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Best Known Dance Films

Mar 5, 2008
Ever since Al Jolson spoke the first words on screen in 1927's The Jazz Singer, singing and dancing have been a big part of the movies. Here are some of the best-known films involving dancing over the years:

Saturday Night Fever (1977): John Travolta became an icon in this tale of a working-class Brooklyn guy who comes alive when he hits the dance floor each night. The Bee Gees-saturated soundtrack became one of the best-selling albums of all time, and Travolta's white disco suit was later purchased by film critic Gene Siskel. Travolta has since become known for dancing in many of his biggest hits, including Grease and Pulp Fiction. A sequel to this film, Stayin' Alive, was directed by Sylvester Stallone, though it proved unsuccessful with critics and audiences.

Flashdance (1983): Jennifer Beals became a star in this story of welder who burns off steam as an exotic dancer by night, all while dreaming of becoming a ballerina. Ironically, Beals didn't do her own dancing in this film; clever editing and photography let several doubles, including a gymnast and a man, perform her most complicated moves. Like Fever, this had a hit soundtrack, highlighted by the Oscar-winning "What a Feeling."

Footloose (1984): Though Kevin Bacon has gone on to play many other types of roles (and starred with nearly every other actor in Hollywood in the process), for many fans, he'll be best-known for this peppy tale of a teen who finds himself in a small town where a zealous reverend (John Lithgow) has outlawed dancing. This had yet another hit soundtrack, which spawned two number-one hits and sold 15 million copies.

Dirty Dancing (1987): This surprise hit about a young woman (Jennifer Grey) who finds love on the dance floor with a fleet-footed dance instructor (Patrick Swayze) while on vacation also won an Oscar for best song ("I've Had the Time of My Life") and became a sensation, inspiring a short-lived TV series and a live stage show. It was also responsible for boosting attendance in dance classes across the country. Ironically, Grey and Swayze had worked together before on the action film Red Dawn - and couldn't stand each other.

Save the Last Dance (2001): Julia Stiles and Sean Patrick Thomas star in this tale of a former ballerina who gains the inspiration to dance again when learning the style of a local dance club. The film became a huge hit with fans of MTV, which produced the film. It wound up grossing nearly 10 times its budget in the U.S. alone.

Step Up (2006): Despite little advance hype, this story of a dancer (Jenna Dewan) who becomes involved with a street tough sentenced to do community service at the Maryland School of the Arts, became a surprise hit, grossing almost double its budget in its first weekend. A sequel, Step Up 2 the Streets, was released in early 2008, featuring different characters but set against the same backdrop. It's enjoyed similar success so far - meaning that more Step Up films might be on their way soon.
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