Our Favourite Dance Movies

We take a look back at some of the great movies about moving your feet

STEP UP: ALL IN is released in Irish cinemas this week. The film reunites some of the great stars of the previous films, and reminds us that dance has always been a big screen spectacular. With this in mind, we decided to take a look back at some of the greatest dance movies…


The first film in Baz Luhrmann’s Red Curtain Trilogy focuses on a young ballroom dancer who wants to dance his own steps, and a young woman with little dance experience. The two team up and, of course, decide to take on the establishment at the Pan-Pacific Competition.
Luhrmann’s film follows all the conventions of the romantic comedy, and at times, is highly predictable, but it is also brilliantly funny, utterly over the top and a whole lot of fun. The soundtrack is also outstanding, including such classic songs as Love Is In The Air , Doris Day’s Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps and a lovely cover of Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time.


Although not strictly a dance movie, it is hard to deny the influence that Gene Kelly’s films had, not only on Hollywood, but audience’s expectations of musicals, dancing and romance.
In AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, Gene Kelly plays Jerry, an American who has relocated to Paris in the hopes of realising his dream to be a painter. While there, Jerry meets Lise (Leslie Caron) and the two fall in love. The trouble is, Lise is already engaged to another man, a man who she feels indebted to. In typical gene Kelly style, Jerry eventually wins the girl through an elaborate dance number, one which cemented Kelly’s reputation in Hollywood, and reminded us that extended dance dream sequences may not make much sense, but are a joy to watch.


During the miners’ strike in the 1980s, young Billy Elliot (Jamie Bell) develops a fondness for ballet dancing, and is believed to have the potential to become a professional. His family, however, have different ideas and, fearing that Billy will be negatively labelled as a male dancer, they try to get him to take up a more manly pastime. After seeing his son dance, however, Billy’s father realises that his son is truly talented, and resolves to do what it takes to allow his son to live his dream.
As well as being a highly successful movie, BILLY ELLIOT has been made into a West End stage show and, presumably, has inspired dancers all around the world.


Nina (Natalie Portman) is a young ballet dancer, determined to be the lead in a production of Swan Lake. The pressure to be as uninhibited as Lily (Mila Kunis) – another dancer in the company – begins to get to Nina, and it is not long before strange things begin to happen around her, and her mental health begins to suffer.
Natalie Portman won an Oscar for her role as the put-upon Nina, and deservedly so. Both Portman and Kunis trained in ballet for months, and the dance scenes are truly spectacular. The film was praised as a look at the world of competitive dancing, as well as an examination of the pressures we put ourselves under in order to succeed.


Now regarded as a classic dance movie, DIRTY DANCING stars Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey in a coming of age story infused with dance.
Baby (Jennifer Grey) is on holiday with her family when she falls in love with a dance instructor at the resort. Against her father’s wishes, Baby learns to dance and intends to perform at an upcoming show.
Although the film was not hugely well received when it was initially released, DIRTY DANCING was a hit among audiences, and became the first film to sell a million copies on video. There were rumours of a remake in 2011, but these have since died down. The stage show, however, continues to tour the world.


STEP UP: ALL IN is released in Irish cinemas on August 1st, 2014

Words: Brogen Hayes