Top 10 Best DCI (Drum Corps International) Shows

The list is based on two categories: execution and innovation, with best of both at the top of the list. Score isn't a factor, simply an illustration.
The Top Ten
1 Bluecoats 2014: "Tilt"

Never has a theme been so thoroughly infused into a show. Never have props been used so prudently. Never has a drum major so captivated not only his ensemble but his audience. Never has a ballad reached out and touched emotion such as this. Never has the combination of music and general effect been so overpowering as to bring an entire stadium to its feet in frenzied screams of adoration. There has never been a show like Tilt, and I'm not sure there ever will be again.

This is one of the first shows that my High School Band director showed me. After I saw it I was addicted to Drum Corp. Now I've watched near 1,000 hours of DCI clips! I still watch this show over and over. Bluecoats have since become my favorite corp and this is my favorite show ever!

Was there ever a theme so well infused throughout a show? It was in the well-used props (definitely not just furniture to move around), in the body language, in the everything! Hymn of Acxiom is also one of my favorite all-time ballads (always gets me), and that ending is!

2 Phantom Regiment 2008: "Spartacus"

Classic show that always delivers. The ballad is amazing with an even better ballad transition into the closer. Love the fight scene and adore the finale.

I've been attending drum corps shows for 45+ years and I had never, nor have since (I'm writing this in 2017), experience anything like the finals performance of Spartacus. The crowd was so into the show that the standing ovation began long before the show ended and continued long after it was over. The roar of the crowd was deafening. I was seated near the top of the stadium at Indian University (it was supposed to be the first year at the Lucas Oil Stadium, but the stadium wasn't finished yet, so they moved the show to Bloomington, Indiana at the Indiana University stadium - which was also being renovated at the time) and the crowd was so loud by the time Phantom reached it's final chords, that we could barely hear the corps. The cheers from the crowd were even louder when Blue Devils were announced in second place. Finally - a true win for Phantom Regiment - a night I will never forget.

3 Santa Clara Vanguard 2018: "Babylon"

Wow! Even just watching the opener, I was blown away (literally), especially by when the brass first entered. The ballad was very memorable, with a beautiful baritone duet and powerful horn snap (wow! ). The closer perfectly concluded the show with a sense of resolvement and ended with a powerful restatement of the original melody. Their props added a strong visual component to the show, shown in how they were used to visually depict "My body is a cage" in the ballad, as well as to demonstrate resolvement at the end of the closer, where all the brass players formed a wall of sound using the props to elevate their stance and further project.

I got the experience to witness this show live in Mercedes Benz in Atlanta and for me as an aspiring tenor player it changed my life. The use of the props truly changed the show completely. This show will be the base of all shows to come and how they will elvolve into using more props and electronics throughout. This is by far my all time favorite show for so many reasons and if you take the time to read the notes on the plot of the show it makes you love it so much more.

4 Bluecoats 2016: "Downside up"

The show may have been dirty, but the writing for it was stunning with amazing literature and cool props. Great year for bloo

As a trumpet player, I'm clearly biased towards this show (what is it, 10 trumpet solos and 2 flugelhorn? ) but even aside from that I can honestly say I'm in awe of how purely good they are! I fell in love with this show the first time I saw it and haven't stopped loving it since! Definitely the best show in DCI in my book.

Even if the finals aren't even here, this show is going in the record books, it was lost ONE single competition the visual and technical aspects are just incredible. The hornline has a sound quality WAY above crown and all others, the show is well written and that great gig in the sky just makes me melt.

5 Carolina Crown 2015: "Inferno"

One of the best shows I've ever had the pleasure of seeing live. Should have definitely gotten first.

This show is really a great show. I've really grown to love it. Especially the ballad.

Honestly blown away by the opener and its probably their best one yet!

6 Blue Devils 2014: "Felliniesque"

The best modern show ever. Terrific execution, imaginative staging, great brass and percussion book with a kick butt guard. No weaknesses with a show that took you on a journey of Italian imagination and film making. Loved it! My favorite show since 1994's BD show My Spanish Heart!

This show is the definition of flawless execution and the pinnacle of the Blue Devils' dominance. It is, in my humble opinion, the greatest DCI show to date. Its innovative qualities will be echoed in hindsight, hence I will not attempt to convey blasphemous comments toward Star '93, but there is no show in DCI history that beats this one for difficulty, execution and emotional conveyance. I admit, I am a total fan boy of this show. There was one point where I listened to it everyday, sometimes multiple times a day, for about three months. Why? The opener is ridiculous, the balled melts your heart, the jazz movement knocks your socks off, the "Be Italian" section brings a sense of authenticity (mainly, the oompa band) and the closer makes you get on your feet, cheering, jaw-dropped in response to what you just witnessed. Won every caption but Percussion (2nd), Perfect GE score and Perfect Visual score. Score: 99.65 Placement for the Year: 1st (duh)

7 Blue Devils 2017: "Metamorph"

Great show with incredible technical playing. Slightly over-rated.

Best show I've ever heard, the ending is heavenly.

It was the best show and that ballad. Wow.

8 Carolina Crown 2013: "E=MC^2"

Another show with undisputed facts. This show had the best hornline of all-time. Plain and simple. Perfect 20 in Finals, probably deserved a 21. Design was great as well. If it wasn't for that darn percussion line, it had a shot at breaking the Cavies-Cadets record. Score: 98.3 Placement for the Year: 1st

This was the best show ever preformed. I got into watching dci in 2017. I have watched this so many times. This show may be confusing, but it is so good. I cannot wait for crown to release their 2018 show called beast!

The best technically exectuted show I have ever seen. I am in shock and awe in all of the extremly difficult 16th note passages that they make sound incredibly easy.

9 Santa Clara Vanguard 1989: "Phantom of the Opera"

Recognizable music, Beautifully orchestrated well and very musical. I really enjoyed the "magic trick" at end wh they made a whole drum corps "disappear." And, don't forget this wa still on good old fashioned G bugles.
Jonathan Evans BAC '82, "84 Front Ensemble
Norfolk, VA.

Was the highest scoring show at one point, but Weber's Phantom on the field is now home to a classic DCI show. Plus that ending!

The all-time fan favorite, a show everyone loves, and a record holder for 13 straight seasons (1989-2002). Everything was spot on. Nothing else to say. Score: 98.8 Placement for the Year: 1st

10 Cavaliers 2002: "Frameworks"

This show is just spectacular. The visual design elements and musical ideas elevated DCI greatly. The blueprint for Visual perfection and GE perfection (before BD '14 actually did achieve both on the score sheets). Look up "Full Shows DCI" on YouTube, a playlist with 8 videos will come up and click on the Music GE judge's tape. That will outline the greatness of this show better than I ever could. Won every caption, except percussion (3rd). Score: 99.15 Placement for the Year: 1st (duh)

YES. Cavies 2002 is not a hard show compared to other shows. BUT, it was clean and high energy. Another highest scoring show of all time, but every time I watch it, I always get "1 2 and, 4 1 and, 3 4" stuck in my head.

That show was perfect on every level. Musically mature, precise percussion-wise, and crowd favorite visuals like nightclub put it at the top for me.

The Contenders
11 Star of Indiana 1993: "The Music of Barber and Bartok"

Few will dispute that this is the most innovative DCI show of all time. Place this show in the current year, and it would be in the top three, no questions asked. The execution was phenomenal as well. They won Percussion and tied for Brass. Really, anyone can say what they want for 2-10, but this one is non-negotiable. Everyone bow down! Score: 97.3 Placement for the Year: 2nd (the judges should be jailed for robbery, and don't gimme that "Star was dirty on finals night" crap, I don't care)

It's not just that this show was so extraordinary, it also often partners with Madison 88 as the two greatest shows of all time in various surveys over the years, at least among those who were awake at the time. These two shows illustrate that there are different kinds of drum corps for different kinds of fans. Madison 88 stands as the ultimate popular show, and Star 93 is the ultimate artsy show.

Easily the greatest drum corps performance of all time. nothing comes close except for very few shows. A ridiculously powerful hornline and a concept so innovative and abstract for the time. I strongly believe that without this show, DCI wouldn't exist today. We all know who really won 1993. It was Star of Indiana. The cadets may have won in terms of score, but not in terms of basically everything else

12 Madison Scouts 1988: "Malaguena"

Truly powerful percussion and electrifying horn line. The solos are really well written and excerpted. Stands the test of time after almost 40 years.

60% of this list are from the last 20 years. DCI began in 1975. That means that almost all of the #1 shows prior to that point are not even on this list. Clearly those who are voting do not know their history b/c they weren't born yet. Ever hear of the Bridgemen? Best drum line ever! But you have no idea b/c it's not on Youtube. It's like people voting for best movies ever, but have never seen any movies prior to 2000, so they don't know about Casablanca.

The music was played with flavor and personality without sounding mechanical. The Madison Scouts looked like and played like a marching band rather than a theater stage show.

13 Cadets 2011: "Between Angels and Demons"

I loved the fact that they made a show so creative and the music to go along with the show was amazing. And how about that drum break. Amazing show. Definitely deserved first place.

One of the last truly first class shows for the Cadets. I did however enjoy the 2015 show with the black cadet uniforms. Hoping they will regain their mojo this year!

I get chills every time I watch the closer.

14 Bluecoats 2015: "Kinetic Noise"

Criminally underrated and very unique show. The ballad is very emotional with an intense closer and amazing music throughout.

One of the few peak drill designs. I love how the field completely encapsulates what is going on in the music, as if the drills are its own little visualizer for the show; it makes you forget that it's people making those shapes and movements.

Most underrated yet amazing. The musical technicality alongside the amazing soloists adds so much to this great show.

15 Carolina Crown 2016: "Relentless"

The opener gets me every time I watch it. Amazing and intense second movement with a beautiful ballad. The velocity of the closer also keeps me on my toes.

This was one of the first ever shows I saw live and I can't describe how much positivity and feelings of dedication and commitment it gave me throughout my marching years,I aspire to be a player one day.

The story and music is remarkable and very touching, the effect is very nice but one make they lost that the beginning to midle except the ending is "relentless"

16 The Academy 2016: "Drum Corpse Bride"

Reminiscent of classic Phantom Regiment sound musically with the visual appeal of a the Blue Devils we all know and love. Their manipulation of the chairs were on point and the story of the bride and groom tugs at your hearts. Their rendition of unchained melody will have you humming all day long. I think this is one of the most underrated shows in modern DCI history. The hornline has such a clean and pure sound that you can't help but get pulled into the music. If you don't cry because of the beauty of the sound, you'll definitely cry for the drum corpse bride herself.

THE ACADEMY'S DCB" 2016, 11th Place DCI Finals Finish, in my humble opinion was nothing short of Magnificent. The story telling depiction and staging a real treat to the eyes and ears.Its Ingenious Prop Usage and Choreography was so Imaginative and entertaining, Michael Klesch's Brilliant Musical Book shines throughout the production., The spot on costumes and Corps "CLASSIC' Black uniform of Dress Coat with Tails fit the storyline perfectly. Who will ever forget the closer, a rare full rendition of "Unchained Melody," and its evocative flugelhorn solo, as it touched hearts and drained tear ducts of all emotion. The Academy has raised the bar in its ability to consistently create and carryout storylines, that for many years, particularly the last 4 years, have delighted audiences coast to coast with fan friendly Themes that THE ACADEMY and its Corps followers have come to embrace..BRAVO!

17 Phantom Regiment 2011: "Juliet"

My favorite show of all time Elsa's Procession to the Cathedral gives me chills every time without fail. Listen to this at least once a day!

The most musically sound show that Regiment ever did, or any drum corps for that matter. In my opinion, the greatest closer of all time!

18 Cavaliers 2006: "The Machine"

The epitome of a fun drill show. Very creative and captivating. Loved the music that goes along with the visuals. One of Michael Gaines best drill designs.
The Cavies were in the early 2000s till 2011 absolutely stunning. Not a single Show that I would consider „ boring". Made me being a Cavies fan. Still hoping for them to get back to were they're have once been: At the very Top! Leading the pack.

No probs or narrating, simply nothing. Instead the most unique concept and drill that DCI has ever witnessed. That show deserves a top 10 placement. It's the epitome of perfect design.

One of the most iconic shows of all time. !

19 Star of Indiana 1991: "Immaggini di Roma (Roman Images):The Music of Ottorino Respighi"

This is one of those shows with nonnegotiable qualities. The best drill in DCI's storied history, cross to cross, 'enough said. Best Mellophone line in DCI history. If you disagree with those two statements, you haven't seen the show. Established Star of Indiana as THE corps of the early-90's. Score: 97.0 Placement for the Year: 1st

This was easily the best show of all time. It's a shame that they folded.

Unarguably should be the best show of all time. If Star was still around BD would have nothing on them

20 Cadets 2000: "We Are The Future"
21 Carolina Crown 2018: "Beast"

Had a resemblance to 2015 Crown but it was even better. The trombones were a huge part of bringing this show to life. I absolutely loved there opener, ballad, and closer. The trombones rocked!

22 Cadets 2005: "The Zone: Dreamscapes in Four Parts with a Door"

This to me is the show that spawned modern show design. It signaled the end of shows with shallow design's opportunity to grab gold. Design layers must deep and intimate, questions left unanswered. Open for debate. No show before it was anything like it, and few have been since. The only show in DCI history to win every single caption, and handily in most. Score: 99.15 Placement for the Year: 1st (duh)

There is a magic to this show few others have. Such a simple prop with such an engaging and unique atmosphere to the production

Classic show with amazing literature and very interesting concept. Felt almost ahead of its time.

23 Carolina Crown 2012: "For the Common Good"

Very underrated show. Intense opener, moving ballad, and grandiose closer. Awesome drill paired with an even better horn line.

The actual show idea may not be the best, but when you look at what they're doing, nobody could do it better. Possibly most difficult show in history, and performed the best.

24 Santa Clara Vanguard 2016: "Force of Nature"

Personally, this show was designed perfectly and was played so beautifully, one of my all-time favorites. (I also got to do that Vanguard yell at finals so I was super happy)

25 Cadets 1987: "Appalachian Spring"

This is, quite frankly, the best combination of music and marching that I've ever seen. The dissolving company front leads into its own curtain call. Phenomenal. The best ever.

Best drill I've ever seen, Unmatched. Check it out on youtube. Number 1 in my book for classic drum corps buffs and new.

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