, song, dance, action, dialogue and atmosphere. Art is often about making maximum use of existing material to create something never seen before. Wise transformed his rich source of material into a one-off cinematic delight for the ages.