7 Reasons We Still Love ‘Moulin Rouge!’ 15 Years Later

Photo Source: Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox

A decade-and-a-half to the day has passed since the visionary Baz Luhrmann blessed audiences with “Moulin Rouge!,” the gaudy (in all the right ways) jukebox movie musical. Everyone from David Bowie and Queen to Paul McCartney, Beck, and Bono are counted on the film’s soundtrack, and bring a modern-day spin to the 19th-century-set film.

Starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor, the 2001 film follows a courtesan in Paris, the poet who falls in love with her, and the musical madness that surrounds them. It is spectacular, spectacular, to say the least. To celebrate its anniversary we selected our favorite moments from the film.

Nicole Kidman on a Swing Performing “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend”
This is the cabaret Moulin Rouge’s star act and Satine’s (Kidman) opening number. Just as intended, she stuns as she flies high above the crowd and tantalizes her adoring fans below. The callback to Marilyn Monroe in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”—and to Madonna's homage to it herself with the video for “Material Girl,” sampled here—prove irresistible.

“Spectacular, Spectacular”
Here is the first time we see just how over-the-top Lurhmann’s willing to go. After a classic mistaken identity mix-up, Satine thinks she’s seducing the Moulin Rouge’s potential financier the Duke (Richard Roxburgh), but instead finds herself with Christian (McGregor), the poor poet who’s fallen in love with her. When the error is revealed, the crew must invent a reason on the fly for their meeting, and the new show, “Spectacular, Spectacular,” in which a courtesan and her poor, sitar-playing boyfriend are torn apart by an evil maharaja, is born.

Jim Broadbent Singing “Like a Virgin”
There’s lace, there’s crawling, there’s a Duke looking sexually confused as Broadbent’s Harold Zidler pulls no punches to get Satine (Kidman) out of hot water. When she doesn’t show up to her planned evening with the Duke, Zidler must convince his cash cow that his contractual agreement for sole access to the Moulin Rouge’s top courtesan hasn’t been violated. “She’s confessing!” he exclaims. And thankfully goes through wildly entertaining song and dance—flanked by high-kicking wait staff—to explain what he means.

The Absinthe Fairy
Early on in the film, singer-actor Kylie Minogue makes a cameo as the hottest figment of anyone’s imagination ever. After the Bohemians (John Leguizamo, Matthew Whittet, and others) decide Christian should read his poetry for the lovely Satine, they decide to celebrate with shots of absinthe, and Minogue appears like a temptress Tinkerbell to let them and the audience know this is no longer reality.

Christian’s Jealousy
After they meet and he convinces Satine that love is all one really needs in the world, the hopeless romantic Christian has fallen hard for the courtesan and he’s coming apart at the seams over the thought of sharing her with the Duke. To reassure him, Satine sings the song he wrote for her (and the only original number to come out of the film), “Come What May.”

McGregor really conveys his heartbreak here, but if it’s not enough, watch one of his final gut-wrenching scenes here. (WARNING: SPOILER)

“El Tango de Roxanne”
The tango to Police alone is enough to get on the list, but throw in the Unconscious Argentinean’s raw voice and Nini Legs In The Air’s sultry representation of the titular prostitute, and Luhrmann has constructed a masterful showstopper just as the world seems to be crumbling around our star-crossed lovers.

Satine and Christian Reunite
After Zidler convinces Satine to break Christian’s heart in order to save him from the blood-thirsty Duke, the poet is beside himself and storms into the Moulin Rouge on the opening night of “Spectacular, Spectacular” to pay “his whore” what he owes. But before he can leave, heartbroken, Satine begins to sing “Come What May” and reveals her true feelings and all is well with the world.

The Golden Elephant Medley
Before we wrap this up, let’s remember what made these two fall in love in the first place: dancing and singing songs from Phil Collins, U2, The Beatles, Elton John and so many more, inside a massive, golden elephant. Feel free to sing along. We chose a video with the lyrics at the bottom for a reason.

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Briana Rodriguez
Briana is Backstage’s managing editor. Before Backstage Briana Rodriguez worked as a mixed-media music and pop culture journalist and documentarian. She’s a tap dancer who loves watching "I Love Lucy" reruns almost as much as she loves guacamole.
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