Let’s talk about Les Misérables. But not the movie, the show. Or rather, the cast recordings and concert records — those staples, the versions we’ve heard over and over and over. More importantly, the versions we’ve sung along to over and over. (And over. Middle school is hard on everyone.) Here, we rank every major song from the musical. This is a list for the diehards, and it assumes a deep, deep familiarity with all of the lyrics. No shame here; you are among friends.
34. “Dog Eats Dog”
The Thenardiers are kind of the worst, and the dog metaphors get used up in “Little People.”
33. “The Bargain”
Again, if the Thenadiers aren’t being funny, then get the Thenardiers off stage — especially if they are just going to sing the same four notes over and over and over.
32. “Little People”
This is not a Dickens novel. This is not a Raffi CD. Go home, Gavroche.
31. “Castle on a Cloud”
This song is a treacly nightmare and should be banned from all non-Les Misérables entities forever.
30. “Lovely Ladies”
Probably the least seductive song about prostitutes in the history of songs about prostitutes. Also: ow, our teeth.
29. “Beggars at the Feast”
“Master of the House” is enough just the one time.
28. “The Attack on Rue Plumet”
27. “Valjean’s Death”
Sorry, but how dare Cosette sing a single line of “On My Own” — even with different words. Hasn’t she done enough damage already?
It’s “Lovely Ladies,” with blood-scrubbing instead of sex work! Yay? Redeemed only by the background “round and round / and round again.”
It’s nice when all the kids who can’t belt it out but really love musicals get a quick solo anyway. Thank you to “Work” for letting lesser stars shine.
24. “Javert’s Suicide”
It’s better when it’s Valjean’s soliloquy. The only good part is the bridge flying up, and that’s not the song so much as the stagecraft.
23. “Every Day”
We get it, Marius and Cosette love each other.
22. “Look Down”
Do you remember the first time you saw Marius in the street? It was during this song. That makes it all worth it (even the Gavroche solo).
21. “Fantine’s Arrest”
“Honest work, just reward, this is How. To. Please. The. Lord.”
20. “One Parole/The Bishop”
That interjection of ” — that is right” somehow makes church cool.
19. “Fantine’s Death”
Would that we could all be comforted by a freakishly strong beacon of morality on our death beds.
18. “In My Life”
Okay, so you spend most of this one waiting for “Heart Full of Love” to kick in, but it’s pretty. Just like Cosette. Cosette is just sooooo pretty. (Ugh.)
17. “Drink With Me”
You’ve heard all these melodies at this point, but the three-part harmony on “take my hand / I lead you to sal-va-a-tion” is scientifically engineered to induce weeping.
15. “A Little Fall of Rain”
It’s not particularly memorable in a musical sense, but we have officially reached the crying portion of this list. It’s okay, the tears will make the flowers grow.
14. “Master of the House”
George Costanza is not the only person who’s gone crazy humming this song.
13. “What Have I Done?”
Or as everyone prefers to think of it, “What have I done, sweetjesuswhathaveIdone.”
11 (tie). “Bring Him Home”
Margaret does not like this song, and she is nuts — it is beautiful, soft, and stirring at the same time. Also: Why don’t you want Marius to live, Margaret?
11 (tie). “Red and Black”
Amanda doesn’t like this song because I guess she hates the spirit of the barricade. “Black, a night that ends at laaaast!” must not mean anything to her.
10. “A Heart Full of Love”
“Heee was never mine to lose.” — Top three most heartbreaking moments of this entire musical.
Javert works as a villain because he’s not just some evil schmuck — he really believes he’s doing God’s work. “And if you fall as Lucifer fell! You fall in flame!” So stirring.
8. “At the End of the Day”
Most of the expository songs can drag, but this one is good and angry. It is also easy to work into everyday conversation.
7. “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables”
My friennnnds, my frieeeeeeeeeeeeends! Don’t ask me why I am crying, it is just embarrassing at this point.
6. “Who Am I?”
“24601!” But especially the sustained “ooooooone!” Goosebumps.
5. “Do You Hear the People Sing?”
If this song had been written in time for the actual historical barricades, then the Paris Uprising would have succeeded, and we wouldn’t need the sad half of this musical.
What, you don’t like watching celebrities sing to each other in blustery British accents?
3. “One Day More”
Don’t pretend like you derive enormous satisfaction from doing the different voices for the different characters.
2. “I Dreamed a Dream”
That “beeeee” — you know the one, right before “so different from this hell I’m living.” Put that “beeeee” in a songwriting museum.
1. “On My Own “
There are lots of great unrequited love songs. But this is probably the best.