The INSIDER Summary:
• Compelling dance movies, like “Dirty Dancing,” are hard to get right.
• These are the best dance movies of all time, from “Happy Feet” to “Step Up.”
Dance movies are hard to get right. They need eye-popping (and frequent) dance breaks, but they also need a cast who can act, not just pirouette or break.
The worst dance movies require fast forwarding through all the parts that aren’t dance. But the best ones aren’t just watchable — they’re classics.
Here’s our official ranking of the 17 most famous dance movies ever made.
INSIDER Note: This isn’t a list of all dance movies — just the most popular. We also excluded movie-musicals. Even though they have lots of dancing, that’s an entirely separate genre that deserves its own ranking.
In the third instalment of the 'Step Up' series, the franchise expands its universe to New York City, introducing a cast of mostly new characters.
Sadly, it also features some of the most forgettable dance battles (and a really annoying choice to add swishing sound effects to every dance step). Plus, the leads have next to no chemistry -- and their silly slushie-drinking scene is a CGI catastrophe.
The fifth instalment of the 'Step Up' franchise revives old characters who compete in a TV dance competition. But the choreography in the final dance scene is buried beneath layers of unnecessary spectacle (what's with the sand and fire?!) and the pop star villain is cartoonish even by dance movie standards.
The one saving grace? A small role for Parris Goebel, the New Zealand-born hip hop phenom who went on to choreograph the video for Justin Bieber's 'Sorry.' You'll spend most of this movie waiting for Goebel to start dancing again.
Good thing the stunning choreography in this film makes up for the goofy storyline about a crew that organizes flash mobs to try and shut down an evil real estate tycoon.
Also, there is no way the cops would simply stand by and watch during this ridiculous final dance scene.
The pros: This film's dance scenes are free of the distracting, overindulgent special effects that plague the later 'Step Up' movies. It's just plain dancing -- and incredible dancing at that. Bonus: Steve Harvey plays a fedora-wearing club owner named 'Mr. Rad.'
The cons: The plot -- best friends have fight, form rival crews, then reunite to win huge battle -- is stale. And how are we supposed to take the villian seriously when his hair looks like this? Even in 2004 that didn't look cool.
The tale of Alex Owens -- welder by day, stripper by night, aspiring ballerina -- has a compelling premise. Plus, it generated some of the dance movie genre's most iconic imagery. (See: The water soaked chair dance that opens the film.)
But the love story between Alex and her much older boss is hampered by a high creep factor -- the actors who portrayed them (Jennifer Beals and Michael Nouri) were 18 years apart during production. And the film is so chock full of montages it sometimes feels like one giant montage with more close shots of scant leotards than actual dancing.
Alas, Channing Tatum only returns for one scene in this sequel to the original 'Step Up.' The rest of the story focuses on Andie (played by Briana Evigan), a high school student who assembles a ragtag troupe of street dancers to compete in an underground dance battle.
The story is forgettable, but the rain-soaked routine at the end is one of the sexiest five minutes of cinematic history.
Julia Stiles plays a ballerina who must relocate to an inner city school after her mother dies. There, she meets a hip hop dancer who captures her heart and (almost) teaches her how to loosen up on the dance floor.
The co-stars have adorable chemistry, and this is one of the few dance movies with a compelling love story. But Stiles never quite looks comfortable in her own skin while she's dancing -- and her awkward final audition dance fails spectacularly in its attempt to fuse ballet and hip hop.
Even when it's stuffed to the gills with mind-blowing choreography, sometimes a dance movie's greatest failing is that the protagonist isn't likable. But that's not the case with Jessica Alba in 'Honey.'
Her dance teacher/choreographer character has magnetic charm and great moves, even if the story of her quest to teach dance to at-risk kids is a little syrupy-sweet. Missy Elliot's sassy cameo is a nice bonus, too.
'Fame' deserves a rewatch if only for the rainbow of '80s leotards and legwarmers worn by the cast.
The story of teens fighting for stardom at a New York City performing arts high school is melodramatic -- but hey, so is high school in real life. Plus, the young performers in this film are supremely talented. If you don't want to enroll at a peforming arts high school after watching the 'Hot Lunch' scene then there is something amiss in your soul.
Yeah, it's hokey. That's part of the dance movie package! The only problem with Footloose is that there isn't much dancing.
The few dances scenes we do get are great, though. Kevin Bacon's spazzy warehouse freakout is a refreshing departure from rigidly choreographed numbers typical of dance movies. And the final prom scene is pure fun. (Our condolences to whoever had to clean up all that glitter.)
Natalie Portman won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Nina, a ballerina who suffers a psychotic implosion as she fights for the lead role in a major performance.
The ever-heightening tension between Nina, her overbearing mother, and her fiercest ballet rival make for some irresistible drama. It's truly difficult to tear your eyes away from this film. (The ballet sequences are gorgeous, too.)
Mumble is a misfit in his emperor penguin community because he likes to tap dance instead of sing. Even if you don't love the tap sequences (choreographed by living dance legend Savion Glover), you'll melt over the fuzzy baby penguin scenes.
Romance, teenage rebellion, shirtless Patrick Swayze -- 'Dirty Dancing' has it all. The sweet-but-sensual tale of Swayze and co-star Jennifer Grey's budding romance and ballroom dance partnership ends on such a triumphant note (that lift!) you can't help but smile.
When 11-year-old Billy falls in love with ballet instead of boxing, it causes a major rift with his coal-miner dad -- but his love of dance is too strong to keep him away from the barre.
This is one of the few dance movies that also functions as a major tearjerker. Try not to sob during the final scene when Billy gives a performance as a grown-up ballet pro.
This tale of ballerinas fighting for a spot in a fictional elite company has everything viewers want in this genre: Great music, great dancing, and mostly passable acting that's still cheesy enough to laugh at.
The first instalment of the 'Step Up' franchise ticks off every item on the dance movie essentials list: a training montage, a club scene where everyone somehow knows the same choreography, a steamy love interest duet, and a final performance that comes together at the last possible second.
So what does 'Step Up' have that 'Center Stage' doesn't? Chemistry. Co-stars Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan eventually
fell in love and got married -- and when you watch them dance together in this film, it's impossible to miss the early sparks of their attraction.
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