Swing Kids, Dirty Dancing, Planet B-Boy: The best dance movies of all time
D-list celebrities with A-list moves
Courtesy Dancing With the Stars
It's been a month since the season finale of Dancing With the Stars, but The Ordway Center for the Performing Arts is keeping the love alive with their summer dance series. Today Twin Cities twinkletoes will be downtown cutting a rug to some kickin' swing tunes. Before you put on your zoot suit or polka-dot skirt, check out a little silver screen inspiration with our picks for the 10 best dance movies.
The Mask has a little something for everyone. Your beer-slamming, illiterate boyfriend will be distracted by the action sequences so that you can concentrate on what really matters: Jim Carrey and Cameron Diaz swinging and mamboing all over the screen dressed to the teeth in retro outfits. The green face thing is a little off-putting, but look on the bright side; the transformed mask isn't actually much uglier than Jim Carrey in real life.
When we were kids in the '80s, we wondered why this movie wasn't kept in the special back room of the video store, but now that we're older and have actually seen it, we understand a little better its treasured place in the PG-13 section. The Swayze, may he rest in peace, was a better '80s sex symbol than Tom Cruise ever was, and this classic film is the pinnacle of his heart-throbbiness. When he wasn't busy looking great in tight jeans, he twirled whats-her-name around in what can only be described as perfect fauxmance.
A product of the (quickly extinguished) swing revival of the early '90s, Swing Kids follows the path of two rebels in Nazi Germany - but they don't go around throwing bricks through windows or speaking truth to power. No, their rebellion involves putting on fancy suits and heading to dance halls to twirl the ladies. The film is notable for its beautifully choreographed throws and twirls, and also for starring a young Christian Bale playing an even bigger jerk than Christian Bale is in real life.
Mad Hot Ballroom
This under-hyped documentary covers a 10-week period in which New York public school 5th-graders learn to get over their fear of cooties and tear up the dance floor. The dance sequences aren't as impressive as in some of the films on the list, but the awww factor makes up for any missteps. We don't really have anything snarky to say about it - it's cute, it's funny, and it gives you a genuine window into the diversity of New York City.
Few forms of dance are more impressive than that monolith of hip-hop culture, breakdancing. Planet B-Boy is a documentary covering the 2005 Battle of the Year international crew dance competition, features some of the craziest moves we've ever seen, and a dance-off representing the North/South Korean conflict. Doesn't get much further from noncey romantic whirling than that, eh?
One of the girliest of girly movies, Strictly Ballroom tells the tale of a man daring enough to break the rules of a society of snooty old people in tight pants. The dancing is marvelous, featuring picture-perfect technique in a huge range of ballroom styles. And not only are all the actors gifted with dreamy Australian accents, but it also has one of the best slow-clap scenes in the history of ever.
The Full Monty
We had to have one stripping movie in here to appease the exotic dancer portion of our readership, and we certainly weren't gonna give it to Showgirls. Some British blue collar soft bodies hatch a plot to overcome their financial woes by baring it all, but run into the problem of finding people who want to see them naked. Luckily they eventually gain the karmic insight necessary to let Dr. Winkie come out to play and tackle a whole host of male body issues along the way.
Strictly speaking, Monsoon Wedding isn't a dance movie - though it features more song and dance than High School Musical 1 and 2 combined. The storyline follows an Punjabi arranged marriage and each of the family members involved, in a relationship web so complex that Wikipedia had to break out a chart just to explain the major players.
Stomp the Yard
We had to stick in at least one film from the "edgy inner-city youth dancing, commenting on poverty and race in America" genre that seems so popular these days, and Julia Stiles makes us want to punch a baby, so we decided on Stomp the Yard. It features an edgy inner-city youth who attends an Ivy League school and learns the importance of teamwork; it also contains more class commentary than you can shake a film studies degree at. But that's not what you came for. You came for the burly dudes spinning around at breakneck speeds while balancing on one pinky finger.
Ah, Fred Astaire, the grandfather of dance movies. Though Swing Time is driven by a paper-thin plot (Fred Astaire shows up late to his wedding, so his father-in-law-to-be makes him raise $25k with his dancing skills in order to buy back into the family) the dancing is widely considered some of the best ever put on film. Astaire and Ginger Rogers don't turn any flips or stand on their heads, but they've got a little thing called grace to makes up for the lack of acrobatics.
Dishonorable mentions: Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo
One of the worst movies of all time, this was also the root of the meme in which the sub-title of any movie sequel is replaced with "Electric Boogaloo," example: Rocky XII: Electric Boogaloo. It's not just the silly title, either: Breakin' 2 features a terrible cast, sub-par dancing, and porn-movie-quality acting.
This stirring tale follows a kid born to dance, but born into a family that thinks dancing is gayer than a tree full of monkeys on nitrous oxide. The plot drags on and on, the heartwarming bits of the story just come off as overly sentimental, and there's just so many times we can hear the phrase "fockin' bally" in a movie before we walk out of the theater.
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