The 13 Best Dance Movies of All Time

Thirty years after Flashdance changed the game, a look at the best in the genre from the '70s to today.

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    IMDb.com

    When Flashdance opened on April 15, 1983, most critics hated it. Even the late, great Roger Ebert dissed it. But the story of a Pittsburgh welder-exotic dancer (played by Jennifer Beals) who dreams of joining a ballet company became a box office hit that inspired other dance movies, as well as that ’80s jumbo-sweatshirt and leg warmers fashion craze. To celebrate Flashdance’s 30th anniversary, we decided to do a list of our favorite dance movies. Here are 12 more that will make you want to get up and get down.

     

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    Karen Lynn Gorney and John Travolta (Paramount Pictures/IMDb.com)

    Saturday Night Fever (1977)

    This disco classic spawned a best-selling soundtrack, turned John Travolta into a superstar and taught everyone how to line dance. Interestingly, the New York magazine story that inspired the movie was mostly made up, which makes you wonder, without one writer’s creative imagination, would disco have been such a big deal?

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    Maureen Teefy, center (Getty Images/IMDb.com)

    Fame (1980)

    Who didn’t want to go to New York’s High School of Performing Arts after seeing this movie? Every arty kid who’d ever been bullied found kindred spirits in the students at the Fame high school, where the disciplinarian dance instructor played by Debbie Allen held court and lunch period would turn into a dance party. And who could forget that song by Irene Cara?

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    Screenshot (YouTube)

    Breakin' (1984)

    The scene of street dancers in Flashdance was the first time a mainstream movie featured break dancing, and Breakin,’ along with Beat Street, tried to capitalize on the growing popularity of hip-hop culture. Not only did Breakin’ introduce the concept of the dance battle — soon to be a staple in hip-hop movies — but it also featured rapper Ice-T in his first film role.

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    Lori Singer and Kevin Bacon (Paramount Pictures/IMDb.com)

    Footloose (1984)

    Kevin Bacon stars as a big-city boy who moves to a small town full of small minds, where the residents — led by an overbearing pastor (John Lithgow) — have banned dancing (which may explain why there were no black people?). In the end, Bacon and the pastor’s daughter (Lori Singer) put on their high school dance, allowing the students to share those polished moves they’d obviously been practicing in their bedrooms.

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    Screenshot of Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines (YouTube)

    White Nights (1985)

    We’re not sure the Cold War plotline really worked in the film, but it did give us a chance to see two of the world’s best dancers — ballet master Mikhail Baryshnikov and tap star Gregory Hines — working together. Oh, and a hit song by Lionel Richie.

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    Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey (IMDb.com)

    Dirty Dancing (1987)

    The hip-swiveling Patrick Swayze brought women to the theater in droves to watch a 1960s-era coming-of-age tale starring Jennifer Grey and featuring choreography by Kenny Ortega, who worked with Michael Jackson. Though the film has many memorable dance moments, we particularly love the after-hours staff party scene, with its multihued dancers bumping and grinding to R&B classics.

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    Sammy Davis Jr. and Gregory Hines (Beco Films/IMDb.com)

    Tap (1989)

    Gregory Hines probably did more than anyone else to revive the lost art of tap dancing, and in this film he gets a chance to pay homage to some of the old tap masters who came before him — from Sammy Davis Jr. to Sandman to Harold Nicholas — while handing the torch to the new tap savant, Savion Glover.

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    Kirsten Dunst and Gabrielle Union (Universal Studios/IMDb.com)

    Bring It On (2000)

    Kirsten Dunst is the head of a championship cheerleading squad who discovers that her team’s winning dance routines were stolen from the black cheerleading squad led by Gabrielle Union — which, when you think about it, is pretty much a metaphor for just about every American art form, from jazz to hip-hop.

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    Sean Patrick Thomas and Julia Stiles (Michael Tackett/Paramount Pictures/IMDb.com)

    Save the Last Dance (2001)

    Julia Stiles is a Midwestern girl with ballet-school aspirations who moves to the hood after her mom dies and falls for Sean Patrick Thomas, who helps her add a little hip-hop flavor to her Juilliard audition.

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    Marques Houston (Sam Emerson/Screen Gems Inc./IMDb.com)

    You Got Served (2004)

    B2K’s Omarion and J-Boog, along with R&B singer Marques Houston, play members of a street-dance crew who compete against other groups in Los Angeles. The storyline’s focus on loyalty and friendship is a tad predictable, but it doesn’t take anything away from the energetic dance battles featured throughout the film.

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    Jenna Dewan and Channing Tatum (IMDb.com)

    Step Up (2006)

    Channing Tatum, who worked as a stripper (slightly NSFW) before he became an actor, plays a street kid with serious hip-hop dance skills who tries to jiggy his way into a girl’s heart. Clearly the moves worked: He would later marry his co-star, Jenna Dewan, after the movie wrapped. Tatum went on to put those hip-hop moves to further good use (again, slightly NSFW) in the 2012 hit Magic Mike.

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    Alfeo Dixon/Screen Gems, Inc./IMDb.com

    Stomp the Yard (2007)

    In this dance-battle flick, traditional stepping popularized by black fraternities meets the new-school dance called “krumping,” a style from Los Angeles made famous by the 2005 documentary Rize. Columbus Short, in all his pre-Scandal glory; Meagan Good; Ne-Yo; Laz Alonso; and Chris Brown round out the all-star cast.

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