I have a confession to make: I love dance movies. I’m not a dancer myself (except in the privacy of my own home), but it’s one of those things I wished I’d started doing when I was really young so I could be really good at it now. In lieu of being a professional dancer at the age of 22, I settle for watching every dance movie I can get my hands on. I’ve seen all of the Step Up movies (things got a little bleak around the third one); Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, which I really liked; and the pretty terrible—I swear I wanted to like it!—Center Stage sequel, Center Stage: Turn It Up. Recently, on an uneventful Sunday night, I even watched both the 1984 and 2011 versions of Footloose and I have to be honest, I liked the remake better. (I’ll discuss this later.)
Questionable sequels and remakes aside, there are a lot of things that make a great dance movie. There are the dance numbers, of course, but also everything else that makes for a great movie: the acting, the script, and the story. Now, I know I’m not an expert in dance or movies, but I’ve seen a lot of dance movies, enough that I can make a list of my favorites.
6. Footloose (2011)
Okay, now I know there are going to be a lot of people who will stop reading right now because I obviously have no idea what I’m talking about. You can’t mess with the original Footloose! It’s a classic! To which I say: You are correct. Footloose is a classic and it’s great in its own right. But I have no nostalgic attachment to it, so I watched both versions with an unbiased view. The remake was more developed and the script was much better. They excluded the book-burning storyline, which didn’t make much sense to me in the original movie. They also went more in depth with the relationship between Ariel and her father, Reverend Shaw, as well as how they dealt with their grief. Plus, I liked Kenny Wormald as Ren McCormack better than Kevin Bacon. You can yell at me in the comments if you so choose.
5. Center Stage
I’m still trying to figure out how they did that last dance scene. Seriously. Center Stage has some of the best dance numbers, including that last one, but it also dealt with a lot of real life issues like bulimia and navigating the tricky relationships between parents and their children. Then of course, there’s the rookie mistake that the main character, Jody (Amanda Schull,) makes of sleeping with one of her teachers (and taking a ride through New York City on the back of his motorcycle set to a Mandy Moore song.) Of course it ends badly, but Jody learns from it, and so did my eleven-year-old self. However, I re-watched this movie when I was older and it wasn’t quite as good anymore (some of the script is pretty terrible.) But because of that nostalgia factor—and Peter Gallagher’s eyebrows—it’s still one of my favorite dance movies.
Remember Julia Stiles? She was fantastic in Save the Last Dance; it was one of many movies she starred in during the late 90’s/early 2000’s. I was obsessed with the soundtrack and even tried to learn some of the dance moves that Derek (Sean Patrick Thomas) teaches Sara (Stiles.) This is another movie that deals with real issues with Chicago as a backdrop. It was also the first time I can remember seeing an interracial couple in a movie. It didn’t seem like a big deal to me at the time, but, looking back, it means a lot more to have seen that when I was so young. The movie also stars a young Kerry Washington who has become one of my favorite actresses. So that makes it one of my favorite dance flicks.
Out of all the Step Up movies, Step Up Revolution is by far my favorite. The dance numbers are absolutely amazing and the giant finale is insane; I also really liked the story. Sure, the tension between Sean (Ryan Guzman) and Eddy (Misha Gabriel) was a little over the top, and the fact that the members of the MOB had a viral video and were never identified was too unbelievable. But the dancing! The dancing in this movie is by far my favorite in any of the movies on this list. And the concept of this movie was really cool: a community could save their homes from destruction through protest. It’s a dance movie with great choreography, a good message, and features Peter Gallagher’s eyebrows; what’s not to love?
Surprisingly, Dirty Dancing was not the first dance movie I saw as a child. But I’m still going to attribute it with the foundation of my love for dance movies. It’s a classic. It was one of those movies my friends and I always watched at a sleepover (along with The Breakfast Club, of course.) I watched it when I was young and I still watch it now that I’m older but it doesn’t lose any of its magic. Although I understand a lot more now, like what happens to Johnny Castle’s old girlfriend. But I still get chills when Patrick Swayze says “Nobody puts Baby in a corner” and they get up to perform their number to “Time of My Life.” It’s an iconic scene that will never get old. I will be forcing my children and my grandchildren to watch this movie.
It was hard to pick my favorite dance movie, but I had to go with the one that I can watch at any time, day or night, without needing to be in the right mood. It may not have as much of the nostalgia factor or the huge dance numbers like the other movies on this list, but Take the Lead isn’t just one of my favorite dance movies, it’s one of my favorite movies, period. This movie is based on the true story of a teacher who uses dancing to help a group of students that are always in detention. Antonio Banderas stars in this movie and he’s absolutely fantastic. You’ll also recognize Jenna Dewan-Tatum, who starred in the other 2006 dance flick Step Up.
So those are my favorite dance movies, what are yours? Think I picked the wrong movies for my top 6? Let’s talk it out in the comments.