With the release of La La Land just around the corner, it’s pretty understandable that the staff here at Filmoria are chomping at the bit to blast out those show tunes and put on their dancing shoes like you wouldn’t believe! Thankfully, this would only be done behind closed doors, but what we can reveal to public eyes are the movie scenes that captivate us in every way with their dancing numbers.
Here are our favourite movie dance scenes…
Ex Machina – James Wheatley
The first movie dance scene that came to mind is also one of my favourite movies scenes from the past few years: Oscar Isaac and Sonoya Mizuno’s brilliant disco dancing to Oliver Cheatham’s Get Down Saturday Night in Ex Machina.
Domhnall Gleeson’s Caleb is as surprised as the audience when Isaac’s Nathan launches into a dance routine. On an audience level, the scene is a welcome break in tension in Alex Garland’s taut and mysterious film. Fan-made alternate cuts emerged online after the film’s release, with Cheatham’s music replaced by Drake’s Hotline Bling and other songs, but nothing is funnier than the original, especially given its context. Whilst undoubtedly funny on a surface level, within the movie it isn’t just a throwaway funny moment: it’s pivotal to the plot.
Caleb sees a completely different side to Nathan here, and it marks the moment he firmly sides with Ava (Alicia Vikander) against him. Not only is it a clear diversion from answering more questions about Ava, but it also raises some pretty big questions about Nathan. Is he mentally stable? Is his ego so out of control that everything is just a game for him? Has he programmed Kyoko to learn his choreographed routine? Is Oscar Isaac the coolest man on the planet? (okay, that last one might be just a question I had).
At once hilarious and fascinating, this has to be one of the standout moments in recent cinema.
The Man From U.N.C.L.E. – Charlie Derry
I’m a huge fan of musicals and dance numbers in films, but it doesn’t have to be a 10 minute long, well choreographed sequence to get me jiggling along. Even if it’s just an actor playing a musician on stage, a karaoke party scene, or a couple slow dancing at the end of a party, any performance – big or small, loud or private – shows us a much more personal side to actors that we don’t often get to see.
For me, my favourite such moments can be found in Guy Ritchie’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E., when the beautiful Alicia Vikander drinks a little too much, and attempts to get a reluctant Armies Hammer to loosen up. Every time I watch this clip I fall in love with Vikander all over again, and I can’t help but laugh along to her tipsy dance moves.
Featuring the song “Solomon Burke – Cry To Me”, which you’re likely to recognise from Dirty Dancing, this scene is incredibly sexy at the same time, and creates a great chemistry between Vikander and Hammer.
I was surprised by how much I loved this film, and this scene definitely had something to do with it.
Titanic – James Thompson
In a film that is ultimately one of the greatest tragedies of real life, Titanic is also a wonderfully romantic tale of two very different individuals whose paths cross to create that spark of love that is simply undeniable. There are many iconic scenes within the James Cameron epic but one that instantly stands out to me is one that I consider to be a truly great dance sequence in cinematic history.
Exiting the awkwardness of the upper class realms of the grand ship, Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) takes Rose (Kate Winslet) down to more familiar and comfortable areas of the ship where the lower class folk have gathered for one hell of a party. “You wanna go to a real party?” he asks, with Rose thoroughly embracing the escapism of the classic Irish music and enjoying a jig, a drag on a cigarette and downing a beer to shock everyone around her.
It’s a great scene that paves the way for the tragedy to unfold, but one that stays in the mind as it is one of the key moments in which Rose realises that Jack truly is the right guy for her.
Pulp Fiction – Sarah Buddery
For many (and definitely for me!), the first scene that springs to mind when thinking of the greatest iconic movie dance sequences, is of course the Jack Rabbit Slims twist contest from the incomparable Pulp Fiction! Stars Uma Thurman and John Travolta boogie on down to the Chuck Berry classic “You Never Can Tell”, with a retro twist-style dance.
But what makes this scene so iconic? Many people would know John Travolta as he made his career in films which featured a lot of dancing, such as Grease and Saturday Night Fever, so in many ways it is a delightful tribute to himself in what was a real comeback performance for him, in of course that classic post-modern way that only Tarantino could get away with!
Given the tone of the rest of the film, with its trademark Tarantino violence, and focus on drugs and gangsters, this dance scene is also somewhat out of place, and indeed this is what makes it so memorable. It almost seems to come out of nowhere, a fun and infectious musical number that completely stands out from the rest of the film in the most glorious possible way. Not just one of the most iconic dance scenes all these years later, but one of the stand-out scenes in an overall amazing film, and one of the most memorable movie scenes of all-time. Now just try to listen to this song and fight the urge to dance along Vincent and Mia style – it’s not possible!
WALL·E – Chris Haydon
Sequences of choreographed splendour are littered all over the silver screen’s rich history; heck, throughout the 1940s and 1950s, the Hollywood musical was the true king of the theatre. However, few postmodern films have conveyed the beauty, the rhythms, and the emotions of a partnered waltz with as much grace as Pixar Animation Studios’ 2008 masterpiece WALL·E. The minimalist, quaint nature of its rusty titular protagonist – a clear homage to the physical performers of yesteryear – and his vibrant, halogen-white counterpart EVE, makes for a ravishing and profound pairing; a celebration of the past, present and future as they whirl and prance among the stars.
The scene sees WALL·E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter – Earth Class) clutching a fire extinguisher as he floats in zero gravity, whilst the highly-equipped EVE (Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator) booms with hyper-speed thanks to her internal flight system. Our cubic robotic hero has rendered a love for the timeless musical when we first meet him, watching snippets of classic studio feature Hello, Dolly! and reciting the key dance number. Finally he gets to put his moves to the test as the duo delicately soar around the vastness of space, and dive between the many panels and thrusters of the Axiom; the new intergalactic home for humans who are all suffering with obesity due to microgravity and reliance on an automated existence. Paired with Thomas Newman’s tear-jerking and hopeful orchestral, the sequence is both intimate and extravagant; excelling character design, cinematic scale, and animation practices simultaneously.
Pixar are home to not only some of the finest animated films of all-time, but the most important. WALL·E is arguably their most audacious feat; a near-silent saga, weighted with themes of consumerism, environmental impact, corporatism, and global destruction, and yet it is so full of joy, so full of heart. This moment – like many others throughout – completely cement why they are more than film artists; they are master storytellers.
Little Miss Sunshine – Scott Allden
I’m not the biggest fan of spontaneous dance numbers in film (musicals we can exclude). I find myself thinking to myself – “What’s the purpose?….What does this actually mean in the context of the film?” It may seem smug but that’s a perception I’ve always had.
However, Little Miss Sunshine includes not just a wonderfully choreographed (to a point) dance sequence. But also one that serves purpose to the story and its characters – whilst also being hilarious and poignant at the same time.
Throughout, we see the Hoover family are riddled with anxieties and important moments in their lives. The film addresses topics like ambition, mortality, depression, even body shaming. At the climax – the Hoovers arrive at the titular beauty pageant. However they soon realise that the other contestants are heavily made-up, sexualised and are distinctively more slimmer in appearance to Olive (Abigail Breslin). Who is slightly pot-bellied, wears large glasses and obviously an amateur in comparison.
When Olive’s turn to perform at the pageant arrives, her father Richard and brother Dwayne (Greg Kinnear and Paul Dano respectively) voice their concern and attempt to talk Olive out of it, fearing that she may be the result of ridicule from the audience and judges. However her mother Sheryl (Toni Collette) insists that she performs. Olive takes to the stage, accompanied by Rick James’ ‘Superfreak’, and reveals the Burlesque-inspired dance she and grandfather Edwin (Alan Arkin) choreographed secretly before his unfortunate passing earlier. Much to the shock and horror of the organisers. The protests and subsequent ‘middle finger’ is what makes this scene so memorable and rewarding following the previous events up to now.
Richard, an uptight and overambitious figure throughout, followed by the Proust scholar and suicidal Frank (Steve Carell), Nietzsche-reading Dwayne and Sheryl all join Olive in an act of beautiful defiance and proudly dance with her until ‘Superfreak’ fades out. Acknowledging one another as a family, finally bound. But it also emphasises that even as hard as you might try, with as much effort or determination you may have – you can’t win at everything.
Life is a beauty pageant.