The Sound of Music first enchanted moviegoers a half century ago, with its epic musical arrangements, sweeping Austrian vistas, and an unforgettable performance by Julie Andrews as Maria, a singing nun turned singing governess turned singing wife. Fifty years later, it’s just as fresh and captivating as ever, and its place in the canon of our greatest movie musicals is assured. Here’s why you must celebrate its anniversary by watching it again—or, lucky you, by watching it for the first time.
In the film’s iconic opening, the camera swoops and soars over the Austrian mountainside, finally alighting on a spinning Julie Andrews. From the first searching notes of the title song, you will abandon all your cares and cheer Maria’s journey from the nunnery to the Von Trapp home back to the mountains, as she flees Nazi-occupied Austria. Beyond its famed outdoor sequences, the movie frames its characters against backdrops of old Salzburg, the beautiful abbey where Maria discovers she’s not cut out to be a nun, and the luxe Von Trapp family home and grounds. You’ll want to book a ticket to Austria posthaste, for the Maria tour.
Andrews’ incomparable voice and charm are on full display here, as is her wit. In her hands, Maria’s sweetness is shaded and smart, never saccharine. You’ll fall in love with her just as fast as Captain Von Trapp and his seven reformed brats do. Plummer, as the captain, plays the transformation from whistle-wielding disciplinarian to loving family man with complete ease, reminding us why he’s been a beloved stage and screen presence for nearly 60 years.
Watching sexy Austrian ice cube Captain Von Trapp melt under Maria’s concentrated sunshine is even more delightful than you remember. You’ve got to feel for his former flame, the elegant Baroness Schraeder. Her proper hats and continental accent never stood a chance against Maria’s tendency to climb trees and make curtains into play clothes.
Even if you’ve never seen The Sound of Music, you might know “Do-Re-Mi” and “My Favorite Things” by heart. This movie is brimming with now-classic musical numbers like the boot-strapping, effervescent “I Have Confidence,” sung by Maria on her way to her governess post. Or, my personal favorite, “Sixteen Going on Seventeen,” performed as a flirtatious pas de deux between eldest daughter Liesl and a young officer named Rolfe. The scene bursts with the tender thrill of first love, as the two hide out in a dripping gazebo during a very convenient rainstorm.
The witty script
Max, a freeloading impresario with a heart of gold, and Baroness Schraeder, the captain’s doomed fling, drop into the Von Trapp home from another planet, one of glittering cocktail parties and knowing banter. Their repartee is a cool delight to watch, and a perfect foil to Maria’s earnestness. Even Maria gets to spike her honey with some vinegar once in a while, and Andrews makes the most of it.
This sweet story of love and music and second chances plays out against a chilling political landscape, as the Nazis tighten their grip on Europe. The tension of the musical’s later scenes balance the light touch of its first half—it is, in short, a perfectly told tale.
When Maria and the captain argue over his absentee parenting, when he joins his children in singing for the first time, when Rolfe and Liesl linger on the edge of their first kiss, your heart will overflow. This movie is the antidote to irony. Give in, be swept away. Let Julie Andrews and her astonishing voice be your guide. Fall in love with The Sound of Music again, 50 years later.