"Dirty Dancing" (1987)
So we can all just agree that the end of "Dirty Dancing" is the greatest end to a movie ever right? Is there anything more satisfying than watching Johnny remove Baby from the corner, take her onstage for a shining moment of mambo, they nail the lift, and everyone joins in for a group dance, even lovable curmudgeon Jerry Orbach? Rhetorical question, nope, there is nothing more satisfying. So yes, we love "Time of My Life" and it makes us happy every time we watch it. But let us not forget the cute "Hey Lover Boy,", which is a perfect example of adding a little dance to a scene and making it sexy, funny and flirtatious. The training montage to "Hungry Eyes," and the mambo scene where Johnny teaches Baby how to dirty dance for the first time are also fun, but come on, we watch this movie over and over for "Time of My Life." Just search YouTube to see how many people have attempted this at their own weddings.
Dance movies that are NOT musicals sometimes ask the viewer to suspend a lot of disbelief in the process-- of course there's a choreographed routine at the prom, a la "She's All That," (true confessions time: this writer actually did do this). "Footloose" is no exception to this phenomenon. Yes, when the ban on dancing is finally lifted in this little podunk Midwestern town, there are somehow kids busting the Bronx's best breakdancing moves -- just go with it, ok? On the more realistic end of things, we are partial to the sweet "Let's Hear it For the Boy," where Kevin Bacon teaches Chris Penn (Sean's dearly departed bro) how to actually dance. Of course, he busts out some overly advanced tricks for a kid who just learned how to snap, but we suggest swiping some of Penn's random-er dance moves for your next wedding reception. However, if we HAD to choose one (this was a real Sophie's Choice; we wish this entire feature was about "Footloose," we haven't even mentioned Sarah Jessica Parker yet!) we'd have to say the more iconic number is also the most outlandish-- Bacon's Olympic-worthy gymnastics (there is a high bar portion) angry dance in the barn to "Never" by Moving Pictures. Ever felt so frustrated and stifled there's nothing left to do but dance it out? "Never" is the epitome of that feeling and Bacon's sweaty, acid-washed intensity (coupled with the athleticism of his dance double) just makes it all work. We buy it.
We'll include “Flashdance” even though Jennifer Beals barely did any dancing other than shimmying that mop of hair around (the heavy lifting was done by a dance double). Fun fact: “Flashdance” was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and the dance numbers are executed like bombastic action sequences. The famous water bucket scene in the strip club is all back-lighting and flying water droplets; the climactic “What a Feeling” is a gold standard of the finest '80s choreography has to offer (see also, “Cats,” “Stayin’ Alive”), but the "She's a Maniac" rehearsal number, which configures Alex’s body as a sinewy finely-tuned machine, is really the one that has left the most indelible impression on pop culture. Much like “Footloose,” this is the dancer all alone, just dancing for the sake of sanity, the filmmaker using the dance to illustrate this aspect of the character. Turns out David Cronenberg and Brian DePalma both turned down the director's chair before Adrian Lyne stepped up to the plate and it would be fascinating to see what those other two guys might have turned out with the story of a girl with big dreams working as a welder by day and an exotic dancer by night. It's still one of the most iconic '80s dance films, was a huge box office smash, AND it also introduced the world to break dancing with a short cameo by the Rock Steady Crew.