It’s always entertaining to watch a movie with a dance sequence. Whether it’s a musical or non-musical, expected or unexpected, these dance scenes can sometimes be the most memorable (or only memorable) part of a movie. I compiled a top 10 of my personal favorites, and while it was almost impossible to rank them, I devised a list.
[Special Mention] Center Stage
Admittedly this is one of the cheesiest ballet dramas dating back to 2000, but I could never forget those dance scenes (which made up for the terrible acting). Plus it’s one of our first Zoe Saldana sightings!
[Special Mention] Chicago
I’m not a huge fan of musicals, but the ones that made it on this list knew how to merge dance + singing sequences to hold my attention. Chicago’s glitz and glam is mesmerizing, and who knew Zellweger and Zeta-Jones could pull this off…all the way to the Oscars.
(10) Scent of a Woman
“No mistakes in the Tango, Donna; not like life. Simple. That’s what makes the Tango so great. You make a mistake, get all tangled up, Tango on.”
One of the least theatrical dance scenes on this list, Pacino plays a stubborn, blind US Army veteran who knows how to Tango. Pacino knows how to Tango blindly better than most of us probably can with crystal vision. But Pacino isn’t the only dancer who makes this scene great. Anwar’s expression through every orchestrated move looks so sweet and genuine that it feels more natural than acted.
(9) Rocky Horror Picture Show
“It’s just a jump to the left…”
Rocky Horror is a complete oddball musical with such a devoted cult following that has spanned for decades past and decades to come. It’s the reigning champ every Halloween from costumes to midnight theater showings. I don’t think it would have the same impact if it came out today, but somehow it’s wackiness continues to resonate with movie-goers. As for the Time Warp, who doesn’t know that dance? It’s so. easy.
(8) Little Miss Sunshine
“I’d like to dedicate this to my grandpa, who showed me these moves.”
What an amazing slap-in-the-face to beauty pageantry this is! Quirky characters coupled with an offbeat synopsis makes it hard not to root for them, especially in this movie. I’m a huge sucker for imperfect, dysfunctional families that fly their freak flag high, and the Hoover family nails it. The family’s dance moves to “Superfreak” is a dance sequence everyone would love to recreate, and it’s probably the ultimate beauty pageant nightmare.
(7) Silver Linings Playbook
“You’re facing a big challenge in your life right now at this very moment, right here. That girl loves you she really really loves you. I don’t know if Nicky ever did, but she sure as shit doesn’t right now. So don’t fuck this up.”
This dance is what the entire movie was building up to; you knew it was coming, you knew the lift would be a fail, but it’s the amount of heartwarming satisfaction that makes this scene successful. It wipes away the chaos the characters created and engrosses you in one of the most uplifting scenes of 2012. Chris Tucker’s ghetto booty move is the best addition to their routine outside of that wannabe Dirty Dancing lift that they managed to awkwardly dance through flawlessly!
“It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s what you do with your dancin’ shoes.”
There’s a handful of good dance montages in Grease, but the entire gym vying to win the trophy for best dance ensemble was priceless! From Danny Zuko’s PG-choreographed dance with Sandy, to his raunchier dancing with Cha Cha, Travolta’s got the moves. And don’t we all wish everyone at our high school prom danced like that?
(5) Saturday Night Fever
“She can dance, you know that? She’s got the wrong partner of course, but she can dance.”
Travolta strikes again! Saturday Night Fever is filled with disco dance moves most of us could never attempt, especially in pants that skinny. Of course this is a clichéd, obvious choice for any top ten list, but who cares? Anything with neon lights and disco balls gets my stamp of approval. Travolta breaking it down, literally, to “You Should Be Dancing” is so well choreographed and shot; it’s certainly the go-to film for dance for the disco generation.
(4) Risky Business
“Sometimes you just have to say ‘what the fuck?'”
I couldn’t tell you much about the plot of Riskey Business aside from the basics, but the first image that pops in my mind when I think about this movie or hear “Old Time Rock n Roll” played, is the Tom Cruise bustin’ a move in the living room in his underwear scene. There’s really not much to this sequence, but everyone knows this scene. Tom Cruise will forever be immortalized with this dance.
(3) Dirty Dancing
“Nobody puts Baby in the corner.”
Every girl and every guy knows about the dance scene from Dirty Dancing. Whether or not the sequence resonates with their memory, or maybe they just haven’t seen the film, everyone knows about “the lift.” Even Emma Stone referenced it in Crazy Stupid Love with Ryan Gosling, Lawrence and Cooper boldly attempted their rendition of it in Silver Linings. The final dance scene is legendary, and Patrick Swayze had serious dance skills in this.
(2) Pulp Fiction
“I do believe Marsellus Wallace, my husband, your boss, told you to take ME out and do WHATEVER I WANTED. Now I wanna dance, I wanna win. I want that trophy, so dance good.“
As one of the most unexpected dance scenes in a movie on this list, Thurman and Travolta took a very simple scene and made it universally iconic. Travolta has made this list three times, but this scene’s complete random quirkiness has managed to be one of the best Tarantino scenes, and I haven’t seen anything quite like this since. Thurman initially turned down the role, and Daniel Day-Lewis wanted the role of Vincent Vega. But Tarantino rules by convincing Thurman and hand-selecting Travolta for the roles. I don’t think any other actor could have compared.
“Can I start again?”
We all know that Jennifer Beals didn’t dance in this scene, and that multiple professionals (even a man) performed the twirls, head-spinning and impossible-to-recreate leap through the air. BUT, this scene blows my mind every time. Flashdance isn’t a great movie, but it’s worth a watch for this final audition scene alone. This film was also the first to expose a mainstream audience to one of the most intriguing and complicated dance forms – breakdancing.
34 thoughts on “Top 10 Dance Scenes in Movies”
Awesome list! Some great movies found their way on it. Personally I can’t think of a dance scene without thinking of Gene Kelly. What an amazing dancer.
thank you thank you. I initially thought I’d compile this quickly, but it took a VERY long time to narrow it down and rank them. I didn’t want a ranking, as they’re all unique individually, but that’s what it boiled down to.
There’s some great variety in your list. I think my favorite is the Pulp Fiction dance competition. Classic!
Great list Courtney!
thank you thank you
Great list…oh my gosh number 8 was so hilarious to me. The first time I watched that movie I was like eh…everytime after that I was lmao.
Thanks, I agree! Was definitely a jaw-dropping scene…i love it ❤
Yes! Love seeing Pulp ranked so high. Arguably my favorite dance scene of all time. Also really dig the SLP, Grease, and Scent of a Woman scenes. All are just perfect.
The expressions in Scent of a Woman completely won me over…so so so sweet.
Great post! I love all your choices. I’d almost forgotten about Flashdance. My best friend and I were so enamored of that movie in high school — we kept going to the theater to see it.
I tried to recreate the dance myself when I was very young. Bad, bad idea.
Awesome list! That scene from Scent of a Woman brought tears to my eyes first time I saw it.
I know it’s so terribly sweet and genuine. I die.
Nice list! I also adore Center Stage, and Chicago surely one different musical. I love that you put Little Miss Sunshine, recently gave it a rewatch and yeah the dance scene was quite awesome.
Center Stage is such a C-list teen movie, but you can’t deny it! And that scene from Little Miss Sunshine is one of my favorite scenes of the 2000s!
Great list! I’m glad you have Little Miss Sunshine in here as well. I totally didn’t expect her dance to turn out the way it did when I first watched that.
Absolutely no way I could exclude it. It’s genius plus the addition of the “And where is your grandpa?” “In the trunk of our car.”
[…] Courtney from On the Screen Reviews posted Top 10 Dance Scenes in Movies […]
Fine list on a great subject. Although, I’m not a big fan of ‘Chicago’ the film (mainly because of Rob Marshall). But yes for the genius of Bob Fosse (the director, writer, and choreographer) of ‘Chicago’ the stage musical. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend ‘All That Jazz’. Enjoyable read (along with the GIF imagery).
Thanks! You’ll notice I’m GIF-crazy with my entries.
😀 Pretty psyched to see Litlle Miss Sunshine in there, that scene is hysterical LOL
Great list! I might shuffle the order around a little myself, based on my own tastes (you know how these things go) But there’s no doubt you included all the greats! 😀
Oh, maybe some Black Swan. There you go.
Black Swan crossed my mind, but I didn’t want anything too recent. Little Miss Sunshine was the closest to date, but I had to have it in there!
Why in the world wasn’t this included?
Haha now there’s one I haven’t seen! I hate making lists with a ranking system…it’s impossible.
Ok, ok, I’ll send you another one; quit begging!
Chicago, SLP, Pulp Fiction and The Rocky Horror Picture Show are great picks!
I’m in love with this post!!!
Thank you ^.^
No Gene Kelly in Singin’ in the Rain? No Fred Astaire and his giant shadows in Swing Time? No Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo in The Artist? Not even The Scarecrow stomping around on the Yellowbrick Road to If I Only Had a Brain? So many more to include here…
Those are my personal top 10 … and it wasn’t easy narrowing down
Oh I like all (well, most) of these scenes too, I just don’t think I’d be able to separate Singin in the Rain from a list of favorite dance scenes, if not most favorite things, haha.
Never seen Singing in the Rain (I KNOW THIS IS A HUGE MOVIE FAUX PAS).
Wow, awesome list, thanks for sharing such cool stuff….