10) Step Up
Representing Channing Tatum’s first of two entries on this list, the original Step Up managed to reboot the dance movie genre in the mid-noughties and is arguably responsible for the current interest in dance battles amongst teens. Britain’s Got Talent would feature a lot more dog bothering obsessives and middle age Scottish virgins without it.
Whatever its artistic merits as a movie, the soundtrack and the style of Flashdance went on to epitomise the 1980s. Plus it managed to combine dancing and welding for the first time, which makes it about as significant as that first interracial screen kiss in Star Trek.
8 ) Top Hat
Watching Fred Astaire dance while at his peak is like watching a god dance on the face of creation itself. That sentence was for people who like hyperbole, while this one is for those who like meta commentary. Top Hat will make you think “I’m glad Fred made that woman rehearse until her feet bled”.
7) Magic Mike
If you’re willing to accept that stripping is a type of dance and that Magic Mike is not your traditional dance movie, then it more than deserves a place in this list. Stephen Soderbergh directs with detachment and naturalism, while the aggressive groin-grinding that goes on should take the sheen of glamour away from this debauched trade.
Baz Luhrmann’s exaggerated directing style can be annoying (just try watching any of his films with your grandparents and see how they respond). However, it’s entirely appropriate in Strictly Ballroom, which dances (zing) between extroverted surrealness and an easy to grasp human core. Plus it’s got a shitload of ballroom dancing in it.
The ban on dancing enacted by John Lithgow’s preachy preacher may seem preposterous, but it basically acts as a metaphor for all the things that are prohibited during your teen years; sex, drugs and having an opinion. Of course in the film this also literally means that Kevin Bacon and friends have to head to the wrong side of the tracks if they want to dry hump on the dance floor, so you can pretty much ignore the figurative meaning if you like.
This dance movie is more in the vein of Magic Mike than it is Footloose, so you get to see the downside that comes with being young, bored and handsome in a kind of messed up way.
3) Billy Elliot
Ballet remains a less than macho form of dance, eschewed by kids on street corners in favour of more aggressive body popping and, one can only assume, doing the Robot. However, watching a working class northern lad study this fleet-footed art against a less than supportive social backdrop is undeniably heart-warming.
What was Baby’s famous line? Something like “Don’t forget to floss after brushing, grandma!” Whatever it is, Dirty Dancing has become a rite of passage for teenage girls and it is the main film that will sustain the spirit of Patrick Swayze long into the future. Aside of course from Ghost, which achieves this in a more literal sense.
There are few celebrations of movement quite like The Red Shoes. It may essentially be filmed theatre, but at least you can pause it while you let the sobs of joy rack your body.