The Most Memorable Dance Movies On Our Must-Watch List

You have permission to dance along in front of your TV to your heart's desire.
by Eliza Thompson
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It is an unquestionable fact that dance movies are the best kind of movies, because real life would be so much better if everyone broke out into spontaneous but highly choreographed dance routines at any given moment. Below, the definitive list of dance movies, in no particular order (and minus film adaptations of Broadway musicals, because that's a category for another day).

1. Dirty Dancing

The end-all be-all of dance movies, Dirty Dancing is the story of Frances "Baby" Houseman, who has the time of her life with Johnny Castle, the dance instructor at the resort where her family is spending the summer. The final dance sequence is downright iconic, and will make you question why your own partner can't lift you like that on command.

2. Center Stage

This movie has everything: Peter Gallagher's eyebrows, young Zoë Saldana, Olympic gold medalist Ilia Kulik, and an overly sexual finale number set to Michael Jackson and Jamiroquai. Come for the fantastic ballet dancing, stay for the inspirational message that you should always dance with your heart even when your turnout is bad. Margot Fonteyn didn't have great feet!

3. Black Swan

Opinions vary as to whether or not this movie is actually scary, but this list isn't about screaming, it's about dancing—and Black Swan has plenty of dancing. Natalie Portman plays Nina, a young woman desperate to land the lead role in her ballet company's production of Swan Lake. Throw in an overbearing but hot director, competition in the form of Mila Kunis, and a psychotic mom living vicariously through her daughter, and you've got a big ol' nightmare ballet stew.

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4. Step Up

Step Up is ostensibly the gritty, semi-ridiculous tale of a young man from the wrong side of the tracks helping a prim ballet dancer add some hip-hop moves to her big audition routine, but it’s really the story of how Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan fell in love. Four sequels followed, but this one is without question the best.

5. You Got Served

Street dance battles and a contest where the prize is getting to dance in a Lil' Kim video—what's not to love? Special note for Lost fans: Malcolm David "WAAAAALT" Kelley is in this movie.

6. Strictly Ballroom

Baz Luhrmann's debut film is over-the-top, but in the best way. Scott Hastings partners up with Fran, who’s not really his type in either the romance or dance departments and has no last name. Their worlds collide as the prestigious Pan-Pacific Grand Prix Dancing Championship looms, but all Scott wants to do is bust out his own moves. Fran goes through a seamless transformation, Scott’s hair takes on a life of its own, and a cover of "Time After Time" serves as their love song. There's also someone called Tina Sparkle, who you know is up to no good.

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7. Flashdance

Alex Owens is a welder by day and burlesque dancer by night who dreams of becoming a professional ballerina. Who hasn't been there? Also of note is the soundtrack, which features such classics as "Maniac" and "Flashdance…What a Feeling." The '80s were truly special.

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8. Girls Just Want to Have Fun

Before she was Carrie Bradshaw, Sarah Jessica Parker was Janey Glenn, a high-school student who dreams of auditioning for her favorite show Dance TV. The movie also stars a young Helen Hunt and a young Shannen Doherty, and features Robin Antin, otherwise known as the woman who founded the Pussycat Dolls.

9. Footloose

The 1984 original, not the 2011 remake, because what is Footloose without Kevin Bacon?

10. Honey

A lot of people, probably men, will say Jessica Alba's best role is Nancy Callahan in Sin City. Those people are wrong, because Jessica Alba's best role is Honey Daniels in Honey, the story of a woman who just wants to become a choreographer. Missy Elliott is also in it, which is a good enough reason for anyone to watch.

11. Save the Last Dance

No matter what you think about Julia Stiles's dancing, there's no denying that this gem is a classic of the genre. Julia plays Sara, who fails her Juilliard ballet audition then moves to Chicago and learns hip-hop dancing. The best part of all this, though, is that her first new friend is Chenille, a teen mother played by Kerry Washington, pre–Olivia Pope.

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12. Saturday Night Fever

Not everything about this movie ages well, but John Travolta's dancing is eternal. Can someone please explain why disco isn't still a thing?

13. Magic Mike

Yes, this is technically a dance movie, because remember: The Kings of Tampa aren't strippers, they're male entertainers. And male entertaining means dancing, to "Pony," or in the case of the whole group, "It's Raining Men." Hallelujah.

14. Magic Mike XXL

You can't watch one without the other, OK?

15. How She Move

This underrated gem stars True Blood and Queen Sugar's Rutina Wesley as Raya, who tries to earn money for school by entering a step competition. The dancing is great, the drama is intense, and if you pay attention, you’ll see The Vampire Diaries' Nina Dobrev in one of her earliest roles: Tall Girl in Bathroom.

16. Bring It On

Haters will say Bring It On is about cheerleading and not dancing, but those people must not have been paying attention, because the whole point of the movie is that cheerleaders don't get enough credit for their sophisticated choreography and fierce athleticism. Team Clovers forever.

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Follow Eliza on Twitter.

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This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.

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