10 best dance movies of all time
Get your groove on with our list of the best dance movies ever made
1. Dirty Dancing
Don’t we all have a special place in our hearts for this one? Swoon-worthy Patrick Swayze plays Johnny Castle, a brooding dance instructor at a Catskills resort who steals the heart of a frizzy-haired innocent called Baby. When Johnny’s partner can’t dance due to a mishandled abortion, Baby steps in to learn the steps and save the day. Spoiler alert: The film reaches a crescendo when Baby and Johnny perform a triumphant lift in the final scene. It’s enough to make even the hardest hearts leap just a little.
The film that began our love affair with Kevin Bacon is a formulaic little story about a city boy in a small conservative town. But we don’t adore this movie for its plot-it’s jam packed with fun dance scenes and iconic tunes (we know you still have “Let’s Hear It for the Boy” on your iPod). Bacon plays Ren, a streetwise teen who brings dance to a bible-thumping town where the pastime has been outlawed. Of course, Ren’s dancing saves the day and wins the heart of the preacher’s daughter.
The original 1980 classic follows the lives of teens enrolled in the New York City High School for the Performing Arts, a place where the students wear leotards instead of letterman jackets. The movie’s tag line says it all: “If they really got what it takes, it’s going to take everything they’ve got.” And those kids give it their all as they desperately dance, sing and emote their way to the top. Next to the fabulous dance numbers, the best part of this film is clearly the unforgettable theme song. It really will live forever.
4. All That Jazz
The king of jazz hands himself, Bob Fosse, directed and co-wrote this dramatic (and sometimes weird) look at his own life. The protagonist is Fosse’s alter ego Joe Gideon, a womanizing and drug-abusing choreographer facing his own mortality. Part shimmery dance fantasia, part gritty autobiography, this film features a bombastic musical score, the legendary dancing of Fosse’s muse Ann Reinking and scenes from an actual open-heart surgery. (See what we mean about weird?) If you adore egomaniacal choreographers, Ethel Merman and glitter for miles, don’t you owe it to yourself to rent this film? Yes, you do.
5. Center Stage
This coming-of-age-through-dance story follows three girls just trying to make it at the American Ballet Academy in New York. The life of a young ballerina isn’t all satin and tutus-protagonists Jody, Eva and Maureen struggle with everything from eating disorders and love affairs to bad turnout. Despite the rather obvious plot twists this film is good dancin’ fun. Not to mention that the male leads go head to head in a ballet battle of sorts. Enough said.
6. Girls Just Want to Have Fun
If you had a girlfriend sleepover party in the 1980s, you know exactly why this cult classic is on our list. Sarah Jessica Parker is decidedly un-Carrie-like as Janey Glenn, the new girl in town whose strict army dad keeps her in kilts. But Janey doesn’t need much convincing to bust out of her shell when her new friend Lynne (Helen Hunt wearing a grasshopper beret, of all things) helps her try out for their favourite show, Dance TV. Add a tank-top clad heartthrob, a snobby rich-girl saboteur and a bratty little sister played by Shannen Doherty, and you’ve got the recipe for what is simultaneously the most ridiculous and the most fabulous dance film ever made. It’s a paradox.
7. Singin’ in the Rain
Long before Madonna, Michael Jackson and Justin Timberlake busted their first moves, there was Gene Kelly. This man didn’t just dance, he floated; his feet had wings. In this 1952 classic, Kelly plays Don Lockwood, a silent film actor who must suffer the trials and tribulations of making his first talking picture. Along the way he falls in love with a chorus girl played by Debbie Reynolds, who overdubs the voice of the fictional talkie’s talentless star. Along the way are some of the most captivating song and dance scenes ever captured on film.
8. West Side Story
If you love a good dance battle, you probably own a copy of this musical adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. Natalie Wood plays Maria, sister to the leader of the Puerto Rican street gang, the Sharks. (Question: Natalie Wood was neither a singer nor Puerto Rican. Do you think she was the best choice for the role?) Maria falls in love with Tony, a member of the rival gang, the Jets. Needless to say, there are lots of dance battles, romantic love songs and tragedy that teaches us all a valuable lesson: Dancing and guns do not mix.
9. Billy Elliot
Actor Jamie Bell wows as Billy, a boy from a Northern English town who loves to dance. At odds with his father’s machismo (he’s a miner participating in the 1984 Miner’s Strike), Billy practices ballet in secret until he earns an audition at the Royal Ballet School. The story is heart warming and well told, but the highlight of this film is Bell’s fancy footwork. That little guy can really move!
The movie that brought break dancing to the mainstream is now a cult classic for dance lovers. In this film, a young jazz dancer teams up with two break dancers to battle a rival gang for the title of best crew in the ‘hood. But really, the plot is inconsequential-this was one of the first times movie-goers had seen popping, locking and windmills (not to mention Ice-T, who made his film debut in Breakin’).
**Did we miss any? Tell us about your favoutrite dance movies in the comment section below.