You know that feeling when a song comes on the radio or the DJ fades into a personal favorite; the feet start tapping, the head starts nodding. Here’s 10 of the best spontaneous dance scenes.
Who doesn’t love a spontaneous dance sequence. In the movies you could be merrily doing your shopping or sense an empty dance floor needs some inspiration – suddenly, from nowhere, you’re dancing and the world feels so much better for a few seconds or minutes. A dance sequence doesn’t have to be choreographed or carried out by professionally trained ballroom “movers”, it can simply be a moment in time where inhibition is forgotten, the movement and music carrying you on a wave of unrestrained exuberance. That said, it’s always nice to see someone who knows what they are doing shaking their tail feather. Yet, whether it’s a pro or a novice, the beauty of the spontaneous dance sequence is how it appears out of the blue. The best of these seamlessly blend into the film, invigorating both story and character.
10. Reality Bites
Music: My Sharona by The Knack
The definition of the spontaneous dance sequence can be found in Reality Bites. Four friends, a visit to the local Food Mart, the radio quietly playing. Suddenly a song appears that they recognise. “Can you turn this up…please, please…” they say. First, one begins to dance, then another, then another; like a wave the music hits them forcing movement. It’s uncontrolled, anarchic, messy but free and briefly exhilarating.
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9. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Music: Come On Eileen by Dexys Midnight Runners
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is about the teenage social outcasts, those flirting with social and peer acceptance but determinedly maintaining their own individualism. The film features a wonderful selection of alternative rock, mainly from the 1980s, including The Smiths, David Bowie, Xtc and New Order. The spontaneous dance sequence arrives at a school disco when Come On Eileen appears on the DJ’s play list encouraging Sam and Patrick, who had been bemoaning the lack of “good” music, to take to the dance floor. The greatest moment appears when their new friend, nervous teen Charlie, briefly drops his guard. His head awkwardly moving to the beat, he makes his way to the dance floor to join in on the fun.
See also: Top 10 Teenage Rebellion Films
8. From Dusk Till Dawn
Music: After Dark by Tito & Tarantula
Hello Salma Hayek! Not only is this one of the great spontaneous dance sequences of all time, it is also one of the best character introductions. Our intrepid anti-hero George Clooney has sat down for a drink with his psychotic accomplice Quentin Tarantino and their hostages when Salma Hayek wanders on to stage and begins strutting her stuff. Amidst gyrating hips and the sensual use of a yellow anaconda, Hayek finds time to serve Tarantino’s rampant foot fetish before growing fangs and ripping a hole in his neck. This fabulous scene is a highlight of arguably Robert Rodriguez’s greatest film.
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7. Dirty Dancing
Music: (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life by Bill Medley/Jennifer Warnes
Okay, it is a film about dancing. It even has the word “dancing” in the title. So what is Dirty Dancing doing on this list I hear you say. Well, this sequence does happen somewhat out of the blue – indeed, “Baby” has no idea she’s about to have the dance of her life! Yes, we know the happy ending is coming but do we really expect such a grand finale. There’s that great “nobody puts baby in the corner” line, the brilliant lift, the sing-along song, and, ultimately, the spontaneous audience reaction to what’s going on. Yes, by the end, everyone is up and dancing, so this sequence is worthy of a place in this top 10.
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6. (500) Days of Summer
Music: You Make My Dreams by Hall & Oates
Like the best spontaneous dance sequences, this will undoubtedly put a smile on your face. Joseph Gordon-Levitt gives a wonderful performance as he walks the streets of Los Angeles, moving to the beat of You Make My Dreams by Hall & Oates with the subtle inclusion of flash dance sequences thrown in for good measure.
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5. The Breakfast Club
Music: We Are Not Alone” by Karla DeVito
The scene that befuddles all pot smokers! The “Breakfast Club”, made up of fellow “detainees” the criminal, the jock, the princess, the geek and the basketcase, all of whom are stuck in Saturday detention, take to the library “dance floor” after enjoying the delights of a doobie! In this world, instead of mellowing the soul, marijuana invigorates it. But this isn’t about scientific explanation, this is about teenagers letting off steam.
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4. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Music: Twist and Shout by The Beatles
When The Beatles’ version of Twist and Shout appears on the jukebox it is hard enough to stop yourself dancing along to it but as Ferris Bueller highlights in the film that bears his name, you have to sing-along too! The Ferris Bueller Effect appears to influence the whole of Chicago as everyone is dancing to the music.
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3. Risky Business
Music: Old Time Rock and Roll by Bob Seger
Destined for numerous parodies the minute it was put on celluloid, Tom Cruise dancing around the living room in his socks and “tighty whities” is one of the most iconic scenes of 1980s Hollywood.
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2. The Blues Brothers
Music: Shake A Tail Feather by Ray Charles
There’s lots of singing and dancing in John Landis’ The Blues Brothers but the highlight for me is when Ray Charles, in an attempt to prove to the film’s two “heroes” that a secondhand piano is fit for use, starts singing Shake A Tail Feather and the whole neighbourhood starts dancing. The Blues Brothers, along with their band, bop along to the beat, but it is the excited crowd outside who really catch the eye. It is especially fun to watch Ray call out dance moves to see the ensemble carry them out – can you do the twist, the swim, and the mashed potato?
See also: Top 10 Comedy Double Acts of the 1980s
1. Pulp Fiction
Music: You Never Can Tell by Chuck Berry
What Mia Wallace wants, Mia Wallace gets; well, that’s what John Travolta’s nice-but-dim hit-man Vincent Vega finds out. When he’s tasked with taking out “Marsellus Wallace’s Wife” for a meal, he knows his job is to serve her every need. They go to a 1950s’ themed restaurant named Jack Rabbit Slim’s which is hosting a “twist” dance competition. Although reluctant, Vincent agrees to join Mia on stage. As You Never Can Tell by Chuck Berry emerges from the jukebox, the mismatched pair perform a dance as awkward as it is brilliant. Uma Thurman as Mia has a kinetic lunacy about her “twist” which counters Travolta’s strained “cool”.
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NB. You can find all these dance sequences on You Tube – simply search for the film title and “dance scene” in either Google or You Tube. I haven’t hosted the videos here because of copyright law. Similarly, I haven’t linked to individual videos because they have a tendency to be removed if they are deemed to be impinging upon the individual copyrights of the films.