The 50 Greatest Movie Dance Scenes of All Time
November 3, 2018 11:40 AM   Subscribe

The 50 Greatest Movie Dance Scenes of All Time
In the following attempt to assemble cinema’s 50 greatest dance scenes, I prioritized breadth: of era, of genre, of tone, of country. An elite handful double up on appearances — Vincente Minnelli, Gene Kelly, Denis Lavant, Fred Astaire, and Stanley Donen — but the full range of movers and shakers comprises A-list movie stars, dancers’ dancers forgotten by history, and rank amateurs giving it their best shot. This canon goes heavy on the musicals, as it must, so take special note of the entries cherry-picked from other realms of storytelling. A film will often place something of great significance in these intimate acts of self-expression, a key unlocking a character’s inner workings. And finally, as is the case with all lists, this should be the beginning of a conversation, not the end of one. Stretch those hammies and step up to the barre.
posted by kirkaracha (58 comments total) 52 users marked this as a favorite
 
Regret to inform they missed the best one, the Nicholas Brothers' "Jumpin' Jive" from Stormy Weather, which Fred Astaire called the greatest dance number ever filmed.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:42 AM on November 3 [65 favorites]




Well could grouch about the order and a few of the inclusions and exclusions, for example the dance from the documentary Pina, it was a truly great documentary, Pina Bausch's choreography is phenomenal but it was probably included for a "serious" entry to the list. But a really good list, every clip worth a viewing at least once. And yes the Nicholas Brothers totally trumps everything on the list.

Nutcracker?
Flash Dance?
Footloose?
Astaire dancing on the ceiling in Royal Wedding!!!
Shirley Temple & Bill Robinson
posted by sammyo at 12:10 PM on November 3 [2 favorites]


Eh...seems like a list of dance numbers 'most important to the plot of the movie' or possibly 'culturally significant' rather than 'best'. Otherwise 'Sweet Charity' would be like, half of this list rather than one 'honorable mention'. Fosse!
posted by sexyrobot at 12:14 PM on November 3 [3 favorites]


Also, no Bollywood? No Chicago?
posted by sexyrobot at 12:15 PM on November 3 [3 favorites]


My favorite is from Simple Men! Homage to another great dance scene from Bande à part.
posted by materialgirl at 12:27 PM on November 3 [3 favorites]


None of my four favorites are on the list: Vivre Sa Vie, Bande a part, Surviving Desire, and The Hours and the Times, which isn't on youtube, exept for the trailer, which has a second from the dance.
posted by dobbs at 12:27 PM on November 3 [1 favorite]


Jinx!
posted by dobbs at 12:28 PM on November 3


I would have thought this one might have may the list...
posted by jim in austin at 12:33 PM on November 3 [8 favorites]


Missing the Nicholas Brothers is a major, terrible omission, but no Laurel and Hardy At the Ball? No no no no no.
posted by YoungStencil at 12:35 PM on November 3 [4 favorites]


So they got the best movie right, but missed its best dance number.
posted by chavenet at 12:36 PM on November 3 [7 favorites]


DISAPPOINTMENT: where is daphne dancing with osgood in some like it hot
posted by poffin boffin at 12:43 PM on November 3 [6 favorites]


Bottle Dance!
posted by duffell at 12:43 PM on November 3 [6 favorites]


There were two Bollywood picks, sexyrobot, Mehbooba Mehbooba from Sholay at #35, and Megha Re Megha from Lamhe at #25. Those wouldn't be my picks, or at least I'd have added more Bollywood, because no Madhuri Dixit? If we're going by quality of dance, she deserves a spot. And no Chaiyya Chaiyya (with the bonus of some of the most beautiful lyrics in any Bollywood song)? If we're going by culturally significant, that one deserves a spot too.
posted by yasaman at 12:44 PM on November 3 [7 favorites]


That “Jumpin’ Jive” ... damn. Incredible, the leapfrog to splits on the staircase, the split slide, the way their coattails pop up to punctuate the downbeat...

Damn.
posted by chavenet at 12:51 PM on November 3 [1 favorite]


Also, Hollywood dance numbers generally feel disappointing compared to Bollywood ones! Bollywood dance numbers are out here with actresses dancing with flames, under who knows how many pounds of heavy costumes and jewelry, on top of slow moving trains, etc.
posted by yasaman at 1:00 PM on November 3 [4 favorites]


the absence of flashdance is truly unforgivable however. no, an honorable mention doesn't count.
posted by poffin boffin at 1:02 PM on November 3




Also, and I'm still not really sure what exactly their theme was for this list, but the correct choice for the Magic Mike selection IMO would be the first played-for-laughs solo dance he does alone in his workshop when his song comes on the radio; this exact situation is something so familiar and iconic to anyone who has done any kind of dance whether for a hobby or school or for a living. Everyone I know who has ever been involved in dance talks about that scene first before anything else in the series, that giddy familiarity of slipping into a routine you could do in your sleep, the sheer nostalgic joy of your body moving without you needing to tell it what to do, no matter where you are or how inappropriate the venue. (supermarkets are the worst for me)
posted by poffin boffin at 1:27 PM on November 3 [11 favorites]


I see they kept the "human cartoon characters" Pee Wee Herman and Napoleon Dynamite just below the top 10, but I'm shocked at the omission of cartoon classic Jerry Mouse (with Gene Kelly). (I forgave Hanna & Barbera many of their later sins for this)
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:48 PM on November 3 [2 favorites]


"You Can Leave Your Hat On" from The Full Monty
"You Make My Dreams Come True" from 500 Days of Summer
posted by kirkaracha at 1:51 PM on November 3 [2 favorites]


Fun list. Like materialgirl, I'm a sucker for the scene from Simple Men. Also for pure metal madness Wild at Heart.
posted by gwint at 1:52 PM on November 3 [3 favorites]


That “Jumpin’ Jive” ... damn. Incredible, the leapfrog to splits on the staircase, the split slide, the way their coattails pop up to punctuate the downbeat...

Doing all this with tux and tails without (visibly) sweating! Going from full splits on the floor to standing in one motion without using their arms! I get about 10 seconds into their routine before seeing a move that would leave me permanently injured.

And despite the seemingly testicle-shattering descent down the stairs, both guys had children.
posted by kirkaracha at 1:56 PM on November 3 [5 favorites]


The rehearsal of "La Tabacalera" from Carlos Saura's Carmen. (Works on two levels in the film, as the choreographer [Antonio Gades] is dangerously obsessed with the dancer playing Carmen [Laura del Sol], and he interprets the dynamics between her and his usual principal dancer, the woman in black [Cristina Hoyos], through that light.)

Incidentally, Dailymotion was not being cooperative for me on Chrome this afternoon, so maybe try a different browser.
posted by thomas j wise at 2:07 PM on November 3 [3 favorites]


Just for fun, ”I Got Life”, from Hair.
posted by young_simba at 2:10 PM on November 3 [2 favorites]


I'm working right now, so I'm not going to hunt down the clip, but speaking of Hair--how about the end credits to The 40-Year Old Virgin?
posted by duffell at 2:15 PM on November 3


"Puttin' on the Ritz" from Young Frankenstein
"You Can't Stop the Beat" from Hairspray
posted by kirkaracha at 2:23 PM on November 3 [7 favorites]


The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In
posted by kirkaracha at 2:24 PM on November 3 [1 favorite]


Cool recent ones:

Black Coal, Thin Ice
pretty much all of The Fits
there's one I love in L for Leisure that isn't online anywhere
posted by edeezy at 2:27 PM on November 3 [1 favorite]


Well, there's certainly a basis for argument (I mean American Psycho?) and if Prince gets a spot on the list, which I fully agree with, then surely there's room for David Byrne's Life During Wartime in Stop Making Sense...

But goddamn if they didn't get it right with The Lindy Hop from Hellzapoppin. I didn't know humans could do that. I wish I'd known you could dance like that when I was young enough to dance like that.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 2:41 PM on November 3


Blood Wedding is a Saura production, a flamingo ballet based on a tragic folk tale. Just a dance company in rehearsal studio but intense, my favorite of his.
posted by sammyo at 3:18 PM on November 3 [2 favorites]


...and anyone who's actually seen "Saturday Night Fever" will tell you that while Stayin Alive may be an iconic song, its barely a dance number. The number that actually qualifies as the Tony Manero showpiece is "You Should Be Dancin'".
posted by BigBrooklyn at 3:34 PM on November 3 [8 favorites]


That Lindy Hop scene from Hellzapoppin’ never ceases to amaze me. The way the women are tossed around so violently actually scares me sometimes. But, man, that’s some nuts stuff.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:56 PM on November 3


the Nicholas Brothers' "Jumpin' Jive" from Stormy Weather

I'd seen bits of that from the "Uptown Funk" mashup video, but the whole thing is flat-out incredible! The only thing more amazing than the repeated splits is that glide-upward recovery after each one. Damn.
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:57 PM on November 3 [3 favorites]


> kirkaracha:
"Regret to inform they missed the best one, the Nicholas Brothers' "Jumpin' Jive" from Stormy Weather , which Fred Astaire called the greatest dance number ever filmed."

You had me at Cab Calloway. Then I watched the video. Amazing stuff.
posted by Samizdata at 4:16 PM on November 3 [1 favorite]


Nothing from La La Land. Perfect.
posted by oluckyman at 4:29 PM on November 3 [6 favorites]


No Nicholas Brothers!!?!? Shameful.

No Donald O' Connor? Come on!

And no Eleanor Powell? Absolutely not right at all! If there was an individual dancer I'd say was better than Fred Astaire, it was Eleanor Powell.
posted by droplet at 5:23 PM on November 3 [6 favorites]


that was fun.

bonus Denis Lavant madness
posted by hototogisu at 6:00 PM on November 3 [2 favorites]


My 50 greatest dance performances in film would include the classical dance by Kamala Lakshman in 1956 Bollywood comedy Chori Chori, because it is exquisite. But Ima forgive this list for now because they include The Red Shoes and Beau Travail.
posted by glasseyes at 6:03 PM on November 3 [2 favorites]


Hmm, a film about an all-ages troupe of accordion playing assassins, interesting.
posted by glasseyes at 6:09 PM on November 3


I'll accept about 1/3 of this list as dance scenes. But . . .

no Tap Challenge Scene with Gregory Hines, Sammy Davis, Sandman Slim, one of the Nicholas Bros., and more amazing tap dancers.

I agree with the folk who mentioned Carlos Saura as missing from this list.

There are so many other scenes than the ones on this guy's list,most of which are pretty bad.
posted by MovableBookLady at 6:18 PM on November 3 [2 favorites]


You just can't beat a bunch of Chicagoans shaking a tail feather to Ray Charles.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 6:31 PM on November 3 [2 favorites]


Well, there's lots to add, maybe I can think of some more:

Baryshnikov verses chair: a young man & death, White Nights (1985)
Townies verses sailors June is bustin out all over, Carousel (1956)
Socialite verses gravity: Lullaby of Broadway, Gold Diggers of 1935
Boy verses affluence: Who will Buy? Oliver (1968)
posted by ovvl at 6:31 PM on November 3 [3 favorites]


Oh god, The Lady in the Tutti-Frutti Hat might be the only video I've seen that starts out with a capuchin monkey chorus line.
posted by ChuraChura at 6:58 PM on November 3 [2 favorites]


I don't think I'd try to make a case that it deserves to be on this list, but, man, the wedding dance scene at the end of Hitch always puts a smile on my face.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 6:59 PM on November 3 [1 favorite]


I don't think I'd try to make a case that it deserves to be on this list, but, man, the wedding dance scene at the end of Hitch always puts a smile on my face.

I am a sucker for a movie-ending dance.
posted by Orlop at 7:06 PM on November 3


The Lindy Hoppers always blow my mind.

This list is sadly missing the Paso Doble scene from Strictly Ballroom.
posted by fshgrl at 7:52 PM on November 3 [9 favorites]


I am a sucker for a movie-ending dance.

If you're also keen on violent displays of swordsmanship by blind masseurs, then The Blind Swordsman: Zatôichi from 2003 has you covered.
posted by gusottertrout at 7:59 PM on November 3 [2 favorites]


The tap vs ballet scene in White Nights between Baryshnikov and Hines
posted by sammyo at 9:25 PM on November 3 [5 favorites]


Christopher Walken's routine in Pennies from Heaven may or may not be one of the "best," but it's... something. It's something.
posted by Phobos the Space Potato at 9:53 PM on November 3 [6 favorites]


I have a soft spot for the Grand Central Station scene from The Fisher King. The choreography may not be as spectacular as the entries on this list, but it makes up for it with sheer delight.

Real life should have moments like that.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 3:15 AM on November 4 [3 favorites]


Thank you for posting this. I'm going to open a bottle of wine this evening and watch every single scene in the original link, plus all those in the comments. (Yes, my wild days are behind me.)
posted by she's not there at 10:43 AM on November 4 [3 favorites]


Strictly Ballroom is only an honorable mention?

There's been a disqualification. Would Wrong List and partner please... leave the floor!
posted by BeeDo at 9:02 PM on November 4 [3 favorites]


Incomplete without Cria Cuervos.
posted by remembrancer at 7:00 AM on November 5 [1 favorite]


Needs Catherine Zeta Jones' smoking All That Jazz - Chicago
posted by genuinely curious at 7:46 AM on November 5


Although I deeply admire the non-snobbishness of this list, it does not include "Troy Bolton wonders about the complexity of the human spirit while basketball dancing" from High School Musical or “Troy Bolton writhing on a golf course” from High School Musical 2, so it missed out on some real cinematic genius.

(And that's not even mentioning "Ryan and Chad argue about the existence of bisexuality while swing dancing a baseball game" from HSM 2! I mean, come on.)
posted by a fiendish thingy at 8:46 AM on November 5 [1 favorite]


Needs Catherine Zeta Jones' smoking All That Jazz - Chicago

As you wish.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:11 AM on November 5


I wasn't expecting it to be high on the list, hell it could have been in the 20 honorable mentions at the bottom, but no, Starlord's pelvic sorcery didn't even make the cut.
posted by radwolf76 at 12:27 PM on November 5


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