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25 Iconic Dance Sequences In Film

by The Playlist Staff
December 3, 2010 6:05 AM
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"You Got Served" (2004)
No Dance Feature would be complete without the inclusion of the hugely influential 2004 film, "You Got Served," the Godfather of the wildly popular 2000s genre, the Dance Battle Film. Where would our culture be without "You Got Served"? Would we even have "Step Up 2: The Streets"? "Stomp The Yard?" "Planet B-Boy?" "America's Best Dance Crew?" "So You Think You Can Dance?" "Dancing with the Stars?" Justin Bieber's Swagger Coach?! Would the world love dance as much as they do now? Perish the thought. From the opening seconds of the film, "You Got Served" introduced the world to our newest favorite pastime, the dance battle, and defined those parameters on their own terms. Pounding bass, acrobatics, gender play, mockery, humor, high stakes intensity, and moves that are both gritty and rough but finessed with expertise. And don't forget the most important ingredient: swagger for days. Sure, there are better dance battles on film-- showier, in 3D, with more crazy acrobatics-- David LaChappelle truly captured the essence of krumping on celluloid in "Rize", and the Ichigeki crew of Japan demonstrated the most emotionally-moving, samurai-like intensity in their breakdancing in "Planet B-Boy," but "You Got Served' showed us how the game is played, and reminded us that it's cool for guys to dance. Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly are smiling down on you, boys.

Honorable Mentions: One of the biggest absences here is probably the finale of "42nd Street," one of the earliest, and still arguably one of the best movie musicals, and one of Busby Berkeley's best pieces of work. "West Side Story" and "Mary Poppins" are both classic musicals stacked full of great dance scenes (the picks would probably be "America" in the former and "Step In Time" in the latter.)

Baz Luhrmann's a pretty great exponent of the art-form, with the tango to "Roxanne" in "Moulin Rouge" being a highlight of that one, although our personal pick would probably be the final dance in "Strictly Ballroom." Stephen Daldry's "Billy Elliot" is another somewhat obvious one, particularly with the dance to The Jam's "A Town Called Malice," while "The Breakfast Club" features a particularly iconic dance.

More recently, both "Slumdog Millionaire" and "(500) Days of Summer" had memorable dance scenes, although perhaps our favorite in recent years came in the charming end to "Fantastic Mr. Fox," as the stop-motion woodland creatures bust a move to The Bobby Fuller Four's "Let Her Dance." There's countless others we didn't get to -- what are your favorites?

BTW, for more awesome musical moment pics, not necessarily dance sequences but definitely some involved, check out "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World" director Edgar Wright's "Top Ten Favorite Musicals (& Five Rock 'N' Roll Movies)," a feature he wrote for us himself earlier this year.

-- Drew Taylor, Gabe Toro, Katie Walsh, Oli Lyttelton, Rodrigo Perez, Christopher Bell, Erik McClanahan, Jessica Kiang, Kevin Jagernauth

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More: Films, Feature, Black Swan

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  • Katie | February 2, 2011 6:32 AMReply

    The Seven Brides for Seven Brothers Barn Raising dance number has to be in this conversation. PERIOD. :)

  • Willem van der Plas | December 6, 2010 9:33 AMReply

    best boney m moment ever:
    From Shanghai Dreams

  • Larry Billman | December 5, 2010 12:30 AMReply

    A great - and very provocative- list. The minute you ask for "Iconic" or "Best," it all depends on the age and exposure to dance scenes in film. And what resonates with the viewer. Is it the stars, the characters and the arc they make, the emotion, the movement, the story? And, what is a "Dance?" Is it the over-30-minute-long waltz scene in "The Leopard?" The dizzying and emotionally powerful waltz in "Madame Bovary?" Or is it when Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze simply get into a dance position as he materializes in "Ghost?" How about the finest leg kicking, high-flying, girl tossing, plot developing dance ever in film: the "Barn Raising" in "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers?" Thanks for opening heads, as we all start thinking about our favorite dances. And THAT IS A GOOD THING. Too many forget what "dance" can do in film.

  • debra levine | December 4, 2010 11:11 AMReply

    Really appreciate this great effort, and the scope of it, but, come on guys, no Jack Cole? Without whom there would be no Bob Fosse? Jack Cole, the great forgotten genius of dance choreography for film?

    Obvious starting Point: "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend" But there is so much more!

  • John Hickey | December 4, 2010 6:21 AMReply

    I think you made an error in leaving out David Lynch's "Do The Locomotion" scene in Inland Empire.

  • Eliza | December 4, 2010 6:20 AMReply

    Great list! I agree that there should probably be some Busby Berkeley in there somewhere, and I would add maybe A Clockwork Orange's "Singin' in the Rain" and "The Time Warp" from Rocky Horror. I'm sure I could think of a million more. I may have to go through my collection...

  • MikeD | December 4, 2010 2:40 AMReply

    Also the cafe muller scene (opening scene) from Talk to her (2002)

  • Mz | December 3, 2010 10:06 AMReply

    Dancer in the Dark? The factory AND the court scenes a beautifully depressing~

  • NickL | December 3, 2010 7:44 AMReply

    Where is the triumphant climactic dance scene from Napoleon Dynamite?

  • JoeB | December 3, 2010 6:55 AMReply

    Great stuff- though I was really hoping the great jukebox scene near the end of "Y Tu Mama Tambien" would make the list

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