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.