“Fast Forward” (1985)
Dance Style: '80s streetdancing, a little breaking, a lot of high kicks.
Rival Crews: It’s small-towners with big dreams vs. the big bad city that threatens to eat them alive, in this Sidney Poitier-directed film, as a fame-obsessed troupe from Sandusky, Ohio journey to New York City for their big break. But first, they gotta learn how to survive in the urban jungle, and more specifically in The Zoo, a club that houses the freshest dancers in NYC. First time they go, they get truly schooled, but they return stronger than ever and hellbent on dance floor revenge...
Who Got Served? Second time out and the Zoo residents get a taste of their own medicine as the Ohioans break, pop and high kick rings around them. And, in case you didn’t realize how much more streetwise these kids have become, NUN-CHUCKS. Unfortunately their winning Zoo battle (number 2) is unavailable online so the one below is the less impressive first one, that they lose to the flashy urbanites (conspiracy???).
See Also: Here's where the plucky youngsters win over the upscale attendees at a stuffy convention dinner by sheer force of pep, but really, just try and find the second Zoo battle. The one with the nun-chucks.
“West Side Story” (1961)
Dance Style: Urban Jazz Parkour
Rival Crews: Street gangs The Sharks and The Jets are locked in a bloody race war that they dance out on the streets of New York.
Who Got Served? Love. Love gets served. It’s hard to distinguish who actually wins since this 1950s New York adaptation of “Romeo & Juliet” ends tragically in death for both sides. But that doesn’t mean we don’t get awesome, Jerome Robbins-choreographed and directed dance along the way. Using the urban environment (even if it is a set) as a prop, Robbins creates an energetic and masculine style of dance that seems a natural extension of gesture and movement. This is perfectly laid out in the opening/prologue, when the gangs dance out a turf war, setting the tradition in place for future dance battles. Just play it cool boy, real cool.
See Also: The Gym Mambo number, the film's other dance-off.
“Stomp The Yard” (2007)
Dance Style: Stepping, with a dash of krumping
Rival Crews: Theta Nu Theta and Mu Gamma Xi. Yes. Fraternities. More specifically two rival fraternities from Truth University, of whom the Gammas are the 7-time National Stepping Champions and who are not afraid to play a little dirty to keep their title and their girls (specifically Meaghan Good, the provost’s daughter). Underdogs Theta, on the other hand, recruit DJ (Columbus Short), a talented street dancer nursing guilt that his brother (Chris Brown) was killed in a street-dance-related feud.
Who Got Served? With a plot as un-be-liev-ably formulaic and manipulative as this one (witness DJ getting inspired to pledge by visiting Heritage Hall to look at pictures of Dr. King and Rosa Parks) the dancing had better be good, and it is—it’s actually pretty great, even if those fey fraternity hand gestures are kind of unintentionally hilarious. The climactic battle is terrific as the two frats face off for the championship, matching and one-upping each other brilliantly until DJ (eye-roll) busts his deceased little brother’s signature move to win the title for Theta.
See Also: The opening dance-off, featuring Chris Brown, which, while distractingly shot and hyperedited, is still pretty impressive.
“Beat Street” (1984)
Dance Style: Breakdancing
Rival Crews: The Beat Street Breakers (played by real-life crew the New York City Breakers) vs. The Bronx Rockers (The Rock Steady Crew). They face off most spectacularly (and lengthily) in the Roxy nightclub scene where, helpfully color coded red and blue, members of both crews pull off, one after the other, some of the sickest, freshest, dopest breakdancing moves YOU WILL EVER SEE. The rest of the movie is an interesting 80s artifact about various aspects of emerging hip hop culture, not just dance, but DJing, graffiti art etc., but it’s really the dancing, and this scene in particular, that wins the film a position in the all-time hall of fame.
Who Got Served? The consensus seems to emerge that the Breakers win, but to be honest if anything, we think the Rockers shade this. Not that it really matters because dance is the winner here.
See Also: The subway battle, while shorter, is pretty good too.
“Strictly Ballroom” (1992)
Dance Style: Ballroom. Paso Doble, to be precise.
Rival Crews: While there’s a more direct dance-off earlier in the film, between arrogant but talented young pup Scott (Paul Mercurio) and ugly duckling Fran’s (Tara Morice) gypsy family (in which obviously the preening Scott gets schooled in the nature of dancing with the heart vs. dancing with the feet), it’s the final dance at the Pan-Pacific Championships we have to include here. Fran, whose swan transformation is one of the best achieved in the history of cinema, finally gets to dance with the hunky Scott, and by dancing his new, illegal steps, they take on not only their opponents, but the stuffy Ballroom Establishment (personified by sleazy chairman Barry Fife, complete with Trump-esque tan-and-wig combo).
Who Got Served? In a deliriously crowdpleasing finale (to what some of us consider Baz Lurhmann’s broadest, daftest and best film by a million miles) Scott and Fran stick it to The Man through the sheer amazingness of their routine, which continues to the beat of the audience’s applause, despite disqualification. As the crowd then invades the dancefloor to the tune of “Love is in the Air” in an orgy of renewed Ballroom fervor, we defy you not to want to do the same.
See Also: The final Tango in “Take The Lead."