“Girls Just Want To Have Fun” (1985)
Dance Style: Pop Jazz
Rival Crews: Both Janey (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Natalie (Holly Gagnier) are vying for a prized position as a Dance TV regular, and will stop at nothing to get that spot.
Who Got Served? Of course, since it’s a tie between Janey and Natalie (and their respective partners), it comes down to a good old fashioned dance-off. Janey and love interest Jeff (Lee Montgomery) pull out all the stops, including the “Dirty Dancing” overhead lift, and even several Olympic floor routine-worthy tumbling passes. Needless to say, Natalie, despite that sparkly leotard, gets served. The icing on the cake is SJP’s best friend, played by Helen Hunt with truly disturbing bangs, driving a horse and chariot onto the dance floor for some reason.
See Also: Parker is even bouncier in the audition scene.
"Planet B-Boy" (2007)
Dance Style: Breakdancing, or as the practitioners call it, B-Boy
Rival Crews: Japan's Ichigeki and South Korea's Last For One face off for first place in the the documentary about the international breakdancing contest that inspired "Battle of the Year" (Benson Lee directs both films too).
Who Got Served? While Last For One takes first prize in the contest for their more straightforward hip hop and breaking, Ichigeki takes Best Show for their incredibly creative and boundary-pushing performance, incorporating modern dance movement, samurai philosophy and performance art into their work. In a particularly moving moment, Ichigeki crew member Katsu strokes the dance floor in a gesture of mourning for his father. Still, the athleticism and precision of Last For One cannot be denied.
See Also: Well, "Battle of the Year," we guess (trailer here). We can't help but feel there might be a slight less all-Asian feel to the fictionalized finale, but since director Benson Lee's clearly loves this world, we're hopeful the dances will deliver.
“Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” (1954)
Dance Style: Barndancing
Rival Crews: The six unmarried brothers who’ve come down from their farm to show off their newly-acquired mad dance skillz at a barnraising, vs the stuffy, “respectable” suitors courting the girls they like. We realize this pick might not have a whole lot of street cred but actually watch this scene and tell us that, with the dissing of the other “crew” and the athleticism of some of the moves (the beam work is especially impressive, not to mention the leapfrogging) this scene doesn’t belong in the Dance-Off pantheon.
Who Got Served? Oh, the grey-clad original suitors get handed their marching orders when the disputed womenfolk leap into the arms of the respective brothers. And then it devolves into a fight. And then the brothers kidnap the women and basically hold them hostage until they fall for them, Stockholm syndrome-style. Thus proving that it’s not just the worst excesses of hip-hop culture that can lay claim to violence and endemic misogyny. Yee-haw!
See Also: Director Stanley Donen had some kind of uncanny genius for staging dance scenes and while we'd be hard pressed to count them as dance-offs, needless to say Gene Kelly vs. A Lamppost and Donald O'Connor vs. A Wall in Donen's "Singin' in the Rain" are among our favorites ever.
“House Party” (1990)
Dance Style: Hip Hop, while Martin Lawrence DJs
Rival Crews: Kid ‘n’ Play (Christopher Reid and Christopher Martin) versus their lady loves Sydney (Tisha Campbell) & Sharane (AJ Johnson). While certainly not as bitter a rivalry as some others on this list, the scene certainly features some fantastic moves, in a dance-off that is, like the whole damn film, refreshingly good-humored and exuberant.
Who Got Served? Weeeell, clearly Kid ‘n’ Play win out as they get the last move (which is kind of like getting the last word in an argument) but we’ve gotta show our gender bias and give Sharane and Sydney props for rising to the challenge and for doing it, in Sharane’s case, in a yellow, cinched-waist, thigh-length unitard that maybe 4 people born of woman on Planet Earth could ever have gotten away with.
See Also: Anything except the “House Party” sequels which will make you sad.
Dance Style: Streetdance with ballet elements
Rival Crews: Initially, it’s the ballet dancers vs. the street dancers as a visionary ballet teacher (Charlotte Rampling) allows a scrappy street troupe headed by Carly (Nichola Burley) to use her rehearsal space on condition they include her stuck-up ballet dancers in the troupe. But, in a development that will surprise no one who has ever seen a dance movie ever, it turns out that Ballet and Street are not as incompatible as they first thought and soon they bond. Then the real battle emerges, between the newly-minted Breaking Point and the reigning kings of the U.K. streetdance scene The Surge.
Who Got Served? With “Britain’s Got Talent” alumni, real-life troupes Diversity and Flawless making up the majority of the cast, we’re actually kind of hard pushed to pick a winner, as the dance scenes are pretty great. However, narrative dictates that at the end it’s Breaking Point’s day and, despite some iffy camera work in the finale that means we’re not always looking at what we want to see, we’re happy to call it their way too.
See Also: "Streetdance 2," made 2 years later has a pretty cool salsa dance-off in a boxing ring.
The lines occasionally blur between dance competition and dance-off, but we tried to stick mostly to the latter, which involves some kind of one-on-one battling, so the famous twist from "Pulp Fiction," the audition from "Flashdance," the sequences from "Dirty Dancing" and both "Hairspray" movies didn't quite make the grade, although we love them all—and many of them were featured in our broader 25 iconic dance scenes feature. And while the dance-off phenomenon has also spawned a great deal of other -offs in moviedom, like the walk-off ("Zoolander"); rap-off ("8 Mile); riff-off ("Pitch Perfect"); and the cheer-off ("Bring It On") we decided to keep it to dancing for now.
However just as frequently as it's been affectionately co-opted, the purity of the form has been degraded by lazy screenwriters going for a cheap gag in lackluster comedies like "Starsky and Hutch," "White Chicks," "Disaster Movie," "Don't Be A Menace To South Central While Drinking Your Juice In The Hood," "Take Me Home Tonight," "American Wedding" and "Bride Wars" to name just a few. And in case you hadn't noticed, we take our dance-offs way too seriously to have anything to do with any of those. Still, though, we're not quite sure what to do with this clip from "Once Bitten" in which two women, one of whom is Lauren Hutton, vie for the attentions of Jim Carrey, but it's the sort of thing you just have to share so here you go.
Aaaaand, boom, we're out, yo. Any bitches fronting about our selections can throw down in the comments or in the nearest empty swimming pool. Otherwise, see you at regionals. --Jessica Kiang, Katie Walsh