"Cell Block Tango," Chicago (2002)
This Bob Fosse number manages to be a crowd-pleaser without sacrificing storyline — or sexiness. Murder never looked so good.
"Hot Lunch" Jam, Fame (1980)
How does the student body at the New York High School of Performing Arts spend their lunch break? By spontaneously breaking out into an awesome dance and song number. Thanks, Fame, for making our high school years seem even lamer. Why couldn’t Irene Cara have been in our class?
Barn-raising dance, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)
Okay, so it’s a little implausible that seven misogynistic backwoodsmen could learn manners and the ins and outs of partner dancing in such a short period of time. But don’t think too much about it. Lean back, relax, and enjoy this expertly choreographed scene that features not just stellar dance moves, but stellar dance moves involving axes.
"The Time Warp," Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
You know a dance scene is good when you feel like standing up to boogie along. (Good thing Rocky Horror provides us with an in-depth step-by-step tutorial on exactly how to follow along). Just please leave your gold lamé hot pants at home.
"Moses," Singin' in the Rain (1952)
Oh, Gene Kelly. You make this so hard for us. There were plenty of fantastic dance numbers to choose from when it came to the ’52 musical: there’s Kelly’s classic stroll in the rain, and a lengthy ”Broadway Melody” sequence greatly enhanced by the mere presence of Cyd Charisse’s gams. But the technical precision required of Kelly and Donald O’Connor in this tap-dance duet might trump them all.
Prologue, West Side Story (1961)
We’d be much more willing to hang out with street thugs if they could all relevé like this.
"Time After Time," Romy and Michele's High School Reunion (1997)
We didn’t say the dancers in our favorite dance scenes had to be good. But, c’mon, like you wouldn’t be impressed watching the high school underdogs (Mira Sorvino and Lisa Kudrow) deliver this goofily fun pas de trios. Give respect where respect is due: It ain’t easy to dance in pleather mini-dresses.
Dream ballet, Oklahoma! (1955)
Cowboys and ballet seem to go together about as well as oil and water. But add a little Agnes de Mille — the legendary choreographer who marked the 15-minute dream ballet — and you’ve got a sure-fire classic dance scene. Yee-haw!
Final battle, Stomp the Yard (2007)
Most frat boys spend their free hours perfecting their beer pong aim. The men of Theta Nu Theta spend them perfecting their stepping and krumping. And it’s a good thing — their nail-biting final dance battle definitely brings the house down.
"One," A Chorus Line (1985)
Bow your hats the gold-plated finale of this Broadway-centric musical. Singular sensation, indeed!
''An American in Paris'' Ballet, An American in Paris
Leslie Caron and Gene Kelly shine in this show-stopping ballet set to George Gershwin’s ”An American In Paris.” It’s a whole 18 minutes long, but worth the attention. Simply, c’est magnifique.
''Cheek-to-Cheek,'' Top Hat (1935)
TOP HAT (1935)
Though nearly every Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers dance scene appears flawless, none quite match the sheer brilliance and romance of ”Cheek-to-Cheek.” The pair effortlessly glides across the floor, and Rogers manages to make it look easy — even while being eaten by a ton of feathers.
''Big Spender,'' Sweet Charity (1969)
Spend a little time studying Fosse’s patented understated choreography in the Shirley MacLaine movie, and you’ll understand why the man is one of the most revered choreographers of the 20th century.
Nicholas Brothers, Stormy Weather (1943)
The Nicholas Brothers are proof that everything is better in pairs. In the 1943 film, the duo perform an intricate tap number that even includes leapfrog splits. And when Fred Astaire likes it — he famously called it the best tap dancing ever caught on film — you know it’s good.
"You're the One that I Want," Grease (1978)
How do you celebrate your sweetheart’s (Olivia Newton John) transformation from a nice girl to a promiscuous, chain-smoking girl? With a catchy dance number, of course! (Watch out for flying cars, though!)
The Audition, Flashdance (1983)
Let’s get real here: There’s no way a routine like this would grant you entry into an ABT-esque ballet company. But the breakdance/ballet number certainly has us cheering like maniacs.
Cooper's Dance, Center Stage (2000)
There are several things wrong with the epic finale of Center Stage. (See: the nanosecond-long costume changes; the bizarre ballet-sex scene that doesn’t appear to take place on or off-stage.) But once you suspend your disbelief a little, you’ll find you’re watching probably one of the most fun ballet performances ever. It might just inspire you to buy tickets to Swan Lake. Just take note: that one won’t involve a motorcycle. Hard to believe, we know.
Finale, Dirty Dancing (1987)
Do we really need to explain why? Because Baby and Johnny’s hip-swiveling routine made us wish we could pull off the infamous lift. Just as long as Johnny is there to catch us.
Tony's Solo, Saturday Night Fever (1977)
No doubt Tony Manero’s a man’s man. A young John Travolta has the ladies entranced with his disco moves in this famous clip from the ’70s movie. Of course, those tight bell-bottoms didn’t hurt his cause either.
Jack Rabbit Slim's dance contest, Pulp Fiction (1994)
Mob thug Vincent Vega (John Travolta) enjoys a night on the town — complete with this contest-winning, drug-induced twist — with his menacing boss’ wife, Mia (Uma Thurman). If only lodging a giant needle in her heart didn’t prove to be such a killjoy.
Canned Heat, Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
Forget Pedro. We’d vote for Napoleon (Jon Heder) for president of his high school — heck, maybe even the U.S. — after watching his kick-ass dance moves. (But then again, based on his inability to even feed a llama properly, maybe not).
The Angry Dance, Billy Elliot (2000)
If only all teenagers could deal with angst like Billy Elliot (Jamie Bell). Tired of dealing with his father, brother, and life in general, Billy decides to take his anger out on the UK streets, where he performs one mean, emotion-laden dance number. And how can we not give props to a boy that can turn a loo into his own personal stage?
''Try a Little Tenderness,'' Pretty in Pink
Duckie (Jon Cryer) serenades Andie (Molly Ringwald) with this passionate, memorable lip-sync to Otis Redding’s ”Try a Little Tenderness,” that comes complete with hip thrusts and some Flashdance-esque footwork. Remind us why he didn’t get the girl?
The Paso Doble, Strictly Ballroom (1992)
When Scott and Fran (Paul Mercurio and Tara Morice) finally perform their Paso Doble, it’s so moving it brings the audience to tears — even when their music cuts out, leaving them to glide only to rhythmic clapping. Thanks to director Baz Luhrmann’s attention to technique and obvious love for the art, we’re in tears too.
The Full Monty (1997)
Talk about underdogs. Six out-of-work, out-of-shape, and out-of-luck blue-collar Brits finally make good when they perform an impressively agile striptease in front of a packed house. Our only complaint? Moviegoers only got to see the full monty from the backside. —Dawnie Walton
Big Bounce Finale, You Got Served
We would forfeit the competition after watching the Lil’ Saints perform their final Big Bounce battle. Walking handstands and levitation? How could we serve up anything better than that?
''Puttin' on the Ritz,'' Young Frankenstein
Hit it! Young Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) and his monster (Peter Boyle) deliver some pretty impressive dance moves, especially considering that Frankenstein’s creation is, you know, half-dead and everything.
Ray-Bans and underpants, Risky Business (1983)
Because this classic scene will inspire home alone teens to slide in their skivvies for decades to come.
''You Can't Win,'' The Wiz (1978)
We’d be remiss to write a gallery about best dance scenes and not include the King of Pop. Unfortunately, the best dancing in The Wiz occurs when poor Michael Jackson is strung up on a post as the Scarecrow. Luckily, the dancing crows still managed to win us over.
Gene and Jerry, Anchors Aweigh (1945)
Gene Kelly famously took the stage with Jerry the Mouse — and later with Stewie Griffin — during this 1945 film. Sure, the scene is pure cheese (heh), but where would MC Scat Cat be without it?