Top 10 Dance Films of All Time

Dance in film has been a box office record-breaking phenomenon ever since the 1930s with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. For years these movies have reflected society at the time and brought head bobbing and toe tapping to audiences worldwide. The Marks Summers team has compiled a list of what we see as the most inclusive list of the best dance films ever made. 


The 10 Most Revolutionary Dance Films of All Time (in chronological order, because ranking them is just too hard)

Top Hat (1935)
Although Shall We Dance (1937) and Swing Time (1936) are highly acclaimed among the Fred Astaire-Ginger Roger duo films, Top Hat reigns supreme. The film has several memorable songs written by Irving Berlin, including “Cheek to Cheek” and “Top Hat, White Tie, and Tails,” with seamless dance numbers to accompany them. Astaire was the master of the art of filming in one continuous shot which made the scenes far more captivating.
Singin’ In The Rain (1952)
After Fred Astaire came Gene Kelly, who danced in the rain through a 103 ºF (39.4 ºC) fever in order to film the title number of Singin’ In The Rain. The film is regarded as probably the most popular film of all time and includes many famous numbers in addition to the title song such as “Good Mornin’” and “Make ‘Em Laugh.” Alongside Mr. Kelly was 19-year-old Debbie Reynolds at the very beginning of her long and prosperous career. 
West Side Story (1961)
West Side Story was the first in a string of movie musicals during the 1960s, preceding My Fair Lady (1964), Mary Poppins (1964), The Sound of Music (1965) and more. This was one of the first films to use dance as storytelling. In this case, the tension between the Jets and the Sharks was shown in combative and aggressively stylised choreography. It is popular because of it’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’-esque plot and famous songs. It won 11 Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director, making it the musical film with the most Academy wins. 
Saturday Night Fever (1977)
Disco, dancing, and John Travolta. What more could you want in a film? Saturday Night Fever was recently chosen for the US National Film Registry because of it’s cultural and historical significance. Not to mention John Travolta’s transition from a dance extraordinaire to a sex icon.  The film features a soundtrack by the BeeGees for which it won a Grammy Award for Album of the Year.
Fame (1980)
The 80’s were the breakout years for dance films starting right away with Fame. This documentary style picture follows the lives of students attending the High School of Performing Arts. It is unique because several of the characters are played by actual students and teachers at the school, past and present. The title song, sung by Irene Cara and written by Michael Gore, won an Oscar for Best Song, as did Gore’s score for the film. It also combined several genres of dance into one movie which had rarely done before now. 
Flash Dance (1983)
This cult classic may not be the most successful movie in regards to robust plot or characters, but it is very advanced in movie editing and dance technique. Although the lead character of Alex is portrayed by Jennifer Beals, the film seamlessly cuts to dance double Marine Jahan for most of the intense dance routines. They even disguised a man to perform the breakdancing tricks during the final audition number. Talk about dedication!
Footloose (1984)
A big city boy moves to a small town run by a strict minister…could be cliche until you add a young Kevin Bacon showing off his moves on the big screen! This cult classic showcases hit songs like “Let’s Hear It For The Boy” and the title number “Footloose.” The film has since sparked a stage adaptation and a remake of the film in 2011 starring Julianne Hough. Fun fact: Kevin Bacon was the fourth choice for the role after Tom Cruise, Rob Lowe, and Christopher Atkins. Madonna also auditioned for the role of Ariel, but Lori Singer beat her out. 
Dirty Dancing (1987)
This low-budget film that was intended to last one weekend ended up becoming a box office hit, grossing more than $170 million (£130 million) worldwide. Dirty Dancing is the one of the first movies to focus on partner dancing in different styles, featuring a young Patrick Swayze in his breakout role alongside Jennifer Grey, daughter of acting legend Joel Grey. The director of the film consciously wanted to cast dancers that could act, in contrast to Flash Dance, so there was almost no editing on the big dance numbers. Plus, the Academy and Grammy-winning song “Time of My Life” is still heard regularly today.
Billy Elliot (2000)
The first film to showcase children as dancers, this British drama won 3 BAFTAs, including Best Actor for 14-year-old Jamie Bell and Best Supporting Actress for Julie Waters. It is ranked among the best British films of all time because of the way it deals with other topics besides Billy’s desire to dance, including the miner’s strike. The movie leaves you laughing and tapping your toes one moment and crying at the harshness and realness of the story at the next. 
Step Up (2006)
Starring breakout hottie Channing Tatum, Step Up brings together a combination of hip hop and ballet. The movie sparked a total of 4 sequels over the next ten years, including new cast members and dance styles, and a web series spin off. It is also iconic because the 3 years after the movie debuted, the two lead actors, Tatum and Jenna Dewan were married in real life and are still married today.


Honorable Mentions from the picks of the MS team:

Shall We Dance (1937)
An American in Paris (1951)
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)
Grease (1978)
Xanadu (1980)
Girls Just Want To Have Fun (1985)
You Got Served (2004)
Stomp the Yard (2007)
Magic Mike (2012)
So if you’re looking for a good movie to cozy up to on a Saturday night, check out any of these and we guarantee you’ll be entertained!

By Lindsey Davis, current Intern at Mark Summers Casting & Management
Follow me on Instagram: @davislindsey
Follow the team on Twitter: @MS_Artists and Instagram: @marksummerscasting_mgt

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