Captivating Choreography — 21 Movies That Dancers Need To Watch

Over the years, the silver screen has brought us a myriad of breathtaking dance movies that showcase the passion, skill, and sheer joy of movement.

From iconic classics to contemporary gems, here is our curated list of the best dance movies to enjoy!

Courtesy of iMDb

Flashdance

Released in 1983, Flashdance tells the story of Alex Owens who welds steel in the day and is a cabaret performer in the night.

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She has a long-standing dream of becoming a ballerina but with no prior background and a fear of failure, she doesn’t go through with an audition for a prestigious dance conservatory multiple times. However, she’s determined to try after the support of her boss and mentor.

Flashdance is also one of the first movies to feature Breaking when it was on the rise.

Courtesy of iMDb

Step Up

One that every dancer (and non-dancer) has probably watched a couple of times before. A movie-turned-franchise, Step Up explores different plots for dancers to rise to the occasion.

Starting off with Step Up (2006), where Tyler Gage is disadvantaged for vandalising a performing arts school but later receives the opportunity to partner with up-and-coming dancer, Nora Clark, and a shot for a scholarship.

Courtesy of People

Black Swan

Nina is a ballerina all-consumed with dance, especially being part of a New York City ballet school and having a mother who is an over-bearing former ballerina that projects her unattained dreams.

When the new season of Swan Lake has the prima ballerina spot open, Nina proves to be the first choice but comes into competition with a new dancer, Lily.

Courtesy of The New Yorker

This rivalry alongside the pressures of perfectionism pushes Nina to grow more in touch with her dark side, but only serves to destroy her.

Natalie Portman’s mesmerising performance, coupled with the film’s psychological intensity and stunning choreography, makes it a classic and a must-watch!

Courtesy of Chronicle Live

Billy Elliot

11-year-old Billy Elliot, a coal miner’s son in Northern England, is forever changed when he stumbles upon an all-girls ballet class during his weekly boxing lesson.

Before long, he finds himself in dance, demonstrating the kind of raw talent seldom seen by the class-exacting instructor, Mrs. Wilkinson and she finds her zest for teaching is revived when she sees Billy’s potential.

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Five years later, this movie was turned into a musical performed for Victoria Palace Theatre and all the way to Broadway. The captivating stage adaptation featured Tom Holland in the title role.

With music by Elton John and powerful choreography, the show explores themes of resilience, self-discovery, and breaking down societal barriers. Tom Holland’s remarkable talent shines as he brings Billy Elliot to life on the stage, captivating audiences with his electrifying dance skills and undeniable charisma.

The story of Billy Elliot is a moving and uplifting production that celebrates the transformative power of following one’s dreams, no matter the obstacles.

Courtesy of Netflix

Burlesque

Similar to Flashdance, Ali is a waitress in Burlesque who aims to become a professional dancer.

After moving to Los Angeles, she finds herself in a burlesque club where she was hired as a waitress and later a dancer. With the financial worries the club was facing alongside internal drama and a potential buyout, Ali does all she can to restore the club to its former glory.

With stellar performances by legendary Cher and Christina Aguilera, Burlesque combines extravagant musical numbers, sultry dance routines, and a tale of empowerment and self-discovery.

The film celebrates the art of burlesque while showcasing the power of talent, determination, and embracing one’s individuality.

Courtesy of iMDb

In The Heights

Directed by Jon M. Chu and based on the Tony Award-winning stage musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the film follows a close-knit community as they navigate their dreams, aspirations, and the challenges of daily life.

Through captivating music, infectious dance numbers, and heartfelt storytelling, the movie explores themes of love, identity, home, and the pursuit of one’s dreams.

With a diverse cast and energetic performances, the film celebrates the power of community, cultural heritage, and the vibrant spirit of the Latinx experience.

It is a joyous and uplifting cinematic experience that resonates with audiences and captures the essence of dreams and hopes to come to life in a bustling urban neighbourhood.

West Side Story

There are two versions of West Side Story that have both left an indelible mark on the world of cinema by showcasing the enduring power of love, the devastating consequences of hate, and the ability of music and dance to transcend boundaries.

The first rendition from 1961 is a masterpiece that reimagines Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The film tells the tale of two rival street gangs, and the ill-fated love between Tony and Maria, members of the opposing factions.

It showcases the conflict, passion, and tragedy of young love caught in the crossfire of racial tensions and social unrest. The film’s enduring legacy lies in its groundbreaking dance sequences, unforgettable songs, and its poignant exploration of love, prejudice, and the consequences of violence.

Courtesy of West Side Story

The 2021 remake is a contemporary adaptation directed by Steven Spielberg.

Starring Ansel Elgort and Rachel Zegler, this modern retelling brings the iconic story to a new generation. The film follows the same heart-wrenching narrative of forbidden love amidst the rival gangs in the modern city of New York.

This new adaptation revitalises the story with its fresh perspective while staying true to the original’s powerful message and musicality.

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Stomp the Yard

Following the tragic death of his brother, DJ is sent to Truth University in hopes of being more responsible.

Being caught between two fraternities and chasing a girl, he learns the importance of black fraternities and sororities and joins the Theta Nu Theta. DJ is reminded of what his brother stood for as he prepares to compete against the Mu Gamma Xi in a stepping competition.

Directed by Sylvain White, the movie is an inspiring celebration of dance and the transformative power it holds.

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Beat Street

Another 80’s movie that first featured breaking, Beat Street revolves around DJ Kenny Kirkland, his B-boy brother, Lee, and graffiti artist Ramon.

They dream of showcasing their talents outside of South Bronx, New York. They are offered the opportunity to perform on tv by composer and choreographer, Tracy Carlson, and the group’s journey to achieving their dreams begins but not without plenty of obstacles to overcome.

Courtesy of iMDb

Grease

Grease takes us back to Rydell High School in the 1950s. Directed by Randal Kleiser, we follow the romance between Danny Zuko and Sandy Olsson.

Performed by John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, set against a backdrop of catchy songs, energetic dance numbers, and leather jackets, the movie captures the exhilarating spirit of teenage love, friendship, and rebellion.

Grease remains a beloved classic, known for its infectious music, timeless fashion, and its ability to transport audiences to a world of youthful exuberance and carefree summer nights.

Courtesy of Parade

Footloose

Ren McCormack moves from Chicago to the small town of Bomont but struggles to fit in when he learned the town has made dancing and rock music illegal.

He decides to pursue an uphill battle to change things with his new friends, Willard and Ariel. He would have to convince the city council to lift the ban on dancing by fighting prejudice and the community’s fire-and-brimstone preacher through dance.

In 2011, a remake of Footloose was released starring Julianne Hough, Miles Teller, and Dennis Quad.

The remake pays homage to the original by keeping the plot and script almost exactly the same while bringing on some improvements.

Adding depth to the characters and the plot, the 2011 version tells the story more intensely by including the events leading up to the dance ban. There is also more tension built among the characters which immerses you further.

Courtesy of iMDb

Dirty Dancing

Frances “Baby” Houseman falls in love with dance instructor Johnny Castle at a Catskills resort.

As “Baby” learns the art of dance and discovers her own strength and independence, she defies societal expectations and embraces her passion for dance, breaking down barriers of class and prejudice along the way.

The film remains a timeless classic that continues to inspire audiences to embrace their true selves and follow their dreams, all set against the backdrop of a summer romance that will leave you longing for more.

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You Got Served

The street dancing world features crew battles so this isn’t foreign to Elgin and David, best friends and leaders of the best dance crew in Los Angeles.

When another town’s top group challenges them to a battle, they must create and perfect the most cutting-edge moves in order to remain on top.

The stakes are raised as friends double-cross each other and true motives are revealed. However, David and Elgin must work past their differences to prove that they are still the best crew on the streets.

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Take the Lead

Pierre Dulaine is a dance instructor in New York who sees a black teenager vandalizing the car of the director of a public school.

The next day, he volunteers to teach dance to students and the reluctant director Augustine James offers the troublemakers that are in detention — expecting Pierre to give up on his intentions.

Pierre struggles against the prejudice and ignorance of the students, parents, and other teachers, but wins his battle when the group accepts to compete in a ballroom dance contest. He melds their Hip-Hop moves with his classical style, helping them create a dance form and, in the process, becoming their mentor.

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Saturday Night Fever

Tony Manero is a teenager in Brooklyn who works at a small paint store and lives in the shadows of his older brother. However, he looks forward to the weekends when he’s the king of the club and local disco, thanks to his stylish moves on the dance floor.

When the club announces a dance competition, he partners up with Stephanie Mangano, whose dreams of the world beyond Brooklyn would change Tony’s life forever.

John Travolta’s electrifying dance moves and the film’s iconic soundtrack make it an absolute must-watch and a jaw-dropping experience!

Courtesy of Culture Trip, The New York Times

Polina

Polina is a French film about a young girl who is accepted into a ballet school at a young age.

Despite her talent, she struggles with her passion for dance. She goes on to explore modern dance but continues to struggle to adapt to choreography.

After facing injuries and numerous unsuccesses, she finds her enjoyment in dance through a few improv classes and eventually finds herself choreographing her own successful piece.

Courtesy of Review Flow

Strictly Ballroom

Baz Luhrmann’s directorial debut tells the story of Scott Hastings, who comes from a family of ballroom dancers but wants to establish a personal style of dancing, which was not accepted as it is not considered ballroom dancing.

He even loses his dance partner three weeks before a competition but found himself a new partner, Fran, who is an overlooked amateur dancer willing to dance Scott’s way.

The unlikely duo tries to win the Championships while showing the community that dance can still evolve and it doesn’t have to be so ‘strictly ballroom’.

Courtesy of iMDb

The Company

The Company provides us with an inside look at the world of ballet, featuring the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago.

With no real star or plot, it follows the stories of the dancers, whose professional and personal lives grow impossibly close, as they cope with the demands of life in the ballet.

The stories express the dedication and hard work that dancers must put into their art, although they are seldom rewarded with fame or fortune.

Courtesy of iMDb

The Turning Point

Two women, Deedee and Emma, had dedicated their lives to ballet.

Deedee had to leave her promising dance career to become a wife and mother and now runs a ballet school in Oklahoma while Emma stayed with a company and became a star.

They both wanted what the other has and reflect on missed chances when Deedee’s daughter joins Emma’s dance company, hence reuniting them.

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Honey

Honey Daniels is a 22-year-old dancer in New York who dreams of making it as a music video choreographer. She teaches Hip-Hop dancing at a local youth centre which encourages the local kids to keep off the streets and out of trouble.

A famous music video director, Michael, casts her in one music video and she’s encouraged to make the transition from dancer to choreographer. But her success comes with a price when Michael demands a physical relationship, or he will sabotage her career by blackballing her out of the business.

With energetic street dance sequences and a charismatic lead performance by Jessica Alba, this film offers an uplifting and empowering story.

Courtesy of Vox

Center Stage

Twelve dancers begin their training at the renowned American Ballet Academy, which wasn’t the life they expected.

They encounter tremendous physical and mental stress while fighting for a coveted spot in a celebrated dance company.

Jody Sawyer has talent but not the ideal body, Eva Rodriguez can’t seem to get along with her instructors and Maureen struggles with enduring the emotional highs and lows that accompany ballet school. Eventually, they learn that dancing is a passion and not a duty.


From sweeping ballet dramas to energetic street dance films, these dance movies offer a kaleidoscope of movement, rhythm, and storytelling.

Whether you’re a fan of classical ballet, Hip-Hop, or ballroom dance, these films celebrate the universal language of dance and its ability to touch our hearts and inspire us.

So grab some popcorn and let these movies transport you to a world of artistry and passion!

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