The Best Dance Movies Of All Time

Photo: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures.
As a former dancer, there are few things that bring me more joy than dance movies. You needn't have grown up at the barre to love and appreciate films in which dance takes — for lack of a more on-the-nose expression — center stage. The need to dance is innate in every human being, and it cannot be denied (proof: Footloose). Movement and the self-expression it unleashes can be a great uniter, as seen in movies like Dirty Dancing, where it bridges socioeconomic and cultural divides.

It's always a perfect time to jazz-hand our way through the greatest dance movies out there. In order to determine which films would be eligible, though, we turned to a professional. We enlisted Justin Peck, whose road to choreographing a new piece for the New York City Ballet is the subject of the documentary Ballet 422, to help us nail down a few criteria.

"I think that if the dance has purpose behind each step, and it’s not just a novelty of having dance on film for the sake of having dance on film. That can translate into really good dance film work. It's about developing the characters through their movement," Peck told us when Ballet 422 came out in February 2015. "There's a much more visceral quality to seeing dance on camera as a means of storytelling. I think that people can relate to kind of the instinctual bodily response to music. People have been dancing for centuries; it's something that everyone can relate to and get something out of an experience."

Keeping these qualifications in mind (dance has to be a driving force in moving the story forward, versus movies with random choreographed numbers like Slumdog Millionaire), allow us to present the 30 best dance movies of all time — and where to watch them from the comfort of your own home. We know you want to perfect the lift from Dirty Dancing in private.

And a 5, 6, 7, 8...
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Singin' in the Rain (1952)
This movie practically invented the dance break. Keep this scene in the back of your mind next time you’re caught in a massive thunderstorm with an umbrella. Might as well sing instead of sob.
2 of 50
Dancers (1987)
You don't exactly come to this movie for plot. But you stay because it's Mikhail Baryshnikov,
3 of 50
High Strung (2016)
Is this the new Save the Last Dance? Probably not. Is it campy and catchy and compelling? Most definitely.

4 of 50
La La Land (2016)
It's no coincidence that this movie just swept 7 awards at the Golden Globes — Damien Chazelle's reimagining of the classic Hollywood musical will have you tap-dancing in no time.
5 of 50
Another Cinderella Story (2008)
You may not think of this as a dance movie, but as Mary Santiago a high school student who dreams of becoming a dancer, Selena Gomez makes our childhood glass slipper dreams come true.
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6 of 50
Center Stage: Turn It Up (2008)
The only thing better than a guilty-pleasure movie about ballet dancers struggling to make it in New York City? It's sequel.
7 of 50
Photo: Youtube
Honey (2003)
The guiltiest of guilty pleasures. Turn your living room into a studio and dance your Jessica-Alba-loving heart out.
8 of 50
Youtube.
The Artist (2011)
Lesson learned: When your career is on the fritz, grab a feisty French ingenue and learn to dance.
9 of 50
Youtube.
Chicago (2002)
Long before Catherine Zeta-Jones earned an Academy Award for her performance as Velma Kelly, she earned her dance shoes as a five-year-old at the Hazel Johnson School of Dancing in Mumbles, Wales.
10 of 50
Youtube.
Moulin Rouge (2001)
Come for the whimsical bohemian romance, stay for the steamy tango.

Stream It: On Amazon.
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11 of 50
Youtube.
Funny Face (1957)
Ok, so this isn't a dance movie, per se. But no serious conversation about Funny Face can fail to mention Audrey Hepburn's epic "don't fuck with me" jazz dance.

Stream it on: iTunes.
12 of 50
Chocolate City (2015)
I’m not here to tell you the storyline makes this movie worth watching. I’m not even here to tell you the acting makes this movie worth watching. I am here to tell you that the stripper dancing makes this movie worth watching.

Stream it on: iTunes.
13 of 50
Dance With Me (1998)
Vanessa Williams plays Ruby, a dance instructor. Chayanne plays Rafael, who comes to the dance studio from Cuba. They dance. They fall in love. Bonus: Jane Krakowski’s in it.

Stream it on: Amazon.
14 of 50
Bring It On (2000)
Yes, this is technically a cheerleading movie. But what is cheerleading if not exaggerated, athletic dancing? Especially in this early ’00s hit, in which Kirsten Dunst and Gabrielle Union face off in a national cheer competition. They’re not exactly the saccharine “Give me a T!” types. It’s basically like watching a dance-off. Also good for satisfying any desire you may feel for Throwback Thursday.

Stream it on: Amazon.
15 of 50
Swing Time (1939)
Lucky (Fred Astaire) is a gambler who manages to miss his own wedding to a woman named Margaret. Train delays, you know? So Margaret’s dad gets all pissy about it and tells Lucky he has to come up with $25,000 as a sort of apology gift. I dunno, guys. It’s weird. All you need to know is that he heads to New York City where he meets Penny (Ginger Rogers), a dance teacher, and they fall in love and that’s the end of Margaret. This film is a self-proclaimed comedy. Will you laugh out loud? Probably not, as few comedies can hold up after so many years. Will you judge the characters for being kind of terrible people? Probably. But you’re not watching this movie for the moral compass. You’re in it for the dance numbers — which are quite delightful.

Stream it on: Amazon.
16 of 50
Shall We Dance? (2004)
John Clark (Richard Gere) realizes his life is super boring. He gets up, commutes to work, works late, commutes back, goes to bed. Rinse and repeat. But one day he notices a sign for Miss Mitzi's Dance School, and he impulsively goes in and becomes a student. Miss Mitzi (J.Lo) teaches him as he stumbles his way into competitive dancing. And Clark's wife (Susan Sarandon) is there and it's all very predictable and cheesy but you're not necessarily in it for the plot, right? You're in it for the final sequence.

Stream it on: iTunes.
17 of 50
42nd Street (1933)
Raise your hand if you also learned the opening number in tap class growing up and still do it on occasion alone in your room. I mean, me neither. The time steps start on the eight, though, in case you're interested.

Stream it: On Google Play
18 of 50
Top Hat (1935)
It doesn't get better than Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing cheek to cheek to the smooth sounds of Irving Berlin.

Stream it: On Google Play
19 of 50
The Red Shoes (1948)
Before Natalie Portman was slowly driven mad by her pursuit of ballet perfection in Black Swan, there was Vicky Page, torn between two love interests and her need to dance in The Red Shoes.

Stream it: On Amazon
20 of 50
Singin' in the Rain (1952)
BRB, soft-shoeing in precipitation with my prop umbrella.

Stream it: On Amazon
21 of 50
West Side Story (1961)
"My favorite dance film is West Side Story. I think that's because the whole concept and idea behind it started from choreographer Jerome Robbins' vision of what the film was going to be and built outward from there. The movement in it has a real sense of purpose and storytelling. It's one of the most brilliant films that's ever been made and definitely one of the most brilliant dance films," Justin Peck says about this classic.

Stream it: On Amazon
22 of 50
Saturday Night Fever (1977)
Tony Manero (John Travolta) is a paint store clerk by day and disco-dancing legend by night. He's lookin' for some hot stuff, baby, this evening.

Stream it: On Netflix
23 of 50
The Turning Point (1977)
A decades-old rivalry between two ballerinas resurfaces when one offers to train the other's daughter, who has a shot at greatness. And yes, that is Mikhail Baryshnikov as the daughter's paramour and the company's resident Russian bad boy.

Stream it: On Netflix
24 of 50
Grease (1978)
Born to hand jive, baby.

Stream it: On Amazon
25 of 50
All That Jazz (1979)
"All That Jazzfocuses on Bob Fosse. It's really interesting background on that choreographer. He was super focused on his craft and also he had a real knack for how to shoot dance on film and edit it properly. He was really involved in all of that process. It was a nice biopic-ish...I know it's not technically him, but it's based on his experience of his life," Peck says.

Available on DVD.
26 of 50
Fame (1980)
Sing the body electric and live forever with the talented teens at New York City's High School for the Performing Arts.

Stream it: On Amazon
27 of 50
Flashdance (1983)
Before Channing Tatum's Magic Mike was a sexy welder who also stripped to pay the bills, there was Jennifer Beals jamming to "What a Feeling" as she worked toward her dream of joining the Pittsburgh Conservatory of Dance.

Stream it: On Amazon
28 of 50
Footloose (1984)
A rebellious teen who's got the beat arrives in a tiny town where a preacher has outlawed dancing. Oh, HELL no.

Stream it: On Netflix
29 of 50
Breakin' (1984)
We're talking PEAK '80s breakdance crew rivalries and fashion statements here. Plus, the sequel spawned the always hilarious joke of putting "Electric Boogaloo" into sequel titles.

Available on DVD.
30 of 50
A Chorus Line (1985)
The film adaptation of Marvin Hamlisch's iconic musical about the harsh world of cattle calls and the life of a professional dancer.

Stream it: On Amazon
31 of 50
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32 of 50
Girls Just Want to Have Fun (1985)
Sarah Jessica Parker just wants to have fun, and for her character that means one thing: falling in love through DANCE.

Stream it: On Netflix
33 of 50
Dirty Dancing (1987)
The tale of Baby learning to stand up for herself and falling in love for the first time with a sexy Catskills dance instructor from the other side of the tracks is a modern classic. Nobody puts her in a corner.

Stream it: On Netflix
34 of 50
Hairspray (1988, 2007)
Good morning, Baltimore! Tracy Turnblad (Ricki Lake in the 1988 version; Nikki Blonsky in the 2007) just wants to dance on The Corny Collins Show, where the nicest kids in town showcase the latest moves. There are various hurdles in her way, though. Tracy doesn’t have the show’s stereotypical, snoozefest look, so she becomes a crusader for the all teens whom the show discriminates against.

Stream the 1988 version: On Amazon, Google Play, iTunes

Stream the 2007 version: On Amazon, Google Play, iTunes
35 of 50
Tap (1989)
The plot doesn't really matter when you're watching tap dancing legend Gregory Hines hoof it.

Stream it: On Amazon
36 of 50
Strictly Ballroom (1992)
Sometimes we overhear people claiming that Silver Linings Playbook is a dance movie because the two main characters spend most of the film training for an amateur ballroom dancing competition. We usually nod our heads, while thinking, "You wanna see a REAL ballroom dance movie? Watch Baz Luhrmann's Strictly Ballroom."

Stream it: On Netflix
37 of 50
The Full Monty (1997)
Unemployed steel workers form an all-male nude revue to pay the bills. Not every stripper has to be a ridiculously tanned and toned specimen, Magic Mike.

Stream it: On Amazon
38 of 50
Center Stage (2000)
The film that put Zoe Saldana on the map as a sassy ballerina put an extremely glossy coating on a world rife with competition over roles, eating disorders, sleeping with star choreographers, and miraculous mid-song costume changes. Still, everyone has canned heat in their heels tonight (baby) by the end.

Stream it: On Amazon
39 of 50
Billy Elliot (2000)
A boy in an English mining town discovers a talent for ballet and has to convince his set-in-his-ways widowed father to let him pursue his passion. Sometimes we put on the final scene just for a good cry. DANCE, BILLY.

Stream it: On Amazon
40 of 50
Save the Last Dance (2001)
One of those beautiful examples of dance bringing two people from very different worlds together. Ballet and hip-hop aren't so different after all. And hey, Kerry Washington!

Stream it: On Amazon
41 of 50
You Got Served (2004)
In the process of searching for the You Got Served trailer, I uncovered this amazing mashup, and I would now like to state that the 30th best dance movie of all time is actually Fiddler on the Roof Got Served.

Stream it: On Amazon
42 of 50
Mad Hot Ballroom (2005)
This touching documentary follows 11-year-olds from New York City public schools as they prepare for a dance competition sponsored by the American Ballroom Theater.

Stream it: On Amazon
43 of 50
Step Up (2006)
The movie that unleashed Channing Tatum (and his moves) into the world. To whom do we address our thank-you note? The Magic Mike XXL trailer, perhaps?

Stream it: On Amazon
44 of 50
Take the Lead (2006)
Mr. Dulaine (Antonio Banderas) is in charge of detention, which he sees as an opportunity for high school kids who always seem to be in trouble to channel their energy into something productive. Like ballroom dancing. This movie is basically Sister Act 2, but with dancing.

Steam it: On HBO Go
45 of 50
Stomp the Yard (2007)
A surprisingly heartwarming lesson in teamwork and camaraderie mixed with amazing stepping.

Stream it: On Google Play
46 of 50
Mao's Last Dancer (2010)
Based on the extraordinary true story of Li Cunxin, a peasant from rural China who became a world-renowned ballet dancer after defecting from his home country.

Steam it: On Google Play
47 of 50
Black Swan (2010)
Not since Dostoyevsky have we been so afraid of a mysterious double. This movie is not for the faint of heart, though, what with the skin pulling and all that shudder.

Stream it: On Amazon
48 of 50
First Position (2011)
This documentary about aspiring young ballet dancers training for the annual Youth American Grand Prix will inspire you a lot more than you might think. Get out your turning board and foot stretcher and hit play.

Stream it: On Netflix
49 of 50
Magic Mike (2012)
It just didn’t feel right publishing this piece without including a ride on Channing Tatum’s pony.

Stream it: On Amazon
50 of 50
Magic Mike XXL (2015)
I mean, if you’re gonna watch the original, you should probably go ahead and watch the sequel.