Everybody loves a good dance movie. Okay, maybe not everyone. Maybe just me. I love movies about dancing. I’m not talking about movies where dancing takes place, I’m talking about movies that are specifically about the art of dancing. These movies are rarely Oscar-worthy (excluding Black Swan, which I haven’t even seen yet, so I won’t be mentioning it in this blog), and a lot of times critics slam these movies for being “ridiculous” and “predictable”. Which, I’m not gonna lie, they totally are. But you know what? They’re dancing. And that’s pretty awesome.
There have been many movies made about dancing. So obviously I’m not the only one who enjoys them. Some have been really good, and some have been not-so-good. For example, the movie Save the Last Dance? Not so good. But some people love it, and I’m not going to think any less of them. Because my list of the good is probably worth a good laugh to some who may not agree with me. Let’s take a look.
Dirty Dancing (1987)
Well, obviously this movie is going to be on the list. It’s sort of the granddaddy of all awesome dance movies, and has become a classic in its own right. I remember not being allowed to see it back in the day, being as how I was only 8 years old when it came out, but I had a friend who’s parents totally let her watch it when it came out on video, so I obviously took advantage of that. I didn’t think there was anything dirty about it, and I thought Johnny Castle was amazing.
And he still is. The music is awesome, the dancing – especially whenever Penny dances because back then she was the best dancer EVER – was fun, and the final dance scene of the movie is classic. I still get emotional when Johnny and Baby do The Lift, and then when he sings along to “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” right afterwards. It’s simply a movie that can never be duplicated.
I’ve already touched upon the awesomeness of this movie back in this post and how the original should never have been remade, but let me reiterate what a great dance movie this actually is. It takes place in a weird town where dancing is totally prohibited, which makes the dancing that much more good. People are breaking the law when they dance, which means that if they’re going to do it, they’d better make it count.
There’s a lot of your typical 80s-style dancing in this movie, but the best scene is hands-down Ren McCormack’s angry dance in the barn. He’s all upset because he was scolded for dancing, and so he goes to some abandoned barn and dances the crap out of himself. Seriously, the guy goes completely nuts and does dance moves you will never see again in any movie. From banging into the side of a wall to the freaking Olympic high bar, Ren pretty much does it all in this scene, which sort of sums up how every teenager in that town was feeling at that moment. It was liberating for all.
Strictly Ballroom (1992)
This movie isn’t as well-known as other dance movies of the time, which is too bad because it’s a really good movie. It has everything a movie should have: the funny, the heartwarming, the action, the Australians, and, of course, the dancing. This movie directed by Baz Luhrmann of Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge fame is about ballroom dancing and all the craziness that it entails. And, according to my ballroom dancer/teacher friend, the movie is pretty spot-on when it comes to that world. It’s a world that none of us will ever really know (unless you’re one of them), and Baz presents it to us in way that is beautiful yet dark, hilarious yet sad.
For those you know unfamiliar with Baz Luhrmann or Australian people, the movie might confuse you because things are happening so fast. But please don’t let that stop you. Watch it again if you need to because you’ll soon understand why this movie is so good, why parts of it make me laugh uncontrollably, why parts of it make me cry, and why the whole damn thing makes me want to take ballroom dance lessons. Watch this movie, and you’ll just understand.
Center Stage (2000)
This movie came out in 2000 at a time when not a whole lot of dance movies were being released, and the only reason why people went to see the movie was because of Mandy Moore’s super hit song “I Wanna Be With You”. I, on the other hand, saw the movie because it was not only about dancers, but it was about dance school. It was like Hogwarts for dancers minus the whole Voldemort part.
The movie is completely stereotypical – you have your not-perfect-but-original dancer, your badass dancer, your gay best friend dancer, and your bulimic dancer who doesn’t even want to be there and who’s only there because her crazy mom is living vicariously through her. But that’s what makes this movie so much fun. You know exactly what’s going to happen to every character, but you watch with rapt attention anyway. The dance rehearsal parts are fun to watch, but nothing compares to the end scene, the final performance the school puts on that will determine what dance company will pick them up after graduation. It’s probably at least 10-15 minutes of all dancing, and it will make you want to sign up for dance school right that second. If, you know, actually being able to dance wasn’t a requirement.
Swing Kids (1993)
Let me quick say that this movie isn’t totally about dancing. Dancing has a big part to do with it, but it’s also about other serious stuff like, you know, war and Nazis and evilness. But besides all that, it’s about swing dancing, which is pretty much the coolest kind of dancing there is. It takes place in Germany in 1939 and focuses on “Swing Kids”, or the German youth that were obsessed with American swing music and dance.
The movie came out in 1993 and starred Robert Sean Leonard and Christian Bale, so I’ve obviously seen it a kajillion times. The movie starts out with them as typical Swing Kids – yay for swing music, boo for Nazis. But of course the movie takes a dark turn when they are forced to join the Hitler Youth, which stands for everything they hate, not to mention totally interrupts their Swing Kid lifestyle. Peter (RSL) stands against the HJ (Hitler Jugend) the whole movie, but Thomas (CB) quickly becomes influence by Hitler and all the Nazis and starts believing that swing music is evil. Things get bad, then they get worse, but then at the end Thomas realizes that friends are more important than Nazis. Or something like that. To be honest, there wasn’t nearly enough dancing in this movie, but when those scenes came on, they were simply fantastic.
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun (1985)
I saved the best for last. After 25 years, it’s still my favorite dance movie. It stars Sarah Jessica Parker and Helen Hunt back when they were babies (okay, teenagers) who enter a televised dance competition. But even better than that is the fact that SJP’s parents have no idea she’s entered this competition and she has to sneak out at night to practice with Jeff, a hot bad boy with a leather jacket and motorcycle. Who happens to like lyrical dance.
The two of them get paired together despite the fact that they hate each other, but of course they end of falling in love. Everything seems to be great until they start arguing about what dance moves are cool, and then SJP gets caught sneaking out, and everything suddenly goes to hell. For a brief moment it seems that SJP won’t make it to the big dance competition, but her crazy friend Helen Hunt bails her out and they literally run to the dance studio and make it there just in time. The rest is pretty predictable – two guesses who wins – but it’s awesome anyway. The music, costumes, and cast puts this movie at the very top for me, and I swear to God if they ever remake this movie with Miley Cyrus I will boycott the World.
Some other runners up in the dance category include:
– Billy Eilliot (adorable)
– Flashdance (fun)
– Shall We Dance (both Japanese and US versions are acceptable) (cute)
– The Company (intense)
– Step Up (only because I know people will get upset if I don’t include it on the list)
Happy viewing (and dancing!)