25. Blind Date (1987) – It’s not surprising that someone shooting a gun at your feet will make you start to dance quicker than anything else. Bruce Willis gets John Larroquette’s character to show some moves by doing just that.
24. Revenge of the Nerds (1984) – As the guys are trying to impress U.N. Jefferson, the party finally gets going when Booger introduces his “wonder joints”. The scene features Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” (which surprises me that they got the rights to use) and some interesting dance moves by several of the nerds.
23. Airplane! (1980) – “Ted Striker” (Robert Hays) and “Elaine Dickinson” (Julie Hagerty) perform a scene reminiscent of Saturday Night Fever.
22. The Big Chill (1983) – This movie stars an outstanding cast including Tom Berenger, Glenn Close, Jeff Goldblum, William Hurt and Kevin Kline among others as baby-boomer college friends who reunite years later to attend the funeral of a friend. The film features an outstanding soundtrack of ’60s Motown classics including the song featured in this particular scene. The friends are cleaning up after dinner together listening to “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” by The Temptations and can’t help but start dancing.
21. Sixteen Candles (1984) – At the school dance, freshman “Ted” (Anthony Michael Hall) tries to impress sophomore “Samantha” (Molly Ringwald) as she stands there horrified. It probably didn’t matter either way because her heart belongs to “Jake Ryan”. Interesting to note that Ringwald and Hall began dating in real life not too long after this film.
20. Rad (1986) – What kind of dancing would you expect in a BMX movie? Bike dancing, of course! The two lead characters “Cru Jones” (Bill Allen) and “Christian” (Lori Loughlin) perform a romantic freestyle bike dance set to the song “Send Me an Angel” by Real Life. You can find out more about the song in our interview with David Sterry of Real Life.
19. Dream a Little Dream (1989) – I have always really liked this scene between Meredith Salenger and Corey Feldman dancing to the title song performed by Starship’s Mickey Thomas.
18. Beetlejuice (1988) – This already ranked on my Best Singing Scenes list with “Day-O” but I also thought the ending scene of the movie deserved to be included on the dancing list. This scene features “Lydia” (Winona Ryder) dancing to “Jump in the Line (Shake Señora)” by Harry Belafonte along with some of the other characters.
17. Caddyshack (1980) – I had to include this short scene which features “Al Czervik” (Rodney Dangerfield) saying “So What? So, let’s dance” before cranking up Journey’s “Anyway You Want It” from a radio built into his golf bag. Honorable mention also goes to the gopher gyrating to “I’m Alright”.
16. National Lampoon’s European Vacation (1985) – As the Griswolds travel across Europe they make a stop in Germany. Trying to immerse themselves in the culture, they attend an Oktoberfest type of party where a group of dancers ask for “Clark” (Chevy Chase) to join them. As you’d expect, comedy ensues.
15. Coming to America (1988) – This is the scene early in the film when “Prince Akeem” is to meet his betrothed “queen-to-be” but before that there is a tribal dance performed. Interesting note is that this dance was choreographed by none other than Paula Abdul.
14. Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo (1984). This scene includes some trick photography allowing “Turbo” to literally dance on the ceiling (like Lionel Richie talked about). Instead of Lionel Richie’s song, he dances here to “I Don’t Wanna Come Down” by Mark Scott.
13. Teen Wolf (1985) – Michael J. Fox stars as “Scott Howard” who is a high school student that suddenly discovers he is a werewolf. In one scene after he embraces his werewolf persona, the wolf arrives at the school dance and proceeds to impress almost everyone with his dancing abilities.
12. She’s Having a Baby (1988) – In this film written, directed and produced by John Hughes, Kevin Bacon’s character is prone to his imagination running away a little. In one such scene, the suburban neighborhood breaks out into a choreographed dance number centered around lawnmowers and cutting the grass.
11. Rain Man (1988) – In a touching moment during this film which won the Best Picture Oscar, “Charlie” (Tom Cruise) takes time to teach his autistic brother “Raymond” (Dustin Hoffman) how to slow dance. I have always liked this movie very much and this is one of my many favorite scenes. Later, “Raymond” gets a chance to dance with “Charlie’s” girlfriend in an elevator while listening to music from a Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers movie.
10. Can’t Buy Me Love (1987) – “Ronald Miller” (Patrick Dempsey) is a nerd who tries to buy his way into the popular crowd at his high school. In preparing to attend a school dance, he thinks he is watching Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, but is instead watching a PBS special on the “African Anteater Ritual.” He masters these new moves and performs them at the dance where, due to his sudden popularity, everybody else joins in. On a side note, this scene was also choreographed by Paula Abdul.
9. Flashdance (1983) – Jennifer Beals stars in this movie about a blue collar worker who really just wants to be a dancer. This film became very popular and does feature a good soundtrack as well as some great dancing scenes. We have this movie to blame for the sweatshirt-off-the-shoulder and leg-warmer fashion trends. The film ends with a triumphant dance performed to “Flashdance…What a Feeling” by Irene Cara. But I feel the best dancing scene in the film may actually be when she dances to Michael Sembello’s “Maniac”.
8. Breakin’ (1984) – This movie features some of the worst acting, but showcases some of the best dancing. I could also have included Beat Street (1984) which also featured the art of break-dancing. Breakin’ includes several scenes with “Turbo” and “Ozone” performing outstanding routines. One of my favorite scenes is from early in the movie and features just “Turbo” dancing with a broom when he’s supposed to be sweeping up. The song here is “Tour de France” by Kraftwerk.
7. Dirty Dancing (1987) – “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.” This whole movie is about dancing and it all culminates in the final scene where “Baby” played by Jennifer Grey and “Johnny” played by Patrick Swayze dance to “(I Had) The Time of My Life” by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes.
6. Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985) – There is an iconic scene where Pee-wee Herman ends up in a biker bar and to get out of trouble performs a very interesting dance to the song “Tequila” by Chuck Rio.
5. Big (1988) – In one of the most iconic scenes of ’80s film, “Josh Baskin” (Tom Hanks) performs “Heart and Soul” and “Chopsticks” with his boss on a giant floor piano at FAO Schwarz. This one is a loose interpretation of dancing, but close enough for me.
4. Risky Business (1983) – In another one of the most iconic scenes of ’80s film that has be recreated and parodied countless times, “Joel Goodson” (Tom Cruise) is left home when his parents go on a trip. On the first night, he blasts the stereo loudly, and dances around the living room in his socks, tighty-whities and a button-down shirt to Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll”. Sometimes you gotta say what the f…
3. The Blues Brothers (1980) – This is a hilarious movie based on the SNL characters created by John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd. As funny as “Jake” and “Elwood” were, the music they made was legit. The film features many great music scenes with outstanding musical artists making cameos. The best to me is a scene featuring Ray Charles and his song “Shake A Tail Feather.” Can watch this one all day long.
2. The Breakfast Club (1985) – Later in the movie after the group gets to know each other better and begin to relax (with the help of a little marijuana), there is a scene when they play music and just let loose dancing. This scene is set to a little known song “We Are Not Alone” by Karla DeVito. I read that originally only Molly Ringwald’s character was supposed to dance, but she was self-conscious and asked that everybody join in. What resulted is one of my favorite scenes in one of my favorite films.
1. Footloose (1984) – The film revolves around “Ren” played by Kevin Bacon who moves to a new town that has outlawed dancing. He makes it his mission to find a way to change the rules and bring dancing back. He tries to teach his new friend “Willard” played by Chris Penn how to dance in an entertaining montage. You can find out a lot more about this film and the music in our interview with Dean Pitchford. The whole movie culminates in the final scene when they are finally allowed to have the school dance which is appropriately set to “Footloose” by Kenny Loggins. “Hey, hey, what’s this I see? I thought this was a party. Let’s dance!”
There’s my list. I hope you enjoyed it as well as the videos to watch each of these entertaining and memorable scenes. As usual, these are based on my personal preferences and the order could very well change a little depending on my mood or nostalgia on a given day. Are there any of your favorite dancing scenes from ’80s movies that you feel I have overlooked? If so or if you’d rank any a lot differently, please leave them in the comments section. Also, be sure to check out Part 1 for our favorite singing scenes from ’80s movies. Between the “singing” scenes on my last list and the “dancing” scenes on this list, you have some of the best scenes from ’80s movies all together.