History has brought of several examples of dance movies. Some manage to have interesting enough characters and exciting dance sequences while others couldn’t be saved by even the most electric choreography.
Hit the cinematic dance floor with our list of 15 of the best and worst dance movies.
Stomp the Yard – Best
While a tad cliched–as most dance films are– Stomp the Yard, about an inner-city krump dancer whose mom sends him away to a historically Black college where he joins a stepping fraternity after his younger brother (played by Chris Brown) is killed in a fight, delivers a real story and genuine actors. With traditional step routines modernized by the wild style of krump movements, the stepping sequences are impressive as are Columbus Short’s and Chris Brown’s dancing skills.
Step Up 2: The Streets – Best
It’s a cliched story: the trouble-making kid from the wrong side of the tracks who loves to dance is given an option to either be sent away from home or clean up her act by going to a new school. While there, the girl forms a new dance crew to rival the crew that kicked her out. The concept has been done before, but what the film lacks in story and script–both of which are weak– it makes up for in mind-blowing choreography, killer dancers, and charming characters, especially Adam Sevani’s “Moose” who has been appropriately dubbed “the baddest nerd in movie history.” Step Up 2 boasts the most original and exciting final dance number ever filmed.
Step Up 3D -Worst
Folks that saw Jon Chu’s Step Up 2: The Streets might have thought it was terrible as a film…until they saw this one. The acting was atrocious. The writing was rudimentary. There must have been a plot at one point but it was likely forgone in favor of really awesome 3D effects. Oh, yes, there was dancing too! Hardcore choreography that would surely make dance enthusiasts proud, if they can suspend their disbelief of a remarkably elementary script and monolithic characters long enough to actually enjoy it. The film might have had stunning visual effects but for those who didn’t see it in 3D and those who have bought it on DVD and Blu Ray, all you’re really left with is an insufferably cheesy film that fails miserably at trying to be the previous Step Up movie.
Fame was more than just a dance flick; it delved into real life issue as the characters struggled to chase their dreams, find themselves, and deal with life problems. The music and dance numbers were funky and free. The film had ’80s audience members channeling their inner musical theater geek and dreaming that they, too, could have fame!
We wonder if Honey was always fated to be a terrible film even when R&B Princess Aaliyah was attached to it, or if the film suffered from a drop in morale after its prospective star suddenly died. Either way, the film certainly suffered, especially from a less-than believable performance by its lead Jessica Alba and corny one-liners like “Dang, girl. Ya flava’s hot!” Honey Daniels is a community center dance instructor with a heart of gold by day and a butt-busting bartender who likes to cut loose on the dance floor by night. Then, one day she gets a big break that rockets her into instant stardom as a choreographer. The film is formulaic to a fault. Even the dance sequences choreographed by the popular Laurieann Gibson present nothing distinctive or memorable.
Dirty Dancing – Best
There’s no dance movie as widely recognized as this sultry ’80s classic which pairs Jennifer Grey as Baby, the daughter of a well-to-do doctor and the late Patrick Swayze as Johnny Castle, a barely-surviving but hunky dance instructor. Things heat up between them as Johnny teaches Baby to dance and they deal with the conflicts of social status. The dancing might be dirty but it is oh so subtly s e x y.
Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights -Worst
A cheesy remake that held none of the charm of the original sultry ’80s classic. Why taint perfection?
Dance With Me – Best
The chemistry between leads Vanessa Williams (as Ruby Sinclair) and Chayanne (as Rafael Infante) is electric as the two attempt to show each other what real dancing is. The differences in their dance styles–Ruby is a technical dancer while Rafael dances from the heart– also mirror their personalities as Ruby is a steely, by-the-book dance instructor and Rafael is a care-free Cuban emigre and maintenance man who is able to appreciate the small things. While romance between them is to be expected, the relationship is kept interesting by the contrast in the actors’ performances, one more complex and the other simplistic. The biggest star, though, is the dancing. Crisp, passionate, exuberant, and stylish dance sequences punctuated by a perfectly selected soundtrack are the throbbing pulse of this film.
You Got Served – Worst
Music producer Chris Stokes has proven with You Got Served that he may be a jack of all trades but he’s certainly not a master of film. Another dance flick with weak plot, the premise finds two friends, played by brothers Omarion and Marques Houston, competing together in a fierce dance battle to win money for their own recording studio. The 2004 film had a host impressive dance sequences but it was obvious as a promotional vehicle for Stokes’ musical acts Marques Houston and B2K, complete with generic story and bad acting.
Save the Last Dance -Best
Julia Stiles plays a White aspiring ballerina scarred by her mother’s death who falls for a young Black scholar trying to disentangle his life from his delinquent friends in the hood. The tale of lovers from different worlds is age old, but it finds an amount of rejuvenation in the relatable and realistic portrayal of teen interaction in the urban city. Using dance as a meeting ground for teens from different walks of life and rival cliques brilliantly adds to the vitality of the film.
Saturday Night Fever – Best
Travolta stars as Tony, a young man stuck in a dead-end job and trapped in an environment that does not nurture achievement who finds escape at the local discotheque where he is king on the dance floor. A now classic Bee Gee’s soundtrack provides the perfect backdrop for a film that glamorizes the disco era and drives home the importance of feeling validated and being who you want to be. Saturday Night Fever has some of the most hypnotic pop dance scenes ever made. John Travolta is perfect as Tony, completely submerged in his dreamland disco world. And who could forget Travolta’s now iconic white disco suit?
This movie popularized the cut up sweatshirt and featured Jennifer Beals in a fresh performance in an otherwise predictable film. She plays an aspiring ballet dancer with no training who leads a double life as a welder by day and an exotic dancer by night. Though panned critically for a shallow plot and poor script, the film’s music, dances, and iconic ’80s fashion have quite possibly made Flashdance one of the best worst dance movies ever created. The film’s biggest contribution to cinema was the famous scene in which Beals is performing her big dance number with a chair, reaches up and pulls a cord that douses her with water.
Breakin’ – Best
A direct predecessor of modern hip-hop dance films like Step Up 2 and You Got Served , Breakin’ showcased dynamic performers skilled in the kinetic arts doing moves that seemed superhuman to the average person. Innovators like Poppin’ Pete, Boogaloo Shrimp, and Shabba-Doo popped, locked, and break danced their way into the hearts of audiences everywhere, inspiring youngins to pursue such remarkable dancing even if only in their dreams. The movie is lighthearted fun.
White Nights – Best
Interestingly set in the Soviet Union, this 1985 classic pairs two of the world’s greatest dancers: ballet virtuoso Mikhail Baryshnikov and the late tapping savant Gregory Hines. The combination of their very different dancing styles superbly executed makes for an awe-inspiring viewing experience that is worth the 2 hours the film runs.
Suffering from a thin script, barely-there dancing ability, and barely-there acting skills, it’s a mystery why this film was made in the first place. About a drifter who climbs the Las Vegas latter of success from a stripper to a showgirl, the film has developed a cult following based purely on the fact that it’s so bad it’s good. Well, it’s bad, anyway…